Verbal Aggression in Political Discourse

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A corpus-based study of the boundary between opinion and hatespeech in Belgian French- speaking online political discourse

Barbara De Cock, Pauline Dupret, Philippe Hambye & Andrea Pizarro PedrazaUniversité catholique de Louvain

[long paper]

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Sentiment Analysis of hatred speech towards female politicians on Twitter during the UK elections ★

Carla Fernández MelendresKing’s College London
Aroa Orrequia BareaUniversidad de Jaén

[short paper]

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What counts as trolling? – A corpus-based analysis of the discourse around the communicative actions associated with perceived trolling in the comment threads of British political blogs

Marton Petyko Aston University

[short paper]

7 thoughts on “Verbal Aggression in Political Discourse

  1. Elvis Coimbra Gomes June 18, 2020 — 7:13 am

    Question for Marton Petyko:
    1) I’m curious to know about what you understand as ‘ignoring or withholding information’, ‘dishonesty’ and ‘insincere statements? How exactly can you spot that?

    COMMENT: I also assume that users who expose trolls not only belittle and discredit them, but equally take a positive moral stance that shows them as morally superior?

    Thanks for your interesting presentation! 😀


    1. Hi Elvis,

      Thank you for your question and comment.

      Here is my answer to your question:
      ’Ignoring or withholding information’ as a perceived trolling behaviour includes four communicative actions that users associate with trolling in those comments where they call others trolls. The actions are: (1) ignoring the original blog post or other comments when posting, (2) giving vague or evasive answers to the questions directed at them, (3) refusing to support their statements with evidence or arguments or to argue against the statements that they disagree with, and (4) refusing to share any personal information about themselves and hiding their previous comments.

      Dishonesty refers to those comments where users argue that the information the trolls post in their comments does not correspond to what they actually believe. Therefore, when associating dishonesty with trolling, users attribute particular beliefs to the trolls, compare these beliefs to the trolls’ comments, and based on the assumption that the trolls’ remarks are inconsistent with their beliefs, users portray the trolls as liars. Dishonesty as a trolling behaviour includes three perceived communicative actions: (1) making insincere statements, (2) making contradictory statements, and (3) posting comments from multiple accounts or from an account also used by others.

      Here is an illustrative example of a user accusing someone of being insincere and associating this with online trolling: “What I am saying is that you are arguing in bad faith. You have repeated the lie that [Andy] Burnham was Health Sec[retary] during the Mid-Staffs scandal despite knowing that this was not the case. I would debate with you but not when you exhibit this troll-like behaviour.”

      Note that my analysis focuses on the perceived communicative actions that users associate with trolling in the comments where they use the word ’troll’. I therefore argue that it is possible to capture those comments where users accuse those they call trolls of withholding information or being dishonest. However, I’m not saying that those accused of trolling are actually trolls who withhold information and argue in bad faith. It’s obviously impossible do decide what the accused trolls „real” intentions were. It’s also equally pointless to speculate on whether or not these users are „real” trolls in any objective sense. This is because trolling is not a well-operationalised scientific term but an inherently subjective label that Internet users utilise to describe, conceptualise, and evaluate others’ (and their own) behaviour in online (and sometimes in „real-life”) discussions.

      I completely agree with your comment regarding users taking a positive moral stance when accusing others of trolling. I think that trolling accusations have various discursive functions and one of these functions is to claim some sort of dominance within the discussion by establishing some necessarily subjective social norms and exposing those who do not adhere to these norms as morally inferior trolls, which of course also implies that the accuser is a morally superior member of the community who has every right to overtly judge others’ behaviour.


  2. Eloisa Lillywhite June 18, 2020 — 7:16 am

    Marton Petyko, could you please give an example of what is meant by ‘flaming’? Thank you!


    1. Hi Eloisa,

      Thank you for your question. Flaming as a perceived trolling behaviour encompasses those examples where users accuse those they call trolls of maximising the level of disagreement and personal conflict among participants. Within the taxonomy I created for this project, flaming includes four communicative actions:

      (1) making or supporting statements and arguments perceived as untrue, potentially misleading, unreasonable, or contrarian (example: “There is more than one type of troll, there are those that upfront about their views and you would happily debate with. This is good, it gives those that disagree with their views an opportunity to debunk their arguments and highlight the opposing view. The other type is to be avoided at all costs, they have no arguments of their own but rather chose to wind everybody else up using controversial subjects. The aim is simple, cause as much disharmony as possible. Personally I find type one quite entertaining, the type two’s well they are a wee bit smelly and a bit off. To spot them just sniff the screen when you have a suspicion”)

      (2) directly belittling, insulting, threatening, harassing, or otherwise attacking other participants (example: “Again nothing specific, basically your argument is that he has different political views to you therefore he’s a nutter. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt that your [sic] just a troll, because if your [sic] not and you truly think that way you really are dim”)

      (3) asking personal or loaded questions (example: “Ask me another loaded question sad Tory Troll. Like, when did you stop beating your wife.”)

      (4) using language perceived as “incorrect” or “inappropriate” (example: “There it is. For all to see. It was worth it [username], (using the word ‘fucking’) just to see the bile, for what it truly is. A fully naked Troll, exposing himself. Result?”)


  3. Thank you to the research team at UCLouvain or the fascinating presentation. Could you share a bit about the methodology for annotation and organization of data? (Use of database software or spreadsheet or xml or other forms of in-text annotation …?)


  4. Carla and Aroa – is it possible to download a copy of your very interesting poster please? I’d like to read it but I can’t see it clearly in the video.


    1. Carla Fernandez June 22, 2020 — 5:10 pm

      Hi Sally,

      Sorry for the late reply, I just realise there were comments here.

      Yes you can download it on my Research Gate profile:

      Let me know if you have any questions.


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