Comments Policy at Thrasher's Wheat
Whenever we have a period of high Neil news all sorts of things start happening around Thrasher's Wheat. Traffic surges. Comments go up. Emails explode. Servers slow down.
And these are all somewhat predictable and manageable events. Other events are more troubling. During last year's Living with War meltdown, we pretty much threw in the towel on trying to deal with the onslaught from radical conservative websites which had targeted us and brought the server to its knees.
Now with Neil hitting the road again, it seems that there's a certain element that takes pleasure in bashing all things Neil. If it's not ticket prices or Pegi or using 3 old unreleased songs to fill out an album it's something else. One wonders the purpose of these efforts? We'll provide our theories below.
But first, to the point of this post -- the comments policy at Thrasher's Wheat -- which until recently didn't exist. Anyone could write anything. But we recently gradually began to implement one and some folks are none too pleased. From one of our favorite readers
I guess I'm not really surprised that Thrasher is now censoring what he considers offensive remarks and grammatical faux pas. It was getting a bit loud in here lately for the Neil zombies. They might wake up with all that noise, and then where would the whole Neil myth be?
Amazing that you allowed Chili to post all his neocon trash during the LWW era, but now you're going to start deleting posts with misspellings. Makes one wonder what's really going on here. Is the Neil machine getting pissed now that they're being forced to do things like abort the ill-timed Neil cover story for the unfortunately-named GOLDMINE magazine? (Does that qualify as excessive capitalization? Not to be confused with excessive capitalism.) Is Elliot demanding that you quell the threat$ to commerce? Are you afraid Neilco will cut off your special access? Do you actually believe in the message of the Freedom of Speech tour? Does Neil?
I don't think things have gotten that offensive around here, with the exception of the plate of s*** post. But even that person was obviously sincere, though unnecessarily crude. Where are all these misspellings and excessive !s and capitalization's?
What has happened is that, for once, real legitimate, long-overdue criticism of the legend of Neil Young has surfaced, some satirical, but still legit. You're not saying you're going to quash that, are you?
Are you actually even allowing real anonymous posts here or are you monitoring and commenting on that? What does anonymous actually mean here? Full anonymity or pretend anonymity with winking editorializations?
The answer to most of the above questions is "no". We've allowed ALL of the diverse speech here at Thrasher's Wheat and it's our intention to allow as much of it as we can to continue. Last year we implemented the painful word verification process to help things out. Then we tried moderating comments but that proved to be burdensome and inhibiting the flow of dialog. The next step would be to require registration of all commenters but that would most likely kill off commenting entirely.
So what we did essentially is try and ban a single poster who goes by Chili. There's a loose consensus here that the time had come to make the move. So sorry about that. If Chili stops posting in ALL CAPS and using excessive exclamation points maybe we'll allow them to go through.
Otherwise, we've allowed some pretty obnoxious stuff here in the name of freedom of speech which we whole-heartedly support.
Now as for theories as to what's going on lately and what happened last year during LWW and the CSNY tour. This nastiness is largely due to allowing anonymous posts. And we'll be the first to say that there's a time and place for it. From Forbes Magazine:
"Question this right of Net anonymity and you risk an unmitigated thrashing (anonymously, of course). So maybe we are asking for trouble when we dare to say that Internet anonymity is out of control. Today the Net still protects the abused and the disenfranchised, people who go online for help because they can do so in secret. But it also shields creeps, criminals and pedophiles. It emboldens the mean-spirited and offers them a huge audience for spewing hatred and libel. Caustic cowards are free to one-up one another in invective and vitriol--haters who would tone it down if they had to identify themselves."
Probably nothing surprising with the above if you've been hanging out on the Internets for awhile. Sort of like vandals running around spray painting graffiti on walls.
But why here on a little ol' Neil fan site? I mean don't folks who don't like Neil's music have better things to do? Apparently not. It seems this goes way beyond not liking his music. Hey, what's that sound? Look what's going down.
Take Bruce Springsteen for example. Springsteen has taken a tremendous amount of heat from his fan base for his recent positions on the Iraq war (see Springsteen: Silence Is Unpatriotic, Rocker Answers Critics Who Say He's Unpatriotic). There is a tremendous amount of effort that goes into trying to marginalize artists who take controversial positions.
So might this have something to do with what Neil stands for? This would be the politics of Neil. Starting with calling out Nixon in "Ohio", Neil hasn't been one to play it safe. So now with Neil hitting the road, selling out venues, bringing beautiful music to this wonderfully screwed up world we live in, some folks just can't abide by the notion and they're harshing Thrasher's mellow.
Take the The Rustie's Pledge!
UPDATE 11/9/07: An addendum to this blogs comments policy modified from the Stand and Deliver America blog:
This website is established to generate discussion on topics that are related to Neil Young's music. All that is asked is that you post comments that are civil, do not rely on obscenities to make your point, and that you not post items that are illegal. I have no intention of always agreeing with what is posted, but I will not stop it from being posted. I will not be your censor on this site because I believe that most can censor themselves. It is not my place to deny you your right to free speech on this website just because I do not agree with your opinion. It was once said - I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. That is what this site is for and it is what I believe. For many, at least for now, free speech is still the way we live, and it is what is important in a free society.
One other thing - stupidity is not a crime, and if you do not agree with a person's ideas or opinions, or you think my ideas are not your ideals, then you are free to say so. However, do so with tact and with facts or alternatives, not with negativity. This site is meant to bring people together to find solutions, not battles with each other. Read with an open mind, answer with a reasonable mind, and compassion should be shown to everyone who posts on this site. We are still people with real feelings and beliefs and we deserve respect from others, even those who do not agree with us.
So instead of censorship, this site will practice respect for others, honesty, truth, ideals, and beliefs. All I ask is that everyone who posts here do the same. Then I do not have to act as a censor, not of opinions, but of intolerance and bigotry. Thank you.
Regarding troll comments: **Ignore the Trolls**
Do not validate their comments by completely dissecting their rants. Ridicule them, embarrass them, but do not debate with them or offer any sort of retort to their comments.
It is well known amongst the blogosphere that troll comments are intended simply to disrupt communities as opposed to having a sincere dialogue over differences. We welcome opinion diversity but will not tolerate comments submitted merely to inflame. Sorry, but you'll have to make more of an effort in order not to be banned. And you know who we're talking about.
It is encouraged -- but not required -- that a profile ID account be established for posting comments. Here's how to establish a Google Accounts. This will give you a valid signature for posts. This will better enable us to sort the wheat from the chaff.
Still wonder why we have a comments policy? Watch out. The Internet will cut you - Technotica- msnbc.com
The comment crackdown continues.
Death by moron / Has anonymous commenting destroyed meaningful online dialogue? Oh, hell yes:
Anonymity tends to bring out the absolute worst in people, the meanest and nastiest and least considerate. Something about not having to reveal who you really are caters to the basest, most unkind instincts of the human animal.
No more hiding. No more anonymous cowardice. No more hit-and-run verbal spitwads and avoiding responsibility for what you say. Hey, writers and journalists have been doing it for years, posting our names and email addresses and even photos for the entire world to see. If Web 2.0 means we're now all in this public sphere together, shouldn't I know exactly who you are, too? Shouldn't everyone?
Snark: the language of losers - AmyTuteurMD - Open Salon
Snark is hostile as spit ... hazing on the page. It prides itself on wit, but it's closer to a leg stuck out in a school corridor that sends some kid flying.
