Identifying cyber-trolls can be a difficult task. They come in all shapes and sizes, with real names or pseudonyms, may be young or old, male or female, admins, moderators, or everyday people who post online.
Sometimes trolling can be obvious, other times covert, at times happen through sheer ignorance and still at other times be deliberate.
Online communities create rules to be followed, so that those posting can conform to some standard, allowing for a community to flourish. But what happens when the interpretation of those rules are misconstrued or taken is a means to an end?
One of the key attributes to open online communities, is that all people are welcome to observe, contribute, consider and reply, to ongoing commentary as they see fit, so long as they are in coherence with the theme of the venue.
We all know what spam is. Spam posted detracts from the main issues of an online community. Moderators can choose to remove those individuals who are spamming the ether, taking away from the main cause(s) of their community.
But what happens when an innocent contributor is blocked or removed from participating because they have seemingly broken the rules. In this case someone likely using their official company identity, posted more than one post per week, despite that the theme of the posts was photography, bringing more attention to the online community at hand.
Business have been known to use soft selling techniques to create networks of value for the goods and services they sell. However, in this instance, it seems the administrator(s) acted harshly in their interpretation of the rules of the online community. Possibly wrongly, given other members of the community spoke up. Power to the people, obviously, in this instance.
But what happens in bigger online community venues like Wikipedia? Is Wikipedia and its administrators free of creating a history unto themselves? Who can speak up after a deletion of content, or indeed a deletion of a person known to the community? The power is indeed with the administrators and moderators, not with the general online community.
Disinformation is a difficult issue to face at hand. That is because more than 98% of the content may be factual, or at least contain "most of the truth". The style of writing may also seem impartial but in fact is weighted to support a view that is not "centrist".
We need to re-evaluate online communities in terms of these very tricky parameters, that are not straightforward. The role of administrator, moderator and community participant are not equal, although the voice of each can be heard online, if enough people care to take up the point in question.
Citation: Katina Michael and Kendall Hutt, October 29, 2018, “When Members of an Online Community Challenge Admin and Moderators”, stuff.co.