Category Archives: Viewpoints

Viewpoint – Trolling: annoyance or real threat?

This article is the first of a new series of Viewpoints from Harvard Business School, Sorbonne Business School and ESSEC Business School students and faculty.  Viewpoints section is dedicated to opinions and views that pertain to issues of broad interest to the cybersecurity community, typically, but not exclusively, of a nontechnical nature. Controversial issues will not be avoided but be dealt with fairly. Authors are welcome to submit carefully reasoned “Viewpoints” in which positions are substantiated by facts or principled arguments. Moreover, this section periodically hosts editorial debates in a Point/Counterpoint format in which both sides of an issue are represented.

Trolling: annoyance or real threat?

Viewpoint by Daniel Grieb, Flora Guise, Léontine Paquatte (ESSEC Business School)

 

Macy’s 2008 Thanksgiving Parade, New York City: American music artist Rick Astley surprises spectators with a live performance of his 1987 song “Never gonna give you up”. Leading up to his performance, the year 2008 saw the rise of a mass internet phenomenon called “Rickrolling”, where millions of users were enticed to click on hyperlinks leading to the music video of the Astley’s song. From this innocent internet prank, trolling has evolved to much more: during the US presidential election of 2017, the concern of the impact of trolling on the public’s opinion has become evident. This paper aims to explore the internet phenomenon “Troll” and will cover their motivations to their impact and current, relevant examples of trolling.

As the phenomenon of “trolling” is a rather recent emergence, there is still no clear, universally agreed upon definition in the academic field. However, a common definition reflects the most observed “trolling behavior”: it describes the act of agonizing others online “by deliberately posting inflammatory, irrelevant, or offensive comments or other disruptive content” “with no apparent (…) purpose”. [1] [2] The troll’s motivation can be categorized in three categories: (1) Personal enjoyment (pleasure seeking through “trolling”), (2) Revenge (as a reaction to being trolled) and (3) Thrill-seeking (deriving joy from the reaction of others to their trolling behavior). [3] It becomes evident that the current definition and motivation associated with trolling focuses on the individual level: it assumes that trolling is exclusively done by individuals and with no external goal. However, numerous, recent examples, show that trolling has evolved.

Trolling basically manifests itself in a malevolent, interpersonal and antisocial individual behavior. Concretely its about “deliberately [provoking], upsetting others by starting arguments or posting inflammatory messages on online comment sections.”[4] The manifestation of individual trolling through online comment sections can be observed through the increasing phenomenon of cyberbullying, identity theft and cyberstalking, therefore putting flesh on the Dark Tetrad personality traits: narcissism, sadism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy.

Quantitative analysis have shown that the online context tends to exacerbate psychopathic behaviors: anonymity, normlessness, asynchronicity on the internet are putting more psychological distance between the troll and his/her target, therefore encouraging him/her to have a sharper and more violent reaction than in an offline context.[5]

The impact of this individual cybertrolling can be seen on many aspects of the life of some victims ever since the phenomenon appeared: the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) identified behavior such as drug use, unhealthy diets and numerous other examples linked with cyberbullying.[6] Even though social networks and interpersonal websites have implemented rules and means of empeaching of trolls, the line between elements considered bullying and justified opinions is not clear, allowing internet trolls to adapt their behavior without being reprimanded.

Looking at the nefarious effect internet trolls can cause on an individual level, the threat of trolls on a societal level seems to arise.

The digital transition has brought the Greek ideal of the public agora to a brand new level: the internet turned into a global, geography-free space where almost anyone can express one’s opinion.[7] Roger Silverstone designated it in 2006 as the “Mediapolis”[8], where people can gather and participate to the virtual debate without being present, reminding the theory of “Global Village” of Marshall McLuhan.[9] It looks like the internet allowed us to become an egalitarian network society with a perfect level of freedom of speech. As it turns out however, that space of freedom became the playground of trolls and haters, breaking down this utopia and questioning models such as deliberative democracy: Trolls, fake news and hate speech occupy so much space on forums, that this may lead to eventually silencing some citizens as they do not want to become the target of trolls or to making citizens lose touch with what is true or not.[10] Disinformation, hate-speech and cyber-harassment have become real threats for democracies as they impede a reasonable, objective public debate which is the basis of this political system. It is therefore necessary to take measures to resolve this problem, however without falling into censorship: a very sensitive, but essential endeavor.

To illustrate this problem, let us take a look at the propaganda movement led by “Reconquista Germanica” that became active during the last Germany’s general election.[11] This group of online extremist used trolling to manipulate the election by spreading hate, fake news and Kremlin propaganda. The techniques used for their “Blitzkrieg against the Old Parties” proved to be very efficient. First, they trolled their opponents by spreading illegally obtained, compromising private content or even manipulated photos and collage, in the hopes that these would become “viral hits”. They also tried to manipulate public opinion by conducting a “war on information” with disinformation, hateful memes and bots sending automated messages. This way, Reconquista was able to get great visibility and influence the opinion particularly among a large proportion of undecided voters. Moreover, these techniques are becoming more and more professionalized and globalized since some groups of activists claim that they influenced Russian, American, British, German and French elections. They now apply very detailed action plans and have become organized world-wide. Yet, while it is still difficult to measure their real influence, trolls have become a cyber-threat that should in no way be neglected.

