Nick Denton, Gawker’s chief, thinks about Internet comments quite a bit. He’s concerned because it often seems the promise of the Web as a forum for open discussion has pretty much become a joke. Anyone who has attempted to wade through comments on a YouTube video or Huffington Post article can pretty much attest that there’s a lot of truth in that. That’s why Denton is making a move against the aggressive commenters he feels, in some ways, have taken over Gawker sites. Gawker rolled out its new commenting system, which allows the starters of discussion threads to censor responses. That left a bad taste in some people’s mouths in the comment string to the post announcing the new system. Denton responded, in the comments of course, that the new system is really about giving rights to voices with minority viewpoints.
We want to provide commenting minorities with some protections. They should at least be able to say their piece without feeling like they’re plunging into a mob. Even though active commenters are a tiny minority of the total, they compensate with volume. And their collective harangue can sound like the baying of the mob to the uninitiated.