Last summer, Canadian expat Barbara Haynes tweeted “#DonaldTrump is like if a Comments Section ran for office.” That pretty much summed up what most of us have thought all along – that the trolls and the radicals are controlling the comment section.
I have been toiling with the idea of abandoning the comment section of late. I’m not sure for me what purpose it really has except for my fellow Canadian’s to exercise their free speech with their right to offend me – something they pretty much did on a daily basis. I already have my own personal outlet on my blog, and I can have meaningful dialogue with others on Twitter and Facebook. So how is the comment section relevant to me any longer?
It also been a popular viewpoint that perhaps the days of comments, the freely open marketplace of absurdity and free flowing thought by mostly anonymous posters, should have an expiration date. Many news outfits have even made the decision, well ahead of a mass exodus on the comment section, and since 2012, killed the comments for good.
Popular Science was one of the first major publications to do son back in 2013. In an on-line statement titled, Why We’re Shutting Off Our Comments, Suzanne LaBarre, online content director of Popular Science explained why (in part):
Comments can be bad for science. That’s why, here at PopularScience.com, we’re shutting them off.
It wasn’t a decision we made lightly. 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. The problem is when trolls and spambots overwhelm the former, diminishing our ability to do the latter.
That is not to suggest that we are the only website in the world that attracts vexing commenters. Far from it. Nor is it to suggest that all, or even close to all, of our commenters are shrill, boorish specimens of the lower internet phyla. We have many delightful, thought-provoking commenters.
US outlets The Chicago Sun Times, Reuters and Bloomberg quickly followed suit.
Back the Great White North, two Canadian on-line news sites that have recently put a kybosh on comments are the Toronto Star and the Toronto Sun. In September, James Wallace Vice-President, Editorial at the Toronto Sun ran a statement (in part):
…the increasing use of Sun comment boards for anonymous, negative, even malicious personal attacks, albeit by a minority, has led us to conclude our current commenting system is not serving the interests of the majority of our readers.
Therefore we have decided, for the time being, to no longer allow commenting on most online articles until we sort out a better and more accountable way for our readers to interact with us and each other.
And then, in December, The Toronto Star followed suit. Their statement (in part) read:
We have turned off commenting on thestar.com effective Wednesday, Dec. 16 and instead we’ll be promoting and showcasing the comments our readers share across social media and in their letters and emails to our editors.
So on New Years Day, I will have my morning cup of joe while reading the news on-line, feeling just a little bit lighter by shedding the comment section dead weight.
Happy New Year!