Online trolls: "The Internet got the best of me"

Anonymity online has been the double edged sword of Internet expression since cloaked commentary was allowed on every piece of media, from the tech blogs to the established periodical empires. And sometimes, the established tech blog empires. One of those, Engadget, was so turned off by what their own community commenters were leaving behind that they... well, turned off the comments almost a year ago this February (only to bring them back). Joshua Topolsky, Editor in Chief of Engadget, went on to state that they have a grand number of readers "who are very trollish."

The gesture may have caused a ruckus but it didn't change much. Recently, Jeff Pearlmen, Sports Illustrated columnist, began a quest to track down his "online haters." Pearlman wrote a post on his blog about Jeff Bagwell and the Hall of Fame which was not well received by a reader who sent him offensive tweets. Later, the reader seemed to have conceded, claiming he got worked up in the anonymity of the Internet and offered a link to his honest thoughts. The link actually redirected Pearlmen to hardcore porn.

Usually, he'd ignore it when someone would write an absurdly offensive comment, or perhaps tricking him into viewing pornography, but he finally reached a breaking point. Pearlman responded, saying his young daughter was sitting next to him but the reader, Matt, blew him off. And thus began his quest. He was able to track Matt down and call him up. What he found was not an incorrigible, immature "troll," but an atoning, reverent human being.

"I was just trying to get a rise out of you," he said. "You're a known sports writer, and I thought it was cool. That's all. I never meant for it to reach this point."

The same was true for another one of Pearlman's "haters." Andy, a 23 year old aspiring writer, called Pearlman "a f---ing retard." He claimed that sports writers were only useful, or only wanted, to "rile up" sports fans; he disagreed with Pearlman's assessment of Bagwell but confessed he loves his writing.

"Am I proud? No. Not even a little. It's embarrassing. But the Internet got the best of me."

It may not be concrete proof that online trolls are not inhibited by the Internet, as if you needed any, but it sure is a stepping stone to the truth about anonymity online.

[Howard Bryant, ESPN senior writer,] says, "I reply all the time... The general response is 'Gee, I didn't think anyone was paying attention.' People believe no one's listening; they think we're not people, they think there are these giant monoliths controlling thought. Then when they realize someone is listening, they rediscover their manners."

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38 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

MrPink said,
be behind 9000 proxies and you won't have problems. Lol.

No, i am not a troll

Way to double fail on memes. It's 7 proxies, and over 9000, not 9000 itself.

Reminds me of the end of "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" where they fly around the world finding the people who slagged them off on-line and beat the crap out of them haha

Here is the deal. So many so called "online journalists" never fact check anything. They dont have to. The days of honest reporting is LONG GONE. There is a tiny, tiny thin line between reporting facts and opinions. Everything these days is "Faction". That is a small bit of fact, mixed with whole lot of fiction/bias. For the love of God, Glen Beck has a radio and TV show. That alone should tell you our world has gone mad.

So IMHO if you post something on the internet, and have open comments, expect the worst. If you dont like it, stop posting.

Basically this guy needs to strap on a pair. No one can hear his complaints, or cares for that matter.

trolling happens in real life too (and in the same context as internet not the gay form). people take stuff too seriously... like sports writers... look on the lighter side of life they get paid a decent salary to write about sports. That's like going yo dawg lets create paid writers about neowin who write about articles written on neowin, then you have the assistant, chief, janitor, VP, CEO, assistant acting COOEO, Chief-VP-CEO editors etc.

When it comes to tech blog (this one included), people are so emotionally attached to the devices/softwares/companies THEY choose that they think everyone who went with the competition is an idiot. Sad, really.

Ask a man a question and he'll tell you what you wanna hear, but give that man a mask and he'll tell you the truth. ( I think thats how it went)

Roxkis said,
Ask a man a question and he'll tell you what you wanna hear, but give that man a mask and he'll tell you the truth. ( I think thats how it went)

Interesting perspective.

in my opinion and from the news sites i read... they should not have a place on the article's page to comment (neowin is an exception). instead, have a link to a separate discussion board where people can post their comments and views.

when i read the news i try to avoid the comment sections that follow. I know that if i see some of the comments, I'll get irratated. people these days don't seem to think about the things they say and are driven out of emotion. it is quite sad.

DreadBoat89 said,
people these days don't seem to think about the things they say and are driven out of emotion. it is quite sad.

People haven't changed, it's just that in the past they would get their face punched for acting that way. The internet lets them be rude idiots and get away with it.

The image in this article should be the troll face. WHERE IS IT!? lol

Seriously though, some trolls are actually funny, but a lot of them just go over the top.

Engadget did not shut down their comments because of trolls, they shut down their comments because they started attacking their readers, and the readers revolted over it. Making matters worse, Joshua had personally removed a criticism from Wikipedia about their web site, and stated in a comment on the Wiki that he welcomed criticism.

After thinking about it a bit, it was Ryan who made the edits to Wiki (after he left his post as editor), not Joshua - want the facts to be correct.

Comments are nothing without trolls.
Trolls are what fuels the comments.
And news posts feel uninteresting without comments.
get the link?

TRC said,
Anonymity + normal human = vicious foul mouthed beast.

because although people say its freedom of speech, i can't really say what i want, regardless if i mean it or not.

I think using the CNN logo is fitting (of course you could substitute any major news source). After every article is literally dozens upon dozens of complete incoherent ramblings by people that are trolls or off their meds. I never read comments after an article anymore. I can do without the headache.

That's the state of news comments, sadly.

You can pick the same three or four jackasses who make the most outlandish comment on news articles, or politicize a story about a tragic event (someone got shot? Must be the fault of <insert leaning here>). Quite sickening really.

azure.sapphire said,
I think using the CNN logo is fitting (of course you could substitute any major news source). After every article is literally dozens upon dozens of complete incoherent ramblings by people that are trolls or off their meds. I never read comments after an article anymore. I can do without the headache.

True. Worse, is when sites with political agendas (any side) link to an article and in come the masses of trolls. Than again, maybe it all begins with three or four, and quickly becomes several dozens, than hundreds.

Trolling is perhaps one of the most annoying things to find out when reading comments about articles, news and whatnot. I think people just post because they can and not because they want to express their own opinions and share views with others.

I can't think of any reason to write down a quick "rant" or "fanboy" post as we see here everyday.

ajua said,
Trolling is perhaps one of the most annoying things to find out when reading comments about articles, news and whatnot. I think people just post because they can and not because they want to express their own opinions and share views with others.

I can't think of any reason to write down a quick "rant" or "fanboy" post as we see here everyday.

I can think of several reasons to write down or reply to a "fanboy" post as some of the posts on that subject are to the point of nauseating.

I must admit I have been guilty of that myself and have been warned for it here a few times, although I am not posting anonymously.

I think I have learned to take a deep brreath before I actually hit the submit button now though!!

Whenever I post, I do try to keep things civil. Whether it is in a technology forum or a political forum, I sit and think about what I'm writing and whether it's relevant to the topic at hand. The political forums are often the most difficult to deal with, as you want to maintain an intelligent conversation yet the trolls and topic baiters post things designed to make the blood boil. Normally I would stay out of such areas but there comes a time where you have to post your viewpoint without dropping down to the level of others. It's not easy when you want to respond emotionally, but you garner more respect by at least being willing to respect other viewpoints.

Tal Greywolf said,
Whenever I post, I do try to keep things civil. Whether it is in a technology forum or a political forum, I sit and think about what I'm writing and whether it's relevant to the topic at hand. The political forums are often the most difficult to deal with, as you want to maintain an intelligent conversation yet the trolls and topic baiters post things designed to make the blood boil. Normally I would stay out of such areas but there comes a time where you have to post your viewpoint without dropping down to the level of others. It's not easy when you want to respond emotionally, but you garner more respect by at least being willing to respect other viewpoints.

Tech forums can be difficult too. Just take a look at ZDNet. It's the wild west over there. You have all sorts of replies.

Microsoft stories gather the greatest results.

Frylock86 said,

Tech forums can be difficult too. Just take a look at ZDNet. It's the wild west over there. You have all sorts of replies.

Microsoft stories gather the greatest results.

True enough, and the sad aspect of that is many of the posters are simply doing the knee-jerk reaction towards the topic instead of reading and thinking about what's been said. Certainly I have my issues with Microsoft, just as I have my issues with Apple, Linux, Dell, HP, Nvidia, ATI and just about every software and hardware company out there. The key is to admit that there are good aspects to all of them in some fashion and react accordingly. We may have reason to hate Microsoft, but they have brought computing to the desktop in a way that most folks can deal with. We may hate Apple, but they at least have some good hardware and an OS that is Unix-based and makes it easy to deal with for the average person.

Being willing to recognize the good is probably the first step towards real conversations in a forum. Otherwise, the noise levels get to the point of uselessness.

Matts anonymous comments were REAL. Just because Pearlman tracked him down and knew who he was he "retracted" the statements out of fear of the consequences.

Not trolling at all, just expressing his Honest Opinion, which he couldn't do for fear of the consequences of a "politically correct" society where you are not allowed to offend anyone, under the fear of legal action (or worse!)

dvb2000 said,
Not trolling at all, just expressing his Honest Opinion, which he couldn't do for fear of the consequences of a "politically correct" society where you are not allowed to offend anyone, under the fear of legal action (or worse!)

Matt's honest opinion on the subject of sports is hardcore pornography? I don't think so.