What, exactly, is trolling?

Think of Biden’s speech yesterday. Every word of it was true, but some of it was clearly intended to get up the orange menace’s nose. Is that trolling? Or is trolling only when the statement is false–or at least you have no way of knowing whether it is true. As a moderator, I am should be embarrassed not to fully understand the word, but I am curious what Dopers think.

It’s not about being true or false, it’s about the primary reason being to antagonize. Trolling is often lying or misleading, but not always. Wikipedia’s definition is pretty good, IMO.

In internet slang, a troll is a person who posts inflammatory, insincere, digressive, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, with the intent of provoking readers into displaying emotional responses, or manipulating others’ perception.

He was definitely trolling the Other Guy – he was purposely using terms like “loser” and “lost” and discussing his fragile ego because he (Biden) knew it would bother him (the Other Guy).

If he had mentioned small hands, it would have been too obvious, of course.

I don’t think Biden was trolling the US, I think he was specifically trolling one person.

I think intent is the key. If the intent is to rile up or otherwise frustrate or irritate another user as the primary goal, that’s trolling. Obviously, in discussions on this board, there are always going to be irritated, pissed off, and frustrated posters. That can’t be helped. But if someone is posting something that is deliberately targeted at specifically doing those things, that person is trolling.

The problem is to be able to judge when this is the case, as opposed to someone who just has strong beliefs or strong opinions who is just stating what they think. I think a lot of the left verse right or Republican verse Democrat arguments come down to the latter, though it’s going to be a fine line.

Trolling is deliberately trying to incite anger.

Note that even 100% truthful statements can be trolling. If I go to a dead person’s Facebook memorial page and proclaim, “Nice, we now have one less person consuming the world’s oxygen and resources!” that’s trolling, even though completely true.

Trolling is speaking or posting with a hidden subtextual agenda.

I might call you an asshole because I think you’re an asshole, but that’s not trolling, that’s just me losing my temper. But if I do it with the intent of derailing the conversation, now I’m trolling.

I might ask you a question in way that creates an imbalance of power in the conversation. I repeatedly ask you to provide statements that I can pick apart, but I don’t reciprocate that vulnerability. That’s trolling.

All incidents of trolling are hard to detect because intent is difficult to infer. That’s why some of the most illustrious trolls on the board get away with it for extended periods of time. They slip the noose of trolling accusations for years, taking advantage of mods’ hesitance to characterize intent, until eventually they get popped for a less serious but more overt violation. Which I find unfortunate.

I don’t know that Biden was trolling Trump. If upsetting someone is the yardstick for trolling, then it’s impossible to speak frankly about Trump without trolling him, so I don’t think that’s a good rubric. I will say that Biden’s choice of language was remarkable enough to make me suspect an underlying motive, almost as he wanted to get Trump to say or do things that would get him in more legal jeopardy. So there’s one case where trolling could actually be virtuous.

There are many types of trolling. One such subtype is sealioning:

It doesn’t involve lying or even overt insults–the entire technique is based on apparent politeness. It’s just a means of derailing conversations by asking endless basic questions. Therefore, it’s a form of trolling. See “just asking questions” as well.

I never knew there was a name for this, but I’ve certainly seen this and felt it was being done to me in the past. Of course, this is going to come down to perception…what I felt was this Sealioning the poster(s) in question may and probably didn’t feel that was the case. I think a lot of what people perceive in others as trolling comes down to perception.

To me, that’s why intent is the key. If you are deliberately baiting someone as your sole intent with things you know are going to set them off, then that’s most definitely trolling. If you believe A while someone else believes B, and A will definitely set off the B folks, then that’s a gray area, especially if you really believe A and are just making the case for A.

Indeed. RationalWiki has a segment on this as well, where they note:

A particularly troublesome aspect of sealioning is that people who are genuine newbies asking earnest questions can still in effect be a sealion. An ignorant but earnest individual can easily have the effect of a sealion by asking participants to justify base assumptions underlying a higher-level discussion, where existing participants share an understanding of those base assumptions. This is often met with a hostile or dismissive response because the other participants in the discussion have already had those arguments at length, and such questions are derailing at best, and indistinguishable from concern trolling at worst.

Of course, actual trolls depend on this very ambiguity for sealioning to work. A discussion derailed by an actual newbie isn’t necessarily a big deal if the end result is that the newbie learned something and can contribute to further discussion. A troll has no interest in learning, however, so there’s no long term benefit. You can really only detect real trolls with a pattern of behavior over time.

To add to that, everyone has a lower standard of evidence required for their own side and a high amount required for the opposing side. What a Republican considers to be sufficient evidence to prove a conservative argument, may be what a liberal considers to be only 30% of what is needed to convince him of that argument’s validity - and vice versa. So you end up with one side accusing the other of sealioning because they think enough proof has already been supplied.

