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Why do we have a comments policy in the first place?

We believe that the comments section can be a valuable place where readers and reporters can converse. Without clear guidelines on acceptable behavior, that space can devolve into nastiness and name calling. When that happens, the climate stifles debate and keeps many from sharing their own stories. Part of our role as a news organization is to offer readers who love Maine a space to share their ideas and experiences. Enforcing this policy helps accomplish that.

This policy is new as of March 2019, created by BDN staff with the input of hundreds of readers (thank you!). This reminder from the old policy still stands, though: Be civil. Stay on topic. Don’t abuse people. Don’t embarrass your mother.

If you’re looking for the Comments FAQ, that’s below.

Here’s what we’re looking for:

— Thoughtful responses to the article that share your experience about the topic at hand.
— Factual information that enhances or provides context to the article. Links are welcome, if used sparingly.
— Tips that could advance our reporting on the topic.
— Specific questions about the content of the article that you’d like the reporter to answer.

Here’s what will cause your comment to be marked as “pending”:

— Using curse words or slurs. Unless you’ve used the word in an approved way (such as quoting the story), these comments will be deleted.

Here’s what will get your comment deleted:

— Personal attacks of other BDN users or subjects of stories. We will not allow name calling, hate speech, ad hominem arguments or insults.
— Engaging in one-on-one debates with other commenters. If you disagree with another reader’s comment, make your case in one succinct message and move on. We will delete these threads if they devolve into personal attacks.
— Straying too far off-topic. Comments that merely repeat talking points, espouse conspiracy theories or include misinformation will be deleted. Again, we’re looking for your personal experiences or opinions on the subject.
— Copying and pasting articles in full from other news sources, or if a comment appears to be plagiarized.
— Writing in all caps. There’s no need to yell.
— The editor reserves the right to turn comments off on any article at any time.
— Deletion of comments is at the discretion of BDN moderators.

Here’s what will get your account banned:

— Engaging in any of the above deletable offenses consistently.
— Egregiously violating any of the above deletable offenses, even on your first comment.
— Behaving aggressively and trying to dominate a conversation. Posting the same comment repeatedly on the same story will get you banned. So will attacking anyone whose comments you disagree with.

Comments policy last updated 1/23/20

Comments FAQ

Q: Why am I being told I have to create an account to comment on BDN articles?

A: Based on reader and commenter feedback, on June 10, 2019 we switched from Disqus to a new commenting system, called Talk. Old comment threads will be preserved for a time. To post comments, you will need to create a new commenting account on the new system. More on this transition here.

Q: How long are comments open on stories?

A: One week, typically. We may shorten or lengthen on a case by case basis.

Q: Why are comments not available on all stories?

A: We routinely close comments on stories that involve sexual assault, domestic violence and suicide to protect the victims. We may also close comments on stories that tend to provoke strong, and unhelpful, reactions along ideological lines, such as abortion, racism and homophobia.

BDN moderators may decide to close comments on a story if the comments largely violate our comment policy. In that scenario, we will make every effort to close the comments but leave existing comments available to be read. Closing comments is done at the discretion of BDN moderators.

Q: Are links allowed? Are images allowed?

A: As of March 19, 2019, yes. However, links and images are at times abused by bots, spammers, and trolls. If we see abuse we may change this.

Q: What happens when I report a comment?

A: When you report a comment, you will be given several options to choose from for why you think that comment violates our policy. The comment will remain visible on the article page until a moderator has taken action, to either approve it or remove it.

Q: What counts as a personal attack?

A: If you have to ask, you’ve probably crossed the line. We are more permissive of critique or criticism of elected officials than we are for private citizens and fellow commenters.

Q: Are there ways to “block” commenters who I find offensive or who I cannot resist responding negatively to?

A: If you believe someone is making comments with the purpose of provoking or deceiving you, there is an “ignore” feature on the commenting platform, which hides their comments from your view.

Q: Which words are automatically blocked? If I don’t know which words aren’t allowed, I don’t know how to steer clear of them.

A: We have blocked as many curse words as we can think of, and many more words which have been used to insult others on these pages. The list evolves over time, but includes slurs, swears and other words you’re not allowed to say in front of your grandmother. If one word violates our policy but otherwise abides by our standards, our moderators will attempt to reach out to you and ask you to edit the comment, rather than deleting the entire comment outright.

Q: Why do you moderate conservative viewpoints more harshly than liberal viewpoints?

A: We are not in the business of moderating viewpoints. We seek to address violations of our policy. We welcome many viewpoints, but if those viewpoints are not expressed with respect for fellow commenters, they will be handled according to the policy.

Q: Why don’t you require real names?

A: The short answer is that our comments technology doesn’t support it. We’re not dead-set against requiring real names, but we do have some serious questions about how to enforce it accurately — and whether it would be an effective tool for improving quality of discussion. There are also compelling reasons to not require real names, such as to protect privacy and to allow people with knowledge of specific issues to speak freely.

Q: What do you mean when you say “conspiracy theory?”

A: Here’s an example: “I don’t believe in climate change” is a different beast from “climate change is a hoax.” The former is an opinion, to which you are entitled. The latter is an unfounded statement that defies the findings of the vast majority of the world’s climate scientists, according to NASA.

Likewise, we’ll moderate outright misinformation. You can say that you have concerns about vaccinating your children. But vaccines do not cause autism, according, again, to a consensus of scientists, and the federal government.

It’s not our intent to create a forum where everyone agrees with each other. But we will moderate based on a reasonable baseline of respect for established facts.

Q: What do you mean by “talking points?”

A: Repeating political slogans, catchphrases or other non-original language used to promote an ideology just deepens the divide between commenters and spurs fights. We don’t want that.

Q: My comment was deleted/My account was banned but I don’t think I violated the comments policy. Why?

A: If we find that a commenter is being aggressive or otherwise working against the spirit of the discussion space we are trying to create (here’s the comments policy), we may put that commenters account in a “time out.” If a commenter violates our policy repeatedly, or commits an egregious offense, the account may be banned. Bans and deletions are done at the discretion of BDN moderators.

FAQ last updated 7/9/19