(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
comments, community, voice

Companies:
al jazeera



Al Jazeera Gives A 'Voice To The Voiceless' By Killing News Comments

from the enjoy-your-new-muzzle dept

We've noted time and time again how numerous websites have been killing news comments because they're too lazy and too cheap to cultivate an on-site community, and/or don't like having story errors pointed out in quite such a transparent, conspicuous location. Of course editors and publishers can never admit this is their real motivation, instead offering a rotating crop of disingenuous prattle about how they're muzzling their readers and shoving them over to Facebook because they're just so very into building relationships and are breathlessly-dedicated to improving conversation.

This week Al Jazeera joined the hottest trend in media, penning a missive over at Medium about how they're banning public news comments as part of their quest to... wait for it... give a voice to the voiceless:

The mission of Al Jazeera is to give a voice to the voiceless, and healthy discussion is an active part of this. When we first opened up comments on our website, we hoped that it would serve as a forum for thoughtful and intelligent debate that would allow our global audience to engage with each other. However, the comments section was hijacked by users hiding behind pseudonyms spewing vitriol, bigotry, racism and sectarianism. The possibility of having any form of debate was virtually non-existent.

Except that's simply not true. Numerous websites, including this one, have shown repeatedly it's possible to discuss complicated, divisive subjects without the metaphorical house burning down. Yes, it's true that when you don't moderate, show up, or give much of a damn about your comment system, it's quick to devolve into a cesspool of trolls and nincompoops. But the reality is that websites can't monetize quality discourse during budget meetings, so it's easier to just outsource all conversation to the homogeneous blather zone of Facebook, where listening to what your own customers are saying becomes somebody else's problem:

`Over time, we found social media to be the preferred platform for our audience to debate the issues that matter the most to them. We encourage our audience to continue to interact with us this way. We realise that this move will come as a disappointment to the members of our audience who did try and engage in thoughtful debate on our site. However, we will be working hard over the coming months to figure out how best to bring back debate to aljazeera.com. To continue the debate on social media, please share your thoughts with us on our Facebook page and get in touch via Twitter.

Again, does anything really give a "voice to the voiceless," foster quality conversation, or cultivate relationships quite like muzzling your customers, then shoving them toward a massive social media site where their thoughts, insights and contributions will get lost in a tsunami of prattle? It's clear that countless publishers really love the idea of reverting back to the era of "letters to the editor," when public feedback to your reporting could be carefully censored and repackaged as a genuine dialogue with your readership. But this line of thinking is a disservice to the quickly-evolving conversation the news has become.

I keep waiting for a news website to ban comments then candidly admit it was because they just didn't give much of a damn. Until then, the best we'll get are missives about how the best way to bring a voice to the voiceless is apparently with a good, swift kick in the ass.


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  1. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), 1 Sep 2017 @ 5:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Well, when has Techdirt ever moderated, oh, say, Geigner?

    And ALSO, you do not answer the question of when Geigner was ever "moderated" for that.

    Again, that's up to the community. It appears that pretty much everyone but you understood the context and chose not to do anything. Actually, FWIW, there is not a single "report" vote on that comment, suggesting that EVEN YOU did not click. So, uh...

    You simply state shouldn't be, then go on dodging with an attack.

    No, I simply explained why it is I believe that the community chose not to moderate that comment -- because they understand that it's not abusive in context. And there was no "attack" just me giving my opinions.

    You NOW seem trying to get me to drop repeating that, but no, so long as useful and on topic as here, I'll use it.

    So you're admitting that you'll keep trolling about this even though it's been explained to you that you're trolling by taking it out of context? Fascinating. And you wonder why the community chooses to report your comments as trollish.


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