Online trolling isn't just the actions of ornery black sheep on the web. Jonathan Zittrain explains that it's a set of behaviors due to be studied more intently in the coming years. Zittrain, who is a professor of both computer science and law, hazards a guess that most people consider the internet a medium for entertainment. Thus, their behavior online varies from the norm because the focus is less on obtaining social acceptance and more on getting your kicks. In this video Zittrain tackles topics ranging from online gaming, 4chan, Twitter wars, and various internet subcultures.
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Transcript - Trolling is certainly the topic of the year. If we were having this conversation in 1995, for one thing the screen would be about 1/16 the size and the video quality would be much poorer, but it would be a very standard configuration. The story would be hey there's now an Internet; people can say anything; sometimes it gets a little out of control and maybe the government will come in and try to regulate in someway. But it's basically the government is trying to stop illegal or really extreme things from happening and otherwise it's just a free for all out there. Away we go. Fast forward 10/15/20 years and we see an environment now in which many, many people want to participate, maybe have views they want to share. And if you stick your head up out of the gopher hole and happen to say something intemperate or wrong or that others may disapprove of, they might not just say gee I disagree; let's talk about this or something, they may decide to try to doxx you. Find out where you live, the names of the rest of your family to threaten you with the goal of making you feel insecure. They might try to swat you. Tell the police that there's something terrible going on in your house and before you know it there's blue and red lights outside your window and people ready to kick in the door.
This is a strange state of affairs and it's one I think with multiple causes and that actually is susceptible to pretty sustained study, most of which hasn't happened yet, in the next few years I think it will, that says what makes people want to react that way. My best cut on it at the most abstract level is that when we are online we may be undertaking very different activities than the people that we're talking to. One model for being online is I'm entertaining myself. I'm having fun. I am in some form or another playing a game. And if that's the case playing the game means picking a side. And that's a very different model from I'm online because I really believe earnestly in something and I want to convince you of why I'm right or have you maybe convince me. Or find people who are of like mind and we can talk about strategizing about the thing that we really care about. Those are totally different activities. And when you try to mix the two that's almost like saying if there's going to be a discussion between Seattle Seahawks fans and New England Patriots fans ahead of a Super Bowl, can't we just settle this with a discussion? Like can't we just earnestly air our differences and come to some compromise that the Patriots should win but only by five points? Like that's nuts. The purpose of the conversation is sort of just the chest thumping that comes from the play of being a fan of a team and trash talking the other team and then you play the game. [transcript truncated]
Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Litton
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