It’s been four months since The Globe relaunched comments with our partner, The Coral Project.
In that time, we have worked to modify and update our system and policies to better fit the needs and requests of our subscribers and readers. Our comment section has quickly become a place of lively discussion and debate around the topics most important to Canadians. (More on how and why we changed our approach to comments, here.)
In an effort to further improve the quality of our comments, we are testing a new approach to comment moderation over the month of September. Previously, editors decided on a case-by-case basis which articles would be subject to pre-moderation. In other words, which articles should have comments reviewed by human moderators to ensure they meet our community guidelines. This month, all articles on globeandmail.com will be automatically set to pre-moderation, regardless of topic.
What does this mean for commenters?
When editors pre-moderate an article it means that all comments posted to that article are reviewed by at least one editor before being approved to appear on the site. This process typically takes fewer than five minutes. The vast majority of comments posted in recent months were posted to articles selected for pre-moderation, meaning that most commenters will not notice a difference. The exception may be readers who only ever comment on articles about topics rarely selected for pre-moderation. Such topics include investing, arts, drive and real estate.
Why does The Globe use pre-moderation?
We believe this process allows thoughtful, critical and interesting comments to shine. We do not want toxic or off-topic posts to derail what might otherwise be productive discussions.
Left unchecked, a publication’s online comments can become divisive. As a result, many publications including the Toronto Star, The Atlantic and NPR have opted to remove comments entirely. We understand this approach, but aren’t ready to throw in the towel. Journalism needs everyone. We want our readers to discuss and debate issues of the day with us and each other. Pre-moderation allows us to keep the channels open.
What we’ve learned since launching our new comment platform
In addition to pre-moderation, we use automated filters to help us catch toxic language. These filters are based on collections of words sorted into banned and suspect lists. Our readers continue to help us refine these lists by letting us know when innocuous comments get caught in the system. One recent example of a comment accidentally caught by our filters involved a quote from Lyndon B. Johnson:
“I appreciate the wisdom of LBJ who observed that it is 'better to have a person pissing out of the party's big tent than pissing in it'.”
We’ve also learned which sections and topics lead to the greatest number of reader contributions. Articles published to our Opinion, Politics, and Canada sections receive the most comments. Topics that draw the most comments include NAFTA, housing affordability, immigration and anything to do with U.S. President Donald Trump.
The Globe’s comments continue to be a work-in-progress, and we hope to hear from you about how we can further support productive and lively discussion on globeandmail.com. If you have any thoughts for how we can improve our approach to comments, please e-mail Shannon Busta at firstname.lastname@example.org with "Comment Feedback" in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you.