Bully Repellent: An Open Letter from AltSciFi to Internet Copyright Trolls

From one of the creators of AltSciFi — to the copyright trolls of Reddit and other Concerned Citizens of the Internet:


I kept a blog for about a year and a half, updating it somewhat regularly. Then I started a Patreon account, in case anyone wanted to pay for my blog entries. I never marketed the blog as a business, so naturally, I’ve never been paid for blogging. The Patreon account was an experiment; Patreon was newly popular and I was curious to play with it. Then they got hacked and I was glad not to have gotten caught in that debacle.

Fast forward to now.

September 22, 2016

Amazing as it may seem, the Reddit fake-copyright troll called Drackar39 has resumed its attempts at slander. It really is amazing.

Recent research has revealed that it’s quite common for trolls to harbour delusional beliefs that they’re upholding social norms and protecting a larger group against an evil outsider (or in this case, wielding a fictional badge of justice against imaginary enemies). This is also an example of the cognitive distortion called the majority illusion, whereby one person believes (or pretends) that they are the voice of many, when the opposite is true.

A key question to ask yourself: why does the troll act like its opinion matters so much to anyone, including you? And why is the troll so desperate to convince the world that its opinion is right?

For example, a troll can build a false pretext of familiarity by assuming it knows my gender — or anything else about me, for that matter. Or a troll can use comically fake legalistic language in a laughable attempt at threats and/or intimidation. And, after failing to fool people by distorting or fabricating facts, trolls often resort to pretending that facts themselves don’t exist.

Another tactic used by trolls is a pseudo-intellectual move called “sleight-of-mouth”. If you point out that the troll is slandering you, for example, the troll may try to “correct” you by saying, “no, I was committing an act of libel, which is not the same as slander!” The effect probably isn’t quite what the troll intended, but is noteworthy here nonetheless. ;)

Most habitual trolls are simply failed narcissists desperate for attention and will use Machiavellian tactics to distort any set of facts.

Trolls will often try to position themselves as “judges” to be “convinced” when they have earned no credibility whatsoever.

This is why you have to simply stop responding to trolls beyond a certain point; otherwise the meaningless battle against them will waste more and more of your time. A troll will gladly keep pulling you down into a spiral of distorted thinking because he or she has nothing better to do. Consider yourself advised in advance; redirect your energy toward creativity instead.

I’ve been brainstorming ideas for starting a zine. The concept now looks nothing like what you might find on old blog entries from months ago.

So I posted prototypes of the zine to /r/cyberpunk [a community on reddit.com]. Unsurprisingly, a troll appeared, talking about how I was “profiting” from other peoples’ work. (Keep in mind the backstory above.) Meanwhile, the design prototypes had nothing to do with making money. Selling a zine depends on having something to sell. I’m still in the first stages of finding independent sci-fi creators to contribute to our little community. The zine will be created by the community. Old blog entries have nothing to do with this at all.

When it became clear that I’ve never profited from the blog, the troll made a lateral move and started repeating that I was “positioned to profit from the work of others”, even though I never actually did.

The old blog entries consist mainly of headlines and blurbs from news articles that I found interesting or inspiring. There were also various images that I had found on Twitter. I didn’t attribute the images to their owners because they lacked attribution to start with, and I never seriously intended to build the blog into a business — and never made any money from the Patreon account in any case.

Update: in the past, Google Images blocked Tor users with an endless series of Captchas. Now that they seem to have lifted their Tor embargo, it will be easier to attribute images. Bing Image Search is far less effective, so there was no simple way for Tor users to identify images posted online. If you don’t use Tor and/or a VPN to protect your privacy online, now is a good time to start.

The moderators at /r/cyberpunk ignored my repeated attempts at reporting the troll instead of arguing. They then blamed me for “spamming” them with requests for help over two weeks of harassment.

Banning on the Troll’s Side

The mods at /r/cyberpunk banned me for asking them to help fight a troll.

Then, on /r/sciencefiction (a different Reddit community), I announced a new subreddit — an alternative named /r/cyber_punk where the moderators protect users against trolls. Guess what? The troll re-appeared. I angrily responded to the troll in order to protect my reputation and that of the new subreddit. What happened? I was banned from /r/sciencefiction, as I was “self-promoting”, “starting drama” and “violating Reddit’s Content Policy”, which is also completely untrue.

My “self-promotion” consisted of posting an original short story that I had written, starting a new weekly sci-fi writers’ group, and telling people about the new subreddit. None of those violate any rules and only the subreddit notification was “promotional”, but the troll’s rumours had apparently done their work before I could say or demonstrate otherwise.

In other words, the troll won by slandering and harassing me across Reddit, and spreading FUD [Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt] which then became impossible to undo as it became a pervasive rumour.

Starting Fresh

In response, I’ve created a new science fiction subreddit specifically to protect and nurture indie sci-fi: /r/sciencefiction_. And I’ve pre-emptively banned a few people. ;) If the troll shows up again, at least now you know the situation before the rumours and slander begin. This time, I’m not fighting back — I’m taking precautions. From now on, no arguing — just reporting trolls to the moderators and watching what happens next.

Here’s a tip: if you see the troll named “Drackar39” on Reddit, ban it if you moderate a subreddit, and downvote the troll if it appears in the subreddits you visit. Do yourself and everyone else who loves science fiction on Reddit a favor.

Practically speaking, if you look across social media, you’ll see that many for-profit blogs use images without getting sued. Copyright trolls would have to sue practically every Twitter user and blogger on the Web. Tumblr would disappear overnight. The fake Concern Trolling by the Reddit troll named “Drackar39” was just a pretense for pseudo-legalistic trash talk to try to scare away anyone who would have wanted to contribute to the zine. Thankfully, it failed, and now there are more options for science fiction on Reddit than ever. A happy ending, ultimately. ;)

Artists Helping Artists: This Is Why AltSciFi Exists

Unfortunately, the usual “grow a thicker skin” approach doesn’t work when one troll becomes an obsessive stalker who slanders you across multiple subreddits (and when moderators do nothing after you try to avoid “drama” by reporting the troll instead of arguing, or who ban you for defending yourself).

Good moderators ban trolls. If the troll comes back, I can point moderators to this post and let the mods decide for themselves. That was the sole purpose of bothering to write all this in the first place (I obviously wasn’t looking for upvotes). Now I can respond using the “ignore them” approach because there’s a counterpoint to the slanderous garbage that the troll was spewing everywhere I went.

And if you own the copyright for any item found on AltSciFi, we’ll gladly give you proper attribution for your work. As artists, it only make sense to help other artists. That’s what AltSciFi is all about.

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