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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Trolls Anonymous

This featured post is for those of you who are blog authors.

Natasha discusses the folks out there who, for whatever reason, leave comments anonymously.  She theorizes that:

They cannot own their own words for fear someone might discover who they are and then
The jig is up!!!

Someone who knows them "in real life" might find out that they are or were or whatever something to do with the dreaded T and they will be shunned.
We bloggers do have a choice.  Google's Blogger, and I'm sure this is true of the other blogging platforms out there, gives the author the choice of allowing any comment to pass through or to moderate comments.  It allows the author the choice of whether or not to require someone leaving a comment to correctly enter a verification screen code prior to accepting the comment.  It also gives the author the option of automatically rejecting comments from anonymous readers.

I have found that there have been some wonderful anonymous readers who have left comments on my blog, and some have since identified themselves via private emails to me and become close friends.  I have had my share of what Natasha refers to as the "Trolls".  But, I continue to accept anonymous comments, albeit moderated.
Our policy at T-Central is currently to accept anonymous comments, but we are set for comment moderation.

Take a look at Natasha's post, Trolls Anonymous, on her blog Always, no Sometimes.  If you're a blogger, I'd love to know just what your policy is regarding anonymous comments.


  1. I have always allowed comments, anonymous or otherwise, and regardless of what they say about me, as long as it is pertinent to the post.

    My theory is anything less than completely free-speech is less than free-speech.

    If you don't want people talking back to you, then you should just keep your pie-hole shut.

    My question, however, is: Is there really any difference between being "anonymous," and using a made-up, fake girl name? I don't think so.

    1. My question, however, is: Is there really any difference between being "anonymous," and using a made-up, fake girl name? I don't think so.

      It's the different between being pseudononymous and anonymous. When you write, Jamie, you have a history and we know who you are based on what you've written. You have developed a reputation whereas someone who posts anonymously is unknowable. There's no history or attempt to develop a history. Only a vacancy pretending to be a person.

      And who said that blog comments should be ruled by free speech? The only person on a blog with service provider freedom is the blogger of note. Anyone else who posts there does so at that person's whim.

    2. A highly misunderstood but well intentioned friendAugust 23, 2012 at 5:54 PM

      When you write, Jamie, you have a history and we know who you are based on what you've written. You have developed a reputation whereas someone who posts anonymously is unknowable. There's no history or attempt to develop a history. Only a vacancy pretending to be a person.

      I wonder if anyone else has considered that maybe people post anonymously so that those they are attempting to help and support, don't try to disregard what they've offered on the grounds that their personal history may not include experience in the EXACT same situation?

      Often I've found that life experience translates across many different circumstances.

      For instance, one might say that because I only live my own life, I can't possibly know how someone else might feel. Yet there are experiences in my life that I share with others and so, have the ability to relate. Things such as womanhood for instance. I can relate to how most of the women I have met in my life feel on most aspects of our lives (or would feel under most circumstances).

      Yet someone who did or does not want my shared experiences (and the support they may bring someone) getting through to its intended target (for whatever their own reasons may be) might simply encourage that target to dismiss me and my support based on a lack of EXACT experience in whatever "history" or "reputation" they may know of me.

      The problem most people have with anonymous commenters is that it prevents them from controlling the message by (effectively) shooting the messenger.

      The fact that someone posts a comment anonymously does not always mean they don't have a history that people may know about to a degree, or that they are scared of the damage it might do them personally, sometimes it's the case that the commentor simply doesn't want the purpose of their comment to be overlooked/overlookable.

    3. A highly misunderstood but well intentioned friendAugust 26, 2012 at 4:07 PM

      In all seriousness, though, I like posting anonymously because I can say what I want with impunity. I can be who I want and be contrary whenever it pleases me. Hail, Eris! I will sow discord willy nilly and then appear to be a caring, loving person the very next minute and no one will be any the wiser.

      And who I am? It doesn't matter. And when I post on your blog, you won't know me, you'll just see my words and they may annoy you or may upset you and you'll know in your heart of hearts that you can never get to me because from my shadow, I am victorious always.

