By on November 30, 2021

fizkes/Shutterstock.com

In a sign of the times, Automotive News will be killing comments on its articles, starting tomorrow.

Don’t worry, we have no plans to follow suit.

Automotive News says the issue is a lack of civil discourse. As much as we source AN for our blogs here, I haven’t spent much, if any, time reading comments on its site before today, so I can’t say for sure if the issue is trolls or if users are losing their cool behind the shield of anonymity or if bots, not people, are to blame for bad behavior.

Comments go away Dec. 1, though you can still comment on articles via AN’s Facebook page.

I’ve seen other journalism outlets — mostly outside the automotive space — kill comment sections as bad behavior has taken over for good-faith, civil discourse. Spam bots are also an issue. On the one hand, dropping comments might make the user experience better for readers.

On the other hand, given the price one pays for an Automotive News subscription, it’s a bit surprising the company isn’t investing in better moderation. It’s also surprising that the bad behavior is occurring in the first place — you might expect a site that’s free to read drawing people with bad intent, but it’s harder to wrap your brain around why people who pay a lot for content would spend their time acting like jerks in the comment section.

On yet the other hand, humans can be a-holes, and perhaps there’s a feeling of entitlement brought about by spending so much?

All I know is that our comment section is going nowhere, and we’ll thank our hard-working mods for keeping our section (mostly) free of spam, bad-faith arguments, flame wars, and bigotry.

You in the B and B are a big part of this site. Please keep things civil — apparently, those who visit AN couldn’t do so.

[Image: fizkes/Shutterstock.com]

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70 Comments on “Automotive News To End Article Comments Dec. 1...”


  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Many newspaper sites have killed the comments section as well. The Balkans around 1914 were more civil than those comment sections.

    I like talking cars on this site, and if TTAC needs a Stephen King-sized novel about VW, I’m your guy, and I tend to steer clear of the overtly political entries here. Any time I see a response starting with “…well, this relates to the auto industry…” to me that is code for it has a slight grip on the subject and let the mud fly. If I wanted that, I’d turn on cable news with four heads yelling at each other.

  • avatar
    kcflyer

    Not surprised to see more sites shutting down discussion. It goes hand in hand with the overall curtailing of first amendment freedoms in the US. The vast majority of media is tilted heavily in one political bent if not outright being propaganda for that party. They hate anyone speaking against the party line. They actively shout down dissent, dox people they disagree with and even openly threaten jury members with no fallout. If this site drops the comments I’m out, so I hope it does not happen despite the constant wrangling. We should be free to disagree.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      It’s not a First Amendment issue when it involves a private company. No outlet is obligated under the First Amendment to provide a platform for comments. You can agree or disagree with AN’s actions but the 1A is not at issue here. Just wanted to clear that up.

      Cue The Dude telling Walter it’s not a First Amendment thing :)

      • 0 avatar
        Matt Posky

        It does when they fall under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and there are tons of companies that have (I believe illegally) restricted the 1st Amendment rights of users. There’s definitely an anti-free speech agenda out there. Just look at what happened when Twitter got its new CEO last night. They immediately added new restrictions for what users can post. This kind of stuff is a blight on the internet.

        Automotive News can technically do what it wants since it doesn’t benefit directly from Section 230 but it doesn’t make it not gross to someone who supports 1A. Even if someone didn’t, they’re paying to use the site and one would hope they’d give you an opportunity to toss in two cents.

        • 0 avatar
          Margarets Dad

          It seems totally reasonable to me that Twitter doesn’t want to be a sounding board for the kind of vaccine disinformation that’s become your stock-in-trade here, which has caused the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens.

          –“Grandpa Matt, what did you do during the pandemic?”
          –“Oh, I helped drag it out by telling people to beware of masks and the vaccine based on a bunch of conspiracy crap I pulled off the Internet. It sure generated clicks though! Hey, have I ever told you kids what a click was?”

          I guess Twitter doesn’t want, or need to, sink as low as TTAC.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “which has caused the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens.”

            Except those 17,128 they admit died by “vaccine” as of Oct 27. Heroes, all.

          • 0 avatar
            jkross22

            Marge’s Dad,

            If you feel TTAC is so low/bad, why comment or visit at all? Why give Matt, Tim and the other evildoers your eyeballs, attention and perceived interest?

            I’m genuinely curious why the response to your displeasure is giving more of your attention.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          “Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act’

          I quick read says that it just protects the service provider from liability based upon what the users say.

