"I'm Not Evil. I'm Chaotic Neutral!": On the Classification of Internet Trolls
Yimin Chen is a PhD Candidate in Library and Information Science in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at Western University, where he studies satire, clickbait, and other types of “fake news”. His research interests include online communication, internet culture, and memes. He also co-hosts Gradcast, the official podcast of the Society of Graduate Students, and, in his spare time, Yimin likes working on his dissertation on internet trolling.
What does it mean to be a troll? For many people, trolling essentially means “being a butt while on the internet” – or worse. Mainstream news reporting has consistently characterized internet trolls as anti-social and malicious with stories of obscenity, harassment, and cyberbullying. However, this portrayal has been critiqued as misrepresentative and is often at odds with how trolls see themselves: as comical rather than criminal. This work aims to disambiguate some of these conflicting narratives and map out different conceptions of trolling by investigating the perspective of the online onlookers who inhabit the digital spaces and places where trolling occurs. As informed, but (usually) uninvolved witnesses to acts of trolling, the experiences of these “internauts” are invaluable when trying to understand online behaviours and cultures in context. What emerges is a multifaceted picture of trolling as sometimes positive and sometimes negative, but always motivated by chaos.