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Internet Trolls: How To Handle Them On Your Website

By Internet Lawyer

internet trollsFrom Reddit to South Park, Internet trolls and troll hunting are a subject of hot debate.

If you run a social media site, forum, membership website, or allow comments on your blog, chances are you’ve encountered trolls in some form.

Why Internet trolls exist

Although sometimes it’s easy to identify the motives behind a particular troll for causing trouble (e.g. a troll paid to wreak havoc online in a political campaign), more often it’s a pointless exercise because the troll is posting outrageous or inflammatory content for personal amusement, out of sheer boredom, or because of mental illness.

Interacting with Trolls

The phrase “do not feed the troll” exists for a reason. Trolls that are ignored often disappear. Visitors that interact with trolls are in essence feeding them so that they remain for more nourishment.

If you or one of your employees interacts with a troll, it’s like you’ve prepared a troll feast because such communication is more highly valued by the troll than simply dealing with other site visitors.

Under no circumstances should you try to troll a troll. It’s a losing proposition because even if you win a minor skirmish, you’ve encouraged a troll war on your turf. And some of the trolls may also be hackers you’ve given an axe to grind against you and your site.

Does The First Amendment Protect Trolling?

A common mistake made by website owners and trolls is to believe that trolling is constitutionally protected free speech.

However, those constitutional protections prevent the government from abridging free speech, not site owners or admins. If you own the ballpark, generally it’s your rules that govern what’s posted there (except for content that breaks the law, such as physical threats of violence, posting child porn, etc.).

Set Clear Rules

For content provided by others on your site, set clear rules as to what’s allowed and, equally important, what you’re banning. For example, if you have a membership website, your Internet lawyer can draft rules that are part of the membership agreement accepted by members. Depending upon the severity of the infraction, violations can lead to user content moderation, member suspension, or even termination.

On the other hand, it may be to your benefit to permit trolls free rein (within the confines of the law) as a means to spur debate, increase user engagement/stick rates, and boost site traffic in the process.

According to Internet Lawyer Mike Young, your visitors should know what’s permitted and what’s not so that they can make an informed decision whether to interact at your site. For instance, if a new visitor is clearly informed that free range trolling is allowed (anything goes), that visitor will rarely have a legitimate reason to complain to you, your admins, and moderators when trolls attack.

Consistently Enforce Content Rules

Perhaps the worst thing you can do when it comes to Internet trolls is to set rules but either violate or enforce them arbitrarily. Inconsistency generates user distrust while encouraging trolls to respond to hypocrisy by increasing their attacks.

If you don’t like the outcome of your current rules as they’re enforced, change the rules. However, be sure to give advance notice of the change, explain why the change is being made, and do not enforce the new rules retroactively to the past trolling that caused the change in the first place.

Twitter Censorship Dictionary: Safe Spaces, Bullying, and Harassment

By Internet Lawyer
twitter censorship

Here’s a Twitter Censorship Dictionary – 1984 Edition

It’s time for a Twitter censorship dictionary.

Why?

Ripping a page from George Orwell’s 1984, Twitter censorship goes The Full Monty with the establishment of Miniluv (the Ministry of Love). Misleadingly designated as the “Twitter Trust & Safety Council,” the Thought Police plan to enforce politically correct orthodoxy through public shaming, unverification, suspension, or expulsion.

In Newspeak, Patricia Cartes (@Cartes), Twitter Head of Global Policy Outreach explains that MiniLuv is “a new and foundational part of our strategy to ensure that people feel safe expressing themselves on Twitter.”

That statement omits the part where the only people who can feel safe expressing themselves are those who tweet groupthink propaganda.

Depending upon the severity of your politically incorrect offense, you may get off with a mere public shaming with progressive discipline for further sins. However, the arbitrary nature of emotionally-based safe spaces means that a single tweet that offends Big Brother can lead to a permanent ban.

This is a natural extension of Twitter’s ongoing harassment of dissenting views, such as those of libertine (and libertarian) Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos.

Although social media trends left, Twitter is marching so far in that direction that what one sees is the goose stepping of national socialism where opposing views are not tolerated on issues of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or even which politicians one can support for President.

Feel the Bern for Bernie Sanders? Miniluv will shower you with love.

Are you a Trumpeter for Donald Trump? Don’t tweet about your support or risk punishment.

To help you not run afoul of the Thought Police, here are a few unofficial Miniluv definitions (pending approval by Minitrue).

Bullying – any tweet that offends a member of an approved victim class. See Harassment.

