News Site Makes Commenters Take A Quiz Before They Start ‘Trolling’

Eric Lieberman | Deputy Editor

NRKbeta, the technology section of the Norwegian state-owned broadcasting company, is forcing readers to complete a quiz on the content of a story before writing a comment.

The public media corporation says that certain articles with the quiz have a discussion section that is way more edifying and constructive, because the commenters have actually read the story.

“We thought we should do our part to try and make sure that people are on the same page before they comment,” NRkbeta journalist Ståle Grut said, according to NiemanLab, a journalism project at Harvard University. “If everyone can agree that this is what the article says, then they have a much better basis for commenting on it.”

NiemanLab highlights a particular article where the testing function was employed and the discourse in the comment section was civil and valuable. The story was primarily centered around a prospective surveillance law in Norway, specifically a tool called “Stalkscan” that lets people browse for public information on Facebook.

The questions (automatically translated on Google Chrome) were rather simple, like “Who developed Stalkscan?” and “Should you be terrified of Stalkscan?”

Surveillance is often a contentious topic, no matter the country, so NRKbeta was happy to see the virtual discussions to be courteous and fruitful, not purposefully derogatory and peppered with vitriolic language.

Google parent company Alphabet recently announced that it was working with several media outlets, like The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Economist, in order to develop machine learning technology that can create better online conversations by automatically identifying “toxic comments.” (RELATED: Twitter Says It’s Developing New Tools For Online Censorship)

NRKbeta is trying to explore other means of preventing online “trolls,” the informal term for Internet users who deliberately post offensive or provocative content.

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