Woman says former South Carolina GOP director targeted her with racially-charged ‘trolling’

Left: Todd Kincannon Right: Dawn Catherine

Left: Todd Kincannon Right: Dawn Catherine

Lauren DeLisa Coleman, a digital behavior analyst, researcher and author who specializes in social media and economics, describes “trolls” as “those roaming around forums, comment arenas, blogs etc., leaving highly nasty remarks [and] comments with the intent of creating as much provocation as possible.”

“Sheer delight is taken in it by the troll because the intent is to cause as great a level of emotional distress as possible,” Coleman said, adding that the “official” definition of trolling is “Internet discourse – within forums, comment arenas, blogs – specifically  intended to inflame, often times even off-topic. The intent is to disrupt and damage levels of trust within that particular digital community.” Typically, the trolls are anonymous, but Kincannon has openly described what he does as “high-profile trolling,” designed to raise his own social media profile.

According to a longtime liberal blogger who goes by the name Karoli and contributes to the site Crooks and Liars, Kincannon and other conservatives have long claimed that liberals are using manipulative trolling techniques on social media sites like Twitter — which suspend user accounts once they have been blocked by other users repeatedly or reported as “spam,” to silence them. Karoli says conservatives online are increasingly using the technique in reverse, to get revenge on their opponents.

“I’ve had my eye on him for a couple of years,” Karoli said of Kincannon. “He sort of fell of my radar but came back into real sharp focus late last year, because of this claim that liberals were silencing conservatives online by some sort of coordinated effort — that they were trying to shut down free speech on the Internet, which is just utter nonsense, particularly since so many people on our side have been hit with the same consequence for no apparent reason.”

Karoli says Kincannon and others on the right have developed a pattern of trolling liberals on Twitter, attracting a fight, and thereby “abusing their algorithms to get people suspended on the left who he didn’t care for.”

“Shortly before some accounts are suspended, Todd Kincannon notices them,” Karoli wrote back in December.

In January, Kincannon started the “Twitter Gulag Defense Network,” which was described by a supporter, who set up an affinity website, this way:

In Twitter terminology, a “Gulager” is a person (or several people) who posts rude and offensive messages on Twitter in effort to disrupt the sanity of meaningful and peaceful participants. Next, these people work in concert to suspend user accounts by flooding their pages with “spam” reports. Twitter’s spam identification algorithm then kicks-in and assumes the account is “spamming” other users. This can lead to a potential wait time before the account is re-enabled while the user sits in the #TwitterGulag. This cowardly practice is common among Twitter Gulagers as their last resort in the event their campaigns of terror on the innocent prove fruitless.

For many people the most characterizing feature of a Gulager is their intent to disrupt a #Twitter Group or a @Member in some way. Inflammatory, sarcastic, disruptive or “humorous” content is often posted and purposely designed to draw in users to engage the Gulager in a pointless confrontation. The greater the reaction from the Twitter user, the more likely the Gulager is to continue stalking their prey. The Gulager believes that certain detrimental actions will achieve his/her goal; to cause mass chaos within the ranks of groups who do not share their illogical beliefs. This overview gives rise to the often repeated protocol of the Internet culture: “Do not feed the trolls!” So in short, to sum up the purpose of the site, I would say, hmmm,  “Right back at ya Gulagers!”

The group posts on Twitter with the hashtag #TGDN, which stands for “Twitter Gulag Defense Network.”

“My own personal observation of [Kincannon] is that he’s trying to fill the whole that [the late Andrew] Breitbart left: that incendiary, ‘fire up the base’ stuff that Breitbart was doing,” Karoli said.

And Karoli believes Kincannon may now be seeking to monetize the effort. After Sunday’s tweets, she noted on Crooks and Liars:

Kincannon has switched to claiming that liberals intentionally try to silence conservatives online by using the “Gulag” to silence them. Not only has he made this claim, but he is raising money online by making it. Here’s a screenshot of part of the page he has created on Rally. It even has a logo that seems professionally designed, and yes, a clarion call to help defend conservatives.

… what Kincannon seems to be doing is being intentionally inflammatory in order to get himself suspended so he can rally the Breitbots and Tea Partiers to his defense. Of course, sympathy is always nice but money is better, so he’s got the convenient fundraising page ready for the hellraising to begin. [Emphasis in original post]

Catherine believes she was a victim of trolling – either to try and get her Twitter account suspended,  or simply to invite attacks on her as punishment for  disagreeing with Kincannon’s tweets.

She said she is talking to an attorney about potential legal action.

Mostly, she said she is devastated by the insinuation in the tweets that she is racist.

“I truly love everybody,” a tearful Catherine said. “I don’t care who you are, I treat everybody the same.”

Catherine added that she was mortified to think Trayvon Martin’s parents might have read that tweet, two days before what would have been their son’s 18th birthday, and believed she was associated with Kincannon.

“It really does break my heart that [Martin’s] parents may have [seen] this,” Catherine said. “That his parents could even possibly think that I would say that … I just want people to know that that is not who I am, it does not define me, and people who truly know me know that is not how I am.”

“At the end of the day,” she said, “I am really a bleeding heart liberal who cares about everybody and just thinks that everybody needs to take care of everybody else, it just makes us better people. I just don’t want that kind of viciousness to be out there about me and I just want to set the record straight.”

Follow Joy Reid on Twitter at @thereidreport.