A survey was recently conducted to find solutions to how can the comments section on news reports be improved.
Assigning a reputed journalist to manage the comments section related to an article or a debate on websites could improve the deliberative tone of the comments, thereby reducing internet trolling, a new research says.
A troll is a person who starts arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous or off-topic comments to a topic.
A team of researchers from the University of Texas, the Purdue University and the University of Wyoming in the US partnered with a local television news station and conducted an experiment using its Facebook community of 40,000 followers.
Between December 2012 and April 2013, a total of 70 political posts were included in the study on a randomised schedule.
Each post was assigned to one of three random conditions: a well-known reporter would engage in the comments’ section; the station’s web team (under its insignia) would engage; or there would be no engagement at all from the station.
The researchers then conducted a content analysis of all 70 posts and the 2,403 comments left on these posts whether these were civil, relevant, contained genuine questions and provided evidence.
“We found that in comment sections where the recognised journalist engaged with the audience, it had a statistically significant effect on the tone of the comments,” said Natalie Stroud from the University of Texas.
“Incivility decreased by 17 percent and people were 15 percent more likely to use evidence in their comments on the subject matter,” he added.
Given that many news organisations have comment sections and recent surveys suggest that they are likely to stay around, “we wanted to identify strategies that could affect the types of comments left by site visitors,” Stroud said.
The research suggests that a journalist’s involvement is a helpful strategy, the authors added.