Troll-hunting season

Look, there’s a whole shed-load of stupid out there. Some people will believe anything they read on the internet. The Earth is flat, the former president has been replaced by a clone and it’s impossible to summarize some of the stupid stuff that the QAnon people believe.

These people vote, which is a problem for a different time and place. But these people invest, which is very much an issue for the crowdfunding community. People are influenced by trolls and the purveyors of false information. We’ve encountered various forms of trolling on the communication channels on Reg CF funding portals and on the social media sites of issuers raising funds. While some trolls are merely abusive, some try to convince other investors that an offering is a fraud, sometimes by using detailed explanations. Charts even! Don’t know what it is about charts, but however completely unrelated a purported proof of a statement is, people seem to respond to it as if it had some validity. Look, here’s a chart proving that I am the Empress of the Known Universe.

Funding portals and issuers have to contend with trolls all the time. It takes time and much of their limited resources to work out whether someone is malicious or just misinformed. They have to decide whether to respond to the troll or remove the troll’s comments. And then the funding portals have to also risk having to explain their actions to the regulators.

So we need two sets of people to take action here. Investors, when they see detailed and focused trolling, need to ask what is going on and dig into any allegations made. “There’s no smoke without fire” is a dumb approach to take when it comes to the internet. Sometimes the smoke is a fog of falsity. And regulators need to permit funding portals to exercise their judgment in good faith when it comes to taking comments off a communications channel.

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