Former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao writes a column in the Washington Post describing internet trolling, her company’s efforts to control it, and how the trolls turned on her:  “after making these policy changes to prevent and ban harassment, I, along with several colleagues, was targeted with harassing messages, attempts to post my private information online and death threats. These were attempts to demean, shame and scare us into silence.”

Without any self-awareness, trolls in the comments at the WaPo prove her right on every point.  No death threats there–yet–but lots of accusations that Pao is a “social justice warrior,” a “professional victim,” a “narcissistic careerist,” and comments I don’t understand demeaning her spouse.

Nice internet you’ve got there.  It would be a shame if anything happened to it.

5 thoughts on “Trolls

  1. I still see no reason why each and every legitimate news article needs a “comments” section. What do they add other than inflammatory knee-jerk reactions? Back in the day, erudite opinions could find a place in the “letter to editors.” Even if such opinions do appear now in the comments section, who wants to wade through the muck to find the gem?

    The most active trolls on my site were people who never actually wrote a blog themselves. I assume that had to do with the fact that quick judgements required less focused, creative energy required for one’s own post on a topic. Of course, they also probably couldn’t afford to take time away from their main job of handing out riddles under bridges.

    Liked by 1 person

    • HA-ha. But in answer to your first question: it’s all about the clicks! How else can they get a fool to click on a story 20 times? Trolls want to hit “refresh” after each bon mot to see who has picked up the other end of the rope and continue the arguments/harrassment. The upside for media companies is that this increases their SEO rankings & advertising rates, etc.

      You’d think the internet would have figured out a more sophisticated way of doing (and calculating) business, but let’s remember: after DARPAnet, it was popularized by teenagers and young adults in the 1980s and 1990s. These roots still dictate a surprising degree of internet culture, I fear, esp. because the tech industry is now run by the grownup version of these guys (yes, guys), who are mostly white glibertarian male engineers who can’t imagine that anyone else’s engagement with the internet is any different from theirs.


      • Exactly. The social dynamics of the internet is driven by a certain level of “nanny nanny boo boo” and “look at me” that I see displayed by my four-year-old. Its understandable in a child, less so in adults. But then again every actor and comedian is driven by the same thing, the good ones channel it in a creative direction. The internet troll directs the impulse towards destruction.

        Its entirely possible to change the tenor of the internet, (its the people not the technology that makes it so) but the Trolls will fight a rearguard action against change every step of the way.


  2. Second all of the above. I’d rather be a “narcissistic anything” than a “redditor.” I mean, really, that’s what you do?. The whole idea of “volunteers” on anything claiming (adversarial) possession of same by virtue of click-equity is problematic. Some of it goes back to the advent of talk radio, with “Joe out in Queens” and “Al up in Albany” blissfully creating free “content” for the house (a term not used back then) in exchange for the right to blather away day after day. Or the “you the viewer” moment in the dawn of “Happy Talk” t. v. news. One difference was the salutary practice then of the guy at the mike (again, this was mostly a boys thing–on the radio at least) pulling the plug with a “so long my friend.” A “rules for commenting” regime is a very salutary thing.


  3. Admittedly I didn’t actually read the comments, but since when is “social justice warrior” an insult? (Okay; yes; I know; in some circles it is. But not in my lexicon.)


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