Should media sites stop feeding trolls and abandon online commenting?

CBC Radio's The Current looks at how online trolls may be endangering themselves as people who maintain websites look more closely at getting value out of their comment sections.
Some of the most unsettling, dark regions of the internet are the comments sections, where attention-seeking trolls often hang out. (Ann Althouse)

According to new studies by Erin Buckles of the University of Manitoba, online trolls who leave their marks on message boards and the comment sections of media stories are deceptive, aggressive, impulsive and downright anti-social.

The persistence of the troll — who weighs in only to provoke a negative response — is often a topic of discussion as websites continue to figure out how to moderate comments, whether it's best to demand an end to anonymity, or whether they should just do away with having comments.

Buckles says the easiest thing to do to discourage a troll is to ignore them, because if they can't get a rise out of people they're targeting, trolling is going to lose its appeal.

Last fall, the magazine Popular Science decided to shut down comments on its online articles, saying some of the comments were detrimental to science.

CBC Radio's The Current talked to three media experts about online comments: Marissa Nelson, senior director of digital media for CBC News & Centres; Kelly McBride, a writer and teacher with the Poynter Institute who consults widely on media ethics; and Austin Frakt, a health economist with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the editor in chief of Incidental Economist, a popular health policy blog.

Click on the audio link to hear the discussion.


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