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Commenters, MinnPost wants your views -- respectfully

Commenters, we’ve heard you. 

 In response to repeated requests from folks upset with the disruptive effect of inflammatory comments, we are tightening our standards.

Here's the new rule:

We will reject inflammatory and highly provocative comments that seem likely to hijack the comment thread — by making the discussion more about the commenter's inflammatory view than about the story. We also will reject comments that are clearly off-topic.

Here are some reminders about our current policy:

We do not allow ad hominem attacks and gratuitous insults aimed at commenters.

We require commenters to use their real names.

We do not allow the use of nicknames for people or groups that are meant to denigrate or deride. The use of “Democrat” as an adjective is one such example, and we’ve banned the use of several derogatory terms some use to refer to the Tea Party.

Since our beginning in November 2007, we’ve been credited with developing and maintaining one of the most civil environments in the nation for online commenters at a news site.

We intend to preserve that reputation, and we encourage more readers to take part in our online discussions — respectfully.

With political rhetoric heating up everywhere, we’re finding ourselves rejecting more and more comments.

The biggest reason for the rejections is the violation of our policy promoting civility, which basically boils down to: no personal attacks, no foul language, no libelous statements and no uses of wording likely to “incite” hate or sexual harassment.

And here’s a quick review of our basic guidelines outlined in our Terms of Use policy:

• MinnPost welcomes user comments on our stories and posts. MinnPost's mission is to engage the public in news analysis of issues in their community and to encourage interaction with our editors, writers and other posters.

• We intend for this area to be used by our readers as a place for civil, thought-provoking and high-quality public discussion.

• In order to achieve this, MinnPost requires that all commenters register and post comments with their actual names.

• MinnPost reserves the right to remove postings that include the use of foul language, personal attacks or the use of language that may be libelous or interpreted as inciting hate or sexual harassment; however, we are under no obligation to do so.

• User comments may be included or excluded at our discretion.

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Comments (46)

Thank you

I appreciated your actions on this late last year, and I appreciate your renewal and refinement of your statement of policy.

I hope - moving forward - that you can strive to keep the moderation more even-handed. It has been frustrating seeing some ugly and inflammatory comments come through, especially when there are posts I've written that are quite benign and never make it onto the site.

And to be even-handed about this, I've written some snarky posts myself, and it's particularly eyebrow-raising when a snarky post of mine gets through while a much more benign post never shows up.

I've chalked it up to differences between moderators, but even though I can think of a completely logical reason it occurs, that does not make its occurrence any less frustrating.

And as a final observation: The amount of time it takes posts to show up varies quite a bit. I've had posts show up almost immediately, and I've had posts show up as long as three days after they were written. Some variability in this is understandable, but I hope you agree that a spread of from 3 minutes to 3 days is pretty wide and that it warrants some investigation into what can be done about the more excessive delays.

(The fact that the previously-written posts suddenly "appear" in the midst of an ongoing discussion based on their time of writing rather than on the time they finally make it to the site can also add some confusion - and occasionally consternation - to an ongoing discussion.)

Again, thank you for your newly-refreshed attention to this.

Snarky posts

I think we've all been guilty of those. I look back on things that I wrote in the heat of the moment and just cringe.

And then there are those that read differently than what I meant.

But I think we can all do without the messages meant to incite. The world is angry enough as it is.

Codifying bias might seem

Codifying bias might seem unfair to some, but for me it's merely an overdue response to a question asked more than once.

Complete Nonsense

Nice try, but you've obviously got an inflated ego, along with no sense of irony. To wit:

• "Since our beginning in November 2007, we’ve been credited with developing and maintaining one of the most civil environments in the nation for online commenters at a news site."

A 2010 blog entry from a journalism major gives you street cred? Uh, no. Nowhere in that entry is MinnPost credited with what you are gladhanding yourself about.

• "We do not allow ad hominem attacks and gratuitous insults aimed at commenters."

That depends on who you are and MinnPost's, constantly-changing idea of what an attack or insult is. MinnPost has no problem if their own writers use such things, but then has the gall to take the opposite view when it comes to commenters. Strike 1.

• "We require commenters to use their real names."

Not true. What you require is a name that sounds believable to you. There is no way for you to confirm the identity of anyone, nor are they required to. You seem to overlook the fact that every commenter is entitled to privacy, and that includes their real name. This basic tenet was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Strike 2.

• "We do not allow the use of nicknames for people or groups that are meant to denigrate or deride."

