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:
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 Careerist, Jessie Kornberg of Ms. J.D. and Will Meyerhofer of The People’s Therapist share their experiences dealing with trolls on their respective publications.
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.