The dark side of interactive media

A Level Language students: this fascinating Guardian piece reveals the problems its writers face when opening up articles to comments.

Read the article carefully, before answering the following question in the comments section on this post:

Do the benefits of interactive media outweigh its problems?

Keep your responses to 150-200 words.

28 comments

  1. Hannah Yates

    I believe that having a comments facility on interactive media pages gives the readers a way of communicating their ideas and thoughts on a particular article. It also gives the writer of the article an easy way of seeing reader’s opinions and constructive criticism to improve their articles. I believe also that interactive media creates a lot of negativity from viewers. Nobody wants to be reading an article they really enjoy and then browse through the comments at the end only to find hurled abuse towards the author of the article. A negative atmosphere is created in the comments with harsh statements such as the example used in this article of readers threatening to kill or rape the author. Having the facility to report comments is a good idea so that any horrible comments can be notified to the editor quickly and removed but abuse isn’t always easy to remove and can take time if there are technical issues. We live in a society where online abuse cyber bullying is completely unavoidable so I think it is a situation where there is only so much you can do towards a topic such as this.

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  2. Hannah Franks

    As our world evolves into the cyber future, human characteristics are inevitably becoming apparent to our electronic devices and virtual interactive lifestyles. As described in The Guardian article on the matter, negative comments do have enduring effects; “Virtual reality can become reality, and it ruins your life.” People do not realise the effect their words can have and miss the real point of the article. It is wrong for comments to be aroused due to social factors e.g. race and gender for it supports the history of hate crime that society is trying to combat. So as this form of providing greater hate towards writers is created through commenting, surely to keep up with the proposed ‘equal society’ we should remove them all together? Wrong. Positives comments always come with negatives. It’s a part of life. Despite the clear negatives to comments, they probe a writer’s desire to debate and prove their status to their audience. It means that young writers are able to realise the harsh realities to cyber life and use this it fuel their drive to communicate compelling stories to audiences, for this is what’s needed for a cultural change to occur.

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  3. Emma McGuigan

    Most of the time comments online are entertaining, however there is the occasion where they can be offensive and therefore spark an argument. This causes multiple problems but it is argued that this isn’t a good enough reason to stop comment threads being used. Online abuse is a big area of concern nowadays, more so than before; it has even changed over the last five years. However this issue has begun to attract more attention and gain better support than previous years. I believe that more people are working towards stopping the misuse of comment threads and the work to stop this form of harassment is improving. Overall the benefits of interactive media do outweigh the risks. If people are being bullied or judged online then there is a lot more support they can access and it is only the small minority that chooses to misuse the interactive aspect. These strengths are more important than the problems because abuse happens outside of social media and is very difficult to avoid. I believe that interactive media should remain as it is but the work that is being done to stop the abuse within it needs to continue and perhaps improve.

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  4. Abbi Lowden

    I believe there is an argument for both cases. On the one hand, interactive media means a variety of opinions can be expressed and debated. Therefore, the topic is fully explored by those who are generally interested and the journalism is enriched, meaning a more enjoyable experience for writers and readers (many comments are humorous or express an interesting viewpoint respected by others). However, sometimes comments take a much more sinister tone. A small minority of readers feel the need to use remarks which attack the journalist or other users personally. These comments are often extremely offensive and many would deem them to be ignorant and disgusting (especially when on articles referring to extremely serious and sensitive topics). Therefore, journalism (a topic which should provide enjoyment while being informative) is transformed into a medium for vile abuse. Overall, although the majority of commenters provide respectful, informed and beneficial additions to articles, I find it hard to support interactive media for the harm it can cause.

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  5. Leah

    You could argue that interactive media has both a positive and a negative impact. It allows the reader to interact with the writer as they are able to instantly express their own opinion on the topic. This can trigger a debate amongst readers which allows people to read other people’s views and thoughts which may vary to their own. However, often the comments can become overly opinionated, off topic or even threatening towards the writer. Some comments would be considered unimaginable to say face to face and can become extremely aggressive. This can lead to the writer feeling like targeted and as if there is no way to escape from the comments, as people can access the media and comment anytime. This can seem like the ‘virtual reality can become reality’. Although these comments can be blocked instantly the writer can feel harassed. I think that it is harder to avoid comments like these on social media due to today’s society but more could be done to stop the harassing comments.

