Emerging practices for managing user misconduct in online news media comments sections

Publication Date08 July 2019
AuthorAmalia Juneström
SubjectLibrary & information science,Records management & preservation,Document management,Classification & cataloguing,Information behaviour & retrieval,Collection building & management,Scholarly communications/publishing,Information & knowledge management,Information management & governance,Information management,Information & communications technology,Internet
Emerging practices for managing
user misconduct in online news
media comments sections
Amalia Juneström
Uppsala Universitet, Uppsala, Sweden
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to bridge a gap in knowledge on the professional information
practices of a group of people whose daily work of managing user-generated content online exposes them to
users whom they perceive as acting aggressively or otherwise offensively online.
Design/methodology/approach Journalistsnarratives of practices for managing and responding to user
comments perceived as offensive are analysed qualitatively. For this purpose, ten interviews with journalists
from nine different news organisations in Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Canada were conducted.
Findings The study finds that the environment in which the journalists work plays a vital role in the
evolution of the practices. Practices,indissolubly tied to the contexts or sites in which peoples activities take
place, areconditioned by moral values,traditions and collectiveexperiences which journalistsenact through the
practice they engage in when they are dealing with user posts online. The site, conceived as an information
landscape,is that of the newsroom. Practicesfor managing usersonline evolve through actorsparticipating in a
process of learningand their ability to adopt the culturalnorms and values of their environment.
Originality/value This study sheds light on the mechanisms behind the evolution of practices for
handling user-generated content online and it reports on the importance of properties such as norms, values
and emotions for how things are done in the information landscape of news journalism.
Keywords Newspapers, Communication, Behaviour, Information society, Internet,
Digital communications, Information media
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
With the introduction of the internet, news providers have found new ways to communicate
and engage with their readers (Hermida, 2010; Lee, 2015; Lee et al., 2017). As much as the
internet has contributed to the emergence of new practices for presenting and consuming
news, it has also induced new ways of interacting over news-related topics. One site for such
interaction is comments sections below news articles, either on news organisationsown
websites or on social media. In fact, commenting on news is today one of the most common
forms of reader participation online (Hille and Bakker, 2014; Santana, 2014).
Butwhathappenswhenthenewformsofengagement inspire and enable practices that are
diametrically opposed to the intended aims of the news providers? User-generated content which
is perceived as abusive, hateful or offensive by the news providers and their representatives is
consider how to manage comments sections. Considering the extent to which news providers
practise content moderation and the fast-growing number of studies on antagonistic activities
online (e.g. Hardeker, 2010; Hopkinson, 2013; Phillips, 2015; Brodnig, 2016), there is surprisingly
little research on the practices of how online user-generated content is managed.
The aim of this study is to investigate how professional practices for dealing with
usergenerated content perceived as offensive evolve in the information landscape of news
journalism. In thisstudy, a practice is considered abusivewhen and if it is perceived as suchby
the interviewed journalists. In contrast to earlier research, this article does not explore practices
Journal of Documentation
Vol. 75 No. 4, 2019
pp. 694-708
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/JD-09-2018-0143
Received 10 September 2018
Revised 29 January 2019
Accepted 31 January 2019
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
The author would like to thank my supervisors Professor Isto Huvila and Associate Professor Ulrika
Kjellman at Uppsala University and Associate Professor Jutta Haider at Lund University for their support.

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