For my Internet Civilization diagnosis draft proposal I would like to research the problem with comments in Israeli mainstream webpages.
In Israel, each one of the three big newspapers have a big website and each article posted on the site allows for comments (which are reffered to as talkbacks). It might be the ancient Jewish tradition of debating over the written text or the Israeli ‘Hutzpa’ of always thinking you know better, but there is no doubt that Israelis like to debate over current events and that these talkbacks definitely matter.
The media refers to the talkbacks as a meter for how much is the public interested / emotional about current events. Journalists admit that they often think about how will people talkback to their articles when they write, and that it definitely affets their writing. Some talkbackers build a known virtual identities for themselves and are almost ‘expected’ to voice (or type) a certain view, on certain topics. The Israeli talkbacksphere has been so ecknowledged that opposing parties regard it as an importent battle field and have talkbackists lurking for new articls to comment on as they’re published, and make sure the first talkbacks (which are usualy the most read ones) are theirs.
In the past year or two, the talkbacksphere has detereorated into vulgar violence. The major sites try not to censor the readers talkbacks but by that they are giving a stage to the violent talkbackers that are taking advantage of that freedom of speech to vandalize the talkbacks with very offensive comments. The worst case of that is in Ynet the most read site in Israel, in which the severe verbal violence is actually driving people away from discussion and away from the site in general. It feels as if Ynet has been taken over by a violent mob that would enflame the talkback for every article and would not allow any moderate discussion form to emerge.
I would like to explore the ways websites deal with that and maybe even suggest other governing tools that can be developed in order to try and address this problem.