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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

LA Times tests Facebook commenting system



Earlier this month Facebook launched a commenting system for online publications that, in theory, does away with anonymous comments, cleaning up the obnoxious and obscene reader comments that sometimes prompt editors to delete or disallow comments altogether -- NPR recently took this step, turning off comments that had gotten out of control on a story about CBS correspondent Lara Logan who was sexually assaulted while reporting in Egypt.

Any publication that uses the Facebook commenting system requires readers to first sign into Facebook or use a Yahoo ID before being able to post a comment, which helps ensure commenters are not hiding behind fake identities, CNN explained.

Following the example of other blogs and smaller newspapers who already have done so, this week the Los Angeles Times began using the Facebook commenting system for its technology blog, and one of its sports blogs will soon follow suit, the newspaper said Tuesday, March 15.

Jimmy Orr, managing editor/online for the LA Times, explained the newspaper's decision, saying, "By requiring a Facebook registration, it will cut down on the mean-spirited, profane and sometimes useless responses because one's friends will also see the comments in their newsfeeds."

California's Paradise Post, which also has started using the Facebook commenting system, said doing so will improve automatic moderation and obscenity filters.

TechCrunch began using Facebook comments, which M.G. Siegler noted has resulted in better quality, more coherent comments from readers, and less "trollish garbage... The cold pricklies have turned to warm fuzzies." Still, the switch also has meant fewer comments, but site traffic has not been impacted, Siegler said. Bottom line, he concluded, is that comments on the blog had been "out of control" for too long, so for now, despite the downside of having to have a Facebook or Yahoo account to comment, TechCrunch is sticking with the system.

Erick Schonfeld offers a list of the pros and cons of the Facebook commenting system, such as the decrease in trolls, but the exclusion of Twitter and Google IDs, and potential backlash as readers' comments could appear in their friends' Facebook newsfeeds.

In a letter to the editor in the Times-Herald in Vallejo, CA, Gregg L. DesElms worried that the newspaper's decision to use the Facebook commenting system, which does away with anonymity, will chill free speech.



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