It became evident that internet trolling can become more than just a simple annoyance: the organized and strategic implementation of “trolling tools” on social media such as hate speech and doxing, can not only have a significant effect on the trolled “victims” but also on societies. Influencing public opinions has become the new goal of organized trolling networks and their first implementation prior to elections can be seen. While the lone internet troll may seem harmless, the influence and impact of an organized community of trolls should not be underestimated. Just like in many aspects in life, Paracelsus’ rule remains true – even on the internet: Sola dosis facit venenum “The dose makes the poison”. And the instrumentalization of this dose by different interest groups has become a new form of cyberthreat.

References:

[1] [2] Buckels, E. E., et al. Trolls just want to have fun. Personality and Individual Differences (2014); P.1

[3] Cook, C., et al.: Under the bridge: An in-depth examination of online trolling in the gaming context.; P.10f.

[4] Gammon J., Over a quarter of Americans have made malicious online comments, (2014)

[5] Nevin, Andrew D., “Cyber-Psychopathy: Examining the Relationship between Dark E-Personality and Online Misconduct” (2015). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 2926, P.170

[6] [7] Weichert S., From Swarm Intelligence to Swarm Malice: An appeal (2016)

[8] Silverstone R., Media and morality : on the rise of Mediapolis (2006)

[9] Mc Luhan M., Understanding media: The extensions of man (1964)

[10]Aro J., The cyberspace war: propaganda and trolling as warfare tools (2016)

[11]Von Hammerstein K., Höfner R. and Rosenbach M., Right-Wing Activists Take Aim at German Election, SPIEGEL Online (09/13/2017)

BIBLIOGRAPHIC REFERENCES :

Literary references:

Aro J., The cyberspace war: propaganda and trolling as warfare tools (2016)

Buckels, E. E., et al. Trolls just want to have fun. Personality and Individual Differences (2014)

Cook, C., et al.: Under the bridge: An in-depth examination of online trolling in the gaming context (2014)

Gammon J., Over a quarter of Americans have made malicious online comments, (2014)

Mc Luhan M., Understanding media: The extensions of man (1964)

Nevin, Andrew D., “Cyber-Psychopathy: Examining the Relationship between Dark E-Personality and Online Misconduct” (2015). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 2926, P.170

Silverstone R., Media and morality : on the rise of Mediapolis (2006)

Von Hammerstein K., Höfner R. and Rosenbach M., Right-Wing Activists Take Aim at German Election, SPIEGEL Online (09/13/2017)

Weichert S., From Swarm Intelligence to Swarm Malice: An appeal (2016)

Online references:

Cdg.gov, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System page (2017), available at: cdc.gov

Merriam-webster, Definition of troll (2018), available at: merriam-webster.com

Viewpoint – Non-consensual Pornography: How petty desire becomes a tragedy to an individual.

This article is the first of a new series of Viewpoints from Harvard Business School, Sorbonne Business School and ESSEC Business School students and faculty.  Viewpoints section is dedicated to opinions and views that pertain to issues of broad interest to the cybersecurity community, typically, but not exclusively, of a nontechnical nature. Controversial issues will not be avoided but be dealt with fairly. Authors are welcome to submit carefully reasoned “Viewpoints” in which positions are substantiated by facts or principled arguments. Moreover, this section periodically hosts editorial debates in a Point/Counterpoint format in which both sides of an issue are represented.

Non-consensual Pornography: How petty desire becomes a tragedy to an individual.

Viewpoint by Heeju ROH (Harvard Business School)

There was a woman.
She did an ordinary love.

It was not a love life that bares all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. But there was an affection: she and her lover couldn’t say each other’s name without smiling. There was a trust. The two people did not feel guilty about their own unspoken things. There were a lot other things and the love brought all of them. They thought, as it is commonly said, that they fell in love. However, it was wrong. By nature, love is not something you can consciously fall into. Love strikes people as if it is an accident. So it was rather obvious that it was also the love who called the end.

As left-overs, they did not know how to deal with the situation because they were both victims. Since the love already left them, their frustration lost its direction to head and destined to wrong targets – each other. Through the time of hurting each other more and more, they somehow survived as two separate individuals. And that was supposed to be it. But one day, she was told that there are pictures and videos of her privacy online. Records of their love, including evidences of the intimacy. Indeed, she could see two bodies. One of those had the same face with hers. However there was a difference between the face in the monitor with the face that she reflects on a mirror every morning. The face in the monitor did not have dignity or self-respect. It did not have a name or identity. It was merely a visual material to facilitate the ejaculation. Yet, it was undoubtedly her face and body.

