Do comments on news articles influence our opinions of the media?
A study conducted by The Washington Post and USA Today found that readers who viewed articles with comments sections were more likely to develop a negative opinion of the news media. Curiously, this effect was seen even when commenters praised the article in question.
Why do we care about comment sections?
Because comment sections exist, people believe it’s a free soapbox on which all opinions – even awful ones – are given voice and space (I’m sure some will joke about Comment is Free here). Sites need only adhere to (mostly) their own rules and policies: they can set whatever parameters they want. You, as a reader, do not.
Why are major news organisations shutting down comments sections?
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the rush to shutter readers’ comments sections at major news organisations. Cheered on by intolerant, snobbish cultural elites, news organisations from The Verge to The Daily Beast have, in recent months, informed their readers to take their opinions elsewhere.
Do comments on news articles sway readers’ opinions?
What horror! Another study found that reading assertive, aggressive comments could actually sway the opinions of readers. “Don’t read the comments,” warned Ars Technica, “they can make you mistrust real experts.” It’s a piece of advice that captures the war on comments sections perfectly.