New comment moderation policy

I began working in virtual worlds in 2009 in Second Life, migrated to OpenSim soon thereafter, and along the way discovered Hypergrid Business. Some of you may know me from my sim, Serenity Island. My career has been as a computer consultant, artist and educator.

As a reader of Hypergrid Business, as well as a writer of some articles, I’ve taken an interest in the reactions to various stories.  Unlike many online news publications, Hypergrid Business has no moderation. As a consequence, the comments section sometimes breaks down into derisive personal attacks.

Duelo a garrotazos by Goya
Duelo a garrotazos by Goya. (Image via Wikimedia Commons.)

While this is nothing new in the world of online expression, most professional organizations have taken steps to establish guidelines and walk the fine line between interfering with discussions and preventing vitriol.

Upon writing to Maria about this issue, she invited me to be a volunteer moderator. As Hypergrid Business has consistently encouraged an open discussion about all issues relevant to virtual worlds, including Hypergrid Business itself, it made sense to write an article proposing the kind of moderator activities we have in mind, as well as foster subsequent commentary and discussion.

As guidance, we both find the community standards and participation guidelines used by The Guardian to be a good example of best practices. Their guidelines have been developed over several years, with input from representatives of the Guardian News Media editorial staff, as well as readers and content creators.

There are many levels of moderation practiced across organizations. For Hypergrid Business, the moderation functionality would be managed using the Disqus moderation tools.

The initial plan is to maintain the current discussion style of interaction by allowing most comments to pass through unchecked, since filtering all comments before they are posted would require considerable time and resources, which is not practical. However, a simple pre-approval process of comments would be in place for guests with unverified emails.

The final details of implementation will be worked out based on system performance and effectiveness. And although a comment may initially be posted, it will still be subject to subsequent removal if it does not adhere to the established guidelines. The final form of the guidelines will be made accessible as part of the About section of Hypergrid Business.

Many readers and contributors of comments have grown facile at ignoring vitriol as childish banter. Yet, when the comments grow off-topic and amount to a smear campaign, they no longer add value to the original discussion and become an unwarranted distraction. Besides the personal toll this can take on contributors and readers, outright defamation of character carries with it legal ramifications. For these reasons, moving forward with moderation will be a best practice activity in response to the challenges of providing open forums of discussion.

In writing this article, the intention is to generate feedback and discussion on this issue. What is your view?'
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