Cleaning up the comments at EastIdahoNews.com
A few years ago, someone said something to me about EastIdahoNews.com that I haven’t forgotten.
“I come for the news, but stay for the comments.”
I thought the person might be saying it tongue-in-cheek, but she was serious. And over the years, others have said the same thing. In fact, we liked the phrase so much we put it on a T-shirt that many of you are proud to say you wear. (Shameless plug: You can order one here and support local journalism.)
Whether you love or hate online comments, the fact is tens of thousands of you visit our site every day to read the news. Then many of you spend minutes to hours browsing the comments on our website or Facebook page.
For us, that has been a blessing and a curse.
When EastIdahoNews.com launched five years ago, we decided to invest a great deal of time and energy into social media pages and website commenting systems. We felt you would be best served if you could interact with journalists directly and openly debate topics among others without fear of censorship.
We’ve encouraged debate and actively made ourselves available in the comments to answer questions, respond to praise or criticism, issue corrections, occasionally call out a bad actor, and even have a bit of fun.
When it came to fake news or misinformation, we adopted a “respond and refute” stance. That means instead of deleting an untrue comment or banning a troll, we would simply respond and correct the error so the audience can see the entire debate and make a judgment call on their own.
During our first two years, we took a great deal of pride in only having banned eight people. Before today, the only rules we really adhered to closely are spammers or bots are immediately banned and swear words are hidden.
It’s been a successful strategy and one we believe is partially responsible for our rapid and continued growth.
But it hasn’t been without complications.
It turns out when you create an incredibly open forum, you attract a lot of trolls, spammers, haters and fake accounts. They come from all over the world and their goal is almost always the same: to spread negativity, without empathy or regard for the real person sitting at the other end of the keyboard.
These people have introduced a great deal of vitriol on our pages. While a certain amount of this is expected, some days it feels as if the trolls have taken over. This is especially true this year, when people are on edge because of the unprecedented things happening in the world.
The problem is that we are seeing trolls attack and drive away legitimate readers who only want to have civil discussions on EastIdahoNews.com. We also hear from many followers who say they want to comment but are scared of the reactions they will receive, so they join the hordes of others who observe rather than participate in the discussion.
Please understand that while we cherish a person’s right to speak freely, our goal was never to create a haven for trolls at the expense of people who are interested in honest, kind and civil discourse.
We’re not OK with trolls openly abusing our platforms. We want you to know that we have heard your concerns and are committed to fixing this problem.
Here’s what we are going to do — effective Oct. 1.
New commenting rules at East Idaho News
Our new system of commenting rules will be governed by a simple statement, which will appear on our ethics page, all of our social media platforms, and on every article proceeding the comment section:
- EastIdahoNews.com comment boards are a place for open, honest, and civil communication between readers regarding the news of the day and issues facing our communities.
- We encourage commenters to stay on topic, use positive and constructive language, and be empathetic to the feelings of other commenters. THINK BEFORE YOU POST.
The following will no longer be tolerated on any East Idaho News platform. Commenters will be given a single warning about a violation of these rules, and repeated violations will result in a temporary or permanent ban:
- Hate speech, offensive, vulgar or obscene language.
- Personal attacks or name-calling towards any other commenter, person or groups of people. This includes EastIdahoNews.com staff and comment moderators. You may disagree and you may be critical of someone else’s viewpoint, but personal attacks will not be tolerated.
- Victim blaming, shaming or insensitive comments regarding a crime, accident or tragedy-related article.
- Posting excessively graphic photos or information about a crime, accident or tragedy-related article prior to that information being released by EastIdahoNews.com. If you have information, photos or video that you feel is vital to a story, please contact us directly.
- Repeatedly posting the same links or verbatim comments (aka spamming) on multiple stories or threads.
- Knowingly posting links or comments that spread fake news, disinformation, or half-truths about any topic.
- Commercial promotion or solicitation of any kind.
Bringing moderators on board at East Idaho News
East Idaho News remains a small operation. We have nine staff members and hundreds of thousands of people visit our website every month. We receive hundreds and sometimes thousands of comments every day.
Our ability to effectively moderate our comments has been limited. To help address the problem, we have hired the first of several moderators who will be regularly reviewing comments on social media and on our website for violations of the new rules. Our moderators will always warn before they take any actions against repeated rule violators.
You can also help. If you see a Facebook comment that blatantly violates the rules, please message us. On our website, the community already works to moderate the comments through upvotes, downvotes and flagging. Every user is given a user ranking that corresponds to their behavior in our comment sections. Please explore the moderation options in our comment section.
We don’t anticipate any huge changes on our platforms and we want EastIdahoNews.com to continue to be the place where you can find out and freely talk about what’s happening in our community.
We believe you should be able to share your opinion and we want to provide a place for important issues to be discussed. We hope these changes will enhance everyone’s commenting experience and more people will come for the news, but stay for the comments.