For years, the policy at The Daily News has been to allow people without paid subscriptions to read and post comments on any content we’ve made free on our website, provided they registered a username and password.
That policy will change today. From now on, the only people who will be able to comment on articles and read the comments will be paid subscribers, even if the content has been provided free.
People without subscriptions will still be able to read the free articles, just not the comments.
The change should have no effect on people reading our digital content through a paid subscription. It will only affect people who are reading the free content without a paid subscription.
We’ve taken this step in an effort to battle digital robots that have been seeding the comments section with various types of self-serving and otherwise inappropriate content.
The vast majority of the offending content is fairly benign advertising for essay writing services and the like, mocked up to look like something other than advertising.
That’s annoying both to readers who’ve been reporting the posts and to our staff members who are constantly having to track down and remove the posts.
Despite that annoyance, we’ve been willing to tolerate the bots rather than restrict access to the reader comments.
Recently, however, a new type of bot-post has appeared advertising businesses trafficking in pornographic material and sexual services. That’s bad enough, but the posts also contain very vulgar language.
We can’t tolerate that.
After consulting with the vendor that provides web-hosting services for galvnews.com, we have determined that the only way to stop the bots is to restrict access to paid accounts.
The reason is this: The bots are sophisticated enough to register a username and password, to provide an email address for verification and to complete the steps necessary to verify the information and register.
At this point, the only way to separate the bots from the real people is to require payment for a subscription. The rationale is that the bot masters are not going to pay for access to our comments, since doing so would undermine the whole value of parasitic advertising, which is that it’s free.
Our web-hosting vendor is trying to come up with some other way to counter the bots. So, we may reverse or otherwise amend the policy in the future.
Until then, however, accessing the comments will require a paid subscription.
We appreciate the efforts of readers in helping us police these nuisances and thank you for your patience as we worked to come up with a solution. Even the less-than-ideal solution we arrived at took a lot of talking and thinking and required our web-hosting vendor to create special programming for our website.
• Michael A. Smith