Bloggers Need To Moderate Comments


There has been much discussion in the last day about the Wisconsin teacher who posted an anonymous comment online praising the Columbine shooters.  The comments were made on a conservative Wisconsin blog site.

For many bloggers there is an assumption that they are an extension into the world of journalism.  I am not assuming that is the mindset of the blogger that set off this story.  Having once actually worked as a reporter, I do not pretend to be one here on Caffeinated Politics.  But there does seem to be a growing belief that bloggers are the new world of journalism.

But if we assume that blogs are a form of journalism, then should we not also expect the standards of a newsroom to also apply to these online efforts?

What is written, both in a blog post and in the comments section, should adhere to some ground rules of good taste and common sense.  If you could not print the text in either the news or editorial sections of the New York Times, or the Wisconsin State Journal there might be good cause to second guess if it should show up on a blog.  This in no way limits free speech, but just allows a higher standard to exist.

The comment that spawned this news story should never have been posted.  There are times when censorship is warranted.  Though it is usually not required, a blogger must understand their responsibility in this new era of information and technology, and then make the correct decisions.

In other words, much like an editor of a newspaper, we need to sift out ‘the letters to the editor’ to insure that we do not create havoc or potential injury with irresponsible speech.

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9 thoughts on “Bloggers Need To Moderate Comments

  1. pistolpete

    Interesting and timely post for me. I was recently accused of religious intolerance in censoring out a video link sent to me in a comment.

  2. And you are of course free to do so, on your blog. But not all of us attract the wackos. In fact, I receive almost entirely good natured criticism, and thought provoking discussion. I’d say that about 99% of my comments would go through my moderation anyway. So why should the 99% suffer due to 1% being bad?

    I may go and delete a comment after the fact, but for most bloggers, even ones that are fairly widely read (as I am), pre-moderating is like hitting a mosquito with a sledgehammer.

  3. Not to mention the 7 days a week, 24 hours a day mental effort it would take to moderate a blog that sees heavy traffic. Post-moderation is one thing; having to approve every comment is another.

    Part of the appeal of blogs is that they are not newspapers. Good ones are dynamic and exciting because of the near-instant response. Very few blogs are engaging in researched news items that we once considered the province of journalists. Many blogs are simply opinion and observation. A blog owner is not writing a book or news story; they’re giving people a place to talk.

  4. pistolpete

    I see your point. I guess I’m just old-fashioned. I do see my blog as a sort of electronic magazine. My aim is to include content (comments included) which will stimulate thought in a productive way. I find this particularly challenging, as I publish a lot of satire.

    Even, as you say, it is a place for people to talk, I believe part of my job is to moderate the discussion to make sure nobody gets hurt.

  5. I’m compelled to point out that the comment that recently made such big news was actually misquoted. I’m not defending what the person wrote, but it was creatively reinterpreted by the media. It was a stupid comment to begin with. It wasn’t necessary to “dumb it up” to shock readers. The whole situation is overblown. The police have already determined that there’s no evidence that he posed a real threat and the message was not significant enough to claim it would incite violence. It was no more harmful than what can be heard on the street or on television. But since they handled it so poorly and their actions were too harsh, they now face a serious 1st Amendment lawsuit.

    I also think you’re putting traditional media on a fairly high pedestal that is undeserved. Read some of the community comments at the news articles at Madison.com. If the combined staff of the Cap Times and WSJ don’t filter uncivil and unproductive comments on their website, why would you expect bloggers to? Go look at The Isthmus forums, which I argue is an online extension of that newspaper. Staff and contributing writers from that paper participate on that forum. It really is the most uncivil website in Madison. Some of the users pride themselves on being rude, hateful and misleading and will openly brag about it. Professional journalists and their organizations operate websites that are quite honestly much less professional than most blogs. That’s a function of popularity. More traffic, more idiots.

    If a website, be it blog or professional journalism, moderates comments, it should be in accordance to a published standard available for viewing at the website. I am personally against most moderation or preventing feedback. If you are going to put your opinion on a website, you should extend others the courtesy of responding. Some writers don’t want to take the time to filter comments and sometimes there is too much comment traffic and the time necessary to filter would be unreasonable.

    Comments reflect society. The world is ugly.

  6. goofticket

    If a website, be it blog or professional journalism, moderates comments, it should be in accordance to a published standard available for viewing at the website.

    A personal opinion, is in NO WAY comparable to professional journalism.
    There cannot be a comparison of the two.

    This case is solely about one conservative wesbite, from West Bend, and the owners decision to, take authority into their own hands.
    This is an FCC job, not the blog owner.
    They should have filed a formal complaint with the FCC, to allow them to ban, edit and otherwise censor comments.
    They state they can do this already, in the disclaimer on that website.
    This was an anonymous post, and should have been treated as non-valid.
    Just another way out comment.
    But there is no actual threat in the posting, it is a perceived threat by the websites owners and operators. Read the actual posting, and try and find where a specific threat was made to any living person!
    The poster has some miraculous ability to read the minds of two murderers from Colorado? I think not….Boots & Sabers, however does think that.

