We’ve closed two comment threads today, both of them coincidentally at the 250-comment mark, which we think is the highest ever. Both had descended into pointlessness, with small groups repeating themselves at each other and everyone complaining that everyone else was being rude. By internet argument standards they were very mild indeed, but it seemed a good time to reiterate our moderation policy.
Wings Over Scotland has, as far as we can tell, by some considerable distance the most liberal comment policy of any Scottish political website of any kind, whether blog or commercial media. We don’t pre-moderate comments, we don’t require registrations or social-media logins, we don’t make you mess around with hideous Captchas and we don’t censor you for disagreeing with us. We simply trust our readers to act like civilised people – very occasionally asking them nicely to calm down a little if things are getting overheated – and it works. That policy will not be changing.
However, just as freedom of speech excludes the right to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, some standards will continue to be upheld. Where users are persistently abusive or intentionally disruptive, and ignore repeated public warnings, we will take action. In the site’s 15-month history we’ve banned two people, and deleted a tiny handful of comments – nearly all of them in a single thread almost a year ago, where one person was using dozens of different IDs to post incoherent gibberish.
Some people have requested recently that there be a place where topics not raised in a particular article can be discussed. We’re not looking to run a forum, but it seemed to us that there was a certain amount of crossover between these two issues. Therefore, as of today we’ve revived a disused old page as a “quarantine”, where disruptive posts can be moved and where people can also, if they really want to, talk about any old thing they feel like. You can bookmark it, or just remember the Q-word.
We don’t particularly encourage its use – as we say, if we wanted to run a forum we’d do so. But if you really must discuss whether the US Government deliberately demolished the World Trade Centre itself, say, now there’s a place you can do so with anyone who’s interested, without derailing anyone else’s thread.
We’ve always thought of any well-run website as being like a pub, where people can come together for a good time and lively discourse, including the freedom to argue. And like any good landlord, we won’t stand by and watch our patrons be glassed. Now, if you want to behave obnoxiously or smoke, there’s an outside to do it in.