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Comment moderation

Posted Friday, September 4, 2009, at 9:36 AM

From time to time, I have to delete comments on stories or blogs. I've never -- not once, not ever -- done this because I disagreed with the commenter. We only delete comments because they are in violation of our Terms of Service. That might mean that they include defamatory personal attacks (the most common reason), foul language or other offensive comment.

Of course, anyone whose comments are deleted immediately complains that we're taking sides on an issue.

Recently, a commenter on one issue created a new account for the purpose of responding to an issue in a halting dialect suggestive of the way Native Americans were portrayed in old movies. Today, this kind of dialogue is considered an offensive stereotype, and I felt it probably violated the portion of the Terms of Service which refers to expressions of bigotry. Imagine what would happen if someone posted in, for example, an "Amos 'n Andy" dialect. Native Americans might well be just as offended by the dialect our commenter used.

But I felt like it was probably an honest mistake on the part of the commenter, and so I went above and beyond my responsibilities to try to warn the commenter, so that he (or she) could continue to participate in the discussion, without the dialect.

I tried e-mailing, but got no response. I suspect that the e-mail address the commenter used to sign up for a user account was a bogus "throwaway" account which was forgotten once the account had been created. I could very easily have banned the account at that point, but I took the extra, and somewhat unusual, step of responding to the commenter openly, in the forums, explaining what the problem was and asking him to avoid the dialect posts.

The commenter posted again, in dialect, accusing me of having been bothered, not by the dialect, but by the content of his posts.

The fact of the matter is, I really hadn't been paying attention to the content of the discussion. The Celebration is a busy time here in the newsroom, and I really haven't had time to read all of the story comments in detail. (That's why enforcement of our Terms of Service is largely complaint-driven.) In all honestly, I couldn't tell you exactly what the issue was or what the commenter was complaining about. I only cared about the offensive dialect. I don't expect the commenter to believe this, but it's the truth.

At any rate, despite my best efforts, the commenter made it clear that he really wasn't that concerned about our Terms of Service, and I felt I had no choice but to ban him. It's one thing to get a little overheated and step over the line; it's another thing to indicate that you don't see or care about the line.

We encourage a vigorous debate of the issues -- from all sides and viewpoints. That's the whole purpose of having a comment system. But personal attacks or offensive content will not be tolerated. Our Terms of Service are available at http://www.t-g.com/help/legal/ if you need to refer to them.

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I missed that whole exchange.

To those of y'all who saw it,was the point made worth upsetting folks (at least John),getting banned and,possibly,acquiring a reputation for insensitivity?

I'd hope we were better than that even when we show our more negative aspects.

I'm not that obsessed with political correctness but I can appreciate respect for culture.

To John:


("Thank you,friend" in Tsalagi [Cherokee] )

The First Peoples are no more tied to pidgin dialect than any other ethnic group.

If anything,we've assimilated so thoroughly that we may have to learn the language of our ancestors as a foreign tongue.

Since I didn't see what was said in context,I'll assume the "Injun" persona was adopted out of innocence and irony.

I'd agree that the original comments were not the sin.

The problem would come from an apparent disregard for whether the comments gave offense.

I'd like to think I'd be wrong in inferring that the poster was callous and insulting.

But,I appreciate John's going to the trouble to discuss the matter with the poster and try to avoid the distracting intrusion of offensive material into our online discussions.

I enjoy clever dialog even when I disagree with the thoughts expressed.

As for anything that smacks of willful disrespect...

Me no likum.

-- Posted by quantumcat on Fri, Sep 4, 2009, at 1:16 PM

I would hope people would not be so sensitive, but in today's time who knows?

-- Posted by michaelbell on Fri, Sep 4, 2009, at 5:18 PM

quantumcat -

I read the comments last night and they weren't bad. They actually appeared quite truthful and somewhat funny (about like your last statement). Although Mr. Carney claims it had nothing to do with the content it appears it did. To me it looks like he did not like Chiefs' pointing out of some obvious things.

If Chiefs' comments needed banning then you would honestly have to say most every Western movie with native Americans in it would have to be banned. I guess Mr. Carney would have liked to ban John Wayne. Know whada mean pilgrim ?

-- Posted by Blessed Assurance on Fri, Sep 4, 2009, at 5:24 PM

ROFL How Rich! Let me get this straight, when something offensive, untrue or defamatory was posted by another commenter against me in the t-g.com, You purposely left it there without regard. But when something "MIGHT" be offensive; there is a problem? Biased much?

-- Posted by Evil Monkey on Fri, Sep 4, 2009, at 8:19 PM

Maybe,folks just figure you're formidable enough to brush off anything put your way,EM. ;)

Most of the verbal challenges are pretty harmless and even thought provoking and fun.

But,one never knows when someone's going to take things too far and,at best,run off some readers who might otherwise take part in our exchanges.

The moderators have to make sure we play nice and no one gets hurt.

-- Posted by quantumcat on Fri, Sep 4, 2009, at 11:40 PM

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