We get a lot of comments on our comments. We love the engagement and conversation the comment threads bring to our website, but like the comments on Channel3000.com articles, some of the feedback we receive about the threads is not constructive.
Critical comments are welcome on Channel3000.com. Disagreement and criticism are part of having a conversation. But some comments go beyond disagreement to profanity, personal attacks and remarks that aren’t relevant to the topic at hand.
A couple of years ago we switched to using Facebook comments on our stories. Facebook’s moderation tools and more accountable identification methods have helped, but some toxic comments survive.
We received fewer complaints about the comments, but still received complaints.
Researchers have looked at website comments on journalism websites and made some enlightening conclusions.
While we believe that our website users understand the difference between our content and user-submitted content, the research shows readers are still left with a negative impression of a website when they encounter destructive comments.
Whether the impressions are made consciously or not, malicious comments reflect poorly on us.
Several weeks ago we decided to start disabling comments on certain stories. The feedback we received from those who noticed was positive and negative.
Many of those arguing in favor of allowing the comments cited a right to express opinions on the stories. While we like to provide users the power to comment, we’re not obligated to provide it.
In the last few weeks we narrowed our focus and disabled comments on three types of stories: Those involving violent crimes, sex crimes and fatal traffic crashes/incidents.
We’ve decided to make this a permanent policy.
We also reserve the right to disable comments on a case-by-case basis, but the decision to disable threads on a story that doesn’t involve the topics mentioned above will not be made lightly.
This will not eliminate nasty comments on our stories, but we believe it will reduce the likelihood of threads getting unruly.
News organizations are trying many different policies and technology for comment moderation. We’re watching to see what works and what doesn’t.
If a better solution comes along, we will consider using it.
In the meantime, commenters are still welcome to speak their piece on most stories and readers are welcome to read them -- or not.
NOTE: Our users will also notice the effects of a website upgrade next week. The upgrade will cause all of our comment threads to reset. Comments posted before the upgrade will disappear. All comments posted after the update will appear on the site as normal and remain there going forward.