Stop disabling comments on controversial articles

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#1 Edited by JustPlainLucas (78797 posts) -

I've brought this up in the past, but I'll bring it up again as I think it's a very important issue. The topic that sparked me to create this thread was the news article pertaining to Ronaldo's alleged rape accusation.

Now, I understand why you would disable comments on controversial topics, but just because it's understandable doesn't make it right. You have a reporting system and a team of moderators to deal with ugly comments, so let the moderators do their jobs by letting users report the nasty comments the mature users find.

It's insulting not to be allowed to post a comment on an article because of how others act.

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#3 Posted by MisterVulpes (658 posts) -

@JustPlainLucas:

Couldn’t agree with you more.

They mostly do it on articles they know people will backlash against and call BS.

It’s not a sensible tactic.

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#4 Posted by DaVillain- (32959 posts) -

Personally, Gamespot is all about gaming news and gaming related, Gamespot shouldn't be posting Political stuff and this is consider off topic for a gaming site. Really GS, leave Politics out of gaming sites.

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#5 Posted by Sevenizz (2199 posts) -

I lean right politically so I’m against most forms of censorship, but sometimes comments need to be omitted in some articles. I recall a shooting incident last summer and a few people turned it into a console war - totally misappropriating the thread. It also went anti 2nd amendment which was equally misappropriate.

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#6 Edited by Cikatriz_ESP (434 posts) -

Remember: there's a very real danger that GameSpot could turn completely toxic the way IGN has (true, that site often seems to cultivate that toxicity and capitalize on it, but that's a story for another day). Mods, at least the ones over there, are so limited in power and number that once that ball started rolling there was no real way to stop it (again, whether or not they wanted to stop it is up for debate). Shutting down comments for certain topics is an effective means of keeping the overall toxicity levels from elevating past the point of no return, when level-headed people like you and me get so fed up we jump ship and leave the site in the hands of, well, we all know who I'm referring to here.

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#7 Posted by uninspiredcup (29172 posts) -
@Cikatriz_ESP said:

Remember: there's a very real danger that GameSpot could turn completely toxic the way IGN has (true, that site often seems to cultivate that toxicity and capitalize on it, but that's a story for another day). Mods, at least the ones over there, are so limited in power and number that once that ball started rolling there was no real way to stop it (again, whether or not they wanted to stop it is up for debate). Shutting down comments for certain topics is an effective means of keeping the overall toxicity levels from elevating past the point of no return, when level-headed people like you and me get so fed up we jump ship and leave the site in the hands of, well, we all know who I'm referring to here.

It could also go in the opposite spectrum of Resetera where leftist fanaticals make up shit on a whim if it doesn't fit their narrative.

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#8 Posted by Cikatriz_ESP (434 posts) -

@uninspiredcup: I suppose anything’s possible, but I’m not seeing any signs of a leftist takeover. I don’t subscribe to any particular ideology so I don’t have a dog in this fight, but since you brought it up I feel it’s worth pointing out that no one really takes over websites/social media quite the way neo-conservatives do. Left-leaning communities also seem to be less toxic (with exceptions, obviously) than what we’ve seen from conservative communities lately, probably due to the fact that decent people of all ideologies tend to either jump ship or stay quiet when the neo-cons arrive.

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#9 Posted by uninspiredcup (29172 posts) -
@Cikatriz_ESP said:

@uninspiredcup: I suppose anything’s possible, but I’m not seeing any signs of a leftist takeover. I don’t subscribe to any particular ideology so I don’t have a dog in this fight, but since you brought it up I feel it’s worth pointing out that no one really takes over websites/social media quite the way neo-conservatives do. Left-leaning communities also seem to be less toxic (with exceptions, obviously) than what we’ve seen from conservative communities lately, probably due to the fact that decent people of all ideologies tend to either jump ship or stay quiet when the neo-cons arrive.

Resetera is far worse than IGN. They actively look for outrage, target developers and ban users who do not prescribe to certain ideology. The very definition of an echo-chamber.

Not to say that IGN or your 4chans hasn't got their pieces of shit, or indeed, this website hasn't got it right-wingers blurting out offensive shit for the sake of being contrariness or edgy, but it's definitively nowhere near the 1984 dystopia Resetera envisions.

-

Not really a fan of shutting down a conversation because you don't want to hear the others distasteful opinion.

Generally speaking as well, as mentioned above, keeping political bullshit out of gaming news would be great. But in this case, with the footballer being directly linked to the game, I get it. a potential rapist ain't exactly good publicity, especially when he's on the front-cover.

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#10 Posted by Cikatriz_ESP (434 posts) -

@uninspiredcup: I’ll take your word on Resetera, as I’m not sure I’ve ever even visited that site. I also generally support the sentiment behind not shutting down conversation, as you and I have just proven that such a thing is worth pursuing. I would argue, though, that the articles in question rarely involve much conversation to begin with. Yes, the voices of some decent people are lost in the process, but just as the government reserves the right to shut down a protest that gets out of hand, GameSpot can and should maintain an overall atmosphere of civility. Such a thing is never a forgone conclusion and can be incredibly difficult to regain once it’s lost.