    4. The original highly misunderstood but well intentioned friendAugust 26, 2012 at 6:42 PM

      And the there is the downside to commenting anonymously, that being that like the person above has, anyone can come along and pose under the title you may have given yourself and STILL manage to dsicredit the message you had hoped to convey

    5. The original highly misunderstood but well intentioned friendAugust 26, 2012 at 7:41 PM

      There actually is no downside to commenting anonymously. I just like to contradict myself continuously to confuse you, which is why I do this. I'm just here to mess with your head and STILL you may believe that I am not who I say I am even when I tell you I AM who I say I am.

  2. Non-nefarious anonymous personAugust 23, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    I don't think it's fair to call people out who post anonymously because they're concerned someone IRL might figure out their background. You're making possibly incorrect assumptions about their reasoning. That is completely different than damaging sockpuppeting, which is using an anon account or multiple anon accounts for nefarious purposes.

  3. I made the change earlier this year to not only allow anonymous comments, but to remove the annoying CAPTCHA word verification. I'm more than willing to do a little maintenance work if it means more people will reach out and share their comments.

    Generally, I find the spam filter on Blogger for comments is pretty good, with only the rare piece of trash managing to escape. Having said that, most of the spam seems to come through old postings, so I've also enabled the requirement for comments on posts that are 14 days older or more.

    1. I'd love to get rid of the word verification, Sally. So, a couple of weeks ago, I disabled it on my Chronicles blog. Within about two hours, the spam comments began to flow in. I immediately enabled it again. Now, with that said, the comments were coming in via older posts so maybe your 14 day suggestion is worth trying.


  4. The reason I reply anonymously is that I don't have a blog. I spend enough time on the internet right now. Also I dont' have enough to say that would justify a blog. So I respond anonymously and I do not troll.

  5. "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth."

    -Oscar Wilde

    1. Seems Oscar Wilde got it, very well said!

    2. On the other hand, I would never accuse Oscar Wilde of having a monopoly on "truth". Or even a definition.

  6. I happen to be an anonymous well intentioned troll who chooses too present as an indeterminate sex. Despite my spending hours in front of a mirror fawning and primping, and spending lots of money on deoderant and cheap fragrances, many people find me offensive and treat me poorly. Despite being very intelligent and cute, some people don't like me because I ask interesting questions. I guess unless I agree with those loudly preaching diversity and acceptance, I will not be allowed to voice my simple opinions.

    I realize that I am different, and that I necessarily see things from a different perspective, but why do you hate me so? Many people find me extremely attractive and warm and cuddly. Why can't we all just get along.

  7. 1 Corinthians 6:9

    1. Did whomever approved this comment actually look up Corinthian's 6:9?

      The Anonymous Coward leaving this comment is, to be sure, the worst kind of Anonymous Troll: the one who relies upon the words of others to do his or her work. Talk about doing the Devil's Work!

  8. I allow anonymous comments on my blog but I have to moderate them because of some anonymous commentors who use derogatory language.

    I welcome opposing views as long as they are respectful.

  9. Anonymity allows a person to say anything with impunity. That is the whole purpose of being anonymous. It protects the anonymous from having to take responsibility for their actions, because they cannot be made responsible for what they say. No matter what the motivation for anonymity may be it allows them to act without consequence.

    That is why whatever they who have no name and history have to say has no consequence, no weight, no empathy, no value and in most cases leaves a bad taste and odor behind.

  10. So what happens when a well known trans activist threatens to reveal the real life identity of someone who has managed to create a quiet gender conforming life? The consequences of such a revelation might cause that 'stealth' person to lose their job. They and their family might become subject to the same unfair discrimination suffered by those who transgress the gender norm. Is that why those who comment anonymously are actively threatened with public outing. Is it the goal of those proud and vocal gender outlaws to spread the pain and the shame?

    While some of these trolls might suffer from body odor and less than pleasing looks and might even have but a humble abode under a bridge, is that any reason to make their lives even more miserable by exposing them to shunning, ridicule and maybe even worse, just for not agreeing with the establishment mantra of the TG Facists?

