Ever since the early days of the web, when the printed word began its migration to new forms of media online, it has become a two-way conversation.
And when media outlets first created the comments sections on their sites, they were intoxicated with the potential. It was a way to get feedback from users and a new way to get audiences engaged.
But as those sections grew and moved into other places like Twitter and Facebook, we saw the dark side of comments sections, “wastelands” as Wired magazine called it last year, lawless places ruled by trolls.
The answer, according to YouTube which was overrun by trolls, was to put an end to anonymous comments – which it did last September. Other outlets have taken different approaches; some hire moderators – one part referee, one part traffic cop – enforcing the rules and keeping the discussion flowing.
But for cash-strapped media organisations, controlling the trolls, building the right kind of culture, and getting the best out of online comments is not just a matter of hitting the delete button. To properly moderate a comments section takes people and money. And this has spawned a side industry in online community management.
The Listening Post’s Will Yong goes to the intersection of technology and the media to investigate the best and the worst of the online comments section, and to ask what media organisations can do to control the trolls and cultivate a better conversation.
Listening Post can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0830, 1930; Sunday: 1430; Monday: 0430.
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