So writes David Denby in his new book Snark, subtitled It’s Mean, It’s Personal and It’s Ruining Our Conversation. Denby explains:
This is an essay about a strain of nasty, knowing abuse, spreading like pinkeye through the national conversation --- a tone of snarking insult provoked and encourage by the new hybrid world of print, television, radio and the Internet… I’m all in favor of … any kind of satire, and certain kinds of invective. It’s the bad kind of invective --- low, teasing, snide, condescending, knowing; in brief snark --- that I hate.
For Denby, the real problem with snark is not the viciousness and clique like behavior of its practitioners. The biggest sin is that snark is witless.
…[I]t lacks imagination, freshness, fantasy, verbal invention and adroitness --- all the elements of wit… If you crave immediate proof, turn to the discussion threads that follow a routine post on so many Web sites… a free-fire zone of bilious, snarling, other annihilating rage … snark is the preferred mode of attack. Everyone, it seems, wants to be a comic.
This exchange with Robin (Bonn, Germany) where she challenges the intention's of the deletion of negative Neil views sums up the situation pretty well. And
our response on why we delete.
Due to ongoing trouble-makers, unregistered/unsigned comments that are negatively unsubstantiated will be deleted with prejudice.
Adapted from Tara Stiles: Zen And The Art Of Social Networking:
Ok, now that we've all been diagnosed with social networking rage it's time to do something about it. Let's get acquainted/reacquainted with the Yamas and Niyamsas, often referred to as the 10 Commandments of Yoga. They are the ethical precepts described in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras as the first and second of the eight limbs of yoga. So basically we are supposed to pay attention to these before we do any downward dogging or social networking for that matter. Having proper ethics will rid us of stress, addiction, and madness, and also classy up your image.
Yamas: Precepts of Social Discipline
Ahimsa: Non-violence. Not harming other people, oneself, or the environment. Not speaking that which, even though truthful, would injure others.
Social Network translation: When snarked or trolled, resist the urge to smack back. Step away from your mobile device and take 5 deep breaths.
Satya: Truthfulness. Note that sometimes we may know our words are literally true, but do not convey what we know to be truthful. Satya means not intending to deceive others in our thoughts, as well as our words and actions.
Social Network translation: Stop thinking because you held restraint from calling out childish acts that you are "so much better than them now." Let it go.
Social Network Application: If you feel like you have a problem, you probably do. Think about it and work it out.
Social Network Application: How many comments have you blogged? Think about shifting your social networking toward a purpose, other than serving and entertaining yourself.
Here are the ground rules:
1. Be yourself. A nickname will be used for posts, but if the editor finds a user without a verifiable name, that user will be warned or banned.
2. Keep it clean. Foul language (defined by prime-time standards) will not be tolerated. Neither will the intentional misspelling of foul language or the use of non-English curse words.
3. Be truthful. Do not lie or link to sites that may be considered libelous, defamatory or false.
4. Be nice. Don't harass anyone. Don't threaten anyone. Don't use racial slurs. Don't post anything sexually explicit.
5. Be an individual. Do not advertise or solicit. Do not harvest any information for business use.
6. Be original. Do not post copyrighted material.
7. Follow the law. Don't do anything or post anything considered illegal by city, county, state or federal regulations and laws.
UPDATE: 7/24/09: Is deleting comments from my blog censorship?:
"Let's start by defining our terms. Here's a simple definition of censorship for us to work with: 'The practice of suppressing a text or part of a text that is considered objectionable according to certain standards.'
If you host a party at your office and someone comes in off the street, spouting obscenities and saying comments that are patently offensive to the rest of the participants, should you ask that person to leave? Of course you should. That's because they're violating the standards of behavior expected of people at a business party or other social event. Of course, those standards are going to vary based on the group too, so a clique of rough and tumble bikers or street gang members is going to have a very different set of behavioral standards than the symphony society tea, but in both cases, there is a definite expectation of acceptable behavior."
To summarize, deleting comments from our blog is not censorship or suppressing your freedom of speech rights.
Don't like our policy? Then start your own blog.
UPDATE: 8/14/09: Adapted from Huffington Post
We only delete those comments that include the following transgressions:
• are abusive, off-topic, use excessive foul language
• include ad hominem attacks including comments that celebrate the death or illness of any person, public figure or otherwise
• thread spamming (you've posted this same comment elsewhere on the site
• are posted with the explicit intention of provoking other commenters or the editor of Thrasher's Wheat.
UPDATE: 9/30/09: Adapted from Daily Kos: Community Trust:
Every community, it goes without saying, is built on trust - and nowhere is this more true than online. In the digital realm, where you can't see and seldom know the people you're interacting with, being able to trust the folks on the other end of the line is of the utmost importance. We need to know, as best we are able, that people are who they say they are, that they mean what they say, and that they have the community's best interests at heart.
Conversely, pretense, hidden agendas, and fabrications can do great damage to a place like this. Without a basic level of trust, an online community loses its credibility, its cohesiveness, and its influence. Both the administrators and the users of this site understand this well, and it's why we all spend as much time as we do trying hard to preserve the trust we've built here.
Because of this fundamental need to maintain trust, in the musical blogosphere, we hold musicians and fans to the highest of standards and we expect nothing but total scrupulousness.
When a fan or musician violates this trust, it's an abuse of our entire community and cannot be allowed to stand.
It is our policy to ban those who create sockpuppet identities. This is a lesson to anyone - contemplating something similar. We will remain eternally vigilant in policing this site. We will not tolerate this kind of behavior. And we will do everything in our power to ensure that the trust which animates this site remains unbroken.
UPDATE: 11/1/09: Adapted from Washington Post - "Listening to the Dot-Comments" by Doug Feaver:
I am writing in defense of the anonymous, unmoderated, often appallingly inaccurate, sometimes profane, frequently off point and occasionally racist reader comments that Thrasher's Wheat allows to be published at the end of articles and blogs.
I have come to think that online comments are a terrific addition to the conversation and that Neil Young fans need to take them seriously. Comments provide a forum for fans to complain about what they see as unfairness or inaccuracy in an article (and too often they have a point), to talk to each other (sometimes in an uncivilized manner) and, yes, to bloviate.
Comments are automatically posted without prior review by Thrasher's Wheat. If readers complain about a specific comment, it is reviewed and then removed if it violates published Thrasher's Wheat standards.
But the bigger problem with Thrasher's Wheat comment policy, many fans have told me, is that the comments are anonymous. Anonymity is what gives cover to bashers, trolls and others to say inappropriate things without having to say who they are.
I believe that it is useful to be reminded bluntly that the dark forces are out there and that it is too easy to forget that truth by imposing rules that obscure it. As Oscar Wilde wrote in a different context, "Man is least in himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth."
Too many of us like to think that we have made great progress in human relations and that little remains to be done. Unmoderated comments provide an antidote to such ridiculous conclusions. It's not like the rest of us don't know those words and hear them occasionally, depending on where we choose to tread, but most of us don't want to have to confront them.
UPDATE: 12/27/09: Adapted from Climate Progress:
"Those who have been duped by the Neil misinformers endeavor to take over the comments section. Where they are allowed to do so, they ruin it for everyone else. Thrasher's Wheat has a long-standing policy of (generally) not allowing people to repeat long-debunked disinformation, since it requires me or my tireless readers to waste valuable time debunking it. The other choice, ignoring it, is not really an option because on any given day, a large number of people are visiting for the first time and if there is disinformation that is not debunked, they might assume the author and readers are accepting it as true. But sometimes I think it worthwhile to let the anti-Neil crowd have at it, just so everyone else can see what we are up against — and that leads to posts with lots of comments."
