The downside of internet anonymity

Anyone who’s been on the internet for any length of time can relate to this…

THERE you are, peacefully reading an article or watching a video on the Internet. You finish, find it thought-provoking, and scroll down to the comments section to see what other people thought. And there, lurking among dozens of well-intentioned opinions, is a troll.

“How much longer is the media going to milk this beyond tired story?” “These guys are frauds.” “Your idiocy is disturbing.” “We’re just trying to make the world a better place one brainwashed, ignorant idiot at a time.” These are the trollish comments, all from anonymous sources, that you could have found after reading a CNN article on the rescue of the Chilean miners.

Trolling, defined as the act of posting inflammatory, derogatory or provocative messages in public forums, is a problem as old as the Internet itself, although its roots go much farther back. Even in the fourth century B.C., Plato touched upon the subject of anonymity and morality in his parable of the ring of Gyges.

While I continue to believe the internet is a great thing – especially when it comes to the free exchange and debate of ideas, as on this blog – there’s no denying the ugliness of internet trolls who hide behind anonymity to hurl insults and spew hate.

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4 thoughts on “The downside of internet anonymity

  1. Well inflammatory, derogatory, or provocative comments aren’t on their own trolling are they? Isn’t trolling more someone intentionally trying to rile up posters?

    For example it’s not uncommon on news stories to have someone who couldn’t care less posting in the guise of an ultra-liberal or ultra-conservative person just for the fun of riling people up.

  2. The Hill had an article yesterday on the speech McCain gave honoring Feingold that you posted today. When I read it there were 2 comments, one being a brief rant claiming Feingold voted with his party/party leaders over 90% of the time.

    That idiocy wrecked the internet for me for the rest of the day. So I went to talk with people.

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