By Susan Duclos – All News PipeLine
Another liberal website has decided to disable commenting on their site, ironically enough it is the “National ‘Public’ Radio,” that has made the decision to remove the ‘public’ from their website discussions, leaving the site itself as nothing more than a echo chamber of their opinion, with no dissent allowed.
The note above the comment section states this will commence on August 23, 2016, but their reasoning in their announcement holds a number of concerning issues we would like to address, including the similarities of reasoning used by other liberal sites over the years, the outright mistruths to their readers and last but definitely not least, a pattern of behavior which indicates not only their desire of total control on information, but actively sending the “sheep” to organizations that are known for helping the government spy on citizens, monitoring even private conversations, and stifling conservative opinion.
TOTAL CONTROL OF INFORMATION AND OUTRIGHT LIES
Before going into the similarities of NPR decision with others over the years, lets first deal with the mistruths they told their readers. They claimed to have analyzed their comments in comparison to their actual traffic and found only a small percentage actually commented, then offered the following as one justification for disabling their comment section:
“The conclusion: NPR’s commenting system — which gets more expensive the more comments that are posted, and in some months has cost NPR twice what was budgeted — is serving a very, very small slice of its overall audience.”
NPR uses Disqus commenting (or they do until August 23), as does ANP, so we can tell you the service is free of charge to publishers. In fact they used to have Pro and premium accounts, but they phased those out in March 2013 and currently does not offer paid accounts and generates revenue through its advertising service, Reveal..
If a publisher is invited to the Reveal program, they actually earn advertising revenue from the comment sections, with ads above, below or both, so to state that the more comments that are made, the more they incur expenses, is an outright lie.
Using expenses as justification for disabling a comment section makes absolutely no sense either, since revenue generated by advertising whether it is pay-per-click or based on impressions, is dependent on readers returning to the site, so that too is misleading at best, a deliberate distraction technique at worst.
In the comment section of their announcement a number of points are made, including the fact that the statistics they used to justify disabling the comments are incomplete:
Via commenter Brandon Shaw: “I don’t write very many comments, virtually none, but without fail, I read the comments. Indeed, I spend more time reading the comments than the article itself. For me, they bring balance to the article. They bring to light, thoughts and perspectives that the articles often fail to consider. For me, the comments enhance your journalistic integrity. Without them, you seem like an organization that doesn’t value public input. Since your metrics likely don’t have any way of tracking how much of your web traffic is reading the comments, I feel you have made this decision with incomplete information, and I feel it will be to your detriment.”
We at ANP can vouch for that, we have received many emails from people that have mentioned they rarely if ever comment but they constantly read the comment section and find the contributions by others commenting to be invaluable, whether it is a point made, a link shared to more information, or an intense debate where many different points of view are explored and those observing are learning something from it all.
In 2013, Suzanne LaBarre is the online content director of Popular Science, made an interesting admission when they decided to end their comments, which was “uncivil” comments (or those that just disagreed with the story?) “not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.”
In other words, differing opinions that could cause a reader to question the official narrative, is unwelcome. She also stated “If you carry out those results to their logical end–commenters shape public opinion; public opinion shapes public policy; public policy shapes how and whether and what research gets funded–you start to see why we feel compelled to hit the “off” switch.”
Bottom line – They want total control of information.
In NPR’s announcement, they quote emails they received complaining about the comment section, including hateful trolls and “hread hijacking and personal insults,” but rather than setting up commenting guidelines, then just enforcing them, they chose to shut down the entire comment section? Point of note – Disqus also has implented a feature where readers and those commenting can “block” a specific user, so that too is misleading in using it as justification for disabling comments.
Those complaints most likely come from users that are like the “special snowflakes” at college campuses these days that consider any opinion that does not match theirs as “hateful,” and nasty. So NPR has just given them an online “safe space.”
NPR is also claiming that to disable comments they must remove the commenting software, which will remove all existing comments.
That is another another mistruth, there are multiple ways to “lock” a thread, or disable new comments with a click of a button by adminsitrators. While ANP has never deliberately locked a thread, while learning to use the Disqus system, I accidentally locked one once, then had to figure out what I did to unlock it, which is how I knew of this option, but NPR is choosing to remove the software and erase years of conversations.
DESTROYING AN ONLINE COMMUNITY
Reading through the comment section of this article, what is seen is a number of people that had turned the section into a “community” where they interact with each other daily, much like we see here at ANP, where the only commenting rule is “be civil or be gone,” meaning debate, discussion and disagreement is welcome as long as there are no personal attacks.
