Ruibal column: Rules of engagement for online comments |

Ruibal column: Rules of engagement for online comments

Sallee Ann Ruibal
Sallee Ann Ruibal
Chelsea Self / Post Independent |

Hi, Post Independent readers. I’ve read all your comments online.

There are nice comments. Sometimes readers tag their friends to share with them a cool event coming up. Sometimes readers have thoughtful discussions on issues that matter to their communities.

Other times, there’s nastiness.

On Facebook, we have a filter to catch the dirtiest potty words. If your comment includes any words that would be bleeped out on television (but not HBO), it will likely be hidden. What does “hidden” mean? It means I can see it, you can see it, your friends can see it — but no one else.

Occasionally, I will “reveal” a hidden comment if it seems clean enough and not attacking anyone in particular. I have also sometimes hidden comments if they are technically clean but targeting others in a threatening way.

On a recent Facebook post, comments devolved into crude name-calling. My boss made the decision to delete the thread as there was too much nastiness from different threads to regulate.

What I want most from digital engagement is the ability to have open forums of discussion. There should be no reason to deep clean comments with one fell swoop of the “delete” button.

But to maintain this dialogue, there have to be some guidelines we all — you, other readers and I, the engagement editor — follow. Here’s a sampling:

As engagement editor I will:

• Respond to questions with relevant information. If I do not know, I will forward on to reporters to look into.

• Embrace suggestions and criticism.

• Understand that people make mistakes.

• Admit my mistakes.

• Monitor comments to ensure there aren’t any harassing or threatening remarks targeted at readers.

• Hide inappropriate or otherwise harassing comments.

• Unhide comments that, albeit are negative, are not threatening.

• Happily agree with you that photos you share of kids at fairs are totally adorable.

• Strive to provide an open forum for readers to respond to articles and discuss with fellow readers, while also maintaining ethics and general human kindness.

As a reader of the Post Independent I will:

• Understand that if my comment includes any words that are bleeped out on television, my comment will likely be hidden.

• Therefore, I will try to respond to articles and fellow readers with thoughtful, appropriate language.

• Follow the golden rule of treating others as I would want to be treated.

• Follow the online golden rule of not saying anything on social media that I wouldn’t say to the person in real life.

• Try to inform others to the best of my ability.

• Voice my opinion and insight on issues that matter to me and my community.

• Understand that people make mistakes.

• Admit my mistakes.

Have any guidelines you think should be added? A thought on the pronunciation of “gif”? Email Sallee Ann at

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