We’re not much for tooting our own horn here at Ricochet, but allow us a moment to point out that we’ve solved a problem that the academic community regards as nearly insurmountable. From Farhad Manjoo in the New York Times:
The Internet may be losing the war against trolls. At the very least, it isn’t winning. And unless social networks, media sites and governments come up with some innovative way of defeating online troublemakers, the digital world will never be free of the trolls’ collective sway.
It goes on:
That’s the dismal judgment of the handful of scholars who study the broad category of online incivility known as trolling, a problem whose scope is not clear, but whose victims keep mounting.
“As long as the Internet keeps operating according to a click-based economy, trolls will maybe not win, but they will always be present,” said Whitney Phillips, a lecturer at Humboldt State University and the author of “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” a forthcoming book about her years of studying bad behavior online. “The faster that the whole media system goes, the more trolls have a foothold to stand on. They are perfectly calibrated to exploit the way media is disseminated these days.”
Hmmm. Defeating trolls? We worked that out awhile ago.
We started with two principles: (1) The internet is full of rude, malicious people who will got out of there way to derail civil conversation; (2) These people are cheap.
Our solution? Basic economics (hey, we’re conservatives!). We created a small barrier to entry in the form of requiring a paid membership to comment on posts. And we fortified our commitment to civility by requiring our members to adhere to a Code of Conduct enforced by our editors. The result? A community so civil that it can generate a debate on abortion that runs to over 350 comments without degenerating into a flame war. Take that, assembled scholarly community!
Is the system perfect? No. We’ve had to drop the hammer on troublemakers from time to time, but that’s just the way of the world. Again, we’re conservatives — we’re not expecting perfection, just aiming for the best practical outcome. Frankly, we think we’ve found it.
Of course, keeping up these standards isn’t cost-free. If you want safe streets, you’ve got to pay your beat cops (you’ll be happy to know that our law enforcement at Ricochet is not militarized — despite several requests from the editors). If you think this is a worthwhile experiment but haven’t yet joined up, consider becoming a Ricochet member today. For as little as $5 a month, you can help us preserve this sanctuary for online civility. And if you’re already a member, consider upgrading to our Thatcher or Reagan membership tiers, which bring with them Ricochet merchandise, access to special podcasts, invitations to live events, and — let’s be honest, this is what you’re all jonesing for — a shout-out from our founders on our flagship podcast.
Thanks to all of you who’ve helped us prove that you can have smart, witty, civil conversation on the web. And for those of you who haven’t … consider joining today. If nothing else, it’ll give you the satisfaction of proving a story in the New York Times wrong.