ARF, ARF, ARF! Anonymous Rage Freedom? Perhaps No More

kinnon —  August 5, 2008 — Leave a comment

monitorflames-1.jpg“It’s all about the conversation”. That’s the mantra of social networking – the outworking of the Cluetrain Manifesto, if you will. Blogs often lead that conversation – the comment section being one of the joys of blogdom… and also its bane.

This humble corner of the interwebs has had its fair (or is that, unfair) share of flame wars. As a sometimes “agent provocateur”, I apparently have a gift of occasionally bringing out the worst in folk – turning them into trolls.

Trolls come and trolls go at these rarely-achievable ends. My only requirement in the comment section is that if you want to don the persona of a troll, you identify yourself. Anonymity is a coward’s game for those who want to be “bold and outrageous.” (I do recognize that some folk need to be anonymous as publicly revealing their identities could cause them major issues. Rarely do these folk appear in the role of troll.)

In a more family-friendly version of John Gabriel’s theory, if oft-times appears that Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Raging Idiot. (Note, I have encountered folk on these varied webs where *Real Name + Narcistic Personality Disorder + Audience = Raging Idiot, but that’s another story.)

This post @ Sips from the Firehose suggests that ARII’s (anonymous raging internet idiots) days may be numbered. Sips describes the familiar troll behavior – but on steroids,

It’s stunning to me that there appears to be international norms and predictable patterns to troll behavior. Vulgar sex-based insults, thread hijacking, escalating to physical threats. There’s a great gallery of Flame Warriors here – I highly recommend that you check it out. [Bill: Big Dog and Me-Too are particularly amusing… and accurate.] If you’ve spent any time whatsoever in the comments sections, having conversations online, you will laugh, cry and grit your teeth in rage as you recognize the archetypes. Is there some special international brotherhood of the troll that you have to join? Do the entrance exams call for you to drive a netizen into such a frenzy of rage that he smashes his computer monitor with his fist? Hey … that’d made a cool YouTube movie…


There’s an interesting case coming out of the Yale Law School that might put an end to all this. How?

By making people responsible for what they say online.

Sips points to this post from Wired, about a particularly egregious Troll, AK47,

AK-47 was one of a handful of students heaping misogynist scorn on women attending the nations’ top law schools in 2007, in posts so vile they spurred a national debate on the limits of online anonymity, and an unprecedented federal lawsuit aimed at unmasking and punishing the posters.

Now lawyers for two female Yale Law School students have ascertained AK-47’s real identity, along with the identities of other AutoAdmit posters, who all now face the likely publication of their names in court records — potentially marking a death sentence for the comment trolls’ budding legal careers even before the case has gone to trial.

The unmasking of the posters marks a milestone in a rare legal challenge to the norms of online commenting, where arguments live on for years in search-engine results and where reputations can be sullied nearly irreparably by anyone with a grudge, a laptop and a WiFi connection.

Though this particular case appears to be stalled, it should still serve as a warning to the ARII’s that the era of anonymous rage freedom (ARF) might well be coming to an end – a little self-policing (or perhaps counseling) might be in order.

ASIDE: The protagonists in this particular episode of Internet Flame Wars come dangerously close to *this description – RN + NPD + A = RI.

Image is licensed from iStockPhoto. Please do not copy.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

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