It’s “Let’s Make Nice Month”: experimental change to LDV’s comments policy

by Stephen Tall on January 18, 2010

The Internet is a fantastic place. It can also be an angry place. Lib Dem Voice has a high quality of passionate-but-reasoned debate in our comment threads, with many of our 30,000+ readers contributing their thoughts and enjoying LDV’s role as “Our place to talk”.

However … it’s not unknown for debate on LDV to get heated, for commenters sometimes to get personal with the authors of articles, or with each other. The editorial collective has generally adopted a laissez faire moderating policy: save a handful of exceptional circumstances, comments are left untouched.

Partly this policy has been driven of necessity: all of us who edit the site are volunteers, none of us can promise to oversee the site the whole time. Partly it has been driven by the liberal belief in freedom of expression: authors and commenters are responsible for what they write.

But – for an initial and experimental period of one month – LDV is changing its comments editorial policy. Because though we reckon this site is better than most political blogs in offering a space where all can feel free to debate with mutual respect, it doesn’t always happen. And those few occasions when LDV’s comments become overly personal and abusive (and invariably testosterone-charged) can deter others from ever daring to join in.

So for the next month – leading up to Valentine’s Day, appropriately enough – LDV is going to try and ‘love up’ our comments threads. Debate and disagreement is, of course, still welcome, but we are going to apply the following five criteria in moderating comments:

  • We welcome comments from all our readers, including those who are supporters of other parties, or none at all;
  • We will not allow comments which are at all personally abusive to be directed at the authors of our articles, or other commenters. Comments which the editors judge to be in any way abusive will be removed as soon as possible. In ‘grey area’ cases, we may ask you to re-write your comment before we will publish it;
  • We will remove off-topic comments, especially if a commenter continually raises the same point on different comment threads. We probably already have a post on that topic anyway, and you are welcome to leave a comment there instead;
  • We will continue to moderate comments where the same person is commenting under different names in order to generate a false picture of the level of support for their views; or where someone is pretending to be someone or something that they are not (eg, claiming to be a Lib Dem member when they are in fact an activist from another party);
  • We will usually allow comments to appear straight away. However, we reserve the right to auto-moderate, or apply a permanent comment ban, to those who ignore our policy. We have several spam filters in place, if you believe your comments are getting trapped please .

These, then, are LDV’s new comments rules for the next month. Though we’ll do our best as site editors actively to moderate comments, if you spot something you think goes against the grain of the new policy, please do with the web-address of the comment. Please do also let us know what you think of the policy – whether you agree or disagree – as we’ll be keeping it under review for the next month before deciding whether to make it permanent.

And please remember: LDV genuinely wants to promote debate and discussion on any and all issues. We hope all our readers will feel able to join in the comments threads in the full knowledge that this really is Our place to talk.