The Daily Maverick is the latest South African online publication to call it quits on reader comments.
In an editorial titled “We tried. We really, really did“, the publication said that despite its hopes for its comment section to be home to healthy debate, trolls and racist, hateful commenters offered a different reality.
“We’ve had to contend with the fact that a small but significant percentage of our commentators troll our site in order to fling filth at our writers, our opinionistas, and at other contributors and commentators who happen to disagree with their finely tuned Weltschmertz,” it said.
According to the group, proper comment management would require full-time staff to moderate, which would take up resources it does not have – so the decision was made to suspend the comment section entirely.
“We’re not suspending the comments section because of some strain of political correctness, or because we’re afraid of the ‘Truth.’ Mostly, we’re suspending this service because we no longer want to read racist invective on a site that is the result of a six-year labour of love,” it said.
The Daily Maverick joins IOL, News24, Times Live and many other local and international publications in their decision to pull comments.
The move by publishers has been met with criticism from readers, though, fittingly, much of the disapproval has been expressed through other platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
Most reaction focuses on the stifling of the freedom of speech – however, the Daily Maverick pointed out that, while South Africans have the right to express themselves freely, websites are not obligated to provide the platform to do it.
“There is nothing in the unwritten, unsigned contract between a website and its readership that remotely implies a ‘right’ to comment,” it said.
“It may be your ‘right’ to say what you want. But it’s our right not to want to host it.”