James O'Brien's theory about why trolls thrive online

17 February 2020, 13:44 | Updated: 17 February 2020, 14:33

As James O'Brien wraps his head around why trolls thrive online, he comes up with a solution to the problem - although social media platforms might not follow his advice...

Caller Jane equated being a troll to being in the pub and saying something offensive and instead of outrage, everyone encourages her to say it louder.

James went further: "You're in the pub, you say something disgusting, all the decent people in the pub all tell you to wind your neck in... but then there appears at your shoulders these voices that are disembodied and anonymous and they're all shouting 'James is right.'

"The next thing you know you don't go to the pub anymore, you just go online with like-minded bigots and trolls. It must be quite seductive, but even as I say those words I think how lonely must you be to seek that sort of solace and company."

Jane also pointed out that social media algorithms, which tailors our newsfeeds to posts and Tweets of a similar tone to our own, have an encouraging impact on trolls.

Many people have attributed Caroline Flack's suicide as partly due to bullying from the media
Many people have attributed Caroline Flack's suicide as partly due to bullying from the media. Picture: PA

James agreed and said for the more rare prejudices, those who are also "the only one in their own pub...what social media has done is allow every pariah to find company and when a pariah finds company, they cease to be pariahs."

He suggested that all you would need to do to make significant progress in these areas of trolls is ban the ability to be anonymous and make multiple fake accounts.

If LBC created 50,000 fake listener accounts, he reasoned, then the radio station would not want to get rid of them as it would lower advert revenue.

"If they said to Twitter, let's get rid of all the anonymous accounts, Twitter would say that's half our audience gone. How big a rubicon would it be for the industry to cross?" James asked, calling for someone to tell him about the likelihood of social media platforms voluntarily getting rid of anonymous accounts.

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