I admit. Above case cannot possibly be the only background story of nonconsensual pornographies (NCP) in this big world. Maybe there are other victims who has been through a bad breakup, an abusive relationship, or other terrible situation before the leakage. Even if an uploader has built an aggression toward a victim, he or she does not earn an authority to share the private moment with unspecified mass viewers. We all should agree that the distribution of such material cannot be justified under any circumstance, period. However, we are often misled by the name ‘Revenge Porn.’ We are misled in a way that the victims are deserved to be revenged. More importantly, this perception results a general tendency to highlight an interpersonal and emotional conflict between the perpetrator and the victim, while diluting the fact that the NCP is a collective cybercrime. No wonder why bystanders who are unlikely to commit such crime shows certain level of approval upon NCP[i].

So, do I want to claim that NCPs are not really the result of ‘revenge’? Maybe, but that’s not the point. Currently, frequently suggested strategies to stop the NCP is more focused to victims’ protecting themselves. The reasons said are 1) that the victim must’ve agreed on the intercourse itself and 2) that, due to the highly viral environment of online platforms, the identification of the victim and instant reaction is better taken by the first party, the victim, than by the third party, the law enforcement for example. This could be also why even well-respected Medias rather recommend victims to “make sure that your face is not on the picture” or “use more secured application.”[ii] This tendency is an unfiltered evidence of our ignorance. The ignorance about the magnitude of the damage to the victims and the ignorance about the nature of the situation – the crime. The society forces the victims should be the one taking the burden of erasing fees and legal procedures, while dealing with PTSD, trust issues, and hostile social perception of “you deserve it”[iii]. Compare to the severe physical and psychological pain of the victims, the purpose of the NCP is ridiculously shallow – the amusement.

In the online world, we easily let ourselves indulge. Online world is the perfect place to let all of us to swim in the sea of our own gluttony, envy, greed and lust. Of course, it is rather acceptable if the voyeurism is directed to something not ethically challenging, such as mother’s recipe for the banana cake. Sharing information is the accomplishment of the 3rd industrial revolution. However, behind the curtain of anonymity, we also can consume other people’s private life easily and casually. And as the word ‘we’ suggests, there hardly is a sole perpetrator in the online world. They commit to this cyberbullying by creating, consuming, distributing, and making profit from NCPs. When facing the collective wave of violent behavior, individual victims always fail to protect themselves. Examples of victories are absolute minority considering the entire number of victims. The victory has to become our social norm, the general outcome, and expected result.

I believe that laws, policies, and systems are to stand at the front line of this battle. People’s feeling safe from possible harassments is the first job for normal nations to achieve. If people can hurt others and be hurt by the technology facilitated sexual violence without any rational expectation to be salvaged, that status is rather similar to the fight of all against all. To end this fight, we need more victim-focused responses. From the investigation processes, which are often traumatic for victims, to subsidy for erasing the materials and punishing the distributors[iv]. There have been studies and implementation of policies conducted. However, in reality, victims are rather to rely on civil associations than on law enforcement, because the civil associations tend to have more experience in such cases[v]. While the NCPs have become more accessible and affordable, the prosecutorial process has not become victim-friendly. Victims have to endure the ongoing tragedy until the legal process is over, which does not guarantee a fresh clean-up. As a result, the victims are easily left in the blind spot of the system.

Screaming requires a lot more effort than you think. It is not a knee-jerk reflection. Firstly the lungs have to be inflated as big as possible. Then your abdomen has to be flat and tighten in order to expectorate the air. At the moment of exhalation, the vocal cord tremors to deliver the sound wave. It’s a duty of nasal cavity to increase the sound frequency. Finally, as a quasi-verbal communication, this single-syllable sound has to deliver a message: Somebody help me. Unfortunately, the brain cannot often orchestrate the process. It endeavors to send signals to your lungs, abs, and vocal cords, but they simply fails in doing their works.

She felt that she had to scream at the moment she found her pictures. If the screaming was a cardio exercise, her brain must have sweated to be dehydrated. But the brain cannot sweat. So something else did instead: Her eyes released vast amount of salty water. Taking that as a signal, the other body parts finally responded. But it was different from what she imagined. The sound was rather low and growling. It was similar to something that every creatures make in the time of tragedy. It was an ordinary end of an ordinary love. However, because tragedies does not have an eye, they sometimes just barge into an ordinary life. So her ordinary life suddenly became tragic.

On the website, she also found other women. The women who also had faces and bodies without the name and dignity. She wondered what made all these women exposed. What have they done? And she realized that she already knew the answer – an ordinary love. They all did an ordinary love – no more, no less. Just an ordinary love.

* This article does not mean the victimization of all women nor generalization of all men.

References

[i] Lawson, K., “People Are Terrifyingly OK with Revenge Porn, New Study Finds,” Broadly, March 3, 2017. [ii] Young, S., “How to protect yourself against revenge porn,” Independent, August 24, 2017. [iii] Bates, Samantha Lynn. (2015) “Stripped”: an analysis of revenge porn victims’ lives after victimization.”

 

[iv] Dickson, Alyse (2016) “‘REVENGE PORN’: A VICTIM FOCUSED RESPONSE,” UNISA Student Law Review, Vol. 2.

 

[v] 정한라 (2013) “국내외 사이버폭력 사례 및 각국의 대응방안,” 한국인터넷진흥원