Recognizing when a troll emerges

Skip to first unread message

Janet Swisher

Aug 11, 2014, 12:02:30 PM8/11/14
to evangelism
We all know about trolls on the Internet, who seek attention by causing
arguments and disruption. It can be tricky to recognize a troll, because
initially, interacting with a troll can seem very much like interacting
with a "regular" person who is having a bad day. As evangelists, we have
a responsibility to engage sincerely with anyone who sincerely engages
with us, but also a responsibility to shut down trolls who are wasting
everybody's time. This is tough to do perfectly.

On the first impression, a troll might seem like someone who has any of
these issues:
* Uninformed or misinformed
* Biased but open to reason and fact
* Upset about a legitimate grievance
* Poor social skills
* Poor language skills in the language of the forum

How do you decide when someone has crossed the line to being a troll
(and not any of the above)? What are the tell-tale behaviors or warning

Janet Swisher <>
Mozilla Developer Network <>
Developer Relations Community Organizer

Sujith Reddy

Aug 11, 2014, 1:19:09 PM8/11/14
to Janet Swisher, evangelism
Hi Janet,

Had you run across any specific posts/mails in our own mailing lists? As of
my knowledge, I haven't seen such so far ( though I might have missed a
couple mails ). An example post might be helpful for a better
> _______________________________________________
> Evangelism mailing list


*Mozilla Reps- India* <>
Twitter: @SujithReddyM <>

Get Involved with Mozilla! Give a hi5 to us!

Avik Pal

Aug 11, 2014, 1:49:15 PM8/11/14
to Sujith Reddy, evangelism, Janet Swisher

I think what Janet is trying to point out is very common in our society
though finding some specific instance is a bit of trouble as well as hazard
because pointing to something specific and tagging it as troll may have
unwanted consequences ;) - sometimes those may be in true sense not be
trolls or rather misunderstanding/misinterpretation.

I think you got to be in a situation like that to best understand it.

And know that I am not trying to be a troll here :)...lest anybody

Avik Pal
Mozilla Representative | Developer Evangelist
Intern at Google Summer of Code'14

Christian Heilmann

Aug 11, 2014, 6:27:23 PM8/11/14
to Avik Pal, Janet Swisher, evangelism, Sujith Reddy
The thread about turning off JavaScript in Firefox OS is a good example.

To me the main tell-tale sign of a troll is when they start with rhetoric after being presented facts or asking questions.

A message like "the cancer that is JavaScript to the web" is not worth pursuing further. There is no wisdom to be found there, it is just causing controversy for the sake of it.

I'd opt for a three strikes out policy. Reminding people about their behaviour and if they keep at it, a ban.

Aug 12, 2014, 4:26:20 AM8/12/14
You call me a Troll? Funny.
Evangelism means to convince people that are blind to see, blinded by
their beliefs. That is what I am doing.
Sometimes with success sometimes without.

If you are incapable to polemic that does not make me a Troll.
I use sometimes plastic expressions, like you do:

> Saying Firefox os is inherently insecure because is uses Firefox is like
> saying cars are inherently lethal to humans because they can be driven too
> fast.

Christian Heilmann

Aug 12, 2014, 6:22:31 AM8/12/14
I am sorry if I am mistaken and you have a genuine concern or question. The issue is that your behaviour in this thread makes it very easy to think you are trying to troll here. Many
a time we are accidentally a troll when posting in anger ( and the pattern is there.

Your original email didn't ask a simple question like "is it possible to turn off JavaScript in FirefoxOS". Instead it started with an unproven, very accusatory statement:

"We all know that javascript main reason is to use the resources of the
client to steal data from the client and send it to a server, or help to
install unwanted software.
In the past at least they said javascript works in a sandbox and can not
gain root rights."

Sentences like "We all know" without any proof is what bad politicians use to rally people. Where is the definition that the main reason of JavaScript is to steal data from the client and install unwanted software? In MDN we probably have the most detailed JS documentation there is, but nowhere this is mentioned as a reason for the language. You made up an argument and told us this is fact, instead of bringing it up as a danger.

