Trolls and other objectionable Commenters, the sequel

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By GottaLaff

Sometime we at TPC get nasty, vicious comments on our posts, and you'll see that we've deleted most of them. We often get asked why we're allowed to have our opinions, but "stifle free speech, the First Amendment" of others.

First, about the First: Read the Constitution. That's about preventing the government from stomping on your rights, not about your fellow citizens (who host blogs) from insisting that you treat each others (and us) with respect. It's about style, not substance. If you're a regular reader, that's pretty obvious.

Second: This is an opinion site. That's what we do. We snark, we opine, we snipe, we joke, we analyze, we are a little idiosyncratic, and we're allowed. Oh, and we're Progressive. If you disagree with us, fine. If you don't like our p.o.v. feel free to go elsewhere. In fact, start your own blog, and say whatever you'd like, that's your prerogative.

You are welcome to visit and schmooze as long as you engage in basic common courtesy.

In a previous post I laid out some guidelines:

As of January 1, 2009, I decided to make every attempt to delete troll comments if they are:
  • Uncivil
  • Pointlessly rambling
  • Serve no other purpose other than to attempt to provoke a fight
  • Redundant (ie: posting the same comment in several threads)
  • Argumentative, simply spewing lies, without providing substance/facts
  • Excessive in length (that goes for sympathetic Comments, too)
  • Random, uncalled-for, irrelevant snottiness without regard to the content of that particular post

If I left anything out, please feel free to add to the list.

There are exceptions to all of these, of course. If a comment is longer than usual, but it's from a Commenter who adheres to protocol 99.9% of the time, we tend to be lenient. If a Comment is relatively innocuous, but simply annoying, that's no biggie either.

Freedom of speech is one thing. Spewing gratuitous hostilities in an otherwise congenial setting is another. That's superfluous and destructive.

Setting standards for an environment that nurtures friendly, respectful, and spirited conversation is paramount. Anything that crosses the line will hereby be deleted.

I'm adding one more: No spam. It gets deleted, so don't even go there.

So, what have we learned? Baiting and insults are no-nos. Not a difficult concept. My YouTube site has garnered the most vile comments I've ever seen, especially when I post videos of President Obama. The consensus is that YouTube is a stomping ground for the "barely literate, bio-hazardous scum" (a quote from a fellow YouTuber). I've had to stop allowing comments on some posts.

That segues me into a relevant article that a Twitter pal of mine, Plutoniumpage, linked me to. Here are random excerpts from an interview with Stephen Fry. Please go read the whole piece:

  • "Of all the stinking, sliding, scuttling, weird, entomological creatures that inhabit the floor of the internet those comments on blogs are the most unbearable, almost beyond imagining..."
  • "Their resentment, their desire to be heard at the most vituperative level, at the most unpleasant and malevolent, genuinely ill-willed malevolent, level is terrifying..."
  • "There is something faintly disgusting in someone who merely wants to have sycophantic voices cooing in his ear and licking his inner thigh... but on the other hand it is a bit much that somehow people almost feel they have a right to be heard in their insulting of me. If I don't want to hear people being unpleasant about me I should have the right to turn it off."
  • "...[S]ocial networking sites are making people more isolated as they turn to their computer screens rather than meeting people in real life."
  • "The idea that the open exchange of information can have a positive global impact. If people are more informed then they become more engaged and if they are more engaged then they can become more empathetic."

And-- to quote a very civil, very wise, very brilliant man-- that's the way it is. But here at TPC at least, we try to keep it pleasant.

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  • Anonymous

    Perhaps you consider it spam so have it covered, but I've noticed people posting links to their sites with nothing in their comment to add to the conversation. I clicked on one earlier today out of curiosity since it was just a long blue line. Big mistake. It went to a site with Asian girls wearing not much or maybe nothing, I don't know, I left too soon to find out. I hope you deleted that one for sure.

    I can only imagine how much it must chap your behind to work so hard creating a site and increasing your readership only to have people come along and siphon off that hard earned readership.

    Good luck keeping the lazy bums off your site.

  • Parzi

    People really do constantly fail at realizing what the First Amendment is for. Nowhere in it does say everyone has the right to have every narrow-minded rant they create plastered over every blog on the Internet. Your Carnival, you get to decide whose comments stay.

    Oh and I love the Stephen Fry quotes. That man has the best way with words of anyone I've read since Oscar Wilde himself (who, coincidentally, Fry played in a movie - who else could?)

  • Jack

    I have much the same attitude & rulle on my fledgling blog.

  • GottaLaff

    Weeee!

  • Anonymous

    I'll help buy you some new shoes, so you can do some Troll-Butt-Kick'n!

    That actually sounds like a new dance...Dancing with the Stars maybe?

    ...putting on some muzak now and getting ready with my "TEN!" paddle.

    8-)