Journal of the Association for Information Systems


Due to the development of media information technologies and the proliferation of mobile devices, the Internet has rapidly moved to the center of news readership. In contrast to traditional media, Internet news is often coupled with commenting platforms that can accommodate readers’ immediate feedback to news stories. However, a side-effect of this feature—malicious comments—is becoming an increasingly serious social problem. To alleviate this problem and increase the likelihood of comments functioning as deliberative discussion, we suggest two moderation policies—a policy of providing high-quality seed comments and a policy of increased identifiability through social networking service accounts—and examine their effects through a longitudinal online experiment. We designed experimental groups according to a 2 x 2 between-subjects factorial design. For our experiment, a total of 137 subjects read news stories and commented on them over 15 days by using a mobile Android application developed specifically for the experiment. We found the following relationships. First, both seed quality and identifiability improve the quality of user comments in terms of deliberative discussion. Second, these effects are comparable in magnitude. Third, there are no significant interaction effects between seeds and identifiability. Fourth, the effects of high-quality seeds disappear early with anonymous users but persist when users are identified by social media accounts. Fifth, the negative effects of low-quality seeds are present and persistent only when combined with anonymity. Otherwise, the negative effects of low-quality seed comments are canceled out by the positive effects of identifiability. Finally, anonymous males are easily provoked to respond to low-quality seed comments, but most females do not respond to such comments even in anonymous situations.