No Comment! Why More News Sites Are Dumping Their Comment Sections

  
Via:  flynavy1  •  5 months ago  •  36 comments

No Comment! Why More News Sites Are Dumping Their Comment Sections
"Are internet trolls born or made?"

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


Letters to the editor have always been a key part of American newspapers, the main channel for readers to respond to the content they consume and publicly debate major political and social issues.  So in the late 1990s, and early 2000s, when media outlets began publishing their content on the internet, many editors and reporters were cautiously optimistic that providing a space for online commenting would solicit more diverse audience engagement and create stronger connection between content creators and consumers.

In 2008, NPR introduced its reader commenting system, an option it embedded through a third-party system at the end of most articles on the site. In the announcement, NPR wrote: "We are providing a forum for infinite conversations on NPR.org. Our hopes are high. We hope the conversations will be smart and generous of spirit. We hope the adventure is exciting, fun, helpful and informative."

And an adventure it has been, but not so much a positive one. Eight years and millions of toxic exchanges later, NPR announced the abrupt end of the experiment.

"After much experimentation and discussion, we've concluded that the comment sections on NPR.org stories are not providing a useful experience for the vast majority of our users," wrote Scott Montgomery, former managing editor for digital news, in his 2016 farewell-to-comments address.

Like countless other news outlets, NPR found itself overwhelmed by trolls, anonymous contributors who had too often hijacked comment threads with offensive and inappropriate submissions.

Simply put, trolls are the loudest voices in the room, the ones who write "crazy, nasty things just to get people all riled up," as this latest Above the Noise episode explains in its exploration of trolling psychology.

“I think that public engagement needs to be a key part of a public media organization," said NPR ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen.

Speaking for herself, not NPR, Jensen noted the irony of a public media organization removing one of its key public forums. "I think it’s disappointing that the commenting platform didn’t work the way that it could."

The big difference between letters to the editor and online commenting, of course, is the moderation and selectivity factor. Costs generally prohibit adequate oversight of who can comment in most online forums, and what they can say. And more outlets are finding that their comments are falling far short of the goal of encouraging debate and civil discourse among a representative selection of users.

NPR found that only a very small and wholly unrepresentative slice of NPR's audience was taking advantage of the comments section, Jensen explained, noting the sharp increase in inappropriate content. In one analysis of site activity,  just .06 percent of all the visitors to NPR.org in a single month actually submitted comments at all. And more than half of all comments submitted came from just a tiny group of shockingly prolific contributors who, it estimated, disproportionately tended to be middle-aged men. 

The unexpected volume of submissions, Jensen said, also sharply increased how much NPR had to pay external monitors to manage the comments section.

“We all like to have this ideal that we can engage with readers and reporters,” Jensen said. "But  in reality, that just wasn’t the way it was working. It didn’t seem there was an easy way to fix that.”

NPR has since put greater energy into building robust social media forums to pick up the slack, which Jensen said generally seem to  attract a more representative population of the NPR audience and encourage civil debate.

NPR's move away from website comments is far from unique. The trend started in 2013 when Popular Science became one of the first major publications to ditch its public comment section, citing scientific studies that found that blog comments can have a profound effect on readers' perceptions of science.

A series of subsequent analyses found that when readers are exposed to uncivil, negative comments at the end of articles, they are less trustful of the main content (dubbed the “nasty effect”). 

Since Popular Science’s exit from the commenting business, a slew of  other media outlets -- from Reuters to Recode --  have followed suit.

"Those [social media] communities offer vibrant conversation and, importantly, are self-policed by participants to keep on the fringes those who would abuse the privilege of commenting," Reuter’s executive editor, Dan Colarusso ,wrote in his company's announcement.

Vice News is among the most recent large online publications to join the no-comment club.

“Comments sections are really just a continuation of that age-old tradition of letters to the editor, a cherished part of many publications and a valuable way of creating an open dialogue between magazines and the people to whom they are ultimately accountable,” wrote Jonathan Smith of Vice News in announcing his publication's move in late 2016.

"But without moderators or fancy algorithms," he added, comments sections "are prone to anarchy. Too often they devolve into racist, misogynistic maelstroms where the loudest, most offensive, and stupidest opinions get pushed to the top and the more reasoned responses drowned out in the noise.”

Of course, the vast majority of news sites continue to host loosely moderated comment sections (like this one, for instance). And a number of outlets have even attempted to grow their comment sections, instituting various techniques to encourage civil debate and ward off the ever-present army of trolls at the gates.

Until recently, the New York Times heavily moderated online comments, devoting a significant amount of in-house staff resources to ensuring conversations remained civil. The site also didn't allow commenting on articles dealing with particularly controversial issues.


