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"Everything in Moderation" for The SignalSCV.com

Some users have asked for more clarification on what we allow and don't allow on SignalSCV.com’s story comments and blogs.

We hope what follows will give insight into how we moderate comment posts and also offer assurance that we don't moderate posts arbitrarily.

First, there are a few things to bear in mind as you read:

  • We don't prescreen posts. Posts that violate our policies get on our site as a result. The best response to this is to report the abuse by clicking the link at the bottom of the article, in the comments description area, to make us aware of it. When we say "we remove those posts" or "such posts are not allowed," it means that we will remove them when we see them or when they are brought to our attention.
  • We don't moderate posts on the basis of whether we agree with them.
  • We don't edit posts. If any part of a post is a violation, the entire post – even parts that aren't in violation – are removed.
  • If users want an explanation for why a post was removed or why a user was banned, they must ask for it by contacting us at abuse@SignalSCV.com and specifying the issue and the article’s Web address (URL).

THE POLICIES

We try to remove as few posts as possible. As such, we have only seven simple policies a user must follow when posting something:

  1. No profane or vulgar words or phrases.
  2. No slurs.
  3. No calls for violence or harassment.
  4. No potentially libelous statements.
  5. No personal attacks on other users.
  6. No printing of copyrighted material.
  7. No advertising or spam.

Posts that violate one or more of the above policies are removed. Sometimes we see posts on our own that we remove. Most often, we respond to abuse reports. A user will be banned after the first violation. There are no second chances.

We'll now expand upon each of the seven policies:

  1. NO PROFANE OR VULGAR WORDS OR PHRASES
  2. Profane or vulgar words are not allowed. We're not going to list them here. Start with George Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say on Television."

    If a profane or vulgar word is found in any post, the entire post is removed.

  3. NO SLURS
  4. We don't allow slurs based on race, gender, ethnicity, age, disability or sexual orientation.

  5. NO CALLS FOR VIOLENCE OR HARASSMENT
  6. Any post advocating unlawful violence or harassment against a person or group will be removed. Some users may try to wiggle around this rule by "posting factual information" or indirectly advocating violence. We don't allow that either.

    Here are some examples of violations of this rule:

    • Calls to "round them up": Posts saying things like, "I wish someone would just take all of those people back to Chicago" or "I think we should ship them back to Africa," etc. will be removed. It's a fine line, but we think that's advocating violence.
    • Indirect advocacy of violence: Posts to the effect of, "I wouldn't be sad if the whole neighborhood burned to the ground" will be removed. We believe that's too close to ACTUALLY burning the neighborhood to the ground, or urging someone else to do it.
    • Affiliation with known hate groups: We do not allow posts that express an affiliation or affinity for a known hate group, including but not limited to Nazis, Skinheads, al Qaeda, or the Ku Klux Klan. It is our view that association with these groups constitutes a de facto advocacy of violence. Users who have swastikas for avatars, use various secret codes about Hitler's birth, post images of flaming crosses, etc., will be banned.
    • "Outing" other users: Posts that contain personal information about other users, such as real names, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, home addresses, etc., will be removed. We view posting such "factual information" as a tacit way of encouraging harassment or violence against other users.
  7. NO POTENTIALLY LIBELOUS STATEMENTS
  8. In the United States, libel is considered to be the malicious act of publishing information known to be inaccurate that is damaging to a party's reputation. Libel is also the malicious publishing of inaccurate information that is damaging to a party's reputation without making a reasonable attempt to confirm its truthfulness. Whether something actually is libelous is determined by a court. We will remove posts that have even the potential of being libelous.

    If a user makes a statement of fact on our site that could be potentially damaging to someone's reputation, and we are not immediately able to verify the accuracy of the facts presented, we remove it.

    The key here is "potentially." It doesn't matter if the user's statement is ultimately true. If we aren't able to verify it, it is removed. It doesn't matter if the statement caused or could cause actual damage. If the potential is there, we remove those posts.

    For example, if a user posts, "It doesn't surprise me that he got arrested. I went to high school with him, and he was way into drugs and crime," we will remove that post. There is no way for us to immediately verify whether such a statement is true.

  9. NO PERSONAL ATTACKS ON OTHER USERS
  10. On SignalSCV.com, we want to promote civil discussion. Disagreements are fine and expected, but name-calling, flame wars, baiting other users, etc., are not allowed.

    A classic example of a personal attack is a post that starts with, "I'll bet you're the kind of person who…" and then descends into a list of unflattering characteristics.

