C-J Wants YOU, and Facebook, to Police Reader Comments

Ever since media sites began posting stories online and allowing reader comments, there’s been on ongoing debate about them.

On the one hand:  By allowing anonymous comments to be posted, media can serve to encourage debate on a topic, given that the anonymity affords people the opportunity to post relevant information, or opinion, that they wouldn’t offer up publicly if their identity was known. This fosters an open exchange of real ideas.

Au contraire, say the critics, who believe open commenting allows people to express negative, false and disgusting information, without any filter, especially when it comes to controversial topics like race. The anonymous nature of commenting compels individuals to engage in nasty personal attacks that have no place in public discussion. And the media has, for years, dealt with the issue of whether or not it is responsible for the accuracy of information in comments.

Which side are you on?

The Courier-Journal announced on Sunday another safeguard in the war against ugly, negative speech. Starting Wednesday, you’ll have to be logged in to Facebook in order to comment publicly on C-J articles.  The old system simply required registration, which was easy to lie about if you wanted to make some random, racist statement about a story.

It’s still surprising to see the C-J jump in bed with Facebook. While you may think that everyone you know is on the social media site, not everyone is. And it’s likely that the new policy will force some to join up. It’s more difficult, but not impossible, to create a fake Facebook account. I’d say it requires at least enough effort that most won’t bother if their goal is simply to make an anonymous comment. So the number of comments is likely to decrease overall.

The good news for you is that as long as you buy in with Facebook, there will no more pesky requests form the C-J to register in order to gain access to the C-J site.

I think the C-J simply found a better way to deal with policing comments. It basically leaves it up to the masses, and Facebook, to keep things civil. From the C-J FAQ page on this:

If you suspect someone is using a fake or abusive account, report them directly to Facebook by clicking on the user’s profile, then clicking “Report/block this person” at the bottom left of the page. For abusive or inappropriate comments, click the “X” in the upper right corner of the comment and report it as spam or abuse.