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Editor bans ‘disgusting’ commenters after death crash story sparks racist abuse

Karl Holbrook 1A regional daily editor was forced to turn off comments on a report of a motorway smash in which a 12-year-old died after the story prompted ‘disgusting’ racist abuse.

Sana Patel, from Blackburn, died on Saturday night after the Nissan Qashqai in which she was a passenger was involved in a collision on the M61 in Lancashire.

The Bolton News carried a report on its website on Sunday, but after a series of racist comments, editor Karl Holbrook was forced to ban more than 12 users and turn off the thread.

He has now urged readers to report any abusive comments immediately and vowed to adopt a “zero tolerance” approach to inappropriate use of the story comment facility.

Karl, pictured, stepped in after a reader, Shoyab Patel, alerted him to the comments via Twitter on Sunday afternoon.

She wrote: “It’s absolutely disgusting that a 13-year-old has died after a collision with a car and Bolton News allows the racist chavs of Bolton to spew their hate in the comments unabated all day!”

Karl replied: “It is disgusting. I’ve personally just banned more than a dozen people and turned off the comments after seeing your tweet.

“In future, can I ask rather than watching this sort of thing build up through the day, report it earlier so someone can take action straight away?”

The News is not the first Newsquest-owned title that has turned off story comments as a result of racist abuse.

Last year the Bradford Telegraph and Argus switched off comments entirely on its site for a period of time, although they are now back on.

Karl told HTFP: “It’s something we’ve been working very hard on recently, including having a meeting with the police about how best to deal with it.

“In recent weeks we’ve banned dozens of accounts and have taken a zero tolerance approach to inappropriate behaviour in the comments, which are often hijacked by a small group of faceless trolls who spoil it for the majority.

“We want to keep the comments live, wherever possible, in the interest of healthy debate but we are at a point where we are considering disabling them.

“Readers may not appreciate the difficulty we face moderating the thousands of comments and the sophistication of some of the worst offenders. For example, if we turn the comments off on one story because we think they may descend, they often turn up on unrelated, totally innocuous stories to spout their bile.

“As a result, In order to keep the comments forum running, we think it is a reasonable expectation to call on our readers to help us monitor the comments by reporting bad behaviour.

“We’ve also held a meeting with police in recent weeks about how best we can work with them to report the worst abuse.”

A 23-year-old woman, from the Mirfield area of West Yorkshire, was detained on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving following Saturday’s collision.

A 28-year-old Dewsbury man was arrested on the same charge, along with failing to stop at the scene of an accident. Both have been released by police under investigation.


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  • July 9, 2019 at 12:52 pm

    Just scrap comments, they create a pointless cesspit of negativity, devaluing trusted newsbrands in the eyes of most normal readers.

    The days of allowing people to comment on stories as a way of building an audience are long gone.

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  • July 9, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    Oh I see. So it’s up to readers to police the comments is it?
    Why don’t you ask them to sub pages as well while you at it? They already write stories and take pictures. Might as well go the whole hog.

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  • July 9, 2019 at 1:49 pm

    “…We want to keep the comments live, wherever possible, in the interest of healthy debate…”

    Healthy debate? In the comments sections of a regional paper’s website. You have got to be kidding me.

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  • July 9, 2019 at 2:58 pm

    Well done Karl Holbrook.
    Except even the most innocuous stories in the BN and the LT are absolutely riddled with disgusting comments from trolls of the worst kind.
    They should have known that by allowing comments on that story would lead to this, and yet they went ahead anyway.
    And, as Archantlifer says, do the BN now rely on readers to police their comments sections. Why don’t you start monitoring it properly – or are the staff there too busy rescuing pigeons.
    Still, you’ve added a few more clicks, and that’s all that really matters these days isn’t it?

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  • July 9, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    I would naturally be interested to know how many HTFP readers would take that point of view in relation to our own site!

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  • July 10, 2019 at 11:38 am

    I think HTFP is less likely to attract the sub-human species we see on newspaper websites. Freedom of speech? Just click-bait counts that is all.

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  • July 10, 2019 at 12:18 pm

    Not really sure about the rationale behind making readers unpaid moderators, is it we provide the free community for you so you’ve got to police it? That sounds a real cop out to me and I bet it does to their readers too.

    Most commenting systems have abuse mechanisms but surely then once somethings reported it’s up to the publication to remove it as speedily as they can, even at weekends.

    Presumably if you run comments on a story it’s because you think it’s going to provide value or bump up the old hit counter a bit – isn’t this just a case of someone using a bit of common sense and saying that if you haven’t got the resources, and you are getting reputational damage through not employing moderators or systems that can block the spammers – you are in fact just better off not bothering at all for the small benefit you get?

    Its not helped by the legal situation where most people have to post-moderate because of the risk of publishing pre-moderated comments can put you in, nor the attitude of other websites like Facebook and Youtube, but smaller newspapers should really consider if the comments sections are truly worth it.

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  • July 10, 2019 at 1:02 pm

    “News” websites desperately need comments, they ensure a continued click rate helping page views if not unique visitors.

    All too often a good row sparks a new story… how many times have we seen: this is what you had to say about that story.

    Cut and paste at its finest.

    Naming no names i’ve seen more websites delete comments from readers who are fed up with how poor local journalism is these days.

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