Comments and Credibility: How Critical User Comments Decrease Perceived News Article Credibility

Many online user comments criticize the quality of news coverage. We conducted two experimental studies to assess the effects of such critical comments on readers’ perception of the credibility of news articles and to analyze the effectiveness of counter-measures. Findings suggest that critical user comments can reduce readers’ perceived credibility of a news article. We also demonstrate that this effect depends on whether a critical user comment receives Likes or not. Additionally, readers’ credibility perceptions can be restored when a critical comment receives a reply comment by a user that includes counter-speech. A disagreeing reply by a moderator is less effective. The findings provide important implications for research on credibility perceptions in online environments and for the effects of user-generated counter-speech and interactive moderation.