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The Trolls Are Out of Control

by Melissa Silverstein
July 18, 2012 1:15 PM
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This stuff has gotten way out of hand.  Those people who follow the feminist blogosphere know what happened to Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency when she tried to put together a Kickstarter campaign to create a video entitled Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.  She was subject to a deluge of online harrassment including the hacking of her wikipedia page and physical threats.  She was also subjected to visual misogyny which you should check out here (people photoshopped vulgar images over her picture among other things.)  The good news is that many people heard about the threats and responding by giving Anita way more money than she needed.   She got over $158,000 when she was trying to raise $6,000. 

Back to the movies.  Amy was defended by her bosses but the harrassment wasn't really addressed broadly.  Until now.  The editor in chief of Rotten Tomatoes Matt Atchity posted a letter to the trolls telling them, among other things, to stop being dicks.  And because there are so many comments coming in that need policing, they shut off the commeting for The Dark Knight Rises.  And because of this incident they are going to move to Facebook interface for comments so that people can't spew anonoymous vitriol.  It's a lot harder to trash someone when they know your name and how to find you. 

Here's what he had to say:

But if I could ask everyone for one thing, it's this: don't be a dick. Even if you think someone else is being a dick. Just take a deep breath, step away from the computer, and maybe go for a walk. Have a smoke if you need one. There are plenty of other things to get angry about, like war, famine, poverty and crime. But not movie reviews.

I'm glad that others on the internet have realized how horrible these trolls can be.  And yes, there are way more important things to get angry about.

Image Based Harassment and Visual Misogyny (Feminist Frequency)

Woman Vs. Internet: How Anita Sarkeesian beat the trolls (Game Industry International)

Rotten Tomatoes Halts Comments on ‘Dark Knight’ (NY Times)

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  • Tony Wu | July 19, 2012 1:25 AMReply

    Wow. I honestly thought the comments you posted were tame. Not that they weren't wrong and offensive, but is anybody who has read Internet comments for more than a couple weeks really surprised? Are you? What really bothers me about this post is that it seems as if the comments "got to" to writer, that it became such a big deal that her boss had to step in, and something motivated you to make this post here calling out the trolls.

    I really, honestly have this idealized image of bloggers and writers and whatnot, with a hide of steel where this stuff just rolls off your backs. If comments like the above upset you, I can't imagine what the hundreds of even worse comments I've read on others sites had to affect the writers there. Most of them are so horrible that the thought that they actually upset the writers is in itself upsetting. I'll have to be more vigilant in calling out trolling in future comments sections.

  • Friend of Journos | July 25, 2012 6:20 PM

    Most professions do not expose their work to anything close to the kind of public scrutiny online journalists do -- and mostly because commenters are such a vicious bunch. Most writers do develop a tough hide, or decide to ignore them altogether, but because toughness is not a necessary trait for a great writer or journalist, you also get people who take comments very personally. That's the most self-apparent response to a personal attack, right?

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