Beyond the Lulz: Black-Hat Trolling, White-Hat Trolling, Attacking and Defending Our Attention Landscape

Conference:  Defcon 26



White hat or critical grey hat trolling? Trolling as art? Trolling as hybrid warfare? Trolling as propaganda? In this Fireside Hax, we will challenge your assumptions about trolling. Trolls are attention hackers, using social and technical means to bait journalists, set agendas, game media gatekeepers, and direct audiences. Sometimes they also have fun. We will discuss a range of trolling techniques like sockpuppeting, dogpiling, doxing, attention honeypots, and cognitive denial of service attacks that we have not seen concisely catalogued elsewhere. We will also discuss high-profile examples of trolling such as"training" the Microsoft Tay chatbot, fake Antifa accounts, Russian sockpuppet accounts, and Phineas Fisher's use of Hacking Team's twitter account--and ask attendees to consider each as black hat attacks or grey hat attempts to point out critical societal vulnerabilities that should be"patched." We will also talk about"troll the troll" accounts like ImposterBuster and YesYoureRacist and the role"white hat trolls" might play in auditing platforms or proposing platform-based controls. Time permitting, we will discuss art projects that trollishly critiqued the European Commission, Google AdSense, and the NSA. This will not be a lecture and it will not shy away from controversy. Join two members of the Media Manipulation Team at Data & Society to collectively consider the role trolling can play in pointing out the flaws in our attention/media landscape.