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DRTC (Don't read the comments)

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

DRTC is an initialism for "Don't read the comments." The abbreviation is commonly used to remind people that comments on articles, social media and other web content are often inflammatory, misleading, hurtful and / or obscene, along with other potential issues. The problem is particularly bad on unmoderated and active comment threads.

The apparent anonymity of the web leads to disinhibition and, for some, that leads to offensive behavior. For others, trolling is almost a hobby, posting inflammatory or abusive comments in the hopes of upsetting content creators and commentors and getting a reaction from them.

Writing in The Guardian, Jessica Valenti calls for an end to comments: "On most sites – from YouTube to local newspapers – comments are a place where the most noxious thoughts rise to the top and smart conversations are lost in a sea of garbage... For writers, wading into comments doesn’t make a lot of sense – it’s like working a second shift where you willingly subject yourself to attacks from people you have never met and hopefully never will."

Refraining from reading comments requires will-power, even in the knowledge that it is likely wise to do so. There are various other approaches to dealing with the problem of trolls online. Someone posting on Facebook, for example, can limit the audience to their friends or specific users among their friends so that the content isn't subject to attack by random strangers. A blogger can moderate comments, although that isn't practical for extremely active threads. Furthermore, reading through abusive comments is likely to be infuriating or disheartening for the moderator. For those who would prefer not to have to deal with the issue, the best method of preventing abuse might be simply turning off comments.

A newer approach involves using AI to detect abusive comments. An organization known as Possible has launched a campaign on Twitter, We Counter Hate. For each retweet of an abusive post, they donate $1 to "a non-profit fighting for equality, inclusion and diversity."

This was last updated in June 2018

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