Inside LINK is a weekly column from our CEO, Lacy Starling. If you have questions you’d like Lacy to answer, email her at [email protected].
Oh, social media comments sections. We know them, we love them, and sometimes, we can’t believe what people say in them.
Being able to post our work on social media broadens our reach significantly. More than 80 percent of our website traffic comes from social media, but like anything on the internet, there’s the good, the bad, and the ugly to contend with.
First, the good: The instant feedback loop that social media comments provide is an excellent way for us to find out if we’ve missed something important in a story—if someone reads one of our articles, but still has questions in the comments, it means we need to do a more thorough job of reporting, or even need to add more information to the story immediately.
Comments are also a great way for us to know if we got a detail wrong and need to correct it, which we obviously strive to do immediately. Sometimes, they even serve as a place for people to link to other articles, or add additional nuance because they have historical or relevant information. We love this type of engagement because it turns our article into a conversation.
Second, the bad: If there’s anything the past few years have taught us, it’s that there is an absolute deluge of misinformation on the internet. Whether it’s well-intentioned folks who just have the facts wrong, or people pushing an agenda, there are times when someone will post in our comments something that’s flat-out incorrect.
This doesn’t happen very often, and when it does, other members of the community will usually correct the misinformation, or the social media platform itself will flag the comment as misleading. This is one of the reasons we keep our comments section on social media instead of on our own website – unlike our very lean organization, these platforms have hundreds of employees and millions of dollars worth of technology to enforce their community standards.
Finally, the ugly: I’m not telling you anything new when I say that social media can be an absolute dumpster fire. It seems that human nature allows us to be savagely mean to someone on the other side of the computer screen, when we don’t have to look them in the face or deal with the repercussions of being cruel, degrading, insulting, or smug.
Our comments sections will occasionally play host to someone who woke up and, in the words of Cersei Lannister, chose violence. There are insults, name-calling, provocations and general ugliness. These types of comments make me grateful for the “show relevant comments only” filter on Facebook. (There’s only so much ugliness I can put in my brain before I have to double down on therapy.)
Sometimes, people ask us if we’re going to delete these types of comments, or block the people who made them. The answer is almost always no.
The only time we delete comments on our social media feeds is if we can verify the poster is not using a real profile (i.e. it is a bot, or a fake account) or if they include personal information about other people – home addresses, phone numbers, etc.
Except for those very rare circumstances, we aren’t in the business of policing the comments. We provide fact-based reporting, and allow the community conversation to evolve from there. We’d just encourage all of you to keep it civil.