South Africa’s most popular news website, News24, will be removing the comments feed from all of its stories by Friday, 11 September. Editor-in-Chief Andrew Trench announced the news earlier this week in a story that raised a great degree of controversy.
For a site famed – somewhat infamously – for its comments section, the removal of the feature will no doubt have an impact on News24 readership. But is the change positive?
Just like the comments themselves, there’s the good, the bad and the ugly!
Censorship is never good, in any shape or form. At VavaVox we believe in encouraging people to voice their opinions. And, from a business standpoint, News24 is removing one of their defining features: the strong opinions of their readers.
Trench has defended the move, emphasizing that News24 will still offer “opportunities” to readers to voice their opinions on specific news stories. However, it will be via invite only.
News24 is hoping that by removing comments, the brand will develop a reputation for editorial excellence. There’s merit in this, as News24 is often ridiculed for the opinions of its readers. By silencing surrounding noise, News24 will be better positioned to carve out a niche as a news leader.
Many of the comments left on the site are subjective or prejudiced and occasionally border on hate speech. Trench and his team believe that this is directing focus away from the crux of the story and cites CNN, Reuters and Popular Science as other publications that have taken the step to remove article comments.
Comments online have the potential to provide illuminating insight into the way people act and think online, though there is a fine line between freedom of speech and hate speech – a line News24 has decided to eliminate. Many of the comments posted to News24 are deliberately inflammatory, and this cavalier attitude is constantly being stoked by unruly posters.
Nonetheless, at VavaVox we believe it is important to allow people to speak their mind and we hope News 24’s decision to remove their comments feed does not set a precedent throughout South Africa, as lively and engaging debate is positive.
As we see it, there is no right or wrong answer. What do you think?
Yes, let us know in the comments section below!