Mar 13, 2008
Amber

Thumbs up/Thumbs down: Silencing Thought?

I’ve been thinking about comment ratings. It seems most Web sites now have some sort of ability for people to rate (+/-, thumbs up/thumbs down) people’s comments. I think it was originally created as a way for users to self-police their communities. It’s nice to not have to read spam and incredibly offensive diatribes that have nothing to do with the conversation because some other users have kindly rated them down to the hidden status.

However, what about all those comments that are rated down simply because a lot of people don’t agree with them? Are we silencing voices on the one plane that has traditionally been truly free in terms of speech and conversation? I am guilty of this myself. I don’t like what someone says and without thinking twice I give them a thumbs down/ a negative/ a 1 star. Not only does this kill the conversation and silence thought, it makes for lazy users. People who could have addressed the comment in a reply now lazily show opposition to the statement with a simple click of a button.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of “thumbs downed” comments on Digg:

  • Regarding an article about a lawmaker in Kentucky who is trying to pass a bill in his community disallowing anonymity on the Internet.

mdude85 posts: “I think some form of internet accountability is very important, but this particular bill leaves a lot to be desired. I guess it’s a step in the right direction though.

Anyway, as I interpret it, requiring non-anonymity on the Internet is not a violation of 1st Amendment privacy rights. If you consider the Internet as a public place (accessible by right or invitation, expressed or implied), then posting on-line is akin to making a comment in public. The right to privacy only holds in private places, not public ones. So requiring an ID to make an internet post would not be an invasion of privacy (even if you are using the Internet from a private place such as your home).”

-Negative 18 Diggs

  • Regarding a link to a YouTube video with a speech by Barack Obama saying the candidate supports Net Neutrality.

Bagos posts: “You keep it neutral by keeping the government OUT OF IT. People really don’t know what this means. It means governance, and once there is governance there is control and once there is control it is not neutral anymore.”

-Negative 34 Diggs

  • Regarding a news article about the Marines investigating the video of a soldier throwing a puppy.

Airiox posts: “You people are disgusting wishing a human death for what he did to an animal. What he did was abhorrent, but no in ways does it justify the stance that many people have taken which is wishing him death, loss of limb, etc. To top that off what is most disconcerting is people taking out this one Marines actions upon every single member of the armed service. Just as in life, there are bad apples. 99% of the members of the armed services of America are good upstanding people that take seriously their actions and the effects its has on others.

For every story like this there is a thousand others that shows the good character of our men and woman in our uniform. Unfortunately those stories never garnish the same attention that this has.”

-Negative 54 Diggs

Should these comments truly be hidden or given less worth? I think they add something to the conversation to be sure. With the Digg default settings, any post with “-4 or higher” is visible. While everything below -4 is automatically hidden to most users.

Is this a good idea gone bad? Will you think about why you’re rating something down the next time you do it?

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