Clive Thompson Thinks The White House Is Ready For Trolls

Filed as Features on April 15, 2009 2:57 pm

Whitehouse.gov isn’t the open discussion website that (at least som) Barack Obama supporters from the election would have liked. I can understand why, politics is tricky business and if anyone could post a comment, it could (and would) get nasty really quick.

Enter Wired’s Clive Thompson and his post on how to tame trolls. It’s not news really, rather technologies and ways big sites manage it today, from stripping trolling commentaries of the vowels, to manual comment moderation.

I must say, the “disemvoweling” method is really cool. The comment is there, it is just missing the vowels. I’m a bit uncertain wether it’ll be legal though, for a site like Whitehouse.gov at least, but perhaps it is. Thompson’s wrap-up of the story (which you should read) is interesting enough.

If the White House were to use humans to filter posts, it could get into some dicey political situations. If it were to outright ban them, it could draw First Amendment lawsuits. So the genius of modern troll-taming techniques—leaving trollery intact, but mitigating its impact—neatly fits the bill. Moderation software could grow even more sophisticated at the task, perhaps incorporating collaborative filtering tools that recommend the best posts based on your likes and dislikes.

While I do believe this is true for big websites out there, I’m a bit more uncertain about government productions. There are a lot more to consider there, legally as well as on the democracy side of things, than if I were to employ a new moderating system on the Blog Herald.

Should the White House open up to commenters? How should they manage the comments? Do share your opinion in the comments, where we incidentally employ spam control and whatnot.

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  1. By Ari Herzog posted on April 16, 2009 at 12:47 pm
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    Intriguing concept, that disemvoweling. The presumption you’re taking is a Joe Shmo would write vulgarity and the custom app would strip the vowels in certain pre-defined words for public (and author) consumption.

    It might work for a company, like you mention, but federal laws about recordkeeping may prevent such a system–without rewriting the laws; for, some laws currently state all communications, both inbound and outbound, whether handwritten letters or blog comments, must be archived. How can you archive a disemvoweled word unless upon offline archival, the vowels are re-added?

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  2. By meznor posted on April 16, 2009 at 8:28 pm
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    I don’t agree with the like/dislike idea. See Digg for examples of how that fails, and the “bury brigade” that results from such a system.

    Disemvoweling, though… love it. :D

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  3. By Andrew K posted on December 2, 2010 at 1:15 pm
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    I really like Wired’s Clive Thompson post.
    Meznor: some other examples are sites like: stumbleupon and reddit.

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