They may take our lives but they will never take our freedom!

More and more of the Internet is being beaten down by trolls and destructive commenters.

Mix blatant bigotry with poor spelling. Add a dash of ALL CAPS. Top it off with a violent threat. And there you have it: A recipe for the worst of online comments, scourge of the Internet.

Blame anonymity, blame politicians, blame human nature. But a growing number of websites are reining in the Wild West of online commentary.

Companies including Google and the Huffington Post are trying everything from deploying moderators to forcing people to use their real names in order to restore civil discourse. Some sites, such as Popular Science, are banning comments altogether.

The efforts put sites in a delicate position. User comments add a lively, fresh feel to videos, stories and music. And, of course, the longer visitors stay to read the posts, and the more they come back, the more a site can charge for advertising.

What websites don’t want is the kind of off-putting nastiness that spewed forth under a recent article about the Affordable Care Act.

“If it were up to me, you progressive libs destroying this country would be hanging from the gallows for treason. People are awakening though. If I were you, I’d be very afraid,” wrote someone using the name “JBlaze.”

We get our share here, including death threats, although most of those come via email. ?But for however long we can, Whaleoil will let the community look after its own standards. ?

The Huffington Post is also clamping down on vicious comments. In addition to employing 40 human moderators who sift through readers’ posts for racism, homophobia, hate speech and the like, the AOL-owned news site is also chipping away at anonymous commenting.

Previously, anyone could respond to an article posted on the site by creating an account, without tying it to an email address. This US autumn, HuffPo began requiring people to verify their identity by connecting their accounts to an email address.

“We are reaching a place where the Internet is growing up,” says Jimmy Soni, managing editor of HuffPo. “These changes represent a maturing (online) environment.”

That’s some marketing spin. ?The changes represent the human condition. ?There are people like that out there that you wouldn’t socialise with, or invite into your home. ?Yet they get a free run of any comment section on the Internet.

There is no doubt in my mind that this will eventually affect Whaleoil as well, although I think that is still many years into the future.

There is also an immaturity about the commenting systems. ?There should be a way to elevate trusted visitors to a higher status where they can downvote certain comments so they simply no longer display. ?This happens in some places, but the crowd-sourced moderation is still in its infancy.

Trust your audience, and it will trust you.

Welcome to Whaleoil.


We try to educate the worse offenders, and if they don’t smarten up, they find themselves unable to participate. ?But yes, for the casual visitor, seeing such comments would make them believe that Whaleoil approves of the comments it doesn’t remove.

The problem is always the same: ?who decides what is acceptable?

If the cost of having some people think that Whaleoil endorses all its comments is that we run the lightest moderation and count on people’s own maturity to keep things under control, then I think it is a price worth paying.