For the past six months I’ve been using NUVI – a real-time social media-monitoring tool – to track mentions and conversations about a crisis communication-related topic. NUVI allows me to view and track fresh blogs, Facebook posts, tweets and even comments posted on media websites.
Totally NSA, I know.
Here’s the thing. I’m also observing cadres of mouth-breathing trolls who spend their entire days professing their, supposedly, informed interpretation of issues. While I support enthusiasm for expressing opinions, the tragic reality is that most are basing their opinions on incorrect information and false rumors. A little research, say simply reading the article they’re posting a comment beneath or having a basic understanding of the judicial process, would abate their sharpest criticisms. Unfortunately, these people live in a universe unbound by reasoned thought and discourse. That universe is the comment section of online media.
If you’ve read the comment section of any online news story you’ve likely seen the mutterings of these befuddled dunderheads – or others who intentionally propagate false information for whatever distorted aims they have.
Sit back and ponder the negative consequences of these ‘communities.’ You’ll soon find yourself outraged that media sites are, seemingly, pandering to the bullies in the sandbox. To what end? Increased web traffic? Beefy analytics reports? Is there research showing that trolls are more likely to buy subscriptions or purchase products promoted by online advertisements?
I don’t think all web visitors are worth the same value to a marketer, and I’m gonna sound like a blowhard here – but I believe comment sections are bad for society and likely drive ineffective data for marketers. A direct result is that toxic misinformation and uneducated conjecture is spread like a communicable disease to ends of the earth. I have seen it with my own eyes, and it isn’t pretty.
Now, I am not arguing for the abolishment of the comment section. There are some threads where interesting, smart, thoughtful people chime in and contribute to an article. Unfortunately, these instances are far too rare.
What I want is for news organizations to take a stand against enabling the overflow of idiocy cascading from comment sections like the frothy foam forming from the mouths of their most racist and bigoted supporters. These sites have nothing to lose, but our society has a lot to gain.