Trolls. They fill the internet with insults, dead-end arguments and inanity, the likes of which we've never seen. Or maybe we have. The Guardian's David Mitchell notes that trolling comments aren't all that different from graffiti, and should likewise carry no more weight.
Photo remixed from The Awl.
More specifically, Mitchell is talking less about trolls as you and I know them and more about anonymous, often inaccurate online reviews. It's not a bulletproof analogy by any means, but Mitchell's idea does reframe the way you look at anonymous content in a compelling way:
When you read a bit of graffiti that says something like "Blair is a liar", you don't take it as fact. You may, independently, have concluded that it is fact. But you don't think that the graffiti has provided that information. It is merely evidence that someone, when in possession of a spray can, wished to assert their belief in the millionaire former premier's mendacity. It is unsubstantiated, anonymous opinion. We understand that instinctively. We need to start routinely applying those instincts to the web.
If you read a review, an opinion, a description or a fact, and you don't know who wrote it, then it's no more reliable than if it were sprayed on a railway bridge. We should always assume the worst so that all those who wish to convince... have an incentive to identify themselves.
The flip side of the coin, of course, is that anonymity is vital to the spread of information on the internet. The important tool to remember, as always, is your scepticism. Without it, you're letting yourself get all worked up over graffiti. (And we're not talking Banksy here — or even Hanksy.)