Currently television news and political programmes are producing fascinating footage of politicians in action. There are many others like it, so have a read and gain some insight into their political character and personalities.
Are we witnessing a rise in the number of trolls, their visibility or their influence on key issues? If so, what caused it?
Political trolling falls into a radically different category of trolling as its usually very public although not exclusively, and in many ways has become much more widespread and salient and is highly unlikely to go away. Some primary evidence shows us that it is normally associated with Machiavellian personality traits with those scoring high on Mach gaining high emotional payoffs the more intense is the reaction form their political opponent. The revenge motive is evident in both Clinton and Trump but female politicians are more likely to utilise other motives such as the political power motive to assert themselves against online or offline abuse.
What makes political trolling different from other kinds of trolling? Is there a difference?
Yes, Political trolling is a relatively new phenomena, radically different from classical teenage trolls who are anonymous, but with the same ubiquitous aims to destroy ones opponent. It’s a form of overt and highly manipulative political dialogue with underlying sinister motives to increase ones political status across the wider community by using all forms of social media especially tweets, to wage psychological warfare incessantly against their opponent. An important element is the skillful use of political rhetoric associated with historic sexual demeanour to break down their political opponent emotionally.
Do you believe political parties intentionally weaponize their (non-paid) trolls, for example to attack their enemies, change the conversation, or discredit them?
My own view is that any political party are now aware of the huge psychological potential of social media to radically change international opinion and decision-making to attack their enemies online in particular. There is growing evidence of the highly covert nature of political trolling utilising anonymity and constructed false email accounts etc to intensify the intrigue and reinforce the enigma between both opponents. Another clever ploy of political parties is to upset online forums with the motive to destroy the content of high level political dialogue and cause mayhem by introducing radically provocative political agendas into the online debate.
A lot of times, looking at comments online, you can get the impression that the whole world is made up out of closeted racists, women-haters, extremists and xenophobes. How reflective are such comments of author’s character, and of audience and community in general?
Psychological research findings to date have shown that trolls normally hold extreme views mostly politically or economically. They fish for other people’s confidence and once they have found it, they exploit it. Their aim is to cause irritation to others, steal money, build false hopes, deceive others and cause widespread sexual or political abuse by skillful use of Twitter, Instagram and so on. Those individuals who perpetrate these hideous online crimes differ in terms of their personalities from teenage trolls to leading politicians. In some cases there are commonalities. They normally demonstrate sociopathy, narcissism and have a pathologically addictive obsession.
What do trolls get out of it, what is the payoff?
It is the high emotional payoffs the political troll achieves by getting a reaction form the opponent. They usually have the support of party members who endorse the nature and content of the tactical trolls. Their story is well sculptured to score political points but to maintain as far as possible a level of political integrity.
Where do we draw the line (Facebook, news sites, regulators). Many argue we should keep the Internet wild in order to keep free speech, but it often makes reasonable conversation impossible. When should we delete, ban, or prosecute?
Free speech is psychologically important across all nations. We must adopt moral and personal responsibility for what information we put online. If they are traced by police and seen to have intentionally damaged vulnerable others online, in the UK we have various forms of legislation to bring trolls to court. Such examples are the Defamation Act, The Misuse of Communications Act. Politicians need to have a common European policy that makes Internet trolling a punishable crime as trolls have been associated in UK for several years with suicides and rise in self-harming. No easy answer as the giant Americans like Google, Facebook, etc have taken some steps to deal with trolls but is far from adequate due to changes in UK, American and European Legislation.
It’s a form of highly manipulative and overt political dialogue with underlying sinister motives to increase ones political status across the wider community by using all forms of social media especially tweets, to wage psychological warfare incessantly against their opponent. An important element is the skillful use of political rhetoric associated with historic sexual demeanours to break down their political opponent emotionally. Another clever ploy of political parties is to upset online forums with the motive to destroy the content of high level political dialogue and cause mayhem by introducing radically provocative political agendas into the online debate. It is the high emotional payoffs the political troll achieves by getting a reaction form the opponent. Their story is well sculptured to score political points but to maintain as far as possible a level of political integrity.