Creating a new blog can be an exciting and joy-filled process. Waiting for your first comments to appear can be charged with eager anticipation and emotionality. It can also be a downer if you receive one or more troll comments. Some bloggers fear that if they restrict commenters, they’ll lose readership. I prefer to shun trolls and preserve a safe and comfortable environment for all my commenters.
On one hand, you are not legally responsible for the content in comments posted on your blog – all comments belong to their authors. On the other, everything posted on your blog affects your branding and your reputation.
Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely in public spaces and places without censorship or limitation, or both. In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to limitations, such as “hate speech“.
When it comes to comments posted on your blog, it’s your contractual obligation to remain within the Terms of Service you agreed to as set out by your blog host. Beyond that the choice of whether or not to set rules of engagement for discussion is yours alone to make.
Any mature adult can and will approve and post comments containing dissenting points of view, provided they are expressed appropriately. But bloggers are not compelled to approve and post comments containing off-topic ad hominem attacks.
Communicating with civility is not being phony, it’s simply an acknowledgment that all people have value, no matter how misguided or unfamiliar their ideas or actions may be. Being polite is not the road to conformity, it’s the path to understanding. — Brad Shorr
Engaging with internet troll can negatively affect your brand and reputation
You only need to read a troll comment appearing under a well written article once to understand why posting troll comments is a no-no. Trolls are attention seekers. They have no power unless you give your power to them.
In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion. — Troll (Internet)
What motivates internet trolls?
Trolls have no true interest in the subjects they post on. Trolls don’t want you to post carefully constructed, reasonable arguments in a debate. Trolls crafts comments to emotionally upset you and make you lose your rationality. Trolls want you to completely lose your cool and your ability to sound like an intelligent person who knows what you’re talking about. Trolls derive pleasure from baiting people into highly charged emotional states and making them look stupid.
What trolls desire is our online time and attention, so when we refuse to communicate with them, they move elsewhere and seek out another target. Hence, the maxim: Don’t feed the trolls.
If your blog is targeted by a troll do not be emotionally triggered by the comment. Your blog is not YOU. The troll cannot touch your inner self, unless you give them permission to, so don’t open that inner door and give your power away. Take responsibility, develop a comment policy and either post the comment and refute the contents or delete it and blog on.
Commenting policies contain rules of engagement for discussion
A Comments Policy is a statement defining your policy regarding comments on your blog. It is also a “responsibility statement”. It informs the reader of what you will allow on your blog, what you will not allow, and what they are allowed to do. It establishes publicly the responsibilities of each party involved. — Lorelle VanFossen in a guide to creating a blog comments policy
Commenting policies create a safe environment for civil discussion
Without doubt a good comment policy that’s consistently enforced can make the difference between whether visitors will return or not. And, as creating a blog centered community is your focus as a blogger, developing and posting rules of engagement for discussion will create boundaries and a secure environment for civilized communication. Below are some points to consider when you undertake the process.
Some commenting policy considerations
- Will comments be moderated?
- Will all comments be moderated?
- Or will first time commenters be moderated?
- Will you approve and post comments containing links?
- Will there be a limit on the number of links in comments that you approve and post?
- Will you approve and post comments from commenters who use ‘keywords’ (words or phrases they want to rank in search engines for) as anchor text and insert it as their username?
- Will you approve and post comments that include a signature link (a link to their blog) at the end of the comments?
3. Advertising and Spam
- Will you approve and post comments which seem to be primarily made as advertising and promotion of the commenter’s site?
- Will you approve and post comments which seem to be primarily made as advertising for a commercial product or service?
- Will you approve and posts comments from commenters who have their user names linked to commercial sites?
4. Comment Length and Editing
- Is there a maximum comment length (character or word limit)?
- Will you edit comments and if so under what circumstances?
5. Special rules
- Will you approve and post comments containing personal attacks, defamatory and/or inflammatory statements?
- Will you approve and post comments containing obscene language?
6. All Rights Reserved
- Will you include an All Rights Reserved clause?
- If so will it apply to the blog owner’s right to edit, delete, move, or mark comments and trackbacks as spam?
- Will you also reserve the right to block access to any individual or group from commenting or from the entire blog?
Do you have a commenting policy posted on your blog?
Do you have any suggestions for additional considerations for those who are formulating a comment policy for their blog?
Have you received troll comments, and if so, how did you deal with them?
Related posts found in this blog:
Controversy and Blog Comments
Handle Online Attacks Effectively
Blog Titles and Branding Tools
Libel: Blogging Rights and Wrongs
WordPress.com Comments and Discussion Settings
Anonymous commenting on a WordPress.com blog
Why blog comment moderation is a good thing
Crazymaking Blogger Comment Settings
Blogging: Comment Baiting
Encouraging blog readers to comment
Crafting Quality Blog Comments