interweb freedom

(formerly Stop Usage Based Billing)

Trollbusters

Posted by Laurel L. Russwurm on April 1, 2010

Trolls: Sometimes Trolls are Welcome.  There are many different types of Troll.  This Troll was the hit of a D&D convention.  The one place trolls are never welcome is on the internet.

StopUBB seems to have acquired its own troll.
(Click on the troll to see a larger image.)

Instead of simply leaving my responses to troll-dom buried in the comments, I thought my time would be better spent with an article about Internet Trolls.

No Usage Based Billing

Internet Anonymity

One of the strengths of the Internet is that it usually possible to comment anonymously. The reason that this is a strength is that it allows people to share information — whistle blowing information in particular — with less personal risk. This is good for society.

Another strength of the Internet is that it is largely “self-correcting”. Because commenting is encouraged most places, and an awful lot of information is available for user-editing, when someone gets something on the internet wrong, there is usually someone who will correct them. So if a “whistle blower” turns out to be someone spreading malicious information, they will be outed and discredited very quickly. This is fabulous.

Now, I have never made any secret of the fact that although I deal with a lot of technical things in this blog, I am not a technical person. If I get something wrong, I want to know about it, so that I can correct it. That’s one reason that my name and email address are plastered all over my blogs. It has to do with credibility. If you want to correct me loudly, you can do it in a comment. If you prefer to do it quietly, you can send me email. (Don’t worry, thanks to some really smart tech people I have a very good spam filter.)

The reason I started this blog was to help other non-technical internet users understand the issue of Usage Based Billing. As an ordinary person myself I have to first learn about the issues and processes before I can hope to write about them. I have lately increased the scope of this blog to cover internet freedom issues like Net Neutrality and ACTA which will also impact negatively on ordinary Internet users. The point of this blog is to demystify the computerese so that ordinary people can understand the issues that will affect us all. Computers and the Internet are no longer luxuries.

I am fortunate in that I’ve had some good instructors, and for things I’ve researched on my own I’ve had excellent feedback. As well I know I have a few very technically astute readers who will not hesitate to provide technical correction where warranted.

European troll with a walking stick stands on a city street.

Trolls

A problem that has emerged out of Internet anonymity is a type of commenter which has come to be known as a “Troll”. Trolls comment wherever they think they can do damage. In forums, Facebook, blogs, and news articles.

Some trolls are just the internet version a vandals; they want to wreck things, or stir things up. Some delight in the power they feel in arguing about anything or everything. They will jump into any argument and take the contrary position just for the fun of it. This type of troll has been around since the earliest days of computer Bulletin Board Systems (BBSes were the early forums on independent computer networks that predate public access to the Internet of today).

As the Internet has achieved wider readership and acceptance, there has emerged a new class of troll, Professional Lobbyist Trolls. I’m guessing that at least some of these trolls receive a paycheck for their efforts, although it’s conceivable that some simply work for the corporation they are lobbying for. Whether they are officially remunerated for troll comments or not, I consider these people to be Professional Trolls because they engage in troll behaviour for gain.

The first kind of troll exists because they feel empowered through the argument. These trolls often engage in bullying tactics. The standard advice for dealing with these amateur trolls is “Don’t feed the troll.” This means that they should be ignored, because they will never back off. The more you respond, the worse they get. By ignoring them you deprive them of their power. Unfortunately this doesn’t always work because some of them will simply continue to escalate the abuse until a response is forthcoming.

The second type of troll exists because a special interest group – usually a corporation or a political party – is engaging in activity or behaviour that the public will not agree with because it is not in the best interests of the public. The professional troll’s job is to con us into thinking that it will be in our best interests, or if that doesn’t fly, that it’s necessary to make a sacrifice for some reason.

When CBC online runs a story decrying a bad corporate behaviour or government policy, something that triggers thousands of public online comments, often the special interest group behind the bad behaviour or policy tries to stem the tide of public negativity by sending in Professional Trolls. These trolls spread misinformation intended to muddy the waters and try to dissipate or minimize the public outrage. Trolls will attempt to deflect criticism by suggesting a different scapegoat, or more commonly by trying to cast doubt on the credibility of the information. Professional trolls have a whole arsenal of weapons for attacking an idea on every front except merit. That’s the biggest problem professional trolls have to overcome — a lack of valid arguments.

You can usually spot a Professional Troll because they are arguing against the good of society. The corporation, political group or ideology that the troll is advocating/lobbying for, will always gain something at the expense of others, usually the public. Because ordinary citizens don’t have lobbyists.

