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This site now gets a few hundred comments a day on our accumulated total of more than 10,000 articles.
The vast majority of them are thoughtful, from experienced owners and advocates who want to discuss a new item or vehicle test in more detail. And we're grateful to our many, many commenters, who expand the discussion in ways we couldn't.
We've learned a lot--and gotten quite a few story leads--from reading the comments on our stories.
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A small number of those comments, however, contain personal attacks--against other commenters or authors--or obscenity.
We moderate those comments--which is to say, we'll warn the author that such comments violate our community standards. We may also edit the comment to remove the offending language.
Not surprisingly, a few of the commenters we moderate are not happy about it.
Below is an adapted version of a response we sent to one such commenter, who had angrily accused us of censorship.
Here's what we wrote about why we moderate:
You've undoubtedly seen sites and forums in which comments are entirely unmoderated. There are usually a small number of commenters who have descended into obscenity, insults, and general nastiness.
Those commenters can poison the well for a much larger community, driving away some of the vast majority who want to engage in a robust debate on the merits of the topics--but won't do so if they're subject to name-calling, assertions about their ethnic background / national origins / sexuality / intelligence / sanity, not to mention blatant obscenity.
So we made the decision early on to keep the discussion civil and ask commenters NOT to use obscenity and NOT to insult each other or our authors. We think it's helped grow the site, and made the comments a more pleasant place to be.
A number of outside observers have expressed their surprise over how "intelligent" or "knowledgeable" the discussions in our comments are. To us, that demonstrates that we're on the right course.
Hope this helps explain why we moderate. Thanks in advance for your contributions to the ongoing discussions, and for staying within our guidelines.
We also moderate spam, by the way, deleting comments whose sole purpose is to include links to commercial sites. Those come in groups and are usually pretty easy to identify.
All of that said, we're open to feedback from our readers and commenters.
Is this the right call? Should we continue to work toward a Comments section that prohibits direct insults and profanity? Or would you prefer unmoderated comments?
Leave us your thoughts--politely as always--in the Comments below.