By: Lauren Kassien
Reuters announced Friday that will no longer allow readers to comment on news stories. In an editor’s note, Executive Editor Dan Colarusso says the agency’s decision stems from the fact that social media has changed the climate of news discussion and debate. Due to the massive influx in reader response within the last few years, Reuters can no longer police all the comments its stories receive. Colarusso says this kind of colorful discussion stems from social media—and that’s where those comments should stay.
Reuters isn’t the only news agency to recently nix its website’s comments section. The Huffington Post prohibits anonymous posts, and the Chicago Sun-Times forbids them entirely. Both websites site uninformed, hateful, and even trollish language as their rationales.
Any reader is hard-pressed to find a story online that isn’t followed by a string of rude, mean, and uninformed comments. Whether the news outlet is covering President Obama’s recent decision to send troops to Iraq or the red-carpet debut of Renee Zellweger’s new face, readers always have something to say.
Social media has played an important role in shaping today’s online etiquette. The anonymity of the Internet, combined with our new ability to instantly post a comment as soon as it pops into our heads, has turned online news sources into battlegrounds in which people from differing races, religions, and areas of the world use hate-fueled words to assert their opinions.
But is cutting out readers’ ability to express themselves really a solution to stopping the fights? Yes, comment sections are vulnerable to harsh and underdeveloped opinions, but they also provide a discussion forum unlike any other. Where else are we able to discuss our response to a news story with someone halfway around the world? Instead of responding with criticism, many readers choose to take advantage of others’ comments to learn about cultural beliefs and viewpoints.
What do you think? Is banning comments breaching a reader’s right to talk, learn, and express themselves? Or is it a justified way to end emotionally-charged, mean-spirited speech on the Internet?