Frequently asked questions about comments

Here are our most frequently asked questions about comments. You can find more FAQs here.

What are comments?
Why do you have comments?
Do you have a comments policy?
I’ve noticed that your writers sometimes bend or break these rules. They’re opinionated, snarky and they even make personal attacks. Shouldn’t they be held to the same standard as the commenters?
Do you moderate your comments?
Who are the moderators?
Do you edit comments?
Do you ever suspend or ban commenters?
Do you delete comments you disagree with?
I left a comment for the author asking for details on a story. Where’s my response?
I left a comment correcting an error in a story. Why did you remove it?
What is your corrections policy?
You’ve blocked all traffic from my site — what gives?
May I post under an assumed name?


What are comments?

Our comments section is the voice of our readers. We strive to create an open, engaging and friendly environment. We advocate for consumers and want them to feel comfortable sharing their problems with us without fear of being attacked. Commenting on this site is a privilege, not a right.

Why do you have comments?

We offer the option of commenting to responsible readers who want to say something about the topic of a story. We only publish comments related to the subject of a post. Remarks about a headline, illustration, author, or an author’s approach to the topic — in other words, anything not directly related to the subject — are best sent to us as a letter to the editor.

Do you have a comments policy?

Yes. 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, authors and the site’s publisher. They have feelings, too.

✓ 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.

I’ve noticed that your writers sometimes bend or break these rules. They’re opinionated, snarky and they even make personal attacks. Shouldn’t they be held to the same standard as the commenters?

No. Comments and articles are not the same thing. Think of it in theater terms: When you’re writing for the site, it’s your stage and your show. A stage actor can engage in all kinds of behavior that would be inappropriate for an audience. We offer two options for audience members who want more room to opine. You can send a letter to the editor or you can write a guest post. But as a member of the audience, your options for sounding off are limited by design.

Do you moderate your comments?

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.

Who are the 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 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.

Do you edit comments?

We reserve the right to remove inappropriate remark from an otherwise useful comment. For example, a statement that adds relevant information to the discussion, but ends with, “and that’s why you have no credibility,” could still be approved, but our moderators have zero tolerance for personal insults, so the attack would probably be deleted. We edit comments sparingly, and only to bring them into compliance with our standards.

Do you ever suspend or ban commenters?

Any reader whose comments are flagged repeatedly will automatically have his or her account reviewed by our moderators. If the commenter is found to have violated our comments policy, we may warn, temporarily suspend or ban the user.

Do you delete comments you disagree with?

No. We encourage a vigorous and healthy debate, and if you read the other comments, we’re confident that’s exactly what you’ll see. However, we will refuse to approve a comment if it doesn’t make a productive contribution to the discussion or if it violates our comments policy.

I left a comment for the author asking for details on a story. Where’s my response?

Although authors read the comments and sometimes respond to them directly, the best way to ask a question is by contacting the author by email. (The address is in the author bio below the story.) If you don’t receive a direct, personal response, please send a letter to the editor.

We strongly discourage our authors from getting drawn into an argument in the comments because it quickly turns the section into a war zone. The only losers are readers, who have to wade through a pointless thread littered with arguments and insults. We can do better.

I left a comment correcting an error in a story. Why did you remove it?

Comments are not an appropriate platform for correcting a factual error in a post. While our authors are grateful to anyone who wants to set the record straight, we would strongly prefer to handle such matters by email. Here’s how to contact us. We’ll do our best to fix the article promptly, of course.

We also love to hear your comments about our headlines, choice of subjects, and illustrations, but again, the comments are not the right place to discuss our editorial decisions. Please submit a letter to the editor.

What is your corrections policy?

It depends. Factual errors are corrected as quickly as possible, but without the self-flagellation that you’ll find on mainstream media sites. (In other words, don’t expect an enormous “editor’s note” above the post, declaring how flawed we are. You already know.) If it’s an error of interpretation — something more subjective — we’ll often let a reader comment serve as a de facto editor’s note. Again, minus the sackcloth and ashes. We reserve the right to do one or the other — or neither. If you disagree with the way a correction was handled, please send us a note.

You’ve blocked all traffic from my site — what gives?

There’s a very short list of websites that consistently sends what we call “toxic” traffic to our comments section. Our moderators have repeatedly asked users from these sites to follow our reasonable rules of engagement, but have been rebuffed. Unfortunately, we were left with no choice but to block traffic from these sites. We respect the rights of these users to have their opinions and express them online. But they are not welcome on this site.

May I post under an assumed name?

We do not encourage or condone anyone posting under a false persona, also known as “sockpuppeting.” We strongly encourage you to use your real name.

Got a question you’d like us to answer in the FAQ? Please send us an email.