Dear Medium, We Have A Troll Problem

We have a troll and bot problem (again). Please help us.

Dear Medium, We Have A Troll Problem
Photo by Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash

Dear Medium,

First, let me say, I love writing and reading here. This was the best kept secret until a few years ago. It’s a reader’s and writer’s paradise. So many thoughts in one place. It’s beautiful. There is one issue I have with the site that is an ongoing problem which doesn’t appear to be addressed, and it’s the racist trolls and bots that appear and disappear with our national political election cycles.

This site has had a bot and troll problem for sometime and we Black writers and writers of color who write about race are in need of your assistance with this matter. I’ve had problems in the past, but this year it’s really bad and the targeted is happening for longer periods of time.

Those of us who write about race, racism, and other social issues have noticed an uptick in the number of new troll accounts posting random one line rants, comments that don’t always make sense, or general anti-Black responses in the comment sections of our writings. I would usually get one every now and then, but I’ve noticed over the past few years each time we get close to a national election where we’re choosing our next President, Representatives, or Senators, bots and trolls come out like bats straights from hell. The appear to be specifically targeting and engaging Black women which follows the same model they are using on social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.

The troll and bot comments are clearly targeted and I’m wondering if this site has noticed or if other writers of color have complained about it. I also wonder if the site has plans to monitor and address the uptick in suspicious accounts engaging with readers and writers. Our freedom and democracy are in the balance here.

I also notice that my pieces on race seem to come under attack most frequently by bots and trolls. I research everyone one to determine if they appear to be a real person before engaging.

This weekend under one of my old pieces on race, “Some Insulting Things A Lot of White People Do,” I received lots of responses back-to-back within a short period of time which appeared to be bots or generic responses created from troll farms. Many comments came from barely used accounts even though many were created last year. I question the timing and the targeting.

I noticed this year, the attacks came during our state primaries and for some reason they’ve began ratcheting the attacks up even though we’re months away from a general election — just like trolls and bots did in 2015–2016. I don’t want the wrong seeds planted in my comment sections.

I don’t mind dissent about my pieces at all, in fact I expect dissent, but I do find it disturbing that only my pieces on race, racism, and Black people are getting hammered by trolls and bots.

Screen shot of Author’s comment section 5/4/2020
Screen shot of Author’s comment section 5/4/2020
Screen shot of comment from Author’s comment section. 5/4/2020

I would like to know if there is a plan to combat the harassment and targeted, racist engagement on Medium.

A few more trolls I’ve found over the past two days. Some I blocked and somehow, they reappear.

Profile appears fake. Troll/bot left a long rant that made no sense on my profile.
This bot/troll posted on my account today after being blocked previously. The Craig Hobson person is a bot/troll too.
Comment that came from previous profile left on the story above a day or two ago.

It’s a lot of work blocking these accounts, and it’s a lot of work to research them. I get more and more of these everyday.

Are there are plans to monitor, filter, or protect writers of color — in particular African America women writing on your platform? At least conducting some research on the subject? Is Medium already aware of this issue and are doing something about it that we don’t know about? Will you report on the issue in the same manner Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms report on suspicious social media engagement? I’m curious to know if Medium believes this is a problem. I certainly believe it’s a serious issue. One that needs to be corrected.

I have been hiding, blocking, and reporting a lot of the comments appearing to come from bots or trolls in my comment sections on race for sometime because: 1) they appeared to follow the same modus operandi (M.O) sounding a like, writing styles are alike, or the comments have lots of racially inflammatory word salads going on.), or 2) they were somehow connected to another suspicious account I’d previously blocked.

It’s really taxing being bombarded by racist trolls and bots on a site I love so much. We need a reprieve from racist bot and troll targeting. Please help us! We’d greatly appreciate it.

I thank you in advance for taking this matter into consideration and understanding my concerns.

Respectfully,

Marley K.