The silence of the Internet

This week the popular film site IMDb (the Internet Movie Database) closed its message boards. Apparently this was because commenting was “no longer providing a positive, useful experience for the vast majority of our more than 250 million monthly users worldwide.” I don’t know how true that is. I spent a lot of time reading those threads. Sure there was some trolling, but less than you might imagine, and a lot of the conversations were well informed and informative. Roger Ebert even used to quote from them in his later essays.

I’ve also heard that the message boards made less income from ads and were costing too much to run, which sound like more accurate reasons for shutting them down.

In any event, I’ll be very sad to see them go. A year ago I wrote a post about how large parts of the Internet were turning away from the model of an open forum by disallowing comments on news stories. A lot of the backlash has latched on to the figure of the villainous troll, and how anonymous haters spreading fake news and all the rest of it represent a clear and present danger to civil society. I’m not defending the trolls, but that seems like a massive exaggeration to me, and I suspect it’s just an excuse being used to stifle different points of view. I’ve certainly had comments I’ve made at various news sites deleted by moderators over the years, all of which were just expressions of political opinions (that is, non-obscene, non-personal, non-threatening). Sure there were silly posts on the IMDb boards, but I suspect what’s really happening here is that advertisers didn’t have any use for them and the site operators found them uncontrollable, so they had to go.

Is this the Internet 3.0 taking shape? I don’t like it.

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