Because mandatory Internet censorship is such a hot button issue in the technology community, the technology media has understandably provided their readers with something of a running commentary on the proposal for some two years.  This has been great for campaigners who oppose the issue as it allows us to have a voice in ways that we can't achieve on our own, and to be fair, provides an outlet for the handful of supporters of censorship to engage in public discourse as well.

As EFA continues to work towards broadening the campaign against censorship, other folks with other opinions will continue to evolve their reactions.  One particular phenomenon I've noticed about the progression of ideas and the resulting writing, is the increase in people writing to draw attention to themselves or those they represent by writing material which has no real value but for how inflammatory it is.

The people that are doing this can be split into two groups.

The first group are individuals who comment on technology, legal or policy issues in an era where social media allows everyone to be something of a citizen journalist.  People with an interest in technology, particularly those who have an interest in how technology connects to society and government, know that if they write something controversial on the issue it will almost certainly attract a lot of readers.  Within this, the biggest click-magnet of an article will be one that is deliberately upsetting to people who are opposed to the proposal.  Knowing how passionate opposition is to the plan is the same as knowing that if you deliberately attack the community (perhaps labeling them something offensive), you are likely to have someone express how upset they are on a forum or other medium in which people opposing censorship gather.  The other frequenters of that forum or medium will of course go and look at the article, and perhaps express how upset they are in the comments section.   The result?  A few hundred or even thousand clicks, a new record for that particular blog and a page of possibly heated comments to make you really feel like you were listened to.

The second group contains people who kick it up a notch.  These are people who write professionally (insomuch as they are paid to do so) for a news media site.  While the tactics of deliberately being offensive, misleading or abusive can produce an impressive daily hit count for an otherwise boring blog, those record hits on a news site translate into notability and advertising revenue in one way or another.  This is often referred to as writing a "trollumn" or being a "trollumnist", a portmanteau of "troll" (an Internet user who is deliberately obnoxious to start fights) and "column" referring to the typical thin but tall layout of a piece in hardcopy newspapers where individual journalists express (largely their own) opinions on a regular basis.

As we push on with the campaign and start bringing it into new areas, there will be plenty of this.  I'd like to encourage people to ignore it.  It might make your blood boil to see people upping the value of banner ad space by accusing online Australians of being uncivil and the sight of somebody trying to establish themselves as an expert in "online government interaction" by falsely accusing EFA of being misdirecting. There'll be (more) accusations that EFA is not doing a good job, or the issue is blown out of proportion, or nobody really cares, or any number of other expansive claims.  When these things do make your blood boil, consider sitting down with a nice cup of tea - you may even wish to swear under your breath - but understand the objective, and understand that it's accomplished if you lose your temper visibly.

Or as we say on the Internet, "don't feed the trolls".

4 comments

  1. 'collumn'? Spell check, please.

    Comment by T on 18 January 2010 at 21:40
  2. T:

    The double-L is inherited from the word "troll".

    > and “column” referring to the typical thin

    Single L when the word "column" is used by itself.

    All is well.

    Comment by Ash on 19 January 2010 at 00:50
  3. Excellent.

    The truth of the matter is politics is less about the issues and more about those who are against you on these issues to look like the villains.

    If you want to make the mandatory filtering issue stand on its merits - you've got to come up trumps. Smell like roses.

    To do that, you must encourage the other side to appear like the animals.

    Being that technologists make up the younger portion of the population: they're more likely to be convinced into making the fool of themselves.

    I sure hope we can help people find the means to avoid being fooled into making the idiot of themselves.

    Comment by Jarrad on 19 January 2010 at 06:22
  4. Some people believe in falsehood and they are defending the indefensible! Therefore they need censorship to protect themselves. I say, follow the principle, “free speech for all or for no one”.

    Comment by Faruque Ahmed on 16 February 2010 at 04:00