Digital, Politics & Society

Game of Trolls

You know you’ve made it when you’re on the front page of the Sun. By that measure, the time of the troll has truly come, as Britain’s favourite paper has led with the story of the singer Adele being “targeted” by “sick trolls” “threatening” her and saying the star’s baby “should be killed”.  Note the fact I had to put almost every word in scare quotes. The Mail ran the same story with the same tone, as did the Independent.

The story “reveals” that some people made jokes about a celebrity and her baby on Twitter. But what none of the quoted tweets appears to do is to “target” Adele. There is an OfficialAdele account, but it’s unclear whether she actually runs it, and it’s not exactly prolific. In any case, not one of the “sick jokes” made by the “vile trolls”, is actually directed at the account. There are just some rubbish jokes, chucked into the ether, and picked up by a journalist desperate for Monday morning copy. As so often happens with red-top stories, we have a celebrity, and a big current talking point — free speech on the web and cyberbullying — conflated into one big nothing.

Trolling can be defined as posting irrelevant, off topic or inflammatory material in order to get a heightened, perhaps irrational response. No wonder tabloid newspapers are so nervous about it — they’ve been sole practitioners for years, and have only just realised they’ve got rivals.

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  1. Posted 22Oct12 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    That’s a fair comment in your final paragraph, Padraig, but I’m afraid to say that the reality is worse than your simple picture of it.

    Journalists engage in similar practices across the board, but cause and effect are not so easy to disentangle. The broadsheets, for example, have responded to the rise of the blogosphere, twatosphere, or whatever you want to call it, by publishing contrarian and occasionally inflamatory material in order to draw attention to themselves. This may be a little more cultured than distasteful and unfunny jokes about a celebrity and her new baby, but it is still damaging in the greater scheme of things. Possibly more so.

  2. Posted 16Feb13 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    fair enough

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