If you can’t say something nice…
When we added, as a part of our redesigned Web site, the ability for users to post their comments about a story (or poll question or obituary or any of a number of things), we thought we were adding a little something to the value you, the reader, get from us.
Healthy discussion drives communities, especially the smaller kinds of communities that many of us live in. Unfortunately, some of our readers have posted comments that added nothing but confusion and anger to the community. We thought this would be a good opportunity to remind all of our readers just what purpose the comment feature of our site is supposed to serve.
First, we love to see people leave comments. It means people are paying attention and people care. But the comments become a negative when they cross the line of decency and truthfulness.
It is important to understand that posting a comment on a news Web site is much different than something said to a neighbor or a relative. A comment on our site remains there forever for all to see (unless we remove it – more on that later). The most dangerous side effect of Web usage in general is that people can say whatever they want without their identity being known.
This especially becomes a problem when a comment borders on or is flat out libelous (libel, as defined by Merriam-Webster: a spoken or written statement or a representation that gives an unjustly unfavorable impression of a person or thing). Because your comments are a part of a site with our name at the top, we are legally responsible to make sure all comments are in good taste. There have been several lately that have not been in good taste, and those have been removed.
There is also the possibility that, if a particular user becomes a recurring problem, that user can be banned from the site altogether.
We all know what our mothers told us: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” But we’re not even asking that all comments be nice, just that they not be the sort that could bring about a lawsuit.