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“I refuse to respond to this obvious troll": an overview of responses to (perceived) trolling

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/08/2015
Issue number2
Number of pages29
Pages (from-to)201-229
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Computer-mediated communication (CMC) provides many benefits, including quick, efficient communication over time and space. At the same time, however, the anonymity it offers can give a sense of impunity, an illusion that behaviour is less hurtful than it really is, and a suppression of empathy. In short, CMC can be a fertile ground for conflict, and one particular manifestation of this is trolling. Trolling involves deliberately attacking others online, typically for amusement's sake. In some cases, it can be taken to such an extreme that it clearly violates UK legislation on hate-speech, abuse and menace. Whilst forensic linguistic research into threatening and abusive language is, however, gradually growing (Carney, 2014; Chakraborti, 2010: 99–123; and Fraser, 1998), there is a shortage of research into linguistic aggression online, and particularly research into trolling (see, however, Binns, 2011; Herring et al., 2002; and Shin, 2008). In endeavouring to contribute to this under-researched area, this paper seeks to address the question, ‘How do users respond to (perceived) trolling?’ The answer to this is elaborated through the creation of a working taxonomy of response types, drawn from 3,727 examples of user discussions and accusations of trolling which were extracted from an eighty-six million word Usenet corpus. I conclude this paper by discussing the limitations and applications of this research.