News24 to close down comments section because of ‘hate speech’

Today, popular South African news website News24 announced its closure of their comments system because of “hate speech.” The announcement came in the form of a post by News24’s editor-in-chief, Andrew Trench.

While this decision means that News24 will join the likes of Reuters, CNN, and Popular Science, it certainly isn’t void of controversy among readers.

In the post, Trench states the comments system will be closed on 11 September. While all comments on articles will automatically be set to “off”, it will be at editorial’s discretion to open comments on select articles. This decision will be geared towards articles where comments will add value, such as thoughtfully engaging pieces. These comment sections will receive more attention.

While comments will be turned off as a default we will retain the editorial discretion to open article-level comments on material where we believe comments will add value. A great example of this is when News24 users mobilise to assist someone who is the subject of a story we have written or who thoughtfully engage with a provocative analysis or opinion piece. Comments in these cases will be subject to more intense scrutiny

According to Trench, the comments section has become increasingly laced with hate speech, racism, and prejudice. “Each day the tone and substance of many of our comments appear increasingly at odds with the mission of editorial excellence which we have set for ourselves,” says Trench.

“Many commentators insist on pushing the boundaries of free speech available to us in South Africa. Comments tediously drift towards hate speech at worst and, at best, are often laced with prejudice,” says Trench. He goes on to say, “Interesting and considered contributions are drowned out by a cacophony of insults from a minority of users. This is not the experience we wish users to have in our home.”

The News24 piece suggests users use other social media platforms for comments:

The internet is awash with social media platforms which allow unfettered free speech and increasingly are the more comfortable home of online conversations

Trench says News24 has invested a significant amount into this year. Their expansion has included the deployment of journalists across South Africa, the launch of News24Wire, and editorial working on honing their editorial strategies.

Naturally, users of the website are certainly divided by the announcement:

news24-comments-1 news24-comments-2 news24-comments-3 news24-comments-4 news24-comments-5

The original post can be read here.



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