Being flamed, defriended and forced to relurk: Understanding the causes of online anti-social behaviour towards women

Being flamed, defriended and forced to relurk: Understanding the causes of online anti-social behaviour towards women

Jonathan Bishop

What is clear from documents since the dawn of civilisation to now is that men have tried to assert a dominant role over women. The current time we are in, where most online interactions are preserved, provides current researchers with the same opportunity as historians, to examine the role of women in the society we currently live in. This talk will present the findings of a number of investigations into rape threats, misogyny, and blog narratives relating to the defriending of women. It will also look at case studies of where women assert their independence, including data from a longitudinal study into the way women access media.

Further information

This abstract was submitted to the conference, “Scold’s to Trolls; Social and Legal Responses to Visible and Audible Women,” which was due to be held on 15 September 2015 at Lancaster University.

2 year trolling law counter-productive

Angie Bray MP has tabled an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill to introduce a maximum jail term for trolling of 2 years. This clause may be counter-productive to those wanting tougher jail terms.

At present under the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and Communications Act 2003 someone can face 6 months prison for each offence. This is unlike the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 where it has to be shown there were a series of trolling attacks – a course of conduct – and the sentence is for all acts not each individual as is possible under these other two laws. Jamie Counsel and Anthony Gristock faced 4 years and 3 years and 8 months in prison respectively, for trolling during the 2011 UK riots, albeit under the Serious Crimes Act 2007.

At it stands Counsel will never have his conviction spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and will have to declare it when applying for work indefinitely. Gristock’s will become spent after 7 years. Had both been charged under this proposed amendment their convictions would have been spent after 4 years.

On this basis it is likely I will support Angie Bray’s amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, and in fact think it should also amend all other laws that can be used to prosecute trolling to introduce the maximum term of 2 years instead of ridiculously long ones. If one thinks that convicted sex offender Max Clifford only got 2 years for his heinous crimes, then are the government seriously saying that sending people to jail for saying something that another person finds offensive is comparable to the life changing consequences of the actions of sex offenders?

Something fishy about Claire Hardaker’s review

Claire Hardaker, a linguistics expert with a special interest in Internet trolling, wrote a review of social media in 2013 entitled, “The catfish, spies and regulators who changed social media.”

One of the events Claire Hardaker spoke about was the Defamation Act 2013, which is clearly outside her expertise. Whilst she is correct that it is unlikely Sally Bercow would have lost her case had this Act been in force – as I said in my Westlaw Insight article early last year – the important fact that the Act did not come in until New Years Day this year was an unfortunate error. Users of Westlaw Insight can now get a full analysis of the impacts of this Act on Internet trolling, which is peer-reviewed by other experts.

Claire Hardaker rose to fame after appearing on the This Morning programme to speak about rape following the Caroline Criado Perez affair. I was scheduled to do this spot but was telephoned at the last minute to be told I was not needed because they “had a woman.” Hardaker researches misogyny yet was happy to take the seat on this morning for the sole reason that she was a woman with an interest in Internet trolling. I much prefer women icons such as Salma Yaqoob, who speaks as much for the rights of men as the rights of women.

Gavin Callaghan and McAlpine v Bercow

Gavin Callaghan is a spin-doctor for Steve Rotheram MP. He treats me like a competitor of his which is quite cute I guess. When I was a Labour councillor his age I did not have the maturity I have now so I guess he can’t be blamed for how he is. The other day he sent me this tweet in reference to an interview I had with Nicky Campbell:

This implies some deceit on my part as if I am hiding something that if known would tarnish my reputation. I therefore think this falls within the precedent set in McAlpine v Bercow then as this makes a ‘nudge nudge wink wink’ reference to an untruth it is defamation.

Gavin Callaghan may as well have said: “If only @NickyAACampbell knew who you really were *innocent face*”

Karen Roberts – Troll?

Former Plaid Cymru councillor, Karen Roberts, has admitted she has been accused of being an Internet troll by Mick Antoniw AM in this blog post.

This is her post to Mick Antoniw:

And this was Mick Antoniw’s response:

We don’t have democracy without both free speech and accountability in my view. If Mick Antoniw puts himself in the firing line on Twitter, he should expect to be held to account by all people and to call that post trolling was more insane than inane!

You Have (Not) Been Trolled

Only three months ago I gave a speech to over 100 people on Internet trolling at Ignite Cardiff. Today I had been penned in to give a similar speech at Pontypridd Library, but more related to the area.

I have a number of critics in Pontypridd that use the Pontytown website. When I was being supported on the website the other day I was called a “fruitcake!” Some compliment!

The number of people who turned up to my speech was nil! It was in fact as many as I expected for the reason the Library Manager said – Internet trolling was not a topic most people were interested in, even if it was about Pontypridd.

