Online Publications And The Vitriol Found In The Comment Sections- Clutch Magazine

For the past two years, Patrick Pexton, has been the ombudsman for the Washington Post. As the ombudsman, Sexton’s job was to represent the readers who have concerns and complaints. Whether they were regarding accuracy, ethics, or fairness, Pexton was the person in charge of receiving and resolving these issues. Last week, Pexton’s two-year term came to an end and he wrote a farewell post.  Pexton wrote about the issues he tried to change during his tenure. One of these issues happened to deal with the Post’s commenting system.

I abhor reading the comments on the Washington Post.

If I have to read an article on the post and it has anything to do with the President or Flotus, or even crime in Prince Georges County, I make it a point to skip the comment section. If you’ve ever read the comments left on the Post, you’ve no doubted noticed the blatant racism that stems from them.  Of course the people leaving the comment are anonymous.

I  occasionally abhor reading comments on Clutch.

If you’ve read the comments on Clutch, you’ve no doubt noticed  sexist, homophobic, self-hating, misogynistic and degrading comments occasionally.  I’ve talked to people who’ve said they stopped reading the Post because of the vitriol left in the comment section, and I’ve also had people mention to me how off-putting the comments are on Clutch. I’m sure plenty of people are about to bang on the keyboard to type out, “if they don’t like it, then don’t read it”.  Yeah, I guess if it was that easy, people would also change the channel and watch a different show on tv instead of petitioning to get it off the air too.

Keyboard gangsters is what I refer to people who feel the need to troll the comment section of any online publication and use it to demoralize others. When I look in the “trash” can of the comments that are deleted, half the time I shake my head.  Anonymity gives people balls, I get that, but I guess it also takes away commonsense and reasoning.

Freedom of speech? Yeah, that’s a privilege we all have. Freedom to be jerks, also seems to go along with it.

There’s no sure-fire way to monitor a site’s comments 24/7, just as there’s no way to check the anonymous commenters at the gate, unless anonymity is taken away completely.

The Miami Herald and plenty of other sites are doing just that.

They’ve taken away the ability for people to leave anonymous comments, by requiring people to log in via one of their personal social networking accounts, such as Facebook or Twitter.  By stripping away the anonymity, people are less likely to leave their ignorance in the comment section.  Just imagine Billy Bob leaving a racist comment with his personal Facebook page, along with profile photo, attached to it. Then his coworker, LaKeisha Jones, happens to notice Billy Bob in the comment section talking about, “N word this..N word that”.  That won’t make for nice small talk in the elevator.

I would hope people don’t handle disagreements offline they way they do online. Can you imagine someone disagreeing with you in person and saying, “you’re just another angry black bitch”? Oh yeah, that’s been found in the trash can several times.  Or how about, “Why don’t you take your ass back to Africa?”

The comment section is such an interesting, yet integral part of an online publication and quite possibly a microcosm of society, but also downright ruthless at times.

Do you read the comment sections of websites and occasionally shake your head?

  • Sasha

    I really like the idea of taking away anonymity but requiring people to sign in via Facebook or twitter, particularly Facebook. It’ll make people think twice about the nonsense they say, well hopefully anyways.

  • Common Sense

    When most online newspapers require FACEBOOK or remove the anonymity, what they may not realize, but SOON DO…readership goes in the toilet. People don’t read their information anymore, because nobody wants to just read, they want to comment. It’s fun and gives them an outlet on how they REALLY FEEL.

    So removing the anonymity is BAD…readership goes down, and the time spent on the website goes down too. THEREFORE the ADVERTISEMENTS PAID leave the websit. SO if you are a journalist and want to keep your JOB…Make sure the comment section is lively, regardless of liking it or NOT.

    PEOPLE and their interest drive the newspaper website’s not the other way around. Information can be found too easily in other places on the internet.

  • Camryn

    Removing anonymity is not bad. It holds people accountable to the bullshit they feel they can say just because they’re sitting behind a keyboard and screen.

