First, welcome, and thanks for joining in. Your comments add tremendously to the community dialog about our stories and the events and issues of the day. With these “Rules of the Road,” we hope to give you a plain-language overview, in FAQ form, of how we try to manage our reader comment forum. Our Terms of Service spell out the rules and regulations. With this, we hope to give you a sense of how we implement them.
- What is the Ledger-Transcript trying to do with this comment forum?
- What do you mean by “civil?” Is that just a code word for opinions the Ledger-Transcript likes?
- So what's out of bounds?
- Why is there a delay before I can see my comment online?
- Some Top Commenters seem to get away with outrageous comments. Why don't you stop that?
- I see comments online that I don't like. What can I do about that?
- I flagged a comment, and it's still there. Why hasn't it been removed?
- Why do I see some questionable comments allowed and others taken down?
- What if I disagree with your decisions?
- I thought you were supposed to be in favor of the First Amendment. Isn't it my First Amendment right to say whatever I want?
What is the Ledger-Transcript trying to do with these comments?
The best description of a comment forum we've ever seen was at a blog site, where they compared it to hosting a dinner party. That's what we're trying to do, too. We're trying to hold a dinner party (without the food) where the conversation never stops and where everyone is welcome, as long as they don't make the party unpleasant for others.
We want to see a wide variety of viewpoints and opinions – that's what makes the conversation interesting, after all – but we want them to be relevant and civil.
What do you mean by “civil?” Is that just a code word for opinions the Ledger-Transcript likes?
A comment forum is useless if only one side gets heard. We want a lively discussion, not a choir. We have no interest in promoting or restricting any particular agendas – it would quickly get boring for everyone. But we're not interested in providing a forum for insults, name-calling, spam and derogatory comments, either. There are plenty of other places on the web for that. When we see comments that are rude, vicious, mocking or derogatory, we reserve the right to take the comment down at our discretion. We may also block people who make the forum unpleasant for others.
So what's out of bounds?
To avoid having your comment removed, try to follow these basic, common-sense rules:
- Watch the language: We don't allow profanity, even with symbols to mask out certain letters. Common words like “hell,” “damn” and “BS” may be OK, but when in doubt find a better way to say it.
- Tone down the insults: There's nothing more tiresome than people simply lobbing insults back and forth. Strong opinions are welcome, even strongly worded differences of opinion. But we won't tolerate name-calling, insults, ad hominen attacks or mocking other writers. Disagree agreeably. A good rule of thumb: When you're disagreeing with another commenter or letter writer, focus on the substance of the argument, not the person. Comments that criticize a person's motives or character don't further the discussion.
- Keep it on topic: Comments that have nothing to do with the original article or with the other comments may be removed.
- Spare the spam: Multiple posts on the same topic may be removed. Likewise posts that go on for too long. Likewise sock-puppetry.
- Don't make defamatory allegations: You are responsible for your comments. But even if the Ledger-Transcript may not be legally responsible for your comments, we don't want our comment boards to be a place where people post defamatory allegations. When potentially defamatory comments are called to our attention, we may remove them. So don't accuse others of wrongdoing or make allegations about their character.
Why is there a delay before I can see my comment online?
We operate on a system of earned trust. Comments from new users are typically screened before they are posted. That can take several hours (longer on weekends.) If we see no pattern of inappropriate comments over a period of time, we may allow users to post automatically. Comments from trusted users are not pre-screened or reviewed before they are posted. That privilege may be revoked at any time.
Some people seem to get away with outrageous comments. Why don't you stop that?
We can't possible read or review every comment posted to our site. We rely on our reader community to tell us about violations. If you see a comment that you think is out of line, please let us know, using the violation button. We will review your report and, if we agree, we may take the comment down.
When we receive legitimate complaints about comments from trusted commenters, we typically try to contact the posters to ask them to tone their comments down. If we don't see a change, we may revoke someone's trusted status. In extreme cases, we may block their accounts altogether.
I see comments online that I don't like. What can I do about that?
On every comment there is a button for you to report violations. We appreciate your help in monitoring the forum. We can't possibly read all the comments that are posted, and we rely on the community of readers to tell us when something inappropriate has been posted. Please indicate why you think the comment may be inappropriate.
I flagged a comment, and it's still there. Why hasn't it been removed?
We do not automatically remove comments when a violation is reported. We review complaints, but we may decide that a complaint was not merited or that other posters have responded to an offending comment and offset whatever may have been objectionable.
Why do I see some questionable comments allowed and others taken down?
No comment policy can ever be evenly enforced, because we can't possibly monitor or review every comment equally well. Hundreds of comments are posted every day here, and we don't read them all. The ones we do look at we read with varying degrees of attention and in different moods. Also, several people may be involved in comment moderation, and each will bring a slightly different set of judgments. We try to be fair, but we make no promises. It's always a subjective call, and we're mere humans, after all.
What if I disagree with your decisions?
We're always open to feedback from readers and commenters. You can email us firstname.lastname@example.org. We recognize that our decisions are often subjective and not always correct, and we do appreciate helpful suggestions.
I thought you were supposed to be in favor of the First Amendment. Isn't it my First Amendment right to say whatever I want?
Not here. The First Amendment protects all of us from government intrusion. We, however, are not the government. Our mission is to create a forum for dialogue, and we have found that without some moderation the comment boards can become offensive to many readers. That said, we would not be promoting comments at all if we didn't want to encourage broad expression. We do try to err on the side of leaving comments up.
Is there something we missed? If you have a question that's not covered here, please let us know! Email email@example.com.