Yes you do; all we have to do is look at the writings of your reporters: terms such as 'Our Gal', 'Shelley', etc, all grace your work, yet you have the audacity to say that commenters can't do that. That's the very definition of hypocrisy. Strike 3.

For an organization that exists because of, and is entirely dependent on the First Amendment, you have a remarkable disdain for free speech. You're willing to accept it as long as it comports with your viewpoint, but otherwise, you have no use for such freedoms.

"one of the most civil environments in the nation"

E-Democracy used to tout the same thing, Mark. In no time at all, every conservative commentator had been either banned, or simply quit.

Now lefties may think that's a pretty good deal, but in fact the result was a short term echo chamber that finally died altogether....evidently "Yeah, me too!" gets boring; go figure. To believe that political discussions can avoid inflaming passions is to reveal a complete ignorance of politics.

I also have taken note of the double standard between Minnpost writers and commentators, but being a firm believer in property rights, I defend their right to do anything they wish with their website.

"In no time at all, every

"In no time at all, every conservative commentator had been either banned, or simply quit."

Perhaps that says more about conservative commenters than the host site.

I'm sure, David

that explanation suits you, but a more thoughtful observation of the bigger picture would leave one incapable of ignoring my point, which was that an echo chamber inevitably dies a slow, dry death.

That is to say, the only people that are likely to continue to spend time piling one identical slam upon another without rebuttal are not the sorts of people that attract intelligent readers, even of their own ilk.

No, I'm more than willing to

No, I'm more than willing to engage with conservatives. And Minnpost has made it clear that is desired and encouraged.

It just has to be done without insults and thread-jacking.

If conservatives are unwilling or unable to do so, I won't miss them in that case. There's plenty of other places I can go if I'm in the mood for that.

Mr. Swift should admit that he was one of those banned by

E-Democracy.

I submit that the MinnPost comment policy has been kinder and gentler to him and provides a forum where conservatives may participate in civil discussion and debate, if this is in fact what they desire.

Certainly Mr. Swift has had plenty of opportunities on MinnPost to have his say.

"Every conservative commentator"

Why yes, Bill, "every" would have included me. Impressive catch aside, I'm not sure how highlighting that obvious fact in neon does anything to move the discussion along. But I give you joy of it, none-the-less.

I don't think I suggested that Minnpost hasn't given me, and other conservatives (the few, the proud) plenty of opportunity to publish our observations...to this point in time. The point of my comment was that since there are only two or three conservatives participating here, it's a pretty sure bet 100% of the complaints Minnpost fielded were from unhappy liberals.

Since I've not seen any foul language printed here, it's logical to conclude it was the conservative viewpoint that caused all the discord. Remove that viewpoint (scant as it is) and you have another leftist echo chamber.

Hope that helps your understanding.

I suggest, Mr. Swift, that

you go back and re-read Mr. Effenberger's new rules:

"We will reject inflammatory and highly provocative comments that seem likely to hijack the comment thread — by making the discussion more about the commenter's inflammatory view than about the story. We also will reject comments that are clearly off-topic."

There is no mention anywhere here of conservative views being censored.

I can, however, provide plenty of examples of the behavior, now banned, in comments that have appeared on MinnPost. These would be gratuitous slams that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

"Since I've not seen any foul language printed here, it's logical to conclude it was the conservative viewpoint that caused all the discord." This statement, made in your last comment, is incorrect.

If you want to have a civil discussion, as you put it in an earlier comment: "I'm your Huckleberry." And by the way, you might wish to look up this phrase.

Short term echo chambers

If Mr. Swift's theory is correct, then righty sites like True North must be doomed to fail, as E-Democracy did. There is a line, I believe, between the frequent commentor and the troll, between the writer who can provoke deep thought and the writer who writes only to provoke.

I think most people know where this line is, regardless of the personal ideology. It's up to us not to cross it.

The first amendment

refers to -government- regulation, not to private organizations.
There is no constitutional right to publish in a private venue.

You're Confused

The First Amendment refers to the right of free speech and association by anyone, and severely limits the ability of the government to restrict or censor speech. Anyone has a Constitutional right to publish in a private venue. That's not the same as an organization having a web site and trying to control speech there.

Because MinnPost exists solely because of the rights granted to everyone under the First Amendment, it's hypocrisy for them to let their writers engage in making comments that they then say are not allowed by commenters.

Here it is

"AMENDMENT I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Nothing about a right to publish in a private venue.
Strictly about what -Congress- may not prohibit.

You've just reinforced my argument.

