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The comments section is a feature of online blogs and news websites in which the publishers invite the audience to comment on the published content. This is a continuation of the older practice of publishing letters to the editor.



Various methods have been used for written commentary on published works. In Germany in the 1500's it was common practice for academics to post copies of their ideas on public places, such as church doors (see for example Luther's Ninety-five Theses). Newspapers and magazines later came to publish letters to the editor. With the advent of computers, bulletin board system allowed publication of information, and users to comment on or discuss posts.

The first online website to offer a comments section was Open Diary, which added reader comments shortly after its launch in October 1998.[1] Readers of blog posts on the site were able to post public or private comments to the blog authors directly on the page. The history of comment sections on news articles started in 1998 with The Rocky Mountain News, they were one of the first newspapers to add online same page comments.[2]

While today comment sections are common, at first newspapers were hesitant to add them.[3] In the late 2000s, comments sections were rapidly added to news sites, between 2007 and 2008 there was a 42% growth in the number of top circulating news sites with comments sections.[2] In 2008, 75% of the top 100 most circulated newspapers had comments sections.[2] In 2010, The American Journalism Review stated that news sites should not have anonymous comments sections.[3] Following that statement Reuters, ESPN, The Huffington Post, Popular Science, Sporting News, and USA Today either made comments gated or removed them.[3]

The following are examples of some news websites that have disabled comments:

  • Vice Media closed its comment section in 2016.[4] On closing, they noted "we had to ban countless commenters over the years for threatening our writers and subjects, doxxing private citizens, and engaging in hate speech against pretty much every group imaginable."[4]
  • NPR closed its comment section in 2016.[5] One of the stated reasons for this was that "commenters were behaving inappropriately and harassing other commenters".[5]
  • IMDb closed its comment section (the discussion boards, not the user reviews section) in 2017. On closing, one journalist noted that the comments section on that website was "notoriously known for hosting some of the most pointless and hateful commentary around".[6]


There are two types of comment sections, gated and non-gated.[7] Gated comments sections require users to give the website some information before they can post a comment.[7] Many news websites such as The New York Times and most social media websites are gated, as users have to log in and post under a username that identifies them.[8]

Non-gated comment sections don’t require users to provide information before posting.[7] This lack of a barrier to entry can allow more people to post and potentially lead to a discussion with more viewpoints covered.[8] This anonymity, however, is believed by some to lead to uncivil behavior and a higher likelihood of seeing or experiencing verbal aggression in the comments.[2][3] In response to this, both the Illinois and New York State senates have considered bills to limit non-gated comment sections.[3] The Illinois bill would have incentivized websites to gate their comments requiring users to provide their real name, a home address and a confirmed IP address.[3] The New York Bill would have made websites remove anonymous commenting.[3]

Toxic comments and moderationEdit

Toxic comments refer to rude, disrespectful, or unreasonable comments that are likely to make one leave a discussion.

If a comment section is moderated it is typically done in any one of the three ways: post-moderation, pre-moderation, or through a flagging system.[8] Comments that are post-moderated are checked after they’ve been posted. Pre-moderated comments are checked before they are made publicly visible.[8] Comments that are moderated with a flagging system can be marked or ‘flagged’ by other users for official website moderators to look at.[8]

In February 2017, Google-founded technology incubator Jigsaw unveiled a tool based on artificial intelligence, called Perspective API, to identify toxic comments in online forums.[9]

In September 2017, Disqus, a company that provides a comment-hosting services, analysed over 92 million comments written by 2 million people over 16 months, on about 7,000 forums that used its service, and concluded that 25% of all commenters made at least one toxic comment. The study was carried out using Google's Perspective API. In the United States, the time of the day at which maximum proportion of comments were toxic, was 3 am.[10] However, Engadget denounced the underlying API bringing attention to its discriminatory classifications - phrases like "I am a gay black woman" were scored as 87% toxic. It described the algorithm as "sexist, racist and ableist".

Good moderation of news websites is expensive.[11] However, most news sites do moderate.[12] Studies of newspaper website and blog comments have shown incivility to be present in as many as 25% of comments.[13]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Erard, Michael. "No Comments". Retrieved 2018-08-06.
  2. ^ a b c d Chen and Pain, Gina Masullo and Paromita (2017). "Normalizing Online Comments". Journalism Practice. 11 (7): 876–892.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Wallsten, Kevin, and Tarsi (2016). "PERSUASION FROM BELOW?". Journalism Practice. 10 (8): 1019–1040.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ a b Smith, Jonathan (20 December 2016). "We're Getting Rid of Comments on". Vice. Vice Media. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  5. ^ a b Jensen, Elizabeth (17 August 2016). "NPR Website To Get Rid Of Comments". Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  6. ^ Perez, Sarah (3 February 2017). "One of the worst comments sections on the internet is shutting down". TechCrunch. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  7. ^ a b c "Digital Marketing Agency: PPC, SEO & Content Services – Vertical Measures". Retrieved 2018-03-29.
  8. ^ a b c d e Steele, Noelle (2013). "Trolls Under the Bridge: Anonymous online comments and gatekeeping in the digital realm".
  9. ^ "Google Cousin Develops Technology to Flag Toxic Online Comments". Retrieved 2018-09-09.
  10. ^ Bénichou, Lo. "Trolls Across America: Mapping the Most and Least Troll-Ridden Places in the U.S." WIRED. Retrieved 2018-09-09.
  11. ^ Wang, Shan (18 October 2016). "When are comments sections of news sites worth keeping alive? What are some options for taming them?". Nieman Lab. Nieman Foundation for Journalism. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
  12. ^ WAN-IFRA (2016). The 2016 Global Report on Online Commenting.
  13. ^ Coe, K., Kenski, K., & Rains, S. A. (2014). Online and uncivil? Patterns and determinants of incivility in newspaper website comments: Incivility in newspaper website comments. Journal of Communication, 64, 658-679. doi:10.1111/jcom.12104