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professional trolls, aka corporate trolls

 
paul wheaton
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Getting feedback about an entire industry where people are paid to go out and try to discredit anybody on the internet saying something contrary to what their employer advocates.

So far I have heard of two companies that have dozens of people in each company that just go all over the web and find stuff to refute.

It sounds like this might be called "professional trolls", but I'm still researching.



 
Dale Hodgins
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I had one of those who followed me around in the green building section a few months back. He never once thought that anyone had a workable plan, unless it was made from his favorite material. Maybe he works for a cement company. A lunatic fringe cement company.
 
Ernie Wisner
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how would we expose them to light?
most often what i see are troll arguments not backed up with data. (yes i admit I go check when someone is in my face so i can chapter and verse them) but that by itself is not a troll. so how do we catch trap and expose these folks?
 
Ernie Wisner
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http://www.interadvocacy.com/category/tools/

these are the guys and he has links we can track to his companies that do this trolling stuff.

However this is a double edged sword, these are paid spammers however this is kinda what we unintentionally do when we advocate for this forum. hmmm it becomes a moral ambiguity thing. on the other hand this bunch of folks are creepy.
 
Ernie Wisner
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Ok i got some info and i dont like it. this is slimy stuff and big money. I found the guys blog that has co founded most of the troll companies and i really dont like the feel of it. Paul we might need to have a private conference on this one.
 
P Thickens
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Also search "astroturf".
 
Fred Morgan
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Shills and professional trolls have something in common. They are misrepresenting themselves. Ernie, you are clearly about rocket stoves, so if you put something out there, someone can choose to ignore you because of a bias they may assume you have regarding rocket stoves. You aren't hidden.

Just like myself, you can pretty much assume I think reforestation is a good thing - not hiding anything there. So, when I talk about forests, etc, you know where I am coming from.

It is about honesty.
 
paul wheaton
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I think the key is to know what is going on.

You are talking about throwing rocks at somebody with an arsenal of machine guns and bio-weapons just itching for a target.



 
paul wheaton
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Talked a bit with the PRI folks. I was sent a link to their full article on the topic:

Rowell and Matthews found that one of the messages Mary Murphy had sent came from a domain owned by the Bivings Group, a PR company specialising in internet lobbying. An article on the Bivings website explained that “there are some campaigns where it would be undesirable or even disastrous to let the audience know that your organization is directly involved … Message boards, chat rooms, and listservs are a great way to anonymously monitor what is being said. Once you are plugged into this world, it is possible to make postings to these outlets that present your position as an uninvolved third party.”(6)


http://permaculture.org.au/2010/12/14/reclaim-the-cyber-commons/


 
Josh T-Hansen
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Think craigslist job postings are trolled out? Check out their eco forum for 24/7 troll on troll action. Can't know for sure if some posts are trolls or not...real people could be posting under the influence of trolls! I am actually a highly paid troll myself, slowly building my repertoire and ingraining the principles of permaculture so one day I will be able to defeat truth in the minds of all but the most enlightened. Don't fret, you're all invited to the after party at my doomstead.
 
Chris Watkins
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This is why I stick to forums that are properly moderated. Not to restrict opinions, but to ensure civility and stop shills, trolls and people who just won't be reasonable.

If someone wants to argue a position, fine - but dealing with troll and shill arguments is time-consuming. A red flag for me is if I answer someone's arguments (on climate change or whatever) and they come back with another link which doesn't directly address my last response. This is very common among climate change deniers, including among people I've debated in email & social media, who I'm quite sure were not being paid. Simply caught up in the religious fervor.

One tack I've taken was to suggest to someone that they answer to my last (very detailed, time-consuming) response to their repeated claims before they post anything else, after a chorus of agreement from others, they withdrew themselves. There were some cries of censorship, but tough - I pointed out that the offer still stood that if he made a reply as requested, he could stay. He never did.

I think he just enjoyed the fact that a one line inflammatory comment from him drew more than ten times the response of a carefully considered and subtly reasoned post. So he didn't belong.

I've learned to be careful of getting drawn into arguments with such people...

 
Andrew Parker
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So, you're saying I could have been paid for doing this? Boy, am I slow.

Seriously though, please resist lapsing into paranoia. Troll is a subjective label, usually reserved for the reflexively contrary, especially those who throw expletives and ad hominem around, but lately being broadly applied to those who simply disagree with a list/forum's prevailing point of view, or editorial stance, if you will.

