Coverage in the Orange County Register of April Branum giving birth — she weighs 420 pounds and didn't realize she was pregnant — became the paper's most viewed web story for several days and prompted nearly 200 anonymous comments to be posted on the Register website. Being anonymous, of course many of the comments also were insulting and offensive. Branum's fiance called the Register to complain, and the paper runs a story today calling the episode "a case study for many observers on what can happen when an Internet discussion forum is not moderated or censored." One subscriber canceled her subscription this week citing the Register's comments area as "a breeding ground for hatred, racism and bigotry," but Branum doesn't sound too put out.
With Branum's story, readers commented on her sexual relations with her fiancé, her eating and exercise habits, and her abilities as a mother. Some comments were removed by staff because of a policy prohibiting vulgarity and personal attacks.
"It's freedom of speech, and sometimes it can be a bad thing when the morons get a hold of it," Branum said. "But I don't think the comments need to be taken down. You've just got to deal with it."
Cropped photo: Leonard Ortiz/The Register