We have been deleting abusive comments

June 8, 2012

By John Seiler

We appreciate our commentators adding to our articles. But the past two days I have spent several hours deleting abusive posts, in particular from one commentator who has contributed interesting, civil comments in the past. He has been banned until Monday. If the abuse continues after that, he will be banned permanently.

In one post, he accused us of “censoring” him, something a “libertarian” organization is not supposed to do. But libertarianism means property rights. CalWatchDog.com is not owned by him, but by the Pacific Research Institute. PRI has hired myself and other editors to set specific standards of journalistic probity, including for commentators. We have done that.

Property rights and free speech mean that this person, or anyone, has a right to set up his own Internet news site, which nowadays can be done for free here or here. We will defend his right to do so.

All of the editors come from newspaper backgrounds, most recently the Orange County Register. I have worked for three major newspapers. We have adapted the common industry practice of allowing wide latitude to comments, especially those that disagree with us, but not abusive comments. This will continue.

In deleting some of the abusive posts, in some cases comment threads have become disjointed. That is unfortunate. But I do not have all day to try to repair the continuity of every thread. This is a shoestring operation that already does a great deal with a limited staff.

We also have gone outside newspaper practice somewhat by allowing anonymous comments. If the abuses continue, we may have to end that, although I don’t want that.

I enjoy the give and take, and many contributors have provided insight and even corrections where we have made mistakes.

But incivility will not be tolerated.


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