Tone Alert: No Personal Attacks

It’s important for us to have a debate about policies and issues here. But in the context of that discussion and debate I don’t want gratuitous personal attacks. I’m prompted to write this based on some of the comments to the recent Yelp posts.

Very often people feel empowered by the anonymity of blog comments to express anger, frustration, etc. to degrees they never would in front of another person directly. In one way that’s fine, but if the comments turn unnecessarily personal I’m going to start to remove them. (I have generally not removed comments in the past unless they’re spam.)

There’s also a legal issue that many people don’t understand or recognize.

Websites and online publishers have generally not been held to the same standards as traditional publishers, for several reasons. However that will probably change at some point. Personal attacks that directly or indirectly attack someone’s reputation do become legally defamatory after a point. If a newspaper were to publish a libelous comment or report it might also have liability for defamation.

I’m not literally worried about that, but I’m sensitive to these issues because I was a lawyer for almost nine years. I’m not telling anyone not to express themselves. I just want people to discuss issues rather than insult each other.

One Response to “Tone Alert: No Personal Attacks”

  1. MiriamEllis Says:

    Greg –
    I think you are smart to request a certain tone here. At Cre8asite, where I’m a mod, we have a rule of engagement wherein if one disagrees with something that’s been written, it’s okay to attack the post but not the ‘poster’.

    Healthy discussion is a tremendous learning tool. Personal attacks are unprofessional and a big waste of everyone’s time.


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