What took them so long?
In a written statement, the company complained that what was originally designed to “serve as a forum for thoughtful and intelligent debate that would allow our global audience to engage with one another” had devolved into a free-for-all, with the comments sections “hijacked by users hiding behind pseudonyms spewing vitriol, bigotry, racism and sectarianism.”
“The possibility of having any form of debate was virtually nonexistent,” the al-Jazeera statement added – as if any further explanation for their action was needed.
I have a comment of my own in response to al-Jazeera: “Welcome to reality.”
Al-Jazeera is hardly an innocuous website in cyberspace. It reports on some of the most explosive developments affecting the most volatile regions of the world. Considering the sparring parties in these never-ending conflicts, complaining about “sectarianism” is almost laughable.
Is there a more “sectarian” group of people on the face of the earth than those who are exorcised about the inhabitants of the Middle East – or of Muslims, Christians and Jews in general? I don’t know of any.
As for the comments section being a repository of derision and hate, how is anyone surprised? What other result could one expect – especially since there was little or no attempt by al-Jazeera personnel to moderate the comments section?
The fact is, unmoderated comments sections that also allow for poster anonymity are a blanket invitation for “the inmates running the asylum.” Comments that are left in these “anything’s allowed” forums chase the well-intentioned participants away – and fast.
On the other hand, I’ve found plenty of well-moderated forums and comments sections that are as valuable as the underlying articles themselves.
That doesn’t happen all by itself, of course. Good moderation takes effective policies – requiring commentators to identify themselves for a start. It also requires an ever-watchful eye.
Evidently, al-Jazeera and others like them found the not-insignificant effort required to perform this degree of moderation to be unworthy of their time or financial resources. And as a result, their forums became worthless.
And now they’re history.