Websites fight nasty comments by taking away anonymity

By Barbara Ortutay, AP

NEW YORK–Mix blatant bigotry with poor spelling. Add a dash of ALL CAPS. Top it off with a violent threat. And there you have it: A recipe for the worst of online comments.

Blame anonymity, blame politicians, blame human nature. But a growing number of websites are reining in online commentary. Companies including Google and The Huffington Post are trying everything from deploying moderators to forcing people to use their real names. Some sites, such as Popular Science, are banning comments altogether.

The efforts put sites in a delicate position. User comments add a lively, fresh feel. And, of course, the longer visitors stay to read the posts, and the more they come back, the more a site can charge for advertising.

What websites don’t want is the kind of nastiness that appeared under a recent article about the Affordable Care Act.

“If it were up to me, you progressive libs destroying this country would be hanging from the gallows for treason. People are awakening though. If I were you, I’d be very afraid,” wrote someone using the name “JBlaze.”

YouTube, which is owned by Google, has long been home to some of the Internet’s most juvenile and grammatically incorrect comments. The video site caused a stir last month when it began requiring people to log into Google Plus to write a comment. Besides herding users to Google’s unified network, the company says the move is designed to raise the level of discourse.

A Cheerios cereal commercial featuring an interracial family met with such a barrage of racist responses on YouTube in May that General Mills shut down comments on it altogether.