It would seem that in a country where the phrase “free speech” is bandied about in the same way money is, commenting on anything would be a no-brainer. But what if you wanted to say something and there was no platform for you to do so? As the Las Vegas Review Journal said, “Nowhere does the First Amendment require the media to provide a platform for your speech.”
It seems to me as if people will find a way to hate, criticize and/or incite fear regardless of the platform available to them. After all, there were no comment sections or social media pages when Jack the Ripper walked the streets of London. However, it does seem unfair that because of the words of a few bigots, those with an open mind do not have more means to communicate and learn. What, then, is a news outlet supposed to do?
Below are three ways I think a comments section can work against the narrow-minded.
1. Have a moderator.
In a decade characterized by down-sizing, creating a new job title does not make a lot of business sense. Maybe not in the short-term. But if having a full-time moderator means that comments are screened for unnecessary negativity and fear/hate/rage-mongering, does that not translate into a more diverse, loyal and appreciate audience? Such an audience is bound to grow.
2. Use a program to screen for certain keywords and/or phrases.
Much like U.S.’s NSA or UK’s GCHQ, companies can use a software built into the coding of the website that would screen submitted comments for certain words detrimental to the quality of conversation and have those comments deleted. It would remove the need for a person (sorry, as-yet-unhired moderator), but still create a relatively safer space.
3. Crowdsource and then moderate.
Much like many companies do with unpaid interns, it would be efficient to have the readers who comment to flag distasteful comments. A moderator could then look at those flagged comments every so often and then delete those that need to be deleted. Such a method would also allow a company to spot if a particular username and/or email ID is consistently flagged.
These are my ideas. What do you think?