Online commenting sections on journalism sites are often painful, ruled by spambots and trolls, who knock everything they read.
Today Popular Science took the bold step of shutting down its comment section.
Count it as a win for the online trolls — a group not known for nuance and subtlety.
“Commenting has gotten really out of control with a lot of nasty comments, with arguments, with everything going to political,” says Retha Hill, a professor at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism*, “people really go after each other in a way that discourages really good thoughtful conversation.”
Popular Science, for its part, had enough of anti-science bashers and political railing. Combine that with research showing that comments change the way people understand science, says the magazine’s online content director, Suzanne LaBarre, and that “was all the motivation we needed to just finally end it.”
LaBarre says Popular Science wants to be a safe place for science. A place where people can form smart opinions, so policy makers can form smart opinions and help the right things get funded.
*CORRECTION: The original version of this story mispelled the name of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. The text has been corrected.
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