The people have taken to the comment sections to vent their frustration with the feckless media and the miserable politicians that they parrot.
If they can’t vent there, than were?
NOTE: Also, there is no such thing as ”hate speech”, regardless of the statutes on the books, in Finland, and elsewhere in the less than free West, there is just speech. The moment you allow officials and the loudest voices on the street to define for the rest of society, what is ”appropriate” speech, is the day that (somewhat) free society begins a long death spiral into certain tyranny.
Two of Finland’s largest media sites on Tuesday decided to curtail or halt public comment on their websites.
The leading newspaper Helsingin Sanomat’s Nyt supplement and the domestic broadcaster MTV both say they have shut down comment sections due to a flood of hate speech and “weak quality discussion”.
The news division of public broadcaster Yle is not changing its policy on comment, says the Director of News and Current Affairs, Atte Jääskeläinen.
“For a couple of years now, we have significantly limited free online commenting because it has not produced constructive discussion. We now only open up comment by a specific decision and comments are always read before they are published,” he explains.
Blog posts on Yle’s news sites are often open for comment. These include a column on the migrant crisis published on Monday by bestselling author and TV personality Jari Tervo entitled “700,000 Racists”. It has attracted some 600 comments. Yle moderators have deleted about 20 percent of them due to inappropriate content.
According to Jääskeläinen, online discussions with editorial participation and a journalistic aim work better.
“There were hopes that online comments would boost democracy and open discussion in society, but it has brought us disappointments. Particularly within the past year, the debate has become very sharp and aggressive, even including hate speech,” says Jääskeläinen.
MTV fences off certain topics
MTV, Finland’s largest commercial TV and radio broadcaster, is closing comment sections related to certain topics for now.
Editor-in-chief Merja Ylä-Anttila says that the refugee crisis has spurred overheated comment and hate speech on MTV’s websites. For this reason the media group will no longer open comment on stories related to asylum seekers and immigration issues.
“Black-and-white attitudes on these matters have become even harder and the language used is far from appropriate,” she told Yle on Tuesday. “For one reason or another, I think the debate has escalated in just the past few weeks. And moderating it is extremely difficult.”
Up until now, MTV has allowed comment on all stories except crime reports. Ylä-Anttila says that the suspension will remain in effect indefinitely. Meanwhile the company will consider how moderation could be improved.
Ylä-Anttila says it is a coincidence that MTV and Nyt made their decisions on the same day.
“Maybe this is in the air, because this overheating of the discussion has been noticed elsewhere as well. Trolling and the racism discussion, the uproar over [an anti-multiculturalism statement by Finns Party MP Olli] Immonen and things like this have fed into this,” observes Ylä-Anttila.
She describes the decision to can some comment sections as a wake-up call.
“I’d like people to wake up and realise that words and ways of speaking do have an impact. There’s been a lot of talk about hate speech, but there is rarely a chance to do anything about it. So we’ve now taken this method into use,” she says.
Nyt suspends temporarily
Jussi Pullinen, the news director of Helsingin Sanomat’s Nyt section, said in a column published on Tuesday afternoon that all comment sections on the site will be closed for two weeks. In the meantime the editorial staff will think about what role they may play in the future. He says the decision was based on overreactions by online commenters and the “weak quality of the discussion”.
Pullinen said that people have increasingly been posting false statements and that the comment sections had become dominated by shouting. Interviewees and journalists have also been the target of insults and threats.
He also questioned the point of moderated discussions in this day and age, pointing out that internet users can discuss and comment freely on social media.
Sources Yle, Nyt