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Improving Community Feedback on Our Stories

Some comment threads on our site have gotten nasty. Here’s what we’re doing about it.
October 24, 2012

We greatly value the insights our readers can offer. The exceptional intelligence, perspective, and wit of our audience are part of what makes MIT Technology Review different from publications that cover technology breathlessly and without context. Judging by what we hear from many of our readers, high-quality discussions about stories are among the things you value, too.

And so it has been especially distressing to see some comment threads, especially on energy stories, get ugly lately. A few readers—a very small but vocal part of our audience—have been engaging in partisan bickering and name-calling that is uncivil and unconstructive. Other readers have complained about it, and so the editors of MIT Technology Review would like to make sure our policy on comments is clear.

We will delete comments if they are not on the subject of the story at hand; if they are insulting to other commenters; or if they contain racial, ethnic, or sexist slurs. Repeat offenders will be banned. As our terms of service specify, we reserve the right to make these deletions and bans for any reason, without prior notice or warning, and without liability.

Sometimes when we have deleted comments and exiled rude commenters in the past, we have been accused of trying to enforce a sort of politically correct censorship. Nothing could be further from the truth. We want perspectives from anywhere on the political spectrum. But what we don’t want are comments that unimaginatively apply simple labels to people or ideas—comments in which someone spouts off, for example, that someone else is a “socialist” or “a right-wing wacko.” That kind of discourse is too easily found elsewhere online. If you disagree with a premise or a point in a story, or if you think something is inaccurate, then by all means, tell us and your fellow readers. If you think someone made an erroneous comment, disagree with it. But do so constructively. Confine your comments to the subject of the posts, and don’t attack the posters themselves.

If you can’t do those things, your post won’t be up for long. It’s not worth it to us.

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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