The internet is a place where people can say things that they don’t have the courage to say in real life. While it’s very easy for us to take online anonymity and free speech on the internet for granted, it’s also easy for us to forget that the freedom we have online is also fragile. It’s also important to remember that the level of freedom on the internet can easily be abused by people who use online anonymity as a cloak, so that they can spout random hatred at people who don’t deserve it (whether it by real, identifiable human beings, or other anonymous users), and go almost undetected. Of course, we call them internet trolls.
Internet trolls are a plague that has swept various websites, spreading mindless hatred and stupidity wherever they go. Deep down, we all wish we could get rid of them, but can we get rid of them all? Sure, we may be able to stop one, or even a few of them simply by reporting them, but to put an end to all forms of online trolling is not as simple as it sounds, because the only truly effective way to get rid of them would involve either censoring the internet, or increased online surveillance powers, and neither suggestion can ever be morally justifiable.
Freedom of speech is a two-way right. If we’re all allowed to say whatever we want online, then even the worst of us must be allowed this right. If we selectively take the right to free speech away from certain individuals for any reason, then we can’t honestly stand for the right to free speech. Of course, the only thing you can do about trolls is to somehow try and track them down in real life, which the police have often done.
What many people may not know is that the police can see what goes on in the Internet, but they only take action if they can see that you’re doing something illegal. In the UK, they’re able to track down and arrest any internet troll who posts grossly offensive, and or menacing messages online, as is defined under section 127 of the Communications Act of 2003. Don’t be too alarmed, because this only involves tracking down internet trolls who go far enough that they break the law, and in all fairness, this is at least a more reasonable approach to dealing with trolls than censoring the Internet as a whole.
Aside from all that, the Internet is essentially the only truly free place on Earth, and that freedom is very fragile, and constantly needs to be defended, because there are individuals out there who want tighter control over the internet, and there’s nothing they won’t do to make sure that happens. Whoever they are, they can’t stand the fact that there is a place where you can say or do virtually anything, and would stoop to any low in order to wipe out whatever freedom there is left. There are people out there who say horrible things online, but they get dealt with somehow. In my opinion, the best way to deal with a troll is to either ignore it, or report it to whichever authority is appropriate (usually the moderators). If we want to make the internet a better place, we simply need to accept that freedom comes with responsibilities, whether online or offline. If we choose to shirk these responsibilities, however, we may lose the very freedom we take for granted.