Friday, 5 September 2014

Gaming and Troll Maths

One of the real issues regarding aggressive hate-filled trolling and how it can be made to reflect on entire communities is simply the numbers involved.

If I showed you a page of hate, taken at face value the response of PZ Myers - "I'm beyond embarassed to be male" may seem reasonable. However, where Myers gets it so spectacularly wrong is to fail to appreciate the numbers involved here.

If you take time to have a look at Anita Sarkeesian's latest video you will see it has now attracted over 500,000 views.

Now let me say, I have a pretty low opinion of humanity. I will lay it out there: my view is that there will always be more than enough rotten apples to jeopardise the rest of the barrel.

Let me suspend that negativity for a second. Let us be spectacularly optimistic and say that only 1 in 10,000 who viewed that video would be motivated to try and respond with something really nasty. Imagine a world where only 1 in 10,000 were motivated to bad things! Let us try -

1 in 10,000 of 500,000 viewers is 50 hate-filled trolls. Imagine, for one moment, what 50 hate-filled trolls each spewing multiple aggressive and abusive comments/tweets (she blocks comments!) looks like for a second. There is your page of hate and much much more besides.

To tar 99.9% of gamers as misogynists (yes, gamers must *hate* women) worthy of nothing but our scorn (the kinds of people PZ Myers is embarassed to share a species with) on the actions of what need amount to nothing more than a tiny fraction is both naive and unwarranted.

I can truly understand the anger the gaming community feel over the way they are being labelled here.



  1. That still adds up to a heck of a lot of bystanders.

    1. I am not entirely sure what you mean by that. If a 'bystander' you mean someone who watches the video and does NOT leave a nasty comment, what is your issue with that?

      If by 'bystander' you are suggesting an expectation that people who do not leave nasty comments ought to get involved, whilst I'd join you in wishing that more did, my experience is that most people regard it as more trouble than it is worth.

      I also think there is a degree of tribalism. I say that because I often feel it myself. If I see someone I agree with getting abused i generally feel it is my responsibility to show my disapproval. However, when I see someone I fundamentally disagree with getting the same abuse, whilst I find the abuse just as objectionable, I sort of feel that it is the job of their own supporters to watch their back, not my responsibility.
      That may be wrongheaded but I think the vast majority of people tend to think and act that way.

    2. I think you may be onto something with that dynamic, tho. If only her supporters speak up in her defense, the strong correlation between supporters and defenders conflates the two. Similarly, you become part of the troll tribe merely by muting your outrage over their purposeful button-pushing just because you agree with their basic point. Maybe bystander is exactly the right term as that behavior becomes part of the problem.

      Who wants to spend their spare time arguing with trolls you basically agree with who very well might be nutzo enough to come after you in real life just for the lolz? But if you don't defend those you disagree with against excessive force, and if you happen to agree with those using deplorable tactics, they're losing the argument for you; too bad, and what did you expect?

      Disturbing where the intersection of trolling and opinion tends to be, tho. Curious if you see as many pro-Anita trolls as anti-?

      My own view is that trolling tends to line up on the status quo side of any given argument, arguing against change because that further frustrates people who feel a strong need for change, whereas there's little need to be frustrated if you agree with the status quo, so no "fun" to troll against people who are just going to say, "whatever..." and return to the security of their status quo.

      Wondered what you thought, tho...

      Jack K.

    3. What if the fanboi reaction others are seeing is just relief that a position favoring change has been expressed?

      What if it's not about "Anita's so great!" but about "Anita actually said something I agree with, and nobody's allowed to say that!"

      The reaction certainly confirms the "nobody's allowed to say that!" part.

    4. Just saw your video (you did say to come here first, so I did). Noticed that you at least partly answered my questions above.

      I doubt that Anita is surprised at her reaction, but is more documenting it, sort of rubbing everybody's nose in it until you start to become as tired of it as she must be. The internet doesn't allow her to respond just to the trolls, since they can't be individually addressed.

      Also, internet trolling does have a similar feel to the sort of misogyny one sees in games, which seems also to be her point. I very much doubt any hyperfeminist blogspace is likely to express quite the vitriol male-claimed spaces do. Since females now make up 48% of those playing games, perhaps the assumptions of who owns that space should be challenged? Rather than just implicitly defended with a resigned status quo of "what do you expect when you go there?"

      Jack K.

  2. I have a theory on this. I call it the Troll/Fanboi Effect. The problem with the Internet is that everyone has an equally loud voice, and it's a global community, which means that it is virtually impossible to have a voice that can be heard above the din, and the only strategy likely to get attention is outrageous content. People end up producing this hyperbolic response of either the Fanboi or Troll: "Omigod I love you, love you, love you. Everything you do is perfect!!!!" or "Die, cunt". A reasonable response rarely gets any attention. It's the same reason why school children "act out" in class to get the teacher's attention.

    Twitter seems to really bring this out. People compete with a never-ending ocean of comments for attention. Take away accountability in the form of anonymity and you have a formula for the kind of thing PZ is describing.

    1. "The only place worse for open discussion than Twitter is North Korea" - John"Totalbiscuit" Bain.

      The internet breeds extremist stances on all issues because of the nature or interaction. It's harder to discuss things from hard 1 or 0 arguments when you're only speaking in short amount of text. 140 characters only allows for extreme positions because there's no room for clarification on most statements.

    2. * the nature of interaction".

    3. I think there is a landscape here, and I think the defining factor for peaks on that landscape is contrast.

      On the internet, it's true that outrageous content might peak because it draws attention, but it only draws attention because it's considered outrageous, and that consideration is moderated by how commonplace the message is.
      It's imaginable that a well-reasoned and constructive reply, "in the deep sea of retards", will draw a lot of attention on the basis that it's the only of its kind, and the fanboi/hater comments are so run-of-the-mill at this point that nobody gives them any notice.

      What kind of comments that draw attention fluctuate in this sense when you take that into account, and consider the space in question.
      (case in point, most forums I frequent, I'll usually have a quite low post-count but some of the forum's highest rep-counts, despite all my posts being quite dry wall-of-texts tearing into people on all sides of the debates)

      While the fanboi/troll effect is certainly real to an extent, I don't think it's the explanation for why certain men and women on the internet feel so harassed. They feel so harassed because they fail to see, as Noelplum points out, the larger context of the reception of their content - whether through ignorance, or deliberately in order to harvest sympathy for their situation. I usually tend to lean towards willful ignorance here, because many people nowadays don't allow comments or ratings to begin with, or choose not to look at more than a few comments on the top of their comment-section. You'd have to be severely lacking in intellectual capacity if you did this and formed a view on public opinion of yourself based on that.

      @Noel and blog-piece in general -

      In either case, it strikes me as extremely disingenuous(or just emotionally frail to the extreme) when celebrities, industry big-shots, political and cultural talking-heads talk about all the negative back-lash they suffer, when the vast majority of them have popularity that exceeds their unpopularity many times over.

      Boohoo, you have 100.00s of people fawning over you, but a couple of 100(0) hating on you. That's just the way the world works - considering the large amount of people suffering from some sort of mental state or condition that makes them prone to anti-social behavior given the right circumstances in the population at large, you can't expect to be popular and at the same time not attract these people.

      Concerning Anita Sarkeesian, I'm convinced that in her case, she's far too smart not to know these things, which leaves me with the conclusion that she's playing this for all she's got.
      Considering all the support she is getting, and the money she received(and is still receiving), it isn't feasible to pretend that her backlash is surprising, or out of the ordinary in terms of magnitude.
      The fanboi/troll effect not withstanding, this is clearly a matter of perspective having been shifted because focusing on the backlash rather than on the the traction, is what is most profitable for her narrative.

      That alone is enough to put her squarely in the camp of "dubious people", and take everything else she says with a big grain of salt.

    4. Every time Anita shares the "hateful threats" that she receives, her name gets plastered across the headlines of every major gaming media site. With the most recent one that allegedly forced her to leave her home, she got coverage from mainstream media as well.

      Coincidentally, this happened just as she was releasing a new video AND the crowd funding campaign for The Sarkeesian Effect launched. A day later, she was tweeting to remind her followers to keep donating to her cause.

      Nothing fishy about that. Not in the slightest.

  3. " "Omigod I love you, love you, love you. Everything you do is perfect!!!!""

    Aargh, you have disillusioned me, I thought they meant it all this time :)

    Seriously, I think you have a point. These environments certainly do nothing if not encourage and reward such behaviour.
    (PS: I have just edited a video that adds to this blog. A fairly sober (for me) look at troll numbers etc. Should be online in a few hours if you are at a sufficiently loose end :)

  4. Then there are those that write threats to themselves. SJWs get caught doing this so often, no one even raises an eyebrow anymore. And it's not like Sarkeesian has a track record of honesty.

    1. "Got caught..."??? Evidence? None but his own belly button.

      Inflammatory? Check.

      Fact-free? Check.
      Looks like we caught ourselves a meta-troll here.

  5. I agree. With an audience of 500,000 give or take a few, there are bound to be violent people posting shitty comments. After all, 500,000 is more people than the city of Minneapolis (which is where I live). I think trolls are probably not just violent on the internet, I wouldn't be surprised if they are violent in real life. I can get pretty angry with people I don't agree with but sexual harassment and "I hope you get raped" is something I cannot imagine posting even if I were expressing anger over the internet. I read something on trolls that their personalities are sadistic and they enjoy making people miserable. It would be interesting if we could somehow find out who they are and see if they are violent in real life.