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  6. Edie

    Interactive media has masses of benefits and has come a long way in my lifetime. Being able to share your thoughts and showcase your talents should be a great thing, but the majority of the time the attention it gets attracts negativity. I feel that because the problems that interactive media attract can be controlled, the benefits outweigh the problems – however there shouldn’t be this many issues. As the article says ‘other times it can be difficult to know where to draw the line’ which is where the problem controlling gets tricky. The fact that some comments are directed straight at the author to deliberately harm them demonstrates how people are using interactive media for ignorant and immature reasons. A lot of people use anonymity to commit internet offences which really is just cowardly and telling someone to ‘just ignore’ the attention given to something they’ve created shouldn’t need to be done because in ‘real’ reality we are taught to be kind to others. For the benefits of interactive media to further outweigh its problems, people should be taught the etiquette for virtual reality so that the online world can be a safer and more positive place.

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  7. Jessica Smith

    After reading the Guardian article I came to the conclusions that the positives of interactive media do, in fact, outweigh the negatives. There is a negative stigma of online interactive media which only displays the negative side of it, where people online could submit hurtful and abusive things to each other; when they would never vocalize face to face. There is a problem that people can abuse the opportunity to comment on new articles posted online, where they needlessly abuse and unfairly criticize the author instead of engaging in intellectual discussing about the article itself.
    In spite of this, there are many positives to outweigh this negative argument. In our society today interactive media is widely used by a range of people of different standings and backgrounds. Interactive media such as online articles and videos on the internet can both be entertaining and informative. Whether it’s an article about unravelling the universes mysteries to an article about what Kim and Kanye’s next child will be called, it all spurs discussions between people in the comments. Even though there are occasional negative viewpoints, the positive discussions and conversations that appear due to interactive media are beneficial to those involved.

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  8. Abbi Lowden

    I feel there is an argument for both cases. On the one hand, interactive media means a variety of opinions can be expressed and debated. Therefore, the topic is fully explored by those who are generally interested and the journalism is enriched, meaning a more enjoyable experience for writers and readers (many comments are humorous or express an interesting viewpoint respected by others). However, sometimes comments take a much more sinister tone. A small minority of readers feel the need to use remarks which attack the journalist or other users personally. These comments are often extremely offensive and many would deem them to be ignorant and disgusting (especially when on articles referring to extremely serious and sensitive topics). Therefore, journalism (a topic which should provide enjoyment while being informative) is transformed into a medium for vile abuse. Overall, although the majority of commenters provide respectful, informed and beneficial additions to articles, I find it hard to support interactive media for the harm it can cause.

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  9. Emma Mitchell

    Interactive media undoubtedly has problems and benefits. On one hand, victims of abuse online have said that this type of communication “ruins your life” leading to the impression that the victimisation of minority groups is just getting worse. With 73% of adults witnessing harassment and 40% of adults experiencing it, it is clear that the world is full of interactive media problems and as we become more reliant on technology as a society, the problem is just going to get worse. However, there is also evidence to support that the positives of interactive media outweigh the negatives. The Guardian feels that the responses made by readers enriches their journalism and provide a more enjoyable and comprehensive debate on the topic at hand. Surely, it would be more beneficial to endure the negatives and enjoy the positives as this harassment may be inevitable and the hatred would not disappear – the abusers would just find another way of communicating. In addition to this, the fact that only 2% of the Guardians’ comments were banned leaves us with the question: is abuse as rife as we think it is or are we just seeking the negatives in everything we do?