As I said before, MinnPost, all other media outlets, and the general public are granted the right of free speech, which is how MinnPost even exists. But they only support free speech by commenters when it falls inside their narrow view of free speech.

Not a First Amendment issue

Even if you have the right to publish your opinion somewhere where it can be read by the public, that doesn't give you the right to spray-paint it on the exterior walls of my house.

MinnPost owns the venue. You can argue that they restrict the terms of debate so that conservatives don't get a fair shake (and I'm inclined to disagree with that), but that's not a First Amendment issue. That's an issue of what someone will or won't allow on their property. You're more than welcome to go to a friendlier venue, like PowerLine or Little Green Footballs (assuming the latter still exists) if you want to play somewhere where the ground rules are slanted in your favor.

You're incorrect.

This is a First Amendment issue, plain and simple. Without the First Amendment, MinnPost would not be free to publish, nor would any other media outlet. It has nothing to do with whether one is a member of the Democratic, Republican, Green, Libertarian, or other parties. And it seems you're assuming (incorrectly) that I'm a Republican, or 'Conservative'; that illustrates the problems with making assumptions.

It's very easy to claim you respect the right to free speech, but not so easy to practice when you encounter speech that you disagree with. That's why we have the ACLU; they defend the Ku Klux Klan's rights, even though they disagree with their speech.

The problem that MinnPost suffers from is that they have lofty-sounding goals, but fail to practice them, and that betrays their actual level of support for free speech; i.e., "it's okay if we and our reporters do it, but it's not okay if you do it." If they're unwilling to support free speech in all it's forms, then soon they may find themselves in the position where the only acceptable speech is that which the government endorses.

Bill of Rights

The first ten amendments to the US Constitution are limitations on the Federal government, it is what the Federal government cannot infringe upon and must guarantee to its citizens. It is not a contract between private citizens. It is nor enforceable between private, non-state actors.

The Minnesota State Constitution is where my primary rights are guaranteed and protected. I am both a citizen of the State of Minnesota and of the United States of America. My rights are inherent and bestowed to me by G-d and enumerated by both constitutions, and no actor, whether by the power of the state of not, nor any level of government has the power to arbitrarily revoke my right of life, liberty, and property.

It seems as though you're

It seems as though you're ignoring the issue, which has nothing to do with government restrictions on speech. Instead, it has only to do with MinnPost restricting speech that they don't agree with, which flies in the face of their claimed belief in free speech (because they exist solely due to the First Amendment), but yet they don't hold those same beliefs when it comes to comments.

As I said before, if they're going to invite comments, they need to apply the same standards to them as they do for their reporters; anything less is a craven abdication of the principle of free speech. One can be civil without having to agree with others, and MinnPost's silly ideas of what might offend or incite, etc. Since they have no standard for that, they might as well remove the ability to comment, as anyone can easily take offense with any comment, no matter how benign.

What MinnPost does is to read their own (Mr. Effenberger's or his unseen, unknown "moderators") meaning into each comment, as though they have some special gift that gives them insight into the intent or thinking of the commenter, and then decide whether they agree with it, and only then do they decide whether or not to post it.

That is the height of arrogance.

If it's a first amendment

If it's a first amendment issue, sue 'em. I'd love to see how your logical backflips hold up in court.

You start with

a good example of an ad hominem argument.
Your post should have been edited or deleted.

Thank you

From a non-journalism major:

I credit MinnPost with developing and maintaining one of the most civil environments in the nation for online commenters at a news site.

Being even-handed is, indeed, extremely difficult in this charged political environment.

Keep up the good work and refinement of your comment policy.

Using one's own name...

..I assumed everyone did, eh? That's what keeps the debate cleaner, and keeps one more responsible for one's rhetoric and attitudes.

Certainly separates commentary here from merely a political chat room with gloves on. Possibly gives more dignity to the exchange of ideas?

As one with few certainties I do believe reading diverse points-of-view leads to a better understanding of the 'other'. And in reflection, if I may be a bit suggestive... reading attitudes of others - the world's perspective in all its negative and positive variations - to be aware of a greater global view at times; does attain a broader view point and shake a few certainties out of our rhetorical rucksacks...maybe, who knows?

...and then again

Coming from a heritage of 'debaters', disagreeing at times merely for the sake of playing with another point of view...my mother's son-in-law would claim whenever, he was at a point of winning their political argument or otherwise, she would offer him a too-hot cup of coffee; enough to burn his tongue.

We keep a small bell on the kitchen table nowadays so no one monopolizes the dialogue or starts drumming on the table etc....it works at times.

