Could this algorithm detect a forum troll?

    
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We’ve all known trolls who love to dwell in dank forum posts and shadowy comment sections, ready to spread ill will and spark flame wars just to see the world burn. But what if a tool could be devised to identify such miscreants before they could do much damage?

That is one possibility that has arisen from a new Cornell University project in which researchers studied online communities (including IGN) and created an algorithm that can predict which posters had the highest likelihood of being banned in the future. The algorithm isn’t perfect (it misclassifies one out of five users), but the team claims that it is able to spot a troll in as few as 10 posts.

According to the study, most banned accounts “began their commenting life at a lower perceived standard of literacy and/or clarity than the median for their host groups.” The project also said that communities may be partially to blame for creating an environment that could “incubate antisocial behavior.”

[Source: The Stack via Slashdot. Thanks, Hagu.]
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Cyberlight
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Cyberlight

Werewolf Finds Dragon I might agree with much that you’ve said, but internet forums (such as this one) aren’t the place you’re likely to find nuanced or philosophical discussions taken at a logical and stately pace. And really, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth as many minutes or hours of your life as it would take to explain an unpopular opinion to the unwashed masses – unless that’s the sort of challenge that makes you feel alive lol. At least I had never considered the psychological aspect, so thank you for some interesting food for thought!

Walah
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Walah

I feel that this may be inevitable as more media companies start to become investors, rather than just being in the business of sponsoring.

Grimmtooth
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Grimmtooth

ok I guess no one thought this was funny.
I thought there witty posting banter was funny.
This conversation turned serious in the past couple of days

BigMikeyOcho
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BigMikeyOcho

FineFineValentine Algorithm is tested on IGN, algorithm quits immediately, algorithm starts Skynet to get revenge, all hail our new algorithm overlords.

syberghost
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syberghost

Werewolf Finds Dragon your statement that “in most cases” troll is misused (I’m paraphrasing your position) may or may not be true, but we’re not talking about “most cases” here; we’re talking about actions taken by a professional moderator. Those are, in most cases, taken with positive intent and after careful deliberation. Mistakes are made, and people are human, but there is a big difference between random commentors throwing emotion-laden words around to get a reaction, and “professionals” doing their job.

I put “professionals” in quotes because I include folks like me who’ve moderated without getting paid for it. We take it seriously too.

GeoffreyTillman
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GeoffreyTillman

Werewolf Finds Dragon Are you denying that actual chaos and trouble making for the sake of chaos and trouble making trolls exist?  Because that is what we are talking about. People who are disruptive just to be disruptive, People who are not adding anything positive to the conversation. People who are not making constructive critiques. People who when pressed admit that very thing.

Werewolf Finds Dragon
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Werewolf Finds Dragon

Addendum: Sorry to post again, but there’s one thing I’d like to note in order to help illuminate my position and why I think this is a real problem.

Many
sites look for friendly, outgoing people to be moderators. Worst
possible choice. They’re going to choose the numbers due to an
extroverted mindset, always. What you want is a more logical, sensible,
introverted personality who likely won’t participate in the forums much.
You
can have extroverted community managers whose purpose it is to
communicate with the community, but don’t ever give them the power of
banning. That’ll only result in an incredibly toxic community where no
one wants to go. Case in point BioWare’s forums, which have become so
bad that I’ve seen them referred to as the BioWare Sociopath Network.

Werewolf Finds Dragon
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Werewolf Finds Dragon

The problem with a “troll” is is that in most cases (not all) it’s someone who disagrees with you, and has a valid reason for their disagreement. There’s nothing more infuriating to the average person than someone with an unpopular opinion who has a well reasoned and logical basis for having that opinion. To wit, this is every extreme introvert/high functioning autistic person out there. I can’t count the times I’ve seen someone banned for that, and labelled a troll.

In fact, I’ve seen so much discrimination of this ilk, hand waved away with the ‘troll’ label, that it’s made me neurotic. I understand that if someone is cussing a lot, posting spoilers without warning, or spamming, then that’s undesirable. Except those posters are very rarely the ones who’re actually called out for trolling. What is or is not a troll is decided by the majority. I recall over on the Mass Effect 3 campaign forums, people were banned left and right for simply liking the Synthesis ending and presenting sensible, imaginative arguments as to why it worked. I saw tens disappear for that. I guess BioWare wanted to show solidarity with what they felt was the largest money-making demographic. Plenty of violent, potty mouthed IT types/ending haters stuck around, despite having violated the forum’s terms of use on multiple occasions.

