Online news commenters, beware! New study will determine the personalities of online trolls

June 16, 2017 11:19 am Last Updated: June 16, 2017 11:19 am

Internet has made it easier and easier to express what you want without fear of consequences, especially if you use an anonymous account or create a fake identity. But a study wants to find out the personality types of people who frequently engage online with news content.

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The study wants to look at comments of people on news sites and the frequency with which they visit them. Journalism lecturer Dr. Renee Barnes and psychologist Professor Doug Mahar from the University of the Sunshine Coast led the study.

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According to ABC, the subjects will be questioned on “how frequently they visit news sites, what prompts them to comment on a story and whether they like to stay anonymous.”

“[In the] second part of the survey we are asking people, if they would like to, to provide us with their usernames and the websites they regularly comment on,” Barnes said. After finding out the personality characteristics the researchers will match these up with the comments on the different websites.

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For those who are not frequent commenters, what the researchers found was that it was something in the story that resonated with that commenter that prompted him or her to make the comment.

“They might feel they have personal information on that story, or some sort of expertise… Sometimes it’s because people feel a particular relationship with a journalist…Some people comment because of other commenters. They’ll read something someone else has said and either really agree with it or really disagree with it, and it will make them want to comment,” Barnes said.

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The study also wants to find out if online behavior is connected to extroverted personalities or anonymous profiles. In addition, it will look into which personalities leave repeated comments, start discussions with the other commenters, or become those infamous “trolls,” a term that refers to online bullies.

“Someone who is more naturally introverted in day-to-day social interaction might really enjoy the online environment because they can have that anonymity,” Barnes said. But the study also wants to find out what will make more people get involved in  quality discussion and debate the news.