What's the Latest Development?
As of today (Sept. 24), the 141-year-old magazine Popular Science will no longer accept comments on new articles on its Web site, according to a post written there by online content director Suzanne LaBarre. The decision was made because the editors believed the kinds of comments being posted -- particularly on divisive subjects like climate change and evolution -- were hindering the magazine's mission of protecting and promoting science. Readers can still comment on Popular Science's Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ discussion areas.
What's the Big Idea?
Comments sections too often represent the worst of the Internet, forcing many site creators to resort to a variety of measures to maintain some sense of civility. In her post, LaBarre cited one of several studies that demonstrated the negative effects of unmoderated discussions. She wrote: "If you carry out those results to their logical end -- commenters shape public opinion; public opinion shapes public policy; public policy shapes how and whether and what research gets funded....[T]he cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a Web site devoted to championing science."
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