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News24 shuts down comment sections on most stories

The site announced it made the decision after complaints that most debates dissolved into racist hate-speech.

FILE: News24 announced this morning that it would no longer allow people to comment on its stories. Picture: Screengrab News24.com.

JOHANNESBURG - News24.com on Tuesday announced it was going to close the comments sections on most of its stories because it's tried every other way of moderating what people say on them.

The site announced it would no longer allow people to comment on its stories after long-running complaints that most debates dissolved into racist hate-speech.

News24 Editor Andrew Trench says they believe they are justified in closing down the comments sections.

"There's rising intolerant and correctly so; that's the limitations on free speech that exist in the Constitution, including hate speech. They are increasingly not being tolerated and I don't think they should be tolerated by South Africans like us."

But Media Monitoring Africa head William Bird says this doesn't mean people will stop making racist comments.

"I guess the question is… is it is acceptable that a big media house wants to then send off or pass of that role of mediating comments to another entity like Facebook."

Trench says their site has attracted more of these comments than other sites, simply because it has more readers.

He says they really had no choice.

"We really have tried every possible route that we can to practically moderate and monitor the comments that are made. We are at a point now where there is a more constructive way to handle this."

While Bird says it seems impossible to have a proper debate on the website.

"You could have a story about giving birth to chickens on a farm and it would suddenly become a racist tirade. Against that you then have to say what you do when you shut that kind of discussion down. Where are you forcing those people to go?"

Earlier this year the Equality Court said people who provided platforms for online discussions could be held responsible if they are used to publish hate speech.