The buzz in other British news outlets
As part of the debate on comments, Telegraph columnist Alex Proud had written an article in March 2015 talking about the personal pain internet trolls reading his articles have caused him, but deeming it worse not to receive any comments at all. A year later, however, The Telegraph decided to suspend the capability for readers to comment on articles on the revamped part of its website, stating that it would do research into how to best incorporate or allow user interaction.
Meanwhile, comments on the website of The Daily Mail – which has actively encouraged readers to engage in these sections – have become legendary for their poison, with Twitter pages dedicated entirely to them. As for another major British newspaper, The Independent, it still allows comments underneath its articles, but features a detailed and somewhat strict moderation policy in its "Community Guidelines" section.
The BBC, which phased out and eventually shut down its online message boards (a controversial decision), partially allows comments on its website. It also has a strict moderation policy, including reserving "the right to fail comments" that were made in languages other than English, are considered "off-topic" or contain personal information, besides "offensive", "abusive" or "disruptive" remarks.
In August 2015, the BBC published an article and ran a radio programme discussing whether comments sections were dying, in light of the decision by the American tech and web-related news sites The Verge and The Daily Dot to turn off theirs. While moderating online comments may require more than one full-time job at the BBC, the broadcaster also stressed:
Many news organisations - including the BBC - have used comments sections to make real connections with audiences, find stories, and turn what was once a one-way street into a multi-headed conversation."
Then came the EU Commission’s move to get Internet platforms to sign a code of conduct agreeing to remove any "illegal hate speech" within 24 hours of being notified, publicly supported by Microsoft, Facebook Twitter and YouTube. Some EU Parliament members and other opponents reportedly offered up harsh criticism against the code, going as far as calling it something out of a George Orwell novel.
Shortly after the announcement, the British Internet magazine Spiked took to its page in June 2016 to defend hate speech as free speech and organised a related talk in London. Spiked featured opinions in its article from people they described as key media players, although they only portrayed one side of the debate.
The opinions were all in favour of letting hate speech ride free in most cases, characterising definitions of it as subjective and political, and restrictions (such as the EU Commission’s code) as potentially setting a dangerous precedent for authorities to increasingly curb dissent and basic rights.