Technology & InternetFacebook’s New Target Group: Trolls?

What is a troll? (Hint: we’re not talking about Tolkien.) A troll is a person, who is active on social sites and communities, constantly posting senseless, insulting, touchy, hateful or completely irrelevant content. (Let us call this by its real name: spam). Most communities simply ignore trolls, but when they start to represent the community, they can sabotage the reputation of the company or entity managing the site.

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The average troll is not an evil being (again, this is not about Tolkien). He/she might be a bored kid or a frustrated inhabitant of crowded corporate office. The troll’s intention is to gain attention, inspire a reaction and provoke aggression between users. If successful, trolls can ruin a social platform.

Twitter handles trolls by making it easy to ignore content. LinkedIn has a lot of trolls in the groups. But Facebook, until recently, never seemed to have a problem with trolls. They did that by giving users clever functions to block people for posting ‘troll-like,’ invasive material or who got on your nerves; you could simply unfriend, block, and never see content from this person again.

Facebook seems to be making a shift in their strategy. Today, we at exploreB2B, discovered a functionality that makes Facebook a better tool for trolls: editing comments.

This might seem to be no big deal. At first, it is indeed innocent. If you commented on something (a status update, a photo, a video), you can then later edit your comment. But here is the catch: if you received likes on your comment, they stay.

From a trolls perspective, this is a breakthrough. Imagine the following: you post a comment, something along the lines of “I like Ashton Kutcher.” You receive likes (maybe from your boss, an old high school friend, or your significant other’s mother who is new to Facebook; prime time troller activity) – and then edit your comment. Those that pressed ‘Like’ now officially like the comment “I want to have a child with Justin Bieber.”

Is it a pretty careless mistake by Facebook? Think again. I believe it is a brilliant strategy! Trolls are basically the only audience on the web who do not have a specialized social network, simply because it would not make sense. A place where trolls are among their own kind has no thrill or advantages for the average troll. But, if Facebook can offer distinct advanced functionality for the troll, while still maintaining the functionality for the average user (making them believe they are troll-safe on the network), a whole new realm of possibility grows.

You see, almost every Internet user has something trollish in him. Social networks build on aspects of human nature. By our participation in sites likes Facebook, we sign up to be “in-the-know” about other people’s personal lives. We register for a network that is infused with gossip because, to some degree, we enjoy being exposed to provocative content. If Facebook manages to build on this, they will soon have two billion users.

Am I serious? Entirely!! And also, not really. While the functionality I describe is currently active on Facebook, I have no doubt Zuckerberg will soon wise-up and remove or adapt this troll-friendly tool. In the meantime, have fun exploring.  

Author

JonathanJonathan GebauerexploreB2B GmbHGeschäftsführer, Gründer

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