Shutting down onsite comments: a comprehensive list of all news organisations


#1

Hello everyone, I’m trying to compile a list of all those news organisations that closed down all comments on their websites. I’d like to gather the name of the publications, when they shut comments down and, ideally, why and what actions they took after that (for example moving comments to their Facebook page).
Can you help me?


Time for Change
Shutting down onsite comments: Meta Discussion and mud pit
#2

Just wanted to add that I’m aiming to gather the names of those who have shut down comments entirely, not just on some topics.

So far I have on the list:


#3

A few others:

Motherboard, Oct 2015 http://motherboard.vice.com/read/im-on-twitter-too

Boston.com, not sure of the date but it was fairly recently that it redesigned without comments

Hipertextual, Apr 2016 http://hipertextual.com/2016/04/anuncio-comentarios-comunidad


#4

#5

More suggestions gathered by the community on Twitter:


#6

The Establishment launched without comments last year.

Quartz launched in 2012 without a commenting option and added one later.

Tablet Magazine began charging to comment in February 2015.


#7

I believe this news site http://www.wmur.com/ disabled comments in March 2016. Not a very large site, but it was particularly interesting because some of their community voluntarily migrated over to Disqus.com and created their own channel (I do support at Disqus which is why I noticed).


#8

When South Africa’s News24 site shut down comments last year the then editor Andrew Trench wrote this piece explaining why.

Also in South Africa, [BDlive]((http://www.bdlive.co.za) where I used to work, also seems to have shut down comments. Not sure why though.

In South Africa, the level of racial invective in comments can be extraordinarily high so I suspect, faced with limited resources to moderate them, publications take an understandable decision to withdraw them entirely.


#9

This is a common reaction. Some commenters did the same for Above the law: https://disqus.com/home/channel/atlsurrogate/top/. But I am quite sure that those channels do not have a very long life span, because the connection to the articles is missing. It might work, if they have a small group of mods, who create a thread as soon as a new article is published (maybe chatbots could take care of such a task :robot:). But even then, I assume a high probability for the community to die.

Does anyone know of a community that has survived and lives well after the comment section has been closed?


#10

Hi @fedecherubini,

South Africa’s Daily Maverick announced the closure of their comments section in January 2016.

IOL (also South African) said they were turning off comments in October 2015. And @stevematthewson has already pointed out that South Africa’s biggest news site News24 shut theirs off in September 2015.

This piece from Nieman Lab provides links to seven news organisations which have also closed comment sections. They are Mashable, Recode, Mic, The Week, Reuters, the Chicago Sun-Times and Popular Science (some of which are already listed in comments above).

Will post another comment if I can think of any more examples.


#11

Not exactly a news organisation, but Marc Maron’s recent WTFPod website redesign removed the comments section.


#12

Hi @fedecherubini,

in March of last year, one of Slovenia’s leading newspapers - Dnevnik - shutdown its bellow-the-fold-comments feature on it’s site https://www.dnevnik.si. The reasons were three-fold:

  1. The implementation of the metered paywall, that opened up many technical and editorial issues with the paper’s legacy user system and UGC policies;

  2. The state is prepairing a law that will put a much greater responsibility on the media for sanctioning the free-reign commenting under their online articles - a place of vile debate, harassment, …

  3. (connected to the second) The paper’s editorial board was willing to try out an alternative approach to UGC, where you still get to reply to a specific post, but before your post is seen public, it has to first be confirmed by the board. That includes a check of your identity, as per Slovene media law and a real name policy. When the post does appear public, it is posted as a post on its own, equivalent to editorial articles, with bespoke permalink, reply option, sharing options … not just a sorry block of text below-the-fold. This would later enable to display them with feeds, in search, … and enable doing analytics on UGC.

Even opening up submissions for self-initiated posts has been considered, but not implemented. So, all in all, kind of like the Medium’s current system.

The whole thing was implemented with a lot of technical improvisation, due to lack of resources, so it’s not optimal UX. But the public reaction has been very good and supporting, and other media in Slovenia have followed since.


#13

Pando redesigned last year without comments (and didn’t mention that they’re removed them)


#14

This is fascinating. Can you talk more about that Slovene law? How do orgs check real names?


#15

Sorry for the late reply.

Slovene “Media law” (http://www.pisrs.si/Pis.web/pregledPredpisa?id=ZAKO1608) effectively states that any registered media and it’s editor-in-charge are responsible for all content published in/on their media assets, regardless if it comes from the newsroom or is UGC.

That includes making sure that authorship of the published piece is confirmed - the editorial board may decide to keep the author anonymous in the publication, but has to state that it is having his/her confirmed name on the record. It has for decades been a standard practice in printed UGC, like readers’ letters section, as the very limited number of submits were easy to handle.

Real name and address validation can be checked against public records, while the ID of the UGC author is actually confirmed via a call back to the person submitting. Valid contact information is vital for UGC to go through. The UGC author is then signed under the post with name, surname and place of living. At least that’s the theory and hopefully most media outlets do do it in full.

Here’s the thing: due to outdated and/or vague definitions in the law, on top of an avalanche of UGC on the web, media outlets (and regulators for that matter) forgo this same rigour on the web, posting the comments without proactive moderation, only moderating post-festum, if at all.

The latest version and interpretation of the law is however stricter in holding the media and it’s editor-in-charge accountable and that has prompted the outlets to rethink their online commenting sections.

The solution at Dnevnik essentially transplanted the UGC logic and processes of the print publication into the online submission form, requiring personal detail & contacts as per law, explaining the requirements aside of individual input field. Wish we could provide better UX, but as said before, our resources we’re limited.


Interesting academic papers about comment sections
#16

NPR.org was using disqus. They are shutting them down, focusing on social networks to engage with their communities
http://www.niemanlab.org/2016/08/npr-is-retiring-the-comments-section-on-its-story-pages-because-of-disuse-not-just-garbage-fires/


#17

That sounds a) terrible and b) barely enforceable in most countries. Also having public records that accessible seems to create potential for disaster. Thanks so much for sharing that (and sorry for not replying sooner)


#18

Just to clarify the part about public records, it’s not as diabolic as it may have sounded:

it includes looking up a person in the public phone books (but they can opt to not be listed), checking validity of an address input against geolocation services so it’s not jibberish (e.g. Google Maps query), visiting organisation/company website to verify the person’s stated formal position (if stated in UCG and listed on the site), and - as written in the previous post - calling the person to check their authenticity.

It’s not a perfect system, but the quality of printed UGC has been quite good in Slovenia, in stark contrast to debates on news websites, often hijacked by partisan propagandists and aggitators (we’ve actually been doing research into this, with data scientist collegue Marko Plahuta a.k.a. Virostatiq).


#19

Here are links to a few examples in the U.S.: http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/21/tech/web/online-comment-sections/index.html (see http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-09/why-were-shutting-our-comments) and http://koin.com/2015/01/28/why-koin-com-turned-off-our-comment-boards/. I do hope this helps in your research.


#20

Michigan Radio just added itself to the list: http://michiganradio.org/post/creating-useful-places-talk-you#stream/0