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Facebook Makes Commenters Think Twice Before Dropping an F-Bomb

Friend accountability elevates virtual banter

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Since Facebook’s rise to prominence, social commentators have spilled much ink on how the new mode of communication will affect the quality of our interactions, as quantity naturally increases. The Los Angeles Times tells the Poynter Institute that in the case of reader-generated comments on their news stories, Facebook has actually enhanced the caliber of discussion and provided more effective referral traffic.

The comments that follow news articles have long-been plagued by tangents, mean-spirited jabs, and foul language. Anyone who has worked in a digital newsroom can tell you that moderating these comments can be a daunting and time-consuming task. However, the Poynter Institute says that a new trend is emerging in user comments, mainly due to news sites’ Facebook integration. By attaching a name and face to comments, Facebook also ties some semblance of accountability to users. "Trolls don’t like their friends to know that they’re trolls,” Jimmy Orr of the LA Times told the Poynter Institute.

The LA Times has been a testing ground for the theory. The site integrated only its blogs with Facebook comments, while allowing pseudonym-using readers to continue posting with their original commenting system on regular news pieces. Orr said the same story covered on one of the site’s blogs and on the traditional news site returned vastly different responses in terms of quality.

Though Facebook’s free commenting service is seemingly providing benefits beyond the quality of comments, such as increased referrals to stories, the social networking platform isn’t a cure-all. The LA Times reports to Poynter that the paper’s web staff still has to spend time weeding through unsavory comments. However, since adding the Facebook comment function to the site’s blogs, the cleanup crew has had to spend less time wading through creative explicatives.