Portland startup works to silence Internet trolls

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Have you ever come across an Internet troll? They’re commenters who make disparaging, usually off topic, remarks online.

Civil Comments, a new Portland-based technology startup, is working to filter out those defamatory remarks and facilitate open dialogue through the web.

The startup is catering to news organizations, blogs and other websites to filter out their comments sections and restore order online.

“People don’t treat each other online the way they do in the real world,” Civil Comments Co-Founder Christa Mrgan said. “Right now, people are really hateful, abusive, there’s a lot of online harassment and that’s a huge problem.”

Mrgan and her company want to filter out the bad comments while working to get people to change the way they interact with each other.

Here’s how it works: If you want to post a comment, before it’s published, the system will ask, “Is this comment civil?” Then, if you think your comment is appropriate, it will ask you if 3 other random comments are civil.

The system allows users to continually knock a post they consider uncivil until it gets axed from the site.

But Mrgan says it isn’t about censorship or shutting down people with disagreeing viewpoints.

“A lot of comments we see add to the story and they really have some great back-and-forth,” Mrgan said. “They offer new ideas and new perspectives.”

Civil Comments is looking to put an end to the fallacious, often downright mean comments that has forced some organizations — including KOIN 6 News — to shut down their comments sections altogether.

“You’re seeing more and more news organizations just turning off their comments, which is really too bad for them and for their users,” Mrgan said.

The Portland startup officially launched on Wednesday.

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