• Trolling the trolls: Online Forum Users Constructions of the Nature and Properties of Trolling

      Coles, Bryn A.; West, Melanie; Newman University; University of Chester (Computers in Human Behavior, 2016-02-27)
      ‘Trolling’ refers to a specific type of malicious online behaviour, intended to disrupt interactions, aggravate interactional partners and lure them into fruitless argumentation. However, as with other categories, both ‘troll’ and ‘trolling’ may have multiple, inconsistent and incompatible meanings, depending upon the context in which the term is used and the aims of the person using the term. Drawing data from 14 online fora and newspaper comment threads, this paper explores how online users mobilise and make use of the term ‘troll’. Data was analysed from a discursive psychological perspective. Four repertoires describing trolls were identified in posters' online messages: 1) that trolls are easily identifiable; 2) nostalgia; 3) vigilantism; 4) that trolls are nasty. A final theme follows these repertoires – that of identifying trolls. Analysis also revealed that despite repertoire 01, identifying trolls is not a simple and straight-forward task. Similarly to any other rhetorical category, there are tensions inherent in posters' accounts of nature and acceptability of trolling. Neither the category ‘troll’ nor the action of ‘trolling’ has a single, fixed meaning. Either action may be presented as desirable or undesirable, depending upon the aims of the poster at the time of posting.