Twitter Trolls – Preventing the Pile-ons.

Now it’s making the national news, a few more thoughts on the Twitter troll issue.

Twitter’s problem isn’t individual trolls; they can be blocked easily enough. From what I can tell, the big problem is the large-scale pile-ons that overwhelm their target’s “Connect” tab. There is evidence to suggest these pile-ons are co-ordinated on other sites such as Reddit. It’s not just misogynist troglodytes attacking outspoken feminists, although that’s what’s getting the headlines; from recent evidence feral One Direction fans can be just as bad.

Which makes wonder if one possible solution would be to give users more control over what’s is and isn’t seen in their Connect tab. The default of seeing everything bar accounts you’ve actually blocked works for us ordinary folks; it lets people you’re not actually following join conversations and can be a way of discovering interesting new people. It’s easy enough to plonk the odd drive-by abuser because they turn up relatively infrequently, usually only when you’ve said something provocative or controversial.

But if you’re an outspoken public figure, the dynamic is completely different. It’s been said that “on a bad troll day” you can get 50 abusive messages an hour. That prevents you from using the Connect tab to connect with the sort of people you actually want to connect to.

Perhaps Twitter need to implement a variable setting which controls who you see or don’t see in the tab. The existing default will work for most people most of the time. A more restricted setting might limit this to your extended network, for example, those you’re following plus everyone they’re following.

If widely adopted, this might change the dynamic between Twitter celebrities and us normal people, limiting who can @message them, but maybe the existing dynamic is broken for at least some of the people, some of the time.

And the trolls will still troll, except their targets will no longer see them.

This entry was posted in Social Media and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Twitter Trolls – Preventing the Pile-ons.

  1. Serdar says:

    I dunno. I file all this under the heading of “attempted technical solution to a social problem.” You might blunt it that way, or you might simply give the trolls a whole new way to game the very people they’re abusing.

    It’s worth a try, but I wouldn’t bank on it having more than the most temporary effect.

  2. Tim Hall says:

    You may be right.

    But trolls have been a problem from the beginning of the internet, and successful sites have been the ones that have been structured in a way to prevent the trolls from ruining things.