21 Jun 2016
The evolution of the internet troll. Part 2: the rules of the internet
At the turn of the millennium, the online teenagers of the 90’s came of age (the first generation of the internet era to do so) and chaos abounded…
The sophistication of the folks who had honed their skills first on internet “chatrooms” and later on online forums such as 4chan and Something Awful, was growing by the day.
Memes, photoshopped images and trolling that targeted celebrities, news organisations, and corporations blossomed in strange and wonderful ways.
Anyone could be targeted. And most were.
The power of the internet allowed anyone to chime in on any topic and gave the public unprecedented access to public figures and institutions.
If one read an article, saw an image, or watched a video, and found it disagreeable, one suddenly had the ability to let the world know it.
And so they did.
Trolls ranging from the witty to the pathetic, from the funny to insulting, and the racist, sexist, and homophobic, let loose on every public forum available.
**Note: The Guardian Newspaper claims its articles have received over 1.4 million troll comments since 2010 **
From this chaos emerged “Anonymous”.
Labelled a “hacker group” by a fearful public, Anonymous was, in point of fact, more of a loose collection of computer and internet savvy folks who had been participating in activities identifiable as “trolling” for quite some time.
They were funny, they did interesting things, and they were starting to get press coverage.
Many people wanted in.
The problem was, as with any small, exclusive club with an open door policy that is suddenly inundated with large numbers of new members; how do you maintain control?
How do you ensure that the culture, language, and behaviour of your new members fit with the ethos of the group’s founders?
You need rules.
And so, in 2006, rules suddenly appeared.
Well… sort of.
The rules of the internet
At first glance, much on this list appears to be pure gibberish.
But there is actually a lot in there and it illuminates much of the troll behaviour prevalent on the internet today.
Rules 1 and 2 reference speaking publicly about one’s activities on 4chan forums (the birthplace of Anonymous).
Rules 3, 4 and 5 became the slogan of Anonymous as an activist group.
Rules 6 and 7 extol Anonymous and its influence/power.
Rules 8-28 are general guidelines for trolling behaviour.
Rules 28 – 30 refer to a belief (probably quite accurate in the evolution of the internet) that many people are not who they claim to be.
Rule 30 is an invitation to any person claiming to be female to prove it with photos of her breasts.
From there, it’s all lingo that is not worth explaining.
These rules have garnered a lot of attention since they were originally posted.
Why? Because people fear what they do not understand. A list of rules makes people feel more in control and thus safer.
Anonymous is the biggest troll job in the history of the internet, maybe in the history of media.
The fact that the people behind it have been able to get so much media coverage is undoubtedly a source of hilarity to them, and that’s what all of this is really about.
It always has been.
Their most well publicised battle with the Church of Scientology in 2008 was not rooted in taking an ideological stance. Rather, it was an online battle over a video of Tom Cruise that the church was trying to suppress online.
The people involved didn’t really care for the Church of Scientology or their online meddling and so decided to mess with them.
By extension, they messed with the mainstream media; which maintains an unhealthy obsession with Scientology and which they also didn’t particularly care for.
And the mainstream media coverage provided them a platform to mess with the rest of us, which they did with glee.
It couldn’t possibly have worked out much better for the trolls of the world.
The folks of Anonymous deserve a tip of the hat; what they have accomplished is nothing short of amazing.
The only real “rules of the internet” is this: there are no rules.
And Anonymous knows it.
The list of rules, like everything else they do, are a troll in and of themselves.
Trolls trolling themselves and each other, all to troll the rest of us. It’s all very meta.
And on and on it goes.