A community guidelines FAQ

by Mathew on October 30, 2009

As anyone who has commented on a Globe and Mail story probably knows, we have a policy on what kinds of comments are appropriate and which ones are removed, but I confess that we haven’t always done a great job of communicating that policy clearly and consistently to our readers — in part because our policy has been evolving, and continues to do so (which I would argue is a good thing).

So why and how are comments on Globe stories taken down? Why doesn’t the Globe require commenters to use their real names? Why do some comments simply disappear, while others are replaced by a message that says they weren’t “consistent with our guidelines?” Do Globe reporters ever respond to comments, and under what conditions?

These are the kinds of questions that our Community Guidelines FAQ was developed to answer. It also deals with how we approach other forms of community engagement, including live discussions (which we do using software from Toronto’s Cover It Live) and forums, which we are in the process of rolling out on our Globe Investor site, and hopefully elsewhere.

In coming up with our policies, we have looked at the way many other media outlets handle comments and community — including sites such as The Guardian (whose policies are here), the CBC and the New York Times — as well as non-media communities like Metafilter and Slashdot. Like all of those sites, we want to allow our readers to comment on issues they feel strongly about, but at the same time we want to maintain a civil tone that encourages dialogue instead of partisan attacks.

We are probably never going to achieve that balance completely, or to everyone’s satisfaction. But we are trying hard to do so, because we know that many of you look to the Globe as a place where you can discuss important topics, and we want to encourage others to do so.

The FAQ is a work in progress, so please let me know what you think, either by posting a comment here or by reaching me at @mathewi on Twitter or via email at mingram@globeandmail.com.

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