August 1, 2008

"Trolling is basically Internet eugenics... I want everyone off the Internet. Bloggers are filth. They need to be destroyed."

"Blogging gives the illusion of participation to a bunch of retards. . . . We need to put these people in the oven!"

The New York Times wants you to know there are some bad people on the internet. You know what? There are some bad people walking the streets of your home town.

The question is: What do you want to do about it?

Here's the conclusionish stuff at the end of Mattathias Schwartz's fascinating article. (He embedded himself with evil trolls and lived to tell the tale.)
Does free speech tend to move toward the truth or away from it? When does it evolve into a better collective understanding? When does it collapse into the Babel of trolling, the pointless and eristic game of talking the other guy into crying “uncle”?
(Hang on. I'm going to do a separate post about the use of the word "eristic.")
Is the effort to control what’s said always a form of censorship, or might certain rules be compatible with our notions of free speech?

One promising answer comes from the computer scientist Jon Postel, now known as “god of the Internet” for the influence he exercised over the emerging network. In 1981, he formulated what’s known as Postel’s Law: “Be conservative in what you do; be liberal in what you accept from others.” Originally intended to foster “interoperability,” the ability of multiple computer systems to understand one another, Postel’s Law is now recognized as having wider applications. To build a robust global network with no central authority, engineers were encouraged to write code that could “speak” as clearly as possible yet “listen” to the widest possible range of other speakers, including those who do not conform perfectly to the rules of the road. The human equivalent of this robustness is a combination of eloquence and tolerance — the spirit of good conversation. Trolls embody the opposite principle. They are liberal in what they do and conservative in what they construe as acceptable behavior from others. You, the troll says, are not worthy of my understanding; I, therefore, will do everything I can to confound you.
This is extremely useful to know. Remember that principle. People who want the most freedom for themselves and the least for you. They're not just the trolls of the internet. They're everywhere. Defend yourself by identifying them and continuing to claim a good amount of freedom for yourself.
[T]echnology reduces the social barriers that keep us from bedeviling strangers, it does not explain the initial trolling impulse. This seems to spring from something ugly — a destructive human urge that many feel but few act upon, the ambient misanthropy that’s a frequent ingredient of art, politics and, most of all, jokes. There’s a lot of hate out there, and a lot to hate as well.
It's human nature.
So far, despite all this discord, the Internet’s system of civil machines has proved more resilient than anyone imagined. As early as 1994, the head of the Internet Society warned that spam “will destroy the network.” The news media continually present the online world as a Wild West infested with villainous hackers, spammers and pedophiles. And yet the Internet is doing very well for a frontier town on the brink of anarchy. Its traffic is expected to quadruple by 2012. To say that trolls pose a threat to the Internet at this point is like saying that crows pose a threat to farming.
Ha ha. Great. Exactly.

So can we have maximum freedom of speech or do we need legal remedies for the really bad people?
Are we ready for an Internet where law enforcement keeps watch over every vituperative blog and backbiting comments section, ready to spring at the first hint of violence? Probably not. All vigorous debates shade into trolling at the perimeter; it is next to impossible to excise the trolling without snuffing out the debate.
That's Free Speech 101, but people seem to need to hear it again.

***

Schwartz assumes that trolls will successfully hide behind anonymity/pseudonymity, but we need to take note of the new developments in the AutoAdmit case:
With the help of a subpoena issued six months ago, attorneys for two Yale Law School students have succeeded in unmasking several anonymous users of the Web forum AutoAdmit whom the women are suing for defamation.

Some of the defendants will finally be named when the students soon file an amended complaint, said their attorney, Stanford Law Professor Mark Lemley, who declined to comment further....

John Williams, a court-appointed lawyer who represented AK-47, whom he has never met and whose identity he does not know, said he was disappointed by the judge's decision to sustain the subpoena, which he said went beyond where any other court has gone.

"Free speech takes another hit," he said....

Courts have long recognized that subpoenas may be available to identify anonymous commenters if litigants can demonstrate a plausible case for defamation and are not simply trying to intimidate critics, said Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles....

