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internet trolls

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.

Internet Lawyer: Whose side am I on?

By Internet Lawyer
internet lawyer

Being an Internet Lawyer can paint a target on you because of trolls and stalkers

The critics and lunatics have come out in force over the past week.

Criticism is fine.

It at least means you’re doing something. If you’re not getting criticized, you’re probably a bystander instead of a player.

And that’s okay too. The world needs fans…even those who boo.

So whose side am I on? Let’s cut to the chase…

Internet Lawyer Clients in General

When I’m representing a client as an Internet lawyer, that’s exactly what I do.

If representing the client makes you dislike me, that’s no big deal. You probably won’t like the music I listen to, the boots I wear, or the truck that I drive.

No one goes to law school (or two for that matter) to win a popularity contest.

But if you don’t like me because of who I represent, it really isn’t valid criticism to say “you stink” because Guru X is my client.

Am I turning a blind eye to client misconduct while criticizing deceptive Internet marketing practices of non-clients?

No.

But here’s something you should know.

In many cases, you simply don’t tell a client “you’re fired” and be able to cleanly end the attorney-client relationship.

Why?

There are rules of professional conduct that govern how Internet lawyers and other attorneys treat their clients, even when terminating representation.

And it gets more complicated because of the current economic recession/depression.

Here’s why…

Former Internet Lawyer Clients

Some of the most ethical clients I represented just a few years ago are now blatantly violating the law to make a dishonest buck online. They became desperate and tossed their ethics out the window to maintain lifestyles their incomes can’t justify.

Understand this…every single one of these Internet marketers I’ve been able to get rid of as a client. I’m not going to aid and abet ongoing fraudulent activities.

Prospective Internet Lawyer Clients

And for every one of these I’ve terminated, there have been a half dozen who have come to me as prospective clients for legal representation that I have flat out said “no” to from the beginning.

The funniest ones were the blatant bribes with offers to pay for legal work if I would just stop criticizing their deceptive practices online.

That’s not going to happen.

Existing Internet Lawyer Clients

What about existing clients who are criticized?

Here’s what you should know. I’m comfortable as an Internet lawyer representing every existing client as they currently run their online business operations.

Have some made mistakes in the past? Sure.

Have you ever made mistakes? Of course.

If perfection was the benchmark for doing business online, no one would have a commercial website.

And here’s the key thing you should know…I’m comfortable representing these clients because they are willing work on improving their marketing practices, want to obey the law, and don’t have business models designed to profit by scamming people.

However, I’m not going to breach attorney-client confidentiality by posting the intimate details of their business operations online to defend these clients against unsubstantiated charges of misconduct.

Until now, you and I have been talking about these issues from the perspective of representing clients as an Internet lawyer. Now let’s turn to the more personal side of what’s been happening lately.

Cyber Stalking and My Family

My rough guesstimate is that half the population has mental issues, many of which are treated with prescription medication. That’s fine. Thank God for Big Pharma.

However, 5-10% of that group is absolutely off-their-rocker looney-tune certifiably crazy-as-a-loon dangerous to deal with.

Some of these nutcases have gone beyond disagreement and debate into patterns of threats, intimidation, harassment, and potentially far worse. Not dumb, they’re manipulating victims of Internet cons into a frenzy in order to get them to take action as a cyber lynch mob.

This is the politics of personal destruction where the insane person attempts to harm someone else in order to make himself feel better. Think of it as “misery loves company” on steroids.

And it gets worse…

Minerval the Crazy Internet Troll

For example, there is a particular loon (let’s call him “Minerval”) who has tried for over a year now to hurt me online…and he’s now escalating the bizarre behavior.

To give you an idea of how crazy Minerval is, the guy believes that (a) 9/11 was a U.S. government conspiracy and cover-up, and (b) that I’m a member of a Jesuit/Illuminati/Masonic elite that’s running psychological warfare operations against him.

Minerval’s recent tactic has been to hunt down the homes of his “enemies” and post their addresses online with pictures of their houses. This is an intimidation tactic at a minimum and likely an attempt to incite someone to take action against those “enemies” in their homes.

In his latest attack, Minerval mistakenly posted someone else’s address and home picture on another site and claimed that’s where I live. It is not my home and he has put strangers in danger.

To his credit, the website owner promptly took down the wrong address that Minerval had posted. Some of Minerval’s targets on other websites have not been so lucky.

But what if Minerval had posted my real home address online?

Here’s how things work in the real world…

I’m an Internet lawyer…but I’m also a husband and a father.

If you want to debate me over Internet legal issues or criticize me because I represent clients you dislike, that’s okay. We’ll exchange words and agree to disagree.

But when Minerval or anyone else threatens, intimidates, and tries to do harm by dragging my home and my family into it, the gloves come off.

For those who would prefer a professional response, here’s the lawyer lingo you’re looking for…If an individual or individuals trespasses at my physical residence with the intent to do immediate bodily harm to one or more family members, I will apply force pursuant to the Second Amendment and the Castle Doctrine to neutralize the threat.

As a husband and father, I will do everything in my power to defend my family’s personal safety. That includes shooting in self-defense any cyber stalker who tries to break into my house.

And as a lawyer, I will take all legal steps necessary to make sure that the Minervals of this world never show up on my doorstep in the first place.

If you’re uncomfortable with this response, what would you do if Minerval or a similar nutcase went after you and your family?