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Monday, December 22, 2014

Lobo comments now require Facebook

assistantsports@dailylobo.com
@JROppenheim

“Hey, you. Internet troll. Yeah, you. Go away. You’re not contributing anything to the conversation.” How many web users these days scroll through the comments section and want to say that?

I know I have.

It’s common in this day of the Information Age to see posters put salacious, rude, inaccurate or flat-out inappropriate statements on stories and message boards they read online. Maybe they do it because they’re bored and looking for a cheap thrill. Maybe they want to release frustration about various current affairs. Maybe they’re just an awful jerk that seeks self-gratification through demeaning others.

The Daily Lobo is no exception to this threat. We have had several complaints just in the one year I have been on this staff about comments targeted at students. None of them are helpful or progress the dialogue in any fashion.

Regardless of the reason why they engage in such behavior, Internet trolls hide behind and, to a certain extent, thrive with the anonymity an online alias provides. In order to help combat these comments, the Daily Lobo has changed its online commenting provider from the anonymous-friendly Disqus to Facebook.

This went live Monday afternoon after a technical difficulty at launch was resolved. We were not able to apply Facebook to every story in our archives and we left the Disqus comments from those stories already published. However, every story will have Facebook comments moving forward.

One reason why the Daily Lobo is switching to Facebook is to draw readers to our website. Facebook provides a social media element to commenting that Disqus did not. Once a commenter posts via Facebook, his or her friends will be able to see the comment and perhaps join the conversation. Utilizing Facebook’s system, I hope to draw more people into the conversation.

There is, of course, the goal to ease up on some inappropriate behavior.

Many people use Facebook on a daily basis, checking out what their family and friends have to say and most people use their Facebook accounts honestly and acknowledge who they really are. There are exceptions, of course. The MTV show “Catfish,” which chronicles people’s stories of relationships that develop through one party’s fraudulent acts, comes to mind, but generally Facebook users are who they claim to be.

With this move to Facebook, we hope that people will be more careful with what they post on our website because their own name and photograph will appear with their comment. We hope the Facebook commenting system removes at least some of the anonymity from the equation.

I know firsthand how awful people can be with online commenting.

Back when I worked as the staff photographer for the Alamogordo Daily News, I took a picture of a man wearing a T-shirt that featured President Barack Obama adorned with makeup from The Joker character in “The Dark Knight,” and my editor at the time ran the photo as a secondary image on an inside page. I don’t even recall what the story was about, something political.

Once the story was posted online, one commenter called me a racist and told me I should commit suicide. The man wearing the shirt was not told to kill himself; I was. At this point in my life I dealt with depression, I did not have a high opinion of my worth, and I constantly felt under attack from some in the community because they claimed I did not deserve the position I held.

I acknowledge the individual who told me to commit suicide could not have known my mental state at the time, but I did not take it well when I saw the statement online. Distraught, I called my publisher, told him of the negative effect this comment had on me and pleaded with him to remove it. Thankfully, he did.

My contention was this: What did one person telling another person to kill himself do in the political discussion to which we reported? My answer: nothing.

We at the Daily Lobo understand that rude people will still post inappropriate comments on stories regardless the method. Certainly people could, and likely will, create a fictitious Facebook account in order to continue their pursuits as an Internet troll.

Some probably won’t even care and still make negative statements. Radio talk show callers still do it. 

However, we hope this new system will lead honest Facebook users to be more careful in their comments and our website can be used for respectful communication between our readers. As we have in the past, we will continue to monitor the comments and remove those we deem offensive.

In addition to his work on the sports desk, J.R. Oppenheim serves as the Daily Lobo’s online and social media editor.