Is CBC moderating comments enough?

Aboriginal leaders in Manitoba are apparently upset with comment moderation on the CBC’s website, which they say let through a bunch of racist comments on stories about native communities.

CBC moderates comments on news stories, but they’re fairly liberal about it, leaving in many which come close to the line.

Also of note here is that CBC outsources comment moderation to an outfit called ICUC, which moderates many Canadian media websites. It’s unclear if they let the comments through or if it was done by CBC staff, but (The Globe says ICUC does handle moderation services.) This underscores the fact that those moderating comments need to have very good training in laws concerning libel and hate speech.

UPDATE: The Globe and Mail explores the issue, with some examples of offending comments. CBC News also covers it, with quotes from management saying they’re taking a look at the issue, and there’s a post at Inside the CBC as well.

13 thoughts on “Is CBC moderating comments enough?

  1. Jack Ruttan

    The majority of comments on CBC always seemed very right-wing to me. I think that’s because, at least at the start of the internet and all, people inclined that way were more inclined to fool with computers. Getting As in shop rather than in social studies.

    Too bad that’s become a problem, because I worry that suppressing a lot of bad stuff lets it fester while being hidden, and the haters get a chip on their shoulders about “PC thugs keepin the ordinary man down” etc.

    Still, letting it out doesn’t seem to help, as many message boards and blogs on the internet prove.

  2. Steven Mansour

    I used to follow the CBC as one of my main sources for news until very recently – my primary reason for ditching them is because they allowed comments on their news stories. With all the trouble news outfits are having these days, I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask them to pay someone to sit around and moderate comments all day.

    This whole “new websites becoming blogs” thing is remarkably lame. If I visit a news website, I want to read, you know, news articles – not racist xenophobic comments about Quebecois culture from nice folks in the prairies.

    So, I’ve removed all but the ‘Montreal’ newsfeed from my RSS reader. Funny thing, half the comments I see on ‘Montreal’ articles seem to come from outside Quebec as well.

    Also, I don’t know what you decree the “line” to be when it comes to political correctness, but when things along the lines of “Oh he’s arab, just send him back to his home country where they’ll probably cut off his hands” get published, I’m guessing it’s rather blurry indeed.

    1. David Spade

      It puts the credibility of CBC in jeopardy when they label anonymous posters as ‘trusted’ in statements that are nothing more than a hate-fest.

  3. Shawn

    I agree with Steven: I actually lost respect for the G&M when I starting reading the bile on their Comments section. Of course, I don’t have to click on the little link and read the stuff. But once I did, it started to bug me that this respected publication couldn’t be arsed to truly moderate and have an intelligent exchange.

  4. Kevin

    If you think the comments on the Globe site are bad, you should see the ones that ARE deleted. Funnily enough, the Globe writers dislike the comments section too, as they’re often the ones being insulted.

    The Globe is taking a look on how to improve their comments. Make people post under their real names (as far as possible)? Only publish a comment once it’s been approved by an editor? Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing them IP-ban repeat offenders from publishing comments (not reading them though), but of course there are easy technical workarounds with that.

    Do you think the news sites are in a bit of a tough spot here? They depend on attracting visitors, in order to get advertisers, and one way to create return visitors is to allow them to comment on stories. But if you always delete their comments, these visitors will stop returning.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Therein lies the rub. When you’re putting in comments to drive up traffic instead of to inform, then you’re putting your interests above those of your readers.

      I like the idea of a Slashdot-style comment rating system, where good quality comments are featured and trollish ones are buried. Combine that with editor-driven moderation.

  5. Kevin

    It’s the old problem of finding a balance between idealism and reality.

    Just to be clear, I have no power of what the Globe does or doesn’t do. I’m the lowest of the low there.

    The ratings system is good though. Like on YouTube, where if a comment scores a negative-5, it’s automatically hidden from view.

  6. Dussault

    I don’t think that there’s much the CBC can do about this, since the comments are, by and large, rather low in quality. If moderation would change this, then perhaps they should go for it, but I don’t think that the few comments which clearly go “too far” warrant the costs of moderation.

