Tuesday, 30 August 2011
Several major Swedish newspapers have introduced restrictions to the comment functions in their discussion forums in an attempt to gain better control and limit racism, sexism and personal attacks.

Expressen has decided to close the possibility to comment on articles in real-time discussion forums on its website. Posts will instead be pre-moderated and not removed afterwards as is the current practice.

The newspaper wants to keep a better check on what is being written and hopes to avoid racist comments and personal attacks, the editor-in-chief Thomas Mattson wrote on his blog.

Mattsson and associate editor-in-chief Per-Anders Broberg will be legally responsible for the posts.

Thomas Mattsson explained that he hopes that the new policy will lead to greater transparency and that more people become involved under their full identities.

"The Internet is ripe for the audience, but the audience is not ripe for the internet."

"It is not an easy decision for a liberal newspaper to state that, for a period of time, it is to limit people's ability to express themselves, but we must take a responsibility for those that feature in our articles will not be subjected to derogatory comments and that the network does not become a forum covert racism."

Mattsson argued that there the offenders are a small, but vocal group of anonymous users.

"There is a small group who use the forum which is to publish personal attacks and racist or illegal argument that are contrary to the good tone that all the media are seeking."

Expressen's new policy states that for a while there will be fewer articles that readers will have the opportunity to comment on, and that posts will be reviewed before being published.

According to Thompson, the debate over moderating comments has been ongoing for a long time and he expects more media firms to follow suit.

"I think that everyone who sees the potential of the internet considers it a failure that one can not entrust the web users to comment freely because there are a few who abuse the system," he said.

"Several xenophobic commentators have accused me of censorship and said that the media want to stifle debate on integration policy, but it's about complying with the laws. It is possible to discuss the integration policy, but without personal attacks and racist comments."

Dagens Nyheter has also announced a decision to temporarily turn off the ability to comment on articles online. The newspaper will introduce a new log in system in October which will require registration and email addresses and until then all of the discussion forums will be closed.

"It will not be as anonymous as before but it is a threshold in order to raise the level of comments. We have seen that there have been posts that have grossly violated the policy we have. It can, for example, concern racist remarks," said DN's editor Gunilla Herlitz.

She expects the number of commentators to be smaller with the new system.

"There will obviously be consequences. At the same time we note that many of the newspaper's articles are spread in other ways, by sharing on Facebook and other sites so the comment function is perhaps less important," Herlitz said.

Sweden's largest newspaper by circulation, Aftonbladet, has also announced restrictions on the freedom to post anonymous comments online.

The newspaper plans to present its new policy on Tuesday, with a statement informing readers that anyone who wants to comment on articles can still do so, but with a log in via their Facebook profile.




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