The Internet’s power was supposed to be giving a voice to the voiceless. They had their chance and, as a casual stroll through the comments section of most websites reveals, they botched it.
The list of news and information sites giving up on the notion of “engaging” the audience is growing. The latest is Vice, which announced today it doesn’t have time to deal with the anarchy.
As our colleagues at Motherboard pointed out last year, comments sections are really just a continuation of that age-old tradition of letters to the editor, a cherished part of many publications and a valuable way of creating an open dialogue between magazines and the people to whom they are ultimately accountable.
Unfortunately, website comments sections are rarely at their best. Without moderators or fancy algorithms, they are prone to anarchy. Too often they devolve into racist, misogynistic maelstroms where the loudest, most offensive, and stupidest opinions get pushed to the top and the more reasoned responses drowned out in the noise. While we always welcomed your thoughts on how we are actually a right-wing mouthpiece for the CIA, or how much better we were before we sold our dickless souls to the gods of capitalism, or just how sh**** we are in general, we had to ban countless commenters over the years for threatening our writers and subjects, doxxing private citizens, and engaging in hate speech against pretty much every group imaginable.
We don’t have the time or desire to continue monitoring that crap moving forward. Besides, there are plenty of other ways for you to publicly discuss our work and the personal worth of our staff. We’ll still be reading your thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and we legitimately do enjoy getting IRL mail (no bombs) sent to our offices in Brooklyn.
Like NPR a few months ago, Vice encouraged people to take their comments over to Facebook and Twitter, where they can be better ignored.
In making its announcement today, Vice said it worried “the people who have constructive and intelligent things to say would consider this a slight against them. Please don’t think that. We know that the vast majority of you are hot, brilliant non-bigots who challenge us to be better every day.”