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To Permit Troll or Not to Permit Troll

To Permit Troll or Not to Permit Troll

I’ve written a lot about how blog and comment trolls make blogging miserable, even to the point where we becoming over-sensitive and frustrated with blogging because of the amount of negativity and angst that comes with opening yourself up to the world of opinion through your blog.

I blog across many different blogs and participate in a wide variety of social media services and microblogs. and similar “follow” and “friend” networks are interesting as they help you get to know people beyond direct interaction. You get to watch how they behave and learn more about who they are as a person and a blogger through their interactions with others.

Recently, I had the unfortunate experience of watching someone go “off” on Twitter over a non-event. They lost their temper, said vicious things, even to the point of bigotry and prejudice. Very racial slurs. I was stunned to see such language on a public forum. I watched those directly involved handle his out-of-control and inappropriate rant professionally and skillfully, which earned my respect, and I made a point of noting the name and blog of this person, adding it to my list of those I do not wish to be involved with. Trouble like him nobody needs.

Two days later, this person left a comment on one of my blogs.

Now what?

The person’s comment is innocuous. However, I know this person’s history – and trust me, I’m not judging them by a single event. I watched him rant off numerous times before the latest ugly exchange. I don’t want this person’s comment on my blog.

If it sits there, by association, I’m violating my personal decision not to have any connections with this person with a reputation for ugliness.

If I delete it, even though the comment is not offensive, what’s my justification? Because I know he has a history of being a troll on the web? He hasn’t proven that history on my blog, but I know he has the capacity to bring down his troll ways to my blog. If I delete it, I could be throwing gas on the fire.

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Easton Ellsworth recently offered The 7 Most Vexing Would You Rather Questions for Bloggers, and this one could be on the list. It’s most vexing.

Should I delete the comment and stick with my wish for non-association with the troll blogger, thus possibly igniting a negative response and more nastiness, or would I rather leave it there and suffer the sick feeling in my stomach knowing I allowed a known troll to occupy space on my blog?

Have you been in this spot before? How did you handle it? What worked for you? I believe in taking the higher ground, but this one is a tough one. What would you do?

View Comments (14)
  • I never understood the need for that. You have the right to be angry, but at what point do you not deal with it like an adult? There is NEVER any excuse for racial slurs EVER. Personally, I don’t allow those type of comments, nor do I care if I lose the commentor as a reader. Extreme negativity doesn’t help anyone or bring anything to the table.

  • This is why it’s so important for bloggers to have a comment policy page on their blogs. You have the right and sole discretion to decide who will or won’t comment on your blog and under what circumstances comments will be deleted.

    Knowing this person’s history as you’ve said, if it were me I would delete the comment and if ever challenged as to why, refer them to your comment policy page. In my opinion, it’s important to include in a comment policy something along the lines of, “I reserve the right to delete any comment I deem inappropriate for whatever reason”.

    I say, do not permit the troll to comment.

  • Delete it, and ban their IP or email address. You might have to play uber-moderator until the troll gets the message that their comments aren’t welcome, but you’ll feel better in the long run. It’s your blog. You get to set the boundaries.

  • > If I delete it, even though the comment is not offensive, what’s my justification?

    Delete it. If you actually need any justification (which you don’t; it’s your blog) you’ve stated it here.

    If this is a person who has been abusive in the past, the posting of an innocuous comment is manipulative behavior, trying to draw you into a game where you respond. This is classic behaviour. Don’t be drawn in. Delete it, and don’t play their game. Ban their IP, if you can. Do not engage or interact in any way.

  • I run a community blog that allows anyone to post a vent about anything, anonymously but I also run other blogs and I’ve run into the problem you’re having before. The problem is that with people like that, if you do anything that ticks them off they can get far worse. I’ve even had one moron make threats against my family and leave messages on my voicemail. I contacted the police department in his city and was told that until he actually does something he’s threatened to do there’s nothing they can do about it. It’s a real catch 22 situation.

  • Hi Lorelle,

    “My blog, my rules.” That’s what I go by with my blogs. Whether or not his comment is calm, you know the potential powder keg he can be. So if you decide to keep it, you’ve chosen the higher ground and maybe, just maybe, he’ll play nice.

    However, if you delete it and he goes off on a rant, then it’s “poor baby” for him and you move on with your life. The world has too many bullies and one day they will get what’s coming to them in one form or another.

    Hang in there!

  • Personally, I wouldn’t have a problem with leaving the comment and welcoming anyone, even known trolls, to post comments on my blogs…providing they remain civil.

    If they want to behave badly anywhere else, they can…not my problem. But on my blog they will behave or be deleted. If a troll can live by that kind of rules and remain civil on my blog, then their comments are as good and no worse than anyone else’s.

    But the moment that known troll starts his crap on my blog, i would have no problem with deleting their comment…but just the ones in which they are behaving badly. If after being deleted a few times they get the message that only civility is acceptable and can make a comment in which they can behave, then the acceptable comments will be allowed to stay.

    Knowing about his past behavior is a warning to watch his comments and act swiftly and calmly should anything occur, but I don’t think it should be used as an excuse to pre-emptively censor anyone.

    But that is my own feelings on the issue and only applies to me and my blog and only at this moment. I might have felt different about it yesterday and I might feel different tomorrow.

    Ultimately, I have to agree that it is your blog, your rules (no need to post them if you don’t feel like it, you have the right to make them up as you go along), and whatever you want goes, and tough luck for anyone that doesn’t like it.

    You can even ban someone because you don’t like the color of the font they use on their own blog, if that is your wish…and nobody would have the right to tell you that you can’t or shouldn’t….at least on your blog. Nobody has any rights on your blog execpt the ones you choose to give them, and only for as long as you allow.

    You have all rights on your blog.

    Gives a new meaning to that line found at the bottom of some blogs that reads “All Rights Reserved”, doesn’t it?

  • Lorelle, would you allow this person into your living room? Would you invite him to a party with people whose company you enjoy? If the answer to those questions is NO, then why not? If it’s no, then why allow him to make an appearance on your blog? It’s your blog.

    Silently, yet expeditiously, deleting a comment is not at all the same thing as announcing, “I’ve deleted a comment from a creep, just so you all know!” If you delete his comment and all further comments, your readers will never know. If they knew, which of course they won’t, they would thank you for making sure they can come to your blog without having to put up with a bunch of garbage. Delete away! It’s your blog!

  • @ app:

    But that is my own feelings on the issue and only applies to me and my blog and only at this moment. I might have felt different about it yesterday and I might feel different tomorrow.

    That’s right where I’m at. Some days I would have just ignored this as any comment is a good comment and I hate to be the judge and jury without direct evidence that applies to ME not just the world. Maybe he’ll play nice on my blog.

    Other days, I want NOTHING to do with jerks like this. As Rob asks, would I invite him into my home knowing what I know. Of course not!

    But I’m a fence mender and peace maker, too. Maybe I could find a way to have nicenice with him so we develop some trust and respect – and maybe he can learn from our relationship that the web is tiny community and everything you do is public FOREVER.

    That’s why I brought up the subject. There are no right or wrong answers, are there? Is it possible to set a standard that everyone can adhere to when it comes to this kind of issue? I don’t know, that’s why your feedback is so important. We have to support each other when faced with these challenges so we can all learn.


  • There’s no question here. You chose not to associate yourself with that sort of person. By questioning what to do when they comment on your page you’re allowing them to intimidate you into going back on that. If they’re trouble enough to not want trouble from them, cut them out completely.

    I’ve seen too many good bloggers lose their regular visitors by allowing one bad person free reign.

  • I think that comparison of the blog with home is inappropriate.

    Blog is a very public place, and one needs to expect occasional unpleasant behaviors when allowing commenting by unregistered or anonymous users.

    Having a mandatory registration may be one solution to the problem. Having FOAF system is yet another, more strict solution.

    I don’t think that you should delete decent comments, as same poster can just use another public computer. So what’s the point? Preventing bad comments, or bad users who you may not know? First is possible, second cannot be always verified.

  • No, it’s not possible to set a standard that everyone can adhere to. If you’re over eight years old, you’ve discovered that in many settings. Think how hard it can be to get five co-workers to agree on a time and a place to go for lunch together, for heaven’s sake.

    The beset you can do is try to articulate your own policy (at least for yourself) — e.g., I’ll be gracious to dissenting points of view; I’ll correct typos (or leave them as is); I’ll respond with a comment when X or Y or Z is true.

    If you choose to allow a likely troll in, and he turns out to be an actual troll, no big deal. Get rid of him. This is how con men work: by playing on your sense of fairness. They’ve got lots of other potential victims, and will toddle off when they don’t receive their main nutrient: limelight.

    Being blocked from a blog is not on the same level as being sentenced to death (despite claims to the contrary).

  • I leave their comments up, but don’t reply to them or respond. If they begin to get nasty with any other comments or in their interaction with anyone else, or if they start baiting, I delete everything they’ve ever posted and ban them.

    Everyone can have a chance this way, but things do not get out of hand without cause. Even trolls have good days.

  • Let comments speak for themselves and their authors. Find creative ways to redirect the energy of the comment with your response.

    For example, a reader recently posted a racial slur on our website regarding a public figure we had written about. At first, I was appalled. My immediate instinct was to delete it. But doing that didn’t seem to square with what blogs, internet-based expression and free speech is about.

    So I chose to play the comment as confused (though it was truly deluded). My response was diplomatic and focused on clarifying what we had written vis-a-vis the comment.

    This approach didn’t engage the commenter; he didn’t respond. His comment still stands and it speaks for itself – and the commenter’s small mindedness. No sense burying this kind of speech – it will surface elsewhere.

    Air it out and your readers should be able to sort it out for themselves.

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