That’s capitalism for you. And I think why most introverts stick to small fan forums. Bigger forums exist only for the hive, and there can be no disagreement. This harks back to what I’ve spoken of before — how the extroverted mindset exists only in the material plane, and how they can only grasp the popular opinion because that’s what exists most obviously within that plane. They’ve not the introspection, the creativity, the capacity for abstracts, or the perspicacity to form their own opinions or understand less popular opinions. This might sound like trolling in and of itself, but there are plenty of contemporary psychologists who’ve reached that conclusion long before I had.
This is why I’m leery of the word ‘troll.’ In my experience, it isn’t used ever to describe potty mouthed, low intellect, almost sociopathic echo chambers which focus on manipulation, peer pressure, and sheer numbers to get their way. No, they be upstanding forum citizenry. It’s used to describe the loner with the unpopular opinion — an opinion that matters to them, that they’re passionate about, and that they could give you a thousand reasons for. Therein lies the rub. I feel that most extroverts wouldn’t be able to provide a decent amount of good arguments as to why they, personally, hold an opinion. They certainly can regurgitate crowd sourced stock reasons for that opinion to exist, but they can’t tell you why they have a personal investment in it. The introvert can, no matter how unpopular their opinion is.
This creates a lot of friction in Internet environments. You have a mass of people whose popular opinion is being challenged, and not one of them can come forward and give you a personal reason for having that opinion. This makes them uncomfortable, it makes them have thoughts about the validity of the crowd’s opinion, which they don’t know how to deal with. It’s easier to simply accept the popular opinion and repeat it. If anyone isn’t part of that chorus, they’re a troll. Even if they’re telling you that the popular opinion is valid to whomever it matters to, that’s irrelevant, if you exist outside of the chorus you’re an element of chaos to be destroyed.
And that’s whom I see called ‘troll,’ those are the people that get banned most often. It’s because there’s a difference between the introvert/autistic approach to opinions, and the extroverted approach to opinions. The introvert wants everyone to have an informed opinion, with a personal stake in having said opinion. If you have that, then you’re entitled to it, and that’s fine. It’s a very Cosmopolitan view, an ethical stance. All an introvert will do is question why you have an opinion if you’ve no stake in it. However, on the flipside, the extrovert desires homogeny within their tribe. They want an echo chamber. The PS4 tribe doesn’t want someone singing the virtues of the PC, Xbox One, or Wii U. Essentially, the extroverted group is a oneness, a whole. You’re dealing with however many people that actually amount to one person, with a crowd sourced mind.
Yet that’s ignored. And only the numbers are looked at by the many. So if you have one person passionately, reasonably arguing for a point of view, and then you have a thousand people violently arguing against them, the one person who exists outside of harmony is the troll. That’s how it’s applied, and that’s why I’m very, very wary of it. It’s often used to stifle freedom of expression, where a person has an opinion that exists outside of the hive. In 9 cases out of 10, that’s the purpose of calling troll, resulting in a ban and a return to the harmony of the echo chamber.
This is especially a problem with extroverted moderators (this, in my opinion, should never happen) who lack the self awareness to actually understand this situation, and are more than happy to ban the one, reasonable person. Not to quell the violent horde, but because they agree with the violent horde, and they can’t understand why anyone would have an opinion outside of that unless to cause unrest.
So I can’t help but wonder if this algorithm is simply a system of picking out an unpopular argument in an echo chamber. That’s not hard to do. Yet it’s hardly ideal. This is why the word ‘troll’ immediately raised alarm bells, and the further use of ‘antisocial’ raised louder ones. I’ll make the point again, I’ll even belabour it: Troll is a subjective term, so who’s the lawmaker to decide what a troll is? An equal problem is that antisocial is often mixed up with introversion, or generally asocial behaviour. It’s a regular misnomer that’s bandied about the Internet almost as often as troll. Disagree with a widely held argument? You’re just being antisocial and combative for the sake of it.
To the introvert, terms like ‘troll’ and ‘antisocial’ mean different things. It comes more down to whether the poster is being violent, and pushy, and whether there’s mob behaviour. For example, if I see a group of twenty people gang up on someone to repeat their own points over and over in an obnoxiously aggressive, angry way as opposed to using logic versus one person who’s presenting an argument clearly, concisely, and with all the logic and reason they can muster considering the hive they’re fighting against? I’d ban the twenty people. They’re clearly the troublemakers. Numbers shouldn’t mean anything. And yet they do — numbers mean everything to the extroverted mindset.
It’s all about priorities. To the extroverted mind, numbers are the priority. It’s simple, you ban the smallest number, problem solved. To an introvert, it’s a much more nuanced issue, and they may see something more pervasive and cancerous, it may take some observation to eke out the poisonous roots. And if removing those doesn’t help, then perhaps a flashfire is the only solution. If you have a thousand toxic posters and one reasonable person, you should ban the thousand toxic posters.
The membership count of your forum should never matter, only ever the quality of the posts on it.
That’s why I’m leery of this. As I feel it’s likely following the common idea that a troll is just someone with a unique perspective. It’s the person who exists as a smaller number. To me, that’s not a troll. That’s an individual.

Robert80
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Robert80

mourasaint Robert80  In what way was saying he was not liked by many people in power agreeing with you?
I’m not saying he must literally have been called a troll back then.
I would argue this is not a good definition of Troll, and that to identify trolls we must have a good definition. 
By default your definition would make a bandit a troll.  A bandit ruffles feathers.  Are you then saying this bandit has genuinely worthwhile ideas?

kgptzac
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kgptzac

MikedotFoster 8/10, good sir.

Also cheers for this post reaching 200+ replies ;)