The room for my intended speech on Trolling in Pontypridd and Beyond.
The room for my intended speech on Trolling in Pontypridd and Beyond.

So my view is that if any of the people on the Pontytown website criticise me from behind their pseudonyms then I will give it no credibility as they had their chance to hold me to account and they did not. The publisher of my Internet trolling book promoted the event widely, so it is unlikely they did not know about it.

‘Awful boxer’ should be ‘prosecuted’ says trolling expert

A title-winning boxer who allegedly tracked down an Internet troller and threatened to turn up at his door should be prosecuted an Internet trolling expert has said.

Former Sheffield United footballer, Curtis Woodhouse was taunted on Twitter by a so-called troll. The troller told Woodhouse, who is now a boxer, that he should “retire immediately” as he “can’t even defend a pathetic title.“ Woodhouse responded by offering a reward to his Twitter followers if they could help him track down the troller. When he found the identity of the troll he posted messages on Twitter that could be perceived as threatening. Following allegedly locating ‘Jimmyob88‘ to South Yorkshire he said on Twitter he got in his car to “give him a right pasting”. Woodhouse added. “Just on my way to Sheffield to have a little chat with an old friend, get the kettle on.

“Brutal boxer Curtis Woodhouse threatened to turn up at the door of an Internet troller. Courtesy: Birmingham Mail.

Internet trolling expert Jonathan Bishop said Woodhouse was out of order and should be prosecuted. “The messages he (Woodhead) posted on Twitter were menacing and put the troller in fear of violence,” he said. “Under DPP v Chambers, the Doncaster Airport case, Woodhead caused this man apprehension, so should face 6 months prison for each message that made this man feel that way under the Communications Act 2003.

When he found out about Woodhouse’s plans the man said: “I’m sorry. It’s getting out of hand. I’m in the wrong, I accept that.

The troller had be mocking Woodhouse for weeks, but Bishop says the boxer should just take it. “If he (Woodhouse) is going to put himself in the public eye, especially on Twitter then he should expect the inevitable abuse that comes with being a public figure in the information age,” he said. “If he can take it in the ring with his fits, he should be equally man enough to take it online with words. He has no right to be a brutal thug that intimidates those who he can’t deal with in the way he wants and how he wants“.

Welcome to Multimedia Studies Whitney Phillips!

I read on on the blog of Whitney Phillips, the English PhD graduate who misrepresented the flame trollers on 4chan as “trolls”, an article by her that she is apparently running a “new course” on New Media.

Well Whitney Phillips, welcome to the world of Multimedia Studies! I did this module over ten years ago! In fact I did two courses on New Media – One called ‘New Media Cutures’ and one called ‘New Media Societies’.

They were put together as a way to bridge the Multimedia Computing modules accredited by BCS – the Chartered Institute for IT with the Media Studies and Media Practice Modules. The pioneer behind this course which I completed, the BSc(Hons) in Multimedia Studies was Dr Mike Reddy, now a Senior Lecturer at Newport University which is merging with Glamorgan where he designed the course.

Mike Reddy’s degree has spawed many PhDs and other leading professionals. One of the leading advocates of using Activity Theory in Participatory Design, Dr Steve Harris is one such example.

Multimedia Studies is now taught at many universities, and even has its own Wikipedia article.

This lack of appreciation of existing concepts seems evident in Whitney Phillips’s work. I was in fact talking to my sister, a PhD supervisor, about how I think literature surveys should be an important part of the PhD process and regularly updated throughout the programme of study. Had Whitney Phillips done a literature survey she would have come across my work on trolling and new media culture, including this paper, first published in 2008, which in my view her PhD appears to be a replication of. You can see the stark similarities in the table below.

 Whitney Phillips’s 2012 PhD Abstract Extracts from my 2008 Research Chapter

Ethnographic in approach, this dissertation examines trolling, an online subculture devoted to meme creation and social disruption. Rather than framing trolling behaviors as fundamentally aberrant, I argue that trolls are agents of cultural digestion; they scour the landscape, repurpose the most exploitable material, then shove the resulting monstrosities into the faces of an unsuspecting populace.

Undertaking the ethnography proved to be time consuming, though revealing about the nature of online communities and the characteristics of theactors that use them. Of the eleven characters iden-tified in the proposed character theory, eight werefound in the investigated online community.

 

Within the political and social context of the United States, the region to which I have restricted my focus, I argue that trolls digest and often perform a grotesque pantomime of a number of pervasive cultural logics, including masculine domination (Bourdieu 2001) and white privilege (Dyer 1997).

The rise of online communities in Internet environments has set in motion an unprecedented shift in power from vendors of goods and services to the customers who buy them, with those vendors who understand this transfer of power and choose to capi-talize on it by organizing online communities and being richly rewarded with both peerless customer loyalty and impressive economic returns.

