This week, Vice became the latest digital publisher to say it is abandoning website comments, repeating the oft-cited mantra that comments sections too often devolve into cesspools of racism, misogyny, threats, and all-around incivility. The company joins outlets including NPR, Business Insider, and Above the Law that said they gave up on comments this year, and those outlets join countless others—from the Huffington Post to Reuters—that have abandoned comment forums in previous years. In fact, the writing has been on the wall for a long time.
The story is almost always the same: 10 years or so ago, comments sections provided an engaging forum for reader feedback and thoughtful discussions, but they have just become too cumbersome to moderate. At the same time, large social networks like Facebook and Twitter now give readers ample opportunity to offer feedback.
The decision to kill off comments still encounters pushback from from some free-expression enthusiasts, but the reality is, many media companies are simply too strapped to dedicate increasing resources to what feels like a losing battle against trolls. Maybe all is not hopeless, though: Last week, our Steven Melendez wrote about how some tech companies are using innovative methods to improve the quality of comment forums.