          TTAC is Canadian owned… which laws apply?

          • 0 avatar
            Matt Posky

            So are Lou and Margaret asking for TTAC to end their ability to comment? These takes lack an ideological consistency that is leaving me genuinely perplexed.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I’ll just interject here to say Lou is not a bad guy. Much like many sane rational people -who are lacking these days- his is a different perspective and we need different perspective to keep people honest. With such counterweight I may be even more of a whackjob than I already know I am.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            *without

          • 0 avatar
            Tim Healey

            Lou is correct. All 230 does is protect sites — like this one! — from liability from what commenters say.

            Basically, you can’t sue us if one of you defames/libels/slanders someone.

            It does not mean we’re obligated to have a comment section. Nor does it mean we can’t moderate the comments.

          • 0 avatar
            Matt Posky

            @28

            I don’t hate these guys, nor even want them banned from using websites. Lou does indeed have great things to contribute sometimes. I just don’t understand these positions when so much of what is written is frontloaded with needless ire and often veers off topic.

            It’s not my job to curate the comments and I have no desire to see anyone booted from the website. It would go against my core beliefs. I’m just trying to gain some kind of understanding why someone would knock free and open communications when they’re also the primary beneficiary.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @Matt Posky – “So are Lou and Margaret asking for TTAC to end their ability to comment?’

            Where did I say that?

            “These takes lack an ideological consistency that is leaving me genuinely perplexed.”

            LOL. For a writer, your sentence structure is lacking.

            I am rather consistent “ideologically” . I’m open to shifting my views if there is logic to a presentation. If it’s supposed to be fact based, then let’s see the facts. If it’s emotional, political, or social, it still can be presented logically.

            You’ve already attacked readers for disagreeing with your “ideological consistency”. This is just more of the same.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @28-Cars-Later – thanks for your kind words.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Lou

            You’re welcome.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          Come on Matt. 1st amendment is strictly governmental. You have no rights on a private site. Stop drinking the Koolaid.

    • 0 avatar
      eggsalad

      Another *brilliant Constitutional scholar* who has no idea what the Constitution actually says.

      All that 1A says is that the government can’t punish a person for speaking against the government. That’s all. It doesn’t force any private entity to give you a platform for your speech.

      • 0 avatar
        kcflyer

        “All that 1A says is that the government can’t punish a person for speaking against the government. That’s all”

        Nope, not even close. Thanks for playing. Here, I’ll make it easy for you.

        Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          What, people can show up on private property – which this site and AN both are – and say stuff that the property owner doesn’t approve of?

          Nope. Show up to court with a “they’re hurting my first amendment rights” argument and the judge will laugh you right out the door.

          The question isn’t whether sites have the right to say who can and can’t post there – it’s whether the site is being responsible about who it says can’t post there.

          If Twitter told some moron who was selling something like a fake cancer cure to shove off its’ property, or extolling the virtues of Lebensraum, I’m sure no one here would lose a minute of sleep.

        • 0 avatar
          Tim Healey

          Right — “Congress shall make no law.” We’re not Congress. We can do what we want with our comments. So can AN. For us, we want comments because we like you guys (generally), it adds value, and we are able to moderate the nasty and the spam out. AN clearly finds that the comments on that site are not adding value — and spam/bots may be a problem (I honestly don’t know). Private companies can do what they want with their platforms.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “I honestly don’t know”

            You could look into it? I am interested in what what actually happened in this case.

        • 0 avatar
          randy in rocklin

          that’s a chapter and verse everyone should read.

        • 0 avatar
          randy in rocklin

          that’s a chapter and verse everyone should read.

      • 0 avatar
        Margarets Dad

        Matt,

        I don’t follow your reasoning. Care to elaborate?

        Of course if TTAC wanted to kick me off, it has that right. This is a private business, and you’re certainly free to do that. Just like newspapers don’t have to print every letter they receive.

        However, given that the clicks generated by hate-commenting are basically the only thing keeping this place afloat, my strong suspicion is that you’ll welcome anyone with a pulse at this point.

        You should be grateful for anyone willing to come here and stir the conversation. Other than Corey and Murilee, there’s very little worth reading.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    “ All I know is that our comment section is going nowhere…” Figuratively, literally, or both?

