Troll Management

When Elie Mystal first told me that Breaking Media, the corporate overlord of Above the Law, was going to try to throw a conference about blogging, I wondered whether he was trying to ask me to give a presentation or sit on a panel, perhaps. Nope. They wanted nothing to do with me, though David Lat later offered me a 15% discount off the price of admission.

Painful though it was, I passed on Lat’s gracious offer.  And then Marc Randazza emailed me, that he was coming to New York to be on a First Amendment panel at the conference, and would I meet him for lunch.  How could I say no to my buddy, Marco?  When the conference rolled around, I asked Marc where we would go to lunch, and he replied, “The Yale Club.”

I know. Randazza at the Yale Club? I can’t even type those words without chuckling, but that’s where the conference was being held, and Breaking Media was paying for lunch there anyway. So I went, uninvited and unwanted, except by Marc. When I arrived at the 22nd floor, Joe Patrice was guarding the door, so I devised a ruse to divert his attention. “Look, something shiny,” I said, pointing to the other side of the room. It worked, and I quickly walked past him as he rushed to see if the new iPad was out.

After enjoying a delightful lunch of chicken marsala (no, no veal. Veal is expensive) with Marc, Kevin O’Keefe and former Rakofsky judge Emily Jane Goodman, I asked how the conference was going.  Marc said it was a hair-raising experience. Yes, I have a pic to prove it:


(c) 2014 Greenfield. Post this pic and Randazza will come after you. Yes, he will.

It seems there was a panel, moderated by Staci Zarestsky, about how to deal with trolls.

Whether you run a high-traffic long-established blog, or one that’s just getting started, inappropriate comments can be a bit of a problem. In a session chaired by Staci Zaretsky, panelists Vivia Chen of The CareeristJessie Kornberg of Ms. J.D. and Will Meyerhofer of The People’s Therapist share their experiences dealing with trolls on their respective publications.

And they even used “expletives.” Oooh.  Despite this potential calming influence, the panel still nearly made Marco’s head explode.

I want to clear up one bit of bullshit that seems to continue to walk the earth, sort of like a legal bullshit zombie.  The bullshit is the notion that if I delete ANY comments on this blog, then I lose my Section 230 immunity.

This comes to mind because this Friday, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Attorney At Blog conference.  During that conference, a very nice lady “informed” the audience that her blog would delete problematic comments, but they couldn’t, lest they lose Section 230′s protection.

I felt like a dick having to correct her.  But, I can’t let a room full of people leave dumber than they came in.  If you come to a place for CLE credit, the least you should do is learn something true, right?  Shockingly, she defended her position by saying that it was based on the advice of her attorney.  I advised her to fire that attorney immediately.

Not that feeling like a dick is something new for Marco, but it was a putative law conference and they really ought to have speakers who have just the tiniest clue what they’re talking about, especially when they’re giving away CLE credit as an inducement to get people to come.

As regular readers here know, I’m pretty free with the trash button when it comes to comments. That’s because I have a sense of what I want the discussion here to be about, and it’s not about providing a soapbox for every nutjob and pompous raconteur to use my blog to lecture the groundlings. If I think someone is a troll, then they’re gone. Easy-peasy.

I occasionally struggle with whether there is enough merit in a comment to overcome the trollishness, or whether I’ve had enough, but my thought is that if you let trolls become too comfortable at a blog, they make it their home and scare away thoughtful comment.  And yes, trolls don’t always know they’re trolls. Often, they think they’re brilliant and demand their right to be heard.

Why?  First, its my blog, so my fucking rules.  You have a right to express yourself, but not necessarily here.  Second, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that I can delete one comment and leave 100 filthy, objectionable, harassing, defamatory, nasty, and brutish comments and still not be liable.

There is another reason for me, which was the reason for Marc to write the post in the first place.  As a lawyer, it is incumbent upon me not to make anyone stupider.  I take this duty seriously, and by providing a platform for people to comment, I provide a means by which stupid ideas, misstatements of law, really bad advice, and irrational arguments can be put out there for all to read.

Sometimes I’m in the mood to deal with them, and I’ll post stupid and debunk it. Other times, I’m not and I’ll just trash it.  Why? Because I can, and because it’s my responsibility to deal with what happened here.  This is my home, and it’s my job to sweep the floor. Marco sums it up well:

Despite the fact that Section 230 gives me the right to be arrogant when it comes to the comments on my blog, it does not prohibit me from being responsible.

Dealing with trolls is easy. Delete.  Not making people stupider is a responsibility. If you claim you don’t have the time to clean up your mess, then you have no business having a blog, and, frankly, you’re full of it.  It only takes a second to straighten up the house.

At the same time, if no one trolls you, then you haven’t offered an idea worth publishing anyway.  And when the trolls write terrible things about you, shake it off. That’s the internet, and the last thing anyone with stones of any size really wants is to make it into an even more insipid Happysphere.



22 thoughts on “Troll Management

  1. Burgers Allday

    I’ve read this blog for some time. You take your duty to delete comments that disagree with you more seriously than your duty to delete comments that are stupid. I get the impression that you think these two things are the same, but they are not.

    This is pretty common for people who still use the word “troll” in this day and age.

    1. SHG Post author

      Yours is the perspective of a handful of lawyers who pretend to be knowledgeable about criminal law but aren’t. Some are flaming nutjobs, despite having a law degree. Some are just wrong, but with a personal agenda that makes them dangerous.

