SuttaCentral

Dealing with trolling behaviour

A bit of additional perspective…

Internet behavior:

Back in the 1990’s, as the internet became more widely used and WWW was just emerging, I got a copy of perhaps the first such book on, if I recall, “The Psychology of the Internet”. The basic point that stuck in my mind was that the cover of remoteness and anonymity seems to empower behavior from dark psychological recesses of the human mind. And too neuro-science about how multiple, even hundreds of mental but sub- or pre-conscious processes are running constantly in the human brain/psyche. Social-cultural conditioning (parental training, further levels of education) functions to channel and mitigate, moderate what gets expressed overtly. Minus the context of face-to-face encounter and “manners,” precepts if you will, that restrain in personal contact, then all manner of other behaviors find freer rein.

and dhamma:

Vstakan
2017-03-02 23:32:17 UTC #4

Yeah, the stories about the Buddha converting fierce Yakkhas into the ascetic and contemplative life acquire new significance with the modern increase in online communication.

Then there’s the idea, found in some interpretations of the Sutta-s, that all the various devas and demons ( or whatever on the lower and higher levels) can be understood as representations of those darker corners, processes that live in the individual (but im- or trans-personal) human psyche. And, as Vstakan mentions, those demonic types can have positive roles.

and historical parallels:

Just a couple of weeks ago, Elaine Pagels (professor / writer on religious cultural history) gave a talk nearby at Stanford, on “Satan – How a fictional being still shadows our views of gender, race, and politics”, reviewing and updating issues in her book “The Origin of Satan” (1995). It turns out that in early Hebrew writings, some angels (“messengers”) had negative as well as positive roles, e.g. would be dispatched by God to test or punish people, as in the case of Job.
Over time, and especially as eventually taken-up and developed in the other Abrahamic religions, Satan became more separate, totally evil, dualistic antagonist to God/goodness. She also noted a distinction between those who demonize their doctrinal or other opponents, and leaders like Ghandhi and Martin Luther King who avoided identifying persons with evil abstractions.

Similarly in Chinese and Tibetan art – demonic appearing characters having a beneficial place in the cosmos. Several years ago at an exhibit of Taoist art (across 2+ millennia) in San Francisco, I was struck by medieval depictions of groups of 4 or 5 “noble” traditional mythic figures together, e.g. often LaoTze, the Yellow Emperor, Confucius the Buddha, etc.,AND often including a character with bulging eyes, darker complexion, long fangs, and armed to the teeth, so to speak – s/t king and controller of the demonic hordes, keeping them in line;
or also as sort of general or “Minister of Defense”.

DKervick
2017-03-03 14:56:52 UTC #16

I personally think the word “troll” is overused.

Another term used in this context is “sock puppet”, as in an avatar or persona used to cause trouble without identifying oneself.

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Basic rule: when people are mean, don’t be mean back, no matter how much you are right and they are wrong, and no matter how rude they were to you or any other user.

I was literally about to feed a troll here when I remembered this thread. The atmosphere, in general, is much better here than other online spaces I have interacted with, and I hope it remains so as it grows (although growth = more trolling, I don’t think there is a way to get around that).

That being said. Sometimes a troll is literally just spouting all sorts of wrong things, putting all sorts of things in the Buddha’s mouth, where to draw the line?

I definitely advocate correcting a troll when (s)he is wrong, just for the sake of not having wrong information proliferated on internet forums (there is enough of that already!). The troll will grouch and respond back, probably passive-aggressively, but if your information is right and theirs is wrong, and you can cite your information from primary sources and they cannot, what is right will rise to the surface.

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One thing to remember is that the persuasiveness of an idea is often related, not its validity, rationality, usefulness, or the evidence for it, but to how many times it is repeated. This underlies the whole “don’t feed the trolls” idea. By not responding, you are deflating the energy in that area. Since they don’t get a rise out of anyone, there is no more incentive to keep repeating their ideas.

Rather than thinking of a forum as a place to get the correct idea about Dhamma, try thinking of it as a place to foster healthy and pleasant conversation about the Dhamma. That way it’s a lot less stressful, and we can focus more on understanding each other, less on getting it right.

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Interesting documentary on Guardian today about online “warriors” (it should go without saying, offensive opinions and words included here). Very short but nice to see a different perspective into different people’s lives, and why coming together online can be so… well, interesting at times.

It’s also good to remember people aren’t ‘trolls’, but they may ‘be people who are trolling’. Yeah, a bit more of a mouthful, but I feel we should make that distinction.

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The main thing, as I see it, is that the mind is uninterested in being tamed most of the time. The process of cleansing the mind is unappealing and it’s much more gratifying to indulge in various pastimes. The nature of the distractions vary a lot, but the objective is mostly the same: push stagnant time behind us. The suttas contain many references to monks who finish their meal and then ‘emerge in the evening, after spending the day in seclusion’. This indicates a supreme level of self-contentment - the need for acceptance in the world has been eradicated. But, like modern versions of unenlightend Ananda busily making robes, we spin yarns with abandon until one day the wool covering our eyes is suddenly removed and we see the Truth: The cult of Geek Monks ™ is not a myth, it’s real. They are amongst us.

And they speak an obscure language called xkcd that is fairly well-known in certain circles.

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IMO, a big reason why this forum is so tame, generally more pleasant, and more free of trolls than other internet forums is the leadership and moderation. Y’all set an example of respect and a polite tone in all of your posts, without exception as far as I’ve seen. This is so important because as soon as a person in the position of power starts acting unprofessionally, that is the tacit go-ahead for regular folks to do the same thing and worse. Even as adults, all but the wisest of us are like children in the sense that we need good examples. The Buddha is the epitome of a good example and in whatever sense we emulate that is “for the win.”

So kudos to the mod team and those who’ve selected them. :smile_cat:

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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: