All the Reasons Why Trolls Need to Be Moderated

This article was originally posted on INMA.

Not all internet users have good intentions. Through misinformation and harassment, there are countless trolls online that cause the quality of conversations and content to decay.

The destructive power of trolls has only been intensified by the ongoing pandemic.

“We are swimming in a cesspool of misinformation,” states Jevin west, a professor at the University of Washington’s Information School. “The pandemic likely makes it worse because increased levels of uncertainty creates the kinds of environments that trolls take advantage of.” 

Even on your company’s digital properties, far away from social media, trolls are completely toxic to the environment. 

But you shouldn’t have to choose between letting trolls run rampant on your company’s properties and getting rid of social tools altogether. After all, providing social experiences online for your audiences is essential to building a loyal community.

If you want to protect your company’s content and audience against trolls, moderation is your best line of defense. Simply ignoring trolls isn’t enough, and will run the following risks on your properties:

Harming Your Brand’s Reputation

Trying to position yourself as a trustworthy space for news or a prime destination for entertainment? 

No matter how interesting and reliable your content is, trolls have the power to ruin the way consumers see your brand. 

In fact, Pew Research Center reports that “one-in-ten (13%) say they have stopped using an online service after witnessing other users engage in harassing behaviors.”

This means that allowing trolls to exist on your digital properties causes consumers to perceive your content to be toxic and avoid your digital properties. 

Moderation can give your company the power to align comments with your community guidelines, which will help solidify your company’s position as a brand worth engaging with and supporting.

Ruining On-Site Engagement Tools and Events

When left unchecked, trolls can effortlessly turn your engagement tools and digital events into dangerous territory for visitors. 

According to Leigh Adams, product manager of moderation services at Viafoura, trolls quickly become the vocal minority, and can quickly overtake and drown out more relevant conversation.”

And this comes with some detrimental consequences. More specifically, it can lower the effectiveness of any on-site audience engagement features your company has put in place. Irrelevant conversations block your engagement tools from their primary purpose: to build meaningful audience connections around content that matters. 

While trolls manipulate and harass others for a multitude of reasons, they all have one thing in common: they demand attention. As a result, unless trolls are effectively dealt with, they can sabotage the overall consumer experience on your digital properties.

Setting a Bad Example for New Users

Allowing trolls to do whatever they want can attract a significant amount of hostile and offensive behavior from other users. 

Failing to deal with toxic behavior shows users that they can be as aggressive and obnoxious as they want without facing any ramifications. So without putting a trustworthy moderation solution in place, you’re practically inviting community members and visitors to showcase their bad behavior. 

What may be grotesquely cathartic at the individual level simultaneously blooms into a toxic form of expression that ultimately erodes collective good will,” explains Kent Bausman, a Sociology professor at Maryville University. 

In other words, consumers can’t be perfectly separated into trolls and good community members — it’s easy for anyone to become a troll when hidden behind a screen. 

Bausman also suggests that trolling can often behave like a contagion, infecting other people if you don’t immediately isolate it.

Breaking Apart Your Existing Engaged Audience

Over one-quarter of Americans avoid contributing to conversations online after seeing toxicity in digital social spaces. 

By letting even a single troll run wild, your active audience as well as new visitors will be discouraged from engaging with others around your content. 

This poses a major problem, though. The less your audience engages on your properties, the less they’ll rely on your site or app for day-to-day interactions and human connection.

Keep your audience loyal, comfortable and profitable by ensuring trolls aren’t wreaking havoc on your community. 

You don’t need to choose between interactive tools and a safe environment for your consumers — you simply need to hunt down trolls that threaten your social spaces. And it’s never too late to get started.

5 Ways to Decrease Trolling and Improve the Quality of Your Comments

With the prevalence of online trolls, some organizations have put up their hands and given up on the comment section. But doing so, even temporarily, has major drawbacks for organizations…

Last updated October 28th, 2019


  1. Reward users to encourage desired conversations
  2. Offer moderation tools to your users
  3. Use artificial intelligence in conjunction with your human efforts
  4. Quiz your users to weed out those who haven’t read the full story
  5. Stop anonymous comments

With the prevalence of online trolls, some organizations have put up their hands and given up on the comment section altogether. But doing so, even temporarily, has major drawbacks for organizations and their users.

As Carrie Lysenko Head of Digital for The Weather Network pointed out in an RTNDA Canada panel on engagement, turning off comments can result in a significant drop in pageviews and attention time. This echoes Viafoura’s own findings that brands with commenting can increase pageviews by 248% and attention time by 364%. This increased engagement leads to higher registrations and subscriptions since engaged users are more likely to pay for premium services.

And while managing online communities has traditionally been cumbersome and expensive, today there are many cost-effective ways to reduce or eliminate trolling. For media companies, these new tools allow you to not only keep your comment section open, but also to capitalize on your user-generated content.

