Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Trolling Along

troll: One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument 

This is a bit of ramble but hey ho...

Don't feed the trolls. Those of us who have been online for a fairly long time cannot have failed to have encountered that oft chanted mantra on a forum or, dare I out my age, newsgroup. It has served us well for all these years.

Trolls, like dirty old men and fangirls, are an internet hazard. They've been a part of the internet ever since it entered it's "modern era" in the late 90s, and they are unlikely to go away. And part of me has become fond of them as part of the fabric of the internet along with other sub-groups such as the furries or the Youtubers.

Sadly there appears to be somewhat of a troll related moral panic occurring in this country and it is just growing worse and worse.

Who is and who isn't a troll has never really be clearly defined but, in forums at least, you knew one when you saw one. However now the word troll is used to refer to allsorts of people, interacting in allsorts of ways. Say something someone, especially a celebrity or "respected" individual, doesn't agree with, and you're a troll. Here's a classic example:

@davidallengreen @fleetstreetfox Good? So racism & threatening behaviour can be excused because free speech is bigger?

@jamesreckons @fleetstreetfox Oh dear, are you still trolling.
It's becoming a way to silence debate, stiffle criticism and belittle and insult those who you disagree with.

Take another example of this, not exactly troll related, but hidden among some obvious examples of nasty messages on Youtube, displayed in this catchy tune, one just doesn't quite seem right.

The message that most upset Steve Furst? "ur NOT funny and never will be". That might not be the politest message in the world but that is pretty clearly a reasonable opinion someone might have. No one is funny to everyone. Some people may not find Steve Furst funny (to be honest I've no idea who is but I'm sure he's a lovely and hilarious person even if this particular nitpick of his suggests an overly large ego). That isn't hate. It's not trolling. It's just an opinion!

And so we come to the Tom Daley fiasco. I can't stand rudeness, and what was said to Tom Daley was uncalled for, disgusting, thoughtless and unreasonable. The threats of death were, as you can imagine, without defense. And yet we reach the problem. Tom Daley retweeted the original nasty tweet and instantly Reece Messer came under attack from Daley fangirls and fanboys. He was, in turn, subject to the same sort of abuse he gave to Daley. Yet he was arrested, and those who abused him were not! And he'd done this sort of thing before but not until Tom Daley was involved did the authorities care. The police CANNOT police the internet. It is a complete impossibility.

In the days of forums, forum hosts banned persistent and unwanted "trolls". In the days of Twitter users get banned for abusing corporations but don't seem to have to worry if they abuse others (unless they are famous). If one has an open resource such as Twitter, which is so immense that it is near impossible to moderate, there must either be an acceptance of total freedom or it might as well close down. It's really that simple.

And the reeks of double standards on a whole different level as pointed out by fleetstreetfox.

I've become increasingly unhappy with how anti-discrimination and anti-social behaviour laws are being used to undermine free speech, free expression and to suppress debate from those deemed unworthy of having an opinion. If you can't handle seeing people for who they really are (from the epic and the kind-hearted to the mundane and the mean-spirited) writ large across your screen then perhaps you need to log off. Because the internet shows up our species for its best, it must show up it's worst as well. That is in its very nature.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

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