Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cyber-bullying, trolling, free speech and the problem

A troll is someone who posts inflammatory messages in an online community or a discussion with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or disrupting the discussion.

Cyber-bullying and internet trolling are big cause of concern since they can have a very bad emotional impact on the recipient. While in the name of humor or fun, they might mock certain issues at their own level, it can lead to dangerous consequences such as igniting religious sentiments.

The problem today is about defining the boundaries of free speech. A message with a high inflammatory potential is not good for the society and right now determining the right or the wrong rests in the hands of corporations controlling digital media. More so the culturally boundaries that exists offline are not particularly well understood.

To hold a troller accountable requires revealing identity and is particularly difficult as the definitions would change based on culture and geography. So if the identity of an activist voicing against his/her government is revealed it is again not good for the society. Moreover it poses diplomatic problems. It is again not good if the identity of the troller is not revealed or blocked in someway. 

This video is an good quick watch about the problem of online trolling.

Trolls in an online media where today we focus on building relationships and disclosing personal details can be particularly harmful and disturbing. Imagine sensitive or personal information about you being mocked by a troller. In return the troller's rhetoric can be simple - Why take things seriously?

Another problem with online trolling is that you can't run away. So you cannot shift your Facebook profile to a different place or prevent people from tweeting about you. Trolling as shown in the video can also take extreme forms when you mock dead people.

But there is one aspect which separates a regular troller from an accidental troller. An MBA student committed suicide when after the break up, the guy shared the incident on Facebook. Her boyfriend had posted on Facebook saying, "Feeling super cool today. Dumped my new ex-girlfriend. Happy independence day."

While trolling presently is not under control as there are lack of proper mechanisms and the the system is evolving; at present the best way to avoid being a victim is to be discrete on the internet. Moreover dealing with trolls requires collective effort, which the social media makes possible. The only other link is the will to do it.

Agree with this? Join this discussion and give your feedback below.
This is an interesting image I found on the internet that has good advice on ways to deal with cyber-bullying.