|Trolls are generally loutish and|
cowardly, hiding behind anonymity
Goodbye to the Loudest Drunk in NPR’s Online Bar
(Moyers & Co.)
Once seen as a way to democratize the media, news site commenting sections have become playgrounds for nasty trolls.
…As NPR’s ombudsman from 2007 to 2011, I know firsthand how futile and frustrating comments sections are. Even though NPR had a sign-up system, and hired an outside moderator to check comments before posting, a listener could still create an alias and write whatever he (and it was usually men) liked. The comments were often mean-spirited and did little to foster civil conversation.
. . .
The trolls who rule the comment seas may actually have won because they often scare away people with their vicious attacks. An infinitesimal number of NPR’s 25 to 35 million unique monthly users bothered to join story-page conversations.
. . .
The New York Times handles comments by strategically opening up only 10 percent of its stories for comments and then heavily moderates the debate.
. . .
“We have the ability to find the worst people on our sites,” said Losowsky [head of the Coral Project, an effort to respond to the problem]. “But there’s almost nothing that really helps find the best people. So what you have is the best commenters feeling like they are not getting attention from the newsroom. And they are not. You need to celebrate the best comments and find and encourage those people to do more.”
. . .
After over a decade of stagnation in comment sections, the Coral Project or, Hearken, which allows journalists to partner with the public, may be what’s needed to shift the debate from negative to positive, listen more to the audience and enhance the conversation for those who want to be involved….