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Trolls, politics, and the New York Times

To the editor:

Given the reality of Internet trolling (The Trolls Among Us, by Mattathias Schwartz, Aug 3), the New York Times’ own reader comment system is hopelessly naive in its architecture. Head over to the Caucus blog, read the comment threads, and ask yourself: how many of those who claim to be an “Obama supporter” or a “Republican in Iowa” can be believed? How many, instead, intend to sow discord or harvest “lulz”?

The question mattered during a Democratic primary where Clinton and Obama supporters seemed to trade vitriol directed as much at each other as at the candidates. And because the character of candidates’ supporters continues to matter (Obama supporters are “elitist;” McCain’s, “racist”), trolls can easily spread mistrust among the electorate.

Political trolling, whether coordinated or freelance, may be the newest weapon in politics’ arsenal of dirty tricks. But the Times need not serve as a proving-ground. Take a lesson from the Robot9000 example and patch your own blogs before real harm is done.

(See also “Don’t Let Internet Trolls Get Your Goat“)

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