Website fights trolls by making readers pass a quiz before commenting

A Norwegian news website is forcing readers to take a quiz about the contents of an article before they are able to comment on it, in an attempt to stop abuse and vicious arguments breaking out below stories.

NRKbeta, the technology section of NRK, the country’s public broadcaster, asks its readers to answer a series of multiple choice questions before they can post a comment. It is hoped that ensuring that readers have read the article will lead to a better online dialogue, but also that the few seconds it takes to fill out the quiz will act as a cooling-off period.

Many websites have struggled to ensure that comment sections are friendly and welcoming, with debates often quickly turning to mud-slinging, especially on controversial or partisan topics.

“If you spend 15 seconds on it, those are maybe 15 seconds that take the edge off the rant mode when people are commenting,” Marius Arnesen, NRKbeta’s editor, told Nieman Lab.

The feature is experimental at first, appearing on a handful of stories and with the questions randomised for different users.

For example, on a piece about a tool used to stalk Facebook pages, users must answer questions about who developed the tool, and when the technology was developed.

Last week, Google said it had developed artificial intelligence software that can help moderate online comments by spotting abusive words and phrases. It assigns “toxicity scores” to comments that it believes are offensive.

However, researchers have found that the software is easy to game by slightly altering the spelling of words.

NRKbeta found that while it was easy to circumvent the quiz by installing a piece of code in their web browser that removes it, it imagines that most commentators are unlikely to be tech-savvy enough to take such steps.

On Wednesday Twitter said it was taking action against anonymous trolls by allowing users to block notifications from accounts without profile pictures.