Experts: Online trolls are here to stay, unless we do something

A report issued this morning by the Pew Research Center and Elon University said that online interactions will continue to be shaped by trolling and mistrust, according to a survey of digital scholars and futurists.

A report issued this morning by the Pew Research Center and Elon University said that online interactions will continue to be shaped by trolling and mistrust, according to a survey of digital scholars and futurists.

More than four in five of the 1,537 respondents surveyed said that the tone of communication via online media like social networks and discussion sites would either become more unhinged over the next decade or stay roughly the same.

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One of the chief dangers, according to experts cited in the report, is that the online arena gets splintered into carefully curated safe zones and the Wild West – in the search for a more civil, truth-based online climate, the risk is that some viewpoints will be drowned out as individual spaces become increasingly polarized.

“Some said the flame wars and strategic manipulation of the zeitgeist might just be getting started if technological and human solutions are not put in place to bolster diverse civil discourse,” the report said.

Moreover, increased oversight brings with it the threat of increased surveillance, which many warned was at least as much of an issue as the trolls and manipulators themselves.

“Surveillance and censorship will become more systematic, even in supposedly free countries such as the U.S. Terrorism and harassment by trolls will be presented as the excuses, but the effect will be dangerous for democracy,” said free software icon and civil libertarian Richard Stallman.

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