Have you ever taken the time to read an article online, and then read the comments section?  Have you ever been bothered with the nature of online comments?

The Guardian newspaper in England published an article about their results with the comments section attached to their online articles. There have been 70 million comments attached to articles in the Guardian.  About 1.4 million comments (2%) had to be blocked, because they were inappropriate.

The Guardian analyzed the inappropriate comments, and the articles that they were attached to.  They learned that the majority of the authors who received the most hateful comments were women and minorities.

The Guardian situation isn’t unique.  The same thing happens on a number of websites and technologies.  I have read posts from people who have stopped using Facebook & Twitter because they couldn’t stand the hateful feedback they received.

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I used to allow comments on this blog.  When I started, I noted that I would allow comments as long as they were respectful.  But I had to turn the comments off a few months ago.

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Those of you who know me know how to reach me.  I appreciate your feedback, and the guidance you’ve provided me as I build this website.

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I recently wrote a post called “The Bill of Responsibilities”.  I was thinking about online comments when I wrote that blog.  My point was that we are more concerned with our rights than our responsibilities.

One example is the freedom of speech.   That is a freedom guaranteed by the Constitution.  However, it carries some limits and some responsibilities.  The classic one is that no one should yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater (unless there is a fire, of course), because people could be harmed in the resulting panic.

Hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment.  Google the phrase “arrests for hate speech” and look how many results there are (525,000).  People who spew hate speech are starting to be prosecuted as criminals.

I hope that helps.  I appreciate the place that online technology has in our lives.  My hope is that a few haters don’t ruin the technology for everyone else.

Hal