Some visitors to NPR's website have noticed their posted comments have disappeared— an absence they believe reveals volumes about the organization's editorial policy.
"Your 'moderators' have again censored my freedom of speech, using glaring double standards," write ones regular NPR.org user. "(They) are clearly crossing the lines between moderating and censoring a particular poster."
Yet often it's the posters who are in violation of ethical standards- not the moderators.
When creating an NPR community account, users are encouraged to read discussion guidelines which specifically state that NPR reserves the right to remove offensive comments, such as personal attacks. While technical glitches can sometimes be blamed for making comments disappear, most blog posts are removed because they violate those guidelines.
Comments can also be taken down as a result of complaints from other NPR.org users, who file abuse reports when they feel a post is inappropriate. If the digital team receives three reports for the same comment, the post is automatically removed and reviewed internally for adherence to the guidelines.
"Usually this happens because a user has posted something particularly offensive and the community has reacted to it appropriately," says Andy Carvin, NPR's 'social media swami.' "Sometimes, though, people will file abuse reports simply because they disagree with someone else, so we end up returning these comments to public view."
When a post is taken off the site, it is replaced by a removal notice. Users have the option to appeal to NPR if they feel they are unfairly censored, and comments can be re-posted after a moderator's evaluation.
To date, NPR.org hosts 82,000 members. Yet according to Carvin, only 1-2 percent of the roughly 1,500 posts-per-day are deleted. That includes observations which are removed if they are irrelevant or stray from a particular news story page.
Nevertheless, we do not live in an ideal world without machine failures, software glitches or Internet hang-ups. So the second culprit for disappearing comments is technical error, which sometimes causes posts to vanish and later reappear. Carvin says these instances are software bugs and developers are working to correct them.
Still have questions? You can read NPR's community FAQ page to find out more.