Andrew McLaughlin was Google’s longtime policy guy before becoming the Deputy Chief Technology Officer of the United States at the Executive Office of the President under the Obama Administration, which was a position he held for a short stretch before he became the Executive Vice President of Tumblr. That truncated bio is meant to convey to you McLaughlin has an amazing internet and technological pedigree and, therefore, in things internet and technological, most likely knows what he’s talking about.
And here’s what he has to say about internet trolls.
“The conventional wisdom has always been that the farther you get away from identity, the closer you get to hate speech, racism, flaming, child porn – just the worst and dark sides of human nature.”
Basically, everyone thinks there’s an inversely proportional relationship between the quality of comments on a blogging and/or micro-blogging platform and the amount of anonymity possessed by one of the blogging and/or micro-blogging platform’s potential commenters. The less anonymity (eg Facebook), the better (Read: More thoughtful and not as caustic) the comment. The more anonymity (eg YouTube), the worse the comment.
Makes sense, right?! But the strange thing is that equation doesn’t seem to apply to the user physics of Tumblr, which doesn’t suffer from the same type of commenter problem as you would think for a platform that hosts upwards of 50 million blogs with more than 18 billion posts and allows users to operate anonymously.
McLaughlin credits Tumblr’s relatively troll-free environment to Brooklyn hipsters (or, more specifically, the attitude McLaughlin thinks Brooklyn hipsters have towards the creative process). Watch his interview with Slate Group Editor-in-Chief Jacob Weisberg if you think I’m yanking the carriage on your vintage typewriter.
The interview is part of Slate’s ongoing, HP-sponsored Conversations With Slate series, which features Weisberg interviewing notable individuals in areas of technology, news, entertainment, food, and pop culture. Previous guests have included, but are not limited to, Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Maddow, and Wes Anderson.
Stay tuned to Slate to see further installments of the original series with McLaughlin on camera. And stay tuned to Tubefilter to see when we resuscitate our Tumblr from its anemic state of inactivity sometime the very near future. We now know that when we do, the comments on it will be great.
Scary Troll photo by Anna Bialkowska.