Since writing my recent blog posts entitled Truth is Fiction – My story of being trolled and how should we react as a civilized society and The Truth About Michael Gale I have had lots of people contact me with support which I really appreciate and many to share their similar stories. Some are quite horrific. The worst by far is the story about people who stalk the parents of children killed at Sandy Hook claiming it was staged by Obama to support gun control. They love to harass people on what would have been their children’s birthdays. Then there are all the revenge porn sites! One article I read recently was about a guy who had a former partner set up fake Grindr accounts and 1100 men turned up at his door looking for sex. The article is quite good because the point his lawyer makes in suing Grinder is that tech companies have all the tools to stop this sort of thing, they just don’t until we force them. See http://cnnmon.ie/2piCKiz This is really my main call to action on all this trolling. Its hard to stop people wanting to be trolls.
As a friend said recently “about 5% of people are just crazy” and certainly a lot are plain evil. My troll is a bit of both but mostly just crazy. He literally spends hours and hours of his day fantasizing about destroying me and then spends even more hours of his day making up stupid stories and then making posts on gripe sites or emailing all and sundry with breathtaking emails about what a terrible criminal I am. It actually takes up thousands of hours a year for him. He is particularly active on holidays like Christmas and Easter when he is sitting alone (trolls it seems don’t form many human relationships in life).
When it started I thought that having caused the company I was CEO of to lose millions of dollars to fraudsters that he introduced he was just trying to deflect attention from himself by literally switching roles with me and pretending he was an investor that had lost money rather than the guy who got paid to set up a fraud! Blatant but effective. But now, years later, I am not so sure. I think he is literally crazy. I think he has repeated his fake mantra so many times that he now actually believes he is a victim and fighting a noble crusade. Many people including various government agencies have pointed out he isn’t but it doesn’t matter, he is now so vested in his own alternative reality that he really does believe . I bet he could pass a polygraph while spouting his usual string of lies about me!
Anyway I digress, the point is that there is no way to reel in a crazy guy like this any more than there is a way to stop people who actually think Sandy Hook was a fake or that sit there sending 1100 men on a wild goose chase to harass a former lover.
We can’t stop the crazies from being crazy, we just have to assume they always will be, so instead we need to do what we can. We need to hold the tech companies accountable. And we can. Facebook is doing something about fake news because of the public outcry not because they suddenly became good corporate citizens. Google can easily de-index revenge porn sites, the Sandy Hook crackpots, RipoffReport, Panjury etc. but it doesn’t because those controversial sites bring a lot of clicks. Yet in Europe where the “right to be forgotten” laws began it turns out Google finds it quite easy to be a decent corporate citizen.
These companies are some of the biggest and most profitable in history. They could so quickly and easily change the whole dynamic of internet trolls, stalking and harassment along with fake news. Doing so would save lives, reputations and hope and make people trust the online world again. Ultimately it would actually be in the interests of tech companies. They just have to give up some of that easy money that comes from running with the devil and spend some on the good of society. It’s a very simple ethical challenge. I don’t know why, and it seems counter intuitive to me being a Silicon Valley booster but it is surprising how hard it is for Silicon Valley to rise to an ethical challenge!