CBC keeps Facebook comments closed on news articles
Earlier this week, veteran CBC News reporter and host Carole MacNeil ended her 34-year career with the public broadcaster.
In his closing remarks, that you can watch below, MacNeil thanked his audience and reminded us of what the public expects from journalists: precision, competence, straightforward questions, context.
“You like it when someone is challenged, but not ashamed or embarrassed,” MacNeil said of the audience. “You don’t want us to curl up in the face of pressure. You want us to work without fear and without favor.”
But what resonated most with me was MacNeil’s comment on the state of public discourse, disinformation, and hardening attitudes towards journalists:
“I firmly believe that as journalists we are of service to you the public. But the sand is shifting. You are getting so much information now. Some is wrong. Some is correct. Some had for purpose to make you angry. Some of you are out of context. Some turn you into a weapon. And some of you try to attack us personally, physically, even when we are doing our job. Not a lot, but some. “
WATCH | Carole MacNeil says goodbye to viewers on her latest CBC show:
Some of those same concerns prompted our decision in June to close comments on our CBC Facebook pages in News, Current Affairs and Local as part of an experiment. We did this because we saw an excessive amount of hate, abuse, misogyny, and threats in the comments below our stories. Our history subjects have been attacked. Other commentators have been attacked. Our journalists have been attacked. Disinformation and disinformation were rife.
Due to this toxicity, we were posting less of our stories and videos on Facebook, knowing that the subjects of our stories would face certain abuse and that particular communities would be targeted. When we shared stories on Facebook, we spent a tremendous amount of time and effort cleaning up the sludge.
To be clear, we’re not interested in restricting candid reviews of our journalism, which we welcome (you can find a lot of that in the comments for articles on our news site, which are narrowly moderated). Rather, we’re talking about trying to stop, in the places online where we at least have some control, the vile abuse, personal harassment, and misinformation that is so damaging to public discourse.
Comments on the website will remain
The experience has been positive. We’re now posting more diverse stories than ever on Facebook. We no longer moderate a space with few controls. The impact on our web traffic has been marginal. The well-being of our staff has improved, according to an internal survey we conducted during the experiment.
The fears that we were limiting freedom of expression were unfounded. We saw a wave of comments on our website during the Federal Election, for example, and our viewers, listeners and readers are free to express themselves in many other places, including their personal Facebook pages, on Twitter and via our mediation process.
Therefore, in the future, comments sections will remain closed on our Facebook pages, with a few exceptions. We’ll open up comments for calls to ask audience specific questions to help us cover stories and issues more fully, and on a few pages that have small but healthy comment communities. But otherwise, they will remain closed.
Our mission is to develop safer places online where Canadians can have meaningful conversations about the issues of our time and our journalism; where they can argue, disagree and challenge each other – and us! – without sinking into hatred, sectarianism or personal violence. We will also continue to do our utmost to support the mental health and physical well-being of our staff.
Our decision to keep comments closed on our Facebook pages remains. So does our promise to foster respectful comments and feedback in a myriad of other ways and across our platforms, including in the comments section under this blog, where, as always, I welcome your thoughts. and points of view.