Three people here were nice enough to answer your question anyways and point to resources to read up why your argument in the case of Firefox OS is a different matter.

You then brought up three resources asking about JS security issues in a desktop browser. We answered your concerns explaining the CSP need of Firefox OS Apps and that Firefox OS is written in JavaScript, thus turning it off on the OS level would mean you have no OS. We also explained that any other platform has the same principle - you can not turn off JS in iOS or Android either.

Manish did a lovely job explaining the issue and actually giving sound security advice:

"Are you concerned about JavaScript as running for web pages within the actual browser app in Firefox OS, or JavaScript running in the OS itself and other apps? The latter isn't a security hole -- all apps for all mobile OSes are able to track you if they want and mess up your system with the right permissions (so be careful when installing apps -- and FxOS has an app review process anyway).

The mobile browser used in FxOS? Most mobile browsers don't have a "turn off JS" button, and this anyway is the least effective way to prevent attacks as detailed by Christian above."

You then pivot very quickly - maybe because there was a misunderstanding - but real trolls pivot all the time to keep a discussion alive.

"I do not talk about turning off Javascript but include in the Gaia &
Gecko such technologies like NoScript or AdBlock.
Cross-Scripting or data security is only a small aspect. We could talk
about jokes like Clickjacking and other in your eyes minor aspects, that
will be a blocker when it comes to sell devices.
Make a device that at least try to be secure.
Make devices for users not useds."

Did we say clickjacking is a joke? Did we mention security is a minor aspect? No, but we did explain that NoScript and Adblock are not 100% secure either as there are ways to steal data with CSS or malformed binary data. This was not acknowledged by you at all - something again, a troll would do.

Instead you now make this a major argument and bring up the assumption that Firefox OS devices would not sell when there is no way to have AdBlock or NoScript. Frankly, that is your idea, we have much different requests from users out there.

You like Adblock and NoScript and you see it as something we should use as it seemingly solves your problem. Not acknowledging that it doesn't deliver what we are trying to do again is behaviour a troll shows: everything is about your argument.

You then become very aggressive and accuse of making devices not for users but for people to "be used" - again an accusing statement wrapped in a rhetoric that is more of a rallying cry than a discussion. It very much reminds of the "Wake up Sheeple!" messages used by trolls in other forums. This goes on:

"FirefoxOS using a by the useds uncontrollable Javascript interpreter is
respectless towards the useds."

Now you are saying we don't have any respect for the users of Firefox - after getting information that FxOS is written in JS and thus it is a very needed part of its functionality and that blocking JS even now on the web is not a solution for being safe. In fact, together with Deutsche Telekom we are working on a security awareness build of Firefox OS giving people full insight into what apps is tracking what and this week there is a brownbag on upcoming AdBlock-like traffic blocking functionality on the Firefox level for Desktop.

What you really want to do here is convince us that giving people the choice to turn off JavaScript is the solution to every problem. We explained that it isn't. I'd go even further and say it is a dangerous truism. Much like telling people "use a mac, there are no viruses or malware for mac" is nonsense. It is a glass shield and a strawman argument. Turning off JS doesn't mean you are safe from attacks.

You are ending with the mail below telling us what evangelism means to you. This list is not about telling each other our beliefs or convictions. This list is about discussing ways to explain to the world outside what Mozilla is doing and how to be most effective about it. There might have been a misunderstanding.

Acknowledging that other people have different ideas and not barraging them with yours is what makes a good evangelist. Being aware of the whole picture and seeing what others are doing and learning from that is also a vital part of that.

Your mails came across as needy and pushy. Nobody likes being bullied. Maybe I was too rash in bringing this as an example, but this list is in its infancy and I think it is very important from the very beginning to negotiate an inviting and nurturing tone here.
Reply all
Reply to author
0 new messages