Comments or No Comments?

Although I love receiving comments on my blog posts, even the negative ones, a debate is stirring about whether or not some sites should eliminate their comments features altogether. FOX News and Yahoo! already deactivated their feedback functions at one point, and Popular Science made headlines by deciding to shut down its comments option. The root cause is the rising tide of disruptive commentary  or false information that in the eyes of many serves no purpose except to stir unease/misinformation and to quell productive discourse.

Click here to read the rationale for Popular Science's decision.

Here is a link to the New York Times examination of the controversy sparked by that move.

I've always erred on the side of free speech in such matters.  We faced a stream of trouble-making anonymous commentators back in the peak days of the Robside message board, and that was one of the reasons I believe it eventually folded, but the other moderators and I felt strongly about allowing uncensored conversations with only minimal filters rather than silence people because we disagreed with them. There were likely other reasons besides the haters that led to the board's demise, but I can see the fear in other blogs and Web sites that don't want to face a similar outcome, when the voices of the few crazy participants drown out the rest of the majority community. The Robside didn't handle it well, but silencing everybody to control the instigators wasn't the answer either.

PR Daily has an excellent article about how to deal with rabble-rousers and you can read my own essay on the matter, titled "Do Not Feed the Trolls."

It's a mistake to cut the channel of communication between online readers and writers. What do you think?  (See, if there were no comments feature, you wouldn't be able to tell me.)