This policy above was supported by a reader who wrote [adapted]:
I have never been a censorship advocate, but my own experience writing, and especially whenever I (or other writers at that site) have used certain keywords (like "Hope Neil Young will remember, Southern man don't need him around anyhow"), the anti-Neil-traffic that pours in to attack based on google searches of that keyword does make it a temptation…
You are quite right. Writing is an educational opportunity. If you let the other side have yet another outlet for their dangerous disinformation (and ensuing misinformation), you only draw closer our shared doom at their hands.
I think, in any other matter, I would not support censoring stupidity. But, about truth, love & justice, its immoral not to. I’m sure that relatively educated but uninvolved Lynyrd Skynyrd readers were successfully turned into anti-Neil fans by the comment section there in exactly the way you describe: assuming that that the anti-Neil viewpoint is just another opinion, with equal validity.
UPDATE: 12/30/09: “While I am a rabid free speech supporter, your natural right to self expression does not require me to publish your opinion and spend bandwidth and resources doing so.” [via]
UPDATE: 1/3/10: Just a reminder that the mission of this site is to separate the wheat from the chaff. Egregious chaff will be deleted.
UPDATE: 2/3/10:New York Times Policy on Anonymous Sources : Guidelines on Integrity
UPDATE: 5/1/10:The Pathology of Trolls | Webupon:
The adult who feels powerless grasps the opportunity to use the anonymity of the Internet to create an all powerful avatar who can attack others with impunity.
With very low self images, Trolls experience that rush of control when they, who are afraid to tell their neighbor to turn down his radio, can spew invective with impunity.
No matter what the response, it is a response. One can be more insulting, threatening, it doesn’t matter. The response, any response is what their pathology requires.
As Trolls are cowards, they run in packs. It is rare to see a single troll. They take strength from each other. They delude themselves into believing they are in the majority and their views are shared by ’everyone’.
Trolling is the sad attempt at self validation, just as taking drugs, trolling emands more and more to feed the addiction that props up low self-esteem.
‘Deindividualization’ is a term social psychologists use to explain the reduction in the sense of one’s own identity. In online communication the Troll is distant from the victim and prone to aggressive behaviour.
There is some amount of sadism in the psyche of Trolls and that hint of Asperger’s syndrome, where they can not feel remorse for their actions.
UPDATE 6/1/2010 : We try and make Thrasher's Wheat a special place. We strive to maintain a high signal to noise ratio in our comment threads. Short, unengaging comments, or comments that are off topic, are likely to be deleted without notice. (to be clear--engaging, on point humor and levity, more than welcome.)
We are trying to perform a service to the Neil Young community here to coordinate fans who know their stuff with other people who want to learn about Neil's music. Promotion of that ideal will be the criteria by which we make our decisions about what stays and what goes.
Flame wars, polemic exchanges, and other content deleterious to the community will be removed, either by the editor or by the community through its consensus moderation process.
UPDATE: 7/1/10: From The definitive guide to Trolls - Ubuntu Forums:
An 'Internet troll' or 'Forum Troll' is a person who posts outrageous message to bait people to answer. Trolls delight in sowing discord on the forums. A troll is someone who inspires flaming rhetoric, someone who is purposely provoking and pulling people into flaming discussion. Flaming discussions usually end with name calling and a flame war.
A classic troll tries to make us believe that he is a skeptic. He is divisive and argumentative with need-to-be-right attitude, 'searching for the truth', flaming discussion, and sometimes insulting people or provoking people to insult him. A troll is usually an expert in reusing the same words of its opponents and in turning it against them.
While he tries to present himself as a skeptic looking for truth ... his messages usually sound as if it is the responsibility of other forum members to provide evidence that what forum is all about is legitimate.
]He (and in at least 90% of cases it is he) tries to start arguments and upset people.
Sometimes, he is skeptical, trying to scare people, trying to plant fear in their hearts. Sometimes, Internet troll is trying to spin conflicting information, is questioning in an insincere manner, flaming discussion, insulting people, turning people against each other, harassing forum members, ignoring warnings from forum moderators.
Trolling is a form of harassment that can take over a discussion. Well meaning defenders can create chaos by responding to trolls. The best response is to ignore it, or to report a message to a forum moderator. Ubuntuforums moderators usually move troll messages to the jail and may even ban trolls after a few unheeded warnings. Negative emotions stirred up by trolls leak over into other discussions. Normally affable people can become bitter after reading an angry interchange between a troll and his victims, and this can poison previously friendly interactions between long-time users.
Finally, trolls create a paranoid environment, such that a casual criticism by a new arrival can elicit a ferocious and inappropriate backlash.
When trolls are completely ignored they sometimes step up their attacks, desperately seeking the attention they crave. Their messages become more and more foul, and they post ever more of them. Alternatively, they may protest that their right to free speech is being curtailed. Perhaps the most difficult challenge for a moderator is deciding whether to take steps against a troll that a few people find entertaining. Some trolls do have a creative spark and have chosen to squander it on being disruptive. There is a certain perverse pleasure in watching some of them. Ultimately, though, we have to decide if the troll actually cares about putting on a good show for the regular participants, or is simply playing to an audience of one -- himself. For this reason the staff here often intervene, either with a warning in a thread, jailing one or more posts, sending private messages to offenders, and even banning people--temporarily or permanently--from these forums.
As an idea, the next time you see a post by somebody whom you think is a troll, and you feel you must reply, maybe you could just write a follow-up message in the thread entitled 'Troll Alert' and type something like this:
The only way to deal with trolls is to limit your reaction and not to respond to trolling messages. It is well known that most people don't read messages that nobody responds to, while 99% of forum visitors first read the longest and the largest threads with the most answers.
UPDATE: 7/1/10: From How to deal with trolls:
"If you remove a post, aren't you preventing free speech?
When troll behavior is removed from the community, the trolls frequently complain that their right to free speech is being infringed upon. Discussion boards are by design a forum for open communication, a place where the community is encouraged to freely discuss its opinions. IMDb staff will only remove troll posts when they become disruptive to open communication.
When a troll floods a message board with so many posts that they actually drown out the normal conversation, he is actually silencing the voice of a majority of the community members. When a troll continually turns the conversation to focus on his point of view, he is preventing the rest of the members of the community from expressing their own.
The goal of the IMDb discussion boards is to provide an open discussion forum for all members of our community. When a user or a user's post actually impedes open discussion, the moderator will ask the user to take their comments elsewhere.
UPDATE: 7/14/10: From How to Spot a Message Board Troll | eHow.com:
Examine the pattern of message board posts to see if the user knows more about the message board than a new user ('newbie') should know. Does the suspected troll mention events that happened long before their join date? If so, be suspicious.
Look at the suspected troll's user name. If it seems to allude to a past even or other user's identity, watch out. This can be a big clue in spotting a message board troll.
Go to the suspected troll's member profile, and read his or her past threads and posts. If they all seem negative or about a thread that happened before joining, that is a huge red flag. If so, that's a big clue you're dealing with a troll.
Ask the suspected troll lots of questions on the message board. Eventually he or she will trip up, and he will say something that is inconsistent with the persona they've created.
Call the troll out. Start a new thread in the most-trafficked area of the message board, and be ready with your suspicions, links to posts where the troll is inconsistent, and start a 'flame' on the suspected troll.
