A primary goal of moderation is making users aware that comments posted in the comment section need to remain within clearly defined boundaries and follow a set of transparent rules that the news organization enforces. Showing users right from the start that moderators are actively participating in the conversation and monitoring it serves as a strong deterrent to aggressors.

Moderators should act under the media outlