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Feed the Trolls!?!

March 24, 2014

TechDirt: “Why Moderating Comments Doesn’t Remove Section 230 Protection, And Why More Lawyers Need To Understand This” by Tim Cushing quotes Marco Randazza, of the blawg “The Legal Satyricon” in which Randazza published: “No…. Section 230 does not prohibit you from being responsible“:

47 USC Section 230 is the federal statute that provides legal immunity to online service providers for lawsuits based on content provided by third parties. Because of this law, if someone posts a defamatory comment on this blog, I am not liable for that content. Period. There are some very very narrow exceptions, which don’t warrant discussion for the purposes of this post — because we aren’t going to delve into nuance here.

I want to clear up one bit of bullshit that seems to continue to walk the earth, sort of like a legal bullshit zombie. The bullshit is the notion that if I delete ANY comments on this blog, then I lose my Section 230 immunity.

This issue is apparently being misstated in CLE classes and Randazza wants to clear up this zombie lie. Concluding:

If you’re a Section 230 protected website operator and your lawyer has ever told you that you can’t act responsibly, lest you lose protection, then pick up your phone and dial his number (or her number, whatever). I presume you’ll get his voicemail. Leave this message “Hey, you’re either really stupid, or fucking dishonest. In either event, you’re fired, fucktard.”

Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice also wrote about Randazza’s issue in “Troll Management“:

Dealing with trolls is easy. Delete. Not making people stupider is a responsibility. If you claim you don’t have the time to clean up your mess, then you have no business having a blog, and, frankly, you’re full of it. It only takes a second to straighten up the house.

At the same time, if no one trolls you, then you haven’t offered an idea worth publishing anyway.

zombie marco randazzazombie scott greenfield

More recently, Randazza’s linked to image of a counter-protest of a Westboro protest, “I wish I was a good enough person to have thought of this” which is sort of trolls on trolls. Which is sort of what the internet is.

Contrast, another recent Randazza post about judgment against revenge porn operators. So I guess 230 didn’t protect them? Is it just because it was child porn? I’m guessing that’s where 230(e)(1) becomes relevant, but I’m confused, I guess comments do still need some moderation if they are naked pictures?

Anyway, I generally like trolls. This whole blog is sort of troll art (plucking quoted-gems from passerby writers who dare to cross these network bridges), in a sense I am trolling the word “zombie” amongst journalists, lawyers and political professionals who spread this viral word. And yet even if it is trolling, I would still argue that this trolling is valuable for free expression and the academic study of culture and satire in it’s own right! Satire for satires’ sake! Indeed, Randazza’s blog is called Satyricon. Satyrs:

one of a troop of male companions of Pan and Dionysus with goat-like (caprine) feature

And weevwas part of Goatse Security. In 2008 Nytimes article “The Trolls Among Us” by Mattathias Schwartz, a picture of a fresh-faced weev and the story of a myspace hacked with “zombie” picture. Also definition:

Internet users adopted the word “troll” to denote someone who intentionally disrupts online communities.

But ya know, sometimes the community needs some disrupting. Particularly when it’s acting in unjust ways and everyone knows but doesn’t know what to do about it. It’s easy to blame the speaker (shoot the messenger) but if simple speech can rile the community then something is wrong in the community. Sometimes the better way to fix it would be to engage in the conversation rather than censor it. Like these Westboro-counterprotesters, don’t try to ban the speech, engage the protester with empathy:

“sorry for your loss”

Maybe that’s how we should all greet each other from now on, “sorry for your loss”.

Or maybe I’m just “The Boy Who Loved Trolls” ?


Today Greenfield also posted “Work/Life Balance: The Zombie Walks” challenging that zombie myth of:

Work/life balance. That fabulous concept that your work as a lawyer takes a backseat to your personal life.

Practicing law isn’t the death of a fun life, but it is a responsibility,

Hey Mr. Greenfield, I’m sorry for your loss.

See also: “New Study: Internet Trolls Are Often Machiavellian Sadists” by Chris Mooney

E.E. Buckels et al, “Trolls just want to have fun,” Personality and Individual Differences, 2014.

See also video game in ArsTechnica: “Goat Simulator preview: Goat of the year Surprise! The dumbest announcement of 2014 has actually turned into a fun game.” by Sam Machkovech, quotes co-creator, Armin Ibrisagic:

you get points for doing stupid stuff.

And finally, see the classic Andy Griffith show episode: “The Loaded Goat” — you could shoot that overeating goat (delete it) but if you want to, stand back, flaming may ensue.

So in the end, maybe the legal advice to not delete any comments and pretend like you can’t is actually safer than assigning a social media intern to decide which goats are safe to shoot.

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