Trolls, revisited

I saw a great post by FrameLab about how to deal with online trolls that I found worth signal boosting. Their advice runs parallel to advice I have posted here before.

  1. Avoid the engagement trap.
  2. Frame the issue from your own viewpoint.
  3. Block liberally.

Framelab is looking at this in regard to media. So, they remind us of the media consequences of what we do on line. Let’s look at their advice in detail.

Starve the trolls!

Warning, trolls
Please do not feed the trolls. Photo by Mark König on Unsplash
  1. Don’t engage: When you engage with a troll, the algorithm on social media is likely to spread the post more widely. Posts that get responses are good for social media businesses.
  2. Moving to your own platform not only frames the issue from your point of view. It also increases the spread of the message you want to be sending.
  3. Blocking is poison to trolls. It is embarrassing to write something hyperbolic just to hear crickets shouting with you.

I particularly like the explanation about how to phrase your new post, which responds to something you think is wrong and needs answering:

If you see a post spreading false information about vaccines, you could do your own post that says: “I’ve noticed posts containing false information about vaccine safety. I won’t take the bait by responding, but here are the facts…” Then deliver whatever message you were planning to write as a response to the troll, even if it’s just a link to a news story debunking whatever the troll is saying. Always base your arguments in facts, but argue from your moral values.” [Source: Framelab] 

What I like about it is that it encourages you to show other people how to disengage from trolls, without letting their opinion go unanswered.

Arguing for a better world, some points to ponder:

What’s your goal? When someone publishes on social media, there are more people seeing the post than people responding to it. I advise you to write for the passive audience, not the possible trolls. 

Therefore, if your goal is to invigorate a crowd, what you write is different than if your goal is to discuss the nuances of a point. If you are writing to invigorate, it will only work if your audience comments vigorously. Then you can comment in a way that keeps the energy high.

If you are looking for a discussion, and you get vigorous (not nuanced) comments, your comments should aim back at your interest in a discussion. This might not work. Your job is to stick to your values and your goals.

If someone brings up an unrelated outrage to distract from your point, or compares what you are saying to something that is not comparable, resist going down a rabbit hole with them.

Ignore first. If the side conversation continues, use a sentence like this:

  • “This thread has gone off-track, we were discussing…”
  • “It is false to compare (your point) with (a false comparison) for more reasons than I want to discuss here. The topic is…”

When all else fails, got to Framelab’s third suggestion and block comments. Blocking is considered rude. But, then again, there is a whole lot of more aggressive rudeness than that going around social media.

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