anonymity doesn’t fuel online hatred, group mentality does

A new study finds that online trolls aren't as anonymous as you would think.

by Annie Armstrong
27 July 2016, 10:10pm

Image via Getty iStock

Last week, Twitter officially banned a troll account for the online harassment of Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones. Though deleting the user's account was admirable, it still didn't even begin to address the amount of hate speech that circulates on Twitter. In response to the epidemic of online bullying, the University of Zurich did a study that uncovers how internet trolls behave. It's long been thought that people hide behind anonymity, but as it turns out, more often than not, trolls don't hide their names from their profiles.

Sociology researcher Lea Stahel studied online petitions from the years 2010 to 2013, aggregating data from over 532,000 comments on 1,600 petitions. The only overarching trend that the study found within troll accounts was that birds of a feather tended to flock together. As soon as one hateful opinion was made public, other accounts would team up behind that person. 

Which is worse, a nameless mass of anonymous trolls or people owning their hateful speech? Either way, cyberbullying has reached a crisis point and must be addressed. As movements toward positivityinclusivity, and diversity are only gaining in recognition and popularity, this type of blatant negativity feels like a weak, disorganized backlash. To learn more about the study, read it in full here.


Text Annie Armstrong. 

Leslie Jones
internet trolls