Can't ring a bell or serve burnt coffee on this site...so goes the alternative. Okay by me

I fail to see the controversy

When my friends ask me why I bother commenting at Minnpost I half-jokingly remind them that Jesus told his disciples to go where the sinners are.

But more seriously, and having been banned from the same liberal sites as Swiftie has over the years, I admit that I'm attracted to liberal echo chambers because I simply abhor one-sided arguments. Always have. I rarely visit right-wing sites for the same reason. You can only say "Yup, I agree" so many times before you get bored and leave. Maybe that's just me and Tom.

I assumed, since I haven't been banned, yet, that Minnpost agrees with me.

I do have one complaint. I was chastised by one of your columnists recently who didn't take kindly to my response to his rambling discourse on religion in politics because he claimed that my one and only comment didn't respond to the heart of his original point (which had become lost in a forest of disconnected paragraphs) even though it was about the importance of religion in politics in this election. I thought that was kind of lame coming from a member of the clergy.

But as usual, I just ignore the insults.

Thanks for reinforcing and

Thanks for reinforcing and tightening the rules for us! I'm sure I'm not alone in having noticed the need for it.

Love the new policy

Sounds great to me. This grade-school name-calling has been annoying me for a long time and I'll be glad to see the end of it in what is intended to be adult discourse.

Double standard is okay

I like the freedom given to the Minnpost writers, even if they veer into territory that might get their comments restricted if made by a poster. It may seem like a double standard, but so what? Keep the bloggers civil, let the journos rip away!

Sheeesh

Arguing about arguing.

I admit

That I find it annoying when a post of mine that is fairly innocuous disappears into the ether, while other posters seem to get away with so much more. Sometimes I have the urge to be as rude and insulting, but then, I know it won't be posted and it's a waste of time. I'm very ok with the rules--I would simply like to see them even-handedly applied. It still needs work.

I'm guilty though I am changing my tune

I have been guilty of snipping on occasion, and it is lame of me to do so, but sometimes I just can't resist, but from now on, I will resist.

I truly want to engage conservative thought on many issues, which is why I read many pretty conservative blogs/bloggers etc. Reading these writers make my arguments stronger, or make me rethink, or just clarify a different position. That said, the conservatives who comment on this blog don't seem to be really conservative, at least in the sense of traditional conservative thought. The use of liberal as pejorative does not ad to the substance of the discussion, nor does whining about supposed failed policy choices, or the any one of a number of insults de jour about the President.

I will never convince those conservative readers that the voter I.D. law is a poll tax and is clearly unconstitutional, nor will they convince me there is wholesale voter fraud threatening our Republic. I would however, hope that as small government conservatives, they would be against the marriage amendment, which is just one more intrusion of the gov into the lives of citizens, who wish to receive the same benefits as others as enumerated by the Fourteenth Amendment. These are just a couple of the areas that descend so quickly into the pig sty of forum comments, but could be substantive if we (I) step back and take a deep breath. .

Argue your point, and convince me that your side is based on fact, and not just a hatred of all things progressive. I will do the same, and not chide all things Republican as hateful or tinged with racial overtones.

rules like this get out of hand very quickly

extremists and attention-seekers are very good at hewing to the letter of the rules while continuing to disrupt. I've seen other communities struggle with this. I hope your moderators have some common sense.

Hubert Humphrey said

"You have the right to be heard; you do not have the right to be taken seriously."

Good for the goose, whomever...

Just another thought:

In the banning of style and content, I did notice the frequent use of the term "Lefty" and "Leftist" used to label Progressives and appears to be acceptable to Minn Post establishment?

And assuming it is to be accepted as an alternate label...then shouldn't a second label be acceptable for right wing, t-party religious fundamentalists (since calling them "rightists" would be objectionable by those who find narrow to middling viewpoints not 'right' but merely right-of-center; complicite with their more extreme alternates?

However, it's hard to create even a respectable acronym out of the variation of right-of-center labels (TWTPRF) designating conservative thinkers...and as Lefty and Leftist appears to have passed code here, why not call the right-of-center the Left Outs as opposed to Lefty or Leftist? Call it a fair and respectable alternative? Good for the gander too one could assume?

Thank God You're Banning the use of "Democrat" as an Adjective..

...as that sort of over the top horrible hate speech is just soooo disturbing to those of such sensitive persuasions.

"• User comments may be included or excluded at our discretion."

Of course this last "new" rule has long been the overriding governing factor as to what comments actually get published. I give you lots of credit for proving once again that absent double standards, the left is void of any.

