“The difference with Twitter, I think, is that it’s a conversation: there’s always the chance that you can have a rational discussion, which seems often to be almost impossible in comments. If someone’s hell-bent on annoying and insulting you on Twitter, you can just ignore them or block them. If they’re hell-bent on the same in a comment thread, there’s not much you can do, especially since being rational and quoting facts brings no benefit.
‘At their worst, comments are like toxic waste buried under the foundations of an article and irradiating all rational debate with ignorance and aggression. And, like radiation, the effect of the internet commenting culture is spreading. The degradation of discourse online is mirrored in real-world dialogue. Adults who would balk at bullying in school playgrounds are happy to fling snide and often extremely aggressive comments around.’
In the meantime, the comments are going off all over the internet, tiny bit by tiny bit. The radioactive nature, the abuse, the lack of broader engagement, and the fact that lots of the writers are actually on social media, not trawling those comments, all points towards Gresham’s Law taking its inexorable toll. Comments on news sites are broken. Until and unless there’s a fix, the number of established sites that drop them will keep growing.”