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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Ethics in the News – Dec. 1

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation will suspend online comments on stories about indigenous peoples until at least January after a spur of hate comments on related content, the CBC’s acting director of digital news announced Monday.

The announcement sparks an interesting conversation about the use of third-party moderators for online comments. CBC uses third-party moderators to monitor conversation, but found that more subtle racism could survive the process.

“We do see people who use language that, on the surface, if you’re a moderator and you’re not familiar with the story, it might not stand out to you as a racist comment, but in the context of the story it becomes obvious what it is, even though it’s almost disguised,” acting director of digital news Brodie Fenlon told The Globe and Mail.

Fenlon added that the CBC news review may result in new practices such as moderators reading the stories or other background material.

While there has long been a debate about whether comments should be vetted before or after publication, Keith Bilous, president of ICUC Moderation Services, a Winnipeg-based company that deals in moderating online content, told Neiman Lab that the harder question is typically when to turn off comments completely, as CBC news did.

Comments was also the topic of conversation at Monday’s Hack/Hackers NYC event “What is the public forum?”

Here are some tweets from the presentation:

In other journalism ethics news this week:

Center for Journalism Ethics in the news:

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