According to this week’s New Media Age, the Daily Mail is following in the footsteps of the Daily Express and Daily Star and ending its policy of moderating reader comments that accompany all articles that appear on its website.
The rationale? James Bromley, MD of Mail Online, tells the industry paper:
“We have hundreds of thousands of comments every month. Because of the volume, not all were going up. We want to give people their chance to respond and for it to appear immediately. This improves the user experience.”
Web publishers have a few options when it comes to monitoring comments from the great unwashed. They can pre-moderate, post-moderate, use filtering software to block inappropriate language – or a combination of all three.
The other alternative, the Mail Online alternative, is only to deal with comments flagged up by the community or by those who believe they have been defamed or libelled.
There is much debate about the legal benefits of all these options – and the advocates of the Mail route say that by leaving comments untouched there is no danger that it has given implicit (or indeed explicit) approval to something that may turn out to be legally contentious.
Regardless of these arguments, I’m not sure the Daily Mail’s move will make much difference to the general tenor of what passes for debate on its electronic pages. Except perhaps, to increase the volume and speed of the mud-slinging.
To take one example – the 114 comments that followed the publication in March of an interview with Binyam Mohamed, the former Guantanamo Bay detainee who claims he was tortured with the tacit approval of the UK authorities.
It was an exhaustive, responsible and sympathetic piece of journalism. As with its campaign against the alleged killers of Stephen Lawrence, the Daily Mail had confounded conventional wisdom by bidding for and winning the first newspaper interview with Mohamed post-release.
With all that in mind, here are just a selection of the comments appended to the piece:
Ship him back to Ethiopia and stop using my taxes to house and feed him!
This man is NOT BRITISH, illegally entered the country, went to Pakistan (for help in beatin g his drug habit – yeah, right!) so, to be blunt – WHO CARES.
You put yourself in the Terrorist arena mate so you take the consequences of your action.
Er…. go away sunshine.
These, by the way, were among highest rated contributions to the “debate” as ranked by fellow users.
I’m not suggesting for a moment that any of these should have been deleted. But when the moderators pack up and leave, will anybody notice they’ve gone?