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    Hopefully FaceBook and Twitter follow suit.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I spent two minutes searching on Mr. Brennan who seems to head up a think tank on automotive topics. While I know nothing about him, I find it curious he as an educated person -who also is a lecturer at Stanford’s Engineering School- isn’t the least bit concerned about the obvious censorship issues. Because AN’s general beef is probably the same as many other sites, likely now in a domino effect entire groups of people are going to be blocked completely. This is a serious civil rights issue, yet he makes flippant comments without even a sentence acknowledging there are two sides to this coin.

    • 0 avatar
      MitchConner

      Don’t assume everybody associated with schools like Stanford is smart because they aren’t.

      As for comments:

      1. Thank you TTAC for keeping them. SFGate got rid of theirs a few months ago. Got tired of conservatives showing up and pointing out how stupid San Francisco is — so they decided no more reality would contaminate their crazy echo chamber. There were some really good people on there. You could tell they enjoyed bashing on trash cans to get the dogs on the other side of the fence barking. They were really smart about it, too. Debate trained.

      2. Facebook got so bad I turfed my account 2-3 years ago. Twitter is so full of stupid I never even bothered. I can’t get over the stuff people post on LinkedIn these days — so much so that I personally review a job candidate’s activity before an offer is sent. If they’re rude or display hostile behavior they’re out. On the other hand if they write good articles, construct well thought out arguments, or demonstrate good professional insights that will help break a tie.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “I can’t get over the stuff people post on LinkedIn these days — so much so that I personally review a job candidate’s activity before an offer is sent.”

        I barely pay attention to LinkedIn because the entire concept is abhorrent to me (so instead of just expressing whatever ideas on Facebook, now we will get you to do it in front of employers). However I had to jump back on it because that’s what the cool kids are doing these days… shocking stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        “SFGate got rid of theirs a few months ago. Got tired of conservatives showing up and pointing out how stupid San Francisco is — so they decided no more reality would contaminate their crazy echo chamber.”

        That’s a pity that SFGate ended comments. To your point, there was quality debate that only sometimes devolved into an insult contest.

        LATimes has been a dumpster fire ever since it was acquired by Dr. Soon Shiong a few years ago. Not convinced it’s him that changed the paper, but investigative journalism has slowed to a trickle and it’s become a bullhorn not for news but for woke activism. And I’m not talking about the opinion columns – it’s the news that isn’t really news.

  • avatar
    TrnsprtrPL

    Keeping the comments at TTAC is imperative to the longevity of this site. Usually the comments to the articles > the actual articles themselves. I’ve been on here since the days of Farago but kill the comments you can count me out. Surely I’m not alone in opinion.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Other than Corey’s inventive pieces, what unique media has the site created or even still has since 2015? Please understand I am speaking of media types/series, not authors. We’ve lost Sajeev’s design series, Steve’s used car dealer series, Jack Baruth’s various series, Mark Baruth’s new dealer/business insight series, Ronnie Schreiber’s investigative pieces (though he may still be around sort of) – really the only unique thing retained was Murilee Martin’s Junkyard series. Then if you also factor in some of the brilliant folks who have tuned out the past five or so years, it adds insult to injury.

      So they’ve lost a lot of unique content, what has replaced it? News bot stuff is not new, op/ed pieces seem to have increased to compensate but its not working. Tesla is legit at this point but I don’t care much about it and I personally would not be passionate to read such a series/EV series. Its been a slow boat to nowhere for some time now, I would have tuned out if not for some of the folks here who I have chatted with for years.

      • 0 avatar
        Tim Healey

        To be clear, Ronnie and Mark/Bark are still welcome here. They are just busy with other work.

        Jack took another gig, as did Sajeev. Steve was gone before I got here. I’d love it if Jack and Sajeev were still here, but I can’t fault them for taking other gigs.

        • 0 avatar
          CoastieLenn

          @Tim, I don’t think anyone is faulting YOU directly, but I think 28 has hit a nail I didn’t even realize existed until just now. My addiction to this site formed with those columns and it’s unique content. TTAC, while still my first stop during my morning constitutional, has lost a LOT of it’s “pizazz” in the last few years, some might even say it’s lost MOST of it.

          Though it’s still immeasurably better than Jalop or some of the other more fringe car sites, TTAC used to offer things that you couldn’t get anywhere else. Now, aside from Corey’s stuff, it’s just a better presented (except for that damn ebay ad), better commentariat pool, carbon copy of almost anywhere else, with an added dose of politically laced, barely automotive relevant articles.

