Voice of moderate majority can drown out internet trolls

The internet is a phenomenal tool. If the invention of the printing press opened the door of information to the masses, the internet has rocked it on its hinges.

Giving millions of people access to information they might otherwise find difficult to find, and giving a platform to people that was traditionally only open to the mainstream media or the very rich and powerful is, in my view, something to be celebrated.

But with the power that the internet gives to people comes responsibility.

The rise of internet trolls has been well documented. Whatever trolls attack, be it looks, race, sexual or political orientation, it is never acceptable.

The trolls that I most commonly come into contact with operate in the political sphere.

I have, in the past, been critical of so called cybernats – supporters of an independent Scotland that aggressively stalk people on the internet simply for not subscribing to their particular set of views.

I have also spoken out against senior people in the SNP because of their failure to denounce these trolls. As has sections of the media.

But it is not just the cybernats. With the independence referendum on the horizon, I am alarmed by the growing numbers of pro-UK internet trolls. They operate in the same way as cybernats:

  1. They do not post online using their real name
  2. They do not show their face on avatars
  3. They spew bile at people who dare to disagree with them

Debate is healthy. Debate is necessary. Debate in the lead up to the independence referendum is vital if the electorate is to be adequately informed on the important issues facing us.

But ignoring facts, being unmoved by new information, or mistaking insults for reasoned arguments is not debate.

Internet trolls are not going to simply disappear. It needs the collective voice on the moderate majority to drown them out so that the debate can thrive.

Left, right, nationalist, unionist or none of the above – abusing people on-line in the name of the cause you purport to argue for damages your cause.

Posting on-line while hiding behind a faceless, anonymous profile is cowardly.

It is people who proudly argue for what they believe while telling the world who they are that belong in this debate.

So every time you see an troll operating, call them on it. Whether they are on your side of the debate or not.


12 thoughts on “Voice of moderate majority can drown out internet trolls

  1. daftquine says:

    I agree with everything you say. But…. I have a pseudonym and don’t show my face. Why? Because of Trolls. I had my profile copied and trolls posted porn in my name. Yes I’m cowardly but I have reason.
    However I don’t think I’m ever abusive online although I can take the mickey and be quite relentless in that.

    • littlegrumpyG says:

      Thanks for your comment. I am sorry about your experience, and can understand your reasons. It is experience like this that makes it all the more vital that people stand up to online abuse.

      • daftquine says:

        True. I just felt the need to make that point. There are some who campaign under those conditions for their security and that of their family.
        I know and recognise the type you speak of though, only too well. If my taking the mick (ie, showing them I can’t take them seriously, which is surprisingly effective at getting them to leave me alone) then I report and block.

  2. daftquine says:

    *if my taking the mick doesn’t work…

  3. Pseudonymity is not the same as anonymity. That’s a REALLY important point. My internet handle, which I use across many sites, has been mine for 15 years now. Comments ascribed to that handle are not anonymous; there was a point when more people knew me by that name than my real life one.

    And the reason trolls rise is because most people don’t want to do what you suggest (in real life or online); the troll trolls, and everyone else waits for them to leave and bitches about them behind their back (I work in a pub, and it’s quite interesting to watch this happen in real life, people smiling and laughing and joking with a guy and as soon as he leaves denouncing him as a prick). On the internet this generally involves going to another site, but that’s what people will do rather than confront nastiness/”cause drama”

    • littlegrumpyG says:

      Thanks for comment. The fact that you have your real name in your Twitter profile leads to a whole lot of information about you. Now, whether this is desirable or not is another debate, but it allows me to have some sense of what your beliefs are and how you advance them.

      Posting with a pseudonym is not a problem, in fact I do it. But coupling that to a real name is important.

      • I disagree-sometimes pseudonymity is vital, what do you really know from my fiancée’s real name? When I met her online, for several months, I had no clue what her real name was, and I didn’t care, she was SB, and I liked her. She started attaching her real name to things when she got involved in electoral politics and it’s useful, but a lot of people don’t.

        Belle Du Jour, Abby Lee, Publius, various others throughout history, have had reasons not to use their real names. Sometimes it can be for very good reasons or professional reasons, a teacher not wanting their politics associated with their kids, a lawyer wanting to talk about their opinions without wanting to scare off clients, a rape victim wanting tot alk about their experiences without revealing their location, a domestic abuse survivor living in hiding from their abusive ex and family, etc.

        If the cultural norm grows up that “real names must be used” then you’re allowing debate to be dominated by those with nothing to fear. Young women have grown up being told to never post their real name online, it’s been drummed into them at school, it’s just Not Safe. Pseudonymity is an important privilege that we have to protect for those that need it, for whatever reason.

        I’m posting under my name, my real, actual name. But if someone posts under a name that LOOKS real, that has a picture attached, how would you know? Why does it matter?

        Behaviour is far more important than the name attached, and there’s zero evidence asserting that knowing who someone is makes comments more constructive-take a look at a busy Facebook page to prove that.

      • littlegrumpyG says:

        Thanks for comment. On last point, actually studies into mob mentality show that people who hide behind masks, in this case anonymous web posters, say things and do things that they would not say or do if their identity was known.

      • And lots of other studies say it makes no difference.

        Most importantly, pseudonym is not anonymity. A consistent psuedonym can develop a strong reputation and can be very useful. Mobs happen regardless of whether you’re hidden or not, and real names don’t prevent really bad behaviour in reality or in hiding.

      • littlegrumpyG says:

        You said “zero evidence”, I was pointing out that there is.

        As I say in post, on-line trolls are characterised by 3 points, the third has been over looked in your comment. I have no problem with a teacher who wants to post on-line but protect their professional integrity by using a pseudonym, but I do if they use that mask to abuse others.

  4. Victor Clements says:

    I think newspapers should have taken a lead years ago with more assertive moderating and zapping all the abusive stuff. They did’nt, and allowed the habit to really take hold We know these people are out there. The scary thing is that a lot of them are probably outwardly respectable. Just ignoring what they say is usually the best policy. I dont think the pro-union trolls are quite as bad as the cybernats yet, possibly because they have’nt really been going as long. I write a lot of letters, but never look at online feedback. I figure if people cant be bothered in providing a letter as a reply, then why should I be bothered what they think? I do always put my name to things. Have not been attacked in any serious way yet that I know of.

    • littlegrumpyG says:

      Thanks for comment Victor. I agree on message boards, they became a feeding ground for trolls with many of them actively trying to get the side administrator to halt the thread as proof of just how abusive they are.

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