In quite possibly the single most shoddy piece of journalism I’ve ever read, The New York Times has been taken on a ride by a few Internet dirt balls.
In a piece that ran in the Sunday New York Times Magazine, Mattathias Schwartz examined the phenomena of Internet Trolls, in a story entitled “The Trolls Among Us“. Unfortunately, neither Mr. Schwartz or the copyeditors seem to really know what the definition of an Internet Troll is. Too bad, as its been more than adequately defined and an accepted part of the online lexicon since the days of the bulletin board. From Wikipedia, who dates the term to the early 1990s:
An Internet troll, or simply troll in Internet slang, is someone who posts controversial and usually irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum or chat room, with the intention of baiting other users into an emotional response or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion.
Unfortunately, that which the article attributes to trolling is really no more than online stalking. Even worse, they give play credence to the type of activity that needs to be prosecuted, not published:
Sherrod DeGrippo, a 28-year-old Atlanta native who goes by the name Girlvinyl, runs Encyclopedia Dramatica, the online troll archive. In 2006, DeGrippo received an e-mail message from a well-known band of trolls, demanding that she edit the entry about them on the Encyclopedia Dramatica site. She refused. Within hours, the aggrieved trolls hit the phones, bombarding her apartment with taxis, pizzas, escorts and threats of rape and violent death. DeGrippo, alone and terrified, sought counsel from a powerful friend. She called Weev.
Weev, the troll who thought hacking the epilepsy site was immoral, is legendary among trolls. He is said to have jammed the cellphones of daughters of C.E.O.’s and demanded ransom from their fathers; he is also said to have trashed his enemies’ credit ratings. Better documented are his repeated assaults on LiveJournal, an online diary site where he himself maintains a personal blog. Working with a group of fellow hackers and trolls, he once obtained access to thousands of user accounts.
The interesting bit is that they’ve apparently accepted a term “lulz” which is a bastardization/pluralization of “LOL” for laughing out loud, which the article says these fine folks collect as a rating on their adventures.
The only problem is, that it really isn’t true. If you search Google you’ll find two or three vague references, which come from exactly the same folks they’ve interviewed for the article. I’m sorry, but a handful of clowns doth not a circus make…and they certainly won’t suffice as sources for an article in the Gray Lady.
The article is utter rubbish – an attempt to create a trend where one does not really exist, and frankly, we should expect better from The New York Times.