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By The Numbers

ESPN tries to kill the trolls: Facebook comments only

Raghu Manavalan Jul 17, 2013
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Sorry Internet trolls and “my team is better than yours” hecklers, if you plan on leaving a comment on an ESPN page, you’ll now be required to sign-in with Facebook.

The login and comment form above is what adding a comment looks like at ESPNW.com, one of the ESPN-owned sites that has already transitioned to requiring a Facebook account and login for comments and discussion. ESPN.com, which has had anonymous commenting for more than five years, will make their transition today.

According to ESPN, fans are still welcome to state their honest — and extreme — thoughts on LeBron James, Lance Armstrong and the New England Patriots, but now, anyone who reads those comments will see a full name, Facebook profile picture and location of the commenter.

Removing anonymity doesn’t solve all problems, though.

A visit to the cheap seats in most sports stadiums shows that a lot of fans don’t mind saying or doing a few dumb things, and an open platform like ESPN.com only magnifies that.

Much like real-life sports discussions, a lot of posts circle around how your favorite team or player sucks. And yet off-topic rants, obscure inside jokes and political diatribes can be found on just about any ESPN.com comment thread.

In one of its more famous incidents, ESPN.com commenters grew tired of non-stop Tim Tebow coverage and protested by posting comments about Tebow on every story the website had to offer. And it gets worse: A 21-year-old Yale student threatened to kill anyone who bought a new pair of LeBron James-branded shoes. 

According to Poynter, many news organizations are moving to Facebook comments to improve the quality of comments, including national news outlets such as USAToday.com.

We want people to be candid — actively engage in strong and thorough debate, but do it in a way without anonymity,” Patrick Stiegman, editor-in-chief of ESPN.com told Poynter. “Agree or disagree, but do it in a way that is as productive and civil as possible.”

But don’t worry, if you want to say how you really feel without being outed, there’s always YouTube — or our comments, below.

If you’re a member of your local public radio station, we thank you — because your support helps those stations keep programs like Marketplace on the air.  But for Marketplace to continue to grow, we need additional investment from those who care most about what we do: superfans like you.

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