Should We Censor Blog Comments?

What Do YOU Think?

An interesting, and somewhat painful, situation happened on a fellow marketers blog recently. A comment was made about me by a blog reader that was uh…not so nice. The situation sparked conversation and a follow up post from the blog owner. In my opinion, the conversation and opinions were very interesting and it got me to thinking whether we, as blog owners, should censor the comments that come through our blogs.

Censoring? Or Free Speech?

As US citizens, we are granted the right to free speech in a public forum. Now, we don’t have the right to scream, “FIRE!” in a public area when there is NOT a fire, but we do have the right to state our opinions and beliefs.

But is a personal blog a “public forum”?

Let me back up and give you the short version of what happened.

An excellent and well-respected marketer was doing a multi-part review of One Week Marketing on her blog. This marketer did this review on her own free-will. She did not contact me before doing it or while she was doing it. She bought the course and spent days with her readers as she worked her way through it. She and I both made some sales as a result of her review and many people who had felt lost with OWM actually went back to it to try again. All in all, it was a good review series that contained very valuable feedback and constructive criticism for me that I listened to.

However, in her “final decision” post, a comment was made by a blog reader that really, really teetered as being a personal attack on me.

This lead to some controversy. The blog owner then went on to make a follow-up post about a reader she had that chose to remove himself from all the blog owners lists because she chose to allow that comment about me to be approved and posted on her blog. The blog owner then went into great detail about her comment policy for her own blog and a great conversation in the comments began. In short, the blog owners policy for comments is that she does not censor unless she considers the post to be “racist or threatening” (or spam…lol).

Here is a quote from her post regarding this situation and her blog comment policy:

If I did NOT allow Dorothy to have her say on what her personal experience was, THEN I would be an unethical marketer. If I filtered what my subscribers experiences were, THAT would be wrong of me. THAT would make me the kind of marketer who makes things look great through rose colored glasses in hopes that you would click on my link and buy her OWM product.

Not a great situation – no real “right” or “wrong” here, but I’m telling ya, I totally respect the transparency in which this blog owner handled this situation. And, yes, I also really appreciate someone being that loyal to ME. It felt nice to know that someone felt deeply that what they read wasn’t “right” in their opinion.

That said, the reader who did the un-subscribing emailed me and told me about the situation and his reasons for doing what he did. I emailed him back and thanked him…and of course, added my 2 cents about the situation.

I’d like to show you my response now so I am also transparent on the situation. However, I will not be showing the original email sent to me (not my right to post someone’s private email to me without permission), but I will say it was very well-written, stated his reasons for his actions, and did not attack anyone personally.

Ok, here is a screen shot of my response email (with personal details removed):

So, this all brings me back to this question…

Should We Censor Blog Comments?

I do believe this is a judgment call. Your personal blog – your personal choice. To me, my blog is like my home – it’s not a forum. Heck, ask my kids what I say about our home. I’m always saying, “This is NOT a democracy!”…..lol! And it’s not. We don’t elect who makes the rules around here – Mom makes ’em (and sometimes Mom lets Dad make some, too! haha! Just kidding!)

My point is that my home is not a public forum – and neither is my blog.

I won’t allow someone to USE my blog as a platform to personally attack another human being. Besides, as Angela pointed out in a comment on the post in question, by me POSTING that personal attack, couldn’t it make me somewhat liable legally? That content is on MY site after all.

BUT – those are all MY thoughts and MY policy for MY blog.

Now, the comment in question, while a bit “bitter”, did have some “constructive” feedback and comments. I can handle bad – I can handle someone not having nice things to say about my product. That was all part of the conversation that was going on.

However, when words like “sheep”, “wannabe”, and “poser” come in to play in reference to me PERSONALLY – well, now we’re treading on thin ice…. and it’s a thin line, isn’t it?

It can be a very thin line when trying to decide if someone’s somewhat hateful comments are actually offering valuable feedback that contributes to the conversation – or if someone was just using you and your blog to spark controversy and get their bitter feelings out in the public.

I don’t envy the decision that had to be made there – not at all.

What Do YOU Think?

I’m about to point you to where the original comment in question is and where the follow up post is, but before I do…

I am asking – no, I am BEGGING each of you to PLEASE not get personal if you choose to comment about this situation (either here on the other blog). PLEASE DON’T. This is not High School. We are all grown-ups and professionals so please let’s be respectful and behave that way when adding to the conversation. THANK YOU.

Whether we are marketers or readers, we are all people with feelings and families. Heck, it was my husband who found that comment about me – and I’m not gonna lie, IT STUNG. I work hard to help others and to NOT be like “all the other gurus”…and yes, I do try to make some money along the way. But I’m a big girl and I can handle this personally. So please don’t post personal attacks about another human being. I won’t post them. It kills me to think that someone’s loved one or friend could read something nasty and personal about someone they care about on my blog. I won’t take part in that.

If you want to do things like that, you’ll need to get your own blog 😉

Alrighty, here is the final review post where the comment in question was made (down in the comments section by someone named “Dorothy”):

http://www.tiffanydow.com/blog/main/final-one-week-marketing-decision

And here is Tiffany’s follow up post regarding her comment policy and the situation at hand:

http://www.tiffanydow.com/blog/main/i-dont-censor-my-subscribers-sorry

To Tiffany, I’d like to say – ‘Girl, I don’t envy you ONE BIT over that situation. You just stick to what YOU believe in – You are doing great things for people!’

Ok, now, I want to hear what you all think about this. Do you think blog owners should censor their comments? Do you feel your blog is a public forum? I don’t care if you agree with me or not…. let me have it!

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