Title text: NPR encourages you to add comments to their stories using the page inspector in your browser's developer tools. Note: Your comments are visible only to you, and will be lost when you refresh the page.
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This comic represents a news article that shows how easy it is to dominate the comment section of an article by creating shill comments to support any desired narrative of the community's opinion. The joke here is that this is precisely what has occurred for this article. The top five comments are assorted ways of affirming the article's text. However, the final commenter seems freaked out that a comment she wrote was in an article. It's possible that she is just an innocent victim of this who's legitimately scared, but it could also be that she is a shill for the opposite side that wasn't fast enough to post.
This last quote also creates a paradoxical situation. Since the comment is quoted in the article, it has to have been written earlier than the article. But the comment is talking about the article, thus the article has to have been written before the comment.
The link in one of the comments is to 1019: First Post, which also refers to manipulating comments to change public opinion of a topic. It specifically mentions «creating an impression of peer consensus», a line which is near-quoted in the first comment included in this comic.
The last of the comments may be from the user "Mary" who in the NPR article was explicitely cited to have said that the comments have been too violent. But it is unclear how this is possible given that this article claims to have been published after the comments having been turned off.
The title text refers to the ability to change webpages using in-browser tools, like "Inspect Element," to change the HTML of a page, and thus the contents of it. However, because all of the changes to the HTML are temporary and only on the machine they were made on, anyone else loading the page will not see them, and refreshing the page causes the changes to be replaced with the real content. This would mean that no other users would be able to see the comments, and news sources could not use them to influence public opinion.
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- [Single panel comic depicting a screenshot of an Internet article, showing the article title, lines of wavy characters representing the article text, and several comments from readers of the article with their profile pictures.]
- Backlash: Internet users are outraged over news stories using a handful of random comments to support arbitrary narratives!
- [Close-up of Megan:]
- I can't believe how easy it is to create an impression of peer consensus.
- [Close-up of Hairy:]
- This dynamic is so easily manipulated and it freaks me out. xkcd.com/1019
- [Full picture of Hairbun:]
- Everytime I share something and a friend responds "Haha, did you see the top comments..." it just reminds me how influential these things are in shaping the impressions of even relatively internet-savvy readers.
- [Close-up of Cueball on a black background:]
- NPR got rid of comments in 2016 when they realized they all came from a handful of visitors posting hundreds of times a month.
- [Full picture of two guys, Cueball and Hairy:]
- Eventually social norms will adapt to this stuff, but it needs to hurry up.
- [Close-up of Ponytail:]
- I have nine followers and created my account last month; how am I being quoted in this news article??
One of the comments to the article references an earlier xkcd comic 1019: First Post, which compares the cost of buying election ads on news sites versus paying college student to wait for news articles and submit the first comments to every news article.
add a comment! ⋅ add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ refresh comments!