“If you’re doing right, the First Amendment will protect you,” [First Amendment lawyer Marc] Randazza said. “If you’re doing wrong, it won’t.”
Actually, the First Amendment won't protect you. A court is going to decide whether the plaintiff has met the legal standard Volokh is talking about, and a judge may not care enough about the right to say fuck you. You need more than the First Amendment for protection, you'll need judges who care about it and will stand tough and enforce hardcore free speech values even when confronted by seemingly nice, respectable plaintiffs who are royally outraged at insults and obscenities and delighted to use the courts to ruin brash young people who have said too much.

58 comments:

Randy said...

you'll need judges who care about it and will stand tough and enforce hardcore free speech values

Good luck with that.

Triangle Man said...

Ann, do you think eristic behaviors might include flaucinaucinihilipilification?

Balfegor said...

Ah yes, 4chan comes through again. I find it kind of surprising that it has this kind of influence. I mean, isn't their mascot Yotsuba (4-leaf) from Yotsuba&? It's such a cute, innocuous series. I suppose I can see how it lured in the lolicons though.

Maxine Weiss said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
vbspurs said...

Quoting from NYT article, abt a troll:

Fortuny disagreed. In his mind, subjecting epileptic users to flashing lights was justified. “Hacks like this tell you to watch out by hitting you with a baseball bat,” he told me. “Demonstrating these kinds of exploits is usually the only way to get them fixed.”

“So the message is ‘buy a helmet,’ and the medium is a bat to the head?” I asked.


And this is why trolling is sociopathic.

Not that people shouldn't be wary of others, and take precautions -- but that there is a kind of amorality to trolls which is highly creepy. Their social interaction is predicated on their own sense of impunity.

There are all kinds of trolls. Some are truly innocuous and genuinely funny. They see the world as one big tent of self-absorption and self-importance, and want to tear that tent down.

But think about it. A person wakes up one fine day, and decides they have nothing better to do, than to troll sites online, usually anonymously.

WHAT A LOSER.

Re: Bloggers.

USENET was truly the Wild West of commenting. Blogs are a happy median between free speech and content control. I much prefer it.

Cheers,
Victoria

Trooper York said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AJ Lynch said...

I guess it is frightening for Matthias to work in the MSM and watch its business model literally crumble around his head.

What he is doing is similar to ancient times. When a new prophet appeared he was called a heretic by the established religion.

Mitch H. said...

I miss the days of the Usenet Death Penalty.

vbspurs said...

Mitch, did you ever actually see the UDP implemented?

Because in all my time online in forums, I never did. I never even knew it existed until you pointed it out. Let me tell you, the trolls on blogs are pikers compared to USENET trolls.

I used to think correctional facilities and mental institutes offered daily internet, it was so bad.

Maxine Weiss said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mitch H. said...

Vic, that's mostly a joke. The UDP was a technical non-solution which never really caught up to the offending posts, and just left a trail of partial damage to their distribution paths. It was a centralized tail-chasing approach which was inherently defeated by the distributed non-centralized nature of Usenet.

I watched the UDP folks scurry about for about six months to a year; I have to conclude in retrospect that I had far too little to do in the early Nineties.

Mitch H. said...

Oh, and Usenet trolls vs. b/tards? Like Shakespearean clowns in comparison with Heath Ledger's Joker. Very few Usenet trolls ever did anything in the real world.

I've seen the worst minds of that generation destroyed by trolling, bloated hyperactive naked,
dragging fursuits through the Baltimore streets at 3 AM,
simulating public copulation.

That's not a joke. That happened in front of me. 4-chan is a cancer.

vbspurs said...

I watched the UDP folks scurry about for about six months to a year; I have to conclude in retrospect that I had far too little to do in the early Nineties.

Ah, gotcha, Mitch.

The early internet was stale, but scholarly. My dad had early access through his academic position, and I used to log on into BBSes, as well as checking interesting groups on USENET. It was powder puff, except for the alpha-male boards such as sports groups.

Then it all changed around 1994, when AOL became more ubiquitous, and the trolls came out in force.

