Open letter: Internet trolls leech life out of journalistic freedom

In 2019 Student Life, Opinion
a drawing of the instagram, facebook, and twitter logo typing on phones while sitting on a bridge. Under the bridge is a troll
(Anita Huor / Daily Titan)

Dear angry internet trolls and toxic story commentators,

To put it lightly, I think you can be the absolute worst.

You creep your way into the comments section of news publications, like sloppy drunkards, hastily stumbling with your words. You let your emotions fuel you to no abandon, with an inner rage of emotion that’s so passionate and intoxicating that it blinds you from any compassion or effective argumentation.  

Your thoughts come across as jumbled, incomplete ideas, which is the nicest thing you’ll hear from me. A few of you will actually manage to take your time to write out hefty, beefy paragraphs, all in the vain attempt to make sense of your own argument.

But, hey, at least you’re making the effort to try to understand what’s happening in the world today, even if you’re writing a rebuttal  that is completely unrelated to the original argument.

Most of you can’t even bother to do that, forsaking originality for basic a– phrases like “sensitive snowflake” or “FAKE NEWS.”

I would say that you literally came out of nowhere, but that’d be a lie.

With the rise of technology, news media has needed to adjust to surviving through new mediums. First, it was the internet, which reached it’s long, lanky arms across millions of miles of land, bringing with it an almost new paranoid sense of urgency to be heard.

While print could only permit so much space for letters to the editor, the internet provides unlimited volume. For once, journalists could hear what their readers thought. And, at times, this can be truly devastating.

Things have only gotten worse with social media. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram;  these platforms and others like them are flooded with people’s thoughts and insecurities, masking  beauty and creativity with unrelated comments or manipulative arguments.

I fear for the future of female journalists who are attacked aggressively for the likes who embrace anonymity. In 2018, two-thirds of female journalists faced intimidation, threats or abuse for writing their stories, and a quarter of these two-thirds faced it online, according to Reporters Without Borders, an international nonprofit organization.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a video or story. It doesn’t matter if we’re covering a political news story or a personal column. Somehow, you assume we’re lying or being disingenuous, so you don’t even bother to read a newspaper’s content.

More than that though, it’s disappointing to hear your hateful words. It’s disheartening to see you so angry that you feel the need to lash out in the depths of an anonymous online comments section rather than actually contemplate how you truly feel about something and come up with an articulate argument.

In some respects, it would be easy to point out that internet trolling is just a void of emotions that doesn’t deserve the time to be written about or addressed. After all, you’re not serious about anything, so you don’t deserve the attention. You’ll just blow this out of proportion so it makes no sense to throw myself into a fire, especially when I’ll be burned to ashes in seconds.

But as a champion of free speech, as someone who understands that every person deserves to have their opinions shared regardless if these thoughts are agreeable or not, it’s important to acknowledge when ignorant, hateful thoughts become an overwhelming roar that impedes on journalistic freedom.

Around the world, journalists have faced unreasonable hate due to their work. Alberto Escorcia, a Mexican investigative journalist, was trolled after reporting on the influence of online accounts in Mexico’s election campaigns. Rana Ayyub, an Indian journalist, had to go through 52 SIM cards because trolls stalked her through her phone.

To ignore you entirely would be irresponsible, making it seem like you don’t exist or impact the way journalists are perceived. There are hundreds, thousands, millions of you making hateful, condescending claims. Your words take away from meticulous storytelling, burying impactful, meaningful content because you can’t even bother to give newspaper articles a chance.

You don’t understand what’s at stake, and don’t seem to get the fact that journalists aren’t your enemy.

I’m not expecting your toxic culture to change overnight; to believe so would be naive. A tangible solution isn’t even within close reach. But if you could, for a moment, consider what you post, even if it’s just to  articulate your opinion in a considerate and thoughtful way, then you would be helping rather than hurting.

Half-heartedly expecting a response,

A concerned writer

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