The feeling of loss seen in a significant percentage of the 1,400+ comments on that article, from their regular commenters can be encompassed by the following comment made by Abbi:
I hate your decision to close down the comments section. I’ve zero interest in being tracked on (or by) Facebook, and I want to join Twitter less than I look forward to seeing my dentist. Being confined to 140 characters is far too limiting. Reading your explanation for this choice translates in my head to, “It’s just busness, don’t take it personally.” “A user named Mary, from Raleigh, N.C., wrote to implore: “Remove the comments section from your articles.”
Well thanks a ton, Mary, for helping in part to dismantle an established community of people who value learning new things. This is the only place I’ve found where it is (was) possible to have an intelligent, fun conversation about politics, science, history or philosophy, where a professor of said subject is at your virtual elbow to recommend further reading or correct bad grammar. With all due respect, may you come down with an itchy rash.
I am distressed to lose contact with the most interesting, vibrantly (sometimes quirkily) intellectual community of people I’ll never have a chance to meet in person. I feel I have formed relationships with dozens of commenters here, and I resent losing that. I have learned so much, about such diverse topics! I can type a few rude words in Czech, I am now familiar with the history of Clovis, the first King of what was to become France (and who arguably influenced the present formation of all Europe), I finally grasped the difference between who and whom, I learned an awful lot about rabbits, and how endearingly grouchy Texas men can be, why I like Aspies so much but also why you are not as infallibly logical as you say you are, who powerfully sinister people hire to do their taxes, why it’s impossible to grow roses in S. FL, no matter how much fungicide you apply, the importance of encription, why I should be more open minded about Mormons and a thousand other tidbits.
I will really, really miss you.
You all have helped balance and expand my world view, thank you.
Those of you that interact here at ANP each and every day, those ask about each others families, worry about those that live in places that are suffering horrid weather such as Rick in Louisiana, and share survival tips, life experiences and such, can most likely understand what she is talking about as well as the great responses from those that consider her a friend in their online community, like the one from The Original DB, who responds to Abbi with “I am an elderly disabled man who has found great joy, intellectual stimulation, and cultural enrichment from my daily chats with you and the many thousands of bright, learned, and mirthful friends I have made here on NPR..org. Abby, you are a wise and honorable lady and I am irretrievably saddened by the impending loss of you in my life each day.”
As one that runs a website with Stefan, I can say reading through those comments was heartbreaking, seeing people saying goodbye to others they have interacted with on a daily basis, and imagining that being our readers. Readers that banded together to help a friend in need when one of our own was sick, worried about another that was traveling and couldn’t get online for days, when someone disappears for a couple of weaks seeing others ask about them…. the examples go on and on, so I felt for those people when reading through the comment section.
NPR just announced they were going to take a virtual bulldozer and level those readers’ online home.
ROUND UP COMMENCES – HERDING THE SHEEP TOWARDS SOCIAL MEDIA
Now for a very disturbing pattern that emerged when I was researching sites that have decided to disable their comment sections for the past few years. One pattern is they are mostly left leaning sites, deliberately stifling debate.
Another pattern is extremely concerning, the way these sites are deliberately herding their readers to “social media.” NPR offered a whole section of their article called “Moving the conversation to social media,” which states “Note: On August 23, we will no longer support commenting on NPR.org stories. But you can find us every day on Facebook, Twitter, email, and many other platforms. Questions about this change? Learn more or contact us.”
NPR’s announcement states the following:
There are disadvantages to using social media as a commenting platform. Fitting a comment into 140 Twitter characters is cumbersome and time-consuming. Only about 20 NPR stories are posted to Facebook each day, out of the total of 45 to 50 stories that get posted to NPR.org. Not everyone wants to create a Facebook or Twitter account. And, Montgomery acknowledged, with some of the social media platforms, “You miss the opportunity to have users engage with one another on the same story.”
But the Facebook discussions that do take place, in particular, tend to be more civil, most likely because users are required to use their own names (not that fake accounts don’t get through, but there seem to be far fewer than the predominantly fake names that NPR commenters currently rely on).
This pattern is seen in other liberal media sites, such as Reuters, who in 2014 stated in their announcement about ending comments “Much of the well-informed and articulate discussion around news, as well as criticism or praise for stories, has moved to social media and online forums.”
CNN reported in 2014 that the “Influential tech blog Re/code announced Thursday that it has shut off the comment forums on its story pages. Instead, the website is steering commenters to social media.” CNN also pushed their readers to Facebook and Twitter stating “Editors and moderators now regularly host discussions on CNN’s Facebook and Twitter accounts,” with links to both their social media platforms.
At the end of the announcement explaining the ending of the comment section for Popular Science in 2013, they also push users to social media, stating “There are plenty of other ways to talk back to us, and to each other: through Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, livechats, email, and more….”
