User Anonymity, Trolls, and Misinformation

I started following NUSWhispers on Facebook sometime last year to better understand everything that was going on around the CS1010E cheating incident last year. Since then, ‘confessions’ posted to NUSWhispers will show up on my Facebook feed from time to time. These confessions ranged from rants to requests for advice on just about any subject matter: family matters, school, work, and relationships, etc.

NUSWhispers has an interesting differentiation from other typical online forums, in that the OP (original poster, as per NUSWhispers terminology) is completely anonymous. Relative to the OP, the commenters to the post are quite visible as comments are made through Facebook. This is an inversion of the typical internet forum, where the OP is usually the visible one relative to commenters. For example, the YouTuber who posts a video on his/her channel is typically much more visible than the commenters on his/her video.

The granting of anonymity to OPs by NUSWhispers has interesting consequences on the post content. While plenty of posts were serious and truthful (as far as I can tell), there were just as many that were hilarious, downright wacky, or just outright trolling by the OP.

Trolling and troll comments are nothing new to the internet. Scrolling through the comments section of any highly viral post and you’ll definitely find some trolls at work. What differentiates NUSWhispers is the unique combination of anonymity and reach. Most trolls in the comments section barely see the light of day, since the reach of comments is limited to a fraction of the original post. NUSWhispers changes this dynamic by offering anonymity to the original poster.

Categories: social

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