While I expect Biden knew it would annoy Trump, I don’t think he was doing it to annoy Trump. I think he was doing it to diminish Trump in the eyes of the general public. There are people who, at least initially, favored Trump because they thought he was good at Winning and would therefore help the country, or at least their bit of it, “win” also. He wouldn’t have been able to draw in enough people to get elected in the first place if he’d been seen as a loser. While some of the Trumpists are at this point in so deep that they’re unlikely to resurface, presenting Trump (accurately) as a loser makes it less likely that he’ll pull in more people and may cause some of those who aren’t in too deep to back away from him.

So no, I don’t think Biden was trolling. I don’t think he was talking to Trump at all. I don’t think his primary purpose was to piss off Trump or Trumpists, but was the reverse, to try to draw in and encourage people for the purpose of benefitting the country.

Whether any of the people he was talking to were listening to or will listen to that speech is another question.

I am another who doesn’t think Biden was specifically “trolling” Trump. Biden was stating straightforward facts. Trump being Trump, will get butthurt hearing the truth. That’s beyond Biden’s control.

For myself in assessing trolling, I think sincerity is a critical factor. If someone expresses a differing opinion, even if unpopular and provocative, if I feel it is sincerely held, I’m fine with it. But if I feel the individual has a different less sincere agenda, then I see a troll.

I disagree with you on this. While I didn’t watch the whole speech, just fragments, it was, to me, definitely trolling for just the things pointed out. He definitely knew it would bother not only Trump but ‘Trumpists’ as well…so, to me, clear intent to do so.

Biden doesn’t have to give any excuses to troll Trump or anyone else…he’s a politician. It’s part of his job to do stuff like that, for whatever reasons he deems to be necessary. Just like Trump trolled him and many others…though, in Trump’s case, he is nearly a black hole of trolling. One of those people who not only have a natural talent for trolling but has worked to hone his innate talent for decades. :stuck_out_tongue:

I did watch the whole thing, though not live (to I’m sure nobody’s surprise, it’s on Youtube.)

Biden, all through the speech, is coming down hard on the Big Lie. He includes both the lies that try to diminish the magnitude and danger of what happened on January 6, and the bigger lie underlying [yes, I noticed] them: which is the lying claim that Trump won the election. Pointing out vehemently, repeatedly, and with detail, to the American people as a whole, that Trump lost the election is an essential part of the whole speech.

I am in the group that finds intent to be a key step in how I personally identify a troll. But specifically in regards to Biden’s speech, I also want to step back and talk about -primary- intent. Yes, Biden is trolling Trump (I especially liked his avoidance of using his Orangeness’s proper name at any point, I found that telling) - but his intent (IMHO) is to try to wake up those people who follow along with Trump’s assumptions and simultaneously re-invigorate Democrats and Independents that are frustrated that no apparent progress has been made. We have to be reminded what is at stake, and the speech did a good job of it.

So he’s trolling Trump, but in service of other political goals. I’m sure he’d consider it a two-fer.

BTW, I’m not a mod or anything on this board, but here, you don’t have to intend to troll in order to be considered a troll. You can be sincere in your beliefs, not intending to rile anyone up, but if you, for example, refuse to look at cites or engage in arguments on the debate boards, you could be modded for trolling.

To be totally, totally clear, I’m not directing this at anyone in this thread, of course. I’m just distinguishing between the general definition of trolling and the specific definition we have here.

I agree with this. To me, if someone is unwilling to look at cites or engage in honest debate, then that person is not acting in good faith in presenting their side of the discussion. And I do see that as a lack of sincerity.

And all of that is certainly correct (I was going to hedge this with ‘from Biden’s perspective’ but, really, it is correct from reality’s perspective). However, as noted up-thread, you can be correct and still trolling someone, and Biden (or whoever his speechwriter was on this) would have known that this would piss off not only Trump but ‘Trumpists’ as well…so, that’s the intent part.

As I said, Biden’s job is to do this stuff…he’s a politician, and he needs to set the narrative he wants to have happened while attempting to discredit the other side’s narrative. That part is probably not trolling, but he would have known and probably is playing to the fact that this would obviously piss off Trump. Calling him a loser and so on kind of sets that, even if he meant loser from strictly the perspective of losing the election, which Trump did…which I doubt, as I’m sure Biden wouldn’t lose much sleep over poking Trump and his followers and does think he’s a loser in the broader sense.

This is also why when you get into politics it’s a gray area…and also, as Velocity said, it’s all about who’s Gore is being Oxed. If it’s your Gore, you are going to be more irritated by the Oxing than if it’s the other side’s Ox being Gored, which you will approve of. This is going to affect your perception of what is or isn’t trolling.

Well, we live in an age where the meanings of words are deliberately undermined and contradicted to suit agendas. The word troll won’t have any special immunity to that. Ultimately, the idea that so-called trolling is some terrible and unforgiveable sin is infantilizing and dangerous to free speech and fundamental liberties. Babying people is counterproductive and no one is forced to listen or read content they choose not to. Scan it and tune it out.

Let’s assume Biden was trolling I fail to see the problem. Let’s assume he wasn’t trolling, I still fail to see a problem.

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. in that speech did what I’ve been waiting to see/hear. Trolling? More like :1st_place_medal: winning.