After blogging for over 5 years, I’ve been on the receiving end of some pretty harsh comments. I’ve found there are two types of negative blog commentator: productive criticism and blog trolls.
Blog trolls, like their mythical archetypes, lurk in the dark waiting for an unsuspecting blog author or other commentator. Blog trolls wait to unleash their irrational, ranting, and ugly comments on anyone who gets in their ideological way. I used to have a pretty liberal policy with comments on my blogs. I’d let about anything go in the name of free speech. However, I quickly learned that the blog trolls were keeping other people from commenting.
The Washington Post highlights the problem of blog troll (or their cousin the “news troll”) in an article explaining the rise and problem of the blog troll:
News organizations like reader comments because they foster loyalty and interaction and because they keep readers on a site longer, a measure known as “engagement” that helps guide ad-buying decisions.
But reader comments got so out of hand, particularly on crime articles, that the Chicago Sun-Times temporarily shut down its comment boards last month. The worst comments tended to come from people who saw a Sun-Times crime article linked on the conservative Drudge Report web site and flooded the paper’s site to offer their perspective, said Craig Newman, the Sun-Times’ managing editor. “The comments were scaring [readers] off,” he said. “People didn’t want to read the articles or dip into the comments because it was so vile.”
Bloggers, if they want to keep civility, should hold comments in moderation so that they can be read and approved. For blogs that receive thousands of comments, make people comment via Facebook so that there is an extra layer of authentication. This will limit a good deal of trolling. A number of news websites and blogs are making readers use Twitter or Facebook to comment. So far, it is proving to work for websites like The Huffington Post, Kansas City Star, and Miami Herald.
We Americans enjoy the freedom of speech. On the internet there are those who abuse that right. We may not be able to legislate civility in our online free speech but we can limit the blog troll from taking over the conversation. Stand up against your local blog troll today!