A Note to the Trolls Re: Comment Policies

Oct 17 2013 Published by under Meta

Since yesterday's post, I've been deluged with trolls who want to post comments about their views of sexual harassment. I've been deleting them as they come in, and that has, in turn, led to lots of complaints about how horrible unfair and mean I am.

I've been doing this blogging thing for a long time, and I've watched as a number of sites that I used to really enjoy have wound up becoming worthless, due to comment trolls. There are tons of trolls out there, and they're more than happy to devote a lot of time and energy to trolling and derailing. When I started my blog, I had a very open commenting policy: I rarely if ever deleted comments, and only did so when they were explicitly abusive towards other commenters. Since then, I've learned that in the current internet culture, that doesn't work. The only way to maintain a halfway decent comment forum is to moderate aggressively. So I've become much more aggressive about removing the stuff that I believe to be trolling.

Here's the problem: Trolls aren't interested in real discussions. They're interested in derailing discussions that they don't like. I'm not interested in hosting flame wars, misogynistic rants, or other forms of trolling. In case you haven't noticed, this is my blog. I'll do what I feel is appropriate to maintain a non-abusive, non-troll-infested comment section. I am under no obligation to post your rants, and I am under no obligation to provide you with a list of bullet points of what my exact standards are. If I judge a comment to be inappropriate, I'll delete it. If don't like that, you're welcome to find another forum, or create your own. It's a big internet out there: there's bound to be a place where your arguments are welcome. But that's not this place. If I'm over-aggressive in my moderation, the only one who'll be hurt by that will be me, because I will have wrecked the comment forum on my blog. That's a risk I'm prepared to take.

Let me add one additional comment about the particular trolls who've been coming to visit lately: I've learned, over time, a thing or two about the demographics of the people who visit this blog. As much as I'd prefer it to be otherwise, the frequent commenters on this blog are overwhelmingly male - over the history of the blog, of commenters where gender can be identified, the comments are over 90% male. Similarly, in my career as an engineer, the population of my coworkers has been very, very skewed: the engineering population at my workplaces has varied, but I've never worked anywhere where the population of engineers and engineering managers was less than 80% male.

But according to my recent trollish commenters, I'm supposed to believe that suddenly that population has changed, dramatically. Suddenly, every single comment is being posted by a woman who has never seen any male-on-female sexual harassment, but who was a personal witness of multiple female engineering managers who sexually harassed their male employees without any repercussions. It's particularly amusing, because those rants about the evil sexually-harassing female managers are frequently followed by rants about how the problem is the difference in sexual drive between men and women. Funny how women just aren't as sexually motivated as man, and that's the cause of the problem, but there are all of these evil female managers sexually harassing their employees despite their inferior female sexual drive, isn't it?

Um, guys?! You're not fooling me. You're not fooling anyone. I'm not obligated to provide you with a forum for your lies. So go away, find someplace else. Or feel free to keep submitting your comments, but know that they're going to wind up in the bit-bucket.

14 responses so far

  • bpostow says:

    I assume that you know about John Scalzi and the mallet of loving correction... http://whatever.scalzi.com/about/site-disclaimer-and-comment-policy/

  • Jason Dick says:

    I fully support this post.

    • vintermann says:

      No risk for you getting removed then. Question is, what disagreement will be tolerated?

      I assume I'm one of the "trolls" since what I posted on the previous thread didn't appear.

      I didn't pretend to be a woman, obviously. I didn't derail. I did not say I have never seen sexual harassment, or that there's more the other direction, or that men's or women's sex drives are different, or anything like that. I did post "my view about sexual harassment", but then again so did Mark CC. I'm prepared to demonstrate to Mark CC that I'm arguing in good faith and not just to get a rise out of him, through whatever means he prefers (including giving him my name, if that helps).

      I followed this blog for a while because I like Haskell, and I'm a guy who wished he could have spent more time studying maths. I suspect the focus of this blog is the immediate reason for the gender imbalance (what's the ultimate reason I don't pretend to know).

      There's probably something mathy about Bayesian priors here, explaining how Mark CC has a strong beliefs about how men and women are and is very willing to discount information contradicting it. I wish I was the one knowledgeable enough to write a blog post about it ...

  • The BitBucket? You're going to store the troll comments in a source-control server? Very strange! Just kidding of course. I'm glad you do this...makes it easier for me to follow the important stuff. Thanks MCC.

  • J. Dusheck says:

    Thanks from me, too! I'm new to your blog, but appreciate your stance. I also have been suspicious of the number of "women" who have seen men harassed but had never experienced it themselves. Looking forward to checking out your math posts, too!

    --another alleged woman

  • It's particularly amusing, because those rants about the evil sexually-harassing female managers are frequently followed by rants about how the problem is the difference in sexual drive between men and women. Funny how women just aren't as sexually motivated as man, and that's the cause of the problem, but there are all of these evil female managers sexually harassing their employees despite their inferior female sexual drive, isn't it?

    Well, to play devil's advocate, a person could derive an entire non-sexual thrill out of abusing a subordinate.

  • I'm among those you deleted. I was not abusive, made no ad hom attacks, used no vulgar language, and did not misrepresent one single thing about myself. You deleted my comments because I disagreed with SOME of what you posted and SOME of what the commenters who agreed with you said. You're quite right, it's your blog to moderate as you choose. But I've lost a significant amount of respect for you and your ethics. You might just as well (though you won't, I'm sure) say "all comments with which I don't agree" will be deleted. My post about it is at http://hamiltonianfunction.blogspot.com/2013/10/blog-host-ethics.html.

    • Andy says:

      I don't know what was deleted but the comments from PA32R that remain are eminently sensible. In particular this statement, for me, cut to heart of the oversimplification of the OP:

      > acquiescing to a universal right to not be offended is equally reprehensible.

      So yeah, if the comments that were deleted were along the lines of those that remain then that would be a disappointing thing.

    • MarkCC says:

      Oh you poor fucking baby. I'm so sorry that I offended your delicate sensitivities.

      • MarkCC says:

        On second thought, I apologize for this response. I'll leave it, because it seems dishonest to just delete it even though I regret it.

        Let me explain a bit about why I overreacted. I've been getting hammered here by MRAs. The traffic on the blog has been about 10x normal, and about half of that traffic is referrals from the reddit "MensRights" forum. This is, to put it mildly, frustrating. The crazed nonsense that's generated by that crowd outweighs the legitimate stuff by a factor of 10. And of course, every time that I mod their comments, the response is a furious accusation, very much like what you said.

        Going through the stream of shit that I've been getting, I'm sure that I've made mistakes. (For example, I know that Sue van Hattum's comment was accidentally deleted the first time she submitted it; she got in touch with me via email to check why.)

        My experience as an observer is that issues of harassment are constantly derailed, in a very deliberate way, to protect the abusers. It's very much an issue of privilege and power: there are too many people who believe that harassment is their right, and they're greatly angered by any attempt to promote the idea that maybe, just maybe, the people that their stepping on deserve at least as much consideration as they do.

        The internet is, sadly, very much a mens' club. Just ask any woman who's stood up for any issue of gender equity what kind of abuse they've suffered. I can't pretend that I've experienced anything 1/10th as bad, but for speaking up on similar issues in the past, I've gotten a frightening amount of abuse.

        Because of that, I think it's really important to have safe corners, places where these issues can be discussed, and where someone takes the responsibility to filter out the abuse. I'm doing my best to make this blog one of those places. If I screw up, feel free to email me, and ask why a particular comment was modded, and I'll gladly look to see, explain what the problem was, reconsider my decision, or fix my error. But ultimately, as the guy who owns and runs this forum, it's my decision whether I think something is abusive enough to be deleted, and participants will have to be willing to deal with that.

        • vintermann says:

          I was the one who submitted to r/mensrights, and you know why? Because I took a LONG time writing a post trying to help you see things from a different viewpoint. I'm not a skilled writer, it takes time. Then as I was about to submit, I remembered back to some of the other things you've written on feminist issues, and though "this is sure to get lost in the bitbucket".

          Sure enough, it was! So I posted it in a place where they would at least care about my arguments (although I have some big disagreements with the other regulars there).

          > there are too many people who believe that harassment is their right, and they're greatly angered by any attempt to promote the idea that maybe, just maybe, the people that their stepping on deserve at least as much consideration as they do.

          I do not see myself as one of those people, then. I condemn harassment of all sorts. I do not deny that it is a problem for women, more so than for men. If I am angered at anything, it's your simplified diagnosis of WHY it is that way, a world-view which casts men as evil and women as good. I want to end sexual harassment, and while I'm at it I want to make life much less unpleasant for men too, but it requires a less black-and-white, doctrinaire view of gender and gender roles than you present.

  • benclimb says:

    Been seeing a fair few of the pretending to be a woman comments, of late, over here in the online aussie papers too. Hmmmm, wonder how much of it is organized/actively encouraged by MRA types and how much is spontaneous?

  • zach says:

    "Trolls aren't interested in real discussions. They're interested in derailing discussions that they don't like" -- this is the most succinct description of a troll I've ever read. Thanks for sharing this thought.

  • J. K. says:

    Hi Mark. I want to preface this post by saying: I am not an MRA, a feminist, an anti-feminist, or any kind of -ist, I read your blog because I like how you disprove crackpots. I just have a quick comment, after reading the string of comments in these two blog posts:

    I know that many of the people who come from non-math-related websites simply to discuss these blog posts are trolls, but what about those who aren't? Some of them bring up good points. Do you feel that it's your duty here to defend the women when they're being "attacked" in these arguments, even if the "attacker" is bringing up reasonable arguments?

    As I said, I'm not an MRA or anything like that, as a matter of fact I didn't even know about this movement before these posts. I just think that generalizing that MRAs are troll and that men are inherently evil while women are inherently good is... well, a little bit naive here, don't you think? I'm not saying you're doing it, it's just the impression you're giving. After all, every time you post about any of these issues, it's always from a feminist point of view. You're smart, why do you close your mind on these subjects?

    Regards, J. K.