SuttaCentral

Dealing with trolling behaviour

Trolls Are Winning the Internet, Technologists Say

From the article, referring to a study by some Stanford and Cornell grad students:

They learned that being in a bad mood makes a person more likely to troll, and that trolling is most frequent late at night (and least frequent in the morning). They also tracked the propensity for trolling behavior to spread. When the first comment in a thread is written by a troll—a nebulous term, but let’s go with it—then it’s twice as likely that additional trolls will chime in compared with a conversation that’s not led by a troll to start, the researchers found. On top of that, the more troll comments there are in a discussion, the more likely it is that participants will start trolling in other, unrelated threads.

“A single troll comment in a discussion—perhaps written by a person who woke up on the wrong side of the bed—can lead to worse moods among other participants, and even more troll comments elsewhere,” the Stanford and Cornell researchers wrote. “As this negative behavior continues to propagate, trolling can end up becoming the norm in communities if left unchecked.”

Nice to see some data on this. More reason to nip the behavior in the bud! :mushroom:

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I wonder if the reverse is also true?

No question about it IMO. Whenever I spend some time at a good monastery, the norm is positive behavior and its effect is palpably felt.

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[quote=“Mkoll, post:29, topic:4465”]
Whenever I spend some time at a good monastery, the norm is positive behavior and its effect is palpably felt.[/quote]

This sounds like something ‘Christian’, where positive feelings are generated by group activities:

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.

Matthew 18:20

This seems to contrast with Buddhism, where the Buddha encouraged independence & solitude:

Then Upāli, the householder, having thus, in the Dispensation of the Exalted One seen the Truth; attained to the Truth; comprehended the Truth, penetrated the Truth, overcome doubt; cast off uncertainty and gained full confidence without dependence on another.

Of him who has fared well, is absorbed in meditation,
is independent, is pure, is unattached, is to be abandoned,
is secluded, has attained to pre-eminence,
has crossed (the Ocean of Sorrow) and
causes others to cross,
of that Blessed One am I a disciple.

MN 56

Members also misuse power when they know certain moderators will support them. Imo, it all comes down to mutual respect or respecting diverse opinions (rather than a ‘cult’ mentality). For example, if there is a positive thread about a non-mainstream teacher, the mainstreamers should not troll that thread.

Its ironic how cultural Marxists defend minorities yet these same cultural Marxists on Buddhist forums seem to gang-up on ‘minority-Buddhists’.

:deciduous_tree:

You’re not alone. :slight_smile:

For most of us this is a very important first step: find a group of people - good companions in Dhamma - which helps us keeping up positive states.

This is somehow what we see the Buddha explaining to Meghiya in the Ud4.1:

“It can be expected, Meghiya, that for a monk who has a good friend, a good companion, a good comrade, that he will be virtuous, that he will live restrained with the Pātimokkha restraint, and will be endowed with suitable conduct and resort, seeing danger in the slightest fault, and will train in the training rules he has undertaken.

“It can be expected, Meghiya, that for a monk who has a good friend, a good companion, a good comrade, that he will have talk that is very austere, that is suitable for opening up the mind, and that leads to absolute disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, peace, deep knowledge, complete Awakening and Emancipation, such as: talk on wanting little, talk on being satisfied, talk on complete seclusion, talk on disassociation, talk on stirring up energy, talk on virtue, talk on concentration, talk on wisdom, talk on freedom, talk on knowing and seeing freedom. Such talk as this he gains as he desires, he gains without difficulty, gains without trouble.

“It can be expected, Meghiya, that for a monk who has a good friend, a good companion, a good comrade, that he will be a monk with energy aroused for the giving up of unwholesome things, for the taking up of wholesome things, steadfast, of firm endeavour, one who has not thrown off the burden in regard to wholesome things.

“It can be expected, Meghiya, that for a monk who has a good friend, a good companion, a good comrade, that he will be wise, endowed with wisdom that leads to seeing rise and disappearance, with noble penetration, that leads to the complete destruction of suffering.

