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All thumbs

Some 10 years or more ago we added a comment section to our news reports/stories, allowing those who registered provide their views or information. It is true that from time to time we have had some unpleasant, false or abusive comments, but they have been a very small minority of all the comments posted, and once we added some rigidly enforced rules, they have become rarer still.

A couple of years later we added in the thumbs up/thumbs down feature following a suggestion that we received. This allows any reader to show their support or disagreement for a comment. They have on the whole been seen as a good thing, reflecting reader's views. However, no matter how positive or pleasant a comment is, there are always a couple of individuals who will give a thumbs down, either because they don’t like the person who has commented or simply to be disagreeable.

From time to time some of our readers have suggested we drop the thumbs down option. We did drop it for obituaries shortly after the feature was added, as one or two trolls would ‘thumbs down’ personal tributes - something we considered to be out of order.

However, with regular news stories, there is another side to the argument, when someone makes a disagreeable or misguided comment - that may be distasteful or just plain wrong - but does not break our rules or any laws, readers have the option to disagree with it by using the ‘thumbs down’ feature. So, it does have a positive upside.

We have also had suggestions that we bar anyone from posting anonymously, but trying to make sure that only real or valid names are used is fraught with difficulty, as social media giants around the world will testify. It is almost impossible, unless you ask for a credit card or scan some form of photo identity and compare it with official records - something beyond us and given data collection and storage rules fraught with legal challenges.

Based on this we feel that disabling it would actually ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’ and while it might stop a little negativity, it would also prevent the option of disagreeing with comments that are unpleasant. Please let us know what you think in our online poll.

Do you think we should:
Abolish the thumbs down feature on comments?
Maintain the thumbs down feature ?