ARIANNA HUFFINGTON was among the first Web impresarios to recognize the power of user-generated content — how news sites can be curators of an ongoing discussion. So it was a benchmark in the evolution of online commentary when, at a conference in Boston, she condemned anonymous “trolls” who post hateful comments.
“Trolls have become more and more aggressive and uglier,” Huffington said. “I feel that freedom of expression is given to people who stand up for what they’re saying and not hiding behind anonymity.” Web denizens have long been divided on how to handle “unhelpful” commenters. Determining which comments are offensive involves the kind of subjective judgments that make many Internet believers shudder. But the fact remains: Many prolific commenters aren’t seeking to be part of a dialogue; they simply want to choke off discussion with their own rants.