Unmoderated comments - a way to make papers even less responsible for clarification?

Jamie Sport has a great article up at MailWatch, in which he looks at the problems advertisers say they'll have in paying for adverts on the Mail website if the paper allows potentially controversial unmoderated comments.

I'll leave to one side the point about why these companies are happy to advertise in a publication that prints calls for forced sterilisation of undesirables, and already allows pre-moderated comments that make smarty-pants snarky comments about the deaths of hundreds of people because they happen to be potential asylum seekers and all that other funky stuff. For now, I'm bothered by another implication of the Mail deciding to allow unmoderated comments. And the person responsible is Richard 'Smellyface' Littlejohn.

A couple of weeks ago, in among caveats about how the story might be a hoax, Smellyface included musings about how the mother of quins named after black celebrities whose births were announced in the Times must be a single mother. Turns out that, fat-headed goon as he is, Smellyface hadn't bothered to Google the mother's name to find out his single mother was a dog.

A week later, Smellyface includes a sort of clarification - it blames the Times rather than his own inability to spend the number of seconds required to enter eight letters and a space into a search engine - but it at least clarifies that he had been sold a pup.

Curiously, the 'clarification' only appeared in the paper version of the article. It's nowhere to be seen on the website. I can't help wondering if this is because Smellyface already got a shoeing in the comments below his guff. The paper doesn't have to print an admission, however mealy-mouthed, in Littlejohn's own words because some readers have pointed out the truth in comments that have been heavily downrated.

So far so good so what eh? Who needs appendices pointing out whenever Richard Littlejohn has written something that isn't true? They'd end up longer than the original columns themselves. The problem is with more serious stories.

Right now, the PCC already goes out of its way to dismiss complaints about misleading stories but at least sometimes it makes papers remove shonky stories from their websites. What will happen after the advent of moderated comments in those rare circumstances that the PCC might rule that the Mail should remove an article from the website?

Will it now be enough that a user has been able to point out that a Mail story is lying, fearmongering, racist shite in the comments to stop actual nasty stories - like the fifty-odd that were removed as the result of the Federation of Poles in Great Britain's complaint a while back - from being removed?

It's not much of a change, but any development that removes the paper's need to admit 'mistakes' and do anything about them is about as welcome as Richard Littlejohn turning up on your doorstep and banging on about gypsies while stinking up your house with his face.

1 comment:

Miss Suffragette said...

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I wish you success. :)