RHETORiC: an Audience Conversation Tool that Restores Civility in News Comment Sections

Emilie Bossens, David Geerts, Elias Storms, Michiel Nuytemans and Jan Boesman

We present a case study where we developed RHETORiC: an audience conversation tool that promotes civil participation in online news comments. By following a human-centered design process, we created and evaluated a novel tool with an interface that supports people in carefully formulating their opinions and arguments, so they can constructively contribute to online discussions about news. Results of a large-scale field study show that our tool succeeds in increasing the level of civility, argumentation and proficiency of comments in comparison with those on social media. On top, both users and journalists report high satisfaction with the RHETORiC tool. In our paper we reflect upon lessons learned about the design process as well as about the tool itself, which contributes to the fields of both Human-Computer Interaction and Digital Journalism.