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Opinion
Noah Smith

I'm an Internet Troll and Proud of It

Internet trolls can enliven intellectual debate, but too often they engage in harassment that leads to closure of comment sections.
Not all of them are this cute.
Not all of them are this cute.

I still remember the first time I got access to the Internet. I was 15 years old. I opened up Netscape -- that blue ship-wheel icon! -- went straight to Yahoo!, and searched for chat rooms. The first chat room the directory recommended to me, oddly enough, was "Christian singles chat." This is going to be good, I thought. Logging in under the name of "Satan," I entered the chat room and declared: "I am Satan! Bow before me, Christians, or I shall devour your souls!!" This was back in the days of unmoderated web chat, and I wrote my declaration in huge red capital letters that filled the screen.

For about five minutes, I sat there chuckling as the poor Christian singles shouted at me to get out. But then, to my horror, another user logged in under a very similar name ("Satan666," or something like that), and started doing the exact same thing I had done.