It's a first line defense against the bile of the Internet: comment moderation. Rather than closing down comment sections, some bloggers opt to approve all messages before they hit their homepage, and other bloggers allow all comments to post in the interest of time, but go back and prune out ones that either don't fit their commenting policy or that they find off-putting.
When there is a clear community guidelines policy, comment moderation becomes good housekeeping meant to protect the feelings of regular readers just as much as it's meant to protect the author. In the same way that my house has rules, my blog has rules. My about page clearly states:
Many of my posts are salon-like in nature and invite answers or commentary. I’m all for disagreement, as long as it’s polite. I will remove any comments that I deem off-topic, rude, or mean-spirited.
The problem, of course, is that the off-topicness, rudeness, or mean-spiritedness is always in the eye of the beholder. But in general, if you're coming to my blog with good intentions and leave a comment, it will remain up on my blog, even if you disagree with me. If you come to my blog and leave a comment trying to sell my readership Viagra... well... I can't say that I feel badly deleting spam.
But when a commenting policy doesn't exist, is it fair to delete someone else's comment that they've taken the time to write? Or commenting policy or not, is it irresponsible to leave up a comment that is destructive in nature? And what does one do with a comment that falls into that grey area that isn't clearly spam or hate speech but arouses tremendous amounts of anger in the people who encounter it?
It comes down to who has greater ownership over the comment box: the blog owner or the comment writer?
There isn't an easy answer to this question, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't talk about it.
How do you feel about blogs that moderate all comments, holding onto your words like a gatekeeper before they allow them up on their blog? What are your personal boundaries for allowing a comment to remain or taking it off your blog? Do you think it's right for bloggers to remove comments that are negative in nature?
Image: ervins_strauhmanis via Flickr
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