Here at RedState, I always try to be mindful of who we’re trying to speak to here. I always assume I’m writing so that citizen activists can be informed on what issues are out there, how they relate to our core values, why they matter, and how to navigate the political world to achieve those policy aims.
But sometimes I come here to write about the nuts and bolts of online activism. Today is one of those times. My message this afternoon is simple: If you care about what’s on your website, at all, then do not put the Disqus comments system on your site. You will lose control of what’s there.
Disqus and its defenders claim that it has all the advantage of running your own comments section with added benefits. But this isn’t the case. Once you’re on Disqus, then you’re at the mercy of Disqus to deal with problem users. And those users can do a number of bad things that are out of your control.
Firstly, users can change their names and avatars at will. Your moderators can do nothing about this. Offensive names? Insulting names? You can’t do a thing about it.
Oh, ban the users? Sorry, nice try. Because there’s a way users can game the system to get their usernames, no matter what their contents, onto your site without any action possible against it: upvoting. Here’s a live example of it at RedState. And here’s some screenshots of the kind of trolling that can be done. Remember: we can neither ban the user (since we don’t know the username) nor rename the user ourselves, nor even delete the upvotes.
That upvoting is especially problematic due to how stalker-friendly Disqus is. Yes, a user can ‘follow’ another user, to see what that person is commenting on any Disqus site therefore a stalker can follow your users anywhere on the Internet to apply this sort of harassment.
Disqus is bad for publishers who care about community, and about the communities on the sites that have Disqus inflicted upon them.
I’m not the first person to come to this conclusion, either. Disqus is a real problem. Keep it off your site, and if you already have it on your site, consider removing it. It’s better for you and your community if you do.
Photo by Robin Hastings on flickr