Amusement, boredom and revenge are among the key reasons that lead to trolling and cyberbullying, research by Dr Claire Hardaker, a linguistics expert at Lancaster University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), has found.
The research, which looked at 4,000 online cases of trolling, found that there are seven tactics used by trolls, including giving dangerous advice and being insensitive about delicate topics.
Hardaker said: “Aggression, deception and manipulation are increasingly part of online interaction, yet many users are unaware not only that some of these behaviours exist, but of how destructive and insidious they can be.”
Last year, a man was arrested for trolling Tom Daley after he came fourth in an Olympic event.
Tactics used by trolls
1: Digressing from the topic at hand, especially onto sensitive topics
Not necessarily overtly argumentative, this tactic frustrates its targets with its pointlessness and circularity. Digression onto sensitive topics triggers the strongest reactions.
2: Hypocriticising, especially for a fault that the critic then displays
A simple tactic, often this is pedantic criticism of grammar, spelling or punctuation in a post which itself contains proof-reading errors to provoke exasperated responses from others.
3: Antipathising, by taking up an alienating position, asking pseudo-naïve questions, etc
This tactic is heavily reliant on deceiving the group it is aimed at and covertly manipulates egos, sensitivities, morals and feelings of guilt, usually to trigger emotional responses. It can also create moral dilemmas.
4: Endangering others by giving dangerous advice, encouraging risky behaviour, etc
A trolling strategy designed to masquerade as help or advice whilst actually causing harm and/or forcing others to respond to prevent harm. It relies on the target's social responsibility and moral obligation.
5: Shocking others by being insensitive about sensitive topics, explicit about taboo topics, etc
This appears to succeed mainly due to the strength of feeling provoked by the deeply personal and extraordinarily hurtful nature of the troll's insensitivity. It triggers a desire to retaliate that is stronger than the desire to deny the troll the satisfaction of a response.
6: Aggressing others by insulting, threatening, or otherwise plainly attacking them without (adequate) provocation
This is open and deliberate aggression without any clear justification with the aim of antagonising its target into retaliating.
7: Cross-posting - sending the same offensive or provocative message to multiple groups then waiting for the response
The message sent by the troll in this tactic is totally off topic and irrelevant. This deliberately careless 'spamming' tactic can result in potentially thousands of users being inundated with unwanted or irrelevant messages.