Ask an administrator to do an 'IP check' if the suspected troll denies being a troll. IP cross-checks can show whether two different users come from the same IP address. Some message board administrators will do this for you.
Search in a search engine for the troll's user name. You may find other message boards where he or she posts, and find good evidence to use to flush him or her out. Many trolls aren't creative, and reuse the same user name.
Put the troll on 'ignore' if the board has that feature, and just don't respond to his or her posts.
UPDATE: 7/14/10: From Conversation Hackers:
"'Just consider how terrible the day of your death will be. Others will go on speaking and you won't be able to argue back' - Ram Mohun Roy
Thrasher's Wheat does not own your comments and we expressly disclaim any and all liability that may result from them. By commenting on our site, you agree that you retain all ownership rights in what you post here and that you will relieve us from any and all liability that may result from those postings.
UPDATE: 7/16/10: From Inside the mind of the anonymous online poster - The Boston Globe:
The raging commentary on Obama’s aunt is a microcosm of the thorny problem many websites are grappling with right now over what to do with anonymous comments. At many of these sites, executives have begun to ask themselves: How did we get into this thicket, and is there a sensible way out? But a more basic question needs to be answered first: Who are these people who spend so much of their days posting anonymous comments, and what is motivating them?
"Maybe the best approach to getting people to behave better online is just reminding them how easy it is to figure out who they really are.
UPDATE: 8/2/10: From
Why I like vicious, anonymous online comments - Internet Culture - Salon.com BY MATT ZOLLER SEITZ:
Whatever the policy, the intention is always the same: to make it possible for substantive discussion to occur in comments threads, unimpeded by a constant flow of illiterate and often mindlessly provocative brain farts, many of them TYPED IN CAPITAL LETTERS and punctuated with childish ad hominem attacks. The logic behind this cleanup effort is basic, its animating truth self-evident: If a person's real name and/or ISP address were emblazoned across the top of every comment he or she left, the Internet would become more sane, wise and decent overnight.
But for all the downsides of comments-thread anonymity, there's a major upside: It shows us the American id in all its snaggletoothed, pustulent glory, with a transparency that didn't exist before the Internet. And in its rather twisted way, that's a public service.
Whenever a website publicly debates whether to keep allowing anonymous comments or start aggressively moderating (or instituting a more elaborate sign-in process), people in the comments thread beneath the announcement rail against it. Their logic is often some variant of, "Making people leave comments under their own names, or otherwise trying to verify their identities, restricts free speech and discourages lively debate." Maybe that's true -- if by "restricts" you mean, "requires that people take responsibility for," and if by "lively debate" you mean, "the impulse to act like a swine or a fool."
Restricting or eliminating anonymity discourages gratuitous jerk behavior, just as the invention of caller ID turned prank phone calls into nostalgic memory. Ninety-nine percent of arguments against anonymous commenting are self-serving rationalizations. Few commenters desire anonymity because their sentiments urgently need and deserve protection. Chances are they're not blowing the whistle on a corrupt boss or a murderous government or going against the grain of their hidebound company or expressing philosophies that are truly heretical. More likely they're people who in daily life get argued with, shut out, stepped on or otherwise treated with less than the reverence they believe they deserve. So they wade into comments sections to act out power fantasies -- the righteous truth-telling antihero, the schoolyard bully, the class clown -- with some assurance that their wife or mom or kids won't find out and ask, "What on earth is wrong with you?"
And yet anonymous comments -- all of them, even the written equivalent of high-speed drive-by shootings -- serve a useful function. They show us what the species is really like: the full spectrum of human behavior, not just the part that we find reassuring and enlightening.
When a person comments anonymously, we’re told, they're putting a mask on. But the more time I spend online the more I'm convinced that this analogy gets it backward.
The self that we show in anonymous comments, the fantasy self, the self we see in the mirror when we fantasize about being tough and strong and feared, the face we would present to the world if there were no such thing as consequences: That’s the real us.
The civil self is the mask.
UPDATE: 8/3/10: From Cyber Terrorism Ring Revealed: A Case Study In The Depths Of Depravity | NEWS JUNKIE POST:
"Below is an extreme example of behavior on YouTube that goes well beyond cyber bullying, and could very easily more appropriately be labeled cyber terror. Extreme taunting of an only child who lost his mother, rape victims, and suicidal teens has no place in the world in this editor’s opinion, and the anonymity of the internet is no excuse. In a world where people refuse to speak out against such depravity (regardless of political ideology), it is allowed to flourish, and has very real-world consequences.
Watch the video [linked], it is an eye opener.
UPDATE: 8/9/10: So why do we so zealously protect the integrity of Anonymous comments? There are a number of reasons cited above, but essentially it serves as protection from the vast dis-information campaigns that are being waged across the internet in order to hide the truth and advance false agendas.
From A Vast Right-Wing Digg Conspiracy Expose Shows JournoList Scandal to Be a Lot of Conservative Hot Air | Media and Culture | AlterNet:
"[there is] a clear-cut right-wing online media conspiracy. Members of the Digg Patriots operated anonymously and did not publicly disclose their coordinated effort to crush progressive stories as part of a broad, conservative ideological agenda.
A group of influential conservative members of the behemoth social media site Digg.com have just been caught red-handed in a widespread campaign of censorship, having multiple accounts, upvote padding, and deliberately trying to ban progressives.
[Digg Patriots] embarked on a campaign to ban progressive Digg readers from the site by instigating petty online disputes with them [in an attempt to get them to say something that violates the Terms of Service.].
There are a few differences of opinion within Digg Patriots, although for the most part, they are extremely similar in perspective.
They hate Obama. They hate progressives. They hate the UN, diplomacy, and peace/disarmament efforts. They hate reforms of health care, Wall St., and immigration. They hate science, in fact many are creationists, and some even blog about it. They hate the secular nature of our nation. They hate environmental protection, requiring polluters to be responsible for their own cleanup, and especially hate climate efforts. They hate unions and any attempt to level the playing field to give all Americans economic opportunities. They hate the government, except the military-industrial complex. They hate abortion rights. They hate public schools and really hate higher education. They hate anyone in the media except far right personalities like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Michelle Malkin. They hate anyone who doesn’t think Obama is a secret islamist and/or marxist who was born in Kenya. They just love to hate."
UPDATE: 8/25/10: Some trolls go to extreme lengths to mask multiple identies. From Think Progress » Meet Bruce Majors: The Tea Partier Troll:
TPM’s Troll Watch reported that Majors (troll) has also conducted “direct e-mail harassment and identity theft against liberals,” using stolen screen names to harass commentors on blogs he has been banned from. Indeed, he is the subject of several threads on online forums warning about his harassment, and he reportedly told one woman who accused him of using multiple screen names to hide his identity, “you silly facist bitch. Do not tell me what screen name I can use or what I am free to say.”
UPDATE: 8/26/10: Just to re-iterate to anyone still reading this. The name of this site is NOT Thrasher's Chaff. Folks come here to read the best there is about Neil & music.
TW's mission is "all wheat, all the time".
From The flying Scotsman
Thrasher, I think in many ways the style with which you write stuff on here is primarily what encourages people to argue about it. Nothing wrong with that, but sometimes it sounds like you're actually trying to bait people into arguing even if they essentially agree with you. That, paired with your obvious desire to defend everything Neil does (especially when it doesn't need defending!), is going to get on some peoples nerves and they may very well vent that on your blog. I like what you do here, but all I'm saying is - respect others opinions and they are more likely to respect you. Obviously there will be some who just want to be nasty, in which case why don't you just ignore them?
