Monday, November 30, 2015

Who's Behind the Comments? News Organizations Look to Social Media

Brittani Roper


Online communities have been around since the World Wide Web began. Users across the world are able to interact with each other through forums and comment sections to discuss issues and topics important to the individual communities. The good thing is, people are allowed to freely express their views and connect with people with the same or opposing views across the world. However when there is good there is bad, and anonymous users and robots have taken over the comment sections. These news articles can be inundated with negative, harmful, and offensive content. As a result, some news organizations have decided to remove comment sections on their websites, relying strictly on social media as a platform for comments and discussion. Others have decided to be more strict when it comes to user generated content and anonymous contributions.

News Sites Move to Social


With news sites shutting down their comment sections for good, there will no longer be any "true" anonymous content. USA Today has completely taken away readers' ability to comment on articles through their website. According Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg in an article by Justin Ellis, "We believe social media is the new arena for commenting, replacing the old onsite approach that dates back many years." Annoying and anonymous comments have driven many news organizations to take this approach. On the the other hand, people can find freedom in knowing that they do not have to attach their name to their post allowing a free flow of ideas. News organizations question whether the conversations going on between users in these comment boards are actually productive and important to  online communities. I would argue that any conversation going on between users is productive because it gives them a voice. By forcing people to use social media as a platform for social media, there is potential that some audiences would be lost, especially the audience that does not use social media as a way to consume information. Although, this is a great move for millenials because we consume a lot of our news online it may not be the greatest move for older organizations. On a positive note, moving to social media will allow multiple communities to interact and converse with each other through one platform.

It is just as easy for someone to make a fake Facebook or Twitter page as it is to post as an anonymous user. Even if there are names attached, will it stop people from posting things that are harmful, offensive, and not add to the discussion? It is possible that we will see an increase in ghost accounts. As mentioned in "What Happened After 7 News Sites Got Rid of Reader Comments", establishing online community norms is essential to building the type of online community you want. The news site must a lot create content and spark discussions that keeps readers engaged and active on that social media platform. News organizations and social media professionals will have to work extra hard to get the results that they want.

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