Work Package no. 5 – Experiment: moderation of comments
WP 5 carries out a field experiment on popular Romanian websites (GSP.ro, Tolo.ro, Paginademedia.ro, Blogsport.ro) about the impact of online comment moderation, a central element of the project.
- Identify journalists’ moderation needs;
- Define moderation principles and guidelines in relation to the research findings;
- Implement moderation procedures in collaboration with journalists and establish a relationship with commenters;
- Provide the media partners support for the continuation of moderation until the end of the project to ensure quality of data collection.
Views of journalists and moderators:
- Important insight came out of the three journalist surveys conducted in the Gazeta Sporturilor (GSP) newsroom, the two surveys of the five-moderator team – upon the start and the completion of supervised “Less Hate, More Speech” moderation – and from interviews and testimonials from the journalists and moderators. At the start of the project, the GSP journalists were interested in reader engagement but also concerned about the level of intolerance and incivility in the comment section. There was a lot of pessimism about incivility in online comments, and the disadvantages of comments appeared in much sharper focus for the bulk of the newsroom, compared to their added value to the newsroom’s or reader’s experience.
This was accompanied by doubts about whether moderation could be done systematically and could have an impact. In terms of beliefs and attitudes, the newsroom as a whole did not differ significantly from the general Romanian population, but there was a slightly greater motivation to control prejudice. This helped them engage intellectually and emotionally with the moderation process, and the report contains stories that illustrate how this occurred.
- By the end, the five “Less Hate” moderators testified that they had changed the way they thought about other aspects of their work, like the choice of language and framing in articles they publish, and they had become quasi-ambassadors of “Less Hate” in the newsroom. We also found, however, that the work of moderation has a psychological impact on the staff, an effect that has been documented in other newsrooms too.
- GSP Newsroom survey results revealed that skepticism related to the ability to implement systematic and effective comment moderation also reduced in time. Also, likely due both to the project and to an evolving media environment, we observed more newsroom interest in communicating with the online readers directly and finding ways to go beyond moderation, towards encouraging higher quality content (such as highlighting good comments and responding directly to users who make good arguments or who point out errors).
- Interviews with the chief editors at two other major online outlets that practice moderation, Adevarul and Hotnews, revealed that they also valued the interaction with their readers, were actively reading online comments and appreciated the information or feedback they got on their articles from the users. However, they decried the lack of greater resources and manpower to engage with the audience more meaningfully.
Less Hate, More Speech – Youngsters Get Involved!
The project is run by Median Research Centre (MRC) in partnership with Educ Association and targets young people between 12 and 17 years old, in order to help them better identify and react to online and offline hate speech.
More, on the project’s website.