Keyboard Warriors Are Out of Control

Online comments - in which the reader can add his/her views to an authored piece - offer the concrete potential for dialogue, for mutual encouragement of ideas and for correcting errors.

The Internet's capacity for interaction has created the possibility of establishing a deep and meaningful link between artists, authors and producers and the wider public. Today's creator is not satisfied with formal responses to his work, such as applause or sales figures. He receives "likes," "shares" and - in what should be the deepest relationship but isn't - online comments and posts.

Online comments - in which the reader can add his/her views to an authored piece - offer the concrete potential for dialogue, for mutual encouragement of ideas and for correcting errors. All of this through the indirect but immediate connection between the creator and his audience. Except that, in the absence of any need for those participating to identify themselves, or exhibit any substantive or ethical responsibility for the things they write, the phenomenon has deteriorated and become simply a stage for statements that lack all these criteria - often from these anonymous "keyboard warriors."

Honest and substantive responses, which show respect for the written word and the person writing them, are being lost along with their advantages, making way for something else. "David from central Israel," for example, can comment in a hundred words on the "price tag" created by extremist settlers in his response to an article on the conquest of space, and leave the author wondering: Do those who created the price tag really intend on expanding their activities to space? Would that be because it is closer to God?!

Elsewhere, "Someone in the know" seeks to "correct" the author and argues that the Green Line was established during the Six-Day War, citing evidence that it is also called the "1967 lines." Therefore, she writes, going back to the cease-fire lines is like going back to the decision to define Mandatory Palestine - and she is unwilling to accept this, because those borders were described by Abba Eban as "Auschwitz Borders."

An attempt by another poster to suggest a second reading of the piece was rejected with contempt, with a comment that she "had already read that on a site 'Truth for Beginners.'"

"Straight and Honest," who is "working" for interested parties, tells the public that the mother of the author is Arab "and that he holds Tadiran stock" - which shapes the medical research he writes about an "Ashkenazi conspiracy." The number of "likes" that this shocking "expose" receives is just shy of that which "School of Music" star Michel Cohen received when he sang "Don't turn me away." Now it is up to the author to prove that he is not a singer.

The websites themselves are also responsible for the decline of the idea of comment pages. The promise that "your response will be published at our discretion" gives hope that someone - someone whose job it is - will suffer and thus prevent the journalist suffering. But no, the slurs, slanders and creative insults that manage to pass through the "filter" give the impression that the gaps are huge and the "filter" is limited.

Websites wishing to restore order could do so through a user code, which automatically reveals the details of the person posting a comment as he types. I have no doubt that the number of posters will drop significantly, but not the number of readers. The posters who survive will interest the readers by providing and expanding on the information in the story or the article, and this is what I assume most of the authors would wish to respond to.

It is possible to reward comment posters by popularity ranks, and it is possible to "block" those who violate site regulations. Anyone who is offering a gratuitous comment will be asked to "take it back." This is a system whose cost would be slightly higher than the current one, but its usefulness for editors, authors and readers would be great.

Read this article in Hebrew