There's a push in Sweden to deal with Internet trolls

The World

Sweden has a high Internet penetration rate — almost 95 percent of people can access high-speed conections.

It's not surprising, then, that a lot of Swedes spend large amounts of time on the Internet — alongside countless Internet trolls.

Internet trolls plague most any forum that offers people the chance to comment. But according to reporter Adrian Chen, there is a push in Sweden to confront such online hatred.

A TV show called Trolljägarna (Troll Hunters) researches and tracks down purported trolls. The host, Robert Aschberg, confronts the subjects on camera.

"It's like the American show 'To Catch a Predator,'" says Adrian Chen, who recently reported about the show for the MIT Technology Review. "Except that it's focused on Internet trolls instead of sexual predators."

The trolls outed on the show usually end up facing some form of consequences, such as lawsuits. Some, however, keep right on trolling — taking new names and new accounts. But Chen says the aim of the show isn't to track down every troll on the Internet. Rather, they hope to start a discussion about the issue in general.

"The freedom of information in Sweden makes trolling easier in a way — but it also makes outing them easier," he says.

It's not just the TV show, either. Researchgruppen, or Research Group, is a team of volunteers who hunt down people — mainly politicians — who post hateful, racist and bigoted comments on the Internet.

One of their most successful and controversial projects came last year, when they outed a number of politicians and university professors who had commented on stories on a right-wing website called Avpixlat.

"A lot of [their comments] were anti-immigrant, racist, anti-Muslim, sexist and very offensive language," Chen says.

Chen himself has experience outing Internet trolls. Back in 2012, he revealed the identity of a Reddit user who posted comments under the name Violentacrez. Violentacrez was Michael Brutsch, a programmer who worked for a company in Texas.

According to Chen, one of Brutsch's favorite sections on Reddit was called "Jailbait."

"It was photos of under-aged girls in provocative poses," Chen explains. "They were often taken from Facebook photos or found on the Internet and posted without their permission."

Outing Brutsch stirred a lot of debate regarding the ethics of revealing the identities of trolls. But Chen says he doesn't regret what he did.

"I didn't see why he should hide behind the screen name and cultivate this online celebrity without having any implications," he says.

Chen has been the subject of trolling himself. He was the target of a message board called 4Chan.

"They posted photos of me and what they thought was my address and my family members, but that didn't amount to much," he says.

Chen believes outing trolls shouldn't be taken lightly. He cautions against randomly outing someone without giving it serious thought.

"You have to be judicious about it," he says. "It shouldn't be just someone you don't agree with."

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