The motion proposed in class was, “comments sections do more harm than good.” I oppose this motion for two main reasons:
- Comments sections provide an essential forum for public discussion, which enhances democratic discourse
- Allowing comments assists bloggers and organizations who produce the content to improve their profiles and build networks
According to Stanford professor and political scientist, Shanto Iyengar, one of the primary responsibilities of the media in a democratic society is provide a forum for the public to discuss occurrences. Comment sections create an essential avenue for people to express their opinions and respond to others. Encouraging citizens to express their ideals may stimulate public discourse. This discourse could mobilize citizens to express their opinions and act on them when they would not consider doing so otherwise because their opinions were strengthened by engaging in discourse. Moreover, comments sections allow citizens to engage in critical conversations and express their opinions, which is beneficial for democracy.
In terms of assisting online content producers, comments allow them to create a network, receive and respond to feedback. Comments allow users to interact with content and its creators. In the modern technological age where interactivity has become an expectation, disengaging that may strike readers as limiting or even suspicious. Allowing users to give feedback to the content producers and creating an avenue for the producer to respond can benefit the creators’ content and the user experience. Improving the content, in turn, also benefits the readers by reading enhanced content and giving them satisfaction from participating with the content.
It is important to acknowledge, however, comments sections can bring about incivility but this should not justify removing comments sections. People have a choice whether or not to look at the comments section of an article. If incivility comes about in the comments section, the reader can choose to ignore it and it is not the content creator’s responsibility to censor comments. Shielding sensitive people from comments (excluding those of explicit safety threats) do a disservice to the community. It is important for people to recognize opposing opinions and learn to defend their own. Comments sections facilitate this development of these skills. Of course, if someone chooses to avoid these interactions, they can do so by not posting their opinions online or reading spiteful comments from others.
Ultimately allowing blog comments assist the bloggers and democracy. Through creating a platform to give and receive feedback, facilitating conversations, and creating networks, comments sections are beneficial.