      What you see as disagreement, I see as dangerously wrong and stupid. Doubly so when promoted by a lawyer (who fails to disclose he doesn’t practice criminal defense), who non-lawyers falsely assume to be knowledgeable and reliable.

      And you will no doubt disagree, because in your own mind, you speak truth to power. Just not here.

      And people no longer use the word “troll”? No doubt you are far more cutting edge than me and Lat. No doubt you are very hip.

      1. Burgers Allday

        Not sure why people would believe Burgers Allday is an attorney. Your insinuation that he, or she, is an attorney, rather than Burgers’ own words, do the very damage you claim to be seeking to avoid.

        1. SHG Post author

          On the one hand, because “burgers” has promoted himself as an attorney on Reddit’s BCND, which I know because people there have asked me about it. And on the other hand, don’t forget that I know who you are. It’s fine with me that you prefer to be pseudonymous, but then, you can’t be a law-talking guy when it’s convenient, and otherwise a man of mystery.

          1. Burgers Allday

            ” ‘burgers’ has promoted himself as an attorney on Reddit’s BCND”

            I believe that this is simply untrue. Let me know if you find evidence that it is true.

            1. SHG Post author

              If I find evidence? I’m not looking. I couldn’t care less. You aren’t the center of my world. But you have been a great example, for which I thank you.

            2. Burgers Allday

              Well, I did look — just now. Your statement about me saying that Burgers A. is a lawyer over at the Reddit is untrue. I don’t necessarily think you are purposely lying, but you made incorrect statement there. Burgers Allday does not claim to be a lawyer. She, or he, wants, and always had wanted, to avoid precisely the problem you are accusing her, or him, of causing in your post above.

            3. SHG Post author

              If you say so. But then again, if you were a more careful reader, you would see that I wrote:

              …because “burgers” has promoted himself as an attorney on Reddit’s BCND, which I know because people there have asked me about it.

              So if you have a beef, it’s with the people who told me you promote yourself as a lawyer, not me. I’m just the messenger, and my “statement” is what it is.

    2. AlphaCentauri

      Do a lot of people who disagree with you call you a troll and delete your comments? How retro of them!

  2. John Barleycorn

    I must say, you are photogenic in your own curmudgeon-ish, almost gnome-like sort of way esteemed host. Very distinguished yet with just the right disturbing touch.

    Pretty cool, who would have guessed Breaking Media did luncheons.

    Did they provide the departing attendees with gift bags that included chocolates with wrappers that had cool sayings like “There is nothing sweeter than blogging for profit” & “The price of your soul is worth never having to pay hosting or server fees again”?

    Chicken Marsala sounds pretty good but if I had known I could have provided you with a few bags of my now perfected freezer burned grilled goose breast and spinach sandwiches slathered with mayo and hot mustard with (your dot com here) laser etched into the crusts and wrapped in full color CDL action figure printed butcher paper to hand out in the lobby.

    BTW, I heard Joe Patrice challenged you to a cocktail stick sword-fight blindfolded. How did it turn out?

  3. Fubar

    SHG wrote:

    At the same time, if no one trolls you, then you haven’t offered an idea worth publishing anyway. And when the trolls write terrible things about you, shake it off.

    Therefore never send to know for whom the hell he trolls; he trolls for free.

  4. Patrick Maupin

    Your penchant for catchy titles has produced one that is particularly evocative. It of course, brings to mind pest management, which is a synonym for pest control. And classroom management, where you’re trying to teach while maintaining discipline.

    But then there is wildlife or crop management, where you’re trying for better yield and/or a healthier population. The title is quite apt even in this context — your and Marc’s Section 230 PSAs could be quite useful to a lot of deliberately contentious websites, giving them the freedom to realize they can remove the chaff of the pedestrian, banal trolls and leave only the pure wheat of the psychopaths and psychotically deranged. This development is only to be welcomed: the art of trolling has been in serious decline for some time, and I, for one, look forward to the day when most trolls are summarily removed simply because they aren’t good enough. This survival of the fittest should help replenish our healthy trolling stocks to those of the internet’s heyday.

    1. SHG Post author

      I have a long and storied tradition of crafting titles that give little clue to the content of the post. It’s a sort of trademark of mine, for which I’m quite proud. It’s a gift.

      As for the art of trolling, let it not be ignored that I have my share “pure wheat” here, though some question why. I’m as much an aficionado of a high quality troll as the next guy, and like you, I demand a better quality of troll before he will see the light of day here. Damn right.

  5. DHMCarver

    “As regular readers here know, I’m pretty free with the trash button when it comes to comments. That’s because I have a sense of what I want the discussion here to be about, and it’s not about providing a soapbox for every nutjob and pompous raconteur to use my blog to lecture the groundlings. If I think someone is a troll, then they’re gone. Easy-peasy.”

    One of the reasons I enjoy reading your blog is that reading the comments are worthwhile — because you vigorously take out the trash. So many legal blogs are squatted on my the same set of two or three commenters, who seem to think that the person or people behind the blog do their work so the trolls can have a platform to spout their nonsense. Thank you, thank you, thank you for clearing them out of Simple Justice.

    1. SHG Post author

      Thanks. I’m glad someone agrees with me and doesn’t call me mean names for not appreciating their brilliance.

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