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For media companies, managing online comments--particularly on stories involving race or religion--has become an often-tricky, sometimes-impossible proposition. Fox News has been dealing with this issue a lot lately.
On Friday, Fox News' Fox Nation website was forced to shut down comments on a post that referred to President Obama's 50th birthday party as a "Hip-Hop BBQ," after receiving many submissions that were racist. "We found many of the comments to be offensive and inappropriate and they have been removed," Bill Shine, the executive vice president of Fox News programming, told The Cutline on Friday.
The response followed a similar incident late last month, when Fox News' Facebook page received a deluge of hateful comments after Blair Scott, the communications director for American Atheists, appeared as a guest on Fox's "America Live" to discuss the group's lawsuit seeking to halt the inclusion of a cross at the World Trade Center Memorial.
The network deleted the post after identifying more than 200 threatening comments--including death threats aimed at Scott. Fox News has more than 2.2 million Facebook fans.
"We make every attempt to keep our Facebook page as safe as possible," Peter Drace, Fox News VP and creative director of promotion, said in a statement to The Cutline. "And we take immediate steps to remove all hateful and dangerous language."
Blair appeared on Fox on July 28; the post, which appeared on the Fox Facebook page later that night, was removed early on July 30, Fox said--but not before an atheist blogger managed to capture screenshots.
Fox Nation was able to close the comments section on the "Hip-Hop BBQ" post. But on Facebook, users do not have the ability to prevent other users from commenting on shared links. They either have to delete comments individually--an arduous process that involves constant monitoring of your Facebook wall--or delete the link entirely, as Fox opted to do.
A quick scan of Fox News' Facebook page, however, shows that monitoring offensive comments is a 24/7 job.
Of course, Fox News isn't alone in the offensive comment battle. Late week, New York magazine removed a video featuring sixth graders explaining the congressional debt ceiling deal. "After some negative reactions to the video, we've taken it offline," the magazine said.