    But it goes to show that just because people may be ‘adults’ offline.. doesn’t mean they have the commonsense to act as respectful adults ‘online’.

  • Common Sense

    What it will do, is MAKE people LEAVE YOUR WEBSITE and find one they can COMMENT on. I personally don’t read online newspapers that will not let me comment. WHY!: Because my opinion should matter, especially if I am taking my time to read YOUR articles. And my identity should not be NEEDED. So any online websites that requires FACEBOOK or removing the anonymity I don’t read. ADVERTISERS also know this too.

    So maybe it’s a good idea to have a lively comment section. IT’S good for online newspaper business.

  • Common Sense

    I would love to see how long these online newspapers survive, with poor comment sections. NOT VERY LONG.

    Advertisers follow two online metrics when buying and placing ads online.

    1. Time spent on website.

    2. Number of subscribers -paid and unpaid

    So the comment section is VITAL!!

  • Camryn

    Advertisers value page views & a lot of the time some of the sites with the largest page views (like most news org sites) don’t always have a plethora of comments.

  • Common Sense


    If what you said were TRUE, then why does

    Youtube, Google, ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and most EVERY online publisher have a COMMENT SECTION…

    Businesses drive online newspapers and the comment section is VITAL…Trust me I purchase a LOT of ads.

  • Anon

    ….oh..something else…everyone’s always an expert in the comment section…

    the author forgot to mention that point….

  • ultraldc

    Agreed! And this is why this is, perhaps, for you! Lemme know what you think of this new comment site!

  • Common Sense

    Wow and there are always the smart “behind” nerd…Anon

  • Common Sense


    Your website is GREAT. Just add some pictures and link it to other websites.

    Excellent idea!!! JMO

  • seriously?

    Seeing how I dont have a Facebook or Twitter account that will force me and people like me b/c believe it or not there is still a lot of ppl who dont have that, from commenting. Reading blogs/articles is interesting helps pass the time but really if the ability to comment was no longer an option how many people would stick around? Granted I know this is not affecting everyone just those w/o social media but I will say I have left websites where I could no longer be able to comment.

    But getting to the question: I love reading comments -the most blatant racist/sexist ones, doesn’t even phase me because I just can’t take it seriously enough for it too. I never “smh” because of that -maybe with someone with opposing views but not “trolls”. I get befuddled sometimes with people who complain about trolls and then turn around to even indulge them-that’s where I smh.

  • CCN

    Whether or not something is nonsense is subject based on things like popular opinion, political correctness and cultural norms. What’s accepted right now in one part of the world is difference elsewhere or was different at some other point in time.

    People want the freedom to express themselves without being punished, no matter the consensus of the purveying body. People came to this country for that right, specifically.

  • The Moon in the Sky

    I agree with the person below. I never comment on sites where a Facebook or Twitter log-in is required. Likewise, people could still be anonymous because they could just create a fake profile.

  • Deloris M.

    I’ve been a devout reader of Clutch for years. But the author definitely has a point. I see the same 6/7 people in the comment section that are just vicious and nasty for no reason (like this Chillyroad person above me)…I honestly don’t understand most of the people who leave comments who feel the need to attack another person…is this how you act normally?

    Savagery isn’t becoming. Offline or on.

    Don’t get me started on the so called “men” who live in the comment section always trying to tell women right from wrong…that’s a whole ‘nother ballgame.

  • Chillyroad

    Clutch is just trying to get rid of popular views. It has nothing to do with sexism, mysoginy, racism etc. because if you target the right group (men, especially black men, non black women and light skinned black women) you can get away with making those types comments and get a bunch if thumbs up.

  • Sasha

    There are a plethora of sites I frequent everyday where I read articles but don’t comment on them. It’s not necessary to say/ type everything you think. It is my understanding that page clicks drive profit not comments.

  • ArabellaMichaela

    Certain readers of Clutch clearly have colorism issues, as is consistently implied in their comments no matter what the subject matter of the article (Chilliroad, Val and ?1234, take note). But I will leave it at that!

