Changes in our comment policy

August 25, 2010 

To our valued readers:

Because we want the comment forums that accompany our stories on newsobserver.com to be places for intelligent, civil and enlightening conversation about issues of the day, we are making a few changes to our comment policy.

The most important change

We are instituting a "three strikes, you're out" rule for violators of our comment policy, effective immediately. When we block a comment because of a serious violation, we will send an e-mail warning to the commenter. If that person commits two more serious violations, his or her account will be blocked.

Remember: We do not block comments because of the ideas expressed; opinions from all points on the spectrum are not only tolerated; they are precisely what we want. What we do not want: personal abuse, profanity (open or disguised), hate speech or threats. In other words, don't say things you wouldn't say in the living room of someone you just met. It's pretty intuitive, but if you forget, it's all in our policy.

Other things you should know

  • We have added a link to our comment policy on the prompt where you type your comment, so you can find the rules easily.

  • We will let you know, at the top of the page, when we disable all commenting on a particular story. We disable the forum, reluctantly, only when the conversation on a story becomes unusually abusive.

  • We also have tweaked our comment policy to make two things clear: Most decisions to block a comment, while based on the policy guidelines, are necessarily subjective; and any commenter may be blocked or banished without warning for abusing our policy.

  • We have made clear in our policy that spam is not allowed under any circumstance. We don't allow links to other sites in comments at all, but if a link with a clearly commercial intent is placed in a comment, the user will be blocked from commenting again, and the user's registration on newsobserver.com will be disabled.

  • We are now requiring that registrants on our site give us a first and last name for their accounts. (If you have already registered without using a first and last name, please update your account by clicking on the "Account" button at the top right of this page.) You can still use a screen name as your persona on the site, and when you comment on stories. We will not share your identity, but we need to know who you are. If we find, upon checking your account, that you have not given us a first and last name, you will still be able to use the site, but you will not be allowed to add comments.

How you can help

We don't screen comments before they're posted. We do check comments that are flagged as abusive by our readers. You can help us by reporting abuse of our policy; just click the "Report abuse" button under the comment. But please: Do not flag comments simply because you disagree with the opinions expressed.

Thank you

We appreciate your help in keeping our forums constructive and enlightening. If you have any questions, please direct them to me at the e-mail address below.

Eric Frederick
Managing Editor, newsobserver.com

eric.frederick@newsobserver.com.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

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