In 2017, the Times site shifted gears and implemented a new system called Moderatora  machine-learning technology developed by Google. Commenting is now available on many more news and opinion articles, but open only for one day after publication. The system rates and prioritizes user comments, assigning them values based on an analysis of more than 16 million previously approved comments going back a decade. 









The system builds on work the Times has done in partnership with the Washington Post and Knight Foundation in an initiative called the Coral Project, an open-source platform geared toward helping news sites accept and manage reader submissions without having to manually scour each individual comment and weed out the bad apples.


 

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FLYNAVY1
1  seeder  FLYNAVY1    5 months ago

The seeded article has a good video related to how trolls get to be trolls.....

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
2  Buzz of the Orient    5 months ago

It seems to me that NT and other social media sites have taken the place of media comment sections, which took the place of 'Letters to the Editor'.  Moderation became a problem there, and you have most likely seen the criticism of it here.

 
 
 
katrix
2.1  katrix  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2    5 months ago

I wouldn't be surprised if the issue with moderating comments played a large part in the demise of Newsvine.

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
2.1.1  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  katrix @2.1    5 months ago

Maybe so - I didn't stick around there long enough to see it get really bad, or else I just didn't notice it.  I thought that the change to nations was the killer.  Anyway, at least I was lucky to join the group that successfully sued for our savings.

 
 
 
FLYNAVY1
2.1.2  seeder  FLYNAVY1  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @2.1.1    5 months ago

Yep Buzz.... The Nations thing is what sent me packing from NV.  One has to wonder in retrospect if that was the long term plan there.

 
 
 
TᵢG
2.1.3  TᵢG  replied to  katrix @2.1    5 months ago

Best on the info I have from various sources, NV could not afford to pay for moderators.   Its move to nations was to reduce the moderator load by using admins.

Observing the amount of work NT moderators do (even with all the automated support) I am not at all surprised that NV could not afford to staff with sufficient numbers of moderators to keep the site civil.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
2.1.4  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  katrix @2.1    5 months ago
I wouldn't be surprised if the issue with moderating comments played a large part in the demise of Newsvine.

I know as a fact it did.

 
 
 
WallyW
2.1.5  WallyW  replied to  katrix @2.1    5 months ago
I wouldn't be surprised if the issue with moderating comments played a large part in the demise of Newsvine.

I don't think so. Sally and Tyler, et al, did a decent job of keeping that site running fairly smoothly.

The rules were simple and weren't  interpreted in all kinds of ways, according to a moderators mood, whim, or political sensitivities. There was no stupid point system. You were either suspended for various lengths of time, or banned. I agree with Buzz, it was the idiotic "Nations" idea that did it in.

 
 
 
TᵢG
2.1.6  TᵢG  replied to  WallyW @2.1.5    5 months ago
There was no stupid point system. You were either suspended for various lengths of time, or banned.

LOL   Wally, the point system is NT being transparent - disclosing its records.   In so doing, it gives the members online progressive feedback and illustrates that it has a methodical process.   To go to a system where you are simply suspended would be easy - do not disclose the points and thus the only feedback to the member is ... surprise ... you are suspended based on your commenting history.

And if you think NV mods were perfect objective arbiters then I suggest elapsed time has softened your memories.   People were constantly crafting clever comments trying to bypass the NV CoH (sound familiar).   The mods dealt with nuance all the time and, as such, made judgment calls.   The necessarily dealt with matters subjectively - an inescapable aspect of being a mod.

I agree with Buzz, it was the idiotic "Nations" idea that did it in.

That move dissuaded a lot of members and basically drove away the vast majority of the original content authors and major seeders.   So I agree, that move was bad news.   On top of that, the nations failed to provide a good environment sans paid moderators.   Thus NV still had to keep mods on payroll and that was too much for their business model.   So nations failed in a second way (and this is why they went to nations in the first place).

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
2.1.7  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  WallyW @2.1.5    5 months ago

Wally,

The whole reason NT started was that a mod who had a personal grudge on a viner, banned her for no reason. Talk about arbitrary. 

 
 
 
Ed-NavDoc
2.1.8  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  WallyW @2.1.5    5 months ago

I think Sally and Tyler eventually just got overwhelmed with trolls and the negativity all around and pretty gave up. There were never enough mods on NV to begin with And some of the ones there were heavily and openly biased anyway. And there was a point system. I was on NV for almost 10 years. It was only in the last year or two before they closed down that MSNBC/NV did away with it in their last upgrade. Perrie and her mods have done a outstanding of keeping any trolling to a bare minimum.

