Over the past week or so there has been a renewed focus on standards of discussion on social networks, in particular the disturbing amount of offensive, sexist language that some employ when communicating on social networks. A glance through ‘Tiger Beatdown’ certainly provides enough material to shock most people at the lack of respect shown by some with a computer and an internet connection. Of course, it is unlikely that those engaging in such behaviour feel in any way ashamed or guilty about their behaviour. Doubtless many are actually proud about their supposed ‘wit’ and manliness. But it does raise questions about to what extent comments are managed on blogs.
Now, on this blog I pursue a policy of a slight degree of moderation. Essentially your first comment here will be moderated to ensure that it is suitable. If it passes moderation then you should expect (provided I haven’t messed with my settings) that all future comments will pass without requiring moderation. When I say suitable, I mean it is relevant to the post, avoids discriminatory language and is not libellous. They are my only concerns. You can call me all names under the sun and provided you have otherwise kept to the point, I will pass your comment. Believe me, it is unlikely that you will call me anything worse than I have been called before.
I know others take a different stance. Some have a completely open door policy and others prefer to moderate every comment, no matter how regularly the individual contributes. I have operated an ‘open door’ policy before and didn’t find it to be too much of a problem. Yes there was more spam and possibly more abuse than I would normally expect or would wish for, but generally it was fairly manageable. Of course there are others who take it even further and actually edit comments before passing them for moderation – something I have to say I find a little unethical and could open you up to a whole range of accusations. I’ll name no names as to which blogs operate this policy (but they do exist believe me!).
I guess ultimately the question is: where do we draw the line between censorship and creating a safe environment for debate? Should we moderate all comments that are placed on our blogs or should we simply operate an open door policy where anything goes but people are aware that this is the case? Do you moderate comments on your blog? If so, for what reason do you refuse to allow a comment? Are your readers aware of your moderation policy? Or are you even one of those people who edit comments before allowing them? I’d be interested to hear how others manage comments on their blogs.
I wanted to add a small update to this post after encountering the kind of thing that I have an issue with when it comes to moderation of blog posts. A post was brought to my attention today from someone who supposedly pontificates on ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘information access’. Roger Pearse (the man behind the post and a man who appears to have an interesting history online) wrote what could have been an interesting and thought provoking post about libraries, instead he resorted to rather worrying abuse. For example:
And so it went on. Item after item of inefficiency, maladministration, neglect or wrong-headedness. In real terms, there was nobody in charge. Doubtless there is some woman somewhere who receives a salary to run the organisation. (You can tell that it is a woman in charge because the conversion of Ipswich library into a playgroup is something that only a woman would do).
Naturally, some people felt the need to challenge this position (that’s what freedom of speech is all about!) and proceeded to do so. Despite the fact that the majority of these comments were polite (I have had discussions in the past with many of those who commented and every one has been polite and courteous in conversation – some might say boringly so!) in challenging the assumptions made, they were removed from the post. Whilst I do not have copies of these comments, I do have copies of the ones I made which I reproduce below (these have now all been removed):
I find this attitude very peculiar indeed, particularly on a blog supposedly discussing freedom of speech and information access issues. I simply do not think this kind of censorship is appropriate or justifiable. I find it particularly disturbing that the comments policy creates a situation whereby the author is free to express whatever they want, but will not permit any dissent or even the right to reply. I have rarely come across such regressive comment moderation in over six years of blogging. Blog comment threads must allow discussion and the right to challenge the author politely should be absolutely fundamental. If we go down the road of deleting comments because we don’t like what they say (rather than them actually being offensive to others) the ideals that make the internet the diverse and valuable resource that it is will be seriously compromised.