Monitoring Online Comments

23 04 2010

Today I saw an interesting presentation on pros and cons of online commenting. It revolved around issues of governing (or not) online comments, how they are useful, and how they can be harmful. As a good amount of our communication moves online, so do the responses. Whether it is comments on blogs, or established news sites, online comments are growing and need the policy needs to be examined.

Online comments are a new form of communication. Users can comment on stories, as well as respond to other comments, keeping the story fresh, updated and active. It also helps build a community of fans and readers, and encourages audience interaction.

However, quite often you will find people who enjoy hiding behind the mask of anonymity, and may say something derogatory or offensive that they might not say in a face-to-face conversation. Cyber bullying, usually accompanied with extremely poor spelling and grammar, is a frequent occurrence, but there are ways to limit it.

Require users to have an account:

If users have to register their email address and/or create a user name, they are not as anonymous, and their comments are tied directly to their account. It will create some sort of accountability for their comments, and could reduce offensive material.

Create a commenting policy: Clearly state some rules to commenting on your site. By creating a policy, users must adhere to the rules or their comments may be removed.

Third-Party: Hiring a third-party group to monitor your site is another option. It allows you to not spend the time worrying about the comments, as the third-party group will monitor user submissions, and clean up comments that are inappropriate.

Self-Policing: You can make all submitted comments be reviewed before being posted online, or read through comments and delete offensive material.

These are all steps towards creating a successful, non-offensive user commenting section. It is also important to consider user’s First Amendment rights and censoring, but that is a topic for another day.