Comment moderation and trolling
1st November 2011, 10:45 at 10:45 am #130426
As you know, part of the restrictions on commenting on F1 Fanatic include:
4. No personal attacks, insults or “trolling”.
This is a usefully broad restriction which weeds out the tedious sort of people who only want to make trouble and not contribute in a constructive way.
I am increasingly of the opinion that I should also use this to remove comments where people make serious accusations but fail to offer any information to support them.
For example, of late, I’ve seen an increase in comments alleging “bias”, “favouritism” and even “racism”, sometimes without naming the person/s being accused, offering any information to support these serious claims, or even explaining why they hold these opinions.
To my mind, this is only ever going to lead to hysterical arguments which harm the quality of discussion on the site. I am considering deleting future such comments.
Of course a balance needs to be struck between free comment and preventing against abuse, which is why I wanted to invite the thoughts of the community before committing to a course of action.
Please share your thoughts on this below. And of course, if you have any other ideas on how to promote a good standard of discussion on the site, please add those too.
For more information on commenting see:1st November 2011, 10:53 at 10:53 am #183964
It is very childish when a discussion ends up in a Youtube quality biased argument. When it gets personal Keith I’d send an email directly to those involved and remind them you have their IP addresses and will report any trolling to the police. They’re actually interested nowadays.1st November 2011, 11:14 at 11:14 am #183965
Fair point from Josh.
I suggest maybe sending an email, even if it’s some automated one you send out as a ‘Reprimand’ (Nice F1 themed one for you!).
That way, it’ll stop people arguing about why their comment got deleted etc.
I used to post in a pro-wrestling forum where I got reprimanded and kicked out numerous times for the most ridiculous reasons (anyone that knows me knows i’m not a ‘troll’ or offensive) and the place became a dictatorship (much to their own detriment).
It’s a fine balance, Keith, but I think warning via email followed by a ban if the behaviour continues is probably the fairest way of doing so.1st November 2011, 11:20 at 11:20 am #183966
@ecwdanselby Interesting idea but remember this all takes time. The longer I take moderating comments/sending emails, the less time I have to write articles, develop the site, arrange advertising and all the other stuff I have to do to keep the site running.1st November 2011, 11:23 at 11:23 am #183967
I have been here for 2 years now and generally the community is nice to each other. Of course as more members join in there will be more divergent views and occasionally there will be acrimonious exchanges – but here as well others members often help to quell it quickly.
One suggestion could be an upvote/downvote system where if a comment got downvoted ‘x’ number of times it will get removed / collapsed.1st November 2011, 11:25 at 11:25 am #183968
Personally, I think the ‘line’ as it stands at the present moment strikes a pretty good balance between allowing a passionate and sometimes heated discourse whilst ensuring that truly inflammatory and abusive comments are filtered out at the same time.
I like to think that the membership here – both regulars and occasional posters alike – are a highly knowledgeable bunch. If someone comes along with an uneducated, stupid or weakly argued opinion, I like to think that they will be challenged about it in the form of comment responses that illustrate the holes in their arguments. I’ve had quite a few arguments with many different people over the years about DRS, the qualifying format, Ferrari, KERS, Eddie Jordan, Tilke, BBC/Sky, HRT and Kartikeyan and many more. I think if you’re going to post on a site like this and try to argue a case, which is often what people do in article comments, you should expect to be challenged about it. The important thing is that people should remain respectful when doing so at all times. The moment you become disrespectful, you’ve destroyed both the discussion and your own credibility.
I can never and will never claim to be impartial or very neutral in any way. I’m a Sauber fan who loves Kobyashi, Perez and Webber and who hates Ferrari and a few particular drivers who shall remain nameless. But I like to think that I have always justified and explained why I do so and that the reasons for this have always been substantial and not petty. At the same time, I don’t let my dislike of a driver prevent me from giving them credit when it is due and by the same token try not to let my love of a team or driver prevent me from criticising them when they deserve it. When it comes to controversies such as Hamilton/Massa, I always make sure to judge each individual case on its own merits and consider both arguments and both sides of the story before making my own decisions based on the facts. I think as long as we encourage others to do the same, we will continue to get well-informed, reasonably argued comments as a result. If we all let the reactionary, n00bish comments to take over – “HAMILTON IS WORST DRIVER EVAR LOL” – that would be a problem. But like I said, I think the key to containing those more irritating comments comes from people in the community challenging those who post them with intelligent, considered responses, rather than by taking the hard-line approach of removing or filtering them out.
