Your Comment Is Awaiting Moderation

Pre-moderating: sensible thing to do or petty censorship?

When it comes to pre-moderating comments on blogs I have to say that I’m a little bit baffled. If you’re a site for children I totally get it; and the same for a news or media outlet, but if you’re just one of a boat load of blogs out there, from the big name to the small time, what’s the rationale for pre-moderating comments?

News sites tend to moderate the hell out of their comments. Given that they are in the business of spreading news to hundreds of millions of people it behooves them to keep a tight reign on the content below their headers. The last thing they need is for some wingnut to fly off the handle in front of an audience the size of most nations.

For most things corporate I understand as well, though I do find it refreshing when the big players don’t turn every web page like a giant legal cover-your-ass exercise. The Google Blog doesn’t moderate their comments – at least it doesn’t pre-moderate them (it’s possible they just delete anything that doesn’t meet their standards for submission after it’s posted). While Google isn’t exactly a small time company they’re also well known for being a little more relaxed about things so I’m taking the absence of pre-moderation of comments for what it’s worth.


As for my little corner of the blogosphere I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that a comment would need my approval before I allowed it on my site. It smells a little bit like censorship, don’t you think? Besides, who the hell am I to say what people can and cannot say about something I fully intended the entire Internet to read (or at least a few hundred people)?

Back in 2005 I had a different blog and one particular asshole starting commenting and causing a ruckus. For a time I just didn’t allow comments in hopes he would find someone else to hassle but realizing that it wasn’t fair to other readers who did want to comment I turned them back on. It was at this point that I tinkered with the idea of moderating the comments. In the end I chose not to, but had my finger on the “report” button just in case he got out of hand. He never did. Contrary to some beliefs, there are a lot of problems that will just go away if you ignore them.

A brief poll to a few friends who blog and a little bit of research on the web dug up the following nuggets of extrememly precise data:

  • A large number do not moderate their comments
  • Many only moderate for spam
  • Some use a form of word verification
It would seem that for those who moderate spam is the biggest concern. No one wants a slew of ads and unrelated links clogging up their comments section and this is where I think the word verification comes in. That was one thing I ended up implementing myself, and as far as a security feature goes; forcing a person to enter in a couple words just so you know they’re not a robot isn’t much, but it does keeps the spam down and in my case also allows anonymous comments (while I prefer people stand in front of their comments by putting their name on them, I can understand that some people may have concerns over privacy and things like that).

There’s lots of comment plug-ins for the popular platforms like Blogger and WordPress and both have at least a couple variations on moderation. Another one is Disqus, which I used for a while but abandoned for reasons I don’t remember.

But to the question at hand, is it just best practice or are we making it out to be worse than it is? As far as my blog goes, I’ve decided that until I actually have a problem I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. I like to think of it as giving the public an opportunity to disappoint.

So far, they have not (except this person).

~ Andrew

For those interested, here’s a sampling of a few news sites and their moderation policies:

NY Times
Click this sentence for just the policy text

Click this sentence for just the policy text

Huffington Post

10 thoughts on “Your Comment Is Awaiting Moderation

  1. Shay West

    I don't moderate comments but I do have spam filters. I'll delete comments that are clearly spam if they make it through the filters but I have never deleted a comment from someone who disagreed with me.

  2. Andrew F. Butters

    Thanks for stopping by, Shay. I think you and I are in the majority, but there are still factions of people out there who manage it differently. I'd be interested in hearing all the various thoughts on this.

  3. Anonymous

    I am on the other side of the fence for most cases. When I ever get blogs up on my business sites they will be moderated. All I need is for somebody to do a post with rambling nonsensical swear words, that is not good for business. If someone does a political or religious post that offends customers or potential new customers, that is not good for business. I could go on and on. These are the comments I would reject. I have no problem having an educated discussion with someone, and have no problem posting all the RELEVANT comments.Way back in the day when word verification was not prevalent, I had a client that had a forum on their site, before I took them on as a client, which ended up being a disaster. SPAM, nonsensical and hate posts were rampant.Speaking of hate posts, try checking out YouTube. The entire comments section is nothing more than a racial and hate forum. Their video comments are as useless as a fart in a windstorm.

  4. Anonymous

    I still moderate my little blog. I don't care. I've never not approved a real comment. Plus, once you are approved on my blog, I don't have to approve you again (unless you use a different email or account). I will never use a word verification add on because I hate them. Just how I feel. My blog will stay that way unless I'm given a reason otherwise.

  5. Anonymous

    I started out not moderating, but within about a month of my blog going up, I started getting these awful, hateful, profane comments. At first I thought they were spam that had just slipped through the Askismet filter, but some of them did actually seem to be in response to my posts. I started just deleting them, and then I started getting more that accused me of censorship, threatened my safety and the safety of other fascists like me, threatened to cut my tongue out and see how I liked it, made some really vile homophobic statements, etc. No one was really following my blog at the time – like, anyone at all – so I doubt anyone actually saw this garbage, but I was horrified by the thought that someone -might- see it in the hours between the time it was posted and the next time I logged in. That's why I moderate: pretty much just so I can reject comments from that one person, as they do still show up periodically. 9_9 Anybody else, I only have to approve once, and then it approves future comments automatically.

  6. Andrew F. Butters

    I completely agree with your assessment of YouTube. It's completely terrible. I'm torn about how to handle it from a business standpoint. Obviously, if it's a problem then you have to take measures to ensure you maintain your brand. Maybe I'm just lucky that I haven't been hit with any troublemakers.Thanks for reading and commenting, Craig.

  7. Andrew F. Butters

    You seem to have quite a following now, so that's good! :)You're the second person to do the 'approve once, approve future' technique. I'll have to stop by your blog and check out what you're using to manage your comments.

  8. Gabriel Almada

    I have been moderating comments on and off. It depends on how much junk I get. Blogger is doing a better job filtering those spam comments out these days, so no moderation for now.I love how I get a lot of comments like 'Τhank уοu, Ι've recently been searching for info about this subject for a while and yours is the greatest I have discovered so far…' for one of my earliest posts, from 2007, that only has a picture and no words…Very interested in that 'approve once, approve future' idea. Will check it out as well


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