The Menace Of The Internet Trolls: Why Cyber Bullying Demands Serious Attention

Posted on August 20, 2014 in Sci- Tech, Specials

By Parul Assudaney:

In the seventh and final part of the Harry Potter series – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry Potter, Hermoine Granger and Ron Weasely encounter a strange symbol that an eccentric wizard named Xenophilius Lovegood tells them represents the mythical Deathly Hallows, which has a story behind it. The story revolves around three wizard brothers who once conquered death for a short time by defeating a deadly obstacles with their magic. The personification of death appeared out of anger because he felt that they had cheated him, but pretended to congratulate them by awarding them gifts of their choosing: The Elder Wand, The Resurrection Stone and the Invisibility Cloak. Two of the three brothers wished to conquer death beyond what they had done already, and foolishly chose their gifts accordingly, leading to their early demise. The third brother was wiser, and hid under the Invisibility Cloak that allowed him to postpone death until he was ready; he lifted the veil that had helped him to evade the afterlife and was welcomed by death.

In the world that we live, that invisibility cloak is provided in the form of the internet. Though it does not help in evading death (because that will be taking a step too far), it does provide ‘anonymity‘.

trolls

Zelda Williams, daughter of deceased actor Robin Williams, can vouch for the ramifications of this anonymity that Internet provides, with the week that she has had. After the tragic passing of her father, she posted a message on her Twitter page in his memory with a quote from French author Antoine De Saint-Exupery. Many people did use the medium of Twitter to send her condolences, but some used this medium to send her heinous tweets in words. And at least two users sent her gruesome photoshopped images of her father’s body after his death, which made her leave social media and report those users for the abuse.

Not knowing Sachin Tendulkar can be damaging, and Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova also realised it the hard way when annoyed fans of the Indian cricketing legend stormed her Facebook account with unpleasant comments for not recognising him.

The controversy started when the cricket icon was spotted in the royal box along with former England skipper Andrew Strauss and England soccer star David Beckham at a recent match, and a reporter later asked Sharapova, “Do you know who Sachin is”, to which she replied, “I don’t.” For Tendulkar fans though, this was an insult they could not withstand. They took to social media like hound dogs and over 50,000 comments were posted on the official Facebook page of Sharapova.

So, what makes a person disregard the feelings and emotions of another human being on the other end of the computer by sending such insensitive messages?

The motives can range from simple boredom to having some fun, and having a few good laughs to sadistic pleasures. A recent survey suggested that 1 in 3 young people were the subject of trolling in the last six months — and 1 in 4 are affected by it regularly.

But this act of ‘trolling’ or cyber-bullying has some serious repercussions. A recent survey was conducted talking about the effects of these negative comments. According to George Mason University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, online rudeness and gross, negative comments have the power to influence the opinion of otherwise objective readers. The readers aren’t overly affected by civil comments, but the group of readers exposed to the uncivil comments are more divided, more likely to change their perceptions and prone to focusing on the negative aspects. It polarises the audience.

Also, a lot of people refrain from sharing there thoughts and opinions on varied topics on various social media sites to avoid facing any kind of criticism or flak.

Thus, to deal with the problem of trolling, many social networking sites are taking measures to control it. After the incident with Zelda Williams, Twitter Vice President said in a statement, “We will not tolerate abuse of this nature on Twitter”, and have already deleted some accounts of users related to this issue and have decided to review it’s user-protection policies. YouTube also took measures to rein in trolling. The comment section below YouTube videos is full of trolls who abuse and spam. Google’s online video service is rolling out changes to the way comments work on YouTube, giving creators more power to moderate and block comments, and adding new sorting mechanisms to ensure better, more relevant discussions appear at the top.

As long as act of trolling doesn’t come with some serious consequences and people are held responsible for it, this problem cannot be contained.

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