Like I said, though, I understand where you’re coming from and there are really no clear cut answers on this one.

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#12 Posted by Byshop (19175 posts) -
@Cikatriz_ESP said:

@uninspiredcup: I’ll take your word on Resetera, as I’m not sure I’ve ever even visited that site. I also generally support the sentiment behind not shutting down conversation, as you and I have just proven that such a thing is worth pursuing. I would argue, though, that the articles in question rarely involve much conversation to begin with. Yes, the voices of some decent people are lost in the process, but just as the government reserves the right to shut down a protest that gets out of hand, GameSpot can and should maintain an overall atmosphere of civility. Such a thing is never a forgone conclusion and can be incredibly difficult to regain once it’s lost.

Like I said, though, I understand where you’re coming from and there are really no clear cut answers on this one.

You pretty much nailed it with these two sentences. Nobody wants to block comments on articles, but sometimes it's the only practical option. I can't speak for GS on this because the decision to lock article comments occurs at the staff level, not the moderator level, but I think that everyone would prefer that comments stay open. But more importantly, GS needs to keep the community from becoming toxic and some article topics tend to go south in the comments pretty fast no matter what we do. Even now, people are in the Read Dead 2 review losing their minds over it getting a 9 out of 10. Some of them are mad it didn't get a 10 because even though they haven't played it, the reviewer is clearly wrong/biased/bribed/whatever. Others are mad that it didn't get a lower score because the review points out that it's not perfect so clearly the "9" must be all "hype train". We've had to delete dozens of nasty comments, ban several users, and hunt down ban dodgers who are literally making alts just to insult the reviewer. All over a video game review where the score was a point off from what a lot of people expected.

@JustPlainLucas said:

I've brought this up in the past, but I'll bring it up again as I think it's a very important issue. The topic that sparked me to create this thread was the news article pertaining to Ronaldo's alleged rape accusation.

Now, I understand why you would disable comments on controversial topics, but just because it's understandable doesn't make it right. You have a reporting system and a team of moderators to deal with ugly comments, so let the moderators do their jobs by letting users report the nasty comments the mature users find.

It's insulting not to be allowed to post a comment on an article because of how others act.

You're not wrong, but it's a question of volume. Our bandwidth to moderate is not unlimited and a hot button article might get hundreds upon hundreds of comments in an hour. That's partially exacerbated by the fact that article comments get a lot more "drive by" users who aren't necessarily part of the GS community but found an article through Google, and created an account just to loudly voice their displeasure at something they read.

-Byshop

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#13 Posted by JustPlainLucas (78797 posts) -

@Byshop said:

You're not wrong, but it's a question of volume. Our bandwidth to moderate is not unlimited and a hot button article might get hundreds upon hundreds of comments in an hour. That's partially exacerbated by the fact that article comments get a lot more "drive by" users who aren't necessarily part of the GS community but found an article through Google, and created an account just to loudly voice their displeasure at something they read.

-Byshop

As a former moderator, I'm aware of volume. When I first came on board, the que was backed up in the thousands. We still did our jobs, though (not saying you aren't). However, the volume of reports and GS's lack of adequate moderators shouldn't be an excuse to prevent the community as a whole talking about certain articles. My suggestions:

  1. Get more moderators or
  2. Stop posting controversial articles or
  3. Remove comments on news articles entirely (thus putting to rest to the system wars mentality and people bitching over scores, which in my opinion is far more rampant than political discourse)

#2 is my recommended option, because what is the point of posting a politically leaning article if you aren't going to allow your community to talk about it? This drives narrative whether it's the editor's intention or not. GameSpot is a video game news site and has no business forming narrative whether it's direct or indirect. I know how annoying trolls can be, boy do I ever, but I've never been for censorship of any type because we need to know who the trolls are to combat them with discussion.

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#14 Posted by Byshop (19175 posts) -

@JustPlainLucas said:

As a former moderator, I'm aware of volume. When I first came on board, the que was backed up in the thousands. We still did our jobs, though (not saying you aren't). However, the volume of reports and GS's lack of adequate moderators shouldn't be an excuse to prevent the community as a whole talking about certain articles. My suggestions:

  1. Get more moderators or
  2. Stop posting controversial articles or
  3. Remove comments on news articles entirely (thus putting to rest to the system wars mentality and people bitching over scores, which in my opinion is far more rampant than political discourse)

#2 is my recommended option, because what is the point of posting a politically leaning article if you aren't going to allow your community to talk about it? This drives narrative whether it's the editor's intention or not. GameSpot is a video game news site and has no business forming narrative whether it's direct or indirect. I know how annoying trolls can be, boy do I ever, but I've never been for censorship of any type because we need to know who the trolls are to combat them with discussion.

