March 13, 2015

Announcing "Troll Patrol" -- and Why Social Media Comments Are Crucial

We see them all the time now, proclamations related to articles or social media postings that say: "Don't read the comments!"

The fact that this has become a meme unto itself is both depressing and rather frightening, because comments on social media postings and Internet articles are not only crucial to the value of these materials, but also to free speech itself in a much broader context. And the very crux of "don't read the comments" really suggests that the trolls -- the idiots, the haters -- are winning, big time. I personally refuse to accept this without a fight. Communication and free speech is too important to be surrendered on any basis, particularly at the slimy hands of the trolls.

Posting and thread moderation is key to keeping social media and other commenting ecosystems viable. My view is that social media moderation at scale must depend first on automated filters and systems as the first pass -- ideally with sufficient controls and tools so that users can appropriately signal and train in the face of inevitable false positives and false negatives. This also suggests the need for ways to surface quarantined comments for moderator inspection and decision without exposing them to the entire readership in the process.

Beyond this, the tools available for moderators for their manual moderation tasks are crucial, with pre-moderation queues important as one available option, and ideally ways to "anoint" some commenters as pre-approved, ways to delegate moderation tasks in flexible ways, and so on.

I very recently created the Google+ community "Troll Patrol" for serious discussions of these and related issues, specifically to discuss topics surrounding social media abuse; comments; comment moderation techniques and tools; associated operational, policy and technical topics; free speech aspects, etc.

Everyone is welcome, unless you're a troll, of course.

My goal for Troll Patrol is to stay focused on practical processes and solutions that are workable at very large scales. I'd like to avoid diversions into the political motivations of particular comment abusers or discussion of politics in general, except to the extent that political realities might affect the practicality of any given approaches to solving the problems in focus.

It's a very big topic area and I'm under no illusions of easy fixes, but I hope we can together move the ball at least a bit forward in a positive way!

Hope to be seeing you there! Thanks all.


Posted by Lauren at March 13, 2015 08:42 AM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein