"Poor little snowflake, are you 'grossly' offended?": Quantifying the communicative styles of Twitter trolling

University House G13
Tuesday 4 December 2018 (16:15-17:30)
  • English Language research seminar
  • Speaker: Isobelle Clarke


In this talk I will describe the phenomenon of ‘trolling’ and reveal the different communicative styles of Twitter trolling based on what linguistic features are present or absent within each Tweet. I will then illustrate how this method allows for the quantification of different communicative purposes and what implications this could have for law enforcement officials who judge a post according to whether it is ‘grossly offensive’. For example, studies of trolling and of racist and sexist Tweets identified an antagonistic communicative style, the degree of which can be calibrated on a common scale. Using this distribution we can suggest how antagonistic a new suspect Tweet is with respect to the thousands of other trolling Tweets represented. The overall results demonstrate that trolling is a multifunctional phenomenon, often drawing on numerous communicative styles in a single post. With ‘offensive’ being an elusive term and fundamentally a human, subjective experience, a tool dedicated to quantifying the degree of the communicative styles employed might help in understanding what styles comprise gross offence.