Comments policy

Revised Jan. 24, 2015

Commenting on this site is a privilege, not a right. We strive to create an open, engaging and friendly environment for all commenters. We advocate for consumers and want them to feel comfortable sharing their problems with us without fear of being attacked. To maintain these simple and reasonable standards, here are a few guidelines to ensure that your comments appear and remain on the site:

Stay on topic. Please comment on the subject of the post or story.

Be nice. You know the old saying: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If you disagree with a comment, feel free to respectfully and politely challenge that comment in a civil manner.

No personal attacks, please. We usually don’t tolerate name-calling, particularly vicious and direct personal attacks. Please be nice to your moderators and to the publisher, too. After all, we’re only human.

Don’t feed the trolls. If you think someone’s a nuisance commenter please don’t goad that person in the comments. That only makes it worse for everybody. Use the flagging system and let us know; we’ll take the appropriate action. (But remember that your definition of a “troll” and ours may be different.)

No #&$*(& swearing! This is the comments section of a consumer advocacy blog, not a high school locker room.

Stay out of trouble. Don’t post anything libelous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, abusive, harassing, or threatening. No messages containing viruses or other contaminating or destructive features. No trade secrets. You get the idea.

Use an appropriate avatar. An avatar may be considered offensive if it depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the online medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities.

No free ads. Comments that contain spam, advertisements, business/self promotional content, campaigns, recruitments, or signature links are not allowed. We really don’t like spammers.

Don’t break any laws. If you’re thinking about breaking any rules, please think somewhere else. This isn’t a place to violate any laws or to discuss illegal activities.

Respect people’s privacy. You wouldn’t want your e-mail address, phone number, or other personal information plastered all over a public site, would you? Please do not share another person’s personal information.

We suspend and ban members. Any reader whose comments are flagged repeatedly will automatically have his or her account reviewed by a panel of moderators. If the commenter is found to have violated our comment policy, the panel may, at its discretion, warn, temporarily suspend or ban the user.

Our blog comments are sometimes moderated. From time to time, we place comments in a queue and read them before allowing them to post, ensuring that they make a positive contribution to the discussion. Posts that are off-topic, mean-spirited, or otherwise inappropriate will not be approved. We will make an effort to notify a reader if a comment isn’t approved, but we reserve the right to deny a comment without reason. On rare occasions, we may also post a story with comments completely disabled. In those cases, it’s fair to assume that we are not interested in any reader feedback.

A word or two about your moderators

Moderators are volunteers who care about the level of engagement on this site and are willing to invest their time into making it a better place. They have the ability to edit and delete comments, to mark comments as “spam” and to disable an account.

Moderators are not babysitters. It is unreasonable to expect them to read every comment.

Moderators do not actively patrol the comments looking for trouble. They rely on readers to identify violations of the comments policy.

If you see something objectionable, please flag it. That sends an email to the entire moderation team, and the comment will be reviewed.

The moderation team believes it is essential to remain neutral in every dispute. While moderators may actively participate in discussions, they are encouraged to maintain their impartiality as a group. To that end, they may either post their own comments under an account without moderation privileges, or state that they are speaking as an individual commenter, and not as a moderator, when they are offering their own opinion.

Note: We do not encourage or condone moderators (or anyone) posting under a false persona, also known as “sockpuppeting.” We do, however, understand that an account with the “moderator” implies the commenter is on official business, and seek to avoid conveying that, when it isn’t appropriate. A moderator may have two accounts in order to avoid any appearance of conflict.

If your comment is flagged, the group will do its best to explain what was objectionable and to give you an opportunity to resubmit the comment. The moderation team tries to handle these corrections privately, but on occasion you will see a moderator make a public comment about a post. We reserve the right to do that.

In the unlikely event that your account is disabled, you should expect to receive multiple warnings in writing, both privately and in the public forums, before any action is taken.

The moderators also believe in second chances. Unless you’re a spammer, your account will be reactivated after 30 days and your comments will once again be welcome on this site.

If you have any questions, please email me.