The Internet is a vast expanse of many things, including free speech in certain parts of the world. But the line between free speech, hate speech and those one-strand-away-from-being-a-houseplant trolls can get muddled, or even trampled, at times. Unmoderated comment areas have been known to pull in people who have nothing better to do than pick fights and be offensive, mixed in with those who actually have thoughtful additions to the discussion at hand. Mashable has even pondered why Internet trolls in general exist.
The comments section of YouTube however, has gotten a reputation for being a particularly wretched hive of scum and villainy in the Troll Department — it’s even generated its own set of memes. Case in point, General Mills having to turn off YouTube comments on a Cheerios commercial featuring a biracial child because of the virulent racist screeds scorching the page. (Remember, if it’s a video, you posted, you can review or disable comments yourself.)
So, what else can you do?
For one, with a simple Web browser extension of your choice, you can block YouTube comments from appearing. Some of these extensions work by just disabling the comments field, while others scan the comment text for things like typos, profanity, all caps and other troll poopnoise – and then filter out the more obnoxious stuff.
The extensions that can block comments (as well as on-page advertising) include:
- YouTube Comment Blocker for Firefox
- Comment Blocker for Firefox
- GreaseMonkey Profanity Filter
- AdBlock Plus for Firefox, Chrome, Android and Opera (LifeHacker has tips for using the extension as a comment-blocker)
- No YouTube Comments for Chrome
- Shut Up for Safari (in the Social Networking area)
- Simple Ad-Block for Internet Explorer
Chris Finke’s YouTube Comment Snob for Firefox and Chrome scans the comments and hides offensive ones that trip its filters.
If you want a more entertaining — or even educational — option consider a script or extension that replaces YouTube comments with something more enlightening.
- Herp Derp changes all the comments to the most excellent herp derp, but you can still read a comment by clicking on it; for Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera.
- NietzscheDerp for Firefox and Chrome also replaces YouTube comment text, but with quotes from the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche instead.
- Fans of theoretical physics (or The Big Bang Theory) might like the FeynComment script for Firefox and Chrome. As shown below, it replaces YouTube comments with quotes from Richard P. Feynman.
If you are tempted to read comments around the Web, sign up for the Don’t Read Comments Twitter feed that occasionally pops up to remind you not to go there. And if you find yourself just spending too much time on the social-media sites in general, consider one of those browser babysitters that limits your time or even blocks you from going to certain sites during the workday. The Productivity Owl gets it done for Chrome and LeechBlock does similar minding for Firefox users.
Some people like the comments section, warts and all. If you’re one of those folks, go have fun. You’ll never run out of material. But for those who are easily offended, or who just want a civil discussion, you have options. As Nietzsche himself once said, “Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings — always darker, emptier and simpler,” but the same could be said about certain unmoderated Internet comments.