    I’m often tempted to read the comments section and I shake my head at just about every reply, be they right-wing or left-wing. If it weren’t for the thought that I don’t have to read them, I’d say that they should just remove the comments section; the New York Times don’t have one and I think that this is for the best. Truth is, though: I can’t help myself and end up reading the junk that’s posted there. I don’t know what.

    Are there any major news sites where the comments are more in the intelligent side of things? The BBC has heavily-moderated comments and I think that they do a good job at representing public opinion, though the comments rarely go in-depth. The Economist has better comments, though it’s nothing spectacular.

    Part of the issue with the CBC is that it’s so mainstream, there are so many people trying to post comments, that there’s no veritable dialogue (too many people for a proper discussion) and the readers aren’t united by a common interest or opinion; it’s like asking random people in the streets what they about an issue, while offering them the veil of anonymity.

  7. Jessica

    Honestly, I think the comments sections on news websites should just be removed, as they just make more trouble than they’re worth.

    On the CBC’s website, in particular, it’s become nothing more than a mud-slinging match consisting of “Liberals rule, Conservative are fools” vs. “Conservatives rule, Liberals are fools” … obviously, I’ve kept the wording at a PG-13 level for obvious reasons. This is true even on stories which have nothing to do politics. The comments section has become nothing more than an outlet for people to spew hate speech about other people. As well, I’ve noticed in recent months that people are using multiple screennames to try to dispute any opinion they don’t agree with, or use screennames similar to another member to try to misattribute comments to said individual. It’s becoming downright embarassing what is allowed to go on, and nothing seems to be being done about it, despite these actions being reported to the CBC through the “Report” link associated with each comment. I’m not sure what more it will take to make the CBC realize that something needs to be drastically changed.

    In my experience with a few of the American news sites, like CBSNews, if you flag a comment as inappropriate, they tend to react swiftly in the removal of it within a matter of minutes, provided it is indeed offensive. In the case of the CBC, it could be hours, days or even weeks, until they do something about, if anything. Anyways, if the CBC and other news sites want to get feedback from their viewers, I’d suggest the CNN approach which allow people to share the article on social networking sites and let them comment there; thus, they’ve offloaded the burden to those sites to keep these users in line.

  8. Stanley

    I have also stopped reading CBC website news due to the disturbing comments. I have to admit I was drawn in and found myself spending an inordinate amount of time shaking my head and getting upset over the rather large number of blatantly racist, misinformed and politically charged comments. I think one of the main reasons for this splurge of hateful speech is the anonymity of the postings. People will say anything is they know if it can’t get back to them – which goes to show how important social pressure is to contain hate.

  9. Cyril

    Wow, I really see this debate as slanted. I find the comments on the CBC sites informative. They give me a sense of what Canadians are thinking. For example, stories which deal with the Justice system often evoke a sense of outrage among the rank and file of Canadian society. There is a sense that sentencing does not reflect common Canadian ideals and there seem to exist a incongruity between the values of the Judiciary and the common Canadian. Yes, I have heard all of the arguments for and against reform, but the point remains, in a democratic society, these things should reflect the sentiments of 80% of the population. And please, no one pull a Godwin on me (look it up). The comments on CBC are fairly intelligent given the cross section of people lining up. If you want idiocy, go to Fox News. I must confess I regularly post a comment which inflames the readers there just to watch their heads spin. For instance I recently posted something positive about universal health care. Super funny, I must say. Yes I know some of the posters on this site must have shiny new degrees (mine is old and tarnished by now), but CBC is supposed to be a democratic institution, giving voice to THE people. We all pay for it, so why can’t we respond to the articles? I moderators are pretty tight and I suspect that they err on the side of caution too frequently. I was censored for advocating against violence against men on a Tiger Woods story. Apparently it was tooooo sensitive. But on the whole, it is a good feature. Now I’m off to Fox news to post something about being fair to the umemployed or something like that.

  10. Stan

    It seems the CBC decided in mid-July 2013 to stop accepting comments.
    As of today, July 20, 2013, I can not find any CBC article that accepts comments.
    Perhaps the rumour they intend to farm out the noderation process to some outfit that will make money from the commenting process is true.


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