If there is one thing that 4chan users and Facebook users have in common besides fatuousness and illiteracy, it is a fondness for sharing their thoughts about race and criminal justice in the comment sections of Gawker.com.
And so the very worst of the internet dropped by last night to "Actually," us all to death about Michael Brown and Darren Wilson, posting unreconstructed racist bile, gross and offensive images, and undirected seething hate.
Luckily, we now have a flagging system to help readers identify and call to our attention bad posts. For those of us with blocking capability it felt a bit—as one editor put it—like "slaying orcs outside the Black Gate." But: How many orcs did we actually slay?
Product manager Lauren Bertolini, platform engineer Peter Laszlo, and executive director for data and analytics Josh Laurito pulled some numbers for us: Between 9 p.m. last night, when St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced that Wilson wouldn't be indicted for killing Brown, and 10:30 a.m. this morning, 14,838 comments were left on the site (4,000 of them on our initial breaking-news post alone). Of those nearly 15,000 comments, 541 were flagged by users. For comparison, Jezebel, which had the next highest number, only saw 68 flagged comments.
Here's the breakdown of how we dealt with those flags, courtesy Jim Cooke. An explanation follows.
What do "dismissed," "resolved," and "blocked" mean?
When we look at the flagged-comments moderation queue, we're given three options: Clear or resolve the flag (no action); dismiss the comment (for bad or stupid comments that aren't so egregious as to require blocking the user); or, for comments from people whom we clearly don't ever want to hear from again, dismiss the comment and block the user.
So. Over the 13 hours that Lauren and Peter pulled for us, 408 posts in the flagged queue were acted on. Only in 10 of those cases was the comment passable enough to not require action on the user. In the other 398 cases, the comment was unforgivable: so bad as to warrant blocking the user entirely.
(How many commenters does that represent, total? It's unclear—the figure refers to the number of comments dealt with by blocking, so a single commenter might be responsible for 5 or more of those block-worthy comments.)
And yet! The state of internet comment is unbelievably shitty. 400ish horrific comments making up 3 percent of the total comments on a blog that had about 18,000 people visiting at its peak last night? I'll take it.