Additionally, I argue that the rhetorical and behavioral tactics embraced by trolls, including sensationalism, spectacle, and emotional exploitation, are homologous to tactics routinely deployed by American corporate media outlets. In short, trolling operates within existing systems, not in contrast to, immediately complicating, and often ironizing, knee-jerk condemnations of trolling behaviors.

The ecological cognition framework has the potential to radically transform minor Web sites into highly persuasive and engaging communities where relationships between vendors and customers can be enhanced and the goals of each can be met. While there is also the possibility that a corporation that understands online communities can manipulate its members in such a way that it can easily exploit them, the model could be used by vendors with more of an interest in helping customers meet their goals to market their products and services effectively.

Whitney Phillips’s PhD

Whitney Phillip’s is an English graduate who did a PhD involving Internet trolling, titled, “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: The Origins, Evolution and Cultural Embeddedness of Online Trolling“. She posted her PhD’s abstract on her blog. I will quote it verbatum:

Ethnographic in approach, this dissertation examines trolling, an online subculture devoted to meme creation and social disruption. Rather than framing trolling behaviors as fundamentally aberrant, I argue that trolls are agents of cultural digestion; they scour the landscape, repurpose the most exploitable material, then shove the resulting monstrosities into the faces of an unsuspecting populace. 

Within the political and social context of the United States, the region to which I have restricted my focus, I argue that trolls digest and often perform a grotesque pantomime of a number of pervasive cultural logics, including masculine domination (Bourdieu 2001) and white privilege (Dyer 1997). Additionally, I argue that the rhetorical and behavioral tactics embraced by trolls, including sensationalism, spectacle, and emotional exploitation, are homologous to tactics routinely deployed by American corporate media outlets. In short, trolling operates within existing systems, not in contrast to, immediately complicating, and often ironizing, knee-jerk condemnations of trolling behaviors.

Criteria for a PhD

Most universities require a PhD to be an ‘independent and original contribution to knowledge’. Phillip’s work from this abstract seems to be a re-run of my work, so not original. I will set out how below.

My 2008 Book Chapter

In my 2008 book chapter, titled, ‘Increasing capital revenue in social networking communities: Building social and economic relationships through avatars and characters‘ I presented a two-year long ethnography of two online communities. One a message board and the other Second Life. Phillip’s thesis, titled “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: The Origins, Evolution and Cultural Embeddedness of Online Trolling,” speaks about ‘white privilege’ in relation to her findings on the characteristic, whereas I made a similar finding – how online community sub-cultures follow Black stereotypes. Phillips talks about ‘masculine domination’, and I also found a type of sub-culture that was ‘Patriarchal’ in the avatars they used.

I found that a character called ‘The Snert‘ was more what Phillips has meant by “trolls” and I said so in a letter to the Daily Mail in March 2011 for which I won Letter of the Week. I found how this character would post sensationally offensive comments, especially one called JH, for which 60% of his posts were flames. I also found out how the ‘Troll’ which was a playful character used emotional manipulation. In this case a character called ‘Pussy Galore’ posted how she enjoyed ‘baiting’ me. That fact that Phillips also found this shows replication and not originality.

Philips makes links between the representations of this ‘white privilege’ and sensationalism etc. in the American media in her thesis, titled. “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: The Origins, Evolution and Cultural Embeddedness of Online Trolling.” Equally, in my chapter, I make links between the successful Black people in American and World corporations and the way they are reflected in online communities.

Phillips, in her thesis (i.e. ‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: The Origins, Evolution and Cultural Embeddedness of Online Trolling’) concludes that trolling operates within existing systems, which is virtually identical to my conclusion that online communities can be viewed as a type of media and approached no differently to other media in terms of stereotypes for instance.

Conclusion

Did Phillips really make an original contribution to knowledge? Based on this abstract, I don’t think so!

Bethan Jenkins was simply being Welsh

As the founder of The Trolling Academy, I found it disturbing that a piece of kudos trolling in the form of a joke made by an Assembly Member to her friends on Facebook was considered so newsworthy for publication (‘Minister in online holiday romance joke’, May 2011). Even so, I felt I had to reply.

When Plaid’s Bethan Jenkins AM said that she “may not return” from a holiday to Denmark in June, she said something that we say in Wales so often it is almost a cliché. It is a proven fact that the greatest advocates of our nation are those who move away from it and long for their homeland from the point of view of all good things they remember and exclusion of the bad.

One might see why this is common if one looks at the origin of the word ‘troll’. It comes from the same troll in the Three Billy Goats Gruff who stops the billy-goats getting to ‘where the grass is greener’. This is very much the case in our country today – anyone who tries to do anything worthwhile is either given an excuse why they can’t, or called names such as “grandiose” or “deluded” when they do.

Our politicians are elected by us, often because they reflect us in some way. From that perspective we will have to accept that they might say publically the things we would privately, and we should applaud them for this and not castigate them.