If you ever want to see the worst people in the world, just scroll down to the bottom of stories on CNN.com or Yahoo News. No matter what the subject of the article, the anonymous trolls will be there, spewing hate, racism, right- and left-wing political crazy talk, and the worst grammar and spelling on the Internet.
I was reading a story on CNN.com yesterday, in fact, about a 93-year-old WWII veteran who recreated his parachute jump in Normandy. A heartwarming, wonderful story, it only took a few comments before the hatred and trolling to begin. And it never ended; some 630 comments later, it's still so very ugly and unnecessary.
Of course, we’ve had comments on OnMilwaukee.com since about 2001; we call them "Talkbacks," and for some reason, our readers – minus a few – seem to be far more civil than the readers of the newspaper down the street at JSOnline. Even though we moderate our comments, we let most of the silly stuff slide. For the 87,439 posted, we’ve only declined 2,414 comments, mostly because they are libelous, profane, repetitive or wildly off topic.
Some publications have buried their readers’ comments, moving them off the page of the content. I get that – they don’t want the nonsense to tarnish otherwise good journalism; however, hiding the comments slightly is sort of a half-measure. I say either keep them or get rid of them.
Then, of course, there are the Facebook comments. Some of us publishers hoped that by using its system, which at least somewhat forces people to use their real identities, it would add a sense of civility to the discussion. We, for example, include FB comments alongside our internal system.
The result, unfortunately, has been similarly terrible stuff – and we lose the opportunity to really moderate those comments. And the business reality is that Facebook has deeply cut into our comment numbers. Before Zuck and Twitter, popular stories would get upwards of 100 comments; now those comments are being posted dire…Read more...