    As to this article. I do read the comment section of various publications. Often, the comments are horrifying. But I consider it a litmus test for what America really thinks. I think the comments should remain anonymous (unless they contain a threat or something).

  • Kam

    I used to think anonymity was the problem, but I’ve been surprised to see that even on the sites that require a Facebook comment, people are still fine with spewing awful things. Now instead of a faceless screen name, I know that a smiling grandmother named Judith Caldwell who works at Sears thinks all Black people are on welfare, or a sullen looking teenager named Cody Brightwood from South Springfield High school thinks all girls are sluts. They have their picture, name, place of employment and open profile connected to their comment and they still don’t care.

    I believe that any private site has the right to moderate its comment section. Doing this helps create a commenting culture. It’s kind of like the Broken Windows Theory. If you keep things clean in your comment section, people are less likely to put their trash there. Clutch comment sections do get heated, but they don’t get very uncivil and they certainly don’t devolve into complete fuggery like a site like WSHH. I’ve seen Black websites that completely get overrun by racists in the comment section, or have one poster who posts long, misogynistic rants. It gets tiring and makes me less likely to come back. Focus on creating a productive commenting culture in the comment section.

  • Gina

    Yahoo news is another one where the comments make me want to punch everybody in the face.

    Sometimes I have to take a step back and ponder if the people I talk to and meet everyday are really convering up their true insidious nature.

  • Greg Dragon

    As a site owner I will leave my 2 cents on this. Allowing only Facebook, G+ or Twitter accounts to comment does not take away angry trolls and racist bigots. To be honest some of the nastiest commentary I have seen on popular sites who adopt your philosophy have been through one of these Facebook comment accounts and the person’s face, name and place of employ was there for everyone to see. Not all hateful people on the internet are cowards, many (especially the really angry ones) will still register, log in, and do whatever it takes to tell you where to shove your opinion or what they feel about Barry Obama or liberals in general.

    The internet is the Wild Wild West, and it isn’t getting a sheriff anytime soon. So if you want to benefit from the inmates, you should probably learn how to moderate things a wee bit better, or shut the commentary off completely if it’s that serious (quite a number of excellent, high traffic blogs do not allow comments). As many people have already stated, you risk the house when you start to punish the whole for what a few tend to do.

    On a final note: The Post has always done a crappy job on moderation given the money they have so they are not a good example of a worst case scenario from a powerhouse. Hire moderators, invest in better plugins, and manage your site. Another option is the now popular “click to see comments” that Newspaper sites have adopted. Nobody is forced to read the comments then and if they do, then it was their choice.

  • seritatheresa

    I’ve read the nastiest posts on Washington Post’s website. On the one had the comments ate distasteful. On the other hand they are confirmation that there are people who believe that a child cured of AIDS is “a case for sterilization and abortion”. If people weren’t allowed a vehicle to be comfortable in voicing hate and vitriol then many would be oblivious to it. I’m not sure there is a solution to it. The comments I read about Treyvon Martin on Facebook convince me that anonymity isn’t the basis of such comfort however.

  • Colette Marcheline (@Cognorati001)

    FOX News had the most dumbfounding comments sections; absolutely astonishing. I don’t understand how anyone could deny the racism of the Republican, right-wing South after reading those.

  • Come On

    Yea. I used to love reading articles on Yahoo. I would get upset when there was a good article and no comment section. The comment section is the best part about some articles and sites. But around election time I just had to stop. Anything about politics is about Dems vs. Repubs. Anything about Obama usually has racist comments. I remember the vile comments about Gabby Douglas way before the Olympics. After the Olympics, these idiots were saying she got an Affirmative Action gold medal! Lol. What losers!

    But I’m much less naive than I used to be. I used to think these things were rare and in the past before the age of social media. Now, I know better. I think it’s kind of a good thing. I’m not surprised or hurt by these comments anymore because many times the people are loser trolls, and the comments are unoriginal. I mean look at the people who comment here and leave angry comments. Many of them have miserable lives and feel the need to make others feel bad about themselves. The obsession trolls have with reading and commenting on articles from sites for people that the troll hates makes the troll look obsessed, possessed, sick, and mentally unstable. I’m convinced that most racists, misogynists, and other ists have a mental problem and deep issues maybe going as far back as childhood.

