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Nastiness threatens future of online reader comments

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© 2015 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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"Nastiness threatens future of online reader comments"

[Insert punchline here]

0 ( +7 / -7 )

The 'thumbs down' feature on many sites probably doesn't help civil discourse.

-24 ( +7 / -31 )

"One tool is from Facebook, whose plug-in verifies the identity of those who post comments, requiring people to use their real names.

Some evidence indicates the Facebook platform and other tools have helped the tone."

Have you been to FaceBook recently? Neither of those statements is even close to true. People continue to create and post using pseudonyms and the commentary tends to run from sophomoric to sociopathic, so if FB is being used as the template for civil discourse, I think we're in for rough waters.

I agree that anonymity, and the safety from any and all repercussions for one's actions has a lot to do with the horrendous behaviour that seems to have become commonplace online, but as mentioned in the article, it also allows folks like myself to be more open and honest when discussing subjects we would prefer be kept to a limited audience. To be honest, I have no idea how to rectify the complete lack of courtesy and civility that's taken over the online community and much of the world in general, but it would be a shame if it resulted in the end of online discourse overall.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

CNN stopped that feature a number of months back.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Thumbs up/down is a great feature.

13 ( +18 / -5 )

What's worse is when websites such as news sights delete your comments for really lame excuses stating "volgar or off-topic" when there is other comments that are actually screwed up and yours was fine.....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Too many intelligent posters started poking holes in the official media version of events.

17 ( +22 / -5 )

I have to agree with the article's premise. I used to enjoy reading Canada's National Post online, and even posted a comment or two. But the whole comment section got taken over by a group of terribly rude, obnoxious people who seemed to know each other and posted personal attacks instead of sticking to the subject. I see the same here, at JT, but not quite as bad. Anonymity is fine, to a degree, but only when you respect the fact that a pseudonym shouldn't be used as a weapon for words you wouldn't utter in person to whomever you disagree with. The researchers are 100% correct when they say vitriol and racist commentary has gone overboard. Time to put a stop to it, like it or not.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

If you have a "good" moderator, allowing comments shouldn't be an issue.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

How about the option to "flag" offensive comments and commentators and have the moderator act accordingly. Self-policing.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

how often are any insightful comments found in the "comment section"? on every site i use, and especially here, it's usually a tirade against anything that's been previously written. it's like a bunch of disgruntled high schoolers.

-10 ( +4 / -14 )

how can a troll affect a healthy discussion when there's a voting system to help the good comments to stay on top? News sites without readers comments on the spot bring us back to the ancient way to "stay informed" by following one-voiced articles.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Regarding this article....What's worse is when websites such as news sights delete your comments for really lame excuses stating "volgar or off-topic" when there is other comments that are actually screwed up and yours was fine....

Moderator: This story is not about Japan Today's moderation policy, but the vitriolic comments from readers.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

“They like the idea of the comments because it brings readers back, it creates a community of people who are dedicated and that’s good for advertising,” she told AFP.

I think what she meant to say was, "We have ads on our pages that get us revenue every time someone looks at that page, so comments are a way of getting people to come back to the page and make us money."

And this is the crux of the issue. A badly-managed comment system will result in flame wars between a few regular users who go to the site for the flame war, often ignoring the content of the story entirely. A well-managed comment system takes up resources from the publisher, but may not provoke as much discussion or result in as many page views as a pit of bile and flames. Unless the publisher has a strong motivation to provoke intelligent discourse, it may be in their financial self-interest to just let the comments go to hell.

Some evidence indicates the Facebook platform and other tools have helped the tone. A 2013 University of Kent study found that by making users “accountable,” the Facebook system makes them “less likely to engage in uncivil discussion.”

I'd invite whoever thinks this is true to take a stroll through MSN.com's news pages and have a look at the comments section sometime, where the Facebook login is used and yet naked and aggressive racism, homophobia, sexism, and politically-based rage and agression are the norm.