    I see this case, backfiring on the Boots & Sabers website.
    They, not the poster, published the perceived threat.
    They moderate all comments, and have complete editorial authority; and claim they will monitor and deny certain postings.
    Boots & Sabers, by publishing the comment, is partially repsonsible for any actions that against the poster, who wished to remain anonymous, and was outed by the website and West Bend police.
    It wasn’t the anonymous post…it was the failure of Boots & Sabers to edit out such threats. Instead they published it.
    And the West Bend Police, wihtout an apparent warrant, obtained the computer location and arrested a person, for an anonymous comment.
    Whether is was stupid, is irrelevant.
    How Boots & Sabers, and the West Bend Police, handled this …is where the concern should lie.

    What part of anonymity is not understood, or respected?
    What part of the website’s disclaimer is not valid?

    Here is a perfect example of what I see as a useless disclaimer….

    “…Sharing of Information
    We neither rent nor sell any personal information to anyone. We share your information only as described below.

    Now read the next line and apply the first sentence of the “Sharing of Inormation” clause.

    Business transfers
    In some cases, we may choose to buy or sell assets. In these types of transactions, user information is typically one of the business assets transferred. Moreover, if FoxPolitics.net, or substantially all of its assets, were acquired, user data would be one of the assets transferred.

    Protection of FoxPolitics.net and others
    We may release personal information when we believe in good faith that release is necessary to comply with the law; enforce or apply our conditions of use and other agreements; or protect the rights, property, or safety of FoxPolitics.net, our users, or others.”

    We protect your identity. Period.
    ….unless we can make money with it.

    Your personal information, which we require and claim to protect is our to sell, as we see fit???
    Do you see how a website’s disclaimer can create such a conflict?

    Now go read Boots & Sabers privacy and disclaimer….and see where they could possibly have screwed up.
    ( Hint” They take full ownership of all publication)
    Our e-mail addresses can be found on our About Us page.

    The contents of any e-mail sent to any of the authors of this blog are subject to publication by us. Requests for non-publication will generally be honored, except with regard to e-mails containing threatening and/or unlawful statements, or which are obvious trolls and/or sockpuppets. In those instances, we alone will decide whether to publish the e-mail.

    Comments / Forum Policy

    Comments and forum posts at this site express the views of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the owners and administrators of this site. We accept no responsibility for any information or statement published on this site by anyone other than the owners and administrators of this site.

    All comments and forum posts become the property of the site owner(s).

    We reserve the right to remove, edit, or move any comments or forum posts for any reason and without notice. As a general rule, we don’t delete any comments or forum posts other than spam. However, any comments or forum posts we deem to be threatening, unlawful, or the product of trolls and/or sockpuppets, will be deleted, and may result in permanent banning of the author.

    Users who believe that a comment or forum post is in violation of this policy may request that we delete or modify a comment, but the ultimate decision rests with us.

    Nothing on this site should be considered legal advice, or as the basis for any attorney/client relationship, either express or implied.

    They admit to being able to edit, modify any comment at their discretion, and they should be accused of doing so in this case, in West Bend.
    Just to test the foolishness, which this case represents.
    And if they post it, and own it, then B&S should be charged with a crime of threat too.
    It’s is apparently, by contract, their posting…not the teachers.

  7. Well, goofticket, I’m not sure where you’re going with all of this. Yes, most web sites reserve all sorts of rights to reuse the info you give them. They may record your IP, for what it’s worth. They may give your computer a cookie, for what that’s worth. If you ever supply a name, URL, email, etc. they might remember that and correlate it as well. If you don’t want that to happen, there are relatively easy ways to prevent giving them info.

    On the other hand, I think there can be legit objections to webs like B&S where they feel free to play fast and loose with their own rules. For example, they have been known to reveal some of that personal info about other commenters in order to expose or ridicule them! For example, they’re revealed the location or employer of commenters when they thought it might help them ridicule someone’s argument. “Ah, you work at Xyz, no wonder you are for it.” Can they do that? Sure, why not. Should they do that? No, it’s rude. It comes down to morality and behavior, I guess.

    In my case, I’m banned from B&S. They banned my entire 32 IP addresses for my business. It was in a thread about anonymity, no less – a month or so ago. I pointed out that it was easy to pretend to be someone else. I announced I’d demonstrate that. I commented once, changing my ID, and in the comment said it was “me”, then switched back and said it was still me. I was banned for the T&S violation of “sock puppetry”. In their explanation, they claimed I’d done it a half-dozen times before. This claim is utterly false. They’ve refused to provide any supporting evidence or even an explanation of their suspicions.

  8. goofticket,
    The disclaimer used by FoxPolitics.net is specifically and only to fully disclose the monitoring of traffic data – being able to determine the number of unique visitors to FoxPolitics.net in a given month. I am honest and thorough in my disclosure language – and you might note, in using my given name. I appreciate your interest, but any accusations of sinister or political (not meant to be synonymous…) purposes are misplaced. Also, as on many sites, comments are moderated, but real name and address are not required. All that’s required to post is courtesy and civility. I encourage anyone with concerns, specific or otherwise, to contact me – with or without your real name.

  9. I’ve never had moderation on my blog and I’ve only deleted a handful of hateful or obscene comments in the nearly two years I’ve been posting. I have ranted in posts though about the lack of civility in blogs comments. My blog is my house and if someone is not welcome, I’ll boot them out. My blog, my rules.

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