No offense, Popular Science said, but it doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. At least not on its Web page. The science magazine’s online edition recently told readers that comments could be “bad for science.” Consequently, it was shutting them off.
The decision is one of many measures that online publications have taken to combat a growing problem: As news has become increasingly digital and discourse often is given over to commenters, spammers and trolls have diminished the value of these discussions.
“We’d like to believe that truth wins out over false and erroneous claims,” Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard University professor of the history of science, said in an email. “But we live in a world where that is not necessarily the case. The Internet has become a forum for the spread of disinformation.”
Sites have responded with solutions that range from moderate to extreme – from embedding comments in stories to limiting or disabling them. A study out last week from a division of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers found a relatively even split between sites that moderate comments before publication and those that review them afterward.