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Patrolling for Trolls

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Patrolling for Trolls, by John R. Moffett and Rob Kall

As (OEN) grows and matures, there will be inevitable growing pains. As more and more readers come to to get information and opinions that they cannot get through the mainstream media, it is inevitable that some who disagree with our progressive worldview will try to throw a monkey wrench into the works.

You've all encountered them in the comments sections of OEN articles, I'm sure. Trolls.

Trolls come in all flavors. There are Republican trolls with their angry, twisted-logic rhetoric, and there are arguably trolls within the Democratic ranks as well.

Is it possible to clearly define what makes someone a troll? I think it is. A troll is someone who spreads obvious disinformation, often reposting the same disinformation as comments on multiple articles. This is a form of spam.
Further, trolls will often have a minimal, or even no Bio listed, or a bogus bio, often use fake names and will have never posted an article or diary, or at most a few flimsy articles or diaries.

Trolls generally have a clearly defined agenda, and almost always use negative attacks, ad hominem comments, flat-out lies or they try to hijack threads, taking them far away from the focus of the article. Another common troll maneuver is to re-post lies or urban legends, or to paste long postings that are exact copies of articles or forwarded emails from right-wing lists.

Case in point concerning Democratic trolls: "jacksmith" had reposted the same lengthy diatribes against Barack Obama under several different articles. Here is an excerpt from one of those troll postings:

"Hillary Clinton has actually won by much larger margins than the vote totals showed. And lost by much smaller vote margins than the vote totals showed. Her delegate count is actually much higher than it shows. And higher than Obama's. She also leads in the electoral college numbers that you must win to become President in the November national election. HILLARY CLINTON IS ALREADY THE TRUE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE!"

Notice how this troll cites "it shows" as their source of factual information for how Hillary Clinton is ahead in the actual delegate count. Bogus. This troll, who probably used a fake name, was banned and ALL comments were removed.

We are asking all of our readers to please use the flagging system to help us locate and eradicate trolls. They do not further the discussion, and they do not help the site and its community grow. They are a saboteur in the machine, a monkey wrench in the works, a fly in the ointment. So let's all get out those flyswatters and whack them down. Please be very specific in your "reason for flagging" a comment, in particular pointing out specific ad hominem attacks or falsehoods. One of our volunteer editors will check it out and determine if the person is indeed a troll, and if they need to be warned, or banned.

Keep in mind that unlike most left wing sites, we do accept comments and articles from right wingers with intelligent and well written articles, diaries and comments. We expect civility from them as well as from our progressive members. It is NOT appropriate to flag a comment just because the right winger embraces a right wing position. USE it to argue against it. Make the position look ignorant, wrong, etc. But don't call the commenter names.

This year, things are going to be very contentious. We want OEN to be a place where issues and ideas can be freely discussed, but where civility is maintained. We're going to tighten up our rules so it becomes clear that angry name calling is not welcome. Calling anyone a liar is no longer going to be acceptable. You can talk about lies, about lying. But we want you to focus on the actions and behaviors, not the name calling. That applies to anyone, even Bush and Cheney.

If OEN is to develop as a respected media site, then the decorum of the site is important. Fly-by commenters who wing in, throw a nasty zinger and leave, without even providing a legitimate bio may be banned. People who provide sarcastic, dishonest bios or other information may be banned.

We're building a community here. OEN is working to create a credible, respected news and opinion site for grownups. OEN is not only a media site. It is a tool for activists, advocates and groups that are working to make the world a better place. It is a moderated, edited venue where the editorial leadership decides what gets published as articles and what does not. We've been through the free speech argument. You have the right, on YOUR website, to say what you want. We have the right, on this website, to reject your writings, delete your comments, diaries, even articles, and we will do so, based on the issues discussed in this article, and this FAQ.

Thanks to all! (Except the trolls, of course).

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John Moffett Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

John R. Moffett PhD is a research neuroscientist in the Washington, DC area. Dr. Moffett's main area of research focuses on the brain metabolite N-acetylaspartate, and an associated genetic disorder known as Canavan disease.

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