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Posted: September 25, 2013

Google to clean up YouTube comments


By Steven Sparkman

Internet comments. The phrase is a punchline among the ‘net savvy.’ And of all the comments sections out there, none have a more widespread reputation for racism, name calling and general uselessness than YouTube.

The Verge called YouTube’s comments section: “that notorious bastion of hostility toward women, people of color, rational thought, empathy, and the English language...” 

And yes, for any random YouTube video, your viewing experience is almost guaranteed to get worse the farther down you scroll. (Via YouTube / HTCYT)

But that may all be about to change. The site announced Tuesday it will be revamping comments, writing: “In the coming months, comments from people you care about will rise up where you can see them, while new tools will help video creators moderate conversations for welcome and unwelcome voices.”

The new system will be powered by Google+ and sort comments by relevance rather than date. It’s currently available to just a handful of channel owners, but should be fully implemented by the end of the year.

Tech bloggers welcomed the news that the comments section CNET called “a wretched hive of scum and villainy” might finally become a bit more civil. (Via WebProNewsDroid Life)

But on the same day YouTube made its announcement, another site has decided to just pull the plug on the comments section altogether.

Popular Science announced it will no longer accept comments on new articles, making the case that “Comments can be bad for science,” citing a recent study showing insulting and derisive comments actually diminish readers’ understanding of scientific issues. (Via Popular ScienceMilwaukee Journal Sentinel)

So why exactly are comments so awful? There are several theories, some formal and some, well, less so — like the idea that all human beings are just waiting for anonymity and an audience to become total jerks. (Via Penny Arcade)

Or there’s what’s known as the Online Disinhibition Effect: the idea that, without the subconscious social cues we pick up on in face-to-face interaction, humans have a harder time gauging what’s acceptable behavior. (Via Wired)

But either way, there’s a growing backlash against comments sections. Many Internet users are finding greater peace of mind by, say, installing comment-blocking add-ons for web browsers and getting a daily reminder from Twitter that: “Happiness will never be found in the comments section.” (Via GoogleTwitter / AvoidComments)

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