The Berkshire Eagle abruptly suspended its link to Topix on Friday, with a three-paragraph announcement on its website. The posting says the disconnect was done while "its managers examine options for online discussions."
The North Adams Transcript and Bennington Banner were still using Topix over the weekend.
The Eagle and its sister New England Newspaper publications signed onto the independent forum site and local news aggregator a couple years ago to use its platform for commenting on its articles. Topix, headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif., was launched with capital from the Knight Ridder, Tribune and Gannett news publishing groups.
In March, TechCrunch reported Topix overall was getting more than 125,000 comments a day and 120 million pageviews a month. It's the type of commenting that happens on Topix, however, that may be giving The Eagle pause. The site removes 45,000 comments a month and gets hit with 10 subpoenas a week. (For more on Topix's growth, the TechCrunch article is here.)
iBerkshires was posting some of its stories to the Topix discussions groups; we also are editors for North Adams, Pittsfield and Williamstown and the photos you see on the North Adams news page are ours. But the quick slide into nastiness in the Topix forums led me, the editor, to stop posting. The Topix aggregator roboblogger still picks up our stuff but there are rarely any comments. As far as I can tell, most readers around here arrive at Topix through the newspapers' online articles not through the town news pages.
Topix is not so much a community forum for the sharing of ideas, but a cesspool of name-calling, slander and really, really inappropriate comments. For every thoughtful idea or positive comment, there are 10, or a hundred, verbal assaults. The site's immediate posting of anonymous commentary certainly fuels the fiery ripostes and a coalition of attorneys general have targeted some of the site's practices.
We know that the newspapers' editors have removed abusive comments as best they can.
At iBerkshires, we're stodgy but clean. Every comment is reviewed before posting; sometimes it's a difficult call between snarky, honest-if-critical opinion and nastiness. We've had to pull some comments after initially posting them but overall we've done our best to keep posters on track. We are considering ways to make it easier to post that will likely mean some type of membership with us.
According The Eagle post, it wants "a forum for open and respectful discussions." We hope we've been providing our readers with that for the past few years. If we need to do more, let us know.
Update: The Transcript joined its sister paper in delinking from Topix on Tuesday, Aug. 10. It offered the same brief reasoning on its website, stating "The Transcript has suspended our Topix forum indefinitely due to continuing abuse."
Both papers say they're looking at other forms that will allow commenting to resume.
Pittsfield.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.
An inevitable decision.... Instead of being a beacon of free speech and community discussion, the forums of Topix are a cesspool of hate mongering. Just look at the former local entries...The same people over and over again, who apparently hate all government, politicians and anyone who disagrees with them and have nothing better to do than to spew hate to make the world pay for their own inadequacies and misery.
Thank you! All Topix would have to do is require registration of users and a human moderator and they would have a good company but instead they take the trash approach. Many of the forums are nothing but a haven for cyberbullying. It is simply a joke and any company that uses them comes across as looking bad. Libel, bullying, etc is not what is meant by freedom of speech. I applaud your decision and hope many more follow suit. Oh, by the way, their new agreement with the Attorney Generals is also a joke. I have been trying to get several posts moved for a long time. When the new "agreement" came out, I reported them again. They still haven't removed any of the posts meaning their three deal day was just a way to get the Attorney Generals off their back.
Thank the world for that. I have seen stories about cyberbullying on sites like Facebook, My Space, and others and it is bad, but nothing like Topix. When you have unmoderated forums and people don't have to even register, that's what you are going to get nothing but hatred. I normally favor less government but internet laws are something seriously needed. People are dying over these things or having their reputations destroyed. I don't see how any reputable news company could use someone like Topix and hope other companies follow suit.
As someone a little older we didn't even know there would ever be an internet growing up. Therefore some of us are still a little naive when it comes to what a threat the internet can be especially to children. Topix isn't about freedom of speech it is about attacking the innocent and in a cowardly fashion. I am concerned about my children and sites like Facebook and My Space but at least they have some restrictions (granted not enough) Topix has no scruples whatsoever. How about registration and moderated forums, most real companies do that.
The Berkshire Eagle example along with the Hartford Courant example needs to be followed by other newspapers.
There is no justifiable reason why our society needs to allow a company to profit handsomely and partner corporately based on a business model whose success is driven by its ability to allow people to destroy the lives of others through online defamation, hatred, bullying and bigotry. Not only has TOPIX spun out of control, it dominates search engines and refuses to archive posts, meaning that people who ended up as victims of someone else momentary rage needs to live for YEARS in the shadow of the comments made about this. Please lets stop this. Visit http://toxictopix.webs.com/ for a full list of links and educational information about TOPIX as well as some suggestions on how we can recruit the help of corporations who are doing business with them today.
Let me offer a good suggestion to everyone. If you do get attacked on Topix (and considering thousands of people including small children are attacked daily the chances are decent) don't respond back. That is what the company wants. It adds to their hits and comments. It takes a real coward to hide behind a keyboard and attack people