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This is an overview of our approach to community at the Globe and Mail – how and why we deal with comments on news stories, live discussions, forums and the other ways in which we engage with our readers. The Globe provides readers with a number of ways of interacting with its journalists and discussing its content, as well as the important issues that arise from that content. While we are committed to principles of openness and freedom of speech, however, we will not allow our site to become a haven for personal attacks and offensive behaviour, and so we do a number of things to ensure that the discussion remains civil. What follows is an overview of our approach to community and a response to some frequently-asked questions – for our full terms of use in more detail, please see this page. If you don't want to abide by these guidelines, we encourage you to take your comments elsewhere.

Comments

Why does the Globe allow comments?

The Globe and Mail encourages readers to comment on almost all of its news stories and on its blogs because we believe there is value in getting feedback from readers – both positive and negative. It helps further our goal of fostering a national debate on key issues, and also provides an avenue for readers to contribute information about news events that could help us in our reporting. Comments also help build valuable relationships between readers and our journalism.

How are comments moderated?

In most cases our comments are post-moderated, which means that we don't review them prior to posting them (although we use an automated filter to block offensive words). Instead, we do our best to remove comments that have been flagged by our readers as abusive or offensive or otherwise in breach of our terms and conditions in some way. Comments are not edited or changed in any way by Globe editors. If we remove a comment because it breaches our terms and conditions, an automated message appears saying that the user's comment "was not consistent with our guidelines and has been removed." In some cases, repeat offenders may have their ability to access the Globe website restricted.

How do I report an offensive comment?

Unlike some websites that preview all of the comments before they are posted, we rely on you the reader to let us know when a comment is offensive or inappropriate in some way. You can do that by clicking on the "Report abuse" link, which is just below and to the right of each comment. Flagged comments go into a queue that is then reviewed by an editor, who decides whether the comment should be removed or not. Reviewing all of the flagged comments on the Globe website can take some time, so comments may not be removed immediately. In some cases, the editor may decide that the comment doesn't breach our terms and conditions, and will allow the comment to remain. If it is removed for breaching our rules, an automated message will appear saying "[Reader's] comment was not consistent with our guidelines and has been removed." If you simply disagree with a commenter, please use the "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" buttons rather than flagging it as abusive.

When and why are comments removed?

We reserve the right to remove comments that are not in accordance with our terms and conditions and comments that a) include personal attacks on Globe journalists or other commenters; b) make false or unsubstantiated allegations; c) quote people or sources where the quote or fact is not known or easily verified; or d) include vulgar or hateful language or libelous statements, or comments that are legally questionable. Our editors and bloggers use their best judgment in making these determinations. We try to err on the side of maintaining a civil discussion, while at the same time fostering an atmosphere in which readers can have a stimulating debate on the issues of the day. Comments may also be removed if they are not relevant to the topic, if they contain advertising, "spam" or other commercial elements, or if the person posting the comment is impersonating someone else.

Do reporters and writers respond to comments?

Globe and Mail writers are encouraged to respond to reasonable questions and comments on the stories, columns and blogs they write. Given the time constraints of their jobs, however, they may not be able to do so. We try to provide other forums and formats for discussion with writers as well, including blogs, live discussions, forums and Twitter.

Why doesn't the Globe require the use of real names?

We encourage readers who post comments to register using their real name (and we require that they verify their email address), but we don't verify that they are using their legal name when posting. While this makes it harder to know for sure who is making a particular comment, it also encourages readers who might not feel comfortable expressing themselves in a public forum – for personal or professional reasons – to engage in the discussion without fear of repercussions. We believe that this has benefits not just for them but for the rest of our readers, who might benefit from their viewpoint, and also for society at large. Please note, however, that we do not guarantee anonymity, and for legal reasons we reserve the right to disclose your name and other personal information if required to do so in our discretion, including but not limited to law enforcement officials with or without a court order.

When and why are comments closed?

While we would like to allow comments on all of our news stories and other content, in some cases we are forced to turn off that feature, either by closing the story to comments when it is published or by not allowing new comments at some point after it has been published. We do this for a number of reasons, including:

1) A story involves a trial, crime or other legal case, and comments by readers could breach a publication ban or otherwise reveal information that could put the Globe at risk. In this situation, comments are closed by default at the time the story is posted, and an automated message is posted saying that comments "have been closed for legal reasons."

2) A story involves a particularly contentious issue, and provokes comments that are offensive, vulgar, racist and/or libelous. In this situation, our policy is to close the story when the volume of such comments becomes unmanageable, at which point an automated message is posted saying that comments on the story "have been closed because an overwhelming number of readers were making offensive statements."

Live Discussions

Why does the Globe have live discussions?

Live discussions – either via email conversations posted to the site, or through the use of software such as ScribbleLive – are one of the ways the Globe allows readers to become part of the debate about issues involved in a specific story or news event. During the live discussion, readers are able to post comments and/or questions that are then published and (in some cases) get a response from either a Globe and Mail writer or an expert on the specific topic who has been invited into the discussion.

Why are some questions published and not others?

The editor and/or the writer who is involved in setting up the live discussion has the discretion to publish comments and questions, or not to publish them. If a comment or question is abusive (in the editor or writer's view) or not relevant, it may not be posted. Even if the comment or question is posted, there may not be time during the discussion for all questions to be posted or for a guest to respond to every comment and question.

Forums

In addition to comments and live discussions, the Globe provides a number of public forums where readers can post their thoughts about financial and investment issues. The same rules and standards of behaviour apply to these forums as apply to our comments and live discussions: moderators will do their best to maintain a civil tone, and any comments that breach our terms and conditions will be removed (because of the sensitive nature of these forums, all comments will be pre-moderated before they are published). Readers who repeatedly make abusive comments may have their access to the site and/or the forums restricted in a variety of ways. In addition to flagging comments as abusive, readers also have the ability in forums to "hide" specific users so that their comments are no longer visible.

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