YouTube Spearheads ‘Clean Up the Comments’ Movement

Internet comment threads: can’t live with ’em, can’t kill ’em…or can you?

If you work in digital marketing or PR then you’ve almost certainly had some experience scrolling through comment sections to answer poorly spelled, logically unsound criticisms of your client or firm. And if you read our sister blog AgencySpy every week then you may well be one of those commentors who spends his or her lunch hour assuming fake screen names to talk smack about rivals’ work. (You can’t see it, but we’re wagging our finger at you right now.)

To those who hate comments as much as the rest of us, YouTube might be something of a savior: starting this week, the king of free videos will attempt to weed out the worst of the trolls by requiring that all commentors first sign up for Google+ accounts. How will this help anyone?

According to spokesperson Matt McLernon, it’s all part of an effort to “turn these one-off comments into conversations that you really care about” rather than a competition to see who can type “frist” first. And it comes in the wake of Popular Science magazine’s decision to kill comments altogether in order to discourage the endless back-and-forth about climate change—not to mention the spambots. Readwrite seems to think it’s more a sly attempt to make Google+ relevant, as if that ship hadn’t sailed already.

See, lots of people do unfortunately read the comments, whether out of curiosity about what the neighbors think or a genuine desire to “join the debate”. And those comments, like false statements on Wikipedia pages or negative Amazon reviews (Good God, that thread), can greatly damage the public’s impression of a brand or product.

It all comes down to the fact that many consumers trust user-generated content more than corporate communications and marketing messages. But will this move help make “the conversation” more genuine? Most users sign on to BuzzFeed’s threads through Facebook with their real names and pictures, but that doesn’t stop them from insulting each other and proudly displaying their own ignorance.

What do we think? Does this move away from anonymous comments help or hinder PR pros looking to make the best possible impression?