If you’ve ever read, well, anything on the internet, you’ve seen them. Those nasty comments aimed at getting a rise out of people or just generally creating chaos.
Thanks to a partnership between Wired and Disqus, an online commenting platform, we now know where the trolls live. And when they are most active.
The two analyzed 92 million comments over a 16-month period, written by about 2 million authors on more than 7,000 forums using the Disqus software. (That means bigshots like Facebook and Twitter, which don’t use Disqus, were omitted.)
Using an API, Disqus was able to detect and rate a “toxic” comment—defined as “a rude, disrespectful, or unreasonable comment that is likely to make you leave a discussion.” Feeding the comments into the API gave a score from 0 to 1. Anything above 0.9 was considered toxic. A sample toxic comment that rated above a 0.9: “You are a disgusting, subhuman, painfully stupid waste of cells. You are a racist pig, a slime ball.” Whereas a nontoxic comment included: “Grilled cheese ideas are limitless.”
Using the API yielded some interesting results. The South is disproportionately hostile, with Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina all hovering at over nine percent of all comments being toxic. Nevada (10.1 percent) and Iowa (10.3 percent) also have a high proportion of toxic comments. The “winner” though in the troll wars goes to Vermont. The proportion of toxic comments is higher there than in any other state at 12.2 percent. Neighboring New Hampshire, on the other hand, had the lowest at 4.7.
Broken down a bit further, the absolute most toxic city in the country is Park Forest, Illinois, where 34 percent of comments are hostile. However, 99 percent of those came from just two authors! The least toxic city was Sharpsburg, Georgia, with just 0.8 percent of comments being hostile. At the 2010 census, the population of Sharpsburg was 341—meaning, “It’s just a small town, and the smaller the group, the more influence a few bad apples (or bright pennies) will have.”
Unsurprisingly perhaps, the most toxic time of day for trollish comments is 3 am. During this time, 11 percent of all comments are mean. For more civil discourse, log in after 8 am.
Continue reading on page 2…