Andrew Alexander, the ombudsmen for the Washington Post, recently took some time to respond in his blog to an article concerning anonymous online comments. The article that was published Sunday shed light upon the difficult task of monitoring user-generated online comments.
With nearly 320,000 monthly comments, the ability for users to comment on the publications articles has contributed to their online growth. Yet Mr. Alexander stated that there is a need to separate bigotry from those comments that actually contribute to the discourse.
The solution to this problem is some kind of tiered comment system. While the WaPo employs monitors to patrol the website not everything necessarily needs to censored. Alexander argues that even emotional comments are an important part of the discussion.
In response to his article, readers contributed their own ideas of how comments can be monitored. Many suggested relying on readers to do the monitoring themselves. Their already exists an option that allows readers to "report an abuse" when comments are obviously inappropriate. One reader proposed extending this option to allow users the chance to rate comments, similar to the "thumbs up, thumbs down" option used by Yahoo.
Developing an effective method of monitoring comments that doesn't impede the voice of the reader is an important task. As stated, the WaPo's online presence has grown enormously through user comments and the publication obviously doesn't want to risk losing their audience. Over the course of next few weeks the Post will try out a range of methods before choosing one to stick with. Either way the fact that users were able to contribute to the discussion concerning how they themselves should be monitored is an indication of the importance of user generated commentary.