For Whom the Bell Trolls

Ryan Calo, University of Washington School of Law


Hate Crimes in Cyberspace is among the most important academic books about the Internet in recent memory. It is creative, rigorous, and almost implausibly well written. The characterization of the underlying issue of online hate crimes is quintessential Danielle Keats Citron: stories to move, data to prove. You couldn’t read this book and think the problems Citron identifies should be ignored. And her solution—better, and better enforced, laws—is clear, pragmatic, and entirely plausible.

My comments amount to a simple observation: not all trolls are alike. Citron pays appropriately significant attention to the victims of online hate, treating these individuals in all their depth and variety. Her portrait of the perpetrator is thin by comparison. Chapter Two discusses the various forces that foster and exacerbate cruelty online. But the person who engages in the kind of hate speech Citron is concerned with—the sort that merits criminal prosecution—does so with a vehemence, cruelty, and diligence that would frankly be impressive in other contexts.