Moderation update


by Paul Kavanagh

It’s now two weeks since Newsnet’s moderation policy came into effect.  This is a policy designed and implemented by Newsnet readers and volunteers themselves, so it’s important that Newsnet readers get regular feedback and reports on moderation issues.  As we keep saying, this is your site, your discussions and your moderation.  We’ll give a regular report on moderation on the first Sunday of every month.

And now here I am reporting back to you all.  It’s at times like this I wish I was the Big Bad Moderator at the BBC.  “Right.  Listen up!  You at the back – are you eating?  I hope you brought enough for all the boys and girls.  You – geeky person with the straggly beard, yes I’m looking at you – stop downloading illegal movies and pay attention!”

But there’s a world of difference between community moderation, which is consensual and collaborative, and imposing the official line.  The first thing to say about moderation of Newsnet’s readers’ comments is how remarkably well-behaved and polite you all are.  I’ll be honest, when I first got involved with this as a volunteer a little voice in the back of my head kept saying – Eeeek! Run away! Run Away!   I had visions of vicious and personalised flame wars, wall-to-wall abuse, and constant insults, the sort of thing that certain sections of the Scottish media commentariat always complain about – the supposedly dreadful and immature behaviour of the great unwashed Scottish public.

So far, you the readers and site users of Newsnet, which (so I am told) is already being dismissed by certain persons in the Labour party as “cybernat central”, have given the lie to this persistent Unionist myth.   The most outstanding feature of comments on Newsnet is the high quality, politeness, and the education they display.  You do yourselves and Scotland a lot of credit.

The issues which have arisen have been minor.  In two weeks we have had to remove one single comment for breaching the moderation policy -just one comment on all the threads to all the stories and articles published on this site.  That’s quite remarkable given the alleged incapacity of Scots to engage in adult, civil and democratic debate.  

The comment which was removed was taken down for legal reasons.  Two comments were edited by moderators, one to remove a swear word, another was edited because it contained a reference which was felt to be abusive.  Another two comments were considered borderline, but after consultation amongst the moderation team it was decided to leave them alone.  

The entire moderation team request that readers and commentators remember that Newsnet is a very public space.  When you comment here it’s not a private conversation between you and some friends (or even enemies), it’s more like a public meeting in your local library.  This is a place where your comments could be read by your elderly great-auntie who never misses a kirk service or mass.  So please, don’t post anything that might embarrass your mother.  In particular try and avoid references to lower bodily functions and especially avoid likening people or groups of people to bodily waste.  

Calling entire segments of the population stupid is not acceptable either.  It’s just name calling.  It’s not big and it’s not clever, and it doesn’t help the cause of Scottish independence one whit.  

There are certain figures in Scottish public life who are hate figures.  But please always bear in mind that the reason these persons attract such oppobrium is because of what they say and do, not because of what they look like.  What they look like is not remotely relevant, except perhaps in a thread about fashion.

Comments here are also read by those who do make political use of the claim that the Scottish people are immature, and they will use anything they can to assert control of the Scottish political agenda.  Certain organisations which refuse to acknowledge our existence pay very close attention to what goes on here.  We all have a responsibility to ensure that the enemies of free speech aren’t given any ammunition.

We still have a few problems getting comments from newly registered IDs out of pre-moderation quickly enough.  But we’re getting better and aim to improve.  If you’re a newly registered commentator and your comment has remained unpublished for a couple of hours, we can only apologise.  Our moderation policy is still a work in progress but thanks to you, the readers and commentators, it seems to be working.

If you have any comments or concerns or even praise (because we enjoy an ego massage occasionally) about the moderation policy please leave your message below.   Or you can email the moderation team at