A European court has (correctly) decided that sites carry liability for the user comments they let stand. Here’s the short story: If your site makes money via click rates/ads, then you must monitor your user comments.
Let’s follow the money, shall we? US Newspapers, for example, claim they are defending democracy by giving the people a place for open discourse. OK. Maybe. Newspapers and a free press are key to a democratic state. BUT the REAL reason news sites want to keep (but not monitor!) comments is to MONETIZE that public discourse. Newspapers make any money from ads. Crazy-ass comment sections bring in views. No money is made if the newspapers shut down comments and/or conversations move over to Facebook et al.
So, if we look at open, non-monitored comments as a money-making, click-baiting venture, then we should hold liable those entities which allow hate and threatening speech as well as libelous slander on their pages. It’s a treacherous line: take away all the gawk-worthy comments, you take away the viewers. Don’t monitor at all and get sued. 3rd-party monitoring companies will rise up to take the slack, but they will have to devise a formula to keep the comment sections entertaining enough to attract the click rates. Professional commenting will become a work-at-home position, if it isn’t already.
But the revolution for the news industry? It will be pushed through by the courts and newspapers’ own capitalism. This will finally remake (part of) the face of online news.
Photo Credit: My Internet friend Shawn Rossi on Flickr