The Troll Summit

Trump Invites Far-Right Internet Figures to Discuss Bias At “Social Media Summit” – The Guardian

With the Troll Summit happening at the White House today, it’s worth a thought for how the far right is seeking to legitimize and weaponize trolling.

  • Contrasting a “freedom of speech” (and in the US, incorrectly insisting it’s constitutionally mandated in every possible venue) vs. a private platform’s duty to police itself. In the case of social media, this is also argued that due to social media companies’ monopoly power (something the far right has no problem with in other areas) a hazily defined duty to allow everyone access exists.
  • Insisting that as part of that freedom, people should be forced to engage with them, whether they choose to or not. “Blocking” is a hostile action; companies that enable that are preventing them from speaking, individuals that choose to do so are “snowflakes” that are afraid of “the truth”.
  • Indulging in a level of hypocrisy verging on the literally hysterical. While they deserve “freedom of speech” literally everywhere, people who disagree with them are shouted down, and people who disagree with them effectively are blocked and/or banned (if the troll is in position to do so on a friendly platform/network). While they will gleefully indulge in any ad hominem/personal/hurtful attack possible, even the slightest below-the-belt response is met with a howling cry of how oppressed they personally are and how cruel their opponents are. (In many cases this hypocrisy is intentional, as seen by many internal discussions among far-right groups).
  • The end game for trolls is simple – not to win the battleground of ideas, but to destroy it. By destroying the battleground, not only will no one will ever seek to oppose them, ideally no one CAN oppose them, because the space to do so either literally no longer exists, or is such a toxic, violently unpleasant morass that a normal person would flee in horror. Thus they have “won” and can retreat to their own (heavily policed) safe areas and crow of their victories.

This is all too familiar to those of us who dealt with the earliest version of this problem – online game developers in the past 10 to 20 years. Only now the stakes are a touch higher. And the space being toxified is… well… everywhere.

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