NPR restricts commenting

NPR is sick of spam and trolls and has switched to auditioning commenters before accepting their submissions. Only after establishing themselves over multiple comments will their comments begin appearing automatically when posted. Matthew Lasar in Ars Technica:
This new policy has been a while in coming. In October, NPR noted that the site had grown to 350,000 registered participants, and thus needed a little help moderating comments, particularly with trolls who come "to wreak havoc in discussions." Hence, the media organization brought in Canadian-based ICUC Moderation Services to assist.
Looks like they're simply overwhelmed by nasty anonymous and just-registered comments. Public radio decides it's time to chase trolls away [Ars Technica}


  1. I wonder if NPR will go the way of other sites that require commenters to log into Facebook. I hope not.

  2. Speaking of comments, this page says “1 Comment”… but there’s no comments showing. I guess there’s one in moderation? Hadn’t seen that before…

  3. Odd that the word “trolls” is not in quotes, while ‘wreaking havoc in discussions’, a description of their activity, is. Even though what a troll is is much more widely understood…

    1. i assume the quotes are there because someone is being quoted. old fashioned of me i know…

  4. I, for one, cannot wait until Beck, Limbaugh and O’Reilly put their extremist spin on this.

  5. That actually means there’s a comment that got past the spam filter but isn’t being rendered for one reason or another, but almost certainly because it contains spammy URLs.

    1. How can a comment get through the spam filter to be counted, and then not be displayed because of “spammy links”?

  6. I once wondered why more sites don’t use slashcode (the software behind Slashdot). Threading, community moderated, fast.

    My best guess is you need a lot of registered users to create a critical mass. NPR sounds like it’s reached that size.

    1. Meta moderation is infinitely superior and fairer. “Auditioning” commentors is something that Gawker does, and if Gawker thinks it’s a good idea …

  7. Require commenters to log into facebook? No way. I understand why lots of big sites are doing it — it stops trolling and spam — but it shouldn’t be hard to figure out why that’s not for us.

    The option of logging in with facebook and twitter might soon be available, though, to those that want it.

    1. I kind of like things like the disqus forum in principal (don’t care certain things about how it’s implemented). I hate maintaining separate logins for each and every site, it’s a bit overwhelming. I like the idea of some sort of reputation (be it a quantitative score or just old fashioned rep) that can/will follow people from site to site as that might make people feel less anonymous and less prone to flame indiscriminately. If you’re going to do facebook/twitter why not Google too? I would think there are far more gmail users than twitter/facebook users (though I could be wrong).

      1. I hate maintaining separate logins for each and every site

        That’s what makes it easy for me to find where commenters live, work and went to school, who they’re dating and what they look like when they’re drunk. A commenter will troll BB, then go post their pics on Flickr and their personal info on a knitting site under the same name.

        1. Yep. It’s scary how many people just don’t get how much personal information they’re giving away for potential Bad People to find.

          I quit facebook about 1 year ago and haven’t looked back, though I haven been tempted a few times to register a pseudonymous account. Not worth it. Well, maybe a couple socks just for trolling NPR ;)

        2. This is why I never make the mistake of posting anything on the internet that I am not 100 percent prepared to defend and stand by in the physical world. The only people that will have problems with this type of moderation are the paid trolls and the closet racists that comment all over the internet. It seems to me to be an institution of the manners that are required for civil discourse in the physical world being applied to the world of internet discussion. I am a stringent privacy advocate and wonder about the trend being harmful to those values that I hold dear. On the other hand I think that this could be good for the online community and add a more civil implication to online discussion in general. I am anxious to see the affect of these new strategies at NPR. It would seem like boingboing has been doing this for a while by making anonymous comment submissions subject to prescreening, no?

  8. Like so many other sites their comments sections are riddled with right wing spammers, particularly when the story is on a specific issue. This is a great move.

  9. One thing I find amusing is how a lot of people online suddenly became “experts” on Muslims, talking with absolute knowledge that Muslims are dirty, absolute evil, etc, etc.

    Not amusing, more depressing, but I think I’ve chosen to not care about the sickness of mankind, laughing at them/us instead as we speed towards our destruction on multiple fronts: environmentally, financially, religiously, and humanely (look at Obama’s treatment of Manning/Guantanamo/CIA black site prisoners, how can you still call him human after that).

  10. While I applaud the openness and freedom of the internet, I think there’s not much value in allowing people to vent their views without having to take ownership of or responsibility for them. Free speech is good thing, but anonymous free speech can degenerate into the equivalent vandals painting graffiti. It makes sense to tie a face and a name to whatever one is allowed to post. If you don’t want to let the rest of us know who said it, why would you want to say it in the first place? Of course, this argument does not apply to whistleblowers and those who could suffer unfairly for taking a stand. But if you’ve got something harsh or critical to say, then own it. Otherwise you’re just a heckler in the back of the auditorium.

    1. Of course, this argument does not apply to whistleblowers and those who could suffer unfairly for taking a stand.

      I think “those who could suffer unfairly for taking a stand” could apply to anyone – I mean, in the United States, at least, most employers can (and some will) fire employees for expressing opinions, even moderate ones like “Vote for John Kerry”:

      The notion that everyone should be comfortable having anything they say published to everyone who knows, has known, or might know them presumes a world where the worst punishment for a disfavored opinion is a declined friend request, and that isn’t the world we live in. Many commenters have legitimate reasons to wish to remain anonymous.

  11. The commenting on media sites (Newspapers, television, youtube) is what drove me to install commentblocker ages ago. I’d be reading a story or watching a clip and just looking below I would see some of the most vile, racist, homophobic or just plain ugly “commentary” you could imagine.

    Even innocuous stories would be filled with creeps flogging some crazed political vendetta or simply hurling abuse.

    I’m always heartened when a site takes pains to moderate their comments. It’s like someone hosting a party who kicks out the boors and drunkards before they ruin things for everyone.

    On that note, thanks to all the hard-working mods here on BB!

  12. I wonder if NPR will go the way of other sites that require commenters to log into Facebook. I hope not.

    Our local NPR affiliate mentions their Facebook page about 20 times a day. They seem to have forgotten they have their own website. “Friend us on Facebook!” “Like us on Facebook!” As if it makes them cool or something. It’s horrifying.

    They also just ditched all the politically-interesting left-wing programming that I really enjoyed. (I’m not talking about All Things Considered, which I consider to be moderate, although my Fox-fed relatives see all of NPR as a socialist plot.) I take this as battening down the hatches in the face of a Republican-dominated House of Representatives, but I haven’t heard specific reasons.

    1. My radio dial almost never strays from one or the other of my local NPR affiliates, and the only program I can think of offhand that could reasonably be considered ‘liberal’ is “On the Media”.

  13. Thats because NPR is a tool of the socialist state used by Obama made to mind control our children through Sesame Street. Their agenda is being brought to you by the letter A and the number 3 for godsakes! THINK ABOUT THAT!

    Oh god I crack myself up sometimes…

  14. I was advocating this exact thing just last week. I think that any ‘mainstream’ news site with a sufficiently large population _should_ use the facebook commenting plugin, and _should require_ that any comment on the news site would also be published on the writer’s facebook wall.

    Like it or not, your facebook wall is now your local community. Just as you wouldn’t run down the street yelling racist slurs or wearing a swastika on your arm, you wouldn’t likely post that kind of crap if all your friends could read it on your facebook wall. Yes, some intellectually-devoid vandals may actually get their jollies by posting on both and facebook simultaneously, but in general, it may be a good swing for a more civic dialogue.

  15. Maybe Treehugger will start doing it too, so that there are no longer 15 comments about The Global Warming Hoax on every.single.fucking.article.

  16. But really though, it’s not like you need a .edu address to get a facebook account anymore. What’s to stop a spammer/troll/astroturfer from just making a shitload of facebook accounts, and rotating them as they get banned?

  17. If there they could simply display the ip address for each comment, it would be easy to tell when dozens of trolls turn out to all come from the same ip address.

    By the way if anyone knows of a module for wordpress that would display the ip address for each commenter, I’d like to hear about it. I have a sockpuppet infestation on a blog i maintain

    1. Even some of our perfectly lovely commenters spin their IPs in the interest of privacy. Trolls are not at all limited by that. Grammar and syntax analysis are your friends.

  18. Seriously, though….am I the only one who has essentially stopped listening to NPR and gone straight to podcast version of their different shows?

    I feel like I am going through a paradigm shift with regard to information consumption. It is becoming all laptop based. I can’t even push this beast off my lower stomach where its recharging battery is radiation-ating with warmth right over my reproductive organs to watch a show on TV.

  19. Seems kind of haughty…since they’re being funding by all the taxpayers and “troll” has become synonymous with anyone who doesn’t mouth the current agenda.

    1. How much of their funding is through taxes? Are you aware of the different types of trolls (shills, flamers, concernTrolls)? What is the current agenda? Whose is it? Who still calls things ‘haughty’?

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