Ever wonder if the people on the other end of the keyboard that you are having a spirited debate with is actually a paid government troll or shill?
First off not everyone that disagrees with a topic, article, opinion, post on social media or at a chat forum, is a troll, paid by the government or not. We at ANP have witnessed multiple discussions and debates where people disagree on certain points while agreeing with others, and as one of our regular readers likes to say, he learns something new from those discussions almost every day.
TOTAL WAR COMMAND IS GIVEN TO GOVERNMENT CYBER WARRIORS - TROLL ATTACKS GO HYPERSONIC
With world events going critical from war talk to cyber attacks, the economy to chemtrail talk, where Alternative Media outlets are garnering so much attention and highlighting issues Washington would prefer remain under the radar, and practically forcing the mainstream media to address those topics, the attacks against Independent Journalism have increased exponentially.
We have noted it here at ANP, our readers have noted it from across the Internet in comment sections, social media platforms and forums and after touching base with a couple sources, we see that other site owners are also noting the increase in trolling activity on their sites.
In response to my questions of whether they are noticing this increase, and being in communication with other web site owners are they hearing about it more, the response was "Yes, they are on a war footing (against us) and have gone hypersonic with guv cyber warriors having been given the total war command against us."
That answer is representative what we have been seeing and hearing across the web.
DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN A "TROLL OR SHILL" AND JUST SOMEONE WITH A DIFFERING OPINION
This distinction is critical because to automatically assume someone disagreeing with an opinion is a troll is a disservice to yourself, them, and all other readers that are watching a debate..... with that said, a clear indication of a troll or paid government shill, is the refusal to address the topic at all preferring to instantly attack other commenters, the authors or others.
If someone feels the need to comment anywhere, whether at a website comment section, a public chat room, a forum or social media, it is usually because they feel the need to offer some type of information, personal experience, or simply offer their POV on a particular subject, so those that take the time to comment but offer nothing but attacks, is clearly "trolling."
(There are clear exceptions to the addressing topic point... using ANP as an example, often readers provide breaking news they feel is connected to events happening and, with our full permission, will post links, or simply highlight a concern they see happening on ANP which is unrelated to the article but they feel readers need to be warned of, and they will add those in the comment section of our latest articles to make sure everyone is infomed fast of what is happening.)
Trolls are described as "A person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion, often for their own amusement." (Source)
That description brings up a couple of points, first the claim that "often for their own amusement," which studies have highlighted the existence of, but the source cited above, Wikipedia, neglects to address the 2013 revelations that documented the governments use of "paid trolls and shills," which are specifically aimed at spreading disinformation, distracting readers, pushing government propaganda, deliberately taking the attention from the article/post topic, and most often with the use of inflammatory language.
Another important sign is when you see multiple "new" commenters, all attacking the same article at around the same time, using similar talking points. That represents a "cyberstalking" mentality and is indicative of a government entities using multiple accounts to push Washington propaganda and "take over" a comment thread.
TYPES OF TROLLING
While our main focus is on the military/government operation of manufacturing online identities, or paying shills to disrupt online discourse, and specific sites being identified as "enemies," we will touch briefly for the sake of clarity on the types of trolling found around the web.
Trolling For Entertainment: Two studies published in 2013 and 2014 have found that people who are identified as trolls tend to have dark personality traits and show signs of sadism, antisocial behavior, psychopathy, and machiavellianism. The 2013 study suggested that there are a number of similarities between anti-social and flame trolling activities and the 2014 study suggested that the noxious personality characteristics known as the "dark triad of personality" should be investigated in the analysis of trolling, and concluded that trolling appears "to be an Internet manifestation of everyday sadism." Their relevance is suggested by research linking these traits to bullying in both adolescents and adults. The 2014 study found that trolls operate as agents of chaos on the Internet, exploiting hot-button issues to make users appear overly emotional or foolish in some manner.
Concern Trolls: A concern troll is a false flag pseudonym created by a user whose actual point of view is opposed to the one that the troll claims to hold. The concern troll posts in Web forums devoted to its declared point of view and attempts to sway the group's actions or opinions while claiming to share their goals, but with professed "concerns". The goal is to sow fear, uncertainty and doubt within the group.
Those two types mentioned above could simply be nuisance trolls, or are the more dangerous type, the ones attacking Alternative Media and which have gone into a hypersonic mode... which are the government operatives, sock-puppets or even bots that are pretending to be nothing more than nuisance trolls.
Paid Government Shills Or Trolls: In 2011 The Guardian exposed software that was being developed by the U.S. military which allowed them to manufacture multiple fasle online identities in order to spread U.S. propaganda.
The Centcom contract stipulates that each fake online persona must have a convincing background, history and supporting details, and that up to 50 US-based controllers should be able to operate false identities from their workstations "without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries".