Reward Users to Promote Civil Comments

Trusted-user badge

Encourage users to submit thoughtful comments by rewarding your best commenters with a trusted-user badge. With this status, an icon will appear beside the user’s name for others to see. These trusted users are also able to publish their comments in real time without being moderated.

Editor’s pick

Another way to reward users is by giving their comment the editor’s pick status. These comments can be featured in prominent positions on your website to model the types of comments you want to receive.

This is also beneficial for SEO, because comments that are placed higher on your webpage will get indexed by Google, and the keywords in those comments may be a closer match to users’ own search terms than those used by a journalist.

Create articles from users’ comments

Many organizations today including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) are creating stories entirely from their users’ comments. These stories not only reward commenters for their insightful posts, but are cost-effective, quick to publish and receive a surprisingly high amount of attention time and comments. Some even attract more comments than the original piece from which they were taken.

To see the impact of these articles, we tracked the number of comments for eight user-generated blog posts in CBC’s Revenge of the Comment Section, comparing those to the number of comments for their original articles.

The results are depicted in the chart below:

It’s significant to note that while almost all of the original stories received more comments, the user-generated articles often weren’t far behind. And in one instance, for Story 2, there were more comments for the user-generated article (601,000) than for its original article (343,000). Readers also spent approximately 2.3x more time on the former page.

That’s pretty fascinating since these articles can be created at a fraction of the time and cost it takes a journalist to create a new article from scratch.

Offer Content Moderation Tools to Your Users and Managers


Allow users to easily flag comments that they find offensive, using a noticeable red flag icon. When a comment receives a predetermined amount of flags, it will enter a queue for review with a moderator who will decide the appropriate action.

Timed user banning

Give short “timeouts” as little as a few hours, days or months and notify users as to why they are being banned to help them improve the quality of their comments. Alternatively, users can be permanently banned for repeated offenses.

Dislike button

The dislike button allows users to express their dislike for a comment, without having to flag it (which requires a moderator’s time and resources). We found that this button can reduce flagging by 50% in as little as two weeks upon implementation.


Both The New York Times and The Guardian have created games that allow readers to try moderating content. Users are tasked with approving or rejecting comments and providing reasoning for their decisions. This is not only enjoyable for users, but eases some of the burden on moderators.

Use AI Moderation to Eliminate Online Harassment

Whether your organization employs dedicated moderators or tasks other employees with removing the “trash,” you could be saving countless hours and dollars with automated moderation.

Automated moderation uses natural-language processing and artificial intelligence to automatically categorize and eliminate trolling, spam and online harassment.

Viafoura’s Automated Moderation is programmed with over six million variations of problematic words or phrases. This means that it’s able to determine both the subject matter and the sentiment behind users’ comments, detecting and eliminating spam, foul language, abuse, personal attacks and other uncivil comments before other users can even see them.

If the system encounters a new word or sentence that it’s unsure of, it flags the instance for a moderator to review. As a moderator approves or rejects new words, through the power of machine learning, the algorithm will learn the new rules and get smarter over time.

On average, our studies have found that automated moderation has a higher accuracy rate (92%) than human moderation (81%), and reduces 90% of the time and cost it takes to moderate a community manually.

Quiz Your Users

The Norwegian tech news website, NRKbeta, encourages thoughtful comments by asking their readers to prove they read the whole story by taking a quiz. Their organization believes that this quiz can weed out users who haven’t read the story, while also giving users time to reflect on how they will comment instead of just typing a response to a shocking headline.

Their reporter, Stale Grut, comments, “When a lot of journalists hit ‘publish’ I think that they see themselves finished with a story. But we see that you’re only halfway through with the article when you’ve published it.” Their goal is to improve articles through collaboration.

Many commenters agreed that this tactic would promote insightful comments. Here’s what they had to say:

“It WILL raise the discourse, and it will improve the journalism too. And why should some poor intern have to sit and delete all the trash? Let a computer do it.”

“I would not object to that if it reduced the uninformed and off-topic as well as useless comments”

End Anonymous Commenting

By allowing users to register for your website through one of their social media accounts, with the use of social login, they are less likely to post harassing comments because they can easily be identified.

The social login button also generally increases conversion rates by 20% to 40%, while giving you access to user information that can be used to create targeted messaging.

Increased Engagement = Higher Revenue

If you’re committed to improving the quality of interactions on your website, you may find that using moderators alone can be expensive and time-consuming. Luckily, today we can count on technology to encourage quality comments and eliminate the number of personal attacks. And by improving the quality of interactions on your site, you can look forward to increased engagement, improved brand loyalty and enhanced lifetime value from your users.

Need more help?

If you’re looking to drive engagement and leverage user-generated content, let’s connect.

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