Don't mistake a strongly stated difference of opinion or stubborn devotion to a particular person/thing/idea as having necessarily been paid for. It is human nature to hold and want to express opinions. It is also human nature to want to surround yourself with people who agree with you. Just because the note resonates doesn't mean it is in the right key.

I have no doubt that professional trolls are out and about. If they are really good, you will never notice them. From what I have seen, there aren't very many really good ones. I suppose $20/hr doesn't buy really good.

Professional trolls are often described as pale-skinned rotund individuals living in their parent's basement, replying to posts in their underwear. (Now, to be perfectly frank, I am not a professional, it is my basement and I am fully clothed -- usually.) Of course, in reality, professional trolls come from a variety of backgrounds, though I am sure some fit the generalization.

There have been professional trolls since before the internet. I knew a man, over thirty years ago, who hired himself out as a writer of Letters to the Editor and as a "concerned citizen" at public meetings. He no doubt has made a successful move into electronic media.

Control of web content is a growing business and the sharp businessman/politician/ideologue will make sure that anyone doing a cursory search of his/her product or position will only see one side of the story. Wikipedia is one medium that has suffered tremendously from this type of manipulation, particularly when it involves hot button issues.

My brother once tried to research one of those magic water pyramid schemes. They had done such a thorough job of intervention, he had to go through several search pages before he found anything resembling an independent view. The level of sophistication in their subterfuge was impressive, to say the least. At least on par with the slickest junk mail. We're not talking Nigerian princes here, this is top-notch marketing/propaganda.

They are out there, trying to manipulate us, as they always have and always will. The only remedy is a firm skepticism and a commitment to learning. Still, it is hard to counter a good sales pitch, even if you see it coming. It takes tremendous discipline to overcome the animal in us that is being played. I used to watch car salesmen work customers while waiting to get paid for advertising (they always made me wait). It was interesting to see the well practiced dialogue and choreography, like being at a play. After that, I thought I could beat them, having seen the script, but I have been suckered, at least a little, every time.

Anyway, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you want a viable forum with new ideas, you have to accept a modicum of contrariness and manipulation. From what I have seen in this short time, your moderators do a pretty good job of keeping things loose but workable.


Say No to Troll, Yes to Droll,

Andrew Parker
 
Suzy Bean
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Paul talks to Jocelyn in this podcast about professional trolls, backyard ponds, local vs organic, composting, and lots of other listener-question subjects: podcast 112
 
Chris Fox
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I first noticed this a few years ago with review sites. Amazon, Epinions, Yelp and all the others. I was reading a review for a restaurant that had outright lies in it but if you had never been there you wouldn't know. You can sometimes tell which one are the shills but they are getting harder to spot. I just discard any 5 or 1 star reviews of anything now assuming they are a plant one way or the other.
 
Daniel Morse
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Trolls are like lice. I am often subject to trolls on many sites. I take it as a compliment. Sadly, us real trolls that have fangs and horns are offended and are planning the doom of the poser trolls. Us real part human/animal trolls have our ways. Consider this a warning and stay away from our dude Paul and his EVIL Empire. Us real trolls approve of Permies. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR, do not make me use the power of bad breath and technology to find and destroy you.

Now pay my toll or I will eat you. Actually I will feed you to the dragons. I find internet trolls over medicated and stringy. No real flesh that is good to eat!

troll allert.gif
[Thumbnail for troll allert.gif]
 
Lloyd George
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Just keep them talking until daylight...they turn to stone. problem solved.

What? it worked for Bilbo!
 
wayne stephen
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The cure for trolling - healthy skepticism. Do not be a gullible sucker and believe everything you hear. Sponsor healthy debate and be willing to put aside beliefs that prove wrong . Seek knowledge from knowledgable sources and learn to recognize expertise. I see that approach on Permies.com. What could any troll do to this site? Convince us that Monsanto is really our best bet ? I see criticism of Salatin and Holzer on this site , it seems healthy and productive. "Believe" means " I'll leave it up to you " . Sometimes we need to believe others to keep from recreating the wheel.
 
paul wheaton
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I've had the following article up on my desktop for a week. I've managed to browse it about three times and I hope to fully read it soon. I think this is crazy important.

click here
 
Julia Winter
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I read it. It's interesting, but it has the flavor of a confabulator. It could be completely true, or it could be completely made up. Most likely a mix of the two. I'm sure there are people who are paid to post on the side of big money interests, because big money interests can't be bothered to do such things themselves. However, there's a lot of passion on BOTH sides of many issues, and you can waste time and energy fretting about people who just like to argue.

