I’ve been thinking about this lately, wondering what possible solutions can we find to finally eliminate trolling culture. It’s getting to the point where unless there’s a culture-wide shift and recognition that there’s a behavioral virus sweeping through our society, someone will likely be killed.
One of the most fascinating ideas i’ve found in science fiction, is the “Stand Alone Complex” of Ghost in the Shell. To sum it up, its the behaviors of random persons acting in seemingly coordinated ways towards some ends. No one actually is in charge or determining what these persons do, and they all believe they are acting individually. But i see it when multiple mass-murderers latch on to the image of Heath Ledger’s Joker, when anonymous wears V for Vendetta masks, when gamers harass, stalk and threaten individual women out of their home, for fear of their own lives. The internet is real, the consequences of these actions are real, and memes that replicate online also take root in our minds, altering our behavior. Why is this behavior becoming increasingly aggressive and polarized? Because right now exists a fully new environment, that organisms must adapt to according to Darwinian natural selection.
Internet culture, especially in the darker and deeper corners of the internet, allows for a breeding pool to create new personalities that have not existed before, which in essence, outbreed calmer & saner minds. Ignoring trolls is not a solution, because for every person that ignores a troll, there are that many more people who decide to leave the conversation entirely. The troll remains, the tone of the entire community begins to change, and an entire ecosystem now has an invasive species that cant be eliminated until the vocal minority becomes the majority. For quite some time, it was physical distance and population size that kept these species from overrunning this digital planet. With the transformation of the internet from a niche interest to a fully global platform, we are finally reaching a tipping point.
What happens when a human being making videos online can no longer feel safe offline? What happens when all of us, have to worry about open-carry psychopaths converging in Chipotle? None of these things were possible or even imagined, 10 years ago? We are in a singularity, where human evolution changes so fast, no one can see what is coming next.
Currently, there is no single practical solution to combating trolls. Deleting, muting, blocking can not stop the hordes of anonymous decency-eating zombies. In fact, the solutions we have now simply embolden trolls to find new ways to transgress social mores. When we ignore the trolls, we simply reinforce the artificial selection where a more shocking troll will make sure he can’t be ignored. When we block, we lead them to create ‘campaigns’. Like any invasive species, it is not the individual organism, but the health of the entire genome that matters. And this organism has one thing that the rest of us do not, and no one is speaking about: The constant protection of anonymity.
We need the elimination of an anonymous internet.
Being able to be identity-less not only creates a damaging psychology in the troll, but also a power that must be abused. The consequences of one’s actions become separate from the ‘real’ persona, and the desire to wreak more and more damage becomes addicting. That is why the number one attack of trolls online, is to reveal as much information of a person’s identity as possible. What used to be public knowledge, our names-numbers-addresses, found in the phonebook, has been transformed into a poison against us. While we flirt with privacy, letting our eyes get familiar with the darkness of anonymity, there are those, like the familiar Dark Knight Rises villain, who were born in darkness.
Until we finally realize that the internet is a real place, a real environment, and we are the same persons online and offline, and consequences are no less severe because the actions occurred online, and that this isn’t a loss of privacy, but a necessary protection, the trolls will continue to outbreed us. There is no stopping a hydra, you must cauterize each wound after decapitation. Twitter, Facebook, all sites that allow commenting, need to be able to connect each online persona to a person, so that each person can be held responsible for their actions.
A few years ago, Google tried to do something like this, but it was a complete failure because it never considered that those who desire to remain anonymous are always hiding from something: They are either the threatened or the predators. Without considering this question, and forcing everyone to be in the bright lights it only benefited the predators. We need to eliminate anonymity, but it needs to be done in a careful, considered and just way. So we can truly protect our images from being shared on revenge-sex sites, so we can know where the predators are waiting or hiding, so our private conversations can be truly be private with all the legal protections, so we can hold ourselves and other responsible for all of our actions. I want consent for my whole life. From corporations, from governments, from individuals – we have a metastasizing tumor called the internet, made up of undeclared, undecided, unclear borders between oneself and others.
I want to be 100% me in all aspects of my life. I walk into a store, thats my face, thats my body, I can’t be harmed. If a cop walks into a store, thats their face and their body, they must be identified, they should not be allowed to harm me. If a troll goes online, they can be anyone, anytime, they dont have to be identified, they can harm me as long as they want, there are no consequences.