Dear readers, accounting for the many insulting and defamatory statements made by people while commenting on TheDaily.sk recently, I’d like to raise the topic for discussion and to draw your attention to the new Comments Policy applicable from today.
Our website welcomes your comments, as it is intended also to be a community website for foreigners living or interested in Slovakia, so they can share their opinions, activities and experiences in the country. The comments should be relative to the article you are commenting on, and it is not supposed to be a channel to insult or degrade other people who post comments, or whole nations.
I have spoken at length about the issue with many readers, and the general consensus is to allow comments to go up uncensored or unblocked, but overall that is with the assumption of people showing a certain level of decency. Many people have expressed the opinion that the comments make interesting reading, but others are a bit shocked at how indecent and insensitive some people can be. Thankfully, most people are intelligent enough to see that it is the problem of the person commenting and understand that TheDaily is not responsible for these people.
Not everyone using the site respects certain unwritten principles of decency and so comments often stray from the subject of the article, turning instead into a war of insults between people who don’t even know each other in real life, and who hide behind false names.
This is a worldwide problem not specific to The Daily websites, with website and blog owners facing the dilemma of where to draw the line and what to edit or censor. I recently received an email from someone who holds me, as editor in chief, personally responsible for allowing what he called “provocative and racist” comments to be posted on the site, with the message that he would no longer refer people to the site (and that was from a friend).
Another issue the disgruntled reader brought up was that comments were supposed to be anonymous. The complete opposite is true, however, as we encourage people to be honest about their identity when commenting, and so be more selective in the language they use or opinions they express, but naturally we respect the right of people if they want to keep their ID secret.
I believe we are all responsible for our own actions, attitudes, degree of decency and also comments made here, and so do not feel personally responsible for the things that other people think and say. Clearly some people have emotional or mental issues that tends to take the conversation to low levels.
So how much freedom of speech should we take away from people on The Daily, considering they are supposed to be mature and intelligent enough to behave decently? The comments are supposed to show the broad spectrum of opinions, attitudes and kinds of people reading the site, to open up constructive discussion, so we try not to impose censorship where possible.
The real issue here is possibly about freedom of speech, a privilege that is often abused here on the site. I recently spoke to an ambassador who reads TheDaily, and who is also intrigued by the comments, and supporting the non-censorship of comments, but a line has to be drawn. I would therefore welcome your opinions and feedback on the issue. Thank you.