The situation in which an online discussion occurs influences whether people will troll more than their personal past of trolling suggests.
Under the right circumstances, just about anybody can become an Internet troll, according to Stanford research. (Image credit: wildpixel / Getty Images)
Internet trolls, by definition, are disruptive, combative and often unpleasant with their offensive or provocative online posts designed to disturb and upset.
The common assumption is that people who troll are different from the rest of us, allowing us to dismiss them and their behavior. But research from Stanford University and Cornell University, published as part of the upcoming 2017 Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2017), suggests otherwise. The research offers evidence that, under the right circumstances, anyone can become a troll.
“It’s a spiral of negativity,” explained Jure Leskovec, associate professor of computer science at Stanford and senior author of the study. “Just one person waking up cranky can create a spark and, because of discussion context and voting, these sparks can spiral out into cascades of bad behavior. Bad conversations lead to bad conversations. People who get down-voted come back more, comment more and comment even worse.”