As the Above the Law community continues to grow, more people are posting absurd, inane, and arguably offensive comments. And more people are complaining about those comments — in the comments, as well by email and other means.
Here at ATL, we reserve the right to moderate comments as we see fit. We delete comments for reasons including (but not limited to) offensiveness, abusiveness, excessive profanity, irrelevance, or rank stupidity. Above the Law is a privately owned website; we have no obligation to provide our bandwidth to any particular user. Because we are not governmental actors, we are not subject to the equal-access rules of the First Amendment; when we moderate comments, it is not “censorship.”
But we also offer this recommendation to people who are offended by the comments: DON’T READ THEM. Toward that end, we want to make it easier for you to avoid the comments if you want to. Over the next 24 hours, we’ll be changing our site design so that comments will default to “hidden.” If you want to see the comments, you must affirmatively opt-in, by clicking a button to reveal them (either the “show them anyway” button within the post, or the “comments” button / counter on the front page).
Read more — and see for yourself how this policy will work — after the jump.
This change will not affect the ability of readers to comment anonymously in any way. We are simply providing a more clear mechanism for our readers to avoid the rough-and-tumble environment of anonymous blog comments, which are often marked by vitriol and vulgarity (not just on ATL, but any website where people can sound off anonymously).
If you don’t want to read all of the crazy things that can be said behind the veil of anonymity, then please don’t click on the “show them anyway” button. If you affirmatively delve into the comments and then are offended by what you read, we have three words for you: assumption of risk (or, if you prefer, four words: coming to the nuisance).
At the same time, the new system is not meant to further unfetter (as if that were possible) anonymous commenters from normal standards of human decency and respect. We will continue to moderate comments — and we request your help in doing so. If you see a problematic comment that you want deleted, please email us (subject line: “Comment Moderation Request”), identifying the specific comment(s) by post title and comment number. Because of the sheer volume of comments posted to ATL, we have adopted this “notice and takedown” procedure to comment moderation, as opposed to full-time, active moderation.
Thoughts? We hope this solution preserves freedom while giving more sensitive readers a way to avoid what they’d rather not see. Thanks for visiting.
UPDATE: We are aware of the various comment rating / flagging / moderation systems that are used on different sites — e.g., YouTube, Slashdot, Craigslist. We hope to implement such a system on ATL at some point in the future. This is a temporary measure designed to address the situation on an interim basis.