 
 
 
charger 383
2.1.9  charger 383  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @2.1.4    5 months ago

this place is run  better 

 
 
 
Raven Wing
2.1.10  Raven Wing  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @2.1.8    5 months ago
Perrie and her mods have done a outstanding of keeping any trolling to a bare minimum.

As a Moderator myself on my own site and one other, I can agree that the Mods here on NT are more than fair, and have a thankless job, which they VOLUNTEER for, and some here seem to forget that fact. And those who complain the most are those who would never volunteer for the job themselves, yet, they feel they have the right to sit in judgement of those who do. It seems they tend to see themselves as someone special, thus, deserve special treatment and should not have to adhere to the CoC or ToS.

Some just seem to care less about the site and legal terms that the owner must abide by. And others think that they are the only ones who have the right to express their own thoughts, opinions and beliefs, and do their best to try to silence those they disagree with.

These are some of the things that Moderators have to deal with, and the resulting nasty ridicule and harassment from those and others for doing their job. 

I for one am proud of our Moderators, and appreciate their willingness to devote their own time to do such a thankless job for the Members here on NT. jrSmiley_13_smiley_image.gif

 
 
 
FLYNAVY1
2.1.11  seeder  FLYNAVY1  replied to  charger 383 @2.1.9    5 months ago

Oh hell yes...!

 
 
 
JBB
3  JBB    5 months ago

On social media things get seen that on their own merrit would nearly never be.

If social media sites allow user provided content without proper professional editorial control over that content then those sites will be used to spread misinformation, dangerous foreign propaganda and false news. So, they will inevitably have mostly shit content nobody decent wants to see much less comment on seeded from all the usual hate sites along with all the no good trolls who spread lying anti-American foreign propaganda and other hate inspiring crapola specially crafted to divide us, misinform us, breed hatred and ultimately to inspire weak minded individuals to act out violently.,.

The hallmark or successful social media will be editorial control of content.

If social media in the US does not regulate itself regulation will be imposed...

Also, foreign influence in our elections is illegal. Social media has been successfully used by our foreign enemies to influence, interfere with and even to effect our elections, already. This is a huge issue today. Any sites that are not vigilant regarding this will reap the whirlwind. That is, if they can survive without advertising income. There is a new but concerted effort by advertisers to protect themselves from having their businesses and products from being tainted by association with hate groups on hate spreading websites. 

Sites could be held accountable by law regarding criminal negligence...

The social experiment we call the social media is under the microscope. 

 
 
 
FLYNAVY1
3.1  seeder  FLYNAVY1  replied to  JBB @3    5 months ago
Sites could be held accountable by law regarding criminal negligence...

There is big money in the social media sites, and they aren't going to give up some of their profits readily.....

 
 
 
JBB
3.1.1  JBB  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @3.1    5 months ago

There are good reasons car companies try not to make cars that blow up or won't stop. Reasons grocers don't want to poison their customers with tainted meat. Reasons why newspapers protect their reputation for honesty and good reporting. If the product is shit customers leave. Nobody wants their name associated with The Edsel, rotten meat or Pravda. There are all kinds of good reasons car companies and food processors are legally liable for damages resulting from negligence. In the end, advertisers ans sponsors will have the most effect regarding needed reform IMHO. Even the Boy Scouts and the damn NRA are facing financial troubles today because theirs brands are becoming toxic to many based upon unpopular political or social positions they represent within the wider public's general perceptions...

 
 
 
FLYNAVY1
3.1.2  seeder  FLYNAVY1  replied to  JBB @3.1.1    5 months ago

I do remember that money does tend to make people do things they wouldn't do on their own......  I think I remember that detail from Econ 101, or watching the Godfather.  I can't remember which.

 
 
 
WallyW
3.2  WallyW  replied to  JBB @3    5 months ago
Social media has been successfully used by our foreign enemies to influence, interfere with and even to effect our elections, already.

According to our freedom of speech, anyone can say or write almost anything on social media to influence others....if not censored by the owners and operators of those venues. It doesn't have to be true or meaningful. But social media has never been shown to have interfered with or affected the outcome of an election. To think otherwise is the stuff of conspiracy theories.

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
3.2.1  Bob Nelson  replied to  WallyW @3.2    5 months ago
According to our freedom of speech, anyone can say or write almost anything on social media to influence others...

The interesting thing about your posts, Wally, is that it is so often unclear whether they are sincere ... or attempts to be outrageous.

Websites are private property. Perrie owns NT. She can allow or disallow any language she pleases.

To give you an outlandish example ... if Perrie wished to ban all criticism of fascism, she could do so.

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
4  Bob Nelson    5 months ago
Simply put, trolls are the loudest voices in the room, the ones who write "crazy, nasty things just to get people all riled up"...

