I am not sure there really is a way to handle the abuse. You can try. You can outsource some of the load to “trusted” commenters. Automating the task can be done really simply by turning off comments. But that sort of defeats the point.
Quora has a “Be Nice, Be respectful” policy. It seems to work. But it is also used as a mallet against folks who are being nice and being respectful. The only thing they are doing wrong is disagreeing. It appears that just disagreeing with someone is grounds for ejection.
I have walked away from just about all of the forums in the past. UseGroups was awesome when I first found it, then the signal to noise dropped to zero. Forums were amazing but the same thing happened. List servers were great. Once the volume gets to a certain level, it takes too much time.
Comments are often the more interesting part of the story. Digg used to be a great place because the comments were a touchstone of what the community thought.
The thing I looked to not find in comment sections is no oppositional comments. If there are no oppositional comments in threads, I will start to get worried. I know that my way of thinking is the “right” way of thinking (RIGHT?), but I really want alternative thought flowing through the universe, because sometimes obvious answers come from the opposition.
Learning to ignore the bullies in the comment sections is a good thing. It can be every bit as hard as ignoring the bullies in other parts of life. It is possible to learn from the emotional responses we get when interacting through comments.
The outright asshats are easy to ignore. It is the more subtle attacks that become challenging to recognize. One guy on Quora told me “I don’t want noise like you in my feed. I am blocking you. But I am going to keep my eye on you and make sure you follow the rules!” Then he blocked me. What a powerful move that was. I admire the tactic from a effectiveness point of view. I realize from a betterment of society point of view it was sort of silly.
When we write comments, we aren’t really writing to the person opposing our ideas. We are writing to the lurkers who do not comment at all.