The Current

Tablet Magazine puts a price on comments to eliminate online trolls

There's a lot of vitriol and venom laced through the comments sections of most online publications. Many monitor them, others have simply done away with them. And now one publication is starting to charge, not for the articles but for the right to comment. Today, our Eye on the Media considers Tolls for Trolls.
In the world of online comment boards, there's on old adage that says, "Don't Feed the Trolls." (Flickr/Premasagar)

Spend any time lurking in the comment boards of an online news site, and it won't take long to witness an intelligent and courteous exchange of ideas spiral quickly downward to the lowest common denominator.

In the free-for-all world of online commenting, juvenile ad hominem attacks are to be expected... and truly offensive, racist and sexist language is all too common.

But what if the free-for-all world of online commenting, were no longer free for all.

It's an idea that the online magazine Tablet is rolling out -- putting up a paywall, not around the articles, but around the comments underneath them.

Starting last week, anyone who wants to comment on an article at the magazine about Jewish life and ideas, will have to ante up two dollars for a daily pass. It's $18 dollars for a month's worth of commenting privileges, or $180 dollars annually.

Yair Rosenberg, a writer with Tablet, says they want to foster good discussion and weed out the trolls. Now, his website's experiment is going to be watched closely.

There's hardly any media outlet that wouldn't like to solve the problem of tasteless comments and elevate the quality of discourse on their sites. But that's not to say that Tablet's discovered a silver bullet with its comment paywall.

We've brought together a panel of guests today, as part of our occasional series, Eye on the Media.

Anne McNeilly is a journalism professor at Ryerson University. She's also a reporter and former editor at The Globe and Mail and she was in Toronto.
Gideon Lichfield is a former writer for the Economist and is now a senior editor of the online publication Quartz. He was in New York City.
Caroline O'Donovan is a staff writer at Harvard University's Nieman Journalism Lab, where she writes about media and technology. She was in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Here at The Current, we open our comments section on a case-by-case basis in part because it takes resources to monitor all the action there. So we're going to try an experiment. We're opening the comments below for this story. Let's see how many of you can treat each other with the respect you deserve. Please play nicely.

This segment was produced by The Current's Marc Apollonio and Ines Colabrese.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

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