We will not tolerate comments that are borne from hate or prejudice

Can online comments go too far? Photo by Stokpic/Pexels/Ed Gregory

Can online comments go too far? Photo by Stokpic/Pexels/Ed Gregory - Credit: Stokpic/Pexels

Editor David Powles explains why we’ve had to remind people to be kind when posting comments on social media and our website.

A Black Lives Matter protest was held at The Walks in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt

A Black Lives Matter protest was held at The Walks in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Archant

Regular readers of this column will know that I’m a big believer in free speech and will often defend the right for people to not only have an opinion, but openly express it without having to face abuse from people who simply take a different view.

Unfortunately, I’ve felt for a long time that we have moved into an era where not everyone holds that same belief and you regularly see, what should be reasoned and healthy debates, turn into personal attacks just because people don’t agree with what they are hearing or reading from another.

Just last week I received a letter from a reader saying they intended to stop buying the paper because of a column they disagreed with. I tried to explain to him that, in my view at least, our newspapers and websites should publish content people might not necassarily agree with - as long as its done in a constructive way.

Surely one of the ways we as a society learn and develop, is from considering alternative opinion and using them to form our own? I want our content to challenge and stretch you as much as possible - as well as inform you, move you, make you laugh and entertain you.

I’m pleased to say the reader took my comment the right way and changed their mind.

However, there are times when people go too far. I believe in free speech - but that doesn’t mean people should be free to say whatever they like. When it is not constructive, based on hate or prejudice and not conducive to a fair and positive environment, that’s when it goes a step too far.

Most Read

And that has, I’m afraid to say, increasingly become the case on some of our social media channels, in particular Facebook.

And while you may not be a regular visitor to Facebook, or delve into our comments below online stories (where this can also be a problem), I think it’s important to explain our stance to all readers. It’s the same were you to submit a letter to us.

In the last week we have updated our social media guidelines for readers to make it clear that there are comments of a certain nature we will not tolerate. Ones that are harmful, abusive, threatening and inflammatory.

Of course, we, and the social media companies like Facebook, already have systems in place to detect certain unacceptable words and profanities on our own online comments. But, at times, I admit people are able to circumnavigate these and make unacceptable statements. Where we spot them or they are flagged up, we remove instantly. But sometimes I’m afraid it’s a tide that can be hard to hold back.

Sadly, some of this has been brought to a head during the recent discussions around the Black Lives Matters protests and the debate that has followed. While this is a vital subject to discuss, we will not accept comments that are intolerant, offensive and sadly, at times, downright racist. I will not repeat some of the comments we’ve had to remove from articles and it saddens me some people can still be so small-minded with views that should have been consigned to the past.

Let me be clear, this isn’t about stifling debate or, indeed, allowing only those views that chime with our own from being heard. Not at all, we want healthy debate to thrive on these channels.

I’m not convicned we’ve got our policy on this 100pc right on this as yet, so it remains something we will continue to assess.

But for now this is about ensuring people are simply decent, kind and fair to one another, no matter what their colour, creed, background or view.

Our Community Rules

This page is intended to be an open place for you to discuss the news and updates we post, share your experiences and get in touch with us. In the interests of the community however, we do have to remove any posts or comments that are:

1) libellous or defamatory

2) profanity, pornographic or indecent

3) harassing, threatening, harmful or abusive

4) invasive of privacy rights

5) inflammatory or otherwise objectionable or offensive

We also reserve the right to ban users if they do not adhere to these rules.

Thanks for being part of our valued community. If you have any questions or would like to report a comment to us, please get in touch by direct messaging the page.

What do you think? Are these fair or a step too far? Drop me an email at david.powles@archant.co.uk