Washington Post decides to follow Trend — and Weed out Trolls

The Washington Post, it seems, has gotten tired of taking daily beatings from the bullies of the Internet playground.

Editor for interactivity and community editor Jon Denunzio for the paper’s website announced yesterday that would now be monitoring and moderating comments posted under stories in order to encourage “smarter, livelier and more civil conversations.” The Washington Post is not the only online news site seeking to clean up its comment section. On December 1, the New York Times also updated its comment section to eliminate those pesky trolls. Both major news sites now hold potential comments in cyber space – only posting those that pass the inspection of a “moderator.

The two sites have also begun following what appears to be a potential new trend: awarding badges to those users who continuously contribute moderator-approved comments. According to blogger Jeff Sonderman, badges “help a news organization define and grow its relationship with the reader” by setting up a recognition –based reward program for those who use the comment board “correctly” as defined by the moderators. Those using the Post’s user discussion feature “correctly”and with frequency can expect to earn recognition in the “Top Posts” and “Top Comments” section of the site.

Obviously, these sorts of trends are slowly coming together to form a more “savvy” Internet media. Once the print media can come to more firmly grasp the web and how to use it to its most effective, it can better generate more accessible and relevant news. According to Sasha Koren, deputy editor of interactive news at the Times, contributor interaction can greatly “enhance . . . reporting and coverage.”It makes sense then, that the site would weed out contributors that are crude and, therefore, not necessarily “contributing” in a traditional sense.

Or does it?

Is the new system a little too much like censoring the first amendment rights of the public to voice their opinions (however rude and obnoxious they may get) on the way their news is presented? Journalists, after all, are supposed to be the ultimate protectors of this right. Is this perhaps a Larry Flynt kind of situation?  You may hate what the guy has to say – but you’ve got to protect his right to say it. No matter how ugly.

What do you guys think? Do you think print news websites should monitor their comments? Is this too much like restricting the first amendment or does it bring about necessary order? Do you think anyone will ever object to the new changes? Or are they too minute to even cause a bleep on the Internet radar?

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