Starting today users will notice a change to our commenting process designed to improve the quality of discussions on NPR.org. In an effort to decrease spam and encourage civility we will more aggressively moderate the user comments that appear on the site.
The community on NPR.org is 450,000 strong with members from around the world. Comments add perspectives and expertise that enhance the value of our news coverage to other users, and they've even helped us with our reporting on many occasions – your experiences and expertise have been invaluable to us. You have also told us that you value the civil conversation that you can have on NPR.org - and we want to make our community even better at encouraging that goal.
Unfortunately, we've recently observed a significant increase in the amount of spam in the comments as well as comments from some individuals who participate simply to anger or insult other community members. While we still rely (almost exclusively) on community members to report these violations of the NPR Community rules, a few months ago we brought on a team of community managers to help enforce the NPR Community Discussion Rules as well. This has improved the situation significantly, but it hasn't yet gotten the community to that goal of the civil discussion that you value. Balancing the desire to encourage free and open discussion and the need to prevent spam and harmful comments, we believe we've come up with a compromise that will be satisfactory to most of our members.
Starting today, all new users to the site will go through a period in which all of their comments are reviewed by a community manager prior to the comments appearing on the site. We expect this review to take fewer than 15 minutes for each comment. Once a user has established a reputation for following the commenting guidelines all of his* comments will appear immediately after posting. Community managers will only review comments in response to a specific report from other community members.
To incorporate our existing active users into the new system, we've reviewed your commenting stats — more specifically, the percentage of comments you may have had blocked for violating the rules. The vast, vast majority of our community members have been model citizens, and nothing will change for you — your comments will be posted immediately. Our community manager will review the comments of a small number of current users — fewer than 2% of active users — who have demonstrated a history of breaking the discussion rules. Once these consistently adhere to the discussion rules, we'll stop reviewing their comments before they are posted.
We rely on our community members to help us meet the goal we all share - a safe place for civil discourse on the site. Please take a moment to review our discussion rules, even if you feel that you're familiar with them already, and click the "report abuse" button next to any comment you think breaks those rules. That'll help our community managers address issues as promptly as possible. We'll also continue to encourage NPR staff to participate in discussions, and our bloggers will still facilitate conversations just as they always have.
This isn't a decision we've taken lightly. We've spent many months discussing solutions internally, as well as collecting feedback from our users. Managing an online community is more art than science and we want to balance our desire to have an open community with our goal of promoting a civil conversation. If you have a question about a decision, or would like us to look at your account, please let us know.
As always, we appreciate your feedback, so please feel free to post a comment on what you think of the system. We'll be happy to answer your questions as well.
Thank you also for your commitment to a high quality of discussions here on NPR.org.
*See comment thread for his / her / theirs discussion. -KM