Engagement moderation: What journalists should say to improve online discussions


The study put forth a new concept, which we call engagement moderation, that is defined as community managers or journalists interacting with commenters to improve the comment threads, rather than deleting comments. We then tested this concept using an experiment (N = 798) on a mock Facebook page of a news site. Results showed that if journalists employed engagement moderation and used what are called high-person-centered responses to incivility—messages that acknowledge the emotional pain or upset people may feel—it produced more positive attitudes toward the news outlet’s Facebook page, online community, and handling of incivility. Our findings provide guidance to news outlets regarding what type of messages are most beneficial if community managers or journalists enact engagement moderation by responding to uncivil commenters.