Trolling, BTW, is another of those Anglo-Saxon traits. The German USENET groups often demanded full given names, and would patrol their users clearly pointing to the FAQs' rules.

These situations are distressing: both the trolling and patrolling.

Can't people just be reasonable? she asked, sounding incredibly naive.

Cheers,
Victoria

1jpb said...

Maxine,

A Romney supporter?

Regarding fancy coffee; many would be surprised to learn that there are a fair number of four and five dollar Latte types who order decaf.

A long time ago I did a stint as a Barista, while simultaneously holding down another job and working my way through school, aren't I sooooooooooo wonderful. Anyway, a fair number of decaf folks out there in my experience.

vbspurs,

Your German anecdote is not exactly a stereotype breaker.

UberMitch said...

People who want the most freedom for themselves and the least for you. They're not just the trolls of the internet. They're everywhere. Defend yourself by identifying them and continuing to claim a good amount of freedom for yourself.

Like proponents of telcom immunity, right?

Ann Althouse said...

Please don't talk to Maxine. She's a troll, and I delete all her posts. Don't talk to her sock puppets either. Just ignore her.

Michael McNeil said...

vbspurs said:
«Fortuny disagreed. In his mind, subjecting epileptic users to flashing lights was justified. “Hacks like this tell you to watch out by hitting you with a baseball bat,” he told me. “Demonstrating these kinds of exploits is usually the only way to get them fixed.”

«“So the message is ‘buy a helmet,’ and the medium is a bat to the head?” I asked.»

And this is why trolling is sociopathic.

Not that people shouldn't be wary of others, and take precautions -- but that there is a kind of amorality to trolls which is highly creepy. Their social interaction is predicated on their own sense of impunity.



Very good point. Longtime editor of Astounding/Analog science fiction magazine John W. Campbell, Jr. — known as “the father of modern science fiction” for his tutelage of a whole generation of science fiction writers (Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, the list goes on and on) — in one of his famous provocative editorials (“Constitution for Utopia,” May 1961), insightfully pointed out that, pace Lord Acton, it isn’t Power that corrupts and absolute power that corrupts absolutely, but rather immunity from the consequences of one’s actions corrupts while absolute immunity corrupts absolutely.  A person having relatively little power (such as a minor bureaucrat) but in possession of practical immunity from the consequences of his or her acts can still oftentimes become quite corrupt; whereas a person may wield enormous power but remain incorruptible — if only subjected to the check of foreknowledge of untoward and severe consequences (such as being tossed out of office or losing an election) were he to succumb to corruption.

In my view Internet trolls exemplify this principle absolutely.

ricpic said...

I see that Victoria is all for control. I'm shocked! shocked! that little miss you're a racist, little miss ban that person, little miss delete that post, would be for control.

There's no predicting what wannabe Miss American liberty lover will want to shut down next.

Paul Snively said...

What's needed is pseudonymity (that is, persistent identity cryptographically disconnected from our "meatspace" identity) coupled with persistent cryptographic reputation (people you interact with get to record what they think of you, and you them, and there's nothing either of you can do about it).

The OpenPrivacy project has a lot of good information about the basic ideas. I would also pay attention to Credentica.

Joe said...

The first amendment doesn't guarantee anonymous free speech; simply free speech. It also doesn't say you can't be held accountable in social ways for your speech.

(In the notorious AutoAdmit case, I think the plantiffs need a backbone, but I have little sympathy for the cowards that displayed bravado when hiding, but now are too chicken shit to step forward and be counted.)

Jacob said...

Michael Mc Neil:

It's been reduced to a simple formula, known as the GIFT (Greater Internet F__kwad Theory).

Ordinary "nice" person + audience + total anonymity = complete f__kwad.

Chet said...

I think we have to be careful about what we're labeling 'evil' though.

Certainly, physical harm, threats, etc...that's one thing. But when it's just basic satire, and minor annoyances and irritations---I don't know why the uproar.

I think if someone's gonna be so offended and insulted, then maybe just don't even go online.

From the moment you go online, I think it's a given, that you are going to be insulted, and offended, by something or other.

Trooper York said...

Chet, you suck.

Paddy O. said...

