The role of comment sections plays into getting others who may have some expertise on that particular subject or to just add to the conversation. There are other websites that use a different approach like Kinja which has a voting system that allows other readers to vote on comments. Used correctly, comment sections can and should be civil in order to prevent unnecessary and inflammatory responses in order to bait others into a discourse that is not professional. Comment sections are not one hundred percent foolproof, but that does not mean that a website should get rid of them all together. If different views are not allowed, then how as a society are we supposed to have discourse? In discussions that are face-to-face you are going to have opposing ideas. The option that comment sections offer is the anonymity to hide behind how you really feel about a subject. Most people don’t really have the courage to own up to what their own beliefs are in person which is why people say all kinds of cruel and intentional responses on the internet.
The use of comment sections probably started out with the intentions of seeing how the readers feel about the article, website, and the topics discussed on the website. It wasn’t until people started to spam these comment sections with the purpose of trying to start a comment war over something that didn’t really apply to the article. That is why getting rid of the comments sections in a sense lets the trolls win. Their main objective is to start up trouble and stop the conversation from going any further and getting off track. This is what you don’t want because then your readers will most likely not only stop commenting on articles, but they will no longer visit your website.
As Ricardo Bilton states, “Done right, publishing comments can drive discussion and increase reader engagement. But more often than not, publishers have seen their comment sections devolve into a free-for-all in which decorum and even social norms are tossed aside in the name of some grievance, real or perceived. For an example of the kind of culture the Sun-Times is chasing, Newman cited RogerEbert.com, which observers often said housed one of the best commenting communities online. “He would get hundreds of comments — thoughtful, thought-provoking, civil — on all of his posts,” Newman said. “That’s kind of the feel that we want to get to; … (Digiday 1)
There are options built into comment sections like giving the readers the ability to flag a comment which will most likely get the account suspended and eventually deleted. There is the ability for trolls to keep creating fake accounts, but I think that these publishers just have to keep at it and realize that the openness of the internet does allow unwanted behavior to flourish whether you like it or not.
I do understand that publishers don’t always have the time and resources to monitor their comment sections all the time, but in order to get readers interested in an article which includes other features of your website, there has to be the option for readers to engage with the author besides emailing or messaging on Twitter. People create uproars with other things besides comments sections, for example like live television. Reporters, producers, and director’s plan to have a clean and smooth show, but you cannot always prevent those instances where a rowdy passerby will say something that is broadcast live over the air. This type of behavior is not wanted and most of the time unexpected, but it is sadly a problem that people working in live television have to deal with. If live television were to stop this type of behavior we would no longer send out reporters to cover live events, thus making televised news unappealing to viewers who want to know what is going on in their communities.