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Online ‘trolls’ are just one headache for comment moderator

Post by Cheryl Tucker on Sep. 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm with 11 Comments »
September 21, 2012 4:06 pm

For the past week and a half I’ve been moderating the online comments on the letters to the editor blog because our regular moderator has been on vacation.

I have to figure out how to make sure she never goes on vacation again. Moderating the comments is time-consuming and frustrating, but not for the reason you might think.

Sure we get a lot of “trolls,” commenters who apparently don’t have anything better to do than look for ways to be negative about anything and everything. But not everything they write should be deleted from the letters blog, even if their comments are reported by several other commenters.

My main headache has been all the challenges from people who just want a comment deleted because it’s a strong, sometimes ridiculous opinion that apparently they don’t share. “Ban this troll!” they plead.

Unless the person is calling another commenter names (“idiot” is the most common) or using obscene language, I’m inclined to let comments stand. I don’t care if a commenter calls the president a “socialist” or Mitt Romney a “fanatic.” They’re public figures, and I suspect they won’t be reading the News Tribune letters blog comments. But commenters shouldn’t be hurling invectives at each other. If I see that happening, I’ll delete ‘em.

I did notice one commenter who was getting reported a lot, and for good reason. I emailed him and asked him to be more civil. He said he would be, and so far he’s only had one comment reported. Sweet success!

I do think the level of discourse is pretty low in the letters comments. To address that, we’ll be going over to Facebook commenting in the near future. That apparently reduces the number of comments – it’s harder to be anonymous – but raises the quality of the conversation.

That can’t happen fast enough for me. In the meantime, please don’t report comments just because you find them annoying. It’s taking up a lot of my time, and it’s making me cranky.


Leave a comment Comments → 11
  1. MrCarleone says:

    The Moderators have a very time consuming and difficult job !

    There are some here who just have a way of making you lose-it !

  2. Harry_Anslinger says:

    The whole notion of switching to facebook is shortsighted and frankly taking a soft way out. It simply means people will create obnoxious facebook identities strictly to not have their political/social/cultural debates and comments on their own facebook page for their current/prospective employers, friends, family, etc.. to read, because it’s none of their business.

  3. dlockner says:

    I find many comments appalling in their content and lack of civil discourse. Anyone who reads online comments needs to develop a thick skin. People who threaten another commenter should be penalized by a ‘time out’. Repeat offenders should be banned and in some cases reported to the proper authorities. Comments should be identified with the writers actual identity. It’s better than living some kind of a lie. The lack of ones true identification brings out the worst in some, if not many people. I realize there are people who may feel compelled to remain silent because of a perceived or real fear of some kind of backlash. I feel that if these people feel strongly about their position they should be proud to stand up and be identified. I have been threatened on FB and insulted in the TNT but that only makes me more careful about how, not what i say. It doesn’t make me want to hide like a coward behind an anonymous pseudonym. I have taken this position in the past and was roundly denounced with disparaging remarks. All the more proof that i am right. Question: Why doesn’t the TNT allow ‘like’, ‘dislike’ or ‘reply’?

  4. I agree with another commenter that if the trend is to switch to facebook then we may all be compelled to create a bogus FB account for the sole purpose of commenting. And also… Think of the alternative: if we use our real FB identities and we say something like, “that Mexican mafia is the worst!” or “I can’t believe those crazy Islam protesters!” … Well then the next day I may end up dead from a Mexican cartel or Islamic fundamentalist. And although I may agree “I only have myself to blame for my indescretion,” my widowed wife may not agree and may try to hold the online newspaper liable for forcing commenters to use their true identities. :)

  5. Ok, so not everyone has a few dozen ways to comment.
    And I can’t seem to get my comments on facebook although
    I’m in that little make money online group.

  6. Please don’t kill the canaries in a coal mine because
    the paper wants to be sicky sweet.

  7. I refuse to sign up for a Facebook account. So when the change happens, I’ll have more time to do something more productive.

  8. alindasue says:

    While I agree in principle with the concept of requiring real names (I use mine), people are correct that people would just create false Facebook accounts rather than create pseudonyms here. I know of at least a couple people who have their “official” Facebook accounts AND another account under a nickname for when they discuss things they might not want their boss seeing.

  9. Whatever1214 says:

    Facebook is evil. They have no regard for privacy. Remember when you create a Facebook account you are the product that they produce to sell to others.

    I can’t imagine why any organization with any sense of ethics would support or partner with Facebook.

  10. John Henrikson says:

    dlockner: “Question: Why doesn’t the TNT allow ‘like’, ‘dislike’ or ‘reply’?” Answer: We don’t have those features in our blog commenting system – we do have like and reply buttons on our main site’s commenting system (Disqus). As this thread anticipates, we will be going to Facebook comments on this blog in the next few weeks (we’ve already made the transition on other blogs). That will give the ability to like posts and will hopefully cut down on abusive comments from anonymous commenters. John H., digital editor

  11. FreeAmerica says:

    Facebook?? You might want to re-consider that decision.

    A good business model invites readers and commenter’s to an online page, a facebook comment section would diminish viewership as you have clearly stated.

    Go ahead… change it and lose one here for sure…. no facebook page.

    Change the comment section to a more user friendly system with a rating system…. The lower the rating means it would self police.

    My $.02

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