A Comment on Comments

Given some recent activity on this blog, I think it’s time to do another post stating  my policy on comments.

This is what it says on the front page of this blog:

Feel free to comment on any of the posts on this blog but comments may be moderated; anonymous comments and any considered by me to be abusive will not be accepted. I do not necessarily endorse, support, sanction, encourage, verify or agree with the opinions or statements of any information or other content in the comments on this site and do not in any way guarantee their accuracy or reliability.

That statement has been there since 2009. I don’t mind people posting contrary views as long as they’re not abusive, but if you use a fake email address and/or a fake name then your comment will be blocked. If you’ve got something to say then at least have the courage to identify yourself!  I do block comments for other reasons, including if they’re silly or demented or just plain tedious.

When I first started blogging, over a decade ago, I decided to have an open comment policy so that anyone and everyone could comment without any form of intervention. That turned out to be a disaster because of the number of automatically generated  SPAM comments that clogged up the boxes. I therefore switched on a SPAM filter so it could veto obvious garbage, but otherwise kept an open policy. The alternatives offered by WordPress include one that requires all comments to be from people registered at the site (which I thought would probably be a deterrent to people only wanting to comment on the odd post). Another option is to maintain a blacklist which treats all messages from persons on the list as Spam. It’s also possible to block all comments entirely, of course, but I enjoy reading most of them so I think it would be a shame to do that just because of a few breaches of netiquette.

All went fairly well and I only had to ban a couple of individuals for abuse. I did for a time receive a stream of crudely abusive comments (of a personal nature) from various anonymous sources. These were mostly depressingly puerile and they didn’t affect me much but I did find it very disconcerting to think that there are people sitting out there with nothing better to do than write such stuff.

Take Mr Hine, for example – no, go on, take him! -:

This chap attempts to post comments usually saying the same thing several times every day (weekends included). In fact on Monday 22nd July there were no fewer than 17 messages from him.  Occasionally I can’t resist showing bits I’ve found in the spam folder for comedy value but I have no intention of allowing him free rein to fill up every thread.I know I should probably stop winding him up so that he stops trying, but alas I am weak.

Since WordPress notifies me every time a  comment is posted (or an attempt is made to post a comment) it is quite easy to remove this junk, but I found it very tiresome (when there were several per day) and eventually decided to change my policy and automatically block comments from all anonymous sources. Since this requires a manual check into whether the identity information given with the comment is bona fide, comments from people who haven’t commented on this blog before may take a little while to get approved.

There are still comments on here which may appear to a reader anonymous (or with a pseudonym), but these are from people who have identified themselves to me with a proper email address or who the software has identified through their IP address or information revealed by their web browser (which is probably more than you think…). I’m happy for people to comment without requiring they release their name to the world, and will do my best to ensure their confidentiality, but I’m not happy to publish comments from people whose identity I don’t know.

To give you an idea of the scale of the problem, as of today, 32,689 comments have been published on this blog. The number rejected as SPAM or abuse is 2,399,850. That means that fewer than 1 in 70 are accepted. I simply don’t have time to go through all the flagged comments individually, so I usually just delete them all.

Am I denying freedom of speech by rejecting anonymous comments? I don’t think so. If you want freedom of speech that much, you can write your own blog (anonymous or otherwise). And if every sight of this blog makes you want to write abusive comments, perhaps you should exercise your freedom not to read it.

I’d be interested to know from any fellow bloggers if they have the same problems with abusive comments. If not, perhaps I should start taking it personally!

More generally, I will not accept anonymous comments on the subject of the anonymity of comments, but any other contributions are welcome via the box.

Unless, of course, you’re banned.

12 Responses to “A Comment on Comments”

  1. “I’d be interested to know from any fellow bloggers if they have the same problems with abusive comments.”

    I am not (yet) a fellow blogger, but I have heard from some who have stopped blogging entirely due to abusive comments. It is easy enough to ignore them, and by stopping this gives the abusers a feeling of success (except for those who are sad that they have one less object for abuse).

  2. Akismet works for me, for both my blogs – spam is rarely a problem.

  3. Paul Stevenson Says:

    I don’t get abusive messages, but then I don’t get many comments at all. It doesn’t help that I plumped for Blogger as the platform for my blog, who pushed for using Google+ to deal with comments, and who then turned off Google+, saying that all comments would be lost and that there was no mechanism to export them to standard Blogger. So, I have several years of blog posts with all comments deleted.

  4. I am very happy with your policy on comments. You perhaps do cause work for yourself by not using a better filter. We use akismet and this cured the problem for us. Regarding Hine, you have been complaining about him for many months now. Trolls and bullies should not be given air time. It is just like vandalism: if you leave evidence of it , it attracts more. You have my full support going against homophobia, but publishing his hate comments doesn’t do anyone any good.

    • telescoper Says:

      I don’t find his comments harassing. Just hilarious. I think you’re probably right though that I should stop.

      I do use Akismet, by the way. It has stopped millions of spam comments but there are so many that even the small fraction that get through are enough to be annoying.

  5. Anton Garrett Says:

    Ask Mr Hine which congregation he is in and for the contact details of its leader(s).

    • telescoper Says:

      His response when you suggested this earlier was:

      The first point is I do not need the approval of any person (s) to express these Commandments against perverted gay sinning, as it is condemned in several places in the Torah and Greek Scriptures, and also the Koran, so I have the absolute authority given by Jesus to do this, as all I am doing is passing to you (as a messenger) the words of the Prophets and Apostles who all state the Will and Commandments of The Lord Jesus, without adding to it, omitting anything from it, or changing what is Written.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Ask him if he is currently in any congregation and if not, why not. Ask him whether shouting in somebody’s face is more or less likely to gain converts than a measured exposition which leaves somebody free to make his own decision in calmness. And point out to him that talking nonsense about that person’s specialty is not going to improve his chances of being taken seriously.

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