How deal with notorious trolls resp. troll groups?

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Problem: the Evil Dead (2013) board has been subject to trolling of an entire troll group for about half a year now. Their MO: mass bump hate threads on a daily basis with one-liners or just an emoticon, to drown the more meaningful discussion and make it indiscernible to newcomers. Especially is IMDBs standard advice - ignore the troll, which I otherwise can easily do without even hitting the "ignore button" - totally useless in this case.

Another thing they do: impersonate people by copying their username and changing a single letter, and then stalk them across IMDB making fun of their posts and discussions.

An "insider" came recently forward and disclosed that the the well known mootown/ayelewis account is behind this activity. Well known because he's been doing that for years while causing actual damage on the way, as described here
http://jneilschulman.rationalreview.c...

The forum where the troll group organizes their actions is here
http://manlymovie.freeforums.net
and here's a choice quote of aylewis:

"IMDb is the greatest place to troll, because there are so many there that celebrate trolls being nuked. Their frustration and anger upon your return is rolled gold lulz.
It is a very amusing development to know some people spend hours every day....every DAY....reading your every post and either reporting them or sending 1000 word PM's to others "warning" them about you [laugh]
Anybody who hates IMDb is looking at things from the wrong angle. "

which can be found here
http://manlymovie.freeforums.net/user...

Now, these people apparently have an endless supply of cell phone numbers - ayelewis claims he owns a cell phone shop - and accordingly an endless supply of socket accounts. Saying that for the regular user it's impossible to clearly identify, contain or merely ignore these people. More importantly, as things naturally heat up after some time, regular posters run danger to have their precious accounts flagged or nuked.

Now pray tell me: what's the best way to deal with these people? And please don't make the answer "just ignore". We've been through this and it doesn't work.

Thanks.
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bhertz

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Posted 6 years ago

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Its a horribly difficult problem to address and the Evil Dead forum has been reported a number of times here.

There are a number of issues at work which have different solutions:

* Score bombing - the intentional voting down of independent titles (which seems to be the heart of the post by JNS) has been partly addressed by the removal of the weightings for less than 100 votes. Personally, I'd quite like to see anyone with a pattern of 1 star voting on a whole range of films getting their votes scrubbed and their accounts deleted. I've also suggested that they either get rid of the weighting or give it to top reviewers:
https://getsatisfaction.com/imdb/topi...

* For forums that descend into Hell (like the Evil Dead one you mention, as well as The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad and James Patterson, which come up a lot here), I believe we need a small group of moderators with a remit focused on these specific message boards:
https://getsatisfaction.com/imdb/topi...

* With trolls reporting people who they disagree with, the advice is to keep a track of the threads you start (save the links off in, say, Notepad) and when/if they are reported and removed you can flag this up here - although no longer visible staff can still see the threads and if they can see here is no reason for the reporting they might apply sanctions to the reporter. Not a guaranteed success on this but see previous discussion:
https://getsatisfaction.com/imdb/topi...
https://getsatisfaction.com/imdb/topi...

Trolling of message boards is, IMHO obviously, one of IMDB's big problems but it occurs in places that aren't part of their core area of concern (which is, obviously, the assembling of data), and that is how the trolls can get up to their dirty work.

Thanks for the links there - I hadn't seen that forum before and it is pretty depressing:

http://manlymovie.freeforums.net/thre...
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bhertz

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Hey, many thanks for your elaborate reply. It's quite comforting to see that awareness exists, as well as an actual interest in addressing these issues.

I do realize that IMDB is a global site, striving to be the first stop for all things movies for everybody. See the problems coming with such an ambitious goal. The cost moderator staff entails. And the difficulties in - alternatively or additionally - building some reliable community support.

At the same time is there no denying that these organized trolls are actually effective. Regarding my original concern, message boards, I've seen them giving regular posters a really hard time over months. Specifically those posters who emotionally attach themselves to their favorite film. And even where I myself don't care so much it's just utterly disgusting to see people being literally abused in this way.

So on that note, your "smokejumping" proposal seems to be a pretty good idea. Addressing the fact that there's always only so many "hot spots" to take care of. While trying to minimize "cost" at the same time. And it'd be great indeed if this approach could be put into practice.

Regarding the forum link, I could only provide it because an ex-friend of a member of the bunch came recently forward
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1288558/b...
when he himself realized how depraved their doings are. Otherwise I would have never guessed myself that such people do exist.

Their actual trolling coordination efforts aren't publicly visible of course, and I'm sure you already guessed that much. Still, the little we can see is already enough to recognize the scope of their doings.

Right, I guess we may consider this particular matter settled then. Again, many thanks for your time. And good luck with your efforts indeed.
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Right, I guess we may consider this particular matter settled then.


Not really.

I am just an ordinary user of IMDB, like you. The fact that I have raised it here and that staff have flagged up suggestions up as "Under Consideration" doesn't mean anything will happen.

My big fear, as mentioned in one of the discussions I linked to, is that it there will be a suicide over this as there has been a big scandal on other sites where trolling has cause this and their procedures have been shown to be woefully lacking. In some ways I'm surprised this hasn't happened already - IMDB is a massive site with a very large userbase and inadequate processes for dealing with this (combined with some people becoming over-invested in films and actors), so they open to similar accusations which could be harmful for the site and Amazon, he parent company (which is already in people's bad books over tax evasion).

So I think it is important to keep pushing the issue - if you have any ideas for fixing this then you can post them as suggestions, if you can think of an improvement for an existing one then post on the thread (a +1 any you like) and if you know of anyone with similar concerns point them over here.

Their actual trolling coordination efforts aren't publicly visible of course, and I'm sure you already guessed that much. Still, the little we can see is already enough to recognize the scope of their doings.


Indeed, the fact that they have a hidden forum for this activity and the collusion of admins demonstrates the scale of the problem IMDB face.

That is also an impressive thread:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1288558/b...

As it clear shows someone posting from half a dozen accounts (which are used to abuse people elsewhere, including the Evil Dead forum), all you'd need to do is grab the IP and I'd imagine you could shut down an awful lot of the most problematic accounts in one fell swoop.
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bhertz

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Ok, that's bad news now. I kind of assumed that you were affiliated to IMDB. So they just entirely relayed their help forum to the community now? Awesome.

And no need to talk about suicides. The sheer amount of valuable time wasted by the destructive - and I don't mean non-productive, I mean destructive - behavior of these organized trolls already calls for according action. It can't be IMDB's ultimate stance to say that "it's your fault if you liked Evil Dead and want to talk about it on IMDB", can it.

Amongst us, I'm increasingly under the impression that they created a beast they can't control anymore. Or that they don't want to allocate the required resources at least. Well alright, but then shutdown the message boards already please, and let other boards profit from the the released user base.

And no, I have no idea for fixing the issue right now, because I didn't spend any time thinking about it. That's apparently what you're doing, as a contributing community member and for free. That's very nice of you indeed, for sure. But I consider IMDB a company. Saying that I'm already spending time dealing with trolls on the boards. Spend time reporting the issue. And would now expect IMDB to react to this, at least in terms of putting it on their todo list on a reasonably high priority level. The status quo just isn't acceptable right now, on a nerely professional level.

And yes, monitoring the IPs of posters on problematic boards would already be immensily helpful in identifying offending accounts. That's not an ultimate solution, as we all know, but would prove to be a very huge roadblock for those generally not so savvy trolls.

So, what now? Does any IMDB staff read this at all or what's the deal here?
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Ok, that's bad news now. I kind of assumed that you were affiliated to IMDB. So they just entirely relayed their help forum to the community now?


Not really, no - the different help forums have always had a lot of input from users, so it makes sense that, when they started using this forum (as it has a whole range of useful features) there would be users involved. Those of us, who have contributed plenty of useful answers get the "Champ" name page.

There are plenty of staff around and chipping in (perhaps more than there were previously), but usually on the threads that need their input.

And no need to talk about suicides. The sheer amount of valuable time wasted by the destructive - and I don't mean non-productive, I mean destructive - behavior of these organized trolls already calls for according action.


Oh indeed - it is unacceptable as it stands, the potential this could lead to suicide is the worst case scenario (unless Vladmir Putin pisses the Chinese with his unpopular thoughts on Breaking Bad's final episode, leading to WWIII), the kind of thing that might focus corporate minds a little more, as it isn't just a personal disaster, it is a PR one. Given recent scandals elsewhere, all companies with a large user base are going to have to raise their game and take more proactive action to address the problem, or they are going to be in a lot of hot water if anything does go wrong.

Amongst us, I'm increasingly under the impression that they created a beast they can't control anymore. Or that they don't want to allocate the required resources at least.


I suspect, its a little of both - the forums are generated automatically as the titles are added, so by the time it became clear there was a problem, it was also such a big one that it would be a vast resource drain. That is why the reporting system seems to be at least partly automated, because the sheer quantity of reports must be so big that you couldn't have humans read them all and then check the threads to see who is in the right.

That is why my idea was to have a small group of moderators focused on the problem forums. I avoided the message boards for a long time because the word on the Internet had long been that IMDB's forums were bearpits packed with some of the vilest trolls the Internet had to offer. Of course, once I did pitch in to more heavily trafficked areas I discovered that most of the people here are the vast majority of forums are civilised. Which is why I think a targeted approach could work well, and it'd remove a lot of the venom from the site in general and act as a message to other potential trolls that they won't have free reign on the site, which they currently do in some forums.

And yes, monitoring the IPs of posters on problematic boards would already be immensily helpful in identifying offending accounts. That's not an ultimate solution, as we all know, but would prove to be a very huge roadblock for those generally not so savvy trolls.


Oh I know it isn't a complete fix (I've moderated quite a few forums, a few professionally, and am an admin on Wikipedia, so I know the limitations of IPs) but it'd be a start and it'd allow the moderators to hammer the trolls down pretty quickly. Getting the problematic forums under some control would take more effort - you'd actually have to sit down and read the threads, get a feel for the people involved, what the trigger points are, where things can be headed off at the pass and where things just need shutting down.

So, what now? Does any IMDB staff read this at all or what's the deal here?


Yep, as I say there are a lot of staff around and some will read this, but they might not feel they've got anything to add at this point (one of them flagged this as "Answered" after my first post), especially if there are already discussion going on behind the scenes. We might not know until some announcement is made, if ever.
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one of them flagged this as "Answered" after my first post), especially if there are already discussion going on behind the scenes. We might not know until some announcement is made, if ever.

Now see, Emperor, the fact that a moderator or staffer marked this question/problem as answered because you joined into the conversation is just so much lip service.  I suspect that the moderators and staffers create/cause most of the TROLL problems we see here because they aren't taking the time to actually address the more serious problems and complaints. 

I understand the need for some of the automated actions on such a behemoth site as this one, but to me, ALL major requests for actions should actually be READ and PROCESSED by an actual employee of IMDB.com.

A flag should go up in the system, for instance, that posts of an individual should be read before destroying an entire history of conversation and camaraderie.  You are right to be concerned at the prospect of suicide or worse.  Many of us are disabled or shut-in. The activities on this board and others keep us involved. We develop friendships of a sort. Destroying entire history on the word of TROLLS puts the gun in IMDB's hands not the TROLLS.

Do you know what the term "do your ticks" or "working your ticks" means in the business industry? It means working your to do list. I get the feeling the mods and staffers go through their 'ticks' and mark the resolved or take action just to move them on without REALLY reviewing them for appropriate action.

Then they can go home at the end of the day feeling like they've completed a full day's work while some poor schmuck, like me, in the real world takes the hit.  It may not seem like much to corporate IMDB but it should be.

Here's a thought/suggestion. Moderators can continue to delete a single thread without reading it for cause. But to delete an entire person's postings and profile, which happened to me, the action MUST BE REVIEWED BY A HIGHER AUTHORITY.  A lead worker or supervisor. Someone with more experience.

I'm still upset by what happened to me.  I haven't been able to enjoy being on IMDB the way I used to since this happened. 


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Now see, Emperor, the fact that a moderator or staffer marked this
question/problem as answered because you joined into the conversation is
just so much lip service.

No, it was because a member of staff deemed the question to have been answered by my first post.
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bhertz

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There are plenty of staff around and chipping in

Right, thanks for the clarification.

as it isn't just a personal disaster, it is a PR one

Very true. Fact is, some bad things might have already happened. They maybe just didn't get any publicity. But then, could be it just needs that one highly publicized case. You know how companies work:

Manager: need more money for this.
Boss Manager: why?
Manager: better user experience.
Boss Manager: get off my dck.

And this dialog might actually change once there's real media exposure.

the reporting system seems to be at least partly automated

Automated report processing is of no use at all and rather counterproductive. It'll become a troll tool itself in no time and has already done so on IMDB, as far as I can tell.

Me, I don't report anything by now. I tried a couple of times , realized that the action taken - if any - was totally inadequate and besides the point. And that it just encouraged the trolls to keep going.

In fact, if they just scrapped the whole reporting thing the site might be better off.

the vast majority of forums are civilised

I can confirm that, from a decade worth of experience around IMDB. There's always some isolated trolls, but they usually cause little trouble.

The organized groups is a different matter though. But even they seem to be few, and their resources are naturally limited. So I fully agree that your targeted approach might substantially improve the boards. A human moderator can easily crush what might be worth days and weeks of trolling efforts in an hour.

Here's some more suggestions: forbid post deletion. And forbid account renaming. This would rob the trolls off some of their most valuable tools.

so I know the limitations of IPs

One of the first concerns would be large networks sitting behind a masquerading IP. But if I were IMDB, if three accounts for example were trolling a single board from the same IP I would nuke all accounts coming from there anyway. Just make that a published policy and be done with it.

you'd actually have to sit down and read the threads

That's the key and there is no way around it. It needs human moderators capable of following the logic of a discussion. And as you already said, it probably wouldn't even require that many. With a couple of them in place and ready, even the organized troll groups would be facing a very steep uphill battle.

Friend, I can only hope that IMDB's taking note of your suggestions, and make them subject of at least a trial run for a year or so. It doesn't cost the world. While likely improving IMDBs reputation a lot at the same time, if only by sending a signal that they're serious about their business.

By the way, since you were lauding the additional features of this site, I'm missing a "preview" option. I mean, what's embedded HTML worth when you're not able to preview if you got it right?
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By the way, since you were lauding the additional features of this site, I'm missing a "preview" option. I mean, what's embedded HTML worth when you're not able to preview if you got it right?
While there isn't a Preview option as such, I simply use the initial posting as a preview.

Edit and Delete become visible in the upper right corner of the post when you hover over the post. You are able to correct any errors or make any additions (or delete the whole thing) until there is a reply. Only then is the post locked in.

I would prefer a true Preview, but with this we're not forced to endure errors caused by typos.
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@DavidAH_Ca

Good point. Always nice to have some smart guys around lending the noob a helping hand.

Thanks mate!
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Very true. Fact is, some bad things might have already happened. They maybe just didn't get any publicity. But then, could be it just needs that one highly publicized case. You know how companies work:

Manager: need more money for this.
Boss Manager: why?
Manager: better user experience.
Boss Manager: get off my dck.

And this dialog might actually change once there's real media exposure.


At which point it is too late for everyone involved (the trolled, IMDB/Amazon and the trolls - who presumably don't realise their actions can have tragic real world consequences, including possible jail time for them), instead you could imagine:

Manager: need more money for this.
Boss Manager: why?
Manager: covering our asses to head off a PR disaster.
Boss Manager: pass me my wallet.

The organized groups is a different matter though. But even they seem to be few, and their resources are naturally limited. So I fully agree that your targeted approach might substantially improve the boards. A human moderator can easily crush what might be worth days and weeks of trolling efforts in an hour.


That's the beauty of it - currently chasing these trolls around is a time-consuming and lengthy process and the "time balance" is in their favour (so they can create accounts and mess things up faster than they can be shut down), but a first wave of a proactive clampdown could shut down hundreds of accounts in no time at all. Getting everything under control would be a longer term issue and require constant monitoring and more time invested, but it is a more fine-tuned approach, but wielding the Banhammer like a Viking would be a great start (although not the whole fix).

The good thing is that there would be ripples spreading out from the focused work - some people are tempted into trolling because they can and clamping down on the core concerns might dissuade some people, other trolls will just move somewhere they can troll more easily and quite a few "innocent" ordinary users wouldn't be tempted into rising to the bait, leading to them abusing the trolls and getting reported in turn.

The main hassle would be programming the backend to allow this, but the tools should all be there, although I'm not sure about the IP tracking as it is a bespoke forum. In fact, it might be less time-consuming to move everything to a more ready-rolled solution:

https://getsatisfaction.com/imdb/topi...

Here's some more suggestions: forbid post deletion. And forbid account renaming. This would rob the trolls off some of their most valuable tools.


There is no real need to punish the vast majority of other users, but on more conventional forums you can set up a probationary group with reduced privileges (I've done it more than once) which you can either apply to users who have been reported (in the last couple of months, for example) or who are suspected trolls. You can also stop them starting threads or editing their posts.

One of the first concerns would be large networks sitting behind a masquerading IP. But if I were IMDB, if three accounts for example were trolling a single board from the same IP I would nuke all accounts coming from there anyway. Just make that a published policy and be done with it.


Yep, although one problem that occurs quite often on Wikipedia is schools and colleges getting blocked because bored students are messing about causing problems for everyone but a) they need to get their houses in order and b) most people have access from home or phone. You also have various proxies or masking and some ISPs (like AOL) that have IPs that "wander" making it tricky to hammer someone down (but even in that case a troll wouldn't be able to run multiple accounts - it is usually a problem trying to keep an individual user out, which is a slightly different problem, and they usually give themselves away). However, that just requires a bit of time and effort, once you are aware of the different ways IPs might not work every time, it is easy enough to develop strategies to deal with them.

That's the key and there is no way around it. It needs human moderators capable of following the logic of a discussion. And as you already said, it probably wouldn't even require that many. With a couple of them in place and ready, even the organized troll groups would be facing a very steep uphill battle.


Some are just bearpits with trolls running wild, but others do need a more nuanced approach - the Robert Pattinson one might, although it seems it is being stirred up by trolls:

https://getsatisfaction.com/imdb/topi...

Only a rather detailed examination of what is being reported would reveal what is going on - which is why I think forums under examination by smokejumping moderators need to also have reporting either suspended or taken out of the automated system, as they need someone to read them through carefully in the context of the whole forum.

Friend, I can only hope that IMDB's taking note of your suggestions, and make them subject of at least a trial run for a year or so. It doesn't cost the world. While likely improving IMDBs reputation a lot at the same time, if only by sending a signal that they're serious about their business.


Well, I've presented my case as best I can and it has at least been acknowledged. What happens next is difficult to work out. We'll have to wait and see, but they can't say they weren't warned if anything does goes horribly wrong.

By the way, since you were lauding the additional features of this site, I'm missing a "preview" option. I mean, what's embedded HTML worth when you're not able to preview if you got it right?


Mind-reader - it is my #1 niggle at the moment. I'm sure there must be a suggestion thread on the main GS forums, I should go and find it, +1 it and bump it.
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The suggestion for a preview option is here and is planned:

https://getsatisfaction.com/getsatisf...
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covering our asses to head off a PR disaster

Won't work. When it's about money people think in terms of likeliness and possible amount damage. IMDB's been online now for how many years without issues? So that makes Boss Manager confident that probably nothing will happen at all. And if it does the damage can presumably be controlled. That's the typical Boss Manager mindset.

Getting everything under control

No need to get everything under control. Remember the 90/10 rule. 90% get's done with 10% of the cost. But the last 10% will cost you 90.

No need for perfection. Just address the 90. Agree with you regarding the ripple effect though.

The main hassle would be programming the backend to allow this,

What, keep a history of IPs used by an account, and allow for reverse lookups of accounts coming from a specific IP? That's a minor development effort, custom tailored software or not.

There is no real need to punish the vast majority of other users,

Now this is a point worth dwelling on.

First post deletion. How would prevention of post deletion be a punishment? Believe it or not, I never deleted a single one of my posts on IMDB ever. Why should I?

Think of it in real life terms: when you say something and somebody else is listening it can't be taken back. What's said is said. And if you change your mind about it you may correct it later. Translated into message board terms, just make another post to rectify things. Instead of having people end up with threads riddled with dangling responses nobody knows what they originally were responding to in the first place.

And why should I want to rename my account? Seriously, I can't come up with a single one reason which could be considered essential for the regular user.

In fact, I would also limit post editing to let's say a 24hour period after the original post was made.

Believe me, the result would be this: the regular user would understand that he should be a little more careful about what he's posting in the first place. Which is a good thing anyway. And the troll would be way, way more easily identified and exposed.

one problem that occurs quite often on Wikipedia is schools and colleges

Wikipedia is a different thing because it's actually important. We're talking movie discussion here.

Ok, let's make it like this. 3 accounts trolling a single board triggers a ban. College is then offered an unban if they figure out the offenders themselves. So the ball (and cost) is on their side. Then make this a 3 strike rule altogether, so that the third ban is definitive. And be done with it.

Regarding dynamic IPs, of course would time be a factor. So in the reverse lookup mentioned above, I would have to look for accounts using the same IP in a certain time span, let's say a day. It'd be highly unlikely that, during this period, some other troll would get the same IP as a previous troll where both troll the same board or related boards.

the Robert Pattinson one might

Like I said. Automated report processing makes for a pretty efficient trolling tool. Just scrap it. Really.

My friend, please do take another minute and think about what I said regarding post deletion, editing and account renaming. Believe me, the regular user would hardly feel the impact, while being encouraged to be more careful about his posts at the same time. While the troll would actually suffer. And very much so.

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