A core aspect of a healthy conversation is the development of a relationship of trust between your news organization and your community of users. Even those users who may greatly disagree with the news and opinions you disseminate should trust your efforts to act professionally, respectfully and in line with highest journalistic and ethical standards. An important aspect of any relationship of trust is being able to transmit the feeling that you act transparently and inform users about your decisions. Therefore, you should communicate directly with your users in these circumstances:
- Inform users when you remove a comment: Software used to manage user comments generally allows moderators to send an automated message to users when their comments are removed. Make sure that the message explains why the comment was removed and which articles of your Community Guidelines it breached. In particular, when comments are removed because they include attacks against journalists, reiterate that your news organization does not tolerate such forms of harassment. Remind your users of the Community Guidelines every time you remove a comment.
- Warn users who repeatedly breach the Community Guidelines: A good way of warning users who repeatedly breach Community Guidelines is to block their ability to post comments for a period of time. This action will serve as a warning as well as prevent them from participating in a discussion on a topic that appears to attract unacceptable comments from their side. Make sure that you are particularly firm in warning users who disseminate threats and other attacks against journalists. You can block their accounts for a few hours or for a day. Whenever you take this step, make sure the users receive a message from you explaining why this decision was made. Customize your automatic messages to users to ensure they receive enough information.
- Inform users when their accounts are deleted: Deleting a user’s access to comments for good is a serious step and the appropriate answer to serious aggressions. While deleting an account is a clear sign that you have no interest in communicating with that user, make sure that users whose accounts have been deleted receive a message from you explaining what led to this decision.