I’m off on a slightly different tack today, and am asking you, the reader, a question.
In essence … if you are a blogger, then what should the policy be regarding comments?
It should of course be very obvious, if something is not offensive, abusive, illegal, or spam then it should stay, so perhaps the real challenge is to come to terms with how you define those. Lets take a quick look at some:
This is usually obvious, for example a comment that is just a link to a site that will sell you some product that is claimed to increase a specific piece of male anatomy by 6 extra inches is out (even if it is tempting to leave it in and then ask them what the heck I am supposed to do with 24 inches). But these days spam can be a lot more subtle and is often a generic comment with a link to a site flogging some nonsense … yep that’s out as well.
A lot of valid criticism that is very much in the public interest is deemed by many true believers to be highly offensive, but if you remove anything “offensive”, then nobody could criticize anything, so generally as far as I’m concerned, it all stays and only gets taken down by popular demand from all the other commenters. It would need to be an outright anti-gay, pro-Nazi, holocaust denying racist rant before I consider taking action. As for all the other stuff that offends folks … basically “tough”, get over it, or simply rant back.
So moving on, where this truly does become a test of integrity is when you are faced with comments you do not agree with. To illustrate just how crazy this can get, I once joined a Creationist Facebook page when I was bemused to discover that the moderation policy was to censor anything that the moderator did not agree with, and also to boot folks out for highly offensive acts such as spelling god with a lower-case ‘g’ – I lasted about 20 mins before they booted me out (I consider that to be almost a badge of honor).
OK, so lets talk specifics.
- I posted an article all about Sai Baba – here explaining that he was a fraud and also guilty of sexually molesting small boys (with links to evidence). As might be expected, a few of his followers were a tad upset and so a dialog took place … they made claims, we sliced and diced it all. I might not agree with what was said, and quite clearly there were some posts that attempted to try and wind folks up … no big deal, they stay up.
- Recently, a new comment was posted … obviously by a Sai Baba follower, he links to a Sai Baba site and also has a rant about some other fake guru – here I might not be too thrilled to find I now have a link to a pro-Sai-Baba site, but it is his opinion and so I have no reason to take it down.
Yesterday I then received an email threatening me with legal action if I did not immediately remove that comment and also demanded I supply the commenters details. In my reply, I basically told them to politely bugger off (I’ll blog about this story later, what I apparently ended up in was an inter-guru war between different factions taking pot-shots at each other).
Anyway … I basically ended up being the defender of a crazy. I might not agree with what he believes, nor am I wholly on board with his comment … but I defend his right to say it, and I also will not be bullied by others into towing a party line.
So the generic question is this …(finally) ..
- Where is the best place to draw the line between what stays and what gets taken down … how would you decide what to keep and what to bin?
I ask because I’m curious and also interested in what lessons others might have learned within this arena.