New Zealand’s largest news website, Stuff, cracked down on reader comments Tuesday after the Christchurch mosque massacre sparked debate about how the media handles online hate.
The stuff.co.nz site said it aimed to host a welcoming online environment but conceded “too often, our comments section has allowed casual prejudice to seep in from the fringes”.
“Of the comments that are posted, most are fair expression — but it only takes a little toxin to poison an entire stream,” Stuff editor-in-chief Patrick Crewdson wrote on the website.
Christchurch shooting accused Brenton Tarrant is believed to have posted a rambling “manifesto” online before a gun rampage at two mosques that claimed 50 lives in the South Island city on March 15.
Tarrant, an Australian white supremacist, apparently made references in the document designed to maximise mainstream media coverage of his actions.
He also livestreamed the attack and the footage was aired by some media outlets — although New Zealand authorities have since banned both the video and the document.
The atrocity, the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s history, has prompted soul-searching among journalists and media outlets about how to stop extremists using them as a vehicle to spread extreme views.
“The accused’s abhorrent ideology was rehearsed in the darkest corners of the web, not on mainstream news sites, but it’s still timely for us to check the health of Stuff’s comments section,” Crewdson wrote.
He said the site’s moderators would clamp down on personal attacks and prejudice, while the ability to upvote or downvote comments would be removed.