Huffington Post begins censorship of comments to combat internet trolls
In an example of a much larger national dialogue surrounding online harassment and trolls, the Huffington Post will be effectively banning anonymous comments from its website.
Beginning in September, any reader will be required to register their first and last names before commenting on the Post’s website.
Huffington cited numerous breaches in its screening algorithms as the motivating force behind her decision, mostly through users replacing alphabetical letters with numeric symbols.
Huffington’s decision reflects a greater struggle with online “trolling” and cyber bullying felt nationwide.
What was once restricted to social media has now perforated nearly every Web-based public forum. What truly separates these digital hounds from the hackers of the past is quite simple, really: the medium they’ve turned into their digital playground is one of the most frequently accessed ones across all demographics.
It’s no secret that online journalism’s popularity has skyrocketed post-millennially; according to Mashable, more than 40 percent of Americans cite the web as their primary news source. The depreciation of print journalism isn’t anything to be disregarded; in fact, it’s the reason so much of today’s media is born on the web.
For trolls, this decline is nothing short of a godsend, as it essentially channeled millions of ritualistic readers to a concentrated corner of the web.
Sara Robinson, UH alum and graduate of the UH Foresight Master’s degree, talked about the general sense of being cheated out of a revolutionary development by the presence of these trolls.
“Trolls are a constant problem for both bloggers and mainstream news outlets … They’re killing the promise that online media once had as a democratic forum,” Robinson said. “In too many places, it’s turned into a 24/7 bar room brawl.”
Though Huffington’s decision isn’t the first development in an effort to combat trolls, it’s undoubtedly the most significant. What separates Huffington’s decision from the efforts of others, though, is its foundation in Huffington’s interpretation of the right to free speech.
“Freedom of expression is given to people who stand up for what they’re saying and not hiding behind anonymity,” Huffington said shortly after her latest journalistic endeavor was announced.
While Huffington’s certainly justified in this statement, the logic that reinforces it suggests potentially perilous behavior, especially as the integration of media and web brings about more struggles.
A person’s right to voice their own opinions isn’t rooted in their intentions; it’s rooted in their humanity.
Our rights as citizens aren’t variable to how we plan on using them. While Huffington’s latest policy isn’t quite an infringement on these rights, it’s certainly a step in a perilous direction.
The annoyance of online trolls is universally undeniable. However, as technology becomes increasingly integral to our lives, it’s absolutely critical that we’re able to differentiate between basic regulations and a decision in the premature stages of becoming an infringement on our basic human rights.
Senior staff columnist Cara Smith is a communications junior and may be reached at [email protected]