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'Popular Science' Shuts Comments, Citing Internet 'Trolls'

The online content director for PopularScience.com that the website will no longer accept comments on new articles, saying a small but vocal minority of "shrill, boorish specimens of the lower Internet phyla" were ruining it for everyone else.

We're all familiar with that deep, dark rabbit hole of Internet comment boards. A negative or critical comment sparks a firestorm of debate until the discussion erodes into a cavalcade of insults and personal attacks. Once you finally snap back to reality, you realize you've often strayed so far from the original story that it's often difficult to find your way back.

This distracting nature of online comments is part of the reason Popular Science, the venerable 141-year-old science and technology publication, declared that it would be shutting its comment boards down.

"Comments can be bad for science," writes Suzanne LaBarre, the online content director of Popular Science. :

"We are as committed to fostering lively, intellectual debate as we are to spreading the word of science far and wide. The problem is when trolls and spambots overwhelm the former, diminishing our ability to do the latter."

LaBarre writes that while PopularScience.com is certainly not the only site that attracts these sorts of commenters, and also praises the many thoughtful ones it does get, she says that "even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader's perception of a story, recent research suggests."

And what would a science magazine be without a little research to back up their reasoning for the decision. LaBarre cites a University of Wisconsin, Madison study that, among other things, found that: "Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant's interpretation of the news story itself."

Study authors Dominique Brossard and Dietram A. Scheufele about their research in a New York Times op-ed:

"Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they'd previously thought."

LaBarre says the often politically motivated debates erode the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics, such as evolution and the origins of climate change. She says that on occasion they will still open the comments section on select articles that "lend themselves to vigorous and intelligent discussion." The windows of communication will also remain open on other platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Google+, and the hope is that readers will still chime in there.

"Don't do it for us. Do it for science," she says.

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments — but let's keep it civil.

by Anonymousreply 1909/25/2013

Science is facing a lot of hostility right now from religious nuts, climate change deniers and the likes of paranoid airhead vaccine-phobe Jenny McCarthy. Can't blame scientists for wanting to wall themselves off from those freaks.

by Anonymousreply 509/24/2013

I can't imagine what that fascist, nazi, effemmminate,gay, queer, fatass, pedofile, shit-eating, cross-dressing, troll baiting, grammar correcting, sissy, creme brulee eating mother fucker could possibly be talking about.

by Anonymousreply 609/24/2013

This paragraph says it all, devastatingly:

[quote]A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics. Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to "debate" on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.

by Anonymousreply 709/24/2013

Leave the creme brûlée out of this, shitstain!

by Anonymousreply 809/24/2013

I love topical science coverage, but Popular Science Magazine sold subscribers names to every bullshit marketing company out there.

Visiting the site before pop-up blocker created a deck of pop-ups taking over your screen.

Now, they've reaped what they've sown (sewn -just to be a douche).

by Anonymousreply 909/24/2013

When does this no-comments thing go into effect?

I just popped over to PopularScience.com and clicked on a story. At the end there was one comment posted today: "my co-worker's mom makes $77 hourly on the laptop. She has been fired from work for 7 months but last month her pay check was $15344 just working on the laptop for a few hours. his explanation www.jobs35.com"

by Anonymousreply 1009/24/2013

[quote] Visiting the site before pop-up blocker created a deck of pop-ups taking over your screen.

How is this thought to be a proper sentence?

by Anonymousreply 1109/24/2013

In a time before the plug-in known as "Pop-Up Blocker" I tried visiting their site. The pop-up advertisement windows took over my screen just like the olde timey solitaire computer game.

by Anonymousreply 1209/24/2013

This is why we can't have nice things!

by Anonymousreply 1309/24/2013

Years ago, Popular Science excerpted a letter response I wrote to them regarding an article about new technology in low cost housing. They were kind enough to direct a few inquiries my way, including one from the Croatian Embassy. That's the positive sort of thing you'd think social media would be absolutely perfect for.

But, I've been horrified to see their credible science hijacked by climate change deniers, 6000 year ago creationists and clearly deranged people.

Smart move, PopSci. Now if Space.com would just follow your lead.

by Anonymousreply 1409/25/2013

Internet trolls disgust me!

by Anonymousreply 1709/25/2013

We sleep under yonder bridge, we trolls of yore, O! R17!

Come out from thie abode so that we may know thee!

by Anonymousreply 1809/25/2013

Leave it to morons like R2 to draw the exactly wrong conclusions (probably didn't even read the article).

by Anonymousreply 1909/25/2013
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