The Impacts of Territorial Communication Norms and Composition on Online Trolling

Pnina Fichman, Elizabeth Peters


There is little research into online trolling on platforms with anonymity and geolocation features. On platforms such as Jodel, Whisper, and Yik Yak, anonymity may trigger online trolling and deviant behaviors, but geolocation features may hinder these behaviors through the imposition of territorial community norms and composition. Our study aims to address this gap through content analysis of 3,697 unique posts on Yik Yak, an anonymous geolocal platform that ceased to exist in 2017. Based on code co-occurrence, we found that trolling posts frequently include community-harming behaviors, such as insults, snark, and the use of vulgar language, and are more likely than other posts to include memes and vulgar language. We also found that territorial community events mediated the extent of community-building and community-harming behaviors, which increased or decreased on the platform according to changes in community composition context. Thus, we conclude that sociotechnical features of the platform in dynamic contexts affected online trolling behaviors by enabling and constraining manifestations of community-harming and community-building behaviors.


trolling, Yik Yak, anonymity, online communities, geolocation

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