Comment section on news websites do not fulfill their normative goals, write Nina Springer, Christian Pfaffinger, both of Ludwig Maximiliam University of Munich, and Ines Engelmann, of University of Jena (names not in original order). They surveyed hundreds of Germans in relation to their motives for use and non-use of news website comment sections.
According to the study, many users forgo comments as the discussion is perceived to be of low quality. Others enjoy mutely observing the discussion devolve into chaos, while some wish to take part in it. Whatever the case, low comment quality seems to lead to low satisfaction in both bystanders and partakers, the authors observe. Thus news organizations would do well to put effort into reforming their comment sections so they might facilitate meaningful public dialogue.
The survey’s results were recently published in an online-first article of the journal Information, Communication & Society. The article can be accessed online here (abstract public).