What If It Cost Money To Comment?
I've been through two periods in my career where I've been trolled extensively.
The first was when I joined reddit as cryptocurrency engineer. At that time, in 2014, cryptocurrency was not taken seriously by most people. The subreddit r/buttcoin made me enemy #1 in their eyes and trolled everything I did.
The way it worked was like this: I would say something positive about bitcoin on reddit. My comments would be upvoted about 5 or 25 times. Then, some minutes or hours later, the r/buttcoin community would post a link to my comment on their subreddit and commence horde downvoting. My comments would end up with -5 or -25 votes in most cases.
The most irritating thing was the way notifications on reddit worked. The trolls would comment on everything I said or did, and would also call me out relentlessly at random on posts that had nothing to do with me. Every comment would send a notification to my inbox. Always some gibberish, anti-bitcoin statement calling me an idiot and telling me I should be fired.
reddit's block feature was broken at the time. Although the trolling never transcended comments and notifications on reddit, it was extremely irritating and ruined the reddit experience for me. It had a real effect of making reddit not worth my time. Even as an employee at reddit.
The next period of trolling started sometime in 2016, and reached a crescendo in early 2017. This time, the trolls weren't anti-bitcoin. They were pro-bitcoin trolls who didn't like my stance with respect to scaling bitcoin.
Since I had all but stopped using reddit, the trolling would occur on Twitter. Every pro-scaling statement I would make would be met with some negative gibberish, usually from an anonymous account, about how I was an idiot and was going to fail. As someone who had dedicated four years of his life full-time to making bitcoin reach a mainstream audience, this was extremely irritating and made Twitter painful to use.
Because I had developed a large following on Twitter, my profile was too useful to abandon Twitter altogether, so I adopted the policy of blocking every troll. I also subscribed to Wil Weaton's block list, which increased my total block count to over 18,000 accounts at one point. (I have since unblocked everyone and now have a policy of muting trolls).
It is remarkable to me that my first period of trolling was from anti-bitcoin people, and the second period of trolling was from pro-bitcoin people. This peculiarity will be the subject of a future article.
At Yours, we are committed to improving the quality of content on the internet, and part of that mission is to decrease the amount of trolling and toxicity. We have an innovative solution that, to the best of our knowledge, has never been tried before on any social media platform.
What if it simply cost money to write a comment?
The payment for the comment would go to whoever is receiving the comment. For instance, on an article, the original author would set the price of comments and receive a payment from each commenter. The author could choose to reimburse comments that aren't trolls, and leave troll comments unreimbursed.
This would probably reduce trolling drastically, if not eliminate it entirely, because trolling would become an unprofitable behavior. Anyone could troll a little bit, but as they saw their funds continue to decrease, they would probably eventually give up. If a high profile author continues to get trolled, they could just charge more for comments. In a worst case, they may still get trolled a bit, but at least they would earn money for each comment.
We implemented this strategy a few weeks ago on Yours. Authors have the ability to set the comment price. In order to comment, you must first buy the article (if there is a purchase price), and then pay the comment price. The comment price defaults to 2¢, but authors can set the price to zero if they want. If the author is a victim of trolling, they can set the price arbitrarily high and, if there is any trolling left, the worst case is that they earn some money for having their time wasted.
The comment price for this article is 10¢. I commit to reimbursing every quality comment and will give a $10 bonus to any comments that are particularly good.