Gawker is a fairly unique animal among websites, but for most sites, including NYTimes or WaPo, comments offer zero value and should be eliminated entirely. Via Pacific Standard.com: Gawker Media is scrambling to figure out a solution to stop violent pornography and rape images from being added to its Kinja commenting platform after the staff of Jezebel publicly called attention to a problem they've been dealing with for months. "If this were happening at another website … we'd report the hell out of it here and cite it as another example of employers failing to take the safety of its female employees seriously," the Jezebel staff wrote in a post, which was finally published in an attempt "to light a fire under management's collective ass," outgoing editor-in-chief Jessica Coen told Poynter in an email.
The fire has been lit, to some extent. Until Gawker Media management can settle on a more permanent solution, it's implementing a series of temporary fixes. Earlier today, comments were shut down on a postbecause, according to an editor's note, "some asshole keeps posting gore and porn GIFs and we don't have an adequate way to stop him. Sorry." Just a little over an hour after the post was published, support manager Ernie Deeb emailed all Gawker staff to let them know that image uploads were being disabled across the entire network. (BuzzFeed hasthe full text of Deeb's message.) I don't know what solution Gawker will ultimately come up with, but I can offer a suggestion: Shut down Kinja completely.
Gawker boss Nick Denton will never agree to that, of course—Kinja has been in constant development for years now, and Denton sees it as the future of his company—but I've never been more sure of my decision to remove the commenting function from all Pacific Standard stories—and we didn't have anything close to the problem Gawker is dealing with now. Nobody was posting violent pornography. No rape GIFs. (Though, as the publishers of Amanda Hess' story, "Why Women Aren't Welcome on the Internet," we're well aware of the devastating psychological effects of online harassment, especially that which specifically targets females.) Our problem was a different one: We primarily deal with science and research, and know that comments can change the perception readers have of not just the stories themselves, but the facts and figures covered in the stories that often shouldn't be open to interpretation. (My decision was made shortly after a discussion I had with Jacob Ward, then editor-in-chief of Popular Science, which decided last September to make the same move, for many of the same reasons, outlined here.)