Credentializing comments

No wonder the mainstream media fears comments. This may also explain why so many trolls consider themselves to be self-appointed blog police. Although I doubt they have much effect here:

Ionnis Kareklas, Darrel D. Muehling, and TJ Weber, all of Washington State University, found that the comments on a public-service announcement about vaccination affected readers’ attitudes as strongly as the P.S.A. itself did. When commenters were identified by their level of expertise with the subject (i.e. as doctors), their comments were more influential than the P.S.A.s.

Online readers may put a lot of stock in comments because they view commenters “as kind of similar to themselves,” said Mr. Weber — “they’re reading the same thing, commenting on the same thing.” And, he added, many readers, especially those who are less Internet-savvy, assume commenters “know something about the subject, because otherwise they wouldn’t be commenting on it.” The mere act of commenting, then, can confer an unearned aura of credibility.

That news may be especially disturbing to those already skeptical of comments’ overall quality. Dr. Kareklas and his team were inspired by Popular Science’s decision to get rid of the comments sections on its website; other publications, like Pacific Standard, have done the same. And Tauriq Moosa memorably wrote at The Guardian that the comments section “sits there like an ugly growth beneath articles, bloated and throbbing with vitriol.”

If only those nasty online peasants would shut up, stop interfering with the flow of propaganda, and recognize that communication is supposed to go one way!

The article appears to ignore the obvious fact that most sites permitting comments are communities of a sort, and commenters, being members of that community, are often familiar with the other commenters and therefore know how much stock to put in the credibility of another commenter. I put stock in a commenter for the same reason I put stock in a media site, which is to say, his past performance. Why wouldn’t one trust a known expert, with whom one is familiar, more than a public service announcement from an institution known to be corrupt?