Changing Troller Behaviour – Get your procedures right

Trollers can have both positive and negative effects on organisations that provide online services. They can either allow the community to gel, if they are Trolls for instance, or they can tear it apart and cause distrust, as the Snerts do.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence provides detailed advice for not-for-profit and other organisations on dealing with ‘behaviour change’ which should form a core part of cyberbullying and Internet safety policies.

NICE suggest that interventions to manage trolling be based on a proper assessment of the target group, where they are located and the behaviour which is to be changed and that careful planning is the cornerstone of success. If you run a support website for health conditions then ‘flame trolling’ where people post to offend others is very like as people come to terms with their condition. You should therefore look about the particular characteristics of that group of people to better help them.

NICE says that it is best to work with other organisations and the community itself to decide on and develop initiatives. An online community that is member-led is a good one. If the community were to agree to its own code of conduct and disciplinary procedure, perhaps through using a wiki, then this will make it more enforceable by the members. As NICE suggest, this intervention should be evaluated and reviewed often.

It is also suggested by NICE that it is essential to build on the skills and knowledge that already exist in the community, for example, by encouraging networks of people who can support each other. This again suggests that a member-driven approach, as what happened in the WELL, will be more effective at compliance, that the ‘banhammer’ approach used on some communities to ban members, which only breeds distrust among the remaining members.

Instead NICE suggests that staff, such as moderations are trained to help people change their behaviour and that the interventions they use are based on evidence of what works and not personal whips of the mods.

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