I think we have to be careful about what we're labeling 'evil' though.

"Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!" Matthew 18:7 (NIV)

The Message (a paraphrase by Eugene Peterson) puts it even better:

"But if you give them a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you'll soon wish you hadn't. You'd be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck. Doom to the world for giving these God-believing children a hard time! Hard times are inevitable, but you don't have to make it worse—and it's doomsday to you if you do."

Revenant said...

Let me tell you, the trolls on blogs are pikers compared to USENET trolls.

Yeah, but Google doesn't have a killfile. :)

Revenant said...

The first amendment doesn't guarantee anonymous free speech; simply free speech. It also doesn't say you can't be held accountable in social ways for your speech.

You don't have a right to anonymity if private citizens can find out who you are. When the government digs up information on who you are so that you can be subjected to social punishments for your speech, that falls into the category of "the government suppressing free speech", in my opinion.

Another way of looking at it is that if you haven't broken the law with your speech, what possible business of the government's is it to find out who you are?

AllenS said...

Chet, eat Chit.

AJ Lynch said...

Chit ?

That is what an ethnic does before he chowers and chaves.

AllenS said...

Chorrect.

Chet said...

Bring it. I'm unoffendable. Uninsultable.

In every group you've always got the bad ones. You can't have a group, and not have at least one person be the outcast. The group, the clique, really needs that one person, that one blacksheep to feed off of, and ridicule.

And, that's really the purpose trolls serve. If there were no trolls, who's going to be the outcast? Who's going to be the bad one?

The group then implodes on itself. You always need these "others" trolls to keep energizing, and mobilizing the group/organization/clique.

Basic group/oranizational dynamics.

Trevor Jackson said...

That's a really good point, Chet. I've seen some really insular comment threads invent troll sock puppets for everyone to tee off on.

Joe M. said...

These trolls should go read Leviathan.

rhhardin said...

He's entirely misguided.

Moral arguments do not fail when they fail to end.

The point of moral arguments is to state a position, and let the other guy state a position, and see if they're ones you can respect.

Usually they're not. Then, in normal society, you decide that the other guy is a moral incompetent and talk about something else when you meet.

But something else is off topic, on the internet. So you can't meet on any other ground, and the argument goes on forever.

The mistake is in thinking that moral arguments are to settle something, rather than to propose something. They're not. What you see is in fact functioning moral arguments.

blake said...

We're just beating you so you'll learn how to defend yourself.

It's heroic, actually.

amba said...

Postel! How is Virginia related to him? Ex-wife, daughter, sister?

Randy said...

Virginia's last name is Postrel. IIRC, the surname is her husband's.

Kev said...

Please don't talk to Maxine. She's a troll, and I delete all her posts. Don't talk to her sock puppets either. Just ignore her.

Wow...the things that happen when you're away for a week or so.

I'm sure there's no reason to resurrect whatever happened, but could someone point me to the post where Maxine acheived trollitude?

Stephen said...

We Are The Trolls

We are the trolls, unreachable we;
Superior surface, deep in plea.
Columns of numbers without a sum;
Practice always, never become.

No achievement with even breath,
A gentler life is a living death.
Struggling we, expending time
Ripping and tearing at life sublime.

Effortless life—vast time extent
Causeless to us—self evident.
Sneering and angry in rootless rote
Changing the globe with a dead remote.

We are the trolls; oppression cry
Oblivion tease (desire to die?)
Never content—so invisible,
To each but us, too risible.

From chic 'n clever 'n smug 'n tight,
From moral imperative less contrite,
Distilling out an eclectic pique,
Echoing down with a ghastly shriek.

Boiling antipathy to the clear,
Structural hate drives keening fear;
Deep is the plea (life, this thy sting?)
From swallowing nothing is anything.

We are the trolls, unreachable we;
Superior surface, deep in plea.
Columns of numbers without a sum.
Practice always, never become.

stevewhitemd1 said...

Chet wrote: And, that's really the purpose trolls serve. If there were no trolls, who's going to be the outcast? Who's going to be the bad one?

Read The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.

Greg Toombs said...

This is great!
- Flounder

Quixotic said...

