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The most widespread genre of
audience participation in online
news sites (Ruiz et al., 2011;
Weber, 2014), allowing the
public to express perspectives on
current issues (Henrich &
Holmes, 2013; Chung, 2008)
Dubious contribution to the
public discourse – abusive
content, defamation, incivility
(Papacharissi, 2004; Reich, 2011;
Erjavec & Kovacic, 2013)
Although news organizations
seek to protect their
reputation and prevent
themselves from legal
liabilities through legal and
ethical guidelines (Singer,
2014; Braun & Gillespie,
2010), the diversity of
management options reflects
the absence of a core and
common strategy when
dealing with users’ comments.
Readers are also trying to
develop their own
perspectives on moderation
strategies and, more generally
speaking, on the role of
journalism and free debate, as
shown by Cook (2011).
Case study: comments threads
on an article published in the
online version of the Portuguese
newspaper Público in November
2013 – total of 90 valid posts
Opportunity to examine readers’
perceptions and expectations
towards the online comments
section, while identifying
challenges, particularly in
respect to moderation decisions.
The article/news piece focused
on the failed expectations of
enlargement and enrichment
of public debate and
democracy within the readers’
comments’ section, also
referring issues such as
anonymity of users and the
moderation system adopted
by Público
Earlier in 2012, the newspaper
had decided to move from pre-
moderation to a “collaborative
moderation” embedding users in
the process through prestige
points. Depending on how many
points they gain or loose, users
can be “beginners”, “influent”,
“experienced” and ultimately
“moderators”, sharing
moderation duties with the
community manager of the
newspaper.
a) Thematic and content
analysis: affordances to
democracy and public debate;
identified problems and
challenges; proposals made
towards moderation;
references made to the article;
other themes/comments
(including off-topic; arbitrary)
b) Discursive analysis – focus
on the utterance position of
comments that presented
indicators of reciprocity
(Graham & Witschge, 2003),
namely conversational
response (replies to other
comments) – 43 posts
Main problems and challenges
identified – the commenters
(trolling; non-politeness;
hidden agendas and interests;
need to vent personal
frustrations; low quality of the
posts) and…. the moderators
(hidden agendas and interests;
arrogant behaviors;
arbitrariness and/or bad
interpretation of norms of
publication – “censorship”,
“lobby”)
The total of 90 comments
were posted by 38 unique
users; moderators authored 48
comments – possible
monopolization of attention
within online discourse by
particular individuals and
groups (Dahlberg, 2001)
This case study not only
highlighted the negative
perception that users may have
of the forum, but also a kind of
“tug-of-war” (Beyers, 2004)
between users and moderators,
clearly marked by power
relations.
The online world seemed to have
no gates – “however, it turns out,
there are more gatekeepers than
ever” (Singer, 2014).

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The readers on readers’ comments in news. Perceptions on freedom of expression and news organizations’ moderation strategies: a case study

  • 1.
  • 2. The most widespread genre of audience participation in online news sites (Ruiz et al., 2011; Weber, 2014), allowing the public to express perspectives on current issues (Henrich & Holmes, 2013; Chung, 2008) Dubious contribution to the public discourse – abusive content, defamation, incivility (Papacharissi, 2004; Reich, 2011; Erjavec & Kovacic, 2013)
  • 3. Although news organizations seek to protect their reputation and prevent themselves from legal liabilities through legal and ethical guidelines (Singer, 2014; Braun & Gillespie, 2010), the diversity of management options reflects the absence of a core and common strategy when dealing with users’ comments.
  • 4. Readers are also trying to develop their own perspectives on moderation strategies and, more generally speaking, on the role of journalism and free debate, as shown by Cook (2011).
  • 5. Case study: comments threads on an article published in the online version of the Portuguese newspaper Público in November 2013 – total of 90 valid posts Opportunity to examine readers’ perceptions and expectations towards the online comments section, while identifying challenges, particularly in respect to moderation decisions.
  • 6. The article/news piece focused on the failed expectations of enlargement and enrichment of public debate and democracy within the readers’ comments’ section, also referring issues such as anonymity of users and the moderation system adopted by Público
  • 7. Earlier in 2012, the newspaper had decided to move from pre- moderation to a “collaborative moderation” embedding users in the process through prestige points. Depending on how many points they gain or loose, users can be “beginners”, “influent”, “experienced” and ultimately “moderators”, sharing moderation duties with the community manager of the newspaper.
  • 8. a) Thematic and content analysis: affordances to democracy and public debate; identified problems and challenges; proposals made towards moderation; references made to the article; other themes/comments (including off-topic; arbitrary)
  • 9. b) Discursive analysis – focus on the utterance position of comments that presented indicators of reciprocity (Graham & Witschge, 2003), namely conversational response (replies to other comments) – 43 posts
  • 10.
  • 11. Main problems and challenges identified – the commenters (trolling; non-politeness; hidden agendas and interests; need to vent personal frustrations; low quality of the posts) and…. the moderators (hidden agendas and interests; arrogant behaviors; arbitrariness and/or bad interpretation of norms of publication – “censorship”, “lobby”)
  • 12.
  • 13. The total of 90 comments were posted by 38 unique users; moderators authored 48 comments – possible monopolization of attention within online discourse by particular individuals and groups (Dahlberg, 2001)
  • 14. This case study not only highlighted the negative perception that users may have of the forum, but also a kind of “tug-of-war” (Beyers, 2004) between users and moderators, clearly marked by power relations. The online world seemed to have no gates – “however, it turns out, there are more gatekeepers than ever” (Singer, 2014).