Important message for readers

To all our readers, introduced its comments facility just over a year ago. It was an instant hit and continues to grow – thanks to you. At the six-month mark last summer, we were receiving about 300 comments a day. Now, we’re at almost 1,000 comments a day – so thank you!

Such a volume of comments is challenging to moderate. Regular users will be aware that a full open access model (with no logins) has its downsides, with an increased risk of trolling, personal abuse, inflammatory and offensive comments.

What do these ‘inflammatory’ comments look like, and should we publish them on the site? Here’s a small sample of the comments we have deleted. 

We’d like to maintain and develop robust debate around issues, encouraging considered comments such as these and eliminating personal insults and other nasty stuff that contravenes our house rules.

Here are some options:

  • Simplify the house rules. We did this last November, with no noticeable reduction in trolling;
  • Stricter moderation policy: We’ve tried this over the past few weeks, deleting more comments. However, this policy seems to encourage more trolling;
  • Banning more IP addresses: We only ban contributors (by IP address) in relatively rare cases – for repeated offences or if a single comment is gravely offensive. Banning such contributors has had some effect, but there remains a high level of trolling and personal, off-topic abuse;
  • Introduce mandatory log-ins: We have resisted this for a year, preferring as open a model as possible. However, having tried other methods, we think log-ins may be the best option to discourage trolling and personal abuse.

With the aim of discouraging trolling and personally abusive comments, we now ask contributers to register a username and password to comment on the site. You can use your existing social media a/c if you wish, but if you do not wish to do so, you can register as a commenter within the site on the new platform, which is called Disqus.

We will also shortly be rolling out an improved comments facility on our mobile site.

We know this change will have a mixed response among our readers. We hope we have given some context for it here. We also discussed it with readers in a live blog, which you can read here.

* Update April 2012: A number of you had asked us to look at a thumbs-down facility on individual comments. Based on your requests, we checked it out with them, and Disqus have now made this available. Each comment is now displayed with arrows pointing up ('thumbs up')  and down ('thumbs down').

All the best,

Jill O’Sullivan, site editor.


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