"A court is going to decide whether the plaintiff has met the legal standard Volokh is talking about, and a judge may not care enough about the right to say fuck you."

I wouldn't want a court to say "fuck you" - as Miss Althouse so non-eloquently puts it - in tone or in substance. I'd rather have a court not so emotionally invested in the matter, which just correctly interprets the 1st Amendment, which protects most speech but doesn't protect defamation, true threats, child porn, etc.

Quixotic said...

Well....this is just a tad embarrassing. Maybe I should drink some coffee and fully wake up before I comment.

I read "care enough about the right to say fuck you" incorrectly, as in: The court cares so much about the 1st Amendment, that it reacts emotionally and says "fuck you" to some defamation plaintiff. But Miss Althouse - as everyone else here knows - meant "the right to say fuck you" as an example of a 1st Amendment right.

So, as Emily Litella once said...

dr kill said...

Waaaaah, I want to be insulted on Althouse. All the cool kids are being trashed, why not me? Waaaah.

Pogo said...

Trolls have no function on a blog like Althouse, where agreement is not foreordained.

Bad commenters drive out good ones.

What should be done?
Blogger needs a software function to permit banning.

Pogo said...

It's a waste of time policing for Maxine Weiss and her Medusa's head of sock puppets.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

What should be done?
Blogger needs a software function to permit banning.
...
It's a waste of time policing for Maxine Weiss and her Medusa's head of sock puppets.


Fortunately, there is a fairly easy way to solve this. The blogging software needs to support charging for the right to comment. Note that this would be a one-time charge, and the amount could be set by the blog owner. Thus, for a popular blog like this, it might cost $1 for the right to comment.

At any time, the blog owner could ban you, at which point you've lost the value of your dollar. If you want to comment again, you can create a new account, but you have to pay another dollar.

This would not entirely prevent trolls, but not too many of them would be willing to pay $1 per trolling session.

Plus, a generous host could use the money made to buy the first round of drinks at the next meet-up.

Pogo said...

Great idea.
Really.

blake said...

It might seem like a great idea, and there's some chance it would work for an established forum such as this one, but the general effect of the entry cost would be to dramatically reduce the number of participants.

I read Althouse for years before I commented here because I couldn't be bothered to set up an account. There are many other sites where that's still true: I won't comment because I don't want to register.

Quite a few contributors here comment maybe once a month, a quarter, a year--any barrier to that is likely to stop that flow.

And lest you think that's unimportant, a great many regulars start out as people who just wanted to say one thing.

The common ID thing makes it better--so that you can register in one place and use that ID in a lot of places.

But this is essentially the "micropayments" problem. There are lots of people putting content up all over the 'net, and if they got a penny from each consumer, they could make decent livings. And there's plenty of indication that a penny or 2-3 cents wouldn't reduce traffic significantly.

But the whole process of setting up the transaction is a significant deterrent. Any amount of effort greater than zero--unless you can spread it over a wide range of uses--can be fatal.

It's not a new problem.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Of course it would only work for established forums. Then again, it is the established forums that attract the trolls. There is no point in trolling without an audience.

Thus, new blogs would charge nothing for the right to comment. Ones that start to establish themselves might charge 10 cents, with established ones charging a dollar or more.

For that matter, there could be an option to grandfather in existing commenters, so they don't have to put up any money to continue commenting.

And of course you are correct, the dollar charge is not the only cost, there is also the effort to set up the payment before the first comment. The blogging software would have to make it easy to arrange that payment. Ideally you should be able to hook it up to an existing paypal or amazon account.

I'm not saying all the pieces are in place in terms of software at this point. Just that there are reasonable solutions waiting to be developed.

blake said...

I=B,

Oh, yeah, they're there. I keep asking myself, "Why, then, haven't they been implemented?"

Attempts have been made, but there's a critical mass factor.

Pajamas Media could offer something like that, maybe. A subscription/validation process. Tie stuff to a credit card and you've way upped the ante.

I think some adult sites work under a blanket. I know a web-comic group tried it without much success. They offered free stuff to get people hooked and then pay services.

