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Never Let the Trolls Win
By Fay Funk
I break the first rule of the Internet: I read the comments.
Why? Because the comments are often the best part of an article. Intelligent, thoughtful commenters provide deeper insight and alternative perspectives on a good article, and are hilarious and validating on a terrible one. Much like Twitter, the comments section can provide up-to-the-minute news on a breaking story and correct errors within the article. In short, the comments are as important to the article as the content of the article itself.
This is new for the news. In the past, news and articles were mostly stand alone pieces. Any response was word of mouth, or an editorial published much later. You heard from a limited number of voices. Now we can instantly hear from a variety of people on any given topic, and this is good. This makes the news more accurate and more interesting.
I’m fairly picky about the blogs and websites I read regularly. For a long time it was Jezebel and XOJane, back when XOJane was worth reading. Now it’s just Jezebel.
Jezebel has changed a lot over the years, but for me it’s always been a source of entertainment, and often my primary news source. I have a bias after all. I’m a woman and a feminist, and if I’m going to get information it may as well come from a source that shares my bias. The same facts will all be present, and I’m going to have the same opinion of Hobby Lobby or whatever else is going on whether I hear about it on Jezebel or Fox News.
And of course, I love the comments on Jezebel. They are usually well-written and intelligent. After the Hobby Lobby verdict came down several commenters took the time to explain some of the legalese and the immediate effect of that verdict on women. Just after news of Robin Williams’s death came out a commenter on Jezebel posted an update with a statement from Williams’s wife, sourced and ready to be added to the body of the article.
So it was rather frustrating, to say the least, when suddenly all the interesting comments on Jezebel were replaced with warnings about rape GIFs. And, of course, the rape GIFs themselves.
For the past few months, Jezebel has had a serious problem with trolls posting violent and misogynistic GIFs. It’s due in part to their platform, Kinja, which allows users to create burner accounts and does not track IP addresses. Burner accounts can be banned, but a troll can create a new one within minutes and go right back to posting horrific rape GIFs.
It’s also due, in part, to leadership at Gawker Media, which has done very little to address the issue, until after Jezebel called them out, by disabling GIFs and other images in comments. The goal of the burner system was to create an easy way for anonymous tipsters, ostensibly to make the content on their websites more informative. But it’s not working that way.
I was fortunate enough to only encounter one rape GIF on Jezebel, but holy Hell, did it keep me out of the comments section on all articles for awhile. That was damn frustrating. I felt like I was only getting half the story without the comments to provide more in-depth analysis.
And that was the goal of this troll (or trolls), wasn’t it? To keep readers largely uninformed on subjects relevant to their lives. Clearly this person or people is anti-woman and anti-feminist, and doesn’t want women speaking to each other or learning from each other. That is the opposite of the reason for the burner accounts. It is anathema to the mission of any website that functions as a news source. I am certain this troll (or trolls) drove away more readers than the burner accounts brought in tipsters, so it cost not only the mental health and education of readers, but pageviews and brand loyalty as well.
I’m glad to see that the Jezebel staff called out Gawker, and I’m even more glad to see that Gawker is finally taking the issue seriously. When I first started reading Jezebel, the website had an “audition to comment” system, in which users had to earn the right to have their comments featured by not being trolls. I hope Jezebel and Gawker revert back to a system more like that one. I want to stay informed. I want a comments section that takes an article from a piece of writing to a living, breathing, experience. You can’t do that with a bunch of rape GIFs.
#Real #Jezebel #Gawker #CommentsSection #NewMedia #Trolls #FeministNews #Feminism #Women'sIssues #FreeSpeech
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