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Blog Comment Policy 25/Apr/2005

When writing for the web, it's gratifying to find that my readers have engaged with what I've had to say. That's why I offer the comments facility, in the (usually vain) hope that my posts will spark intelligent debate. Looking back over my œuvre, however, it appears that the longest comment threads have absolutely nothing to do with my sparkling wit and insight.

The two most commented-upon posts in my archives are the lyrics to Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps Please and a piece entitled The World's Strongest Boy. The former has attracted fans of the not-particularly-amusing BBC sitcom, who seem to think that I have something to do with the production, and that the release of series DVDs is in my gift. (It also spawned a peculiar, if explicable, pastiche on the comments of this post.) The latter seems to result from a high Google ranking for some televisual cause célèbre, and is remarkable in how offensive people can be for no apparent reason. Of course, the classic How to be rich and famous comment thread remains the grandaddy of them all.

Even at their most offensive, I find that these posts can serve as a form of unintentional social comment (my favourite being the comment that I, as a European, am ignorant, because the story is "all over the news"—carefully overlooking the four-month gap between my post and the comment, and the predisposition of British news towards real stories) and I let them stand. Nobody is harmed by leaving these comments on the web, and I see no need to censor them. Likewise, though I can't think of any examples, if someone were to leave a comment that was off-topic or critical of me, I would let it stand.

Which brings me to my present dilemma. On an otherwise unremarkable post, there has spawned a long, vitriolic argument over the first commenter's character. This seems to result from that page ranking highly on Google for searches on the commenter's name. A quirk of the Internet, I presumed, and I moderated the comments. The comments weren't spam, weren't obscene, and weren't harming me in any way. Indeed, the initial commenter took the opportunity to have right of reply, which brings us up to date (with the exception of a handy legal definition from Neil).

So I got a—very courteous—e-mail from the person involved, asking me to remove the critical comments from that post. Never before have I censored the comments on this blog, and never did I hope that I would have to. Though now it seems that somebody's reputation may be being harmed, and that is clearly unfair. So what do I do?

  1. Leave the comments as they are, as a principled stand for free speech?
  2. Remove only the critical comments, as requested, with the chance that the comments might start appearing again?
  3. Remove the entire thread, with the aim that this would end the whole affair?
  4. Something else?

I don't like posting metacontent here, but I'm genuinely confused as to what I should do in this case. I do have a strong belief in free speech, yet I would not want to be in the position where my reputation was harmed by what somebody had written on another website. Your suggestions, then, are especially welcome. And, if the person involved is reading this, I'd appreciate your input as well—I'll decide what to do by Wednesday, 27th April, at the latest.

Cheers,

Derek.

 
CommentsComments 

Jack Styler said:
Just commenting on Kevin Tracy's comments about Ian Newton's book The Night Shift. I got a copy as a Chrostmas present and I have never laughed so much in long time. What absolute garbage to say publishing a sit-com is in some way cheating. The proof of the pudding for any book is if people buy it, read it and enjoy it, regardless of the format. I thouroughly enjoyed the book and the characters are so real they came out off the page. But then again I have worked a night and such characters really do exist. The Night Shift absolutely brilliant. So shut up Mr Tracy and lets hope we see it on TV

Jack Styler York

David Russell said:
Personally I would think it's your responsibility to ensure that people are not abused on your site - if you disagree I would consult a good defamation lawyer if I were you!

kevin Tracy said:
How did that writer Ian Newton get his book The Night Shift reviewed by so many prominent people. I bought a copy of this book, and it is actually a collection of six sit-com episodes which have been published. It is reviewed on the back By The Gaurdain it says and several prominent people. The day I bought it it was selling like hot cakes. What a cheek to publish Sitcom instead of trying to get it on the telly. It very novel I suppose, but I think it is cheating. This bloke has already had two best sellers, and is now deciding to publish his sitcom. Mind you after I read it, it made me think of giving up writing comedy as a hobby. It was bloody hilarious, BUT I STILL PUBLISHING SITCOM IS CHEATING.

Gary Fleming said:
I'm all about free speech and probably wouldn't delete comments simply on the grounds that they are critical of someone (however baseless they may be).

But I would remove anything that is completely off-topic, allowing for a wide range of tangents before the cut off point. The comments in question are completely at odds with anything. If these people want to comment on Kiana or anyone else, perhaps they should (as has been suggested) start their own sites and link/trackback/pingback this thread.

Kiana Garcia said:
I've been critical of people or groups of people on my website, but in the case of non-public figures, I never named names or put words into their mouth. I've always been taught here in the Philippines that this was libel. I know who was the first individual who posted on that thread. She has been harrassing me for months via e-mail, angered that I frequently slam the modeling industry and how it harms young women here. In addition, I praised the new modeling industry in the West that is based around fitness and that makes her even more upset. So she decides to "get even" by claiming that I said things that I didn't say to discredit me on my site. It's not hard to take my e-mail header and paste it to an e-mail text of whatever I want to say. Apparently that's what she did, and now people who ask me to help them in business here are questioning me...not that it has caused them not to do business with me, but I shouldn't have to defend myself or have to drop everything to see what she wrote this time.

BTW...on the original thread that I posted, kids here in the Philippines wear swasticas, CCCP shirts, images of Cuban revolutionaries, etc. If you ask them why they wear the shirt, they just say "it looks cool". If you ask them what the symbols or images mean, they have no idea. I called the comments above mine blog spam because they were completely off-topic to my post. I told that girl in an e-mail long ago that if she hates me that much, start an anti-Kiana blog and I'll fully endorse it as I'm doing now. To me, that's freedom of speech.

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