    As for anonymous posting, I like it because I don’t think I say anything too radical, but I don’t want it tied to my Facebook or whatever. I think most sites should just moderate their comment section. People will complain about being censored, but who cares? Most of the time they get censored because their comments are so offensive. There are a lot of men who comment on this site that say offensive things, and the site still shows their comments. It’s fine with me. Many times the comments are very bitter or ridiculous so I don’t really get upset. Many of the women here just ignore a few of these guys because their posts are predictable and repetitive, but sometimes they say things that are just complete trash. When you can’t have a normal discussion without name calling or attacking the readers, you don’t deserve to have your comment let through. Learn how to be halfway decent and maybe your comments will see the light of day.

  • seritatheresa

    I personally enjoy when a person’s hate is accompanied by an inability to construct a decent sentence.

  • Clutch

    Hi ChillyRoad – and others (alldawg, Honesty, TrueLetterson, Dw to name a few)

    We have been trying to figure out a way to deal with your comments. Almost 99.9% of the time you are here to start trouble or say something random – or to “drop knowledge” on us and at same time disrespect us – that won’t happen here anymore.

    1. We get it that ….you don’t like Black Women.

    2. We get it that… you don’t like Feminist. (and you are making assumptions that every woman on this site is a Feminist. (not all readers identify as Feminist)

    2. We get it that …you don’t want to date us.

    3. We get it that … hate Black single mothers.

    4.We get it that…. you blame Black women for breakdown in the Black community.

    OK! – that’s you and what you believe. But, it’s getting real old!

    But as of this week, we have decided it’s time to ban all of you – main reason — the NUMEROUS times you have come in to every comment section derailing the dialogue and being rude to the women who read this site. We want to continue to make Clutch a safe space for OUR (meaning Black women) topics, issues, thoughts and everything else. Take your rants and issues elsewhere.

    We have received over 100 emails from readers that have asked why haven’t we banned you all yet. But, in all honesty – the team has been waiting (hoping) to see a change in your comments.

    But, it’s not going to happen. So this will be your last comment coming through. And if you change your name/email and try to comment again – we will find out and delete it immediately.

    Note: respectful men you are always welcome.

    Thanks! and you all have a nice day :)

    PS: Our moderation Policy:


  • Risse

    I used to read comments all the time. I appreciate the perspective of others that may look at a topic differently than I do. I’ve since stopped because I find ignorance, grammatical and otherwise, offensive.

  • omfg

    i mostly encounter racists comments (usually towards blacks) and sexist comments (men – white and black – railing against the evil feminists who have taken their power away from them).

    yahoo comments are the worst. i try to avoid scrolling all the way down to comments.

  • omfg

    i don’t have facebook. wouldn’t sign up just to post.

    i don’t post places that require such signups or that are anal removing every comment they disagree with.

    there are a few sites that are anal about comments and i notice there is nothing ever in their comment section.

  • kimkam

    YEEESSSSSSSSSSSS! Thank you clutch, those fools were really starting to wear on my nerves! I just did a holy ghost praise stamp on this here page lol. let them take there troll a** to Bossip with the rest of the trolls!

  • omfg

    huffingtonpost is a prime example of a site that probably would not have been as successful without its lively comment section. that comment section makes hp.

    and it has become one of the most successful nontraditional media outlets to sprout up.

    it is silly to behave as though a comment section means nothing. i mean, where have you been in the past ten years to not get this?

    also, it’s not merely the number of clicks that advertisers look at. it’s also the amount of time spent on the site, the numbers of unique visitors a site gets and the number of return visitors.

    a lot of this can be influenced by the comment section.

    people tend to want to be where the action is.

    i like i love reading the comments. i find some of them to be funny and intelligent. comments encourage me to remain on their site and constantly clicking stories/comments. sometimes, i just scroll down to the comments.

    i dislike nobody is there. that is not fun.

    sure, ban people who are completely bonkers and psycho. otherwise, let people express themselves. others will put them in check.