Software tools can help with the job, but ultimately you need a human being to make tough moderator calls. And since moderation is so often an unpaid position (or extra work tacked onto another proper full-time job), it doesn't always attract people who can do it well or who are willing to give it their full time and attention.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

What's worse is when websites such as news sights delete your comments for really lame excuses stating "volgar or off-topic" when there is other comments that are actually screwed up and yours was fine....

JAPAN TODAY STOP BLOCKING FREEDOM OF SPEECH. I guess your guilty as hell cause you know your one of the sites that do exactly what this article is about! Read the title of your own news article before even posting it on your site. Your moderators are "nasty" and allow certain users to bash others with rediculous comments while people having a simple debate have their comments deleted for various reasons. You want people to be calm and have stable debates and opinions then stop cutting out comments. Sure if they including swearing, hate speech etc you should... But simply labling them as off topic when they are clearly ON TOPIC is just censorship.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

AFP: “flame wars” have forced the shutdown of comments on South Africa’s largest online news publisher 24.com and Independent Online has done the same.

How could you call it "forced"? Any legal imperatives involved? Twisted their arms with electrons flowing from keyboards?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

No comment

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What's with all the overseas examples? We have a nice little line in vitriol right here on JT (despite the best efforts of the moderators). Moreover, somebody above mentioned this isn't a problem with a "good moderator". Seriously, who would want to sit in front of a PC screen day in, day out, wading through the comments trying to seperate the good from the bad? What a job! Given some of the comments I've seen on other websites, your average moderator either needs a very tough skin or they become a candidate for PTSD.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I refuse to read sites that make it a requirement to use FB to sign in.

12 ( +16 / -4 )

Somebody once told me: Don't post anything using language you wouldn't want your mother to read.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Thanks to various comments, I've started considering things from a different point of view, so I don't want the system to be banned. However, it's true that I sometimes find crude and vulgar words which make me feel uncomfortable. Provided that it won't be too restrictive, maybe some "language detector" would be great.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

In the early days of this web site Mark Dev..lin used the Guest Book for his readers to leave comments on news articles. We got away with mu&der.

Your comment was not posted because it contains potentially offensive content. Please edit and try again.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Comments here are often good, but often bad. I am quite upset at the high number of comments, often normal and expressing a specific viewpoint, that are removed by the mods. This makes me comments much less on JT.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

Lol! I find this article amusing considering Japan Today's regulars. (Myself included)

5 ( +8 / -3 )

it's like a bunch of disgruntled high schoolers.

Um, I think this is what they're talking about.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Informative insightful comments often end up buried under intentionally long meaningless posts or personal attacks by people who want to keep some information hidden. A bit like how an agent provocateur will infiltrate a peaceful group protesting a legitimate concern and start trouble (throwing rocks, burn cars, break windows…) to give the police an excuse to clamp down. On some forums, it’s obvious that several ID’s belong to the same person, allowing him/her to easily highjack a thread. Many posts (e.g., attacks, nonsense, irrelevant) are better ignored.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Burning Bush - exactly right.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The problem with comments is EVEN when it's the truth and the truth can be a bitter pill to swallow at times, people may not like it because they don't want to hear the truth or "can't handle the truth". This becomes the problem and the irony of it is that people don't want censorship but will censor something if they personally don't agree with it even if it is the truth and is written in a correct and civil manner. The problem is human nature and as long as people think they can hide while making such comments, these problems will occur.

My way of dealing with this is to tell people to post comments as if they were if front of real people (the public) and they were watching you in person. If you can do that then it generally means it's safe to post online unless of course you're the type that would not give a 'blank' and do something worthy of arrest.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Imagine an Edit button! Oh, the possibilities! In 2015! Not naming names!

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Moderating comment sections is a great idea in theory, but it's very rare to find a site that's moderated well. More often than not moderators are quite over-zealous to the point where it's ridiculous in some sites.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

WAPO allows readers to "ignore" other readers and posts; McClatchey has recently made contributors sign on via Facebook. The Guardian's moderators do a very good job, but lots of nonsense still gets through, The Indy's moderation is seeminly non-existent. NYT is generally excellent about off-topic posts and ad hominem attacks. The moderation on this site seems to be handled by staff who've been drilled by their superiors to flag "anti-Japanese" comments, no matter how apposite.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It's becoming increasingly difficult to get the truth through the media - witness the media blackout among the mainstream news organizations regarding the reality of the 'migrant' crisis in Europe. Readers comments at least give the public an opportunity to get facts that are often filtered out by the media. I guess that's why now they are moving to shut it down. Very Orwellian.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

SenseNotSoCommon: Hear, hear! Thanks for lending an ear to this, mods.

Are you sure that's what's going to happen? The comment link I followed to get here pointed to a deleted comment. Didn't see any reason for it to be deleted other than it criticized JT moderation.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I see You Tube comments are nasty. Puppy video playing with toys; then people fight and say bad words. Understanding is difficult much.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Burning Bush hit the nail on the head. Most of the time comments deemed "insensitive" or "inflammatory" are those comments that don't conform with the popular narrative. As for personal comments that offend....read it and if you don't like it, ignore it. People need to grow some thicker skin.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Human moderators of average intelligence with omnipotent powers strangle discussions. Watch this get deleted...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Many times, I only read the comments for the range of opinion that the articles just cannot possess

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Unlikely. Comment sections are a major draw for quite a large number of people. They make people browse more articles, spend longer amounts of time on the site, and make people visit the site more often. Sites that disable comments will hurt their bottom line while those that don't will obtain a competitive advantage. Since internet sites that rely on advertising revenue exist in such a competitive environment, I doubt you'll be see this trend gain much traction. Personally I know I wouldn't visit JapanToday if it didn't have a comments section. There are many english sites that report on news from Japan, after all.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Quite often I have problems deciding which button to hit ... good or bad. What a person said might be bad ... it is also good. And the reverse holds true, too. I kind of like to "agree" or "disagree" with certain comments. But to term them "good" or "bad" sometimes doesn't get the true meaning of my thoughts. I kind of like what, I think it's Facebook, is experimenting with in two countries ... a bunch of "faces" that indicate various meanings.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Agree with samwatters. If the comments don't agree with the majority, they get shut down, deleted by the mods on some sites (well, on one site I can think of anyway), or otherwise face deranged forms of mass vitriol. That in turn inspires more vitriol in response, and we are off to the races.

That said, there are some sites that are excellent, where the comments provide more than the articles in many cases. Depends where you go. The largest sites tend to be worst, because they attract the masses. The middle sites can be good if they encourage intelligent debate.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

If the comments don't agree with the majority, they get shut down, deleted by the mods on some sites

Not necessarily comments that don't agree with the majority; in some cases they just don't agree with a certain view held by the site (maybe because of sponsors).

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Would love to sit and have a beer with some of our JT commentators here. See where they / we all come from.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Yeah, it's too bad there is no private messaging system here. I'd like to meet up with some of the posters for a drink as well, but there's no way to set it up.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Doo-Bop, I certainly agree with that. I had a FB account linked to here, now I can't login with it. All I can assume is that my username was somehow offensive to someone.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

An enforced, strict policy with 1 warning, then banning works.

+/- voting works to allow other users to police the content. Moderators can more easily see unwanted comments.

Some websites have idiot commenters going for the nasty reply.

Others have nice folks sharing ideas that are different from mine. I don't take things written online personally. Words do not convey everything that a face and tone can, so I try to see a real person if a response truly is needed.

Most important rule online is "never feed the trolls."

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Imagine an Edit button! Oh, the possibilities! In 2015! Not naming names!

Back in the days before the internet, I used to run a dial-up BBS. I think I know why some sites are reluctant to allow edits. This is the kind of thing I had to deal with back then:

Visitor A posts, "Visitor B is a philanderer who cheats on his wife every Friday night, telling her he's 'going bowling'."

Visitor B reads this and posts, "Visitor A is a lying sack of &$%# and you can't trust a thing he posts!"

Visitor A then goes back and edits his original post to read, "Visitor B is the prime example of the consummate family man. Someone to be admired and emulated by every man on Earth."

Visitor B is then forced to edit his post so he doesn't end up looking like an ass. Then the whole process repeats endlessly. I finally had to turn off edits so I could figure out who was the one originally causing trouble.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Strangerland: Yeah, it's too bad there is no private messaging system here. I'd like to meet up with some of the posters for a drink as well, but there's no way to set it up.

Post it at night when the mods are asleep. 'Meet-up at Pub X, Friday 19:00!'

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Just another nasty comment.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I happen to one of those that does those pop up poles. I think they are useful. Cnn had one a couple of weeks back. I asked them to bring back their comment ability. Ironically, last night I got a generic response back from them.

They basically said they were looking into it but had some issues to resolve. 1. Moderating outright mean and nasty people took a lot of time, as they seemed to write the most. 2. Moderator issues such as having that God complex and editing things to their own thoughts. 3. Moderators with religious issues. They did state though that they found other work for the moderators and none were laid off. ....personally, I do not think we will ever get rid of the mean people out there as they can hide behind the screen.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

theFuNOV. 09, 2015 - 11:47PM JST +/- voting works to allow other users to police the content. Moderators can more easily see unwanted comments.

Sites should never tie user support of content with whether or not that content fits the rules. Otherwise you end up with a situation where a few people with lots of accounts and time on their hands can game the site to downvote everyone they disagree with to try and get them banned. Or you end up with a situation where the userbase vigorously down-votes bigoted comments directed at members of their group while ignoring equivalent or worse bigotry directed at people they don't identify with. A "flag this comment for review" button can work as long as it's separate from expressing the reader's opinion of the comment, but moderators need to independently watch everything on the site, not just the stuff that gets sent to them for review.

Successful moderation hinges on moderators being empowered to act independently, but being disciplined enough to remain impartial. That's a rare combination of traits in the best of times, and practically unheard of when websites try to get by with fora on the cheap.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

+/- voting works to allow other users to police the content. Moderators can more easily see unwanted comments.

No it doesn't - comment voting systems only create an echo chamber.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

A healthy comments section can compensate for cheap shoddy journalism. That is its greatest value professionally and socially.

Given that most articles are lacking in information, analysis, or even mature consideration, I often find that the comments section at least gives people a chance to flesh out issues beyond soundbites and clickbait headlines. They can add new information, give historical perspective, state new ideas, or just new perspectives. The archives of comments sections on this site can even show the evolution of issues and contemporary attitudes about them. They are a social resource.

Here is my prediction for the not too distant future. Special interests of all kinds will set up research organizations that will either produce or sponsor studies that say any old thing. Journalists will basically do one-stop shopping on any issue at these research institutes and then report whatever that interest group puts forth. Without comments, that "scientific evidence" will become the "working hypothesis" that people will adopt. Even with comments, anyone trying to present any substantial information will be shouted down, have their comments eliminated, or whatever. Mostly they just give up. Anyone want to question the UN official who claimed 13% enjo-kosai? You can bet she read some research published somewhere making that claim.

The move to thin-gruel journalism and lazy comments is already happening. I have watched site after site just get taken over. Bad cogitation drives out the good in a Gresham's law of internet discourse. Generally, people will only pay to use a site with an editorial bent that agrees with their own biases.

No corruption is necessary. Everyone will just be too lazy to do any fact checking or critical thinking. Authorship is merely cut and paste in this day and age.

Anonymous comments are the only way people will have to scream really loudly, if necessary, that the emperor has no clothes. I suspect that people, especially those with agendas, don't like them because there is much too much nudity in high places these days.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

ThePBot: Just another nasty comment.

"Pub X" as in "Pub(X)" as in algebra, not what you were thinking, you nasty boy.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@5SpeedRacer5

You said it!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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