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Popular Science just announced that they are disabling their comment system on their website, citing the prevalence of trolls, spambots and “a politically motivated, decades long war on expertise,” which you will see every time there is a discussion about evolution, which forms the very basis of modern biological science, or global warming, which is overwhelmingly accepted by the vast majority of climate scientists.
The fact is, the relatively anonymous nature of commenting online brings out the worst in some people. I’ve had someone literally threaten to find me and execute me for disagreeing with them before. When you have a significant number of people that are so unable to engage in civilized discourse, and even a small percentage of the population is still a significant number, then it can break the system. I do not allow comments on anything I post on YouTube, because I refuse to grant a forum that can be abused by a vocal, reprehensible minority that has no interest in rational debate or discussion. When a major publication such as Popular Science feels the same way, you know that it is a significant problem.
My view is that if I allow comments, I’m going to restrict posting until I have reviewed and approved them. The downside is obviously the ongoing effort required to moderate posts quickly enough so that people are engaged while not being OCD about it. I do think it dramatically improves viewer engagement though. I am glad they are making changes; not sure what it is about YouTube, but a significant minority of the comments on there are among the most racist/homophobic/sexist on a major website. Hopefully these changes are effective.