Why Open Forums Go Toxic

On Salon, I ran across, I’m never reading the comments again:

On Jan. 1, I made a resolution I never thought I would. I took a Sharpie and a Post-it and wrote the words “DON’T READ THE COMMENTS” in big letters and stuck it on my computer. I’ve been so much happier ever since. …

I used to believe that as an online writer, I had an obligation to read the comments. I thought that it was important from a fact-checking perspective, that it somehow would help me grow as a writer. What I’ve learned is that if there’s something wrong or important or even, sometimes, good about a story, someone will let you know. I’ve over the years amassed an amazing community of Salon readers who engage via email, who challenge me, who inspire new stories, who are decent people and treat me like one in return. What I was getting in the comments was a lot of anonymous “You suck, bitch.”

I admit it’s depressing for one who’s invested almost her entire career in online community to throw in the towel on it in this way. I want it to be better. But it’s just not.

And this reminds me of what I’ve seen happen on several sites:

COINTELPRO Techniques for Dilution, Misdirection and Control of an Internet Forum

There are several techniques for the control and manipulation of a internet forum no matter what, or who is on it. We will go over each technique and demonstrate that only a minimal number of operatives can be used to eventually and effectively gain a control of a ‘uncontrolled forum.’

Technique #1 – ‘FORUM SLIDING’

If a very sensitive posting of a critical nature has been posted on a forum – it can be quickly removed from public view by ‘forum sliding.’ In this technique a number of unrelated posts are quietly prepositioned on the forum and allowed to ‘age.’ Each of these misdirectional forum postings can then be called upon at will to trigger a ‘forum slide.’ The second requirement is that several fake accounts exist, which can be called upon, to ensure that this technique is not exposed to the public. To trigger a ‘forum slide’ and ‘flush’ the critical post out of public view it is simply a matter of logging into each account both real and fake and then ‘replying’ to prepositined postings with a simple 1 or 2 line comment. This brings the unrelated postings to the top of the forum list, and the critical posting ‘slides’ down the front page, and quickly out of public view. Although it is difficult or impossible to censor the posting it is now lost in a sea of unrelated and unuseful postings. By this means it becomes effective to keep the readers of the forum reading unrelated and non-issue items.

Technique #3 – ‘TOPIC DILUTION’
Technique #5 – ‘ANGER TROLLING’


Remember these techniques are only effective if the forum participants DO NOT KNOW ABOUT THEM.


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3 responses to “Why Open Forums Go Toxic”

  1. trkingmomoe says :

    Gee I would be hurt if you didn’t read my comments. I don’t over do it and enjoy your writing even if I am in over my head. I still learn something. I have noticed some sliding on Kos.


    • Donal says :

      I did get very tired of moderating at dag, but that wasn’t caused by good faith commenters like you.


      • trkingmomoe says :

        Is that why you left? They can even wear out the readers sometimes. They have gotten stale with their blogs. I should get over there and post a recipe since my computer is working now. It had to have a complete restore done. Thanks for getting back with me.


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