Can Facebook Comments Stop Trolls?

By Becca Caddy

It’s always seemed to me that if you’ve got any kind of content on the Internet you’ve also got at least one troll, sat there ready to criticise, offend and confuse the person behind it. But will Facebook’s new commenting system change all that?

Ever since people have been sharing content online, there have been trolls. The very nature of the Internet means it’s possible to say offensive, critical or just damn right mean things without having to reveal who you are, or give any justification as to why you’re saying it.

Granted, sometimes the words of a troll can spark debate or reveal what everyone else wishes they dared to write, but most of the time their comments are just not productive, right or worthy of being written down.

This is why I was so interested to read about Facebook’s new commenting system, which can basically replace current systems on all websites and blogs using a simple plugin. The big difference is that you need to be signed into Facebook to comment, meaning your identity isn’t hidden anymore. Fair enough this may not stop some people from saying bad things, but if you want to make a particularly inflammatory comment, I bet most people wouldn’t want to leave all their details sat there alongside it.

Facebook Commenting

How it looks if I want to comment on a TechCrunch story.

I’ve seen that a number of bloggers have already implemented the system, but it’s popular technology website TechCrunch that has been so public about trying it out.

In a recent article about how the new commenting system is working, TechCrunch writer MG Siegler says that comments on posts have halved. Although some writers may be terrified by this prospect, it’s actually a really positive thing for a site like TechCrunch:

“This is completely expected and definitely not a bad thing. Previously, many of our posts would get hundreds of comments (and sometimes more), but at least half of those would be of a quality best described as weak to poor. And of those, about half would be pure trollish nonsense.”

“Simply put: with the previous system, roughly half of the comments were more or less useless.”

Siegler writes that a lot of people are complaining about the new system on a daily basis, but he’s quick to point out that this always happens when the team introduce something new. I think this is spot on, as much as we say that we love advances and innovation, the truth is we really are creatures of habit and when we experience change we usually don’t like it.

The TechCrunch team aren’t sure whether the comment change will be a permanent fixture and highlighted the pros and cons in great detail last week.

Most notably there’s the fact that the entire system does depend on Facebook and you’ll be shocked and astounded to hear that not everyone has an account. Therefore, they won’t be able to comment unless they maybe set one up solely for that purpose. There’s also the issue that plenty of companies restrict access to Facebook, the last full-time role I had certainly wouldn’t let me anywhere near it, so this will mean a lot of people aren’t able to contribute during working hours.

I’m sure bloggers, editors or website owners will be worried that they won’t get as many comments and engagement with the content they publish. However, as I found out last week, when you use the Facebook commenting system, your comments are “pulled through” to your Facebook wall. So in actual fact your content could well be viewed by even more people than usual.

Not all sites should jump on board the Facebook commenting bandwagon just yet. There are clearly some issues that need to be ironed out and it may not be even necessary for all sites to take that route anyway. However, those like TechCrunch, where you can’t see anything meaningful among the sea of insults, should probably look into it sooner rather than later.

I know there’ll be dedicated camps for and against the commenting system and although I love it, I do see both sides and appreciate there are a few drawbacks.

However, if implementing it will ultimately increase the value of online interactions and stop people being really f***ing annoying, then why the hell not?

Becca Caddy is a BitchBuzz Tech columnist and freelance writer. You can follow her @beccacaddy or read her blog

Images via TechCrunch and Imamon’s Flickr.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 18:00 (GMT+00)
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