          The ship might be headed toward turbulent waters.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          @Tim

          Thanks. I will add to CoastieLenn’s point this quote from a relative newcomer above:

          “Other than Corey and Murilee, there’s very little worth reading.”

          This reinforced my own original point since this person has no knowledge of the previous contributors, and yet recognizes the issue.

      • 0 avatar
        TrnsprtrPL

        Dating myself to Farago was politely insinuating what you all are saying out loud – this place is not what it used to be. TTAC really hasn’t been the same since Jack Baruth left. But what does keep me coming back here are some of the commenters (I believe you joined at 25 cars later?). So you, TTAC staff, don’t have to reassure us about the comments staying put, but rather yourselves else you find TTAC about as interesting and popular as Deadspin.

  • avatar
    MKizzy

    My local newspaper shut down its comment section and took refuge behind a paywall because its shrinking pool of commenters had reached race war levels of toxicity.

    That clickbait magnet site Carbuzz isn’t nearly as bad but it took down its unmoderated comment section for a while last month and it would be no surprise if it shuts it down completely in the near future. It comment section is like hanging out with a playground of pre-teens who mostly hate the articles, hate whatever vehicle its about, and hate each other.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Your local newspaper is jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. I understand giving up on toxic comment sections, but they provide revenue. Some “news” sites intentionally print articles they know will incite toxic comments.

      Killing comments and putting themselves behind a paywall, however, may kill their electronic distribution to the point they go under. It’s a catch-22.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: if this site had an “ignore” button you could use to simply mute the creeps and trolls, this discussion would be largely moot.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      If we ever get a redesign — it’s been talked about but for a variety of reasons hasn’t advanced past the planning stage — I’ll add that to the suggestion box.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        How I’ve longed for a real forum setup here where you could post pics, links, videos, quote other users, have signatures, send private messages, change your avatar etc. The commenting software here is subpar but I can’t really complain since it doesn’t cost me a dime.

        I don’t need an ignore feature… its obvious which articles to avoid and the idiots are easy to spot as well.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          @JMII:
          The problem is that the trolls make the comment sections about articles that have anything to do with politics into pure excrement.

          So, yeah, you can just avoid those articles, but you’re also avoiding content that you might want to see.

          Seems to me that doesn’t really solve the problem.

          I suppose the other alternative is the banhammer. And there are some folks who deserve it. One such poster once said that if the apocalypse happened, he’d like to cannibalize his neighbors who voted for Biden. If coming on to a car site to advertise one’s taste for human flesh isn’t ban-worthy, I don’t know what is. But I’m sure the folks who run the site are wary of banning him (Her? They?) because it amounts to silencing someone.

          At the same time, we all know trolls like this guy – and others – show up because they like to get a rise out of people. Well, yeah…say stupid stuff, and people tend to get their backs up. It’s how they get their jollies.

          Thus, the ignore button. If the trolls don’t get their daily dose of attention, they’ll go away.

      • 0 avatar
        randy in rocklin

        another idea to add to your suggestion box is like and dislike notations.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      WHAT “creeps and trolls”?????

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      “ I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: if this site had an “ignore” button you could use to simply mute the creeps and trolls, this discussion would be largely moot.”

      Because utilizing an ounce of self control and ignoring those you don’t agree with or say things that hurt your feelings is soooo hard.

      Grow up.

  • avatar
    BSttac

    I find it more interesting that people actually pay for the bias opinions at Automotive News. Comments were probably all stating that so they decided to censor it.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    How soft must Automotive News be to conclude that no comments are better than spicy comments or offensive comments or the worst of all – comments expressing ideas with which they disagree.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      It’s in their title – Automotive News, not Automotive Discourse. What if they really don’t give a f*** about your opinion? I subscribe to a handful of paywall websites, mostly news and auto. About half invite comments. The rest have closed that feature in the past 3-4 years.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        That’s true. They don’t give a f about their reader’s opinions. I’d argue that eventually shows up in content or just results in a less interesting website to visit.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      The last. They just can’t stand that somebody can bring an intelligent counterpoint.
      I was for years a member of commenting section in the Ukrainian soccer club fan site. Then 2014 coup happened and a lot of people including site owner started to post political things. I happened to write a few comments with my naturally nasty opinion. I’ve got kicked out and all my comments were deleted, for all years. But the most interesting part is that looking 8 years back, all my predictions worked and theirs were just nice wishes that did not materialize.

