Coordinated attacks by racist trolls on comments sections aren’t unusual anymore. Here, the Cleveland Newspaper discovers just how damaging to sensible discussion they are…
Cleveland paper nixes Tamir Rice comment section: ‘A small army’ couldn’t stop the ‘cesspool’ of racism
The Cleveland Plain Dealer explained this week that it had disabled comments on all of its stories about a 12-year-old black child who was shot by police because “a small army” of administrators could not delete the racist comments fast enough.
In a column on Monday, Chris Quinn, the Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Vice President of Content, said that the paper had hoped that articles about the shooting of Tamir Rice would be “an ideal subject for us to meet one of our chief goals at cleveland.com, hosting community conversations on topics of widespread interest.”
But he noted that comments had been disabled in October because “we don’t fancy our website as a place of hate, and the Tamir Rice story has been a magnet for haters.”
“We enlisted a small army on our staff to monitor the comments and delete any that violated our standards,” Quinn wrote. “The trouble was that we couldn’t keep up. Just about every piece we published about Tamir immediately became a cesspool of hateful, inflammatory or hostile comments.”
“Rather than discuss the facts of the case, many commenters debased the conversation with racist invective. Or they made absurd statements about the clothing and appearance of people involved in the story. Or they attacked each other for having contrasting viewpoints. In many cases, well over half of the comments on Tamir stories broke our rules and had to be deleted.”
Observing that the comments were “overrun as they were by wickedness,” the staff decided to shut down the comment section on stories about Rice.
Quinn pointed out that some had tried to move their “odious comments” to unrelated stories, and that those users’ accounts were deleted.
At the time of publication, Quinn’s column had nearly 1,500 comments, and a number of them had already been removed for violating the paper’s commenting policy.