The issue of website commenting rules is on my mind today.
Truth be told, it’s on my mind every day because I moderate the comments on the Chronicle’s website. All day long, and all night long, I receive e-mails telling me that someone has posted a comment to the Chronicle’s site. Many of them are just fine. Some of them are vile and get denied.
The Chronicle doesn’t hold comments pending approval. All comments go live within a few minutes of the time the commenter presses the button. I monitor the comments after the fact, and I delete the ones that need it, much to the chagrin of some commenters who do not agree with my “absolute discretion” when it comes to the comments.
I mention commenting today on this blog for two reasons. First, I was reading John S. Adams’ Lowdown blog this morning and came across this message above his comment box:
My first reaction, if you’re not an anonymous user, will he still delete your divisive comments?
My second reaction was to wonder if Adams even needs that message. Does it even need to be said that when you comment on another person’s website, you are commenting on that person’s space, and that person has the right to tidy that space as he or she wills?
While that bounced in my mind, I received an e-mail from our publisher with some news from one of our fellow Pioneer papers, the Skagit Valley Herald, which, I’m told, is posting a message like this on its site:
Goskagit invites you to take part in the community conversation. But those who don’t play nice may be uninvited. Don’t post comments that are off topic, defamatory, libelous, obscene, racist, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. We may remove any comment for any reason or no reason.We encourage you to report abuse, but the decision to delete is ours. Commenters have no expectation of privacy and may be held accountable for their comments.
Comments are opinions of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions
I don’t think that a message like this is a bad idea. Don’t get me wrong. In fact, I agree with what the Skagit message says, and we’ll probably post something similar to the Chronicle’s site in the near future. It’s a good reminder to the commenters that they do not have a right to comment on a private website without possible repercussions.
Still, we’re not legally obliged to post any such notice. We’re protected under the Communications Decency Act of 1996, and we post a link to the above-linked User Agreement on the bottom of every page on our site. So I wonder at the point of posting something like this on our site or any site? Does it open you up to more legal liability for comments if you tell people in writing what your moderation policies are?