Free Speech – Twitter censorship

Global Policy Outreach – Corporatespeak for a Twitter department that should be eliminated as bloat.

Harassment – anything that offends a member of an approved victim class. See Bullying.

Hierarchy of Victims – If both parties self-identify as a victim, a politically correct hierarchy is used to determine who is the true victim and who is the aggressor. This hierarchy is flexible and depends upon factors such as the parties’ race, gender orientation, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, and political views.

NitTwit – See Patricia Cartes (@Cartes).

Safe Space – A social media platform that stifles dissenting views on the grounds that such censorship protects self-identified victims. See Twitter.

Thought Police – The Trust & Safety Council’s enforcers of approved Newspeak.

Trust & Safety Council – See Ministry of Love (Miniluv) in George Orwell’s 1984.

Twitter – A social media platform that’s jumped the shark with doublethink.

Victim – A self-identified victim of bullying or harassment. Such victims often identify as a social justice warrior (SJW).

How should you handle Twitter censorship?

Be yourself.

If punished for speaking truth to power by the Tweet Police, walk away with pride that you didn’t sacrifice who you are on the altar of political correctness.

Just because Twitter censorship exists doesn’t mean you have to comply if you’re willing to walk away and play in one of the other social media ballparks that doesn’t act like Big Brother.

Cyber Bullying: Online words can land you in jail

By Internet Lawyer

Remember the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”?

That’s not the case when it comes to the Web because of developments in Internet law.

Bad facts make bad law. Here’s what happened…

A college student did something in very poor taste with his web cam. His embarrassed roommate committed suicide. Instead of a civil lawsuit against the student (or a swift kick in the @ss), he was arrested, prosecuted for a “hate crime,” and will spend years in prison.

Although most states have anti-bullying laws, the response to the webcam incident is for at least five states to push for tougher “cyber bullying” laws. These Internet laws are often very vague and enforced inconsistently.

Be careful what you write online.

And if you own a site or blog that permits comments, these cyber bullying laws are painting a target on you.

It only takes one idiot posting the wrong thing to put you in the cross-hairs for assisting a cyber bully.

Law School Dean Goes to Prison for Making Internet Threats

By Internet Lawyer

What happened regarding a former dean of the Kaplan University Law School?

Former dean of Kaplan University Law School, Bennie Wilcox, was sentenced to a prison term of one year and one day following his conviction.

Last year, prosecutors sufficiently convinced a jury that Wilcox sent emails which threatened both the school in general, and Kaplan Inc. Chief Executive Officer Andrew Rosen in particular. Just recently, the judge of the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Blanche Manning, sentenced Wilcox to confinement starting on September 16, and recommended that Wilcox serve his time at a federal institution in Florida.

What was Bernie Wilcox’s motivation for sending the threatening messages?

In 2007 Wilcox filed a suit with two other individuals against Kaplan, alleging that they had received student loan proceeds under false pretenses. Though Wilcox maintains that Kaplan acted in an illegal way, prosecutors encouraged the jury to ignore claims against Kaplan, and to instead look to the evidence of Wilcox sending the threatening messages to the school and its representatives. Despite the allegations from Wilcox, Kaplan continues to maintain its innocence, and asserts that Wilcox merely acted as a disgruntled former employee by filing suit against the education company.

The controversy emerges just as for-profit schools in the nation face close scrutiny by consumers and federal lawmaking officials. Statistics show that students at for-profit colleges default on their loans twice as often as students at public colleges and universities, and three times as high as students at non-profit private schools. In response to the statistics demonstrating difficulties experienced by for-profit institutions, the Obama administration announced it would strip for-profit institutions of the ability to participate in US student loan programs if for-profit schools continue to improperly prepare their students to repay the loans.

Why was Bennie Wilcox convicted?

Though Wilcox at trial denied transmitting the threatening emails, prosecutors presented both handwritten and videotape confessions Wilcox had made prior to trial in which Wilcox admitted to having sent the messages. At trial Wilcox claimed the confessions were made in an effort to protect his wife, who he claimed might have written the threatening emails following her alleged sexual abuse by a Kaplan executive. This argument, however, did not persuade a jury to find Wilcox not guilty.

Despite evidence that at least one of the threatening emails was sent via an account not belonging to Wilcox, prosecutors still prevailed in proving that Wilcox was, in fact, responsible for the threatening messages. In a world where determining who responsible for what submission on the internet is difficult, this case proves the possibility for conviction in such circumstances.