Internet comments: read at your own risk

Sep. 23, 2013

Shelby Shively
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Typical Internet trolls appear to be generally angry with the world and enjoy spreading their misery in any way possible, whether or not the recipients of their comments have done anything to deserve this.

Over the summer, I was terrified the Black Forest fire would reach my house, so I scoured every news story for any further information, including the comments. That was a mistake.

One person’s comment read something like, “We should charge higher property taxes for people who live in places with known danger of wildfire. Why should the rest of us pay for this fire?”

This was tame. Trolls tend to make much more horrible comments on controversial stories, in which they think the majority of readers will agree with their often disgusting, ignorant, uninformed opinion.

According to author and blogger Kate Harding, feminist bloggers receive a lot of troll anger. She describes in detail the responses fat feminist bloggers get when they say anything related to rape.

The comments range from rude “jokes” about weight to disgusting verbal assault suggesting the women would be better off if raped by someone.

Some Internet forums, such as Facebook, allow users to report people for this type of harassment, and they can be punished with deletion of their profiles.

However, this is not the case for every blog website, chat room or other social media. Even on sites that have a report button, manpower to check every single report is limited – not to mention trolls can use the report button as well.

This lack of oversight encourages people to release their angry, destructive word vomit wherever and whenever they please. It is too easy for trolls to tear down the writing of an educated, informed feminist with controversial ideas.

Trolls manage to convene to spew their all-too-similar trash, which convinces them their opinions must be right, since so many others agree with them.

That kind of disregard for someone’s feelings is deplorable. It is often difficult and painful for someone to come out as a survivor of rape, and it is even more difficult to do this when doing so results in pure hatred spewed at you.

Some may argue troll attacks are the risk people take when they choose to open up about their experiences online.

On the other hand, maybe people shouldn’t be allowed to attack one another in this way. It would be relatively easy for all websites to allow people to report comments for this kind of offensive hate speech.

Yes, it would require more manpower, but the ability to stop trolls is worth it.

It would also be better for us to all shift our paradigms a bit. Hating others and disrespecting them requires some serious, conscious effort.

Actually showing others respect and recognizing we don’t all have to agree in order to have valid opinions seems infinitely easier.