Testing times for Mail Online’s comment system

The introduction of a rating system for comments on articles on the Daily Mail’s website back in December last year was a bold move for a site that often publishes highly controversial (or certainly comment-provoking) articles.

Comments on the site can be removed by the editorial team if necessary, but the aim of the system is that users will act as moderators, flagging up inappropriate content.

One particular story last weekend tested its mettle: the report on the death of a man in the back of a lorry in the channel tunnel.

The article in question provoked a spate of offensive and abusive comments (as shown in this screengrab captured by FiveChineseCrackers.com).

As Mail Watch points out in a post on the matter: “If these are the highest rated, and thus most visible, comments, how does that reflect upon the ‘controls’ and ‘processes’ used by Mail Online to prevent ‘inappropriate content’ appearing?”

By Monday afternoon the comments referred to had been removed from the piece. At time of writing this blog post, only two comments appeared on the article and additional comments are no longer being accepted:

Mail Online comments on migrant death article

As Mail Online’s terms and conditions page states, the site is not liable for third party content including comments posted by users.

And the site’s own House Rules suggest that pre-moderation of comments is not always the case:

“Reader comments that violate the letter or spirit of these rules or our Terms may be removed (or, if checked in advance, not published in the first place). If we do remove something, we will generally remove whole posts, or where necessary, whole threads (not parts). This means that even if only one sentence is objectionable, the whole comment will usually be removed (or not published).”

In this case, however, the screengrab clearly states above the offensive comments: “The comments below have been moderated in advance.”

Asking how such incidents affect the Mail’s attitude to commenting, a spokesman told Journalism.co.uk:

“As regards the Channel Tunnel story, several inappropriate comments were posted until they were rightly flagged up through the ‘report abuse’ facility when we immediately took them down. This shows our system is working as it was designed.

“The comments facility is a much-loved part of Mail Online and phenomenally popular.

“To enable as many people as possible to have their say the vast majority of our comments are now not moderated in advance. This presents a new challenge for us and our readers but we are happy the system is working well.”

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