Last week, I pointed you to some valuable (and worrisome) commentary about how trolls are trashing open discussion spaces online and causing some news sites to shut down their commentary threads.
Yesterday, National Catholic Reporter announced with regret that it is going to curb its online commenting services. NCR will now restrict commenting to business hours (Central Standard Time). Dennis Coday's announcement of these changes explains,
Our website has seen a dramatic increase in trolls and disruptive comments -- some of it engineered by people and groups who fear open discussion of topics that concern the Catholic church and the society in which we reside. What people who would direct others to attack our website fail to realize is that such tactics do not stop conversations and discussions. NCR won't be deterred by this.
I'm grateful to both Colleen Baker and Rolando for leaving comments here yesterday noting the change in NCR's commenting policies. As Colleen's comment says, this curbing of the NCR commenting services due to a dramatic increase in trolls and disruptive comments should be placed against the backdrop of the current U.S. presidential elections, in which the Trump campaign appears relatively disinterested in t.v. advertising and now has Breitbart's Stephen Bannon leading the campaign's operations.
Colleen says she would not be surprised to find that the Trump campaign is actually paying trolls to troll various sites. I think that's not an unreasonable conjecture to entertain, when the New York Times published an article by Neil MacFarquhar only this past Sunday indicating that there's mounting evidence of a Russian campaign to seed the internet with disinformation stories designed to influence the political direction of various nations. As MacFarquahar indicates, one of the ways this campaign is carried out is by planting false stories on social media sites, where they're then picked up by various media outlets susceptible to the spread of disinformation and are then spread as media-approved "truth" to a wider public.
The graphic: Yevgeny Yevtushenko, “Talk,” trans. Robin Milner-Galland and Peter Levi, in Selected Poems (NY: E.P. Dutton, 1962).