The CBC has made an editorial decision to close online comments in stories dealing with aboriginal issues.
The broadcaster made the announcement today, saying it would keep comments closed for several months while it reviewed how they are moderated and came up with new guidelines.
CBC writes the decision was made because, while it wants to encourage differing opinions, it draws the line at hate speech or racism. The broadcaster says in recent months racist and inappropriate comments were appearing far too often in stories with an indigenous focus.
“We’ve seen thoughtful, insightful and moving comments on our pages. We’ve seen ignorant, ill-informed and objectionable comments as well. All of it is acceptable, in our view, in a marketplace of ideas. … We find ourselves with a unique situation when it comes to indigenous-related stories. We’ve noticed over many months that these stories draw a disproportionate number of comments that cross the line and violate our guidelines.”
The debate about online comments is nothing new. Newspapers in the Sun and Glacier chain have closed them, as have online sites like The Verge and Daily Dot. Even the CBC itself has admitted that the cost and effort of moderating comments to weed out “trolls” and violent speech is a problem.
But the comment section also functions as a place where listeners can engage with a broadcaster, as well as a place to air competing ideas.
On air tonight, Drex and Eric illustrated the basic division with opposing points of view:
“Should some stories not have comments? Some times I don’t care what you think. It’s just a story. It’s a story for you to consume, and make a decision about in your own time and post that all over your Facebook.”
“I think all stories should have comments. And everyone, no matter how stupid should be allowed to comment.”
What do you think?
So are there stories that shouldn’t be open to comments? That a media company closes because there would be no value added by asking for feedback?
We wanted to know what you think about this, so we opened the lines to listeners. Here’s a sample of what you had to say:
Alex texted to say the problem could mostly be solved by making people sign their names to their words.
“Leave all the comments, but no more anonymous posts. Don’t hide behind the net to be ignorant.”
While Ryan called to say websites need comments today to be financially viable.
“I think it’s a bit of a necessary evil. Media isn’t exactly doing well financially these days. And these comments, they drive views and ultimately drive revenue.”
Curtis says comments should be left open because reporters sometimes miss key information, and context needs to be added to a story.
“Because nowadays journalists don’t do their work. I’m generalizing, but I would say – I actually do some work doing press releases because I work with a non profit organization, and quite often people don’t get the facts right.”