The flying Scotsman.
At 8/14/2010 02:51:00 PM, Blogger Thrasher said...
@The flying Scotsman:
Thank you for the thoughts. it's appreciated.
In all the years, we've been doing this, your comment is the first we can recall quite like this. We mean that in a good way.
For the most part, our feedback is in 2 polar opposite extremes. A) Thrasher you're a pompous arrogant Neil-know-it-all asshole. or B) TW is a great resource that is a labor of love and can't thank you enough for separating so much wheat from so much chaff.
There's not too much nuance in between like yours.
That said, our response to A above is that we get an unbelievable amount of hate mail for what seems to us like a rather benign topic -- Neil Young News.
So as we're trashing comments, filtering junk/hate mail and trying to blog simulataneously while bumping along with a handheld wedged into a subway car, things can get a bit mixed up between reacting to hate & spreading Neil love. So it does tend to get a bit schizophrenic sometimes.
Such a time is this.
A charity benefit tour generates huge amounts of disgust. Neil sells out to Guitar Hero. You name it, we're on the front lines of everyone's bitterness.
Like we've said before. We don't work for Neil or have any official affiliation whatsoever. We're just a fan like you.
And we're constantly puzzled by how some seem to feel that they're venting on TW makes a difference to Neil.
That said, we have seen comments on this blog directly shift Neil. Like the Harvest Moon requests or NYA MP3's.
The first example came from the heart. The 2nd, not so sure.
Anyways, the point is that TW is kinda like this giant echo chamber/house of mirrors where it's sometimes is hard to put your finger on which way the wind is blowin' my friend.
Obviously, there are clearly folks here who love to stir things up.
And to your point, we actually welcome & love a spirited debate. But we've laid out our Comments Policy pretty clearly.
Regarding the Gulf Gigs & Tysons & factory farms fiasco, it is absolutely ludicrous that we stifle debate. look at those comments. They ran 5 to 1 negative on the subject of Gulf Aid. Nobody's free speech was infringed. But yes we do trash gratuitous slander, juvenile snark, and other misbehavior. No apologies there.
But if our tone is off at times, please try and understand the volume we're dealing with here and the precious few moments each day we have to devote to this little blog.
FWIW, we've run this website for 14 years and blogged virtually daily since 2003. 7 years straight. Are we tired? hell yeah. Do we think about quitting? everyday.
But we don't because we know that the vast majority -- similar to Neil's FB comments -- love & appreciate Neil's music. it keeps us going too and tries not to bring us down.
Cause it's only castles burnin' my friend.
peace & love
Due to the recent troubles, all commenting now requires a registered ID using an OpenID or a Google Account to provide a validated signature.
Kingwood Underground - the heart and soul of our Kingwood, Texas family:
November 29, 2010
Where Anonymity Breeds Contempt
By JULIE ZHUO
Palo Alto, Calif.
THERE you are, peacefully reading an article or watching a video on the Internet. You finish, find it thought-provoking, and scroll down to the comments section to see what other people thought. And there, lurking among dozens of well-intentioned opinions, is a troll.
“How much longer is the media going to milk this beyond tired story?” “These guys are frauds.” “Your idiocy is disturbing.” “We’re just trying to make the world a better place one brainwashed, ignorant idiot at a time.” These are the trollish comments, all from anonymous sources, that you could have found after reading a CNN article on the rescue of the Chilean miners.
Trolling, defined as the act of posting inflammatory, derogatory or provocative messages in public forums, is a problem as old as the Internet itself, although its roots go much farther back. Even in the fourth century B.C., Plato touched upon the subject of anonymity and morality in his parable of the ring of Gyges.
That mythical ring gave its owner the power of invisibility, and Plato observed that even a habitually just man who possessed such a ring would become a thief, knowing that he couldn’t be caught. Morality, Plato argues, comes from full disclosure; without accountability for our actions we would all behave unjustly.
This certainly seems to be true for the anonymous trolls today. After Alexis Pilkington, a 17-year-old Long Island girl, committed suicide earlier this year, trolls descended on her online tribute page to post pictures of nooses, references to hangings and other hateful comments. A better-known example involves Nicole Catsouras, an 18-year-old who died in a car crash in California in 2006. Photographs of her badly disfigured body were posted on the Internet, where anonymous trolls set up fake tribute pages and in some cases e-mailed the photos to her parents with subject lines like “Hey, Daddy, I’m still alive.”
Psychological research has proven again and again that anonymity increases unethical behavior. Road rage bubbles up in the relative anonymity of one’s car. And in the online world, which can offer total anonymity, the effect is even more pronounced. People — even ordinary, good people — often change their behavior in radical ways. There’s even a term for it: the online disinhibition effect.
Many forums and online communities are looking for ways to strike back. Back in February, Engadget, a popular technology review blog, shut down its commenting system for a few days after it received a barrage of trollish comments on its iPad coverage.
Many victims are turning to legislation. All 50 states now have stalking, bullying or harassment laws that explicitly include electronic forms of communication. Last year, Liskula Cohen, a former model, persuaded a New York judge to require Google to reveal the identity of an anonymous blogger who she felt had defamed her, and she has now filed a suit against the blogger. Last month, another former model, Carla Franklin, persuaded a judge to force YouTube to reveal the identity of a troll who made a disparaging comment about her on the video-sharing site.
But the law by itself cannot do enough to disarm the Internet’s trolls. Content providers, social networking platforms and community sites must also do their part by rethinking the systems they have in place for user commentary so as to discourage — or disallow — anonymity. Reuters, for example, announced that it would start to block anonymous comments and require users to register with their names and e-mail addresses in an effort to curb “uncivil behavior.”
Some may argue that denying Internet users the ability to post anonymously is a breach of their privacy and freedom of expression. But until the age of the Internet, anonymity was a rare thing. When someone spoke in public, his audience would naturally be able to see who was talking.
Others point out that there’s no way to truly rid the Internet of anonymity. After all, names and e-mail addresses can be faked. And in any case many commenters write things that are rude or inflammatory under their real names.
But raising barriers to posting bad comments is still a smart first step. Well-designed commenting systems should also aim to highlight thoughtful and valuable opinions while letting trollish ones sink into oblivion.
The technology blog Gizmodo is trying an audition system for new commenters, under which their first few comments would be approved by a moderator or a trusted commenter to ensure quality before anybody else could see them. After a successful audition, commenters can freely post. If over time they impress other trusted commenters with their contributions, they’d be promoted to trusted commenters, too, and their comments would henceforth be featured.
Disqus, a comments platform for bloggers, has experimented with allowing users to rate one another’s comments and feed those ratings into a global reputation system called Clout. Moderators can use a commenter’s Clout score to “help separate top commenters from trolls.”
At Facebook, where I’ve worked on the design of the public commenting widget, the approach is to try to replicate real-world social norms by emphasizing the human qualities of conversation. People’s faces, real names and brief biographies (“John Doe from Lexington”) are placed next to their public comments, to establish a baseline of responsibility.
Facebook also encourages you to share your comments with your friends. Though you’re free to opt out, the knowledge that what you say may be seen by the people you know is a big deterrent to trollish behavior.
This kind of social pressure works because, at the end of the day, most trolls wouldn’t have the gall to say to another person’s face half the things they anonymously post on the Internet.
