Bowdoin College

Facebook and Deception

“Trolling is a game about identity deception, albeit one that is played without the consent of most of the players. The troll attempts to pass as a legitimate participant, sharing the group’s common interests and concerns; the newsgroup member, if they are cognizant of trolls and other identity deceptions, attempt to both distinguish real from trolling postings and, upon judging a poster to be a troll, make the offending poster leave the group.”(Donath 45).

http://artoftrolling.memebase.com/2011/03/20/yahoo-answers-troll-today-comes-afterwards/

This week’s readings were particularly interesting because of the being addressed: security. The two readings focus on different aspects of security. Donath focuses on internet security when it comes to virtual communities and the credibility issues that exist online. Nosko et. al, focuses on security from online interactions to real-world implications, such as identity theft. However, the link above serves as an example of internet trolling on Yahoo! Answers. The question being asked seems legitimate, although it is possible that the asker is indeed trolling as well since they could simply google the name of Rebecca Black to find out more about her, rather than resort to Yahoo! Answers to come up with a response. Nonetheless, the respondent is clearly trolling giving a detailed, but whimsical answer to the question.

The implication of this example is that Yahoo! Answers is not seen as a safe environment where individuals can post questions and hope to have serious inquiries along with serious replies. “Yet this is where the troll can cause the most harm, by diverting the discussion off the newsgroup topic and into a heated argument.”(48) Another example is this: http://www.memehumor.com/index.php/facebook/epic-facebook-trolling/ where it is clear that the purpose of this troll is to change the topic from the facebook status to something more personal about who said what. Similarly, in the previous example, the comments which probably emerged would reference the comment, either praising it for being funny or ridiculous, or disapproving because the person is clearly a troll. Therefore, it is hard to have the thread focus on the question, rather than the response.

This ties in to the issue of identity concealment since the person who replies assumes a pseudonym when using his/her account to post an answer so this means that the account can be blocked but that does not ensure that the person will not be able to access Yahoo! Answers again. “The sanctions to offensive behavior can be roughly divided into two main categories: those that involve making a connection to a real world person and those that do not.”(Donath 54). Since it is easy to create new email accounts, it is sometimes impossible to impose sanctions on those that offend a virtual community. However, actions can be taken since the style of writing can be noticed and a troll can be noticed since the language and writing style serve as a signature online, therefore identifying certain individuals.

On the flip side, privacy issues exist when users post confidential information. The different tests that Nosko et. al conduct help to bolster the credibility of these claims and towards the end it is clear which individuals post this type of information. “For the most part, age and relationship status were salient in describing who would or would not be likely to disclose information, while traditional variables such as gender were not significant. In fact, across the grouping strategies there was considerable overlap in outcomes suggesting that some types of information were particularly salient for some groups.”(Nosko et. al 416). Young and single users of Facebook are more likely to post information for all to see, which can be used to steal their identity and cause real-world implications rather than the trolls who simply wreak havoc on these virtual communities online. Furthermore, the identity theft can lead to individuals to hack into a person’s facebook which means that the hackers will use this person’s facebook to spam their friends. I know of individuals who have had their facebook hacked and posted messages about free iPads that they received and that I could to. This has implications online as well because the individual’s messages posted afterwards are closely monitored to see if they are truly theirs or if they belong to a hacker.

Also, because this was such a popular troll tactic/material, it would be an incomplete blog entry without mentioning Mr. Rick Astley.

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