Beyond ‘Lulz' and ‘Keyboard warriors': exploring the relationship between trolling and radicalization

Katy Biddle, Brian Ekdale, Andrew C. High, Ryan Stoldt, Raven Maragh-Lloyd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite the similar psychological profiles of internet trolls and radicalized political actors, as well as the historical connections between trolling and the alt-right, little research has studied how trolling corresponds with the process of radicalization. Our study examines this relationship between trolling and radicalization by interrogating two pieces of folk wisdom about internet trolls, that they only care about ‘the lulz’ and that they are merely ‘keyboard warriors.’ Using the issue of racial inequality in the United States as a case study, we ask whether someone’s enjoyment of trolling is affected by their attitudes about racial inequality as well as whether those who enjoy trolling are more likely to engage in politically motivated activist and radical activities related to their views about race. Based on a nationally representative survey (N = 739), our study finds that those who enjoy the discursive act of trolling also intend to participate in other forms of political engagement, including both activist and radical activities. Overall, our findings reveal significant overlaps between trolling, activism, and radical activities when it comes to the topic of racial inequality, demonstrating the value of considering discursive acts like trolling within the broader context of studying the adoption of extremist ideologies and actions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInformation Communication and Society
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Library and Information Sciences

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