Does Your Blog Have A Comments Policy?

Filed as Features on September 4, 2007 6:08 pm

The finally developed a Comments Policy for this blog last March. Earlier in the year, Scoble changed his Comment Policy so it only permitted “family friendly” comments. No cussing and swearing.

Here on the Blog Herald, Jonathan Bailey covered “The Legal Issues with Comments”, confronting bloggers with their responsibilities for copyright and more regarding the comments people post on your blog.

A lot of bloggers fret over the issues comments, especially on how to handle them and comment etiquette and manners, and more and more bloggers are adding comment terms and conditions, also known as a Comments Policy.

Do you have one for yours?

Does Your Blog Need a Comments Policy?

A Comments Policy is a statement defining your policy regarding comments on your blog. It is also a “responsibility statement”. It informs the reader of what you will allow on your blog, what you will not allow, and what they are allowed to do. It establishes publicly the responsibilities of each party involved.

Does your blog need one? Maybe. I think all blogs should have one. It helps to set down in words all the assumptions and expectations bloggers and commenters may have, removing all doubt. If doubt arises, the blogger can point to the ground rules, so there can be no excuses for ignorance. A comments policy says “We are all playing by the same rules here.”

Comments are essential to a blog. It is the key ingredient in defining a blog from a website. Bloggers thrive on nurturing the interaction between themselves and their readers through blog comments. However, cross the line and comments become aggravations.

Your blog posts say a lot about who you are, what you know, and what you do. They establish your reputation. The links you include in your posts and blogroll also help your reputation for recommending quality, related subjects to your readers. You earn their trust when you recommend well.

Blog comments help to develop your blog’s reputation (and yours). When you write something good, your readers may tell you. Others reading the post and comments will read those, adding these little recommendations to your reputation.

If the comments are “bad”, how you respond reveals more about who you are and how you blog, then how nasty the commenter was.

The tone of your blog posts can encourage or stifle comments. Some posts just aren’t worth commenting on. Those who encourage comments set a tone for the tone of the comments. Gentle, non-evocative posts don’t typically attract pissed off commenters. Angry, accusing and vindictive posts don’t attract sweet and calm responses. In fact, they work like magnets for those looking to encourage such negativity. If you don’t like the tenor of the comments you receive on your blog, check your post’s tone first. Like attracts like.

Creating a Comments Policy

Either way, you, as the blog owner or administrator, have total control over the comments on your blog. You can shout “freedom of speech” and have an “anything goes” policy. Or you can have a more drill sergeant discipline, striking down mean-spirited or bigoted comments. Or walk the middle of the road, killing off comments that will only inflame, but leaving up stupid, narrow-minded comments as an example for others.

Your blog is your little nation and you are the government. Currently, there are no rules or regulations that to tell you how to administer your blog’s nation. You are in charge and you set the rules. And the first rule that must be obeyed is making your rules public.

As the blog owner, you have the following rights:

  1. Control over content and comments.
  2. Ability to edit comments.
  3. Ability to censor comments.
  4. Ability to delete comments.
  5. Ability to prevent comments by specific persons or groups.

Does this mean you can freely edit, censor and delete comments? No. This list simply means you have a “right” to do any of these. What approach you take and what level of control over comments is up to you. You just need to let your readers know.

Your Comments Policy sets the ground rules for playing on your blog.

Your Comments Policy can be short and sweet or long and filled with a lot of legal jargon. It should match your overall blog writing style, or it can be legal jargon from a lawyer to provide you with maximum protection.

Here are some example comment ground rules to consider when writing your blog’s Comments Policy:

  • Comment Form Guidelines: The comment form must be filled in with a proper or legitimate sounding name and URL. Comments using keywords, spam or splog-like URLs, or suspicious information in the comment form will be edited or deleted.
  • Email Privacy: Email addresses are required for commenting, and they are not published on the blog, nor shared. They may be used by the blog owner to privately contact the commenter.
  • Commenter Privacy and Protection: All email, snail mail, phone numbers, and any private and personal information posted in any comment will be deleted as soon as possible to protect the privacy of the commenter. To prevent such editing, never share this private information within the blog comment.
  • Language and Manners: This blog is “family friendly” and comments which include offensive or inappropriate language, or considered by the blog owner and administrator to be rude and offensive, will be edited or deleted. Play nice.
  • A Comment is Conversation: A comment which does not add to the conversation, runs of on an inappropriate tangent, or kills the conversation may be edited, moved, or deleted.
  • Limit Links: This blog is setup to automatically hold any blog comment with more than two links in moderation, which may delay your comment from appearing on this blog. Any blog comment with more than four links could be marked as comment spam.
  • How The Blogger Will Respond: Comments on this blog will only be responded to in direct response to the blog comment. The blogger will not (or will) respond privately via email or other communication method to a blog comment.
  • What To Do If Your Comment Does Not Appear: If you leave a comment on this blog and it does not appear in a reasonable time period, and you know that it does not violate these Comment Policies, contact the blogger (method of contact).
  • No Personal Attach Comments Permitted: In the interest of fair play, no personal attacks are permitted in this blog’s comments. You may question or argue the content, but not attack the blogger, nor any other commenters. Failure to respect fellow participants on this blog could result in removal and blocked access.
  • Comment Spam: Any comment assumed to be possible comment spam will be deleted and marked as comment spam.
  • Commenters Blocked: Anyone who violates this Comments Policy may be blocked from future access and/or commenting on this blog.
  • All Rights Reserved: The blog owner, administrator, contributor, editor, and/or author reserve the right to edit, delete, move, or mark as spam any and all comments. They also have the right to block access to any one or group from commenting or from the entire blog.
  • Hold Harmless: All comments within this blog are the responsibility of the commenter, not the blog owner, administrator, contributor, editor, or author. By submitting a comment on our blog, you agree that the comment content is your own, and to hold this site, [name], and all subsidiaries and representatives harmless from any and all repercussions, damages, or liability.
  • Trackbacks Are Comments: All trackbacks will be treated inline with our Comments Policy.

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  1. By pchere posted on September 4, 2007 at 7:15 pm
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    I have been using a comments policy on my site for a long time. But several of the points you mention in the “comment ground rules to consider” are very valuable indeed and I need to add them.

    Reply

  2. By Andy C posted on September 4, 2007 at 8:16 pm
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    Not really. I am so delighted to even receive a comment, I don’t really need a comments policy or a mission statement.

    Seriously though, I trust my readers not to use offensive language (which would be modified) and leave all my comments unedited, in all their glory.

    However, occasionally the pedant within simply can’t resist the temptation to correct speeling, punctuation and Capitalisation.

    Reply

  3. By Doug M posted on September 5, 2007 at 12:26 am
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    i have yet to implement a comment policy, the few people that have commented haven’t used any abusive language or anything.

    Reply

  4. By letters posted on September 5, 2007 at 3:49 am
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    I don’t have a set comments policy, but I do moderate before publishing, and refuse to give a platform to people who are clearly out to be inflammatory. I had one such troll the other week when I was posting about racism in Germany. Some neo-nazi wrote filth in a comment and then harassed me via email for a week after I refused to publish it. The usual tactic worked: don’t react and they’ll go away.
    – ian in hamburg

    Reply

  5. Turulcsirip - Finbar DineenSeptember 5, 2007 at 5:15 am
  6. By cat77 posted on September 5, 2007 at 7:01 am
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    My policy is simple – I don’t allow any comments! (most bloggers would be horrified, I know….)

    Reply

  7. By Sarit posted on September 5, 2007 at 2:07 pm
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    This post was published right on time for me. Any information on comments policies in corporate blogs?

    Reply

  8. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on September 5, 2007 at 5:41 pm
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    Andy C: If you are fairly new to blogging, then every comment is an event. At some point, if you do things right, your comments will increase. And at any point, some twit will come along and just be nasty because they can. Having the comments policy in place does not prevent comments. It’s just easier to do now, when you are thinking about it, rather than later when you need something to point your finger at and say “See, this is why I won’t let you do that on my blog.” Prevention is sometimes the best education. :D

    Letters: You have already experienced the nasty, so you know it happens. You have your own policy on what you will or will not allow, but you have missed an important step: you are the only one who knows your policy. Why not put it down in writing so you are clear on what you will allow and not, so your readers know, and you have thought through the ambiguities that arise from what is acceptable or not. It doesn’t hurt. It can only help.

    Sarit: Corporate blogs should have a comments policy by default. BUT, the policy must also include whether or not the company can be held harmless for what the blogger says on the corporate blog, or anywhere on the web as a representative of the company (24/7), as well as the comments on the blog itself.

    It’s a more complicated issue as the blog must protect the rights of the blogger as well as the corporation. Some businesses have a wide open policy, as Microsoft proved with Scoble, but others want to control what the blogger says. It must be set in writing what the policies are on comments and content. And it should be reviewed by the corporate lawyers, or a specialist in web, online, copyright, and libel law.

    But the outline is the same. The same questions must be answered. They just should carry the weight of law behind them a bit more.

    Reply

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  19. By Marius posted on December 26, 2007 at 5:37 am
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    It’s good to have a good comments policy because everywere on internet are spammers that want to profit from this…

    Reply

  20. By RumorHill posted on December 30, 2007 at 1:52 am
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    Thanks…I will use the same type of policy for my blog..

    Mindy

    Reply

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  22. By Adan posted on January 6, 2008 at 7:52 am
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    I guess I have to change my policy

    Reply

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  24. By Discussion posted on January 29, 2008 at 2:53 pm
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    i have yet to implement a comment policy, the few people that have commented haven’t used any abusive language or anything.

    Reply

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  30. By k posted on May 15, 2008 at 1:36 am
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    Is this blog policy available (with minor edits) for anyone to use on their site? I don’t want to break copyright! :)

    Reply

  31. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on May 15, 2008 at 2:27 pm
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    @k:

    This article is meant to be a guide. Customize the information to your own specific needs.

    Reply

  32. By Sarah Stewart posted on May 16, 2008 at 5:54 pm
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    Thank you very much for this post. I have used it to develop my own comment policy for the 31 Day Comment Challenge. cheers, Sarah

    Reply

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  35. By Sherif posted on June 16, 2008 at 4:34 am
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    Thank you for adding this. I found you after looking for comments. Yes, a comment policy is a great addition to any serious blog and your post you seem to have covered all aspects of commenting.
    Thanks again.

    Reply

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  37. By gta4 posted on June 19, 2008 at 12:26 am
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    It’s good to have a good comments policy because everywere on internet are spammers that want to profit from this…

    Reply

  38. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on June 19, 2008 at 10:37 am
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    @gta4:

    A Comments Policy doesn’t do much to protect your blog from spammers. That’s a separate issue. What it does do is protect your rights, and the rights of commenters and readers, by providing guidelines on what is acceptable to publish in the comments. It sets the ground rules so everyone knows the rules.

    The only profit is in quality content within the content.

    Reply

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  40. By kof posted on July 23, 2008 at 8:03 am
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    Comments + their owner’s copyright is an interesting one.

    Personally, I think comments on a site become the site’s property.

    Reply

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  43. By cb posted on September 4, 2008 at 7:41 pm
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    Thanks for this. I haven’t bothered with a comment policy to date because my blog is small and insignificant however I received the first comment which, although supportive of my position, presented as quite a vicious attack on another blogger, which I felt both uncomfortable with personally and also I felt would affect the ‘virtual environment’ of my blog – so I was searching around for information about comment policies and what to put into one.
    This post has been extremely helpful so thank you!

    Reply

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  45. By Jon in Charlotte posted on September 13, 2008 at 4:29 am
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    Good thoughts here. I think a comment policy is something many people know they should have but just never get around to. You’ve inspired me to take 15 minutes and knock it out! :)

    Reply

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  49. By bradleybradwell posted on December 8, 2008 at 12:20 am
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    I think having a comments policy really makes the readers feel like their being controlled even if their not. If someone is to implement a policy on ones blog i think it’s important to keep it short and simple. An example of this would be “Keep Comments Clean”. I don’t think anyone would want a policy to be overdone especially regarding comments.

    Reply

  50. The Art of the Fan-Based Blog: Crazy Fans « Lorelle on WordPressDecember 22, 2008 at 6:00 am

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