Characteristic of trolling behaviour

Characteristic of trolling behaviour


Definitions of trolls:

  • Generally, trolling or trolling behaviour can be defined as “the posting of incendiary comments with the intent of provoking others into conflict.”
  • In psychological research: trolling is defined as a psychological dysfunction traced back to “dark triad” or “dark tetrad” of personality traits, namely psychopathy, narcissism, Machiavellianism and sadism, sadism being one of the best predictors of such behaviour.
  • In hybrid warfare and state-sponsored activity: NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence distinguishes between “classic trolls” who “act in their own interests solely with the aim of sowing disagreement and inciting conflict in the online environment” and “hybrid trolls” who “are employed as a tool of information warfare” by state-actors.

Three types of trolls:

  1. Opportunistic trolls
  2. Everyday trolls
  3. State-related / hybrid trolls

State-related / hybrid trolls:

Organizational traits:

  • a clear hierarchy and reporting structure;
  • content review by superiors;
  • strong coordination across agencies or team;
  • weak coordination across agencies or teams;
  • liminal teams;
  • training staff to improve skills and abilities associated with producing and disseminating propaganda;
  • providing rewards or incentives for high‐performing individuals;
  • investing in research and development projects.

Personal traits:

The difference is in the social role or actor types with certain traits:

  • governmental troops;
  • politicians;
  • private contractors;
  • volunteers;
  • paid citizens.

Online traits:

Platform or ecosystem creation; multiple accounts across platforms coordinated; original content creation; bot or use of bot/human network; intensively reposted messages; repeated messages; posted from different IP addresses and/or nicknames; republished information and links; identical messages; unusual message frequency; thread-jacking; hashtag-latching; account or profile data changes; location of the accounts concentrated; type of web client; extremely precise repetitive patterns of messages; content: unusual percentage of interactive contents, Russian URLs; specific world events, organizations, political personalities attacked.

Online strategy:

  • Individual targeting and/or large-scale operations.
  • Actions can be: stat-executed; state-coordinated; state-incited.
  • Human-directed bot networks; infiltration of online communities; information flooding.