This site is well managed. There's a huge amount of effort being expended in the background to keep it friendly and on topic, and I appreciate that. People need a place to go to learn about things without being spammed or misled by trolls, paid or otherwise.
 
George Meljon
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I think the comment section links to an article saying the "shill" story was a hoax. I just browsed it for 10 minutes, though.
 
paul wheaton
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Even if the story is entirely fiction, I think that most of the details are perfectly accurate.

I know, for a fact, that corporate trolls exist. I suspect that there are about 40,000 people that work as corporate trolls at any given moment - and that this is a growth industry.

 
Andrew Parker
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There are advertisements on radio and television for trolls-for-hire (not how they portray it). It is definitely a growth industry and certainly not confined to big money corporations. There are also many true-believers out there who are willing to spend thousands of unpaid man hours to fight for their pet subject online.

The internet is what it is. Some moderating is a good thing, but if you get too orthodox it quashes the free exchange of ideas, which was the point of the whole thing in the first place. I have noticed a trend away from open online discussion and toward multiple echo chambers that refuse to stray outside what is deemed acceptable by the hive. The miracle of modern electronics and communication has created an environment of intolerance where you don't live where you are physically, but instead you create a virtual cocoon where you only listen, watch or interact with what or who you chose to.
 
David Goodman
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Yeah, it's definitely a problem. Like mentioned above, though, a real troll will generally evade directly answering in a confrontation and tend to resort to name-calling, trying to out you from the group, etc.

I've got some strong opinions, as do many of us independent-type permies. The thing I tend to dislike about the troll label is that it is often applied to people we simply disagree with. "I don't like their stance on guns/light bulbs/hairstyles = TROLL!!!"

I also think that the mainstream is generally threatened by outsider opinions and thoughts and so the approach in forums tends to be one of quick hammering of dissidents.

One of the best ways I've seen of dealing with true trolls is to crowd-manage them. One political blog I used to frequent had a "rules of the blog" that expressly stated: "If you are asked a direct question and fail to respond in a reasonable amount of time, your posts will be deleted." This made people back up their words - and everyone on the site knew they'd get creamed if they made un-backed assertions.

As it is, though, we do a pretty darn good job here of riding the line between totally open discourse and oversensitivity.
 
David Livingston
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As someone who posts on some other internet fora I am nô stranger to trolls . Just Google Hasbara or 50 cent army.
Frankly as far as I am concerned of we are attracting corporate trolls we must be doing something right.

David
 
David Livingston
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I now have read the link Paul gave And I dont doubt it is true or at least an accurate description of stuff going on out there.
I post on Loonwatch And have done for years . Its a running joke that there is a Hasbara troll rota . I have often wrote fake complaint letters saying the standard of trolls is slipping . It does not take much imagination for such tactics to spread to the corporate sphere.follow the money.

David
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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What might a permaculture troll look like? Could they be effective in the same way as corporate trolls? Fight fire with fire.
Send out the permie-trolls with seeds and smiles! Make the others see the way. It has been commanded! It's your destiny. Now go! there is no time to waste.
 
Nick Kitchener
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Well I haven't seen any trolling here yet. A few doubters (like hugelkultur) but it all looks like genuine rather than malicious resistance.

I think we should apply permaculture principles to corporate trolls.
So, an excess of corporate trolls means there is a deficiency in...

I also think we are already applying some permaculture principles naturally to keep them in check. We have a highly diverse and interconnected topic landscape. Any troll is likely to be quickly confused and disoriented. A confused troll in such a polytopic cyberscape is easy prey to lurking subject matter experts.
 
Joe Braxton
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Trolls taste good if you cook 'em right.....

I have seen them at other places, but not around here. A few spammers now and then but they are usually taken care of before I can even see what they posted.
 
David Livingston
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Nick And Joe
You dont see them because the mods squash Them
There was a chap on the site last week suggesting pesticides as a cure for verroa in bees for instance.

David
 
Cj Sloane
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Nick Kitchener wrote:
I think we should apply permaculture principles to corporate trolls.
So, an excess of corporate trolls means there is a deficiency in...


...corporate credibility.
 
Sean Henry
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Ernie Wisner wrote:http://www.interadvocacy.com/category/tools/

these are the guys and he has links we can track to his companies that do this trolling stuff.

However this is a double edged sword, these are paid spammers however this is kinda what we unintentionally do when we advocate for this forum. hmmm it becomes a moral ambiguity thing. on the other hand this bunch of folks are creepy.