The claim at the time was that none of the "interventions" would be in English as it was unlawful to "address U.S. audiences," but that was before the Edward Snowden document release where we saw that American entities are indeed being targeted.
By publishing these stories one by one, our NBC reporting highlighted some of the key, discrete revelations: the monitoring of YouTube and Blogger, the targeting of Anonymous with the very same DDoS attacks they accuse “hacktivists” of using, the use of “honey traps” (luring people into compromising situations using sex) and destructive viruses. But, here, I want to focus and elaborate on the overarching point revealed by all of these documents: namely, that these agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.
Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums.
He warned that the “most disturbing confirmation provided in the newly publicized intelligence documents is that spy agencies in Western nations with free speech guarantees have been given carte blanche authority from political leadership to target private individuals and organizations deemed uncooperative with the will of the state with ruthless online reputation-destruction efforts.”
So how does one distinguish between a person commenting that simply holds another opinion and a "troll" whether paid or not?
Avoidance: As stated above a troll will avoid the topic of discussion like the plague. A paid operative or shill will push government propaganda, but will still avoid the points made within a specific article or discussion with the sole intent of changing the direction or opinion.
Offers no counter-argument: Trolls or paid government shills will rarely offer any counter-arguments to a discussion or debate. They will offer no research, data or links and will usually do nothing more than repeat the official government narrative.
Key words like "nutjob, quack, cranks, references to going out to buy more tin foil hats, are classic and some of which have even been highlighted by a media insider as part of astroturfing campaigns.
A distinct lack of civility is another red flag. At ANP we have one commenting rule, "Civility," meaning no attacks on other users, other alternative websites or personalities.... as we always say, "be civil or be gone," we would rather not have the traffic than allowing a free-for-all in the comment section where no one wants to discuss anything because of the nonsense of trollers.
Researchers from Stanford and Cornell tracked trolls in the comments on CNN, Breitbart, and IGN using the commenting service Disqus. They tracked users from the moment they signed up to comment to the moment they got banned, and compared them to users who were never banned. Overall, they studied around 1.7 million users over an 18-month time period.
They found specific patterns of behavior from online trolls. They are more likely to focus on a few threads and post irrelevant content, and they have much lower writing quality than fellow commenters (which isn't much of a surprise). They're also likely to succeed in getting a reaction out of fellow readers, which is their goal in the first place. Once the backlash gets strong, their trolling just gets worse until they're banned.
According to that same research, the expression "Don't feed the trolls," is good advice because trolls "receive more replies than average users, suggesting that they might be successful in luring others into fruitless, time-consuming discussions."
Other signs to look for include those that have a newly created or used commenting account, where almost every post whether in one place or at multiple places are insulting, ranting, raving, attacking and always avoiding the topic of discussion in order to derail a comment thread. As stated above, military software is utilized to create multiple accounts in a short amount of time, so there could be an instant four or five people "new" to a site, all promoting the same propaganda.
SHUTTING DOWN A TROLL OR PAID GOVERNMENT SHILL
Shutting a troll down, whether they are paid a concern troll or a nuisance troll is quite simple really.
Call them out publicly after determining it isn't someone just having a bad day. Ignore them unless they address the topic of the discussion in a civil manner.
If one is unsure and feels the need to respond to someone they believe could be a troll or paid government shill, then respond and in the same comment bring the discussion right back to the topic at hand, therefore not allowing them to derail the conversation.
Do not rise to the bait. Do not let a troll upset you, make you angry or play on your emotions... stay calm, cool and collected, stick to your point and if they do not offer a counter-point, refer to point number one....ignore them and they will go away.
Report them to the site administrators. Most comment sections have a report option to report abusive or threatening posts, use it, but use it wisely. If it someone that simply doesn't agree but are debating their points civiilly, or even making a point about the topic, then chances are it isn't a troll or a paid government shill, it is simply someone with a differing opinion, which should always be welcome in any debate.
Expect these types of attacks against Alternative Media aka Independent Journalism to continue, in fact, expect it grow. Thanks to Edward Snowden we know for a fact that there are paid government trolls and shills the government is using for a variety of purposes, to spread propaganda and to shift attention from topics Washington would prefer stay hidden. We also know that government trolls are using "Psychology-Based Influence Techniques," on social media platforms.
A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself "can I gain anything by interacting with this individual" after seeing a few of their comments, if your answer is "No," then don't.
Note - Everyone is entitled to their opinion and their free speech, just as site owners are entitled to enforce their commenting rules, so ANP would like to reiterate..... "be civil, or be gone," there are plenty of sites that allow a free-for-all of attacks, insults and trolls just so they can garner an extra hit or two in traffic, we would prefer to offer a format for a free exchange of ideas, thoughts and debates which can be conducted without a bunch of trolls or government operatives trying to derail the conversation, without adding one original thought of their own.
The last video is older but Abby Martin did such an excellent job, I thought it was worth seeing.