Freedom of Speech vs. The Internet Troll
As with any type of on-line forum, TrumpTown is attracting its share of the dreaded Internet troll. As a result of that infestation some members have taken it upon themselves to identify these trolls and make their user names available to anyone who cares to know. They’ve formed the group ? #TrollAlert ? to better facilitate the dissemination of these accounts. Some of us appreciate their efforts so we can block these accounts before there’s a necessity to deal with them; a preemptive strike, so to speak.
I encountered one individual who was quite irate that members were blocking these trolls. He somehow concluded that this practice was, in actuality, censorship. He began speaking of First Amendment rights and went so far as to say that he was ready to leave TrumpTown if such censorship actually occurred and that even if he disagreed with the troll, he would fight for the right of the troll to say what he had to say.
Oddly enough, I can agree with his statement. I believe in free speech as much as anyone else. I’m not going to delve into the various interpretations of the powers of the First Amendment because I don’t believe any of that matters because this isn’t a freedom of speech issue.
What the First Amendment does grant, with certain limitations, is the freedom to speak one’s mind and say what one pleases. It in no way requires anyone to listen to what someone says. Just as one is free to speak, he’s also free to ignore what others say. Censorship is preventing someone from speaking. Censorship completely silences the target so no one can hear what he has to say even if they should want to hear. When we block an account, we don’t hinder anyone’s freedom to speak; they’re still able to say anything they like and the vast majority will still hear, but some of us are exercising our right to ignore.
I’m sure none of us would block someone who had an honest difference of opinion and believed in what he was saying. Sometimes those people will change their way of thinking or we will change ours or we can both leave with the same opinions we started with. This sort of discussion is one way we learn and become open to new and different ideas. Trolls are a completely different animal. Their entire reason for being is to foment dissent and disrupt an honest discussion. They have no socially redeeming value and exist solely to draw attention to themselves. They crave attention and when we engage them, we’re giving them precisely what they came to get. The best way to deal with a troll is to ignore him and the best and most effective way of ignoring him is to block him.