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  10. Tabatha

    Interactive media allows us to read article respond instantly, interacting with writers and enriching journalism. However, sometimes, the comments can entail something else entirely. Online harassment and abuse on the internet is a rising global phenomenon. The Guardian looked into the source and target of abuse. As expected by female journalists, articles written by women attract more abusive and dismissive trolling, regardless of the topic. They found in the 10 most abused writers, 8 are women. Out of the 70m comments, the Guardian discovered that 1.4 million of the comments (2%) have been blocked by moderators because they violated Guardian community standards. They also found that some sections attracted more abusive and disruptive blocked comments than others, e.g World News. Moderation can find it difficult to judge where to draw the line on blocked comments. But for journalists abuse is rarely confined to one place and in often comments on other sites are irremovable. As Zoe Quinn quotes, it is just one snowflake in an avalanche. However, it seems ridiculous to say that they should close off all responses from readers for such a minority problem. Action can be taken by cutting down where people can comment, e.g on sensitive topics such as migration and race. The benefits of interactive media with the majority of comments being respectful and wonderful outweigh the abusive behavior and bad comments, however action should be taken on how sites can improve further to protect their writers.

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  11. Chloe Turner

    Media in generally undoubtedly has its floors. Although it has opened up a world to use of being able to communicate and stay in touch with the rest of the world, it has also opened up a new door of abuses and ways to victimise minority groups. The positives however, look at how it was opened up a way to be able to have debates and share key ideas about thoughts and feeling, and potentially these positives are the reasons why the negatives are brushed past. But, with 73% of adults witnessing harassment it is clear that the world of media does have its issues which can’t be ignored. The Guardian feels a need to make sure there readers have a pleasant read, resulting in these minority group abusive writers being blocked, but does this make a difference? Is this just something that will block it out rather than solving the problem? These people will still exist and still be there to abuse and voice their opinions.

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  12. Issy Moore

    As technology has developed and we are now at a stage where we have the power to share and post our opinions for others to view and engage with, it comes with a number of pros and cons. A benefit of having the ability to interact with the likes of The Guardian and other sources of media is that we are able to share our opinions and hear the views of others, some of which are seen as ‘”wonderful” and therefore are useful if we are to broaden our knowledge on a particular topic of interest. It’s also an efficient tool in terms of getting involved with current affairs that we should be clued up on anyway. However, the power to do so is often abused in the form of ‘trolling’ and misusing the web. Racial, homophobic and sexist comments are not only a problem because they work as a personal attack on a particular journalist, they also darken the beauty of interactive media. This abuse often shuns the journalist in front of a world wide audience in a ‘vile’ manner rather than contributing usefully to a topic of debate that many show an interest in. In affect, the value of being able to interact with those around you through the media turns into a twisted way of the minority expressing their narrow minded, disgusting, offensive views. On this point alone, I find it difficult to agree with interactive media due to the degree of harm it can inflict on a person.

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  13. Adam

    Being able to comment on something is seen as free speech to many. While some are funny and just stupid, Just listen to a few of Dave Gorman’s found poems; others are a form of abuse. Normal people like me and you commenting hateful thoughts towards others something we would never do in person. This is a phenomenon known as ‘The online disinhibition effect’ in which we feel untouchable hidden behind a screen fooling ourselves into believing there will be no consequences. This has caused much hurt and even drove people to suicide after being found out. One example was a woman who thought she was anonyms as she commented sicking thoughts about Madeleine McCann to her parents. After it was reveled to be her through the hate she received she eventually killed herself. Is being able to comment worth a life? Well no. But we can’t escape reality and comments are here to stay. There will always be one person hating on your simply because they can, it is their freedom of choice to do so. However, you have a choice as well. You can read the one in 10 comments about how your ‘fat and ‘stupid’ or you could read the other ‘9’ expressing gratitude and complimenting you. Doing this simple trick will instantly improve your outlook on life. But if you have done something bad in which every hates on you, delete your account. It’s the internet in a week everyone will have forgotten your mistake and will be targeting someone else. The internet does allow many more people to witness your mistakes and this can have a huge effect on your life. However, interactive media has done so much good as well and brought so many people together. Let people have their opinion; it’s an opinion how you decide to deal with it is your own decision. Listen to those who support you.