As a current moderator, I'd say that it's much easier to explain how to do it better from the sidelines than to actually implement new policies that don't annoy/anger significant portions of the community. Your feedback is noted, and as I said these decisions are made far above my (non-existent) pay grade, but just off the top of my head here are some of the potential issues with your suggestions:

1) More moderators is fine on paper, but the larger the team the harder it is to manage so there are logistical challenges involved there of finding suitable community members, vetting them, training them, etc. Also, more people doesn't necessarily solve the problem. Moderators all have day jobs and articles that drop during work hours still need to be moderated. 100 moderators who can't mod until after they get home from work isn't much more effective during the day than 10 moderators in the same position. Moderators in other countries/time zones help, but the majority of our userbase is in the US so finding suitable candidates outside the US poses additional challenges.

2) Who decides what's "controversial" or "political"? The biggest issue with this suggestion is that when people say something has a political slant or is controversial, they often mean "this is something I don't agree with". As I pointed out earlier, there are a number of users who are making political/controversial complaints about the RDR2 review, and that's just a game review. Nobody agrees on what is and isn't controversial. Sure, there are -some- articles where GS knows ahead of time it's going to be a mess in the comments, and sometimes articles drop with the comments pre-disabled, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's not something that GS -should- report on just because people can't be trusted to keep the comments about the topic civil. The moderator team doesn't have the luxury of moderating based on "this is something I don't like or agree with", we have to moderate based on the rules of the forum to try to keep it fair for as many people as possible. We have to try to be objective in figuring out how the rules apply to language, which is inherently subjective by nature.

Often, when the comments are disabled on a given article, discussion of the topic still takes place in the forums and while sometimes the moderator team needs to step in on those conversations, they tend to go better than the comments. Part of the issue with comments is the issue I mentioned with "drive bys" earlier. The forum discussion tends to be much more measured. To your point on censorship, we don't necessarily block article topics from being discussed in the forums so long as that discussion doesn't go off the rails and often it doesn't. Which leads to your next suggestion...

3) This one sounds like it might be OK on paper for the reasons I mentioned above, but in practice its a non-starter. There's a significant portion of our userbase that lives almost exclusively in the comments sections rather than the forums themselves.

But as I said, your comments have been noted and it's up to GS to decide what changes they do or don't want to implement based on the feedback. This is just my two cents.

-Byshop

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#15 Posted by JustPlainLucas (78797 posts) -
@Byshop said:

As a current moderator, I'd say that it's much easier to explain how to do it better from the sidelines than to actually implement new policies that don't annoy/anger significant portions of the community. Your feedback is noted, and as I said these decisions are made far above my (non-existent) pay grade, but just off the top of my head here are some of the potential issues with your suggestions:

1) More moderators is fine on paper, but the larger the team the harder it is to manage so there are logistical challenges involved there of finding suitable community members, vetting them, training them, etc. Also, more people doesn't necessarily solve the problem. Moderators all have day jobs and articles that drop during work hours still need to be moderated. 100 moderators who can't mod until after they get home from work isn't much more effective during the day than 10 moderators in the same position. Moderators in other countries/time zones help, but the majority of our userbase is in the US so finding suitable candidates outside the US poses additional challenges.

2) Who decides what's "controversial" or "political"? The biggest issue with this suggestion is that when people say something has a political slant or is controversial, they often mean "this is something I don't agree with". As I pointed out earlier, there are a number of users who are making political/controversial complaints about the RDR2 review, and that's just a game review. Nobody agrees on what is and isn't controversial. Sure, there are -some- articles where GS knows ahead of time it's going to be a mess in the comments, and sometimes articles drop with the comments pre-disabled, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's not something that GS -should- report on just because people can't be trusted to keep the comments about the topic civil. The moderator team doesn't have the luxury of moderating based on "this is something I don't like or agree with", we have to moderate based on the rules of the forum to try to keep it fair for as many people as possible. We have to try to be objective in figuring out how the rules apply to language, which is inherently subjective by nature.

Often, when the comments are disabled on a given article, discussion of the topic still takes place in the forums and while sometimes the moderator team needs to step in on those conversations, they tend to go better than the comments. Part of the issue with comments is the issue I mentioned with "drive bys" earlier. The forum discussion tends to be much more measured. To your point on censorship, we don't necessarily block article topics from being discussed in the forums so long as that discussion doesn't go off the rails and often it doesn't. Which leads to your next suggestion...

3) This one sounds like it might be OK on paper for the reasons I mentioned above, but in practice its a non-starter. There's a significant portion of our userbase that lives almost exclusively in the comments sections rather than the forums themselves.

But as I said, your comments have been noted and it's up to GS to decide what changes they do or don't want to implement based on the feedback. This is just my two cents.

-Byshop

Oh, I know. I'm not expecting you to change anything, just airing a grievance.

Thank you for your time.