But we have to always keep in mind that, as seen in the very same Ud4.1 these things are there to provide a solid foundation for the real work, which is definitely done within oneself and in proper seclusion of body and mind:

“Then, Meghiya, with a monk who is established in these five things, four further things ought be be developed:

“The meditation on the unattractive should be developed for the giving up of passion, friendliness meditation should be developed for the giving up of ill-will, mindfulness of breathing should be developed for the cutting off of thoughts, the perception of impermanence should be developed for the complete uprooting of the conceit ‘I am’. To one who has the perception of impermanence, Meghiya, the perception of non-self is established, one who perceives non-self reaches the complete uprooting of the conceit ‘I am’, in this very life reaches Emancipation.”

Now, to the topic, it is sad to realise that trolls end up being the antithesis of the good companion, isn’t it?

Trolls are far from being endowed with suitable conduct and resort, seeing danger in the slightest fault.

Their modes of conversation are far from being suitable for opening up the mind, and pointing disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, peace, deep knowledge, complete Awakening and Emancipation.

Their occupation is actually the opposite: they seem to enjoy enticing anxiety, calling people names and forcing others into their labels and a sort of “you’re wrong, lost, I am right, free_” dead end, without offering any way or support in terms of getting the counterpart anywhere closer to peace and freedom.

Hence, when it comes to dealing with trolls here it has been immensely helpful to keep in mind what is recorded in the AN5.159:

It’s not easy to teach the Dhamma to others, Ananda. The Dhamma should be taught to others only when five qualities are established within the person teaching. Which five?
“[1] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak step-by-step.’
“[2] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak explaining the sequence [of cause & effect].’
“[3] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak out of compassion.’
“[4] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak not for the purpose of material reward.’
“[5] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak without hurting myself or others.’
“It’s not easy to teach the Dhamma to others, Ananda. The Dhamma should be taught to others only when these five qualities are established within the person teaching.”

Anyone who tries to teach another Dhamma by missing any of the five things above could be understood as a troll in Dhamma. And remember, the best way to deal with those is to not feed them! :wink:

:anjal:

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Interesting view (ditthi) but it seems somewhat contradictory since calling a person a “troll” is itself calling people names. I doubt there exists one single sutta that can support this thread. :mouse:

(11) Others will have wrong views; we shall have right view here — thus effacement can be done.
(24) Others will be angry; we shall not be angry here — thus effacement can be done.
(25) Others will be hostile; we shall not be hostile here — thus effacement can be done.
(26) Others will denigrate; we shall not denigrate here — thus effacement can be done.
(27) Others will be domineering; we shall not be domineering here — thus effacement can be done.
(31) Others will be hypocrites; we shall not be hypocrites here — thus effacement can be done.
(44) Others will misapprehend according to their individual views, hold on to them tenaciously and not easily discard them; we shall not misapprehend according to individual views nor hold on to them tenaciously, but shall discard them with ease — thus effacement can be done.

MN 8

Are there any EBTs to support this novel point of view (ditthi)? :rooster:

Well said!

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Are there any instances a troll is becoming an administrator or a moderator?
:stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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I don’t know what you are alluding to @Sarathw1. But if I ever find myself in an online space in which trolling behaviour occurs among the team of moderators I will simply walk away.

There’s no point in being in such a place just as there is no point in going to a pub full of drunkards to have a nice conversation about renunciation, good will and equanimity.

:anjal:

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By doing so you empower the trolls. That is what they exactly want you to do, so they can thrive.

:anjal:

If I read a news story online, sometimes I’m drawn to read the “comments” section in the same way that I might be drawn to rubberneck a traffic accident. However, one look into that toxic thicket of views and I remember to stay away. No minds are ever changed in that arena!

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“Turning around”, as it were, @Gabriel_L’s worthy comments … another way to counter trolling behavior is to establish (mostly by example) high standards of right speech. Standards more concrete and elaborated perhaps than those in the EBT’s while being founded in them.

Higher ‘standards’ of right speech serve a number of functions of course. One function following from the idea that the more refined the level of rhetoric, discussion or discourse the less possible it is to act the troll.

