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).
For those interested, here’s a sampling of a few news sites and their moderation policies:
Click this sentence for just the policy text
Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we have created a space where readers can exchange intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers and generally cannot alter a comment once it is posted.
Click this sentence for just the policy text
- Keep Your Content relevant to the topic and avoid repetitive posting.
- Be respectful and courteous, as if you were having a face-to-face discussion.
- If you are writing about legal issues, remember that people are innocent until proven guilty (that may mean using words such as “allegedly”).
- Feel free to link internally within the CBC.ca/Radio-Canada.ca site as many times as you would like. As for external web addresses, we allow no more than three links per post. CBC/Radio-Canada does not endorse the content of external web sites and has no liability as to their content in any event. CBC/Radio-Canada reserves its right to take-down any external link.
- Radio-Canada: Use French for all of your exchanges and comments. Other languages cannot be used except for an occasional word.
- CBC: Use English or French for all of your exchanges and comment. Other languages cannot be used except for an occasional word.
- We want to hear your own opinion. Your Content must be created and owned by you, including any music and artwork. Breaking copyright rules is not permitted (that includes copying and pasting excerpts from other sites without permission and attribution). If the majority of Your Content was written or created by someone else, even with a proper credit, it won’t be accepted.
- Any of Your Content that is offensive and likely to expose an individual or a group of individuals to hatred or contempt on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age or mental or physical disability is prohibited.
- The following kind of Your Content is also prohibited:
- Pornography, vulgarity, obscenity or sexually explicit content
- Anything illegal
- Hate speech
- Threats, harassment
- Personal attacks, insults and defamatory statements
- Threats or suggesting committing a criminal act
- Attempts to mobilise people for any purpose outside of a CBC event
- Respect other people’s privacy by not including personal information in Your Content (such as phone numbers and email addresses) or private dialogue.
- Be sensitive in ‘Your Content’ regarding the death or injury of private individual, especially children.
- Make it personal, not commercial by leaving out press releases and commercial promotions.
Huffington Post pre-moderates comments on our blog posts and post-moderates comments on news stories. We never censor comments based on political or ideological point of view. We only delete those comments that include the following transgressions:
• are abusive, off-topic, use excessive foul language
• include ad hominem attacks including comments that celebrate the death or illness of any person, public figure or otherwise
• contain racist, sexist, homophobic and other slurs
• are solicitations and/or advertising for personal blogs and websites
• thread spamming (you’ve posted this same comment elsewhere on the site
• are posted with the explicit intention of provoking other commenters or the staff at Huffington Post.
• contains content that may infringe the copyright or intellectual property rights of others or other applicable laws or regulations.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That's a decent approach, Book Hipster. No point in changing anything if it's still working just fine :)Thanks for swinging by and sharing.
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.
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
Thank you for commenting Gabriel. I've recently been searching for comments and yours is the greatest I have discovered so far 😉