According to Patrick Thornton in the article “Expel Trolls, Racists and Promote Good User Comments on News Sites” (http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/top-stories/97731/expel-trolls-racists-and-promote-good-user-comments-on-news-sites/), there are six main ways to prevent and discourage people from leaving meaningless, trolling comments on your websites and/or blogs.
His first tip is to be an active participant. This includes self-moderating the comments and responding to them in order to help promote a healthy, productive conversation. According to Thornton, when people see that their comments are more likely to be read and responded to, they’re less likely to leave useless, trolling commentary.
Another tip is to “hoist” comments, meaning to promote comments to an area of prominence and create new discussions around them. Doing so encourages better discussions. Along with “hoisting” is the option to use a “blog back”, in which a blogger raises good commentary to promote good commentary, answer questions, and correct mistakes.
Asking readers for advice and including it in a post helps to get users involved with the site while keeping some of the pressure off of the blogger and/or journalist, while proving to users that their thoughtful commentary is encouraged and appreciated.
Some other ideas, moderating, using verified accounts, and using the “ban hammer” are all fairly general. Moderating, the path which most sites take, seems to be among the simplest forms of keeping trolls off of your site. It simply involves reading comments and removing the ones that are deemed as inappropriate or off-topic, and warning users when the situation calls for it. Using verified accounts helps to keep a certain level of prestige on a site; by being able to verify who the posters are, commenters take more pride in their words and treat the situations more seriously. Not to mention, not many “trollers” will go through the process of receiving a verified account if their only intent is to anger people or stir up controversies on stories. The “ban hammer” is, in my opinion, the easiest path to choose (as well as quite possibly the most fun). What does it entail? Exactly what it sounds like- when people are inappropriate, annoying, off-topic, et cetera, and there’s just no way of reasoning with them, you ban them. Plain and simple, they are no longer able to comment on the site. As Thornton states, “there’s just no reasoning with some people.”
As much as I agree with the idea that trollers, racists, and other irritating commenters need to be dealt with on sites, some of these ideas are impractical to me (depending on the type of website or blog, of course). I feel that moderating is the easiest way for almost everyone. Hoisting and using blog backs are good ideas, but seem as if they could be very time consuming when bloggers have other priorities.
For newsrooms, I think the most practical path would be to higher moderators and/or allow users to vote comments positively or negatively, thereby moving them up or down the page according to popularity.