IMDB announced that it will shut down its message boards, effective February 20, 2017, because “IMDb’s message boards are no longer providing a positive, useful experience for the vast majority of our more than 250 million monthly users worldwide.” The shutdown will also include IMDB’s personal messaging system.
IMDB stated that the decision came about “after in-depth discussion and examination” and “was made only after careful consideration and was based on data and traffic.” They also stated that most of the site’s users are instead using social media to express their opinions, and for now, that’s the way forward for engagement.
Of course, it’s hard not to see trolls as one of the motivators for this move, given the general state of the internet. 2016 was also the year of the Suicide Squad backlash, with a number IMDB users preemptively rating the film 10/10 before it was even released, and other fans petitioning against Rotten Tomatoes because the movie was only rated 26% fresh. This rage is also turned against critically lauded films. Just today, IMDB users have already given I Am Not Your Negro, Raoul Peck’s Oscar-nominated documentary based on one of James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscripts, hundreds of one-star votes on the first day of its release.
IMDB is hardly the first site to deal with the question of comments and forums. From YouTube, the scientifically confirmed cesspool of internet comments, to The Mary Sue’s own comments policy, to South Korea’s brief experiment with “real name” logins, any site with a large enough and engaged enough user base has had to weigh the value of a forum against its costs. Answers to the issue have varied. Gawker received criticism for simply ignoring the issue as it applied to Jezebel writers. Comic Book Resources completely overhauled its forum system in 2014 in response to the horrible harassment many of its female contributors had experienced. Yahoo developed an abuse-detecting algorithm for moderating the comments on its news article. Some YouTube channels, such as Feminist Frequency, had to completely turn off comments in response to overwhelming harassment.
Still, even when a shutdown is the right call from either a moral or a user-experience perspective, it’s a pity when forums for discussion–particularly those as long-lived as IMDB’s–have to be shut down as a result of misuse. For those of you who might miss the IMDB forums when they’re gone, Gizmodo has assembled a pretty hilarious collection of greatest hits.
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—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—
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