Dave says that we cannot really do anything about trolls, and while I like everything he’s saying in his post, I have to disagree. The way to deal with the trolls is to not feed them. Don’t engage them. Push them out of the conversation whenever they arrive. Force them out. Give them no credit for their words with our links and attention.
We can do something about trolls. I know this, because I spent some time in the past year running a social news site. One of the biggest lessons the entire Netscape team had to learn was to walk the delicate line between allowing freedom of speech and blocking and banning abuse. Very pro-freedom of speech people often think that having full freedom to say whatever one wants without worrying about responsibility for those words is the key to that and that impeding that process and in any way censoring discussions that get out of hand is interfering with that freedom. However, imho, the truth is that if you let these trolls and mobs of negativity speak their mind all the time to the detriment of a true and effective conversation, their venomous bile infects the conversation and becomes an even worse form of censorship, because it pushes people away from wanting to engage in the conversation.
The blogosphere is a culture and a society that we want to be as free and democratic as possible, yes, but I myself do not know of any successful democracies that don’t have rules, laws, and some sort of enforcement of those rules and laws. I may not like cops, but I have no problem policing the comment section on my blog, just as I had no problem policing Netscape’s comment section. If all the good participants of the blogosphere simply start taking responsibility not only for their words, but for who and what they link to and what they allow in the comment sections of their sites, then the system will begin to police itself. If Google would start banning hate sites from their search, as they filter them from the use of AdSense… well, that might be a whole other level of goodness. Or it could be 1984. Hard to say.