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Vibrant online communities? Or cesspools of abuse? Have comments had their day?
The debate about comment sections on news sites is often as divisive as the comments themselves. Recently outlets such as The Verge and The Daily Dothave closed their comments sections because they’ve become too hard to manage. And they’re far from alone. Moderating comments is a full-time job (or several full-time jobs) at many news organisations. Officiating comments on a BBC News story requires knowledge of more than a dozen different disqualifying categories. Alongside shouting, swearing and incivility, comment sections can also attract racism and sexism. BBC Trending recently found evidence of the latter when looking at live streaming app Periscope.
That’s the downside. But it’s also worth remembering that many news organisations – including the BBC – have used comments sections to make real connections with audiences, find stories, and turn what was once a one-way street into a multi-headed conversation.