…the problem, when the void shouts back, the response is most often a mockery of the original input. The half-life of a worthwhile comments section argument is maybe about three replies. After that, conversations typically degrade to straw men, ad hominems, name-calling, or Nazi comparisons.
…s. Any journalist who ventures into the comments section is inevitably broken by the yawning chaos. In face-to-face conversations, we usually moderate such performances by reading and adapting to our interlocutors’ reactions in real time. This is impossible in comments sections.
Major journalism sites take three approaches to comments sections: moderation, obfuscation, and elimination. The New York Times is a good example of the first. Their comments section is patrolled by staffers for offensive and inflammatory content. The Times allows users to sort by reader recommendations (how many people “recommended” every comment) or “staff picks” (the Times staff selects the comments they find most valuable). Other sites, like Politico, hide their comments sections behind buttons you have to click or articles you have to scroll past, allowing the toxicity to fester safely out of reach; if you’re not looking for it, you won’t find it. Finally, many well-trafficked sites, from Vox to the New Yorker, rid themselves of comments sections altogether. It doesn’t seem like they’re worse off for it.