  • Skye

    Amen clutch don’t let this positive and uplifting site be destroyed from these terrorists from topix (chilly and her numerous names). I left those sites and came here for peace thank you so much!

  • Job

    Who’s worse? The people who leave offensive anonymous comments or the people who get offended by anonymous comments. Stop taking the comment section so seriously. I just laugh at the absurd trolls and ignore them. As long as they don’t completely hijack the comment section I don’t care.

  • CCN

    No, it’s not necessary to express every thought, but if someone found it necessary it’s their freedom to do so.

  • ArabellaMichaela

    Idk how I feel about the future ban on Chillyroad. It is your decision. But as the saying goes: “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer.” Personally, I find it interesting to see how other people think.

  • Jade Noelle

    I don’t mind commenting and leaving my email but I do mind commenting using a social network.

  • Barbara

    I’ve only read two posters who really offensive. One was the poster who kept telling us Black women we were jealous of her because she has “good” hair and is racially mixed.

    The other was, I think, a Black male who had the audacity to come on a Black woman site and tell us that in order for us to be beautiful we had to look like (Amber Rose?), a White lady looking half Black female. Then he went on to dismiss all the beautiful Black women mentioned as “not” being beautiful. He wanted to CONVINCE us that we needed to look like a White lady. When I read his comments, I wondered why he was allowed to post.

    Other than that, I can take being annoyed sometimes.

  • Joy

    I think a big part of the problem is that there are a lot of UNHAPPY with their own lives peope in the world so they look forward to coming on a site to spill their vitriol.

  • v

    Following the Reggie Bush cover controversy at Essence, and the thousands of hateful messages that were left, the comment section was changed making it much more difficult to express your opinion. As a result, there are far fewer comments being left on that site. Not sure how that affected the site.

  • Ask_ME

    Finally, don’t forget Tim/KIR, Perspective and SMH

  • Joy

    serita: The thing is that people that can’t put together a decent sentence….don’t know they can’t put together a decent sentence

  • binks

    Agreed! Not everyone is into social media I don’t have Facebook, twitter, instagram, or whatever and if leaving a comment is based on those tools…well you will never hear from me…lol. Personally for the trolling comments I thumb down or overlook it and keep it moving. There is a lot of insecurity, hate and stupidity on the internet so I’ am not wasting my precious time on it but focus on the article at hand and engage with those who stuck to the topic at hand and discuss it, I will not let a few bad apples spoil the bunch.

  • [email protected]

    Love you post!Love you post!

  • [email protected]

    Love you post!

  • The Artist

    I love the idea of having a comment section and viewing different perspectives, occasionally things do get out of hand, but I think that’s to be expected. It’s the internet. As far as, implementing a Facebook sign in within the comment section, ultimately trolls will be trolls, regardless of whether or not it’s attached to a Facebook profile. I think the best bet is to possibly IP or hardware ban them, once complains are received.

  • Mademoiselle

    I don’t consider myself a troll, but I never leave a comment on, and rarely ever return to, any site that asks me to log in through FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. I canceled my YouTube account when Google integrated all of its platforms. I hate the idea that my accounts are all one social network away from being hacked, so I prefer not to have to use the same log in everywhere. If I’m absolutely pressed to leave a comment on a site that won’t allow me to stay anonymous, I create dummy accounts. I’m just not that into sharing my identity with a whole lot of strangers even if the dialogue is good.

  • D.T.

    So why was it necessary to delete my comment? Because I brought up fat people??

    I just feel like you all can’t stand when people are critical of black women. It’s called an opinion for a reason.

  • Val

    “Certain readers of Clutch clearly have colorism issues, as is consistently implied in their comments no matter what the subject matter of the article (Chilliroad, Val and ?1234, take note). But I will leave it at that!”

    I dare you to find one single comment that I have ever made on Clutch that shows I have some sort of “colorism” issue.

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