    Another classic example are the useless, throwaway posts such as, "Why don't you gay-marry me, stud?" that are just designed to insult or inflame.

    More common are posts that simply devolve into a personal back-and-forth between users. There can be a fine line between when users stop arguing about issues and start attacking each other, but usually once the line is crossed, it becomes clear that users need to take their discussion offline. Other users have no interest in reading personal arguments between users.

    Another example is users who use our site to carry on a dispute. We don't allow users to use our site to vent about how they were short-changed by a business, for example. We also don't allow members of feuding families to fight with each other on our site.

  11. NO PRINTING OF COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL If we suspect that a user is simply reprinting something from another source without attribution, or that a user's words are somehow not his or her own, we will remove that comment.
  12. NO ADVERTISING OR SPAM The "No Advertising" rule is pretty clear cut. Most often, it comes in the form of automated posts by spam-bots. There is one other form of spam, however, that we don't allow: The posting of the same comment over and over in multiple places. If a user makes the same comment and post it on every available story, all posts will be removed.

OTHER REASONS FOR BLOCKING COMMENTS Sometimes comments are removed for reasons other than for violating the seven policies. Sometimes, comments removed for these reasons don't count against the user, but they may.

  • Quoting a removed post. Sometimes users will quote a post that may have been removed for a violation. In an effort to remove the offending post entirely, we will have to remove the post that quotes the removed post as well, even if the quoting post doesn't contain a violation.
  • Comments in another language. Some users will post in a language other than English to get around various policies. Anything in a non-English language is blocked, even if the post doesn't violate any policies.
  • Identifying people The Signal or SignalSCV.com has chosen not to. It is Signal policy not to identify rape victims or minors who have been charged with misdemeanor crimes. Although such information may be publicly available, we don't allow users to post it.
  • Posts that question or disagree with our moderation guidelines. Users with a question or concern about how something was handled by the moderators should contact us via e-mail at abuse@SignalSCV.com. Comments about moderation in any other forum will be removed.
  • Comments in poor taste. This is a gray area, to be sure. Posts that are designed merely to be insulting or comical at the expense of others are often done in poor taste. For example, on a story about a teenager who just died in a car crash, a user might post a comment about how we need tougher restrictions on underage drinking or on teen driving. It is insensitive to the family of the teenager, and often times the cause of the accident isn't known and might have nothing to do with the poster's issues. Also, posts celebrating the death of a citizen, especially on an obituary.

WHAT IS ALLOWED?

Some users complain about posts that don't break any of the seven policies. What is important to remember is that we don't remove posts based on their intellectual content or their political point of view.

As such, before reporting a post as abusive, or before calling us or writing an angry Letter to the Editor, users should ask themselves if the post really does break one of the seven policies, or if it is just something with which you don't agree.

Perhaps it is helpful to list the kinds of posts that we won't remove, assuming the posts don't also fit into any of the seven categories already mentioned. We don't remove:

  1. Posts that are unpopular.
  2. Posts that go off on a tangent (so long as they generally follow the flow of conversation)
  3. Posts that "attack" public figures.

BANNING USERS

We follow these general policies regarding banning users:

  • Users who violate The Signal’s comment policy will be banned after the first offense. There are no second chances.
  • Users we think are masquerading as someone they are not are banned.
  • Trolls (i.e. users pretending to be a [blank] just to make [blank]s look foolish) are banned.
  • Sockpuppets (users who create and post under multiple user identities) are banned.
  • Users who keep coming back after being banned are banned again as soon as we are able to determine who they are.
  • Users who continuously make bogus abuse reports are banned. Basically, anyone trying to game the system to their advantage or create extra work for the website administrators is banned.

IN CONCLUSION

Bottom line: SignalSCV.com has the right to allow or remove anything for any reason at any time from the website, without explanation.

However, we do not remove comments arbitrarily. If a comment was removed, users can be assured the comment was in violation of one or more of the above-stated policies.

Still, we are sometimes accused of "censorship" for removing posts or banning users. Such accusations are incorrect.

Censorship is when the government controls your freedom of speech. We are not the government, and we have no control over your freedom of speech. If we don't allow your post here, your free speech remains perfectly intact. You are free to start your own website or blog. Hand out leaflets. Shout on a street corner. Buy television time.

Our only agenda is providing a forum for civil, thoughtful discourse among SignalSCV.com’s users about the stories we publish, and that affect our lives as residents of the Santa Clarita Valley.

We invite your comments. E-mail abuse@SignalSCV.com


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