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Comment and the rules

There have been occasions when it has been necessary to close the comment section on specific stories on our website, www.royalgazette.com.People have asked why, often complaining that it is stopping their right of freedom of speech.We strive to give contemporaneous and accurate information in order to help stimulate debate and when our website was redesigned last year we decided to allow comments on stories in the hope that it would fuel informed debate on issues affecting the Island.But too often the comments descend into personal attacks and unproven allegations such as this: “He is a horrible person and has robbed many people over the years — me being one of them! He has been hanging around town ppl and doing bad things lately — so if it is — I hope the cops lock him up for life!!!” (the name of the person has been omitted).There have been times when the comment has been libellous, links have been added that are inappropriate and there has been continued use of bad language, despite the filter we use.The majority of comments are good, as always it is the minority who spoil it, but in a small island like Bermuda, a comment that is allowed to stand as fact, when it is wrong, misleading, libellous etc can have huge ramifications.We rely heavily on the ‘report abuse button’ where readers can report a comment they think is unsuitable and our policy states: “User Content submitted to the Service is generally posted immediately and automatically. Given the nature of the Service, The Royal Gazette and its designees do not actively monitor and review all User Content posted or transmitted by users. As such, you are liable for the opinions you express and the accuracy of the information you provide in the Service area. However, The Royal Gazette reserves the right to remove any User Content it deems inappropriate, as well as suspend or ban the account under which its was transmitted.”Sometimes it is an easy call to make to edit comments or stop the thread, other times it is a judgement call ….it may not always be right, but it is always done for the right reason: as the largest news outlet in Bermuda we have a huge responsibility to act responsibly.As such there will be no hesitation in banning people from posting comments if those comments are deemed to be offensive. There will be no hesitation in editing comments if they are wrong or libellous.There will be no hesitation in closing the comment thread down if it is getting out of hand.Please respect the rules, please respect each other and please continue to use the comments section for the way it was designed.