I have a simple, humble request to make of our mainstream media: If you must have comments on your stories, please randomize the order in which comments are shown. Or, if not, do anything other than show the first-written comments first.
I was looking at a perfectly reasonable story about the current COVID-19 outbreak in Florida today, on what turned out to be the ABC News website.
And immediately following the story, in the comments section, were four pieces of what was clearly professionally-written disinformation. Clearly working from a common pool of talking points. Tightly written so as to hit as many hot-button issues as possible. Obviously designed to deflect attention from the current situation in Florida, and by inference, the Republican governor of Florida.
I can only assume that whatever organization that is responsible for those comments has bots that look for newly-published on-topic articles. They then strive to be first in line with comments.
And as a result, everyone who reads the actual news article and bothers to look at the comments is also reading that disinformation. Lies and misdirection clearly aimed at nullifying the actual news coverage.
And so, ABC News ended up lending its entire new apparatus the forces of disinformation. For free.
This is really stupid, and needs to be stopped. We have enough problems without allowing the purveyors of nonsense to piggyback on legitimate news sources. For free.
At the minimum, if comments were shown in some random order, that would prevent organizations from hawking news articles and placing their previously-composed disinformation pieces first in the comments section. Such a policy would not only dull the high impact of that disinformation currently has, it would reduce the incentives to publish those professionally-written comments in the first place.
Anyway, I’m just pointing this out. My observation is that a policy of showing comments in the order written is just asking for your platform to be used by the aggressively for-profit disinformation industry.
Even if you can’t get rid of them entirely, you can certainly structure your website so as not to encourage them. And to make it more expensive for them to keep their taking points in front of your viewer’s eyes.
In in that context, the last thing you want to do is let whoever gets first crack at the comments to get the most prominent spot in the comments. And yet, that’s what ABC News appears to be doing. You’re letting the enemies of information use your resources, for free. And no matter how you slice it, that’s just plain stupid.