But, here's a catch, besides the trolls, do you lose the good sock puppets, as well? The blogging cockroach? Sir Archy? The blogging cock, should he ever arise?

blake said...

"Adult sites work under a blanket". Heh.

What I mean, of course, is that there are passes you can buy to visit a number of adult sites. I had a friend who set up his site under one of these things. And I came across one the other day that seemed perfectly innocent--but for some reason used AdultPass or SiteXXXPass or something.

Hell, you have to register to see certain politically incorrect videos on YouTube. How many people bother? One guy who had his anti-Obama video placed behind the adult curtain had his traffic reduced 100x.

And I know another forum holder on Compuserve who polices things religiously to keep it out from behind the adult wall, because she knows it'll kill the traffic.

Any kind of barrier on the 'net, however mild, seems to be death on traffic.

Sir Archy said...

To Professor Althouse.

Dear Madam,

Pray forgive the long Absence of an old Correspondant, who would have been well-pleas'd to assist at this, your Theatre of Topicks (as I call it), had he not been call'd to Account upon the Astral Plane; for your Correspondant is the Ghost (as is well-known to You & your Readers) of a Gentleman, dead these 250 Years and more.  I shall not try the Patience of your Audience with Particulars of these Peregrinations, but only say that, whilst the ghostly State hath many Advantages, many also are the Duties & necessary Obsequies that a true Ghost must perform in the Spirit World.

Nay, Madam, this Topick concerns Delinquents, not of the Invisible World, but of that other disembody'd Plane, the Internet.

'Tis a Commonplace to say that the Internet resembles one thing or another:  It may answer for a Post Office, or, a Messenger Boy; or, a News-Paper, fill'd with Politicks & Scandal; or, it may be a Repository of Diaries, kept by Millions; or, it may be like a Theatre; or a Dumb-Shew; or, a Picture-Gallery; or, an Opera; or, a Concert of Musick; or, that it may be the Den of Thieves, Whoremongers & Pornographers; or, a School of Sedition; or, a Repast for Patriots; or, be a Pulpit for the good of Religion; or, a Lyceum, or, a Library, for the Improvement of the Publick; or, a Promenade, where the Young, in their first Bloom of youthful Ardour, stoll & gossip; or, a Masquerade, where aging Rakes & wrinkl'd Coquettes flirt in False-Face; or, a Publick Market; or, a common Street-Riot; or, most especially to my own Taste, a Coffee-House, where a Society of sober Citizens may meet, smoke their Pipes peaceably and discuss the News of the Day.

In short, Madam, the Internet may be all these things and a thousand Others.  Here is God's Plenty, as Mr. Dryden says.  Yet, 'twas loos'd upon Mankind in a very few Years, and hath little tangible Existence aside from Boxes fill'd with very odd Things, Wires, & Shadow-Screens.  However we may take the sensible World of God's Creation, the Internet, its Mirror, shews us the same Human Variety, not omitting the Good and the Ill.

That the Internet may have engender'd its own Sort of Mischief-Makers should not surprize us, for the evil Impulse of Men may be found everywhere; yet the human Figures we see shadow'd through this Glass darkly, may seem much out of the ordinary Run of Life.  Evil may appear all the more sinister, especially to those whose Judgment was form'd before this Looking-Glass was polish'd, silver'd & fram'd.  Now that the Glass is before Us, ne'er to be removed, it may be contemplat'd with a greater Equanimity and philosophical Calm, and the Reflect'd Shadows seen as perhaps no worse than the Originals.

That there are Legions of Evil-Doers upon the Internet admits of no Doubt.  I would not, however, have these disembody'd Delinquents grac'd with the Name of Trolls, redolent as 'tis of romantick Norse Legends, &c.  Nay, they are better Savages, as befits those who spurn Civilization.  They would, perhaps, be Noble Savages, had they reject'd the Benefits of a civilized Life entirely, as did some Americans upon the Onslaught of Europeans.  But these Internet Savages are more like unto Vagabonds, Wastrels, or even common Thieves, enjoying the Benefits of Society, whilst doing no Good.

