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Discussion About the Discussion

Let’s step back and take a quick breather. The past several days have gotten a little crazy on the comment sections. While I appreciate a vigorous discussion of the day’s stories, I think we need to be clear about what is and is not appropriate conduct here.

Here’s what is appropriate: Discussion of the article. Passionately arguing a relevant point. Criticizing companies, government entities or other organizations.

Here’s what’s not appropriate: Name calling. Personal attacks. Racist, homophobic, or other hate speech. Saying, without clear evidence, that someone is “cheating” in a contest. Political discussions not related to the article.

At least 95% of what has been posted to the site is perfectly appropriate. To those who have been commenting respectfully and driving the discussion — thank you. I hope you keep it up.

However, as someone who hoped this site would be a venue for a smart but respectful debate of community issues, it has been distressing to see a few inappropriate comments poisoning otherwise enlightening discussions.

Here’s a message one anonymous tipster sent to us today:

Be nice if you cleaned up the discussion on the Flatbread article. Referring to people as “dumb libs”, “hipster d-bags” isn’t appropriate. Some people may need to be taught to disagree without name calling, and objectifying others. The demeaning nature of the discussion makes me very happy I don’t live in Arlington. I appears that in general you are not very nice people.

I agree with this person’s point about name calling, but I want to prove them wrong about Arlington. So here’s what we’re going to do:

  • We will press the delete button on any comment that falls under the “not appropriate” category.
  • We will issue a warning to anybody who violates the rules more than once.
  • If that warning is ignored, we will add you to the comment moderation list — meaning we’ll have to approve your comments before they are posted to the site.
  • Also, any racist or otherwise hateful speech will be rewarded with an automatic trip to comment moderation land.
  • If someone is really persistent with inappropriate comments, they will be banned.

Already, one commenter has been added to the moderation list.

To be sure, we don’t want to restrict your free speech. In fact, we like to see opposing viewpoints and the occasional crackpot theory. However, we have clearly reached a point where it’s necessary to step up enforcement of existing rules to make sure that remains a place where everyone can feel free to join in on debates and make meaningful contributions to discussions.

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