LETTER TO THE EDITOR: ‘The age of the troll…’

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The B-Town Blog nor its staff:]

When I first started using internet message boards many years ago, they were moderated by volunteers whose main function was to fight trolls. They lost that battle. Trolls are people who say mean-spirited things they know are not true, simply for the sake of starting a fight. They rally under the banner of free speech, saying “I have every right to speak my mind, and if you try to stop me, you are unamerican. ”

The comments section of the B-Town Blog has been removed because no one was willing or able to moderate it adequately and the trolls took over. Their attacks have been deleted, but so has much of our public record. If you search the blog for articles about the city council or animal control or any important issue, you see that thousands of comments are gone. If most of those comments were personal attacks, at least some of them had important information that should be remembered.

The trolls have succeeded in wiping out rational discourse. They are suppressing free speech in the name of free speech. If you care about an issue and hope to persuade citizens of the merits of your view, you will be shouted down by someone who doesn’t believe in anything as much as his power to bully people in public and get away with it.

It isn’t just the B-Town Blog that has been hijacked by these verbal terrorists. All news outlets routinely have a comments section that is dominated by uncivil discourse. The exchange of ideas is suppressed by the victory of the trolls. What have they won? Enforced ignorance? The rights of bullies? It doesn’t matter to them. All that matters is their power over others, their power to weaken our society and proclaim themselves the victors, champions of free speech. But in their world, free speech only belongs to those willing to shout and insult, willing to lie if it scores points.

I ask that the B-Town Blog bring back the comments so that rational people can begin to take back our civic spaces from the trolls.

– James Branson

[Have an opinion or concern you’d like to share with our ~80,000+ monthly Readers? Please send us your Letter to the Editor via email. Include your full name, please remain civil and, pending our review, we’ll most likely publish it.]

EDITOR’S NOTE: As we announced Oct. 30, we plan on launching a new, revised Commenting system by the end of November. Here’s what we’re planning to do:

Interactive Moderation
We’ve been working on an enhancement to our commenting system that allows readers to interactively moderate others by voting comments up and down. If a comment gets lots of positive votes, it will be highlighted. If a comment gets too many negative votes, it will be hidden by default.

You’ll still be able to view those negative comments, but you’ll have to explicitly click a link to make them show up.

A Consistent Commenting Policy
The next thing we want to do before we turn commenting back on is develop a consistent, written commenting policy that explains the rules in simple terms so that our readers know our expectations if you choose to participate in commenting. It’s fair to say that while we’ve tried to be balanced and even-handed to date, we’ve been doing a lot of flying by the seat of our pants.

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