As the Surveyor of Lunaticks for this Theatre, I need hardly tell you, Madam, that 'tis commonly agree'd that there be Armies of ordinary Lunaticks & Madmen who find no other Employment for their distemper'd Brains but upon the Internet.  Does not the Progress, by Degrees, of a Madman into a Malefactor excite mix't Passions of Pity & Fear in rational Persons, who may justly insist upon Correction when Lunacy becomes Criminal?  Yet many a Lunatick remains a harmless Nuisance, whose only Misdeeds consist of Importunements & mangl'd Thoughts.

What may be done with these deprav'd & useless Persons (I mean the mischievous Sort)?  Daily there are numberless Locks shut against them; and daily these Locks are tried, with enough Success to employ Thousands in their constant making & repair.  'Tis absurd that a Theatre with a Coffee-House hard by, such as you keep, Madam, should have need of a Padlock, for what then of your poor Audience?

Mr. Bliss recommends an extra Charge for the Honour of Remarking on the Topick at hand.  Mr. Blake's Objections have some Merit; for altho' a Charge may keep out Lunatick Paupers and wastrel Savages, what of the poor Scholar, or, the Poet, starving in a Garret, who may wish some intellectual Company?  What of the well-to-do Madman?  My own Situation is such that I should not mind a Charge of Sixpence, or even a Shilling extra, making such infrequent Remarks as I do.  Both Mr. Blake's & Mr. Bliss's Arguments have Merit, however; and I cannot pronounce upon the complete Justice of either.

I should tell you of the Patrons of such a Coffee-House in my Day, who complain'd that they were often pester'd with a Company of young Rakes, with Toupee Wigs, swinging oaken Clubs, and shallow Understandings, who made such intolerable Noise with ther filthy Ribaldry & Horse-laughs, singing, swearing, and damning themselves and cursing the Waiters, and blaspheming all that's sacred, that they disturb'd every Body about 'em; and for no other Reason, but what one of Them says, All this I do, because I dare.

These Delinquents the Chief Magistrate, Mr. Stonecastle, stigmatis'd with the Name of Savages (as I before averr'd), as having neither Sense nor Manners; and authoriz'd the Masters of such Houses where they were thus troublesome, with the assistance of a Constable, to shew them out of Doors.

By way of closing, I should recommend such a Course to any who would keep a Publick Establishment upon the Internet, disembody'd as it may be; and, giving every Encouragement that you may continue with your mild & moderate Policy, not forgetting to shew the worst Savages out, I am,

Madam,

Your most Humble & Obt. Servant,

Sir Archy

P.S.— Pray, forgive the excessive Length of this Epistle.  Absence has perhaps loos'd my Hand;  I shall in Future endeavour to make my Performances shorter & smarter.

Kev said...

Ignorance is Bliss said:
Of course it would only work for established forums. Then again, it is the established forums that attract the trolls. There is no point in trolling without an audience.

There are, however, exceptions to this rule; a couple of years ago, my own humble blog (which receives about as many hits every three minutes as I do in an entire week), was trolled for a few weeks. The person in question cloaked behind a pseudonym, hurled insults at me and some of my regular commenters (most of whom are friends in real life) and even tried to take credit for my increased traffic that week. It really made me wonder why someone would spend time doing that in such a small forum.

Sir Archy: Well-stated as always. It's great to see you gracing these pages again.

Rick Lee said...

I don't think there was ever much danger of me becoming a troll, but in order to curtail even the slightest tendency, I've always used my real, full name in online participation. Doing so changes everything.

Middle Class Guy said...

"The New York Times wants you to know there are some bad people on the internet. You know what? There are some bad people walking the streets of your home town."


When will the NYT let us know that there are bad, even evil people at the NYT?

John Lynch said...

Rick Lee- I agree. When you're not anonymous, you behave better. It's not like I'm really any more likely to suffer consequences, but there is an unconscious desire not to be thought an ass by thousands of people.

Karen said...

Thank you for banning Maxine. I have always enjoyed reading Sir Archy and your other commenters, but stopped reading your comments section because of her.

Michael McNeil said...

Oh, Flounder, you're such a guppy!
— Aerial