AnnArbor.com publishes revised conversation guidelines
Today we are posting new conversation guidelines, which we hope will clarify some existing rules and codify other issues that have become common enough to warrant making official.
In revising the guidelines, the moderation team looked carefully at issues that have come up repeatedly that the existing guidelines didn't address, such as posting in all capital letters, as well as issues that often seemed unclear to commenters, such as not presuming guilt on the part of people accused of crimes. We also wanted to consolidate all of our guidelines and information into a single post.
We hope the new guidelines will clarify these issues and others for readers, and we also recognize that this is a process of continuous improvement. As always, we welcome your feedback and suggestions.
Here are our conversation guidelines:
AnnArbor.com aims to provide a lively community forum where readers can talk to us and to each other about local issues in a civil, neighborly way. The best comments and posts are those that add more information to the story, express a different viewpoint or help create intelligent debate.
- Off-topic comments
- Personal attacks against private individuals
- Insensitivity to victims of accidents or crimes
- Presuming guilt on the part of persons accused of crimes*
- Using tragedies to make a political point
- Posting personal information about individuals
- Racist, sexist and offensive language, including abbreviated or masked swearing
- Posting in all capital letters, which is viewed as shouting
- Breaking copyright law
- Commercial postings and press releases. Non-commercial postings can be entered on the Community Wall.
* We strive to balance the ability of commenters to discuss legal cases with the right of the accused to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. We will remove comments that assert guilt. Comments that imply guilt will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Words like “allegedly” or phrases like “If he is guilty” will help to keep your comment from being removed.
If you have a question about any moderation decisions we have made going forward, you may leave a comment below. Comments on story threads that question moderation will be moved here. You may also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We encourage everyone who registers on our site to use their real name, or at least a consistent screen name. Multiple accounts for the same person are prohibited. Avatars may not contain a photo of a living person who is not the user.
Comment moderation process
Throughout the day, members of AnnArbor.com's staff take turns moderating comments using the above guidelines. We also contract with an outside company that moderates our site outside of business hours.
In most cases, comments are post-moderated. That means that shortly after a comment is posted, a moderator reviews it and decides whether to keep or block it. Occasionally we will put a specific story or user on pre-moderation.
Any time a comment violates our conversation guidelines, it is removed and a marker is placed in the conversation noting it. Occasionally, our moderators will also jump into the conversation to note more specifically why comments were removed. We might also email a commenter to let them know why their comment was removed.
There is a "report abuse" function for our readers to report comments that are inappropriate or otherwise abusive. It's meant to help our commenting community police itself. When you click on the "report abuse" button on a comment, you'll be able to choose from a predetermined list of reasons why you think that comment is inappropriate. You will also be able to send a private message to the moderator on duty with more details about why you object to the comment. We highly encourage our commenters to use the "report abuse" tool. When used properly, this tool will strengthen our commenting community.
Comment length limit
There is a limit of 2,000 characters on the length of comments. When you go over 2,000 characters, a red character counter will appear to warn you.
There is also a word filter. If you are attempting to use a word that is on our banned word list, the system will tell you which word you are attempting to use that is blocked and will encourage you to choose a new word. If you have a question about a blocked word that you think you should be able to use, e-mail us at email@example.com.
We do not allow elected officials or candidates running for public office to comment on the site using a fake name.
Invalid e-mail addresses
We ask that all of our commenters use valid e-mail addresses when registering for AnnArbor.com. We will disable accounts using e-mail domains that aren't widely considered to be valid, such as mailinator.com.
Shutting down comment threads
Occasionally we will shut down a comment thread. Each time this happened, it's because the thread devolved very quickly and from the start was filled with comments that violated our guidelines.
Our previous comment moderation guidelines can be found here.
In April 2010 we posted a notice outlining some of our internal moderation policies.
And here is a link to a previous blog we posted on the topic before AnnArbor.com launched.