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Discussion FAQ

First, welcome, and thanks for joining in. Your comments add tremendously to the community dialog about our stories and the events and issues of the day. With these “Rules of the Road,” we hope to give you a plain-language overview, in FAQ form, of our commenting rules and regulations. With this, we hope to give you a sense of how we implement them.

Questions:

  1. Who can comment?
  2. What is the Monitor trying to do with this comment forum?
  3. What do you mean by “civil?” Is that just a code word for opinions the Monitor likes?
  4. So what's out of bounds?
  5. Some Top Commenters seem to get away with outrageous comments. Why don't you stop that?
  6. Why do I see some questionable comments allowed and others taken down?
  7. What if I disagree with your decisions?
  8. I thought you were supposed to be in favor of the First Amendment. Isn't it my First Amendment right to say whatever I want?

Who can comment?

Any subscriber with a Facebook account can comment on stories posted on our website. We do, however, require users to comment using their real name. Commenters who create fake Facebook pages so they can continue posting under anonymous usernames will be blocked from the comments section.

What is the Monitor trying to do with these comments?

The best description of a comment forum we've ever seen was at a blog site, where they compared it to hosting a dinner party. That's what we're trying to do, too. We're trying to hold a dinner party (without the food) where the conversation never stops and where everyone is welcome, as long as they don't make the party unpleasant for others.

We want to see a wide variety of viewpoints and opinions – that's what makes the conversation interesting, after all – but we want them to be relevant and civil.

What do you mean by “civil?” Is that just a code word for opinions the Monitor likes?

A comment forum is useless if only one side gets heard. We want a lively discussion, not a choir. We have no interest in promoting or restricting any particular agendas – it would quickly get boring for everyone. But we're not interested in providing a forum for insults, name-calling, spam and derogatory comments, either. There are plenty of other places on the web for that. When we see comments that are rude, vicious, mocking or derogatory, we reserve the right to take the comment down at our discretion. We may also block people who make the forum unpleasant for others.

So what's out of bounds?

To avoid having your comment removed, try to follow these basic, common-sense rules:

  • Watch the language: We don't allow profanity, even with symbols to mask out certain letters. Common words like “hell,” “damn” and “BS” may be OK, but when in doubt find a better way to say it.
  • Tone down the insults: There's nothing more tiresome than people simply lobbing insults back and forth. Strong opinions are welcome, even strongly worded differences of opinion. But we won't tolerate name-calling, insults, ad hominen attacks or mocking other writers. Disagree agreeably. A good rule of thumb: When you're disagreeing with another commenter or letter writer, focus on the substance of the argument, not the person. Comments that criticize a person's motives or character don't further the discussion.
  • Keep it on topic: Comments that have nothing to do with the original article or with the other comments may be removed.
  • Spare the spam: Multiple posts on the same topic may be removed. Likewise posts that go on for too long. Likewise sock-puppetry.
  • Don't make defamatory allegations: You are responsible for your comments. But even if the Monitor may not be legally responsible for your comments, we don't want our comment boards to be a place where people post defamatory allegations. When potentially defamatory comments are called to our attention, we may remove them. So don't accuse others of wrongdoing or make allegations about their character.

Some people seem to get away with outrageous comments. Why don't you stop that?

We can't possibly read or review every comment posted to our site. We rely on our reader community to tell us about violations. If you see a comment that you think is out of line, please email us at commenting@cmonitor.com. We will review your report and, if we agree, we may take the comment down.

Why do I see some questionable comments allowed and others taken down?

No comment policy can ever be evenly enforced, because we can't possibly monitor or review every comment equally well. Hundreds of comments are posted every day here, and we don't read them all. The ones we do look at we read with varying degrees of attention.

What if I disagree with your decisions?

We're always open to feedback from readers and commenters. You can email us at commenting@cmonitor.com. We recognize that our decisions are often subjective and not always correct, and we do appreciate helpful suggestions.

I thought you were supposed to be in favor of the First Amendment. Isn't it my First Amendment right to say whatever I want?

Not here. The First Amendment protects all of us from government intrusion. We, however, are not the government. Our mission is to create a forum for dialogue, and we have found that without some moderation the comment boards can become offensive to many readers. That said, we would not be promoting comments at all if we didn't want to encourage broad expression. We do try to err on the side of leaving comments up.

Is there something we missed? If you have a question that's not covered here, please let us know! Emailcommenting@cmonitor.com.