  11. I agree, I do have to approve comments on my blog but that is more about spam and junk comments or on the very rare occasion what I refer to as a hate blog. Other then junk or spam I have never refused a comment so far although there were 3 that I did edit, two left contact information for me in it so I could contact them which I took out before approving the comment. The 3rd had some inappropriate language in it which I took out and really did not change the comment.
    I look at it this way, my blog so I get to do what I want. If someone wants total freedom of speech they can create their own blog

  12. I get more annoyed with spam than trolls although the spam does get filtered and eventually binned automatically. As for trolls, well if their comments are constructive and they are not abusive or offensive I will allow them passage. On my Wordpress settings all first-time comments are placed for moderation after being accepted subsequent comments are allowed through unchecked but of course I still have control over all comments and they can still be binned if they are not compliant with the rules of decency and respect.

    Shirley Anne x

  13. The problem is assuming that everyone has a right to free speech, everywhere. No one does. You can freely pontificate wherever - at the grace of the owner of the forum. And it has ever been thus. Anonymous comment has a place - Plubius, after all, helped lay the foundations of America and every democratic government thereafter - but that doesn't mean all anonymous comment is relevant, interesting, or even worthwhile. Most of it is not. (At least that's my experience.)

    I haven't read Natasha's piece - I'm not especially likely to, considering my stated dislike of her. (It stems from her baiting me (yes, I took the bait, as she gleefully pointed out at the time); so I guess she has some expertise of the topic to which she opines?) I do think such discussions miss the point; we know that the internet provides trolls galore - perhaps the differentiation should be between meaningful anonymous commentary, and the meaningless type provided by far too many? It's easy to be nasty when no one knows who you are. Of course, the critical aspect of such nastiness is whether it is merely amusing or simply inane. Most, to be perfectly honest, is inane; I'll allow that the occasional anonymous commenter is amusing. I will guess, based on your summary, Calie, that Natasha has it half right. In making the assertion that *all* anonymous bloggers don't want to own their own words, she assumes that all anonymous bloggers *must* own their own ideas. Which is a concept that is at the heart of the 4th Amendment, if I may toss The Constitution at her? That Amendment is based on the English Bill of Rights from 1689. It was designed to ensure what the British Crown could not (despite the BoR of 1689) - that all utterance was held to a person, a name. In short, anonymous comment has its place, and is a complex subject in itself. Considering that I have not read Natasha's post, I do wonder if she considered the worth of a statement? (And, while I acknowledge it was a mere blog post, how that worth can be measured and considered?)

    At the moment I do not allow anonymous comments; not because I don't welcome comments, but because I (oddly.. :-D ) was involved in a slight verbal spat with some Canadian bloggers, and their supporters deluged me with silly comments I couldn't be bothered trying to figure out. It seemed easier to stop the anonymous comments and not have my email system clogged with their inanity. I applied the first rule of blogging: I own that blog, I get to choose its features. (That blog, by the way, has a habit of censoring comments.) I'll allow, as I've done since I started, comments that are derogatory, deranged and insulting. Often, all three. If Natasha turned up on my doorstep, I'd make the very reasonable and enforceable demand that she restrict her speech to being supportive of all and arrogant of none; I'd also expect her to know slightly more about the 4th Amendment than she has heretofore demonstrated. (Is that unreasonable? Sure. It's my doorstep.)

    Carolyn Ann

    1. "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

      I'm not sure where I've said anything in violation of the 4th Amendment. It's nowhere near my point, which is that those who comment/troll anonymously carry no weight because they can say whatever they wish and be whoever they wish and there is no way to determine who you are dealing with and, therefore, no way to take what they have said seriously because as they make no attempt to provide ownership of their words, even pseudonymously (which does not require one to start a blog, merely to log into the system under an assumed name that effectively keeps one's real identity from public scrutiny), their words carry no weight. Often, these same people use their anonymity to act poorly. I think we would agree on that point.

      I'm not sure where I advised that those who post anonymously should be afraid of agents of the pre-1689 British Crown. But it's completely moot to the discussion in any case.

    2. And you missed my point - by a merry mile. :-)

      Who defines what is trollish behavior? You? Glenn Beck?

      What is trollish behavior, anyway? Not agreeing with the arrogant assertions of those who assume a superiority by dint of their medical history? Pointing out that there's a 747-sized hole in some assertion? Does not owning your own words include deleting them when they're inconvenient? (I don't know if you've ever deleted a post, hoping it will go away, but I do know someone who has.)

      Clearly some commentary is without merit (yes, we agree on that), but not all anonymous commentary is without merit. Your assertion that "They cannot own their own words for fear someone might discover who they are..." can be a life saver - especially within social-media, such as blogs and tweeting. Within one context, anonymous comment is a device some cowards employ to make themselves feel superior. Often to lash out with some tedious inanity. I was, however, making the wider point that your simplistic approach lacks nuance and understanding about what anonymous commentary is. Sometimes people find there's a necessity to not own their words!

      So it's not moot. Unless you restrict your point to a single context - which, I gather, is what your argument is about? Your assertion is certainly not restricted to a particular context. (Perhaps I should go read your post, Natasha?)

      It's why I approached your assertion from a different angle, if you will. (Actually, it's the first thing I thought of.) I wrapped a brief history, with a fairly specific example, of *why* anonymous comment is an essential part of public discourse into the discussion. Without anonymous comment, unowned words by your assertion, America wouldn't exist. I thought that important enough to introduce and consider. You clearly differ. You are being (very) simplistic about anonymous commentary and, by introducing a wider context, I pointed out the flaw in your assertion.

      I do, wholeheartedly, agree that some individuals use anonymous comments to simply be obnoxious and silly. It's why I whined about such things being generally inane; can't such folk at least aspire to amusing? (Far too few do.) Hiding behind "anonymous" helps a few witless blatherskites with their bravery; heck - I had an anonymous death threat-ish sort of a thing a few year back! A pious twit left a lot of anonymous comments on atheist blogs, promising us death, collectively and individually, and sometimes both. And goodness knows I've had plenty of individuals extoll upon the virtues of my life and intelligence in quite a few deeply boring and tedious ways. I believe you meant that sort of idiocy is the province of the coward who can't own their words. Those individuals fail at being honorable. But sometimes, more often than you might think, anonymous commentary is needed to preserve a life or is needed in the pursuit of a goal.

      The point you missed, in other words, is: anonymous commentary is a complicated topic.

    3. So I read the post, Natasha.


      I think the last paragraph is telling.

  14. You better believe I looked it up. I published it to prove a point. Here is one translation:

    King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
    Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

    1. Just out of curiosity, why publish it without comment? (I got your point, Calie - it was one of the arguments I considered before writing my little piece.)

      (Personally, I've always liked John 3:16. It has such complex, unsupportable, foundations and assumptions - not to neglect the basic contradiction that is created by the language and the idea being touted - that it truly is a house built on sand. It's also total nonsense, a fact that escapes the many who employ it to do their thinking for them.)

  15. Well, I thought about publishing the verse quoted by one of our anon's (1 Corinthians 6:9), but thought others would look it up and nod their heads in agreement re the topic of this post. This particular post is not about bible verses.

  16. I don't allow anonymous comments on my blog.

  17. So far I have published every comment that has been left on my blog.

    I will allow anonymous comments, but I do have moderation of comments on. As well as the annoying word verification on. I personally don't care if someone wants to stay anonymous, just so long as people are polite. We can disagree and I will publish it, but I won't publish hate. Thus the moderation as I am not interested in hate coming from my blog for even a short period of time.

  18. I too introduced the word verification thing to stop spammers, who were getting tiresome. People can post pseudonymously (which can be tantamount to anonymously) on my blogs, and that's cool, as long as it adds something to the thread. Though my corner of cyberspace is mercifully quite polite, and I've hardly ever had to delete a comment, and then only because it was as crazy as a bucket of frogs. My blog, my definition. Not at home to "Book of Duane, 6:30"


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