HAHA I love one of the posts there titled "Words Matter. Learn to Write Good." They should learn to "Write Well" before teaching others to do it wrong.

A side note I'm not a big grammar person but that is one of the mistakes that bother me. Although starting a sentence with AND bothers me the most since it can always be eliminated by just not typing. And Now I will get back to reading the topic.
 
Julie Carney
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This is the first time I've seen this post, but I see the discussion goes back several years....
When I first started reading, I was horrified about the idea that "armies" of people were HIRED, to especially discredit other people's opinions/ cover up exposures etc...
I even tried to copy paste the cartoon on FB, but it didn't copy....[Yep! I'm a techno wimp....]
However, after reading down, it seems that if any problem/ argument is be considered as from a troll, this could be a bigger problem.......
ie. when people genuinely want to either disagree, OR when they want to make a method of growing work, but even though everyone is raving about how good it is, it won't work for you.......
I LOVE permaculture, and I've tried several things that haven't worked for me......
I was trying things for over a year before I realized the importance to plant things that work for your zone! - And not just what everyone's raving is fantastic for building nitrogen in the soil for them!
When I started reading about hugelculture I was so pumped I started making a couple of LITTLE ones....Had NO success whatsoever........
Was it because they were too small? - Maybe.....But now I think it's because I live zone 9b and they seem to need to be modified to work here.....
Other things I've tried too, have not worked...Throwing out lots of seed does not work for me...Either the birds get them all, there is not enough water when they germinate to carry them through, or the deer get them....
I'm learning very slowly that I have to adapt what I read to my unique circumstances.......
I have not tried to make a rocket stove, but when I started to read about them, I was jazzed, and it SOUNDS - on a first read, that one just follows the directions, and voila! Out comes the perfect heater......
After reading more and more, it sounds like there's a lot of "tweaking" toget it "right" unless you're really lucky!
I guess I don't want to be knocked out as a troll if I post questions / point out problems I'm having.....
 
Alan Whitaker
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I spend too much time on Reddit. And I'm certain that there are paid professional trolls there. Especially concerning GMO's. There is a group of about 8 people who are supporters of all things GMO that comment in every post about GMO's. Now the last national election when CA had their labeling law before the voters, there was at least 2 new accounts that popped up about 30 days before the election. They had built up a big following and had mucho karma. On the day of the election, the accounts were deleted. The new crop of supporters have a history of just posting links, then about last Feb., they began posting comments in support of GMO's. I find it strange that they all followed the same path. And they all use the very same links to "evidence" in support of their cause. So they are out there. But I don't think we can oust them.
 
Enrique Garcia
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I've always believed corporate Trolls exist even those who work for the Government ... absolutely .. you can see proof of their work everywhere & it works !! I've had many of my posts disappear especially on Yahoo ... & the consensus that appears online on comment boards is way out of touch with reality i feel ... I agree with Paul that Permies is going to be a target .. Permaculture is the change those in power fear ...

& to the dude who said 5 stars are to be ignored ... no, i give 5 star ratings ... I'm not a troll ... 1 star ratings too ... so since i do it i feel there are people like me who actually review things honestly ... but yeah if there are no negative reviews ... I'm calling bullshit
 
nancy sutton
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My clarifying question, when confronted with potential bad actors/actions, is "Would they, if they could?" Sort of answers itself ;)
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Julie Carney wrote:
I guess I don't want to be knocked out as a troll if I post questions / point out problems I'm having.....


Julie, good points about having differences and not everything working the same for different individuals and locales. From what you wrote here, your "voice" sounds genuine and your points of view are qualified enough that I don't think anyone would consider you a troll.

 
Jocelyn Campbell
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I've heard a concern that just signing up for this kind of webinar, SBA and Yelp Present: Success With Online Reviews (2 sessions in Feb. 2014), will put the attendee on a government watch list.

Yelp does not strike me as exactly the best place for online reviews, but if the webinar had a juicy tip or two, I wonder if it would be worth the time. IF it doesn't put one on a watch list.

Thoughts?

While the FaceBook comment that this was in response to was most likely not a troll, it is still, by far, the BEST response to an online comment ever - you know, IMHO.

 
Enrique Garcia
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Alan Whitaker - I think we can oust them .. if every time a known troll posted we did this ... "TROLL ^^^" .. they'd begin to be exposed & it would not make them go away but it would limit their power somewhat ... this could be abused i know .. but anything is better than doing nothing .. if we take the defeatist attitude then we are definitely going to be defeated !!
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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