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Why online comments are being phased out

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Online comments are on the way out.

Influential tech blog Re/code announced Thursday that has shut off the comment forums on its story pages. Instead, the website is steering commenters to social media.

“We thought about this decision long and hard, since we do value reader opinion,” co-executive editor Kara Swisher wrote. “But we concluded that, as social media has continued its robust growth, the bulk of discussion of our stories is increasingly taking place there, making onsite comments less and less used and less and less useful.”

The announcement was just the latest in a recent wave of prominent websites removing or significantly scaling back their comment sections. Reuters, Popular Science and the Chicago Sun-Times have recently nixed comments.

Fairly or not, comment forums have gained a reputation as a haven for Internet trolls. Several of the sites that have banned comments noted the lack of civility in their decisions.

“As the news arm of a 141-year-old science and technology magazine, we are as committed to fostering lively, intellectual debate as we are to spreading the word of science far and wide,” read a Popular Science post from last September. “The problem is when trolls and spambots overwhelm the former, diminishing our ability to do the latter.”

Like Re/code, Reuters said social media was a factor when deciding to shut down most of its comments this month.

“Much of the well-informed and articulate discussion around news, as well as criticism or praise for stories, has moved to social media and online forums,” a November 7 post read.

Other websites have opted to moderate comments more strictly rather than disable them altogether.

At the Gawker Media family of sites, which includes Gawker, Jezebel, Lifehacker, Deadspin and Gizmodo among others, most comments must be approved before appearing. The new system was rolled out after Jezebel’s comment sections were flooded with animated GIFs of violent rape images.

“The mouth-breathing (expletive)s behind this deserve a reluctant congrats: A+ trolling job, many headaches induced, ruined a lot of peoples’ days, etc.,” Jezebel wrote in a post noting that the problem was being addressed. “You’ve given us a stunning example of just how unfathomably ugly the internet can be.”

At CNN, comments on most stories were disabled in August. They are selectively activated on stories that editors feel have the potential for high-quality debate — and when writers and editors can actively participate in and moderate those conversations.

Editors and moderators now regularly host discussions on CNN’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Despite our best efforts to contain them, trolls are a persistent group and keep managing to slip through the gates.

20 comments

  • lt

    uh…thanks wtrv6 for letting us voice are opinion.the good, the bad, and the ugly.Unfortunately this site will succumb to social pressure too. Most of us can cut through the trash comments and find meaningful ones. It is the young who think they can save the world by micro managing everything.

  • Manalishi

    It’s not complicated to get rid of trolls and bots. It appears that WTVR did a fairly good job of this after going to the new format. It also cannot be denied that most racial related issues tend to be triggered by criminals and their activities, enablers, and politics which makes it relevant in any news outlet,,,,unless of course there is a political bias!

    • Dustin Cavanaugh

      That’s because wordpress has all sorts of plug-ins and addons that allow it to be done pretty much automatically without any know-how from the one installing them.

  • Rob K

    Anonymity gives trolls power. Screening a public forum encourages civility. Sensationalism creates controversy.News articles are biased. Sources are unnamed. Important issues are not addressed. Seedy politics go unchecked. Southern hospitality is a myth. Someone is always guiding the camera for people to look, and now that you did, the reaction is not acceptable. You reap what you sow.

  • Tom C

    I can conclusively tell you why online comments are going away. I’ve been on the moderator side of an online comment area. It’s absolutely soul-crushing and demoralizing to be exposed to such an unending torrent of human vileness, venom and stupidity. I don’t envy the people paid to do this, because they’re clearly not paid enough.

  • wilder125

    Eh, comments aren’t that important when it comes down to it. Social media can stay out of my article commenting.

  • Ms. Richmond

    Wwhat about the people that DON’T use social site? I say leave it alone. Why fix something if it is not broke.

  • Lane Edison

    Despite our best efforts to contain them, trolls are a persistent group and keep managing to slip through the gates.

    The real reason for closing comments on most news sites, is because the comment section makes (some) people think. And government/corporations do not want an informed populace. As one poster said…..Control midia. Control minds.

Comments are closed.