It comes as no surprise that the internet is full of hateful individuals. Somewhat surprising, however, is the platform that many of them have can be found on is the popular search engine, Yahoo. Yahoo’s home page is known for its extensive news coverage, with an open comment section on almost every article. The comment sections on these articles have made a name for themselves as pseudo-Ku Klux Klan meetings and hotbeds of all sorts of bigotry. While this can be explained by saying there are hateful people in every corner of the internet, the comment sections on Yahoo specifically are far more hateful than those found on Buzzfeed, The Washington Post, and other news organizations. Why?
There a few reasons as to why the comment section on Yahoo, in particular, is filled with so much more bigotry than similar media websites. One of the most cited is the wall of complete anonymity. While the comment section on Buzzfeed is connected to your Facebook account, all you need to comment on an article on Yahoo is a Yahoo email address, something that you can easily hide behind by using an account name that has nothing to do with you. Since it is easier to comment with a pseudonym on Yahoo, there is no fear of someone who disagrees with you going on your Facebook and logging your personal information to use against you. This form of doxxing against bigoted individuals has become increasingly popular within the past year, scaring them into anonymity.
Another reason cited is Yahoo’s audience. While Yahoo can be described as an all-around popular website, it’s demographics are largely different than its competitors. An analysis by Adam Read put the most common age of Yahoo users at 65+, while Google’s most popular age range is 18-24. The average Republican is of older age than the average Democrat, and when you combine that with the copious amounts of right-wing centered bigotry on Yahoo, it is easy to point to age as a factor.
The articles with the most racism fueled comments tend to be those about former president Barack Obama, many comments including anger at the fact that articles are still being published about him even though he is no longer commander in chief. Articles about the former president give bigots on Yahoo trigger finger, and derogatory comments about him and other minorities in the public eye go seemingly unchecked.
Something that plays into any situation with a group of strongly opinionated people, whether it be online or in person at a rally, is mob mentality. Also known as herd mentality, this is known as the tendency for a person’s beliefs to conform to those of the group to which they are a part of this. Herd mentality played into why many withdrew their support for Keaton, as in accordance with herd mentality there is a large chance he shared the same beliefs as his mother. Outside of families, one can spot mob mentality in both political parties at rallies, in Facebook groups, and on Yahoo. It is agreed upon by many that hate feeds hate, and the comment section on Yahoo does nothing but prove this. Where there is one racist comment, there is also 1-2 people telling them why it’s racist, and an even larger group of people defend the racist comment with more hate. Mob mentality is given a comfortable home and just makes everything worse.
Is there really a solution to this? While the chances are slim that it is possible to eradicate all hate from the internet, there are steps Yahoo can and should be taking towards change. As it stands right now, reporting a comment is a privilege only offered to signed in Yahoo users, and the reporting system is too small scale. Yahoo could also benefit from a moderated comment section like that seen on Washington Post articles, with a set in stone set of guidelines. Among these guidelines are rules against content that “is predatory, hateful, or intended to intimidate or harass, or contains derogatory name-calling” or “degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or other classification.” There are no such comment submission guidelines on Yahoo.
Yahoo could not be reached for comment on this matter.