Behind the online comments: the psychology of internet trolls

In an effort to gain an understanding of why people like Nigel  Roberts of Nigel Roberts Newsagents in Llandudno troll, I have read many studies about internet trolls and their mentality. Because of the enormity of the problem I will publish this in three parts.

 One of the most informative is this one below.

I have highlighted areas that all the studies I have read have in common and those areas I believe are most relevant to these two internet trolls and their associates, MP for Clwyd West David Jones, Dylan Moore, Ruby Williams, Chris Drew and Steve ‘;Rico’ Davies.


Readers’ comments are an important, yet often overlooked, type of user-generated content. And some readers are much more likely to post and read comments than others. Trolling, the act of posting disruptive or inflammatory comments online in order to provoke fellow readers, has been the focus of much recent attention.
The highlighted sentence above is most relevant and something Nigel  Roberts would do regularly via his blogs or other social media platforms.
More worrying in their case is that he enjoyed responding to his own posts, using pseudonyms, which in turn created more damage and worry to his victims, as demonstrated below. E-thug was/is a popular pseudonym used by the Roberts’s and their co-authors.

PewDiePie (Felix Kjellberg), the world’s most popular YouTuber, recently decided to ban comments on his channel because of his inability to silence trolls. There are now fears that he may lose fans or migrate to another platform. A week before that, TV historian and Cambridge professor Mary Beard revealed that she had written a letter of recommendation for one of her trolls – a university student who insulted her and was subsequently exposed online. Professor Beard reasoned that the student should not pay such a high price for “one moment of idiocy”, and that her reference would make up for the students’ reputational damage, which she helped inflict.
So, why do trolls troll and how should we manage them? Although research in this area is still in its infancy, a few psychological studies have attempted to answer these questions. There are three important lessons learned.
First, trolls are more likely to display noxious personality characteristics, that is, traits that impair one’s ability to build relations and function in a civilised or pro-social way. In a comprehensive examination of their psychological profile, trolls were found to be more Machiavellian (impulsive and charming manipulators), psychopathic (cold, fearless and antisocial), and especially more sadistic than the overall population. Trolls enjoy harming and intimidating others, so much so that the authors of this study concluded that trolls are “prototypical everyday sadists”, and that trolling should be regarded as online sadism. This is in line with the view of trolling as a form of cyberbullying.
Again the highlighted part of this paragraph helps give an understanding of the Roberts’s and others like them.
Below helps us understand why people like Nigel  Roberts used anonymity to troll.
Second, trolling – like other forms of computer-mediated communication – unleashes people’s impulses by providing anonymity and temporary identity loss.This phenomenon, is called deindividuation, is well known to psychologists and has been found to emerge in several areas of interpersonal relations, such as gaming, role-playing and crowd behaviours, particularly hooliganism.(Something that a member of the ‘Thoughts of Oscar’ and CSI Llandudnotroll blog’s authorship/contributors was guilty of, ‘Steve ‘Rico’ Davies’) 
This horrible individual delighted in throwing golf balls with nails hammered through them, at opposing football fans back in the 80’s. He has helped The Roberts’s with their latest troll blog CSI Llandudno.
Thus even when we are not naturally sadistic, trolling may bring out the worst side in us, by lifting the moral constrains and social etiquette that regulates our behaviour in normal situations, and by fuelling dissent and triggering abrasive reactions.
Third, trolling is a status-enhancing activity: by attracting readers’ attention, upsetting people, sparking heated debates, and even gaining approval from others, trolls can feel important, perhaps much more than they are in their real lives. Thus trolling is yet another internet activity that promotes narcissistic motives, since trolls may be expected to be far less successful in attracting people’s attention in the physical world. The only effective antidote to their tactics is to ignore them, but even then trolls won’t suffer a public humiliation because nobody knows who they are. This is what makes trolling so ubiquitous – it requires no skills other than the ability to be obnoxious.
The highlighted section above helps us understand why The Roberts and their co-authors/contributors to the troll blog ‘Thoughts of Oscar’ used so many different pseudonyms to respond to their published posts.
So, how can trolls be managed? As recent reviews have shown, sites, editors and authors can take concrete measures to minimise trolling. Disabling anonymity, moderating comments and banning offenders, as well as predicting whether an article is likely to promote trolling, are all effective steps. There is often a thin line between wanting to drive traffic and enticing trolling, so content editors and site managers must act responsibly and beware of the consequences of pushing for too much controversy. As for readers, they should try to disengage with trolls and report them. Perhaps the biggest advantage of dealing with the online manifestations of antisocial behaviour is that we can use technology to tackle them. In fact, it is easier to detect, track and manage aggression online than offline.
Part one.

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