December 2014, The Week also added a note in their announcement about ending website comments stating “And so today, the smartest, most thoughtful, and most spirited conversations are being driven not by pseudonymous avatars in the comments sections of news sites, but by real people using their real names on the social web. It is no longer a core service of news sites to provide forums for these conversations. Instead, we provide the ideas, the fodder, the jumping off point, and readers take it to Facebook or Twitter or Reddit or any number of other places to continue the conversation.”
A day later News.MIC ended comments stating “Our audience is having robust conversations on social media platforms around our stories. The passionate discussions we see on our Facebook page — as well as the conversations our audience is having with our writers on Twitter — are more productive and organized than what tends to happen in our comments section.”
January 2015, Bloomberg ended comments, with yet another push toward social media:
Bloomberg killed its comments section. Lots of media companies, from Recode to Reuters, have done this lately, which Topolsky said made him more confident in the decision. He says both writers and editors are more comfortable engaging with readers on external social platforms, where they’re likely to reach a more representative percentage of the audience.
July 2015, The Daily Dot ended comments, explaining “we suspect that many publishers will soon find that their existing commenting systems do not serve their readers as the conversation continues to move off websites to social media, where most of our content is discovered and consumed,” and they continued later in the announcement to say “We’re encouraged by the interactions we have daily with our readers on Twitter and Facebook.”
August 2015, The Daily Beast writes a note to readers, which states “Like many of our fellow publications, we have noticed that the conversation around our articles is increasingly happening on social networks, not in the commenting section. More and more of you are reaching out directly to our authors to engage in lively and considered back-and-forth on Twitter, Facebook and other channels. We are hoping this decision will encourage and amplify more of this conversation.”
October 2015, Motherboard replaced comments with “letters to the editor”, stating “So in addition to encouraging that you reach out to our reporters via email or social media,” and they concluded with “In the end, we just want to hear from you. This is the internet, after all, and all of us are available via Twitter, Facebook, email, a variety of encrypted chat programs and PGP, LinkedIn, physical mail, and carrier drone.”
VIRTUAL FEMA CAMPS
Anyone else seeing a pattern here? Most of these sites claim their ending of the comment sections is because of abuse, online trolls, but each one of those quoted above are herding their sheep to the online version of FEMA Camps, where they can be monitored and information and discussion can be controlled and dissent stifled.
Former Facebook workers have admitted that Facebook has routinely suppressed conservative news, with FB claiming to have made changes to address those claims. It was also revealed in 2015 that Facebook routinely monitors private messages and reports their findings to authorities. In 2013 it was reported that Facebook also monitors what you type even if you don’t post it.
Facebook calls these unposted thoughts “self-censorship,” and insights into how it collects these nonposts can be found in a recent paper written by two Facebookers. Sauvik Das, a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon and summer software engineer intern at Facebook, and Adam Kramer, a Facebook data scientist, have put online an article presenting their study of the self-censorship behavior collected from 5 million English-speaking Facebook users. (The paper was also published at the International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media.*) It reveals a lot about how Facebook monitors our unshared thoughts and what it thinks about them.
The study examined aborted status updates, posts on other people’s timelines, and comments on others’ posts. To collect the text you type, Facebook sends code to your browser. That code automatically analyzes what you type into any text box and reports metadata back to Facebook.
Facebook was also connected to the NSA PRISM program revealed by Edward Snowden:
The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.
The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called Prism, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.
The Guardian has verified the authenticity of the document, a 41-slide PowerPoint presentation – classified as top secret with no distribution to foreign allies – which was apparently used to train intelligence operatives on the capabilities of the program. The document claims “collection directly from the servers” of major US service providers.
As for Twitter, it has been reported they are “Shadow banning” users, censored online events to prevent criticism of Barack Obama,targeted conservatives with their new “Trust and Safety Council,” and it was reported in 2013 that the Department of Homeland Security uses Twitter to monitor citizens. It was also reported in June 2015 that the government is paying companies to monitor social media.
The liberal websites that are ending website commenting are all attempting to herd their online communities over to social media aka virtual FEMA camps, which is being monitored by the U.S. government, controlled by nothing more than government lapdogs, and stifling opinion that doesn’t match the official narrative they want you to belive.
The NPR new policy of ending website commenting and joining the growing list of websites that are hearding their readers to social media, comes just as the U.S. is preparing to hand over control of the Internet on October 1, 2016.
Bottom line is it is easier for the government to monitor a handful of online locations than it is to monitor the comment sections of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands website comment sections.
The days of open dialogue, online communities, and sharing information the government doesn’t want shared… are numbered.