Q: Why was my comment removed?
A: Please refer the Terms of service you agreed to when you registered, specifically under the heading "Restricted Content and Activities." Here's more detail on the most frequent reasons comments are removed:
- Personal attacks and insults: Threatening, intimidating, libeling or defaming of any individual. Also forbidden is name-calling of other commenters or people who are subjects of the articles.
- Hate speech: Language that degrades others -- including public figures -- on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, physical characteristics or disability.
- Off-topic comments: Comments that have nothing to do with the subject of the article.
- Private information: Material that can be considered an invasion of privacy. This includes phone numbers, e-mail addresses, URLs or other specific personal information.
- Solicitations of any kind.
- Advertising or spam, including a comment that is posted repeatedly within one thread or across a number of different threads.
- Copyright violations: No content from seattletimes.com or any other source can be reproduced in its entirety. Instead, use a small and relevant excerpt and then provide a link to the full version.
- Comments where it appears the commenter is masquerading as another person.
- Profanity: Particularly obscene or pornographic language (including attempts at disguising profanity with dashes or other symbols). Just as with articles in the Times itself, there may be situations where some common profanity is permitted based on context.
Due to the volume of comments received and reviewed, we cannot respond to individual questions about why a comment was allowed or removed.
Q: How do I report an offensive comment?
A: If you believe a comment violates the rules above, bring it to the attention of the online staff by clicking on the "report abuse" link that appears with each comment. It will be reviewed as soon as possible (there could be a delay of a few hours). You must be a registered user to report abuse. Keep in mind that a comment is not inappropriate simply because you disagree with what it says. It must violate the terms of service or the more specific rules above.
Q: Who reviews the reported comments?
A: The seattletimes.com staff and other editors in the newsroom.
Q: Why are you censoring peoples' opinions?
A: The Seattle Times Co. reserves the right to allow or disallow any kind of content that doesn't meet its standards as outlined in the terms of service. The Times is under no obligation to publish every comment it receives.
Q. What about my right to free speech?
A: The right to free speech described in the First Amendment concerns the relationship between the U.S. government and its citizens. Any private business can require certain standards of conduct. Generally, a comment is removed not because of the idea it expresses, but because the comment contains a personal attack, insult, hate speech or profanity.
Q: What does it take to get banned?
A: See the section on "why was my comment removed?" above. We no longer have the staff resources to consider a commenter's past conduct when making a decision to ban them. If you break the rules, you're out.
Q: Can you tell me why I've been banned? And can I be reinstated?
A: Due to staff time limitations, we cannot respond to individual questions about why a particular person has been banned. Bans are permanent.
Q: Why don't you make people use real names?
A: Because we don't have the resources to verify that names are real. People could too easily impersonate someone else.
Q: Why don't you pre-screen all of the comments?
A: We do actively moderate and pre-screen the comments for threads on some stories that we think will be particularly controversial. But we don't have the staff to read and approve every comment on our site before it is posted. That's why we gave you the tools to help us keep the conversation civil through the "report abuse" button and the "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" icons.
Q: Why do you require registration to comment?
A: Several reasons:
- It's the only way to allow such tools as comment rating.
- Adding the step of having to be registered and logged in deters the hit-and-run troll.
- It allows us to better control the legitimacy of commenters, and to ban them more easily if they break the rules.
- It's the best way to keep spam out of the comments.
Q: Why must I type in a string of letters and/or numbers in order to submit each comment?
A: This is a step to help us control "spam bots." Spam bots are computer programs that register on the site and then leave spam, such as advertising, in the comment threads. Requiring this step helps prevent the bots from being able to post. Yes, it's an extra step, but it's really the only solution for fighting this. Do you have a comment about this? E-mail webmaster.
Q: What are the thumbs for?
A: You are allowed to rate each individual post once. You can click the thumb pointing up to rate it higher, or the thumb pointing down to rate it lower. The comments with the highest number of positive ratings (minus any thumbs down votes) rise to the top when "highest rated" is chosen as the sort option.
Q: Can I change the way I view the comments?
A: You can. By default, the comments begin with the newest first, then chronologically to the oldest at the end of the comment thread. At the top of each comments page, above the first comment, you can reverse this by clicking the "Oldest" link. Or you can click the "Highest rated" link to have the list sorted by reader approval rating.
Q: Can I remove a comment after I've posted it?
A: No, so please be absolutely sure you want to make such a comment publicly. Comments could remain on our site for many years and are indexed by search engines.
Q: I don't want to read comments. Can't you make it so I don't have to see them on stories?
A: You can do this: just click the "hide comments" link above the three comments in the story inset box. It should remember your preference if you have cookies enabled in your browser. If you elect to have comments displayed there, the three highest-rated comments will continue to appear in the box. You can help assure that those comments are worth reading by using the thumbs up button to vote them up.
Q: Why do you have comments?
A: Because we want seattletimes.com to be a town square for our community. We want the stories, blogs, columns and editorials we provide to be a starting point for conversation, not a dead end. What separates seattletimes.com from Seattle Times in print is the ability to interact with you. That means answering your questions, hearing your concerns, listening to your ideas. Commenting on stories is part of that community conversation.