ESPN Latest To Nix User Comments, Abdicate Its Responsibility For Fostering A Good Community

from the comment-nowhere dept

Readers of this site will be aware of the trend over the past several years for news and media sites across the internet deciding to nix their respective comments sections. This wave of muzzles on the communities that previously participated in these sites has come with a variety of reasons or excuses, depending on your perspective. Some sites have noted that comments sections devolve into the worst humanity has to offer, with vile speech and spam-bots sucking up all of the digital oxygen. Other sites have suggested that some sort of liability comes along with any proper moderation of their comments sections. Still others have pointed towards social media platforms that can better take over the duties as some sort of 3rd party community gathering place, be it on Facebook or Twitter. All of these reasons are silly and false, or they simply abdicate the site’s responsibility for fostering a well-functioning community of commenters. Here at Techdirt, we love our own community and value the ever-living hell out of our comments, be they supporters of our positions or well-meaning dissenters. Trolls come along for the ride, of course, but we trust our own community to act as a moderating force against them.

And, yet, the trend continues. The latest site to shutter its comment section is ESPN, to much unfortunate fanfare at Deadspin.

No longer will you be able to read an article and then underneath receive the dumbest possible reactions to it. The Worldwide Leader has phased out its Facebook-hybrid comment sections, as confirmed by a company spokesperson this week. None of the keyboard mashing will be archived—they will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

Here’s the official statement:

“Fans currently have more touchpoints than ever to voice their comments. We value their opinions, and feel that we are better able to serve them through our customer care team and our social platforms. In fact, we have and are continuing to create content for social that embraces these conversations and interacts with fans.”

This is an abomination. Chintzy Instagram memes are no substitute for jokes that were plagiarized from somewhere else, or completely indecipherable opinions on Colin Kaepernick.

Readers at Deadspin will recognize this as classic Deadspin snark. The site’s writers, despite having its own vibrant commenting community, have always taken a dim view of user contributions to the discussion. Somewhat amazingly, Deadspin in particular has a fairly good commenting community of its own, only deepening the mystery for the stance it takes here.

Well, perhaps not so mysterious. Simplistic might be the better word. Deadspin’s objections, and likely ESPN’s reasoning as well, is that ESPN comment sections tend to be the very kind of vile, idiotic contributions that we discussed in the intro. Deadspin, and likely ESPN, seem to stop the thought process right after making that determination and use it as its reason to muzzle the ESPN community entirely. What’s lost in that kind of thinking is that the onus for fostering a good commenting community at ESPN is on… ESPN.

It’s always been this way. There is so much benefit to be derived from a vibrant comments section, from increased reader engagement, to diverse thoughts that can shape discussion and the future work of the writers of posts, to a treasure trove of useful information and tips that journalists and commentators ought to be salivating over. The real story here is that ESPN has decided to toss all of those benefits out the window because it doesn’t want to do any heavy-lifting to create a comments section that produces that kind of benefit.

It’s the easy way out and no amount of snark or accurate portrayal of the current comments section as a cesspool will change that. Sites, if your comment section sucks, it’s your fault. Taking your ball and going home, even if you’re ESPN, is not the best option. It’s not even a good option.

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Companies: espn

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Comments on “ESPN Latest To Nix User Comments, Abdicate Its Responsibility For Fostering A Good Community”

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Will B. says:

Re: Re: Hey, random insults aren't helping.

I’m sorry, but was this necessary? Maybe just report and be on your way? Given the person you’re responding to is anonymous, and thus you can’t have any knowledge of their weight, what you are actually doing here is insulting overweight people by the assumption that bad comments must come from overweight people, rather than insulting the troll for his bad comment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Hey, random insults aren't helping.

I think chubby is a nod to average_joe’s incessant usage of the term, referring to either Masnick, Beadon, or referencing their alleged hero worship of Kim Dotcom. It’s probably not so relevant to out_of_the_blue, honestly, but as Dick Bennett would say, it’s the thought that counts.

If random insults “helped” then we wouldn’t have to deal with this barrage of trolls now, would we?

That One Guy (profile) says:

If you're going to, then do so, don't lie(badly)

"Fans currently have more touchpoints than ever to voice their comments. We value their opinions, and feel that we are better able to serve them through our customer care team and our social platforms. In fact, we have and are continuing to create content for social that embraces these conversations and interacts with fans."

"… Which is why we’re removing one avenue for our fans to make their voices heard and shuttling them off to some other platform where they’ll be someone else’s problem and we no longer have to listen to them."

