Never far from Hitler

One of the most disappointing things about the Internet is that while it certainly has increased engagement amongst “normal” people it has also given a lot of cranks, eight balls and mental midgets a platform. Take the Media Monkey as an example.

Anyway, there’s a saying out there that says something like no posting is ever more than one or two comments away from mentioning Hitler. Meaning that once the first grease covered troll posts from his mother’s basement, meaningful discourse among genuine people is lost. Hitler

Well, the days of being able to “comment” on news stories may be drawing to a close. Libel and defamation law is starting to creep into the picture when it comes to blogs and online comments, and media companies that enable such comments may also be jointly liable.

Because of this, several media companies and local TV stations around the country have killed “comments” on their websites. Yes, you could hire a moderator for every piece of chat that comes aboard, but that’s time consuming and expensive.

Interestingly, it used to be that NOT having a moderator would protect you from liability, but that is changing. Merely providing the forum now carries some risk and I think that’s a good thing.

Newspapers, TV ownership groups and individual stations are experimenting with moderators, community “flagging” tools and new policies designed to reduce their exposure.

The problem though is that there really isn’t any way to shield against providing a forum for people to rhetorically assassinate subjects of news stories, especially if they are private individuals.

Some of the examples of what can go wrong are just horrific as trolls and people with an axe to grind use the chat boards as a tool to do real damage. Defamation claims against the platform’s sponsoring media outlet and the posters themselves are a new reality that is actually even being addressed by the insurance industry that will write coverage for bloggers and those who comment. The problem though is that it’s very expensive.

So it may be farewell to comments, and as far as I’m concerned, good riddance. There’s just no way that providing a platform for cranks meets ANY kind of journalistic or editorial standards of any professional news gathering outlet, and it’s time to leave the Hitler posts to the blogosphere and the eight ball websites.

What about blogs like this one? Isn’t this a comment? Well, no. It’s an opinion piece where I am responsible for identifying my biases when they’re relevant, and making fair comment and criticism about items of legitimate interest. The PI reads this, and if I’m using it as a platform to destroy people, I’m gone.

Those of us doing this also are liable for what we say and our names and reputations are married to what we produce. So, there are at least some checks-and-balances involved in this form of communication.

Comments on content like this however are what we’re talking about, and it will be interesting to see how long the ability lasts not only at the PI, but at many mainstream media outlets.

Comment while you can.