Published On: Wed, Jan 27th, 2016

Trolls threaten the future of social media

Jacob Gelt DekkerA troll is “someone who exists to hurt people, cause harm, and break a bunch of stuff because that is something nasty trolls just do. In that sense, calling someone a Troll is not so different from the pre-Internet tactic of calling someone a monster – implying that they lack all the self-control and self-awareness a normal human being would have.

A troll makes a deliberately offensive or provocative online posting with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them.”

For his malicious objectives, a troll will lie, fabricate stories, falsify data, hack your page, name or logo. Trolls can be part of a revengeful personal attack, a concerted corporate effort, or a full out cyber war.

It is estimated, that Jihadist terrorists of the ISIS-network post about 40,000 troll messages per day, worldwide, as part of their cyber war. These messages range from ISIS-recruitment propaganda, false messages about the progress of the war, to bashing the “enemy”, such as the coalition of USA, France, England, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Specifically, a barrage against Israel, which is no party in the present Middle East conflict, as if it were the sole instigator, can be noticed.

The glut of fabricated and falsified messages is so enormous that nobody can trust the validity of any post on social media any longer. Thus, trolling is posing a significant threat to the prolonged existence of all social media.

More and more people are getting most of their daily information from social media, but now that these media are heavily polluted with intensive trolling, social media no longer form a reliable source for anything.

When a lie is repeated often enough, people will eventually regard it as the truth, such was the motto of Nazi-Germany. Demagoguery is a most powerful propaganda tool, often resulting in witch hunts and lynch parties. The instant reach of millions through the social media created new phenomena; before compromised individuals even know about the false accusations against them, violent reactions make be in the making, or even in full execution. There is no longer time and space for argument and counter argument, like in a decent and respectful debate.

The companies that offer social media are well aware of these dangers but, for obvious reasons, are rejecting censorship. Who is to judge what is right and wrong, and who is to do the fact-checking, so many media, like respected newspapers and TV programs, have implemented.

False identities and fake profiles of social media users are so common that even those who are legitimate have a hard time to be taken seriously. Much of social media has reached the level of tabloids and gossip columns, not fit for educational information, or real news value. Another valuable communication and educational tool has been destroyed.

By Jacob Gelt Dekker
Opinion columnist for Curaçao Chronicle

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