An observer of online MSM, ‘alt-media’, websites and blogs where comment facilities still exist will have noticed that over the last couple of years the tone of the discourse has become more and more rough while the quality of the comment posts has deteriorated. There’s been a manifest erosion of good manners. Publishers and site owners have restricted access by using paywalls and by using comments systems which automatically bin comments using certain expressions deemed offensive and unsuitable. Anyone who has been using the famous comments facility ‘disqus’ knows that using the good old English expression ‘faggots’ is a guarantee that their comment will never see the light-of-day.
Some websites rely on a heavy pre-moderation where comments are binned without recourse and ‘offending’ posters are blocked from posting. This is of course open to abuse because banning rude words easily leads to banning ‘unacceptable’ political points of view.
Other websites and indeed most MSM are now disabling comments under any article deemed to be too ‘contentious’ and thus liable to elicit inconvenient comments. Add the ‘Hate Speech’ crime into this mix, with police forces reportedly spending more time and money on persecuting ‘offensive’ speech especially on social media and the internet generally, and add that editors’ heads are on the block for allowing such hate speech to occur on their sites and it’s no wonder that comments facilities are vanishing like snow in the sun.
As Kippers we stand for Free Speech – and as E-i-C of UKIP Daily I believe that having a thriving and lively comments facility is vital for the exchange of views amongst us grassroots. I hate censorship, I hate having to bin comments. And this is where ‘good manners’ come in …
It has saddened me to see how, especially over the past month, good manners have been left outside the keyboards. We saw more unrestrained personal attacks and vituperations which bring nothing to the debating table that is the comments section.
As in the ‘olden days’ when commenting on blogs and news sites took off, when emails suddenly became a fact of life, when social media started to proliferate, it surely is time to recall the advice given then: ‘don’t post anything which you wouldn’t say to a person face-to-face in real life’.
I’m sure that anyone who would start slagging people off at a branch meeting would be unmercifully called to order by the chairman. So why do it in comments posts? An argument made politely, in a silky voice, has far more impact than banging fists on tables and shouting abuse! That is also and even more so the case for comments, especially since many people read while only a few actively comment. Many might thus be hesitant to join in by the perceived roughness.
I’m not asking that commenters censor themselves. You can be as factually hard and to the point as you like – but do not forget your good manners. I’m not asking you to write as if you’re suddenly in the company of ‘speshul snowflakes’ but am reminding you that something said in the heat of the moment, face-to-face, is different from something written and published for all – not just us Kippers – to read, forever. That’s why I ask you all to remember your manners when commenting.
Here’s another aspect: as you know, we have been moderating comments on UKIP Daily. This has usually meant just passing comments through because we knew the comment posters and trusted them. When we editors have to read every single comment post before allowing it because we cannot trust that there are no ‘transgressions’ as posters have become more intemperate, then the workload becomes near impossible if we want to keep the discourse flowing. That’s another reason why I remind you all of remembering your good manners.
We’ve had ‘time out’ since Wednesday midnight because we wanted to look at and evaluate different comments systems with regard to the many complaints we’ve received. There are not many alternatives – we’ve looked at them and had to reject many as unsuitable.
As always, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. So we hope this new system will be acceptable. If it isn’t, then the only, last resort is to use ‘disqus’ with all that entails.
Before you now go and comment, I would urge you all to read again our rules in the ‘submissions’ section you will find at the top left corner of the UKIP Daily Homepage.
Be warned though – we’ll be ruthless enforcing them.