The question is, of course, "Are trolls essential for NewsTalkers?"

 
 
 
FLYNAVY1
4.1  seeder  FLYNAVY1  replied to  Bob Nelson @4    5 months ago

No, but we sure seem to have a bushel full of strong minded people that believe only they have the right answer for things....

Most would agree there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance.  The difficulty is realizing where that is on your own.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
4.1.1  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @4.1    5 months ago
Most would agree there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance.  The difficulty is realizing where that is on your own.

Well said.

 
 
 
TᵢG
5  TᵢG    5 months ago
Simply put, trolls are the loudest voices in the room, the ones who write "crazy, nasty things just to get people all riled up," as this latest Above the Noise episode explains in its exploration of trolling psychology.

Agreed.   Trolls are malicious.   They seek to disrupt - to piss people off for their own enjoyment.   

( My guess is that one must be either very immature or have some psychological issue such as an inferiority complex to act this way. )

We should be careful to distinguish trolls from highly opinionated members (and emotional members).

 
 
 
FLYNAVY1
5.1  seeder  FLYNAVY1  replied to  TᵢG @5    5 months ago

I don't think we have any trolls on NT.... there were a bunch of them on NV though...!

I'm sure there are more than a few from NV that remember the "Driftwood" incident where she had some abusive sexual troll after her.

 
 
 
Ed-NavDoc
5.1.1  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @5.1    5 months ago

So true. I remember one guy in particular who was hard core anti-Israel. The only times he would show up was to bash Israel. That guy hated me because I always stood up to him and cut him no slack. He constantly badmouthed my Navy service and was always threatening to report me for impersonating a physician because of my screen name. When I attempted to explain the meaning he just called me a liar and disappeared back into the woodwork. You might remember the guy. There were about two or three of them were like a tag team on Israel hating.

 
 
 
Raven Wing
5.1.2  Raven Wing  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @5.1    5 months ago
I don't think we have any trolls on NT

Yes...we do. Not many, but, they are here as well.

 
 
 
Freefaller
5.1.3  Freefaller  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @5.1    5 months ago
I don't think we have any trolls on NT

I believe for sure that there is one as I have watched his evolution from just an occasional hit and run troll to a full time constant troll since the NV days

 
 
 
Freefaller
5.1.4  Freefaller  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @5.1.1    5 months ago
He constantly badmouthed my Navy service and was always threatening to report me for impersonating a physician

Can't remember his/her name but I do remember some of the above, what a tool

 
 
 
FLYNAVY1
5.1.5  seeder  FLYNAVY1  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @5.1.1    5 months ago

I remember some of those seeds were pretty brutal doc.  The trolls always got real thick during the run up to elections too,

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
5.1.6  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Ed-NavDoc @5.1.1    5 months ago

Oh, I certainly remember the Israel-bashers on NV.  

 
 
 
Ed-NavDoc
5.1.7  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @5.1.5    5 months ago

Yep. I remember one particular Hillary fan in particular who was so absolutely sure HRC was going to win. She hated anybody that disagreed with her. I think she is on NT now under a different name. She was on NV for years and changed screen names more times than you could shake a stick at. I think she held the record for reregs....

 
 
 
WallyW
5.2  WallyW  replied to  TᵢG @5    5 months ago
Agreed.   Trolls are malicious.   They seek to disrupt - to piss people off for their own enjoyment. 

They also seem to post an inordinate number of inflammatory articles designed to anger and infuriate.

You know, the old intend to antagonize thingy.

 
 
 
TᵢG
5.2.1  TᵢG  replied to  WallyW @5.2    5 months ago
They also seem to post an inordinate number of inflammatory articles designed to anger and infuriate.

Some do.   Most trolls attack with comments.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
6  Perrie Halpern R.A.    5 months ago

A few years ago, I read about this issue of commenting sections going. Without moderation, you can't have a comment section. It falls to loudest most obnoxious voices.

There is an additional issue. Value. Advertisers are comment section shy and so there is very income from them. After advertisers came up with the concept of "Brand safe", a lot of comment sections took a huge hit in advertisers willing to advertise on those sections and thus another reason to dumb the comment section. 

NT is probably one of the few non-partisan discussion sites on the web. It is a labor of love and not money (or as Matt refers to it as my hobby), and so we are still here as long as people have something to say. 

Great article... actually, you are on a roll today, Fly. I loved your other one, too. 

 
 
 
FLYNAVY1
6.1  seeder  FLYNAVY1  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @6    5 months ago

Thanks Perrie.  You've known me to try and post things where people can discuss and share rather than take sides and scream at each other.  That's not to say that hasn't happened at times, but my goal is always to try and learn, rather than score debating points. That and be polite.

 
 
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