Consider the first 2 of these 5 qualities:

To those 2 qualities I would add:
On a website focusing on the EBT’s a high value is placed on citing and quoting from relevant passages of a EBT.

Thus the following inquiries might always be relevant and welcome:

  • I’m having trouble following the step-by-step reasoning of what you have written.
    Can you break it down step-by-step?
  • In your understanding what is the sequence of cause & effect?
  • Can you illustrate that idea from a EBT?

In as much as trolls “feed” on a sense of gaining status by their actions the questions above invite the possible troll to ‘up their game’, to raise their level of rhetoric. Thus less beneficial rhetoric either has to refine itself or see the rhetoric become ‘sidelined’ and perceived as less relevant, less worthy of status.
The idea here is that the more refined the level of rhetoric, discussion or discourse the less possible it is to act the troll.

My ad hoc observation is that such standards greatly reduce trolling type posting.

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Tks for this. :anjal:

I felt like some of the moderators on the Buddhism Subreddit were trollish…but I’m not sure if they were purposefully so, maybe just sincerely misguided - so much so I can’t even tell which one is worse, an intentional or unintentional troll…

I think this is a very good point. I was banned from the Buddhism subreddit because I refused to acknowledge that all the sects of Buddhism were “equally accurate representations of Buddhism” and when I advocated for an “early Buddhist perspective,” my actions were seen as a “sectarian bias towards early Buddhism” for reasons such as “many people from all three major sects believe that the academics’ views are wrong - and academic views must be thus be treated as just another belief system that must be treated as equal to all three sects.”
Equality trumped evidence apparently.

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The use of condemnatory and demeaning terms to discourage or mock certain behavior is used in many different contexts by people belonging to various persuasions. Some of the links shared above refers to “winning arguments” which is an interesting phenomena in my opinion. The relationship between winning an argument and what we perceive as “true” is referenced in the suttas with descriptions like: shoulders drooping, face down and loss for words. It seems to show that the emotional side of what we perceive as true cannot be overestimated.

This brings Pyrrho to mind, popular among many Buddhists:

“Whoever wants to live well must consider these three questions: First, how are pragmata (ethical matters, affairs, topics) by nature? Secondly, what attitude should we adopt towards them? Thirdly, what will be the outcome for those who have this attitude?” Pyrrho’s answer is that "As for pragmata they are all [adiaphora] (undifferentiated by a logical differentia), astathmēta (unstable, unbalanced, not measurable), and anepikrita (unjudged, unfixed, undecidable). Therefore, neither our sense-perceptions nor our doxai (views, theories, beliefs) tell us the truth or lie; so we certainly should not rely on them. Rather, we should be adoxastoi (without views), aklineis (uninclined toward this side or that), and akradantoi (unwavering in our refusal to choose), saying about every single one that it no more is than it is not or it both is and is not or it neither is nor is not.

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Whilst investigating what is a troll, came across the following article,

The final postscript;

Bottom line, keep your trolls simple, avoid the temptation to rush straight to the ridiculous, and, whatever you do, don’t troll the www.whiskywhiskywhisky.com scotch forums. Those motherfuckers are far too polite.

:rofl:

Ultimate excellence lies
Not in winning
Every battle
But in defeating the enemy
Without ever fighting.
The highest form of warfare
Is to attack
Strategy itself.

~Art of war

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Exquisite piece …
:anjal:

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When behaviour is seriously toxic, it’s appropriate that the material posted be removed promptly and the poster banned.

If behaviour is merely borderline, aggravating, or irritating the better line of action is universal avoidance and refusal to respond in any way. This takes personal discipline from every member of an online community, but it generally works a treat.

Posters with malicious intention simply get bored and go elsewhere to get their kicks, or up their game and display truly toxic behaviour that gets banned. Others learn (at various speeds) to adopt to the mores of the community, especially if helped along.

But remember Skinner: variable reinforcement can maintain behaviours longer than positive reinforcement does. It’s important that the negative reinforcement be 100% no response from all members.

Most online communities can’t maintain such strict discipline, but perhaps a group of equanimous Buddhist meditators have a better chance …

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