      I have to say, I see it on youtube channels, other places – hosts just want to talk, not listen. And when they lose an argument, they say that you shouldn’t come there.

      • 0 avatar
        brn

        slavuta, they tell you not to meet your heroes and they’re right. I’ve some heroes in different areas (music being a big one). A few years ago, I foolishly started to follow some of them on youtube and other areas, just to get a peak into their creativity. At first, it was awesome, but then many decided to use their platforms as political soapboxes. They are so full of themselves and their cult following that don’t care what anyone thinks. What should have been enjoyable experience turned into a hateful environment. I can’t support that.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    TTAC commentaries are generally civil and reasonably intelligent. Compare and contrast to YouTube commentaries or formerly Yahoo commentaries until Yahoo shut them down.
    I love commentary threads and I gravitate to websites where the commentary threads are intelligent and reasonably respectful. National Review and The American Conservative have commentary threads are are good reads, and I get insights on political positions that I tend to disagree wtih.

    The Internet brings out the worst in people. I have a camping friend who is charming and fun loving and generous and wonderful to be around in person in our camp outs. He gets on Facebook and he turns into a venomous, vicious, angry, contemptuous (and I will add, ignorant . . but not stupid) right winger. Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @ttacgreg – I agree. Posts, for the most part, are generally civil and intelligent.
      I’m not sure why one’s personality/psyche changes the moment they hit electronic media. Mike Tyson sums it up rather nicely, “Social media made you all way too comfortable with disrespecting people and not getting punched in the face for it.” There’s a lot of truth to that. It’s hard to be a complete jerk when looking a person in the eyes.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        Lou, indeed. None of us can see an expression of pain, anger or joy through hundreds of miles of CAT5 cable. Seems that is what turns normal people into hair on fire lunatics.

        TTAC has long time posters that have some skin in the game – that seems to prevent some of the fringe from regularly appearing here.

  • avatar
    Ol Shel

    Sadly, Democracies will not survive Social Media, at least not in political systems that encourage bribery, such as here in the US. It’s far too easy to confuse and frighten the public, especially as AI and deep fakes become ever-more sophisticated. Speech isn’t meant to be altered, multiplied, and spread beyond what our vocal cords and printed pages can manage.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    “Just look at what happened when Twitter got its new CEO last night. They immediately added new restrictions for what users can post. This kind of stuff is a blight on the internet.”

    To be fair, Twitter itself is a blight on the internet.

  • avatar

    I do not read comment sections anymore because it quickly turns into white noise. Except of TTAC because it was filled with worthy comments from insiders. But even today I know what to expect from every actor. E.g. I know what EBFlex is going to say about Ford. Or Lou_BC will ask for sources or “factcheckers”.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    This site makes money off of clicks and comments. Mo’ clicks, mo’ money. It’s kind of how “free” websites exist. If somebody paid $1 to throw an egg on one of the editors’ cars; the comment section would be incensed. 20$ an egg, some would ask if there was a garden hose nearby. 1000$ an egg? Most on here would ask if they could get in on this deal.

    Free speech has little or nothing to do with the comments section. Look at the strong cause and effect between the removal of moderators and the increase of political vitriol and personal attacks on this site. The editors know that the anonymity of the internet gives people false courage to say things they would never say person to person. Tim, Matt, and Jo know this personally and keep scribing away.

    II do wish most of the political commentators would realize that only their fellow believers agree with them when they use buzzwords be it “Brandon” or “Voldemort = Republican”. Most of us go “damn, I’ve read this far” and go to the next comment.

    I could come on here and write, “I sneak into COVID wards late at night and stick my unmasked face inches away from a patient’s face, have deviant sexual practices that would put an elected official to shame, think that fascism shouldn’t have been abandoned, especially if I was one of the ones in charge, and oh by the way I think the Japanese make some darn fine cars.”

    The above paragraph would be acceptable on this site because it said something about cars. I’d just be copying one of the editors.

  • avatar
    teddyc73

    Thanks for being one of the few in the “automotive space” to keep using comments. I have seen comments drop in the “news space” the “entertainment space” and whole bunch of other “spaces”. Now if we could just get you to stop using “space” in that context.

  • avatar
    1337cr3w

    There is a general trend across the internet to eliminate public discourse. They say that it’s to prevent trolling / toxicity / disinformation etc. That’s all well and good, but it’s leading to an internet where the only things we see are dictated by corporate and government interests.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    past year has been nothing but trumptards with the usual lies. biden won- deal with it

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