If you have an online presence, and the public has access to comment about you or your business, sooner or later, you’ll get beaten up. The technical word for this is trolling. An inappropriate, egregious, or personal attack. Trolling is more a matter of tone than substance.

Trolling is ubiquitous. A recent study from computer scientists at Stanford and Cornell concluded 3-4% of posts are flagged as inappropriate. And the most likely time for this onslaught of negativity to emerge is Sunday or Monday nights. From 10 pm to 3 am. The researchers noted that most trolling comes from new trolls – people who have not posted previously.

The researchers continued – trolling correlates with peoples’ moods. Comments in the morning are mostly positive. More negative as the day progresses. Mondays are the worst. The weekend is better.

And there’s a pile-on effect. Negative comments in the same thread begets more trolling.

Internet companies are struggling with managing this problem. Some companies have turned off their comments box. Some sites use human moderators to limit extremes in tone and enforce civility.

Twitter released a new feature which blocks abusive tweeters for a 12 hour period from having their posts seen by anyone other than the poster and his followers. A penalty box of sorts. But a short-lived penalty box.

Software from Civil, a Portland startup, forces a commenter to first evaluate three other comments for their level of civility. The third comment for review is the poster’s intended comment. They have the option to revise, which they often do. The software helps the poster see their words as others might see them.

The anonymity afforded by the Internet often brings out the worst in people. There is no easy solution other than old surgical adage – the solution to pollution is dilution.

What do you think?

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