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  14. Michael Wilson

    Social media and interactive news allows for a variety of opinionated discussions and separate views to be expressed. This is a good thing as comprehensive debates and controversy allow for a wider spread of opinions to be aired. This can create an enjoyable and intriguing read for any audience. By allowing comments to be used, these sites are encouraging discussion, which is healthy and positive in a modern day society. However, there are many issues that come with this freedom. As the Guardian article explains, many people can be found to post “crude, bigoted or just vile” reactions to the post. Opinionated ideas can often get personal, which can have damaging effects on the original writer. By allowing the freedom to express opinions to the public, writers are opened up to abuse and offense. Some viewers often take their opinions too far and begin to insult the original writer as a repercussion of this. In answer to the question, I believe that the benefits of interactive media do in fact outweigh its problems. If we were to abolish all comments and ban all interaction over interactive media then we would become a non-free society. People are able to express their opinions in real life and the same reaction to this should be used online. Comments that are unnecessarily violent or insulting should be removed from the site and ignored, as malicious comments are in the real world.

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  15. Simran Shergill

    I would argue that the benefits of interactive media outweigh the problems. Allowing comments to be left on articles, gives the author a wider view on the topic so that they can see the points that they may not have already considered. Comments enable constructive criticism which leads to stronger research on the topic. On the other hand, it is clear from the statistics given many of the comments aren’t always relevant or respectful of the editor. However we shouldn’t allow this to stop others from giving their opinion in a more positive manner because this gives us a wider understanding and enriches the journalism. Comments should continue to be blocked if they abuse this opportunity or target the author instead of engaging in intellectual discussion about the relevant article. Online abuse is found on most websites so, even though it is not ok, it should be tolerated to a certain extent as it is hard to get away from. Blocking people from commenting on The Guardian will not solve the problem.

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  16. Charlotte Powers

    The interactive media obviously shares both negatives and problems. The main positives we have to consider when looking at the Guardian, is that many responses left by readers help establish their journalism skills, providing a more comprehensive debate on the chosen topic. Harassment itself is inevitable, so by enjoying the positives and elaborating on the positives would be more beneficial for the whole industry. What we have to consider that internet trolls and abusers always find ways around our blocking systems to communicate their ideas. This can be seen through the eyes of the Guardian, who only delete 2% on their overall comments, leading us to believe that writers learn from their abuse. However, we also have to consider how victims who receive harsh abuse through internet communication can ‘ruin your life’. With 73% of adults witnessing harassment and 40% of adults experiencing it, it is clear that the world is full of interactive media problems and as we become more reliant on technology as a society, the problem is just going to get worse. What we have to consider is how much abuse does an individual get? And the resilience they have against it in order to handle the abuse?

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  17. Ben Bucknall

    The purpose of the comments is to provide responses to the writers in order to enrich and improve their work. While the comment threads are often used for this, they can also be a perfect medium for online trolls. Many of the insulting comments left are often things that wouldn’t be said in the company of the target which depicts technology as the perfect defence mechanism. The quantitative research conducted by the Guardian, show that the victims all seem to fall in the minority categories, and victims have said that this form of online abuse ‘ruins your life’, which leads to the suggestion that the treatment of minorities isn’t improving. Despite the setting of standards for the comments section, moderators have been forced to remove 1.4 million of 7 million comments due to violation of these standards, which paints a pretty poor picture for society today. It sadly evidents society’s cruel nature and that people are ruthless and thoughtless when communicating online. On the other hand, there is also evidence of the positives of the online threads, showing that they provide a more positive and constructive environment so a healthy debate on the topic at hand is feasible. In turn, this is useful for the writer, to see how they could extend their audience. It is safe to say that the hatred will never cease to exist completely, but is it possible that we could just ignore it, and enjoy the positives?

