The internet has a problem, and that problem is people. Dramatic incidents of public harassment, abuse and threatening behaviour are never far from the news, and during recent years, public awareness of this unpleasantness has grown dramatically. With it has come an understanding of the harms done, not just by high-level threats and abusive behaviour but by a more insidious culture of dismissal, denigration and disrespect that surrounds them.
There is a widespread perception that these are problems that need to be solved, and many digital media sites – including Twitter, Facebook and many others – are actively looking for solutions.
The Guardian is among them. Like the rest of the internet, the Guardian’s comments can be a pleasure to read and participate in; they can also be a hard slog full of dismissive discrimination, or a grim argument between camps whose views are immovable and whose main goal is simply to advance an agenda.