What is a disrespectful comment

11/15/2016 15:07

Online media should carefully consider their response to disrespectful comments

Petra Giegerich Communication and press
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz

Ironic moderation of uncivil user comments on online news sites harms the medium's credibility and news quality

Journalists are increasingly finding rude, if not disrespectful and hateful comments from users on their media's online pages. In the discussion forums, there is polemicism and exaggeration, harsh criticism of representations is expressed or positions are taken in an uncivilized, often insulting manner - especially when it comes to controversial topics such as the compulsory vaccination or the integration debate. Scientists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) have found that the moderators of these online news sites would do well to carefully consider their reaction to such derogatory user comments. If the moderators react with a similar pattern by criticizing the low quality of the comments with ironic or sarcastic remarks, this increases the entertainment value of the discussions for observers. At the same time, however, these remarks damage the credibility of the medium, make the commented messages appear less relevant and professional, and also reduce the willingness of observers to participate in the discussion forum.

“Unscrupulous journalists” or “sensational lies association” are still comparatively harmless insults that can be read on online news sites. "The tone in the discussion forums is getting rougher overall, and it is estimated that one in five comments is unnecessarily disrespectful," says Dr. Marc Ziegele on the starting position. Together with his colleague Pablo Jost from the Institute for Journalism at JGU, the communication scientist has examined the effects of actively moderating uncivil user comments. To this end, they allowed 731 people to take part in an online experiment and asked them to rate a fictitious news medium that either does not respond at all, objectively and politely or ironically and humorously to disrespectful user comments in news items. The test subjects were then asked how credible they find the medium, how they rate the quality of the commented messages and whether they would like to take part in the discussions.

Ziegele and Jost found in their study that it can damage the image of a media brand if the moderators respond to poor user comments with too much humor and parody. "In our experiment, the ironic to sarcastic style increased the entertainment value, but worsened the perceived credibility and message quality," said Ziegele. Objective moderation, on the other hand, improved the climate for discussion and promoted participation. These effects occur especially with controversial and emotionally charged topics. "In the case of low-conflict topics, neither factual nor ironic answers to disrespectful comments have a positive effect, but they also do no harm," adds Jost.

Dealing with uncivilized comments has become a major field of research now that the phenomenon is increasing on the Internet and especially on Facebook. "The barriers to expressing one's opinion or even attacking other users are significantly lower in social media," explains Ziegele. “You also don't see what you're doing to others.” The authors of the study, which was published in the journal Communication Research, advise the news media, in light of this development, to carefully weigh their reactions to the disrespect and not to jeopardize their credibility lightly . “The media should nevertheless decisively oppose disrespectful and hateful comments,” warns Jost. “This way, they take on responsibility and show that they are interested in high-quality contributions.” In the long term, this could encourage more users to engage in civilized discussions with one another.

Marc Ziegele, Pablo B. Jost
Not funny? The Effects of Factual Versus Sarcastic Journalistic Responses to Uncivil User Comments
Communication Research, October 5, 2016
DOI: 10.1177 / 0093650216671854

Fig .:
Biting responses from the editors to disrespectful and insulting user comments are entertaining, but can damage the image and news quality of the media company, according to a new study from Mainz.
Ill./haben: Institute for Journalism, JGU

Additional Information:
Dr. Marc Ziegele
Institute for Journalism
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
55099 Mainz
Tel. +49 6131 39-22176
Email: [email protected]

More links:
http://crx.sagepub.com/content/early/2016/10/05/0093650216671854.abstract (publication)

Criteria of this press release:
Journalists, all interested persons
Information technology, Language / literature, Media and communication sciences, Philosophy / ethics, Psychology
transregional, national
Research results, Scientific Publications