Trolling the law

Freedom of thought, expression, and participation is a right enshrined in no less than the Constitution itself. We all have the right to express that which is internal — our beliefs, notions, biases, and convictions. All these types of expression are protected. In fact, the Constitution states that no law shall be passed that shall curtail the freedom of one to speak or express himself or herself.

In the past, we saw this freedom most often exercised in speeches. People were free to give their opinions at gatherings. People wrote letters to each other sharing their thoughts and beliefs. As technology started to become more advanced, we were introduced to radio and television. These were then avenues to express ourselves to a wider market in a “to whom it may concern” way.

Now, however, we find ourselves in the year 2023 where social media is the main source of entertainment and information. The advantages are obvious — information is in real-time and presented in ways we never thought were possible. The obvious disadvantage, however, is that it is often unverified information. Worse, it allows for biases, rushed conclusions, and false analyses to flourish.

The epitome of the ill effects of social media is seen in paid trolls. To provide context, trolling is when someone comments on a post to deliberately upset others. Some trolls are genuine — they express their opposing views on the posts of others. They truly believe in the things they say. Trolling in its true sense is a form of protected speech. However, when people are paid to troll, it’s a completely different story.

Paid trolls are most visible during elections, in sensational cases, and propaganda efforts. Their aim is to sway public opinion. When people see that a certain opinion is flooding the comments section, they are inclined to believe that stance or perspective. Their own opinion is now seeded with the thought planted in the comments section. They now tend to believe that this is what the majority think and are now susceptible to the phenomenon of group thinking.

This is dangerous territory. Imagine, just hiring a few paid trolls, and telling them to comment on every post about a certain topic — this may change the flow of the entire discussion. It’s madness!

So, I put forth the question. Is this still a form of protected speech? Should we tolerate this type of deception? We are made to become products spun around by a few well-funded groups. The truth is buried and freedom of expression is drowned.

I offer my unsolicited advice. Stop reading the comments and start reading credible sources. Paid trolls are real and, in my opinion, should be criminalized.

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