Trolls – The End of Western Civilization?

Mattathias Schwartz has a piece in this sunday’s New York Times Magazine entitled: “Malwebolance.”  Basically a mediocre investigative report on the seedy underworld of internet trolling.  Although I give him credit for ending the article on a hopeful note, I have trouble seeing what the point of the article is in its inception. 

His thesis:

“Does free speech tend to move toward the truth or away from it? When does it evolve into a better collective understanding? When does it collapse into the Babel of trolling, the pointless and eristic game of talking the other guy into crying “uncle”? Is the effort to control what’s said always a form of censorship, or might certain rules be compatible with our notions of free speech?”

No.  People troll because it is a human impulse.  How is this any different than placing a flaming bag of dog faeces on someone’s doorstep?  It seems to me that the only real difference is that the malfeasance and immaturity displayed on the internet has a corresponding level of personal information and intimate secrets to hurt people with.  The internet has not changed people’s behaviors.  It has simply made our private lives available to the public.  By taking our deepest, darkest secrets online in the form of Google searches or facebook messages, it is only a matter of time before someone will get the bright idea of using them against you.

Hardly the logical conclusion of free speech.  Just a logical extension of the human psyche.

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