It’s not the removal of comment sections that’s insulting, it’s the blatant lies about why they’re doing it. If a company feels that a comment section is too much hassle then fine, admit that and remove it. Don’t lie about how much you value the content you just eliminated, as that makes it clear that you do not in fact value the opinions and/or comments of those formerly using your platform, and in fact consider them all idiots who can’t tell when they’re being lied to.

Anonymous Coward says:

surprised it took this long

I had fully expected ESPN to have revoked user comment features a long time ago, as the company has been increasingly controversial, both for its corporate shenanigans as well as the hard-line political and ideological stances that many ESPN commentators have unapologetically chosen to display, and amazingly, been allowed by ESPN management.

The topic of racism is best kept out of professional sports, but since ESPN decided to drag it in and slap it in the faces of every sports fan, it should not surprise anyone when hostile battles erupt in the comment sections. For every race-baiter like Jemele Hill that ESPN employs, perhaps several dozen full-time comment moderators need to be hired just to delete the hostile comments that people like her provoke. So for ESPN to eliminate its comments section is no doubt a substantial cost-saving move, which is especially important for a company going broke from losing subscribers at such a rapid rate.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: surprised it took this long

“The topic of racism is best kept out of professional sports”

This MUST be one of the dumbest comments I routinely hear in the sporting news world. Race is so deeply embedded in professional sports, both culturally and resulting from league decisions and coverage, that this request is fully impossible to accommodate.

Also, I imagine this was said roughly a zillion times in the Jackie Robinson era, which should highlight just how dumb it is….

Scott says:

Re: Re: surprised it took this long

Clearly you have the intelligence level of a gnat, and have been living under a rock the last 10 years. Everyone with a semblance of an intelligent mind knows this started when anyone opposed to a policy by Barack Obama was labelled a racist. You sir, need to pay attention to what is going on in the world outside your mothers basement, and watching reruns of 1990s comedies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: A "responsibility"?

I don’t understand why media outlets like ESPN would want a comment section in the first place. They should focus on what they do best and let other places (like Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook) deal with comments. In economics I think this is called the principle of comparative advantage.

John Smith says:

I always thought Twitter took off because, unlike MySpace or Facebook, a celebrity didn’t have to “friend” his or her fans to communicate. It allowed for one-way following rather than two-way “friending.”

Media wants the benefit of an interactive internet without the annoyance of an audience which can talk back, or to other.

Anonymous Coward says:

Techdirt never accepts so can't "Abdicate Its Responsibility"!

YET AGAIN, Techdirt pretending that its fanboys are models of civility plagued by a few trolls.

But Techdirt’s actual standard is this comment, by Timothy Geigner, aka “Dark Helmet”, now a paid writer for Techdirt, was NOT blocked — in fact, when I raised objection, was laughed off by “the Techdirt community”:

“There are white people, and then there are ignorant motherfuckers like you….”

New readers note particularly that comment has no context in an argument, is solely ad hom aimed at person.

Also note that Masnick has personally excused that as “a joke” and stated that Geigner was not “acting on own behalf”…

So don’t be criticizing ESPN for IRRESPONSIBLE, Techdirt, until you start actually moderating this cesspit, instead of simply and only hiding dissenters.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Techdirt never accepts so can't "Abdicate Its Responsibility"!

Oh, nice. This one been burning your ass for the past 7 years, ootb? That’s quite the grudge you’ve developed there.

Uh oh, there’s just as much context for my comment as for Timothy’s you’ve linked. I have a feeling you’ll still willfully ignore what that is, though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

This “cesspit” is moderated. You’re just angry because you’re on the receiving end.

In a civil society, anyone who claims that knowledge should only be for those who can afford exorbitant university fees would be, quite rightly, shouted down. Since you espoused those views (very recently, in fact) you were moderated.

Be careful what you wish for.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 You can't PAY for this level of entertainment

Then digs up a post from a user who logged in once, then forgot their password and so have commented anonymously (if at all) since then…

Oh, Blue
Don’t be so mad
Get offline and out of the basement
Remember to to take a good look around
And then you’ll have found
Your world has got better.

Anonymous Coward says:

“All of these reasons are silly and false”

While opinions can be silly, they can’t be false. Just because you don’t agree with them doesn’t make them so. Site owners have OPINIONS on why they should drop (or keep) reader participation forums. It’s their site and they can do what they want with it. The problem with trolls and spam aren’t insignificant on any high traffic, high profile site, especially ones that attract passionate opinionated people like sports and political sites.

Eddie Jones says:

Since Nick Saban is the greatest college football HC. Lets gets some real football season games going for the Crimson Tide. So from here on out each and every year Alabama will play these teams: Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Oklahoma, Oregon add these teams to your schedule. Each and every year lets not default from this please. True champions never run from competition.

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