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City news site pledges to ‘beat the trolls’ in online comments crackdown

Sarah WaddingtonA city news website has pledged to “beat the trolls” after launching a crackdown on online abuse.

Plymouth Live has announced its bid to tackle targeted abuse and harassment taking place on its website and social media channels.

The site, sister title to daily newspaper the Plymouth Herald, has taken to contacting so-called “trolls” in a bid to create a “friendly place, where different views and opinions are welcome and tolerated.”

The launch of the crackdown coincided with World Suicide Prevention Day, which was marked on Tuesday.

Plymouth Live head of content Sarah Waddington, pictured, told HTFP: Plymouth Live said: “We want our social media pages and website to be a place where our readers are able to voice their broad range of opinions and views, without fearing a backlash of personal abuse.

“We want people to be able to offer their constructive criticism of us, of what they are reading, and of the people we are writing about – but we don’t want that criticism to be targeted hatred with little or nothing to do with the issue at hand.

“We also want our social media pages and website to be a really happy and positive place for people to come and enjoy. We want it to be a place where people interact with each other and us in a constructive way, not a place for trolls to bully and torment our readers and our reporters.”

The move came after Sarah noticed a man had commented on one of Plymouth Live’s Facebook posts “making a snide and passing comment” about the teeth of a person pictured, and subsequently contacted the abuser directly to take him to task.

Added Sarah: “I decided to pop him a message, reminding him the individual we were writing about is a real person with feelings. The conversation turned, the man apologised and said he would think twice in future about what he posted on social media, having suffered from anxiety and depression in the past himself.

“Plymouth Live wants to start having more honest and open conversations with people and hopefully, in the next year, we will see a big shift in the way people use and interact with our social media pages and website.

“I think it is possible to beat the trolls at the same time as continuing to provide a platform for lively and sometimes impassioned debate.”

This year a string of regional journalists have gone public about personal abuse they have received online – with outgoing Coventry Telegraph editor Keith Perry warning that “truly appalling” online abuse of journalists is now becoming the “new normal.”

 

3 comments

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  • September 12, 2019 at 9:10 am
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    If they cut down on the abuse and ad hom attacks on journalists and other commenters there won’t be anything left. Far better to simply disable comments on websites and Facebook posts.

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  • September 12, 2019 at 11:17 am
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    Yup. sadly social media is the sort of freedom of speech and democracy we can live without. Better to shut down comments completely. There is no evidence they make money anyway, just give morons a chance to spew their bile.

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  • September 12, 2019 at 11:17 am
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    This line says it all:

    “The conversation turned, the man apologised and said he would think twice in future about what he posted on social media, having suffered from anxiety and depression in the past himself.”

    Cowards and bullies like to do what they do from a position of safety. They don’t have the courage to put their head above the parapet and do anything about any of these issues themselves, and would certainly never have the courage to have their name and picture on a story.

    I saw it many a time at an old paper, I saw unspeakable comments and then when one was challenged by phone by the news editor, he then posted immediately that he’d just spoken to a ‘lovely young man at the paper and could see now he shouldn’t have spoken out of turn’.

    I’d had all sorts said about me on there, but know for a fact had I ever challenged any of them to meet me and say it to my face I’d have had about as much chance of meeting George Peppard.

    Personally, while I applaud this stance, I don’t think journos should be exposed to that type of abuse in the first place. Putting headshots especially is dangerous in my view and I have to suspect any benefits to site are tiny at best, I actually suspect the opposite – as they’re mostly negative so impact negatively on genuine readers’ experience and their perception of the ‘brand’.

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