Monday, December 2, 2013

Unmasking Trolls: A New Approach to UGC

Arielle J. Patterson

Many online news websites have been making those who want to comment sign in to post their opinions. This comes after many websites have been spammed with unrelated or offensive material. The goal of this is to make people responsible for what they are posting.

What is UGC?
UGC stands for user generated content. It is any content posted on a website by a reader or unpaid contributor. UGC is a great way for readers to share their views and opinions with other readers and even the writer. UGC is not only limited to news websites but also social media.

Now things get messy
While UGC has its benefits, it also has a downside. People can get extremely carried away online, especially when they can be anonymous. Anonymity makes people think that they can say whatever they want. It creates ignorance on websites and can often offend other readers.

Cue the Trolls
The Internet term “troll” represents any poster that intentionally offends other readers. Their goal is to stir the pot and ruffle people’s feathers. Trolls often post unrelated content to derail the conversation. It is very easy to get sucked into some of the stupid comments that trolls post. However, this only brings more attention to them. These trolls are the reason why many websites are trying to crack down on cyberbullying.

Image Courtesy of

What’s being done?
Many websites are taking the anonymity out of UGC, forcing posters to be responsible for what they post. This also gives these “random trolls” a face and name. Websites such as USA Today and The Washington Post have been making posters sign in to Facebook if they want to post content.

My Experience
As an NFL fan there are few things I love more than reading stores online. Unfortunately, this was ruined for me when anytime I would go to read a story about my beloved Ravens, someone would have a nasty comment to say about the team. This is so frustrating because the last thing I wanted to do was read someone’s hateful messages. It was a welcome relief when I saw that had taken the same approach as many others. To comment, people had to log into Facebook and metaphorically unmask themselves.

The Future of UGC

While people may not like it, if trolls and cyberbullying continue to exist, UGC will continue to lose anonymity on larger sites. Some people that against Facebook log in for posting will argue that the websites are probably getting some kind of kick back from Facebook or vice versa.

There are other ways for keeping trolls out of the comments. Some websites have their own database of users that must log in in order to post. They must input their name and a valid email address. While this does not completely stop people for posting dumb, inappropriate, ignorant and offensive content, it does reveal who they are making it easier for the website and other users to block the poster.

This is definitely a step in the right direction.

1 comment:

  1. Exactly, don't feed the trolls [period]. But we must be wise enough to differentiate trolls and consumers with bad customer service experience. We can't learn anything from troll attacks but we'll definitely learn a lot on what to improve from concerned consumers.