Antisocial Media

Much is made of the noxious atmosphere in blog and newspaper comment sections. “See,” say critics, “this is what you get with anonymous comments.” That may be true, but people who sign their name aren’t any better.

Take Facebook, for example.

News outlets have gotten in the habit of posting stories to their Facebook site, and the posts often get hundreds of comments — many of them amazingly insulting and abusive. Here’s a sample from a story a local TV station posted about a couple accused in an animal abuse case:

comments

Let’s be clear: abusing animals is abhorrent to me, but the people in question haven’t been convicted of anything, just arrested. We’re not just throwing the accused into the stocks, but lining up the villagers to hurl tomatoes at them.

Can’t they moderate this stuff? Of course — but I’m told it would be impossible due to the huge number of comments. Filters can be set to screen bad language and individual complaints can be fielded, but a full-time commitment to Facebook comments isn’t something a local TV station can afford.

You could argue that comment abusers are violating Facebook’s terms of service and that page owners are not responsible. That might be technically correct — but if your name is at the top of the page, it’s not that simple.

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