Instead of waiting around for human nature to change, let’s start to rein in bad behavior by promoting accountability. Content providers, stop allowing anonymous comments. Moderate your comments and forums. Look into using comment services to improve the quality of engagement on your site. Ask your users to report trolls and call them out for polluting the conversation.
In slowly lifting the veil of anonymity, perhaps we can see the troll not as the frightening monster of lore, but as what we all really are: human.
UPDATE 3/3/11: From Corporate-Funded Online 'Astroturfing' Is More Advanced and More Automated Than You Might Think | Media | AlterNet:
Every month more evidence piles up, suggesting that online comment threads and forums are being hijacked by people who aren’t what they seem to be. The anonymity of the web gives companies and governments golden opportunities to run astroturf operations: fake grassroots campaigns, which create the impression that large numbers of people are demanding or opposing particular policies. This deception is most likely to occur where the interests of companies or governments come into conflict with the interests of the public.
UPDATE 3/9/11: From Denier-bots live! Why are online comments’ sections over-run by the anti-science, pro-pollution crowd? « Climate Progress regarding the development of denier-bots in the HBGary security firm scandal:
creating an army of sockpuppets, with sophisticated “persona management” software that allows a small team of only a few people to appear to be many, while keeping the personas from accidentally cross-contaminating each other. Then, to top it off, the team can actually automate some functions so one persona can appear to be an entire Brooks Brothers riot online.
Persona management entails not just the deconfliction of persona artifacts such as names, email addresses, landing pages, and associated content. It also requires providing the human actors technology that takes the decision process out of the loop when using a specific persona. For this purpose we custom developed either virtual machines or thumb drives for each persona. This allowed the human actor to open a virtual machine or thumb drive with an associated persona and have all the appropriate email accounts, associations, web pages, social media accounts, etc. pre-established and configured with visual cues to remind the actor which persona he/she is using so as not to accidentally cross-contaminate personas during use.
And all of this is for the purposes of infiltration, data mining, and (here’s the one that really worries me) ganging up on bloggers, commenters and otherwise “real” people to smear enemies and distort the truth.
This is an excerpt from one of the Word Documents, which was sent as an attachment by Aaron Barr, CEO of HB Gary’s Federal subsidiary, to several of his colleagues to present to clients:
To build this capability we will create a set of personas on twitter, blogs, forums, buzz, and myspace under created names that fit the profile (satellitejockey, hack3rman, etc). These accounts are maintained and updated automatically through RSS feeds, retweets, and linking together social media commenting between platforms. With a pool of these accounts to choose from, once you have a real name persona you create a Facebook and LinkedIn account using the given name, lock those accounts down and link these accounts to a selected # of previously created social media accounts, automatically pre-aging the real accounts.
Yes!!! That’s how democracy and the first amendment are supposed to work.
In another Word document, one of the team spells out how automation can work so one person can be many personas:
Using the assigned social media accounts we can automate the posting of content that is relevant to the persona. In this case there are specific social media strategy website RSS feeds we can subscribe to and then repost content on twitter with the appropriate hashtags. In fact using hashtags and gaming some location based check-in services we can make it appear as if a persona was actually at a conference and introduce himself/herself to key individuals as part of the exercise, as one example. There are a variety of social media tricks we can use to add a level of realness to all fictitious personas
I don’t know about you, but this concerns me greatly. It goes far beyond the mere ability for a government stooge, corporation or PR firm to hire people to post on sites like this one. They are talking about creating the illusion of consensus. And consensus is a powerful persuader. What has more effect, one guy saying BP is not at fault? Or 20 people saying it? For the weak minded, the number can make all the difference.
UPDATE 3/17/11: From Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media | Technology | The Guardian:
The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.
The discovery that the US military is developing false online personalities – known to users of social media as "sock puppets" – could encourage other governments, private companies and non-government organisations to do the same.
Critics are likely to complain that it will allow the US military to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives.
Centcom confirmed that the $2.76m contract was awarded to Ntrepid, a newly formed corporation registered in Los Angeles. It would not disclose whether the multiple persona project is in operation or discuss any related contracts.
Persona management by the US military would face legal challenges if it were turned against citizens of the US, where a number of people engaged in sock puppetry have faced prosecution.
Last year a New York lawyer who impersonated a scholar was sentenced to jail after being convicted of "criminal impersonation" and identity theft.
From America's absurd stab at systematising sock puppetry
The US has a chance to move on from a history of clandestine foreign policy – instead it acts like a clumsy spammer by Jeff Jarvis:
The US government's plan to use technology to create and manage fake identities for social interaction with terrorists is as appalling as it is amusing. It's appalling that in this era of greater transparency and accountability brought on by the internet, the US of all countries would try to systematise sock puppetry.
It's appallingly stupid, for there's little doubt that the fakes will be unmasked.
The net result of that will be the diminution, not the enhancement, of American credibility.
But the effort is amusing as well, for there is absolutely no need to spend millions of dollars to create fake identities online. Any child or troll can do it for free. Millions do. If the government insists on paying, it can use salesforce.com to monitor and join in chats. There is no shortage of social management tools marketers are using to find and mollify or drown out complainers. There's no shortage of social-media gurus, either.
Tools are quite unnecessary, though. Just get yourself a fake email account, Uncle Sam, and you can create and manage anonymous and pseudonymous identities across most any social service.
UPDATE 5/31/11: MODIFIED from
Comment here on comments | ThinkProgress:
Obviously, a major reason for the success of this blog has been the terrific commenters here, many of whom are actively involved in Neil Young Nation and around the world. They provide unique insight as well as the fastest posting of news and links anywhere in the Neil blogosphere.
A key reason that the comments section works is my long-standing policy of not allowing the anti-Neil disinformers to overwhelm it as they do with many if not most of the comments sections around the web.
Readers know that the Neil disinformers work overtime to squelch real discussion.
That was most clearly shown in 2009 when Fork in the Road Reviews went overwhelmingly negative in what appeared to be a concerted campaign with nearly verbatim language appearing in a variety of comments.
Yes, the Neil disinformers can’t stomach even a couple of fans posting reasonable comments about an error-riddled comments from Neil bashers. They must marshall their negative accomplices to “shout them down in the comments section.
In any case, disinformation is wildly overrepresented on the blogosphere (and elsewhere). As I’ve said many times, if I simply allow disinformation that has been long-debunked in the Neil literature and elsewhere to be posted, then it forces me to either waste time debunking it for umpteenth time — or allow the disinformation to go unanswered and thus mislead anyone who comes here and isn’t a regular reader of the Neil blogosphere.
UPDATE 6/19/11: MODIFIED fromGay Girl in Damascus hoax shouldn’t spoil online anonymity - The Washington Post by Melissa Bell and Elizabeth Flock:
Anonymous comments, which can be a miasma of profane, inaccurate and controversial rants, are often used as the prime example of why we need more authenticity online.
As bloggers, we are greeted with the joys of anonymous comments every day. “Take your ignorance back to India,” “learn to read you jerk” and “what dribble” are just some of the more printable sweet nothings that anonymous commenters whisper under our posts.
Yet, at the same time, Neil fans who read our work have told us that they would be unable to contribute to the intelligent debates that often take place in the comments section with their real names out of fear of losing their friendships among their fellow neil fans.
Beyond the hand-wringing over this past week’s deceptions, the Web itself already imperils anonymity. While the Internet offers plenty of ways to mask identity, it also makes it easy to trace people. For instance, though Anonymous commenters carefully cover their footprints, we *COULD* to find them (if we chose to bother) — on a Yahoo message board Rust, through their I.P. address, via Facebook profile and their friends postings.
In other cases, digital evidence has led repressive message boards to clamp down on writers. A founder of the blogging movement in Iran, Hossein Derakhshan wrote extensively about his country. At his trial last year, those posts helped convict him of creating propaganda against the Islamic regime. He was sentenced to nearly 20 years in the notorious Evin prison.
Anonymity has allowed bloggers in the Middle East to safely tell the world what is happening in their countries during the Arab Spring. Anonymity allows everyone online a freedom of expression, a creativity and a breadth of discussion that might not occur if a name had to be attached.
The dangers of anonymity do not outweigh the benefits. We need to allow space for the real Neil fans and the genuine Neil critics, whoever they might be.
UPDATE 8/1/11: From A Case for Pseudonyms
Commentary by Jillian York:
There are myriad reasons why individuals may wish to use a name other than the one they were born with. They may be concerned about threats to their lives or livelihoods, or they may risk political or economic retribution. They may wish to prevent discrimination or they may use a name that’s easier to pronounce or spell in a given culture.
Online, the reasons multiply. Internet culture has long encouraged the use of "handles" or "user names," pseudonyms that may or may not be tied to a person’s offline identity. Longtime online inhabitants may have handles that have spanned over twenty years.
Pseudonymous speech has played a critical role throughout history as well. From the literary efforts of George Eliot and Mark Twain to the explicitly political advocacy of Publius in the Federalist Papers or Junius' letters to the Public Advertiser in 18th century London, people have contributed strongly to public debate under pseudonyms and continue to do so to this day.
There are myriad reasons why an individual may feel safer identifying under a name other than their birth name. Teenagers who identify as members of the LGBT community, for example, are regularly harassed online and may prefer to identify online using a pseudonym. Individuals whose spouses or partners work for the government or are well known often wish to conceal aspects of their own lifestyle and may feel more comfortable operating under a different name online. Survivors of domestic abuse who need not to be found by their abusers may wish to alter their name in whole or in part. And anyone with unpopular or dissenting political opinions may choose not to risk their livelihood by identifying with a pseudonym.
As Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens put forth in deciding McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm’n 514 U.S. 334, 357 (1995),
"Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation—and their ideas from suppression—at the hand of an intolerant society. The right to remain anonymous may be abused when it shields fraudulent conduct. But political speech by its nature will sometimes have unpalatable consequences, and, in general, our society accords greater weight to the value of free speech than to the dangers of its misuse."
Just as using "real" names can have real consequences, mandating the use of "real" names can too, excluding from the conversation anyone who fears retribution for sharing their views. While one added value of requiring real names might be increased "civility" of the conversation, it is most certainly to the detriment of diversity.
The bloggers at Geek Feminism have compiled a wiki highlighting the people who are harmed by a real names policy, demonstrating the hundreds of potential reasons why an individual may use a name other than his or her own. Though many examples on the list demonstrate cases of at-risk individuals whose use of a pseudonym is for the purpose of safety, there are other important reasons that one may choose pseudonymity as well.
UPDATE 8/11/11: From Microsoft Researcher Calls Google+ Real Name Rules 'Abuse of Power' - Messaging and Collaboration - News & Reviews - eWeek.com - eWeek Mobile:
Microsoft researcher Dana Boyd calls out Google+' real name policy as an abuse of power of the privileged and geeky and the not so privileged and geeky.
The company's position is that by providing a common name, users will be assisting their friends, family members, classmates, co-workers, and other acquaintances to find and create "a connection with the right person online."
"'Real names' policies aren't empowering; they're an authoritarian assertion of power over vulnerable people," Boyd said. "These ideas and issues aren't new (and I've even talked about this before), but what is new is that marginalized people are banding together and speaking out loudly."
"What's at stake is people's right to protect themselves, their right to actually maintain a form of control that gives them safety," Boyd wrote. "If companies like Facebook and Google are actually committed to the safety of its uhsers, they need to take these complaints seriously. Not everyone is safer by giving out their real name. Quite the opposite; many people are far LESS safe when they are identifiable. And those who are least safe are often those who are most vulnerable."
"Just because people are doing what it takes to be appropriate in different contexts, to protect their safety, and to make certain that they are not judged out of context, doesn't mean that everyone is a huckster. Rather, people are responsibly and reasonably responding to the structural conditions of these new media. And there's nothing acceptable about those who are most privileged and powerful telling those who aren't that it's OK for their safety to be undermined."
UPDATE 9/14/11: From BBC - Trolling: Who does it and why?:
"Online people feel anonymous and disinhibited," says Prof Mark Griffiths, director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University. "They lower their emotional guard and in the heat of the moment may troll either reactively or proactively."
It is usually carried out by young adult males for amusement, boredom and revenge, he adds.
Arthur Cassidy, a social media psychologist, says young people's determination to create an online identity makes them vulnerable to trolling. Secrecy is jettisoned in favour of self-publicity on Facebook, opening the way for ridicule, jealousy and betrayal.
And the need to define themselves through their allegiance to certain celebrities creates a world in which the rich and famous become targets for personal abuse. As a result trolling is "virtually uncontrollable" until the government forces websites to clamp down, he says.
But it's not just young people. Scan any football, music or fan site and there are people of all ages taking part in the most vituperative attacks. But many of the theories that have been put forward as to why people do it don't stand up, says Tom Postnes, professor of social psychology at Groningen University in the Netherlands.
Online forums have a habit of turning sour as it only takes a minority to skew them. As a format they've lost their innocence.
After researching "flaming" - the term for trolling in the early days of the internet - he rejects the idea that people "lose it" when online. If anything they become more attuned to social convention, albeit the specific conventions of the web. Provoking people appears to be the norm in some online communities, he says.
Some think regulation is needed, but trolling is not the internet's fault, says Jeff Jarvis, author of Public Parts. "The internet does not create special threats. It's a public square where people will be saying all sorts of things, some of them offensive."
The answer is for newspaper websites and online forums to employ sufficient moderators to prevent the comments spiralling into petty vendettas, he says. To ban online anonymity in order to prevent trolling would be to remove the right of whistleblowers and dissidents to get their message across, he adds.
Manuel agrees. "People are saying nasty, stupid things. So deal with it. Shutting down free speech and stamping on people's civil liberties is not a price worth paying."
UPDATE 1/15/12: From washingtonpost - Nasty online response to family’s tale shows Internet’s ugly underside:
By Robert McCartney:UPDATE 8/28/13: Adapted from http://barryeisler.blogspot.com/:
I know the Internet represents the greatest technical advance since Gutenberg’s printing press for the sacred cause of freedom of speech. So it’s too bad that so much of the torrent of commentary that now flows before our eyes is sewage.
The public reaction to the cover story in last Sunday’s Washington Post Magazine offered an especially stark example of the media revolution’s fetid underside.
So imagine how hurtful it was when much of the initial response, in anonymous comments posted on The Post’s Web site, consisted of outrageous personal insults. Writers didn’t stop at condemning Ivie for divorcing her first husband, an act that they said violated her marriage vows. They went on (and on), in one sanctimonious posting after another, to paint her as a selfish, promiscuous publicity hound.
“Talk about immoral and sleazy. This woman covers all the bases,” one posting said.
“Nothing like a disability to get in the way of your dating,” another said.
Or how about my personal favorite: “This woman has absolutely no right to any happiness whatsoever.”
These writers have every right to voice their disapproval of Ivie’s actions on the grounds that their view of the marriage covenant is different from hers – and, given the national divorce rate, different from that of most Americans.
But if they’re too cowardly to write under their own names and accept some accountability, then they ought to try to be constructive rather than just cruel. The Post and other media companies open these forums to all comers with little censorship, but that doesn’t relieve the writers of the obligation to exercise some self-restraint.
“It makes me sad that there are people that get some kind of jolt from nastygrams, both online and on TV. It’s like we’ve lost our compassion and our respect for each other,” said Anne McDonnell, executive director of the Brain Injury Association of Virginia.
Ivie was shaken and distressed when she first saw the negative comments online, according to people who spoke to her. She was stoical about it by the time I interviewed her Thursday.
“I can see how people would look at it and make a snap judgment that choices I’d made were the wrong ones,” Ivie said. “A lot of the really ugly things that people said just reflected the fact that the [writers] didn’t understand what exactly a brain injury entailed and what a tough injury it is. So I felt that means we clearly have more work to do educating folks, so maybe we can keep this conversation going.”
The happy ending in all this is that a good chunk of the anonymous comments were positive, as well as virtually all of the e-mails and letters sent directly to Ivie and Baer. People who were willing to identify themselves were supportive and appreciative.
“People who talk [or write] to me personally, I haven’t gotten one negative word,” Ivie said. “A lot of folks wrote me and said, ‘I went home and talked to my spouse and asked: ‘What would you want me to do if this happens?’ We don’t talk about that enough. Those are good conversations to have, and let’s have them.”
Overall, then, Ivie accomplished her goal of raising public awareness.
As for the mean-spirited critics, do society a favor: Contribute something useful, or at least have the guts to sign your name. Right now, you’re just fouling a common watering hole.
TW has a comments section. Sounds simple enough, but as even a cursory glance at the comments of most music blogs will show, many people would benefit from some guidelines. Here are a few I hope will help.UPDATE 2/17/14: New Study: Internet Trolls Are Often Machiavellian Sadists | Mother Jones:
1. The most important guideline when it comes to argument is the golden rule. If someone were addressing your point, what tone, what overall approach would you find persuasive and want her to use? Whatever that is, do it yourself. If you find this simple guideline difficult, I'll explain it slightly differently in #2.
2. Argue for persuasion, not masturbation. If you follow the golden rule above, it's because you're trying to persuade someone. If you instead choose sarcasm and other insults, you can't be trying to persuade (have you ever seen someone's opinion changed by an insult?). If you're not trying to persuade, what you're doing instead is stroking yourself. Now, stroking yourself is fine in private, but I think we can all agree it's a pretty pathetic to do so in public. So unless you like to come across as pathetic, argue to persuade.
3. Compared to the two above, this is just commentary, but: no one cares about your opinion (or mine, for that matter). It would be awesome to be so impressive that we could sway people to our way of thinking just by declaiming our thoughts, but probably most of us lack such gravitas. Luckily, there's something even better: evidence, logic, and argument. Think about it: when was the last time someone persuaded you of the rightness of his opinion just by declaring what it was? Probably it was the same time someone changed your mind with an insult, right? And like insults, naked declarations of opinion, because they can't persuade, are fundamentally masturbatory. And masturbation, again, is not a very polite thing to do on a blog.
Argue with others the way you'd like them to argue with you. Argue with intent to persuade. Argue with evidence and logic. That shouldn't be so hard, should it? Let's give it a try.
The research, conducted by Erin Buckels of the University of Manitoba and two colleagues, sought to directly investigate whether people who engage in trolling are characterized by personality traits that fall in the so-called "Dark Tetrad": Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others).From Trying Some Modest Fixes on Comment Moderation Posted on March 15, 2014 by Yves Smith:
It is hard to underplay the results: The study found correlations, sometimes quite significant, between these traits and trolling behavior. What's more, it also found a relationship between all Dark Tetrad traits (except for narcissism) and the overall time that an individual spent, per day, commenting on the Internet.
Some readers get upset about comment moderation, so it appears to be time for some remarks and reminders.
1. We have clearly stated policies (see Policies in our header bar!) and we suggest you read them. Quite a few of the complaints come from people who clearly haven’t.
2. One of the things we make clear is we get to comments in moderation when we can. We have committed ONLY to reviewing them once every 24 hours but typically we check quite a bit more frequently than that.
The mod queue is lower priority than dealing with my inbox and posting. We have said repeatedly we could come to closer to real time reviews if we got funding for it. Not a single person has written a check or made a donation for that purpose, which says readers don’t care about it that much despite the grumbling in the comments section.
3. Far too often, we get comments or e-mails accusing us of putting a particular comment in moderation. Folks, please drop your sense of persecution. All you’ve done is show you haven’t even bothered to think about how moderation works. The only way Lambert and I could intervene personally to prevent a comment from appearing is if every single comment were moderated. We clearly don’t do that; most comments appear in less than 2 minutes (we have had to implement caching, so comments do not always appear immediately).
4. Do not post a comment again if it does not go through! All you do is increase your spammer points with Akismet, which means you might find all your comments not appearing (and we are not terribly inclined to go into the spam folder to find comments, we get over 3000 spam comments a day).
And if they do wind up in the mod queue, having them show up multiple times creates more work for Lambert and me, which makes it more difficult to run the site. And it’s very discourteous given that we’ve told readers God only knows how many times NOT to do this. So we get annoyed and stressed, and that shows up in all sorts of ways, like a snippier tone when we interact with readers in comments.
Having said that, we have two known issues:
1. Some legitimate comments fail to appear anywhere. We have no clue as to why that happens and we have done a lot of investigation into this issue. The good news is it happens less often than it used to. We are sorry and we know this is very frustrating, but it is frustrating to us too. The Internet is a hostile environment. Or to quote Bloomberg, “Technology is the opposite of sex. Even when it’s great, it’s terrible.”
2. Skynet seems to be living in our backstage. We see comments we are glad to have in moderation, in that they violated house rules, yet their presence in the mod queue is a mystery to us, since they haven’t crossed any trip wires (including IP addresses). We are similarly getting comments that are OK occasionally getting thrown into the mod queue.
I spent a chunk of time time this evening deleting some of our moderation rules. This may or may not help address problem 2 (some innocuous comments winding up in moderation). I don’t expect it to be a perfect fix, but it may reduce the frequency of false positives and hence reader frustration.
The risk is even if this does help alleviate problem 2, it may also increase the level of destructive comments and trollery. I hope not, but it may well be that the Internet has devolved to the point where there is no longer a good balance between trying to implement rules that keep discourse civil and having a comments section that is relatively open.
For instance, I’d like to see more conservatives who argue in good faith like Jim Haygood and Conscience of a Conservative (to be honest, Haygood can drive me nuts occasionally, but he is good natured about being slapped around). But when newbies of differing political views wander in, too often their aim seems to be to be some combination of attacking NC readers, demonizing the site, or hijacking the thread. Or else we get the slightly less terrible version, being hectored for our ignorance, when the critics offer either no or dubious backup for their arguments (as in their position is essentially religious rather than fact based and reasoned). Both these types usually wind up being banned and they assume it’s for their views, as opposed to their communication tactics.
So we are aware of these issues. I hope we can come up with a better compromise, but the Internet may have changed to a degree that the amount of active trollery makes that impossible. Keep your fingers crossed that my concerns are overblown.