Trustev seeks to stamp out internet trolls

New software will identify abusers

Irish technology firm Trustev has developed a product to combat serial internet trolls by using techniques developed to clamp down on fraud in the banking and online retail sector.

The Irish-start-up which has developed “finger-printing software” that is used by banks and online retailers launched its new service called Trustev for Publishers at the start of the week.

The Cork, New York and Dallas-based company says it has received 100 inquiries from international media agencies and brands interested in how to use it.

Within hours of launching its new product the company became the subject of so-called online “trolling” or internet abuse with anonymous users giving out on web forums that their ability to attack or criticise people may in the future be curtailed.


Trustev chief executive Pat Phelan said: "Trolls hide behind their anonymity and regularly switch identities in order to continue making, say, racist comments. Trustev collects almost 1,000 pieces of information from transactions so even if trolls switch emails they can still be identified."

They are used to identify users included checking their IP address, device ID, cookies and stated location as well as examining so-called “behavioural biometrics”, which looks at how users habitually use their technology. “This is only a slight variant on our existing software,” Mr Phelan said. “We know how to digitally identify people already.”

Mr Phelan said the service let media firms block commentators online who persistently break the rules but hide by constantly changing their profiles and sign-on details.

Examples of trolling, or comments that media groups or brands want to block, include racist points of view, threats of violence or links to pornographic sites. “Up until now sites have been just throwing humans at it [to block trolls],” Mr Phelan said. “This is not about blocking debate,” he added, that it was about “people being sick of the guy sitting in his jocks in front of his computer abusing people.” He cited Gamergate, an online movement that began as being about more transparency and ethics in video game journalism but led to some individuals threatening female members of the video games industry, as an example of when Trustev for Publishers might be required.