Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Someone is standing up to the anonymous web trolls

The Guardian, UK (Paul Harris)

There's not much Egyptology news around and I know that there are other bloggers reading this blog so I thought that the above story might be of interest to some of you. Malevolent anonymous comments are something that most bloggers have to deal with and I have a couple of really unpleasant anonymous commenters myself, whose vitriol I just delete during moderation.

It is one of the most irritating and ubiquitous annoyances of the Internet age: the anonymous commenter. Hiding behind a made-up moniker, anonymous commenters surface on virtually every blog or news website, posting bile, insults, prejudice and ignorance, often for the sheer hell of it.

In the free for all that has so far marked internet-based publishing, there seems to be no recourse for those targeted by the so-called "trolls". Certainly not of the sort they would have if such comments were published in hard copy on the letters pages of old media newspapers and magazines, where the threat of libel has kept up standards. But, perhaps, no longer.

A law suit filed last week in New York has threatened to hold some of the internet's more unpleasant denizens to account: a rare example of old media rules starting to be applied online.


Mercury said...

"Someone is standing up to the anonymous web trolls"

I seriously doubt that much can be done. I have been in this blog/forum business for nearly ten years and exposed to a variety of unstable individuals who insist on threatening and disrupting an intelligent flow of ideas.

At my current blog, I will not allow anonymous comments and posted at the bottom of the page...


Only thoughtful comments please and exercise a sense of propriety and netetiquette or the comments will not be posted. Commercial links are disallowed."

Nevertheless, I still must reject over 50% of the posts for hate and threats against me and others. I reject others for illogical thinking, promotion of unsubstantiated personal theories, selling a product, one liners ["Great post", "I agree"], and just stupid comments of a sexual nature or off color and derogatory content.

Case in point...

Years ago I was senior moderator at a physics forum and caught one member using two ISPs and two monikers...thus having a conversation with himself and padding the virtues of his ridiculous theories on physics.

I am not a merciless bloggmaster for I have allowed and featured material on Pluto as a dwarf planet and the internal composition of the sun's core...both well-researched by the posters and sincere in their attempts to offer new data and a fresh approach to standard interpretations.

The best approach...delete and ignore for they will get bored when not reaching their orgasmic purpose of disruption and move on to other sites.

I also do not allow anyone connected with Egyptology to post at my blog. :)

Andie said...

Good heavens, David, you have a much more difficult time of it than me! I have only one really irritiating commenter (if that's what you call someone who don't allow to comment!).

In the case quoted in the article perhaps something can be done but you're right - the rest of us just have to put up with moderating the rubbish that unpleasent people lob in our direction. I was just glad to see someone standing up for themselves.

Most of my commenters are lovely people who really contribute value to the blog by airing their opinions and joining in discussions.

Laughed at your final comment, and I know that it's not true!

Mercury said...


Philosophy and science may have a larger umbrella and thus tend to catch more insolent players. We establish our rules of engagement [dialog] and thus maintain the integrity of the blog/forum.

Yes, I was being jocular. :)

D & O

Drastic Plastic said...

It is a problem all bloggers must face.

I've resisted moderating all comments on my blog. But from time to time I get nasty "comments", or ones liable to start a fight, or that just annoy me or derail a discussion.

These I edit or (usually) delete. Then I add the commenter to the list of people to be moderated, in case they do it again. Finally I send an email to that person. I don't say that I have put them on moderation. Instead I say that I am sorry but that I had to delete their comment. I also tell them that this was because my blog is not a public forum, but really my diary; and while I am happy for people to scribble in the margin, I don't want anything liable to start a fight.

I've had no complaints. But then, my blog is much more marginal than yours!

Incidentally isn't it amusing, the sense of entitlement some of these people have? Moderate their nastiness in any way, and you will be accused of the worst excesses of Stalin.

I'm not very keen on bringing lawyers onto the net. There are good and bad reasons for anonymity.

Good: In our age, when expressing a political or religious view in public can involve being prosecuted for "hate" by some nasty pressure-group, anonymity is essential. How else can we say what we think?

The bad reasons are the ones we all know; the low-lifes who use it as a means to abuse. But I'd rather endure the latter, than have the people who criminalised free speech "protect" me.

Mercury said...


"Incidentally isn't it amusing, the sense of entitlement some of these people have? Moderate their nastiness in any way, and you will be accused of the worst excesses of Stalin."

"Entitlement" indeed! Criticism or denial of their comments always brings to the surface the "free speech" issue. They fail to understand that their narcissistic rhetoric is unprofessional and reflects more of illogical thinking and an unstable persona. I have discovered that many of these people are passive milquetoasts in everyday life and achieve the opposite behind a screen of blurred and protective identity. D. H. Lawrence and Frederick Nietzsche write extensively about the masks of humanity where unfulfilled desire and fantasies of the conquering hero gain life and crimes are legitimatized.