Silencing the Trolls

Filed as Features on December 5, 2007 8:29 am

Do you delete nasty comments left on your blog? I’m not talking about commenters who simply disagree with you, but rather those really nasty ones. Do you feel compelled to leave them there, because you don’t want to inhibit interaction or be seen as a coward?

Or, do you believe that it’s your blog and therefore it’s up to you to decide which comments remain and which get deleted? In a recent article on Performancing, Deb Ng discussed how to handle nasty comments, and mentioned that there are some who feel that deleting comments is tantamount to “stifling free speech”. I think that’s a bit of a stretch.


I am frankly surprised at what seems to be a common notion that one does not have the absolute right to delete any comment left on their blog. Certainly, if one is going to publish a blog, one has to be prepared for some disagreement and it can make for a more interesting blog if there is lively discussion in the comments. However, I don’t believe someone has an inherent “right” to pollute your blog with whatever they like. In fact, I think it’s important not to give the trolls a voice at all. If all blog owners stamped out that kind of behavior wherever possible, maybe they’d give up.

If you delete a nasty comment, what are the drawbacks? Are you afraid that person might stop visiting your blog all together? Is that really the kind of person you want trolling around your site anyway, just waiting to spew more garbage at you and your readers? In fact, not deleting nasty comments can impact your readership more, as they can make your readers uncomfortable.

Bottom line: it’s your site. You can delete or edit any comment that is left. Don’t give the trolls a voice.

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  1. By Mark posted on December 5, 2007 at 9:39 am
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    Personally I agree with Randa. I feel that any comment left on my blog, good or bad, becomes my property. As a result I retain all the rights thereof. If I choose to cherish it and keep it great if I have no use for it I throw it away or recycle it, it is up to me.

    If they want to comment about my blog or something I said and they want to retain complete control they should do so on there own “property” blog or webspace.

    Having said that, the “social” media is coming under legal scrutiny in my home state of Missouri, USA. Improper spoken and written words, aka: Slander and Libel are being looked into since the depression suicide of Megan Meier.

    My point, if you cherish the social aspect of the internet, don’t ruin for all of us by abusing it! All the best…

    Reply

  2. By Angel posted on December 5, 2007 at 9:51 am
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    I pretty much delete any nasty comments, and by that I would mean the trolls and other toxic material. The blogs are my space, kind of like a living room, and the visitors are guests? Would you tolerate that kind of behavior in your own home, not to mention in front of other guests? Of course not. You would show them the door. Same thing for a blog. Deleting the comments is how you “show them the door.” Rude behavior should not be tolerated. Disagreements and difference of opinion? Sure, absolutely should have those. They are part of how we learn and grow, but there is no need to tolerate rude behavior. It’s not a matter of free speech. It’s a matter of common civility.

    Best, and keep on blogging.

    Reply

  3. By Oryx Orange posted on December 5, 2007 at 10:13 am
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    Agreed in principle, but the trick, of course, is the comments that fall within the grey area. One person’s nasty is another person’s acerbic. What if some of the most insightful criticism, true in its essential message, is just not put in a way you feel is appropriate?

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  4. By Randa Clay posted on December 5, 2007 at 11:10 am
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    @Oryx Orange – good point. There are definitely going to be some that fall in the grey area and it’s just a judgment call I guess. I think if I had a comment that was insightful, but was expressed in a really rude manner, I would keep the comment, but my response would begin with something like, “It’s unfortunate you chose to express your thoughts so rudely, but you do have a point…”

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  5. Kommentare von Psychopathen | schweizweit.netDecember 5, 2007 at 1:28 pm
  6. By Rod posted on December 5, 2007 at 4:44 pm
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    I personally don’t think that deleting abusive or obscenity-laden posts is “stifiling free speech”. It’s MY site, after all.

    And for those who might claim that I’m practicing “censorship” because I’m choosing what gets seen publicly and what doesn’t:

    Is your publicly library also practicing censorship because its periodical section doesn’t include Playboy?

    Reply

  7. By Big Fella posted on December 5, 2007 at 4:55 pm
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    Absolutely, I filter the comments submitted to my blog, I will not tolerate spam or trolls and I make no beans about it on my Terms of Use page.

    I believe there is a wide misconception about “freedom of speech”. Freedom of speech does mean that I can say what I want, but it does not mean that I can say it anywhere that I want. As the owner/publisher of a blog, I have the right to determine what is published in the blog, just as a newspaper’s management has the right to accept or decline any submissions. If I posted a hand bill on the wall at the local mall, exercising my “freedom of speech”, the management of the mall has the right to remove the material that I have defaced their property with. You cannot say anything you want, anywhere.

    By the same token, I welcome differing opinions submitted as comments to my blog, but within what I consider, in MY blog, to be civil and respectful discourse.

    http://FIGHT-PTSD.ORG

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  8. By The Metropolitician posted on December 5, 2007 at 6:09 pm
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    It’s pretty simple for me:

    The blog is a private space, like a cocktail party in your home, where people come together to socialize, talk, exchange ideas.

    If one person starts doing anything you don’t like, you have the right to throw them out. That’d be whether you’re a Jewish discussion group and some uninvited guest starting preaching about how you’re going to hell, or some racist starts spewing verbal filth and start assaulting the other guests, etc.

    This isn’t the government coming into your house and shutting your party down. THAT’S censorship.

    Or you being in a public place wanting to express a certain opinion, but that was stifled as well. Also censorship.

    But the analogy of your house as private space as blog is very apt here. They’re a guest and it’s your space – you have the right to do whatever you want.

    People should follow the rules of the group/community or expect to be booted.

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  9. By steamy kitchen posted on December 6, 2007 at 8:04 am
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    I might have someone that is leaving racist and borderline stalker comments on my site. He also emails me. He’s been arrested and convicted before for harrassment – I found this out because I guess he’s been around the blogs and is known for doing such a thing.

    The problem is his pattern is to bug the crap out of you, then impersonates you by creating gmail, hotmail and yahoo emails that are similar to your email address.

    For example – my site is Steamy Kitchen
    so he created “[email protected]” and emails me from it. The next thing he’ll do is go around other food blogs causing trouble being me and saying nasty things.

    He’s been doing this with someone else.

    I spoke with an attorney and she said there’s not much I can do. I have a public blog and by doing so, I’m welcoming commenters and leaving myself open for people to say things. My real name is on my blog, because I’m in the media quite a bit and the blog is part of my career.

    I can send him a cease and desist. If he ignores it, then I can file an injunction. All of which requires expensive attorney fees and the results are iffy, unknown.

    Trolls are one thing, but when does it become harmful and a crime? Free speech protects racist comments. I have him blocked from leaving comments in WordPress, it just goes directly in the spam folder. It doesn’t stop him – still leaves comments every day and he emails me directly.

    If anyone has any advice, I would love an email at jaden (at) steamykitchen.com.

    Reply

  10. By steamy kitchen posted on December 6, 2007 at 8:07 am
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    oh and I forgot to mention that he was arrested for “harrassing communications” –
    http://www.covenantnews.com/freedom/archives/004286.html

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  11. By Kate posted on December 7, 2007 at 12:33 pm
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    I’m in agreement with the other commenters. I delete nasty comments – not those that disagree with me, that’s fine as long as the writer is polite. But, anything abusive or insulting will be removed. I have even included this on my comment policy page, so readers know what to expect if they did choose to behave in that way. Not that they do, I have very nice readers.

    I really don’t see this as stifling free speech, or even having anything to do with the subject. My blog is not a democracy, it’s my personal space, just the same as my home, therefore, I feel I am allowed to decide what should appear there.

    Reply

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