Think of the internet, and right up there with gifs, cats and nutshots you'll probably think of comments. Awful, terrible, hateful comments, full of bigotry, spite and venom. It's long been assumed that might just be the way the internet works, but surprisingly, things might actually be changing.
In the last week, some of the biggest and most important sites in the world have begun taking serious measures aimed at curbing the vile garbage people leave anonymously beneath articles and stories.
We've got YouTube - long believed to be home to the very worst in internet commentary - introducing filters and Google + integration. Popular Science made the drastic decision to kill comments on its site entirely, so fed up had its editors become with their effects on the site (and science itself!).
Today GameSpot, one of the two biggest game sites in the world (the other big one, IGN, took similar steps only two months ago), joined the push, issuing a statement that it would soon be introducing a strict new terms of service for commenting on the site. It reads, "One of the biggest issue plaguing GameSpot is the abysmal practices seen in our comment section."
"Hate speech and threats have no place in any community that hopes to be welcoming and engaging towards anyone who simply wants to talk to likeminded individuals."
Those who break the rules three times will be permanently banned from the site, which may seem lenient in some respects, but it's a massive site, so you had to expect some level of warning to be built into things.
GameSpot's response comes only a week after the site became a magnet for some of the worst comments I've seen in a long time (see above). Despite giving the game a 9/10, GameSpot writer Carolyn Petit dared mention in her review of Grand Theft Auto V that the game features misogyny. What followed was as depressing a flood of vicious and hateful comments as you'll ever see, mostly of course directed at Petit because of her gender.
It's not like we'll suddenly wake up tomorrow and the internet's idiots will have all just...gone away. But the more big sites like this begin to take action - Gawker Media, which we're a part of, has been pushing for better comments as part of our redesign - and the more big sites that follow in their stead, the more the racists, bigots and trolls will be cleared from plain sight, leaving internet discussion clear for, you know, the normal people.
Note: If you're curious, here's Kotaku's views on hateful comments and moderation.