Trolling Is Not Just a Art. It Is an Science: The Role of Automated Affective Content Screening in Regulating Digital Media and Reducing Risk of Trauma

Trolling Is Not Just a Art. It Is an Science: The Role of Automated Affective Content Screening in Regulating Digital Media and Reducing Risk of Trauma

Jonathan Bishop (Centre for Research into Online Communities and E-Learning Systems, Wales, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6324-4.ch028


This chapter seeks to explore the role media content ratings play in the age of “Internet trolling” and other electronic media issues like “sexting.” Using ANOVA to validate a four-factor approach to media ratings based on maturity, the chapter finds the ability of a person to withstand various media content, measured in “knol,” which is the brain's capacity to process information, can be used to calculate media ratings. The study concludes it is feasible to have brain-computer interfaces for PCs and kiosks to test the maturity of vulnerable persons and recommend to parents/guardians or cinema managers whether or not to allow someone access to the content they wish to consume. This could mean that computer software could be programmed to automatically censor content that person is likely to be distressed or grossly offended by. Public policy issues relating to these supply-side interventions are discussed.
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The convergence of media content is posing challenges in terms of protecting the vulnerable while also protecting free speech. Regulating abusive online media content, such as Internet trolling, is not suited to 'before-the-fact' model of current film rating agencies even if the objective rules and judgements used by those agencies are. Basing rating on age appropriateness is also ineffective for the online world, as people will have different maturity for different content at different ages with some being more prone to offense than others.

Internet trolling as a concept has transformed in definition in recent years from classical trolling, which was the posting of messages in a friendly way, to Anonymous Trolling, which is posted to harm others (Bishop, 2014b; Phillips, 2011). Internet trolling messages posted to entertain others can be seen as 'kudos trolling' and those designed to harm others can be seen as 'flame trolling' (Bishop, 2012b). But this does not mean all flame trolling is 'bad' and should be punished, nor does it mean all kudos trolling is 'good' and should be allowed. In some forums on the Internet, flame trolling is encouraged, such as the criticism of politicians, bankers, or other people who may be part of a group with dislikeable qualities. The consensual nature of these forums it could be argued should not mean their abusive comments should be prosecutable (Starmer, 2013). Equally not all kudos trolling is designed to be in the interests of people. For instance, a type of online community user called a chatroom bob, will often post friendly comments in order to seduce others. They may be a pervert looking to coax naked pictures out of the person, or a sex predator trying to groom a child or other young person (Bishop, 2012c; Jansen & James, 1995; Jansen & James, 2002). A recent example of this was the case of Daniel Perry. Daniel Perry was a 17-year-old man who was tormented into killing himself as part of an online plot to extort money from him. Perry was a popular teenager from Dunfermline, Fife, who took his own life after being targeted by a group of Internet trollers who exploited him for their own gain. Perry took his own life after a Skype conversation with a person he was led to believe was a girl the same age as him, where he shared sexualized videos of himself online known as ‘sexting’ or ‘getting naked on cam’ (GNOC). Suddenly a gang then hijacked the chat and threatened to show the video to his family and friends, unless he paid them menaces (i.e. money). Known as ‘Nigerian Chatroom Bobs,’ due to an urban myth that it is mostly people in Nigeria who extort money from people online, these trollers will use all means to gain the confidence of someone and then extort money from them, which in Daniel Perry’s case was attempted through blackmail.

It is therefore necessary to have a more technical way of looking at Internet trolling and other online misdemeanours, such as through linguistic or other forms of studying media (Bishop, 2014b; Hardaker, 2013; Hardaker, 2010). This could involve making it easier to regulate online content, so that mature users know what to expect, and Internet security software providers can better produce software with parental controls to avoid the corruption of the minds of those lacking in maturity (Haravuori, Suomalainen, Berg, Kiviruusu, & Marttunen, 2011; Roche, 2012). Such people may not have been exposed to severe or traumatic content in the past and as a result be less able to cope with it (Dutta‐Bergman, 2006). It may therefore be appropriate to refer to those Internet trolling messages which are prosecutable as electronic message faults (EMFls) and those which are not prosecutable as electronic message freedoms (EMFrs).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Internet Trolling: The posting of provocative or offensive messages on the Interent.

Pression: The accumulative pressure put on the brain to process information following a person’s mind bringing a lot of variables into play at once.

Phantasy: A persistent memory that effects the ability of the brain to access functions located where that memory was formed to protect acess to that functioning following an overflow of information to that part of the brain.

Knol: A knol is a unit of measurement for the easy to which neurological information can pass between the synapses of the brain to access specific functions.

Electronic Message Fault: A message posted on the Internet or via electronic means that is either unfair or wrongful to a person who is offended by it.

Trolling Magnitude Scale: The Trolling magnitude Scale (TMS) is a measurement of the severity of Internet trolling in a given situation.

Grossly Offensive: A word to describe an electronic message fault that leaves a person feeling apprehension because the message was targeted at them or a group of which they are part.

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