What to Do When Commenters Attack?

On the occasion of the Portland Press Herald debacle (about which more here), Poynter’s Damon Kiesow has a great roundup of various strategies that news sites are testing to deal with chaotic comment sections. There’s a wide range of schemes. Real-name verification seems to be becoming trendy. The Huffington Post gives the job to its readers and makes it into a kind of game:

—In addition to having comment moderators, The Huffington Post turns to readers for help. In May, it began giving out “Moderator” badges to users who flag comments that the site ends up deleting.

NPR ended up giving the job to someone else:

—National Public Radio announced last week that it had begun to outsource its moderation duties to free up staff members to “concentrate on doing what we’ve always intended — to use the comments for fostering intelligent dialog, finding potential sources, fleshing out story ideas and like.”

Of course, a lot of sites simply turn off comments altogether when the threads get too messy to deal with. One paper does that, but selectively:

—The Minneapolis Star Tribune typically allows reader comments, but turns them off on selected stories that are more likely to create moderation problems.

I’ve never heard of that plan before; it seems to make practical sense, but I’m not sure how that will go over with readers. The CJR comments section, for one, is open, so chime in: what do you think is the best way to moderate comments, if at all?

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Lauren Kirchner is a freelance writer covering digital security for CJR. Find her on Twitter at @lkirchner