The StopUBB Troll

First I’ll reprint the Troll Comments I received today followed by my Comment Reply. Then I’ll break the troll’s comment down and analyze the flaws.

lol said
March 31, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Wow so much FUD in this article. Not a Rogers employee, but your understanding of how the DPI works is nonsense, and guess what, carriers all pay on usage, broadband customers can to. You will one day, don’t worry and suck it up. Move from your parents basement and become productive.

Laurel L. Russwurm said
April 1, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Lol the Troll is spreading misinformation again… Although protesting that it is “Not a Rogers employee”, Lol the Troll‘s email address is through an offline “holding company” website with a Rogers IP address. Certainly looks suspicious.   Lol the Troll claims that “carriers all pay on usage”. Either Lol the Troll truly doesn’t understand (intelligence is not a pre-requisite for troll-dom) or is being disingenuous. Bell Canada is a “carrier”.  I doubt Bell Canada pays usage to anyone.

Admittedly, Rogers is also a carrier. Rogers doesn’t usually have to pay for internet access on it’s own cable, but there are some parts of Canada where Rogers is forced to go through Bell Canada’s Gateway Access System (GAS), so I expect at those junctures, Bell is charging usage to Rogers. You would think that Bell and Rogers would be able to play nicely together, but neither share very well, and though they seem to work in conjunction at times, both want to be the only Canadian Internet monopoly.

The Independent Service Providers… that is to say, the Independent ISPs that Industry Canada mandated into the Canadian Internet market in order to provide Canadian consumers with access to competition, must purchase access to Bell Canada’s GAS as well. My understanding is that the Independents are ISPs not carriers. They do in fact pay a great deal for their internet access.

The Independent ISPs have contracted for blocks of bandwidth access with Bell Canada. Bell Canada was able to set the excessive prices they wanted, and the Independent ISPs agreed to pay the high prices Bell Canada set.   So Bell Canada is already being paid for the bandwidth the Independent ISPs get through GAS. These independent ISPs do business by packaging the bandwidth differently than Bell Canada does. Bell Canada is already being paid for the bandwidth that these ISPs re-sell to their own customers.

Usage Based Billing would mean that the Independent Service Providers’ customers would be forced to pay Bell Canada for “usage” that has already been paid for. The Independent ISPs are fighting against UBB because they don’t believe that their customers should have to pay more for the same service they get now. Usage Based Billing will also force the Independent ISPs to use Bell Canada’s pricing system, which will unfairly shackle their business model and most likely put them out of business.

Lol the Troll also attempts to discredit me personally as someone who doesn’t pay for my own Internet connection. Lol the Troll is accusing me of being an unproductive young person, without life experience, living in my parents basement, presumably off my parents.

First of all, a young person living in their parent’s basement is not necessarily unproductive. And age does not always bring life experience.   Considering that Lol the Troll made a second post with the same type of denigration on the About UBB and Me a page that very clearly says who I am, it is reasonable to think that Lol the Troll just wanted to try to discredit me, not caring about accuracy.

Now for the point by point Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “Wow so much FUD in this article. “
Broad statement. Opinion, not fact. Attempt to establish street cred by using the acronym “FUD”. This actually backfires since the wikipedia definition points to someone with a marketing or political background. Precisely the demographic for professional trolls.

FUD: Fear, uncertainty and doubt, a marketing or political strategy.

Wikipedia

Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “Not a Rogers employee,”
Attempting to discredit my information without any validity. I’m sure Rogers has competent as well as incompetent staff just like any other large corporation. Working for Rogers wouldn’t make me an expert. Anymore than not working for Rogers would.

Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “but your understanding of how the DPI works is nonsense,”
Saying the information is wrong without any supporting information. aka “Because I say so”. Lol is spouting nonsense. Thanks to research I quite understand why DPI is illegal in Europe, and ought to be here. At minimum it needs oversight.

Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “and guess what, carriers all pay on usage,”
Argument based on Fallacy. Partly correct, not remotely logical. Having just read the Wikipedia page I am amazed… the fallacy page is pretty much a Troll Primer. If you think a comment was made by a troll, chances are their argument will contain at least one of the fallacies listed on the Wikipedia page.

Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “broadband customers can to.”
Presence of the incorrect “to” indicates someone overly reliant on spell check.
The argument is specious. The points have nothing to do with each other.

Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “You will one day, don’t worry and suck it up. Move from your parents basement and become productive.”
Inept inaccurate personal attack as a means of discrediting the accurate information I provide.

As mentioned, the other appearance of Lol the Troll is on my About UBB and Me page.

a naked rainbow haired troll doll, a naked blue haired troll doll with blue gem inset at navel, yellow haired and pink haired baby trolls wearing bibs and nappys, a white haired baby troll in a bunny suit, and a yellow haired troll wearing balloon trunks

My younger sisters were quite into troll dolls when we were kids. I couldn't see the attraction.

I actually saw this one first.

lol said
March 31, 2010 at 10:50 pm

Move out of your parents basement and stop whining kid. Usage based billing is out transit has worked in the carrier space for decades, it will come to broadband and will make the internet cheaper for average users, and more money for torrenting brats. Guess what, I’m sorry your mom got mad that you cost her an extra $25 downloading your porn!

Since the attempt at putting me down is so patently “out there” I didn’t bother arguing the point.

Laurel L. Russwurm said
April 1, 2010 at 8:26 am
Ooohh look— StopUBB got its very own troll! My very own troll! Awesome.
And not only that, a troll who can’t read!
Even funnier, one who is parroting misinformation. Guess that’s why it calls itself “Lol”.

Now for the Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “Move out of your parents basement and stop whining kid. “
Ridiculous attempt at a personal attack especially considering that it is made directly below my biographical information.

Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “Usage based billing is out transit has worked in the carrier space for decades, it will come to broadband and will make the internet cheaper for average users, and more money for torrenting brats. “
Aside from the incoherence, it appears that Lol the Troll is trying to sell the lie that Usage based billing will make the Internet cheaper for people who do not use torrents. Usage Based Billing charges will be assessed in addition to what users currently pay in Internet rates. Nowhere in any part of the official Bell Canada Usage Based Billing submission to the CRTC did Bell ever make any claim that any user would be paying less than they are paying now. But trolls can say what they want.
Lol the Troll is also attempting to imply that all torrent traffic is illegal or bad in some way, when readers of StopUBB know that isn’t accurate.

Troll-Analysis:
Lol the Troll: “Guess what, I’m sorry your mom got mad that you cost her an extra $25 downloading your porn!”
Another vague attempt at personal attack in combination with casting aspersions on the excellent BitTorrent protocol, which is not only legal, but used for many excellent things, like distribution of Free Open Source software. Or Project Gutenberg.


I hope this article has made troll spotting a little easier.

I’ll leave you with my kid’s favorite web comic XKCD‘s take on amateur trolls:



[Image Credits:
D&D Troll photograph by Benny Mazur (benimoto)
European Walking Stick Troll Photo by HuBar, Wikimedia Commons
Troll Family Group, photo by Felicity Green, aka mygothlaundry, Flickr
the Troll in the “Troll Busters” logo was provided by Roixa RRG You can see more of her work in her ROIXA RRG blog
And of course thanks to Randall Munroe for publishing XKCD under a Creative Commons 2.5 Attribution Non-Commercial license which allowed me to reprint his comic in its entirety.]

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4 Responses to “Trollbusters”

  1. […] provide ordinary people an opportunity to comment on the news. Quite often you’ll find trolls or shills talking against the natural […]

  2. For the most part I’d agree with you. But a good part of what I do in this space is explain arcane internet things to other non-technical people. When you’re new online, knowing how to spot a troll, and being able to tell the difference between a troll and someone who simply has a different opinion may be valuable.

    I comment in a lot of places where trolls, particularly the corporate trolls, get believed because new people haven’t yet realized that its possible to say anything.

    • Devil's Advocate said

      Of course. [smacks head 🙂 ]
      I’m so used to ignoring trolls myself, but there has to be some instruction for those who don’t know any better. I also forgot that the troll(s) you were talking about weren’t posting here.

  3. Devil's Advocate said

    I think your first “remedy” (refusing to feed the trolls) is the only way to go, regardless of what “kind” of troll you’re dealing with.

    A troll is just someone who makes it his/her job to both distract commenters from having a constructive conversation, and do whatever possible to discredit the OP, thereby belittling the subject material or the site’s stance on a issue. A troll is a troll is a troll.

    Devoting an entire page to “dissecting” troll talk does nothing but validate their existence. Since a troll never offers much in the line of coherent dialog, they need to be completely ignored. (Just as I did by typing all this 🙂 )

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