“The Misrepresentation of Digital Teens as Trolls: Considering Political,
News and Feminist Agendas”
By Jonathan Bishop, Principal Researcher & Developer, Centre for Research
into Online Communities and E-Learning Systems, Wales
If one pays attention to popular culture and the mass media, Internet trolls are unemployed young men in their 20s at home in their parents’ basement spending their time posting abusive messages online. This study finds that this stereotype, whilst common in the mass media, is not representative of the empirical data collected. The research found that most trolling on blogs and defriending is done by women and because of other women. It finds that the people who troll are unlikely to be youths not in education, employment or training (NEETs), but more likely to be those in wealthy areas who are bored. It equally finds that those who troll, or indeed troll-call, are likely to show the symptoms of antisocial personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder respectively. With the media focussing on represent young people as trolls, the research finds that the existence of benevolent sexism in the police perpetuates this myth, meaning women are getting more favourably treatment, either as trolls or troll-callers. In fact the research finds trolls are as likely to be men or women, and they will change the way they troll based on their target, meaning feminists deemed misandrist will face sexist posts including from women, but the same trolls, regardless of their sex, would have used racist remarks if the feminists calling for more rights for women were Black and calling for more rights for Black people. The research concludes that deterring trolling requires a community-led approach, where local government can use their law enforcement powers, such as to issue fixed penalty notices or anti-social behaviour orders, against those trolls they can prove took part in trolling by using their surveillance rights.
Jonathan Bishop is an information technology executive, researcher and writer. He is the founder of the companies that form part of the Crocels Community Media Group, and founded the Centre for Research into Online Communities and E-Learning Systems in 2005 from which the group is named. Jonathan’s research generally falls within human-computer interaction, and he has numerous publications in this area, such as on Internet trolling, gamification, Classroom 2.0, and multimedia forensics. In addition to his BSc(Hons) in Multimedia Studies and various postgraduate degrees, including in law, economics and computing, Jonathan has served in local government as a councillor and school governor, as well as having contested numerous elections. He is also a fellow of numerous learned bodies, including BCS – The Chartered Institute for IT, the Royal Anthropological Institute, and the Royal Society of Arts. Jonathan has won prizes for his literary skills and been a finalist in national and local competitions for his environmental, community and equality work, which often form part of action research studies. In his spare time Jonathan enjoys listening to music, swimming and chess.