"User comments may be included or excluded at our discretion."

Well, as Thomas Swift pointed out earlier in the thread, "being a firm believer in property rights, I defend their right to do anything they wish with their website".

As a further observation, it appears that the moderators are not enforcing the rule on "gratuitous insults" in this thread. I'm assuming that is a conscious choice given the deliberate request for feedback in the article.

Moving forward, however, I am hoping that the renewed focus on civility will mean that statements such as "the left is void of any (standards)" is an example of the kind of gratuitous insult which will not make it through the moderators' filters.

I Likewise Agree With Mr Swift's Belief in Property Rights...

...so feel free to turn this so-called forum into a complete echo chamber whenever you choose. Anyone with even a small sense of balance probably flees after reading a few comments and realizing that the party line is already mostly strictly enforced.

I am still laughing at the notion that anyone could possibly be offended by the use of "Democrat" as an adjective. So what's it like to get yourself offended by matters of such deep inconsequence?

Reconsidering, in light of the 'Democratic"(happy now?) convention's approval of the most obviously voted down by the delegates motion to declare Jerusalem the capitol of Israel, it becomes increasingly clear that either label is non-descriptive. Stalinesque is probably a useful label in describing the creeping authoritarianism that defines political language which is acceptable

It is interesting, although perhaps unintentional,

to see some of the commenters push the envelope by apparently trying to have their comments rejected so that they can later claim censorship.. Another intimidation tactic that makes the job of a comment moderator, trying to be fair, even more difficult?

"Stalinesque" - really?

"Anyone with even a small sense of balance probably flees after reading a few comments and realizing that the party line is already mostly strictly enforced."

I just want to point out again that those of a more conservative persuasion, e.g. Mr. Swift, are more than adequately represented.

As of today, Mr. Swift has been a commenter for almost five years and has 348 pages of comments. [link: http://bit.ly/UhEXHU ] Hardly indicative of some sort of strict enforcement of a party line. There are other regular contributors of conservative persuasion who also post.

If you can't abide by the rules, don't post.

I am moderately surprised that some commenters seem to be unable to make their points without this prohibited behavior. As an old-time debater, I am sure that I could make a good conservative case on most issues under the new commenter guidelines.

There are plenty of conservative pundits who also write material that would easily fit into such guidelines except, of course, those of the Rush Limbaugh persuasion.

Ha!

It's kinda funny that a notice about comments would get so many comments.

I don't think anyone would argue that I'm not one of the more liberal voices in MNpost commentary and I'm not ashamed to tell you that I've had blocked comments. This idea that conservative voices are getting a raw deal is simply goofy. You don't what don't what don't know.

MNpost comments and articles get into some dicey issues. For instance some of the photo ID proponents and marriage amendment proponents are simply offering bigoted arguments. MNpost could simply block them, but frequently does not. This actually give us a chance to discuss these issues and engage and there can be a fine line between personal attack and spirited debate. I have no complaints but I will point out that there is no law saying anyone has to read every post. I routinely skip certain posters because history has shown they offer no substance.

A few thoughts:I think of

A few thoughts:

I think of myself as Conservative, though many others who think of themselves as Conservative don't think it of me, and I don't think it of them. I'm not sure what they'd say I am, but I'd call them Republicans.

The commenting voice who seems most reliably Conservative here is James Hamilton, off the top of my head. Many of the commenters who would likely be called liberal write here with careful arguments, evidence, respectful tone and a solid knowledge of history and science. These are characteristics embraced by liberals and conservatives. Mr. Swift's comments consistently represent Republican talking points and rarely represent Conservative thought. Not that there's anything wrong with that, he's just not a Conservative.

My favorite commenters write at Minnpost and Wonkette, two decidely different places.

another helpful view on commenting

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/09/18/how-to-be-a-good-commenter/

This is from the web site of Jonathan Scalzi, science fiction writer. He has a good blog (with comments) that has had a number high points over the years. His piece on Being Poor from several years ago was recently referenced in a piece by a CNN writer.

I can't wait

for the new rule to take effect!

Three things to ask yourself before you say anything:

Craig Ferguson's three things you must always ask yourself before you say anything:
1. Does this need to be said?
2. Does this need to be said by me?
3. Does this need to be said by me now?

http://youtu.be/pIdox3zpv-w

Weasel Words

A good rule of thumb is that if a comment starts with "It seems like..." or "I find it interesting that..." it probably won't be a very good comment.

I'll add to that list of wesel words

"The last time I checked,..."