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  18. Kyle O'Sullivan

    Social media has both positive and negative features and people’s opinions of social media differ depending on past experiences. Victims of cyber bullying and abuse online often feel that social media is ‘ruining your life’ as some post offensive comments which are considered to be ‘crude, bigoted or just vile’. There is no doubt that some people use social media for the wrong reasons and obviously they can have very damaging affects as social media unlocks anonymous freedom of speech allowing abusive comments to thrive. Although there are negative sides to interactive news and social media there are also many positive sides to social media when it is used as it was initially intended. Interactive news allows different people’s views to be considered and discussed from a range of different topics. Not only does this benefit the people involved in the debate but also those who are simply reading the comments. Allowing comments on the bottom of news posts is encouraging interaction and conversation between individuals which can stimulate interesting debate. I feel that the positives of social media and interactive news outweigh the negatives. I feel that it is important that people are able to express their views on different subjects and able to discuss the subject with others. However I feel that abusive and offensive comments should be removed or a filter should be added to prevent these damaging comments from being allowed to be seen by both the writer and the audience.

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  19. Luke

    Social media has major talking points and causes different opinions which can cause controversy and debates through many of us. However there are times in which people see commenting their views and opinions, but to others it can be seen as a form of abuse therefore can cause a variety of different views onto one topic and is shown from Dave Gorman’s poems. Having the widespread of opinion, it can create abundance of interest that many people enjoy reading and to express their own views. Some views can be said differently and more confidently due to being behind a computer screen and not having to cope with other forms of communication; this is an issue that can cause problems. As the guardian article expresses throughout the text, it’s simply said that it’s ‘crude, bigoted or just vile’ that people’s opinionated ideas can cause controversy and hate towards them; the hate often gets directed specifically to the original writer which causes a lot of directional hate towards them. Even though these issues can occur, the benefits from the interactive media out way the negatives and having the freedom of speech is needed to express views.

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  20. Adele Wheway

    There is no doubt that interactive media has increased our ability to express opinions, respond to ideas and form healthy debate with other readers. The instant responses of the reader have been described to ‘enrich journalism’. It is seen as enjoyable by many people to be able to have their say and be heard by others; however the ‘vile’ nature of some of the some comments has led to 1.4 million comments to be blocked by the Guardian moderators alone. Recent research has concluded that it is articles written by women that attract the most abuse and dismissive trolling regardless of the subject matter. Consequently, more comments have been blocked due to their abusive nature on articles written by women. The introduction of interactive media has highlighted the issue of discrimination between genders as well as increased the ability for people to be able to commit cyber hate crime. Although interactive media has several problems, the freedom of speech that it has allowed us undoubtedly outweighs the negatives.

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  21. Rachel Fisher

    In order to make myself feel happy, or to remind myself that I’m not a complete idiot, I look at the comments on a post and hope to find something that is entertaining or will make me laugh by breathing more out through my nose than normal. But most of the time, I won’t find that. Instead, I will find comments that question my faith in humanity. Yes, you can post your opinions and can display your feelings for all they’re worth. But most of the time, the opinions that are posted are wrong. That is not opinion that is fact. I do not want to see a comment on how the dangers that people are facing on boats over from war torn countries are deserved. How can this be allowed or tolerated? Because they’re hiding behind a keyboard and can ‘get away with it’. The benefits definitely do not outweigh the costs, because keyboard warriors express their jaded opinions far too often and with far too little consequences. Yes, we wouldn’t be able to express our opinions, but sometimes, it’s best not to at all. Especially when they are so horrific.

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  22. Abigail Holyland

    It is clear that there are many issues with interactive media, however there are also many benefits to both the author of the articles, the other readers, and even the writers of the comments. Firstly, the author of the articles gain both positive feedback and constructive criticism of their articles, which can help them improve their technique and get a better idea of what their readers want. Despite the fact 2% of comments had to be blocked due to being inappropriate, they are still largely positive and constructive. They give the other readers of the article both entertainment and additional knowledge on topics they are likely interested in, which can be educational. Finally, they are a safe avenue for people to talk about topics of interest, whilst giving their opinion, to people who also have interest in these topics. There are undeniably many problems with interactive media, however I believe the advantages do outweigh the disadvantages.

