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Web Trolls Winning as Incivility Increases

The Internet may be losing the war against trolls. At the very least, it isn’t winning. And unless social networks, media sites and governments come up with some innovative way of defeating online troublemakers, the digital world will never be free of the trolls’ collective sway.

That’s the dismal judgment of the handful of scholars who study the broad category of online incivility known as trolling, a problem whose scope is not clear, but whose victims keep mounting.

“As long as the Internet keeps operating according to a click-based economy, trolls will maybe not win, but they will always be present,” said Whitney Phillips, a lecturer at Humboldt State University and the author of “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” a forthcoming book about her years of studying bad behavior online. “The faster that the whole media system goes, the more trolls have a foothold to stand on. They are perfectly calibrated to exploit the way media is disseminated these days.”

Click here to read more from this August 14, 2014 New York Times article by Farhad Manjoo.

Editors note: Popular Science abandoned it’s online comments in September of 2013. The Chicago Sun-Times shut off their comments in April of 2014. Other media outlets have taken or are considering similar measures. As our readers realize, trolls are very active in the science arena, particular in discussions of issues such as climate change. GH, nSCI

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