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David Wagner / PublicDomainPictures

A new study from Stanford and Cornell shows that anyone can become an online troll if the conditions are right. Their findings:

  • Cranky people are prone to trolling: The researchers gave participants a test, either very easy or impossibly difficult, sat them down in front of an online forum with either neutral or negative posts, and asked them to make a post of their own. No surprise: the people who took the difficult test and saw negative posts were nearly twice as likely to troll as the participants who took the easy test and saw neutral posts.
  • Trolls beget trolls: Troll posts were most common at times when people were likely to be in a bad mood, like early in the week or late at night. And if one person trolls, that post is more likely to spawn more and more troll posts. One of the researchers: "It's a spiral of negativity."
  • Context is the best predictor: More than a user's previous history or someone's mood, the easiest way to predict trolling was whether the previous post was also a troll post. So even though some people might be predisposed to troll, they're more likely to engage if others have already kicked things off.

Go deeper

The Biden protection plan

Joe Biden announces his first run for the presidency in June 1987. Photo: Howard L. Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

The Joe Biden who became the 46th president on Wednesday isn't the same blabbermouth who failed in 1988 and 2008.

Why it matters: Biden now heeds guidance about staying on task with speeches and no longer worries a gaffe or two will cost him an election. His staff also limits the places where he speaks freely and off the cuff. This Biden protective bubble will only tighten in the months ahead, aides tell Axios.

Bush labels Clyburn the “savior” for Democrats

House Majority Whip James Clyburn takes a selfie Wednesday with former President George W. Bush. Photo: Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images

Former President George W. Bush credited Rep. James Clyburn with being the "savior" of the Democratic Party, telling the South Carolinian at Wednesday's inauguration his endorsement allowed Joe Biden to win the party's presidential nomination.

Why it matters: The nation's last two-term Republican president also said Clyburn's nod allowed for the transfer of power, because he felt only Biden had the ability to unseat President Trump.

GOP research firm aims to hobble Biden nominees

Alejandro Mayorkas. Photo: Joshua Roberts/AFP via Getty Images

The Republican-aligned opposition research group America Rising is doing all it can to prevent President Biden from seating his top Cabinet picks.

Why it matters: After former President Trump inhibited the transition, Biden is hoping the Republican minority in Congress will cooperate with getting his team in place. Biden hadn't even been sworn in when America Rising began blasting opposition research to reporters targeting Janet Yellen and Alejandro Mayorkas.