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  23. Aidan Gardner

    The positives of social media far outweigh the negatives as it allows endless opportunities for research, communication etc in a few seconds, thousands of miles away. I think if people are going to choose to be offended by people leaving comments on a computer screen they either shouldn’t read them or should get a different job. If you are presenting an unpopular opinion, or any form of news report some people are going to say hateful things to you and you just have to accept that. Freedom of speech that commenting on articles and stuff allows is very important and allows opportunity for debate, there are so many positives of social media and they far outweigh the few negatives. I don’t really think the fact that people can leave hateful comments is really a negative of social media as it is easy to ignore.

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  24. Jack Goodman

    Interactive media has many benefits and is continuously developing. It allows the reader to engage in conversation with the writer as they can instantly express their opinion on the topic. As described in The Guardian article negative comments can effect the writer; “Virtual reality can become reality, and it ruins your life.” The effect of one comment can hurt a person without even realising it. Although, interactive media can be positive in the way that we and our friends use it to communicate with each other. However, a huge problem comes from hurtful comments on posts. The fact that some comments are directed straight at the author to deliberately harm them shows how people are using interactive media for all the wrong reasons. Having the facility to report comments is a good idea so that any horrible comments can be removed if the writer finds them offensive, although sometimes the comments can’t be removed as they can always be reposted. I believe that this has been moulded into society, but can be prevented.

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  25. Nathan MacGilbert

    Having a comments section on news article is always going to cause debate due to the fact that people will always have different opinions on different matters and they will always be certain that their opinion is the correct opinion. Some people abuse the ability to comment on these articles by hurtling abuse at the author or the other readers, however this does not mean the comments section should be removed. The comments section is a place for people to discuss their ideas and potentially learn from others, people get to have their say on matters publicly which they wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Instead of removing the comments section, they should have a dislike cap so that if a comment reaches a certain amount of dislikes, it is automatically removed.

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    • Elliot Woodward

      Online interaction media offers plenty of desired benefits which enables the population to connect their opinions, thoughts and feeling upon expressing them through a topical article which sparks their imagination and/or creates an effective debate. This then provides driven fuel for the writer’s to publish new articles, offering alternative findings, improving the facts behind the voice. Negative comments might look like an increasing problem within the online media community because they really are, but in reality it’s just another from of abuse which already exists. The difference? The negativity is available for anyone to see creating a world of limitation and loss of opportunities for effective debates and the development of research. Blocking comments is no way to resolve this problem and will only drive them to find another place to flood their abuse, therefore I say face the issues and accept that in society there will always be a small percentage which goes against the majority. Learning to over come the negativity will show that the female gender deserve to be equally treated with the same respect as males, similarly with the range of religions etc.

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  26. Emily Kenmore

    Many people believe that having a comments section on interactive media pages allows readers to respond to an article instantly. Readers are able to interact with journalists and discuss topics with other readers. However, things are said to journalists and other readers which would be unimaginable face to face. 2% of comments on the Guardian are blocked due to inappropriate language or abuse towards others with the majority of these comments being posted on articles written by females; regardless of what the article is about. This shows that having the comment facility available to readers can be a way of them sending abuse and hate to writers and other readers due to their anonymity and new-found confidence. Once one abusive comment is posted, this encourages others to pile in and compete to see who can be the cruelest. This can have a negative effect on writers physically, mentally and emotionally. Is this really enriching journalism or is it just destroying it? Saying that, only 2% of online comments on the Guardian were actually blocked with many journalists stating that a good comment thread is a joy to read.

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  27. Georgia Leggatt

    Having a comments section on interactive media pages allows readers to respond to an article instantly. Readers can interact with journalists and discuss topics with fellow readers. However, things are said to journalists and other readers which would be completely inacceptable in person. 2% of comments on the Guardian are blocked due to inappropriate language or abuse towards others. The majority of these comments were posted on articles written by females. Once one abusive comment is posted, this encourages others to pile in and compete to see who can be the cruelest. This can have effect writers in many ways as they find the abuse doesn’t just stay on one platform. However, only 2% of online comments on the Guardian were actually blocked with many journalists stating that a good comment thread is a joy to read. Journalism is enriched by responses from its readers and without the facility; I feel that many articles would be one-sided due to writers taking only one point-of-view.

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