Martin King: A fresh start for comments on independent.co.uk

Share
Related Topics

Websites have been encouraging cowardice. They allow users to hide behind virtual anonymity to make hasty, ill-researched and often intemperate comments regardless of any consideration for personal hurt or corporate damage.

They may be fun to read, but all of us need to reconsider how they appeal to our baser instincts - and whether they actually threaten the future of free speech rather than prove a valuable demonstration of it.

It has been hard to excuse the excesses in some of independent.co.uk’s comments. In trying to bring the immediacy of post-moderation, some posters’ closed minds and wilful neglect of commonsense (let alone decency) meant all too often that we ended up shutting articles to comments. Add to that the infuriating persistency of spammers and we can only thank the temperate, sensible and often still forceful posters who stuck with us.

Such nuisances might have emanated from a minority, but their bigotry and offensiveness left a smell that lingered not only across all comments. It was starting to drift across the site.

We have been far from alone in suffering the worst excesses from the sort of people one would cross a very wide and busy road to avoid. As Leonard Pitts Jr observed on the Miami Herald: “Message boards… have become havens for a level of crudity, bigotry, meanness and plain nastiness that shocks the tattered remnants of our propriety.”

Now independent.co.uk is aiming to raise standards through increased accountability. We cannot justify giving a platform to those who abuse it; but we shall be proud to host for whom free speech is an asset to be respected - along with, to be honest, the well-judged flash of irony and humour.

So we have changed our logins to encourage comments from individuals or even official bodies using their Facebook or Twitter accounts – with other options for Yahoo or Open ID log-ins. There is also a Disqus option, where your account must be validated through your e-mail.

(There are also other methods, by the way, with which we shall excise the idiocy of the spammers.)

The obligation to preserve free speech is as much on those who have the opportunity to spread it as on those who wish their voices to be heard. We have made our changes and now we encourage you to speak – forcefully and plainly, yes, but bearing in mind sense and sensibilities. (Our terms and conditions for postings explain how and why we seek such a balance.)

We hope this will flourish alongside our policy of post-moderation, which allows for immediacy and deeper involvement. But that is counter-balanced by the "flag" that alerts us to any abuse, with swift suspensions.

Yelling obscenities at anyone with opposing views is not how best to draw a crowd, let alone win the argument or serve democracy.

If you are speaking up, then speak up proudly and with responsibility. Embrace this opportunity to come out from the cloak of anonymity. That’s for the cowards for whom “freedom of speech” is something to rant about rather than an expression to live by. With all its obligations.

* Martin King is Online Editor of independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Should parents be allowed to take pictures at nativity plays?  

Ghosts of Christmas past: What effect could posting pictures of nativity plays have on the next generation?

Ellen E Jones
The first Christmas card: in 1843 the inventor Sir Henry Cole commissioned the artist John Callcott Horsley to draw a card for him to send to family and friends  

Hold your temperance: New life for the first Christmas card

Simmy Richman
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick