Research tackles online trolls

16 Jan, 2019
Two people using their cellphones

“Being lost for words is not the way to go when faced with negative online behaviours such as disinformation, racist discourse or trolling,” says Dr Philippa Smith, Senior Lecturer in Language and Culture at AUT.

Philippa recently returned from a three-month position as a Visiting Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) in the United Kingdom where she studied counter speech strategies in response to negative online discourses.

Her research is situated against the backdrop of recent global debates about the internet’s disruption of the notion of free speech, the rapid rise of negative online behaviours and the question over whether governments and tech companies should have more control regulating online content.

Philippa’s work focused on identifying various counter speech strategies used by online commenters on digital platforms such as YouTube and Twitter to see what worked most effectively.

“Developing better online communication skills is critical because the digital world presents quite different scenarios compared with real-world face-to-face interactions,” says Philippa.

Her research was presented to academic colleagues and students at Oxford, Lancaster and Swansea universities.

She says that the opportunity to work alongside other academics at Oxford University with similar research interests was an amazing experience particularly in such a historic setting and they were especially interested in her qualitative approach from a critical discourse studies perspective.

“One of my highlights was meeting Vint Cerf one of the American internet pioneers of the Internet and currently vice president and Chief Internet ‘evangelist’ for Google. Vint Cerf gave Oxford University’s prestigious Romanes Lecture in November 2019 in the Sheldonian Theatre and he also visited the OII.”

Philippa’s time at OII was partly funded by InternetNZ.

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