Mix blatant bigotry with poor spelling. Add a dash of ALL CAPS. Top it off with a violent threat. And there you have it: a recipe for the worst of online comments, scourge of the internet.
Blame anonymity, blame politicians, blame human nature. But a growing number of websites are reining in the Wild West of online commentary. Companies including Google and the Huffington Post are trying everything, from deploying moderators to forcing people to use their real names, in order to restore civil discourse. Some sites are banning comments altogether.
Newspapers are also turning toward regulated comments. Of the largest 137 U.S. newspapers – those with daily circulation above 50,000 – nearly 49 percent ban anonymous commenting, according to Arthur Santana, assistant communications professor at the University of Houston. Nearly 42 percent allow anonymity, while 9 percent do not have comments at all.
The efforts put sites in a delicate position. User comments add a lively, fresh feel to content. And, of course, the longer visitors stay to read the posts, and the more they come back, the more a site can charge for advertising.