We spend a lot of time reading story comments. We receive over 1000 comments on most days here at The Augusta Chronicle. We catch most terms-of-service violations, but the sheer volume guarantees we will miss some objectionable material.
I think we do a good job, but the best comment moderators are our commenters themselves. They read most of the comments and have at least as good an idea of what's going on in the comment threads as we do.
I regularly see posts decrying our moderation inconsistencies, often citing recent examples where someone was insulted or a poster used a cleverly concealed bit of profanity. I can assure that if we fail to remove a violation it is because we missed it. That is where you come in.
The best tool to improve the quality of our comments is the "report" link located above every comment. I have been encouraging our posters to use this feature from the start. Some are hesitant and prefer to hash it out amongst themselves, but this often leads to the petty bickering and fighting that we are trying so hard to eliminate.
The report feature is, for the most part, anonymous. We know who reports, but that information is never shared.
The report feature is to alert us to violations of our terms-of-service contract, not to complain about opinions you might disagree with. We don't want to limit the free expression of opinions. We want a civil debate that includes all points of view. If you don't agree with a comment, give an opposing view. We are all about the debate. Nothing pleases me more than seeing a contentious topic effectively debated.
If the debate degenerates into insults and name-calling use the tools we've provided. Report any borderline comments or TOS violations. We won't remove every reported comment, but we want to know when things are getting too heated. The report link guarantees we will give them a close look.
If you respond in kind to hateful comments, you run the risk of your comments being removed or your profile being banned. Let us handle it. We may not catch it immediately, but rest assured we will shortly.
A commenter recently asked if we could remove the offensive word or phrase from a comment instead of removing the entire comment.
At times I wish we could, but early on in our discussions, we decided that, for ethical reasons, the Chronicle staff would never edit a comment - we may remove it, but we will not change it in any way. The only instance I can think of where we would change a comment is if the profanity filter accidentally catches a non-profanity word. In that case we would return the comment to its original form. It is important you know that we will not be altering your opinions.
Thanks for reading. Have a good day.