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Purging Trolls From Worthwhile Discussions

March 22, 2012

Expel Trolls, Racists and Promote Good User Comments on News Sites

It’s a shame that people publish articles like this.  Any more and people might become educated enough to weed out trolls and racists and move forward as a community. If this trend continues how will the scum of the Internet spend its time?

In all seriousness, this really is a topic that desperately needs to be addressed.  There’s nothing worse than reading a well written or well researched piece and then scrolling down to the comments to see people arguing or exchanging obscenities instead of reviewing the work.  The suggestions proposed by the article were basically: reward people for posting worthwhile comments, actively respond to posts and ban others who are a distraction.  To be honest that’s about all you can really do is moderate the site and hope the community is mature enough to ignore or exile people who are there for the wrong reasons.

Of course you can also take things a step further and require identification of some kind before allowing people to post, which is probably the best way to limit harmful comments.  Once the veil of anonymity has been lifted most trolls lose their nerve and suddenly don’t know as much as they once did.  My suggestion to further this idea would be to only allow subscribers to post on a news site.  Whether they receive the print or online editions they must be paying in order to have access to posting.  People can still view the content and the comments but don’t let them post if they are not subscribed or cannot be easily identified.  The best way to discourage trolling is to make it so people have something to lose by engaging in disgraceful behavior.

Each newsroom will handle this situation differently and will use different levels of moderation to keep conversations civil.  Unfortunately, I believe the problem will never be entirely solved.  Some people just love bullying too much and others are just deconstructionists who enjoy pointing out the flaws in what people do.  All you can do is alienate the ass holes and commend the intellectuals.  Just remember not to feed the trolls.

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