Obviously, there are some comments which are just plain disrespectful, abusive or vulgar and they should absolutely be removed. But I don’t think allegations of bias or favouritism should be clamped down on too much. The fact is these sorts of comments are unfounded and aren’t backed-up with strong reasoning. I honestly think the best thing to do is to let people continue to shout ‘bias’ and ‘favouritism’ all they want and until they can produce actual evidence of it, we’ll all continue to destroy those claims by ourselves.1st November 2011, 11:28 at 11:28 am #183969
Well I believe you shouldn’t delete comments just because they contain words like “bias” or “favouritism” as sometimes they might be true when we talk about articles published on other websites. For instance, there is a journalist I generally like but I also think the neutrality of his articles could sometimes be disputed. But, as you say, some reasonable arguments should always be provided when making such statements.
As to whether unjustified accusations should be deleted, I think it’s a tricky issue. I think they should be if one and the same poster repeatedly ‘bashes’ someone else but not in case of one-off outburst. As James Allen once said, F1 fans are passionate people. The emotions sometimes run wild. I know how I feel myself when someone else (not an anonymous “troll”, of course) says bad things about my favourite driver, which are unjustified in my opinion. I once even wanted to write a hate mail to one well-known ‘opinion maker’ but luckily couldn’t find his e-mail address :D
You do a good job Keith and your comment policy is one of the reasons why I like to be on F1F (it’s actually almost the only website where I comment) so I’m sure you’ll find the right compromise.1st November 2011, 11:35 at 11:35 am #183970
Unfortunately I just think it’s a case of being a victim of your own well-deserved success. A site can only grow so much before “respectable” (those who will hunt down and seek a good forum rather than the most popular one) posters dry up and the balance swings in favour of those with strong partisan opinions and with a style more disposed to banter than sharing ideas.
As ever, it is your site to run as you see fit, to ban certain comments, filter certain words, even ban users. If we don’t like it, we can go elsewhere; as consumers (this is your living after all) we have that choice.
But as you say, the issue goes further than that. You don’t want to balance things just to get the maximum possible numbers, you want a good community. That inevitably means being the bad guy and not tolerating disruptive comments, no matter who they come from (including regulars like me! Only a few are 100% innocent on this front). I’m not sure what you can really do differently that you’re not doing now anyway, but I guess this is why you put such questions out, to find out!
But yes, I would say my main point is for us regulars to remember not to stoop to this level too, or we set a bad example.1st November 2011, 11:43 at 11:43 am #183971
One suggestion could be an upvote/downvote system where if a comment got downvoted ‘x’ number of times it will get removed / collapsed.
In theory, this idea looks good but it’s also a bit dangerous. People could use such a system to make ‘unwelcome’ comments disappear just because they represent an unpopular opinion like, for instance, supporting the BBC/Sky decision earlier this year. 90% might strongly disagree with that but as long as a positive opinion on the matter is polite and supported with arguments, there’s no reason to get rid of it.1st November 2011, 12:08 at 12:08 pm #183972
I’m always in favour of keeping speech as free as possible. But then again, taking @magnificent-geoffrey‘s example, comments like “HAMILTON IS WORST DRIVER EVAR LOL” is a difficult one. It’s an opinion, albeit an entirely unconstructive one, but why would you want to stop people expressing that opinion? Where do you draw the line?
You can’t ask every commenter to provide a full, reasoned justification for their post, because most people just won’t do it. On forums like this, I think you just have to take the rough with the smooth.
There’s too many grey areas, IMHO, to completely eliminate “trolls”. So I say establish clear, simple guidelines and stick to them. Personally, I think the F1F guidelines are already adequate but then I don’t mind ignoring the comments that are irrelevant, stupid or just wrong.
I’m a moderator on a creative writing discussion list, and it’s really difficult to find a balance between allowing free speech and condoning unconstructive time wasters. We tend to take it on a case-by-case basis if someone is being really disruptive while at the same time skirting around the edges of acceptability (the biggest problem we have is people that are either stinking writers or total idiots, or both), but with a slightly less active forum and a bigger team of moderators dedicated to the task I suspect it’s easier than managing F1F.
Keith, have you considered delegating some of the admin work on the main site in a similar way to the liveblogs (or have you done so already)?1st November 2011, 12:51 at 12:51 pm #183973
To put you in the picture, a comment like “HAMILTON IS WORST DRIVER EVAR LOL” wouldn’t make it past the current standards of scrutiny, never mind any future changes! As far as I’m concerned, that’s just straight trolling.1st November 2011, 13:28 at 1:28 pm #183974
Can I be totally honest here?
I am a massive fan of this site. I love the community and the debate. I love Keith and all of his hard work, and I’ve seen first-hand how much nonsense he has to filter out and put up with each day. It really is absurd and I couldn’t believe there were people as sad as these trolls on our planet. I’m also in awe of Keith’s time-management. I cannot keep up with commenting on the site most of the time – yet Keith manages to write amazing articles, read every comment, reply to a lot of them, delete the nonsense, run the live-blog, keep everyone entertained on Twitter AND reply to queries and questions via email. This is just a standard Sunday for our hero! :P
Meanwhile, I’m getting out of bed and wondering where I’m going to find the time between sleeping and laying about doing nothing to read his work….
I agree with @magnificent-geoffrey. Comments challenging Keith’s impartiality shouldn’t be met with too much of a reaction. Sometimes, it can be a simple misunderstanding. I feel it is important at this point to mention that I have never in my 3 years (or whatever it is) of reading Keith’s articles come across anything I’ve found to be biased. Keith is a blogger, but he’s also become an incredibly trustworthy source for information and even breaking news. The articles on this site are always impartial from what I can tell, but at the same time, I can appreciate that people have differing views.
If someone questions Keith about bias, I think they should be treated with as much respect as anyone else. I understand that it gets tiring when you have to answer to these critics all of the time (we see how often you have to), but I think the thing that’s going to keep people coming back is the welcoming and friendly atmosphere of the site. If their comment gets pounced upon by anyone, they may be scared off. I like reading peoples’ opinions and everyone deserves to state what they feel. If it’s unreasonable or as Geoff said, just plain trolling, then it deserves nothing more than to be deleted instantly. But often, people just need things explained. Someone could visit F1F and think Keith is a Ferrari-loving, Jenson Button-hating fanboy, but if this person can be spoken to in a polite and non-confrontational manner, they should – if they’re a decent person – understand where they went wrong and that it was a misinterpretation.
I’m not saying Keith should allow people to bash his site, but the less strongly-worded comments probably deserve to be treated more gently.1st November 2011, 13:56 at 1:56 pm #183975
@damonsmedley You’re right in the sense that too much reaction and cause more of a reaction.1st November 2011, 14:03 at 2:03 pm #183976
I think generally the standard of discussion here is great, and it helps that when accusations of bias fly, they seems to come from trolls rather than regulars. There will always be people trolling and making unsubstantiated claims of bias, but although sometimes they are annoying- especially when they accuse Keith- I find mostly they don’t take much away from the site.1st November 2011, 14:08 at 2:08 pm #183977
I am still thinking about this, and I will add something in later. I think that in principle what @joshgeake proposes is not bad, but its a lot of work. Not too sure that is productive use of time.
I do not like a voting system on the quality of comments. In my opinion, that is exactly the opposite of what a discussion should be. It should be about saying meaninfull things (and jokes sometimes), not being popular.
I fully agree its a tough one to strike a good balance. Automatic rules should be (and are) in place to get the comletely useless and abusive things out of it, i think that part might even be a bit stricter.
After all, the comments end up being marked as under moderation, and you can always appeal/ask for them to be published. That way commenters get a clear message of what is allowed. Maybe it needs a bit more explanation when something like that happens, in an automatic mail.
I admit, that I have become a tad more strict in this in the past couple of months. To me people telling people are “fanboys” biased and especially accusing Keith of being that should not be treated with much respect, unless they present their arguments to show it. Its like telling the court is biassed. That should only be done with sufficient arguments.
So for many of those cases, if its someone who has an account and has shown they are pretty reasonable, give a warning, then delete / block / put in “prison” for a while to cool off.
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