Record response to News24’s comments move

Cape Town - Trolls, opinion makers and those poking fun broke a record on News24’s comments section on Tuesday.

Users made the highest number of comments on the site in 2015 as they expressed their views on editor-in-chief Andrew Trench’s announcement that the news website would by default disable comments on stories on September 11.

Trench said Reuters, CNN and Popular Science are among media outlets that have also switched off article-level comments.

"Comments tediously drift toward hate speech at worst and, at best, are often laced with prejudice," Trench wrote in a column.

Subsequently, comments surpassed the 1 000 mark on Tuesday only to be closed at the 1 200 mark.

Data on which News24 story has notched up the highest number of comments over all time was not immediately available from 24.com on Wednesday.

Experts weigh in

Meanwhile, South African experts have weighed in on News24's decision to change its policy on comments with mixed views.

"I am in favour of it,” independent social worker and researcher Dr Amelia Kleijn told Fin24.

“It will stop prejudicial and often extremely ill-informed vulgar anonymous comments; and the 'clutter'," said Kleijn.

Trench in his column also said the “internet is awash with social media platforms which allow unfettered free speech and increasingly are the more comfortable home of online conversations”.

But William Bird - an Ashoka & Linc Fellow who has been analysing media in SA for 17 years - expressed concern about shifting the debate to social media platforms owned by international companies.

“I think for me one of the biggest issues is that by shifting the debate to other platforms like Facebook or Twitter they have removed the moderating function to those entities and their users and their policies,” said Bird.

“For me that is where we should be looking now and asking are we as South Africans happy with the policies those multi-nationals have and do they serve our own purposes and needs?”

Fin24 columnist Solly Moeng, a brand reputation management adviser and CEO of strategic corporate communications consultancy DonValley simply said: "It's a hard decision, I know... but unfortunate."

Views were also mixed on social media with users turning to the #news24comments hashtag on Twitter to express their support or displeasure at the move.

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