Friday, February 28, 2014


John Bauer - 1915


Those dark denizens of the internet really are horrible people.  

The research, conducted by Erin Buckels of the University of Manitoba and two colleagues, sought to directly investigate whether people who engage in trolling are characterized by personality traits that fall in the so-called Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others).

Of all personality measures, sadism showed the most robust associations with trolling and, importantly, the relationship was specific to trolling behavior.

Science Direct

Administration vs. Legislation

We all know how annoying trolls can be and some in outrage or offense would like to see an end to internet anonymity.  Last year Huffington Post began requiring visitors to identify themselves by name, that is certainly within the prerogative of the owners and administrators of Huffington Post... their site, their rules. I may disagree with Arianna when she says:

"Freedom of expression is given to people who stand up for what they're saying and who are not hiding behind anonymity,"

 And may point to Thomas Paine publishing Common Sense as "written by an Englishman", but as I said, her site, her rules.

More dangerous are those that propose legislating away the possibility of internet anonymity.  First, internet anonymity is superficial at best, none of us have real anonymity.  Your ISP know who you are, leaving the proverbial trail of breadcrumbs straight to your door, back here behind the curtain at Western Hero, I have seen how easy it is to track a commenter back to his lair.   

Internet anonymity provides us not anonymity from our ISP or from the government, it provides us anonymity, for the most part, from each other.  While that anonymity can be abused it also provides a level of comfort or a relatively effective level of non-attribution.  

The best argument for anonymity I have heard is what I'll call the John Smith argument.  The John Smiths of the world are relatively safe, there are 46,000 John Smiths in the United States.  There are 81 other people in the US that share my name... there is one Aloysius Guggenheim.  Do you think Aloysius Guggenheim wants to post comments on an Irritable Bowel Syndrome forum?  It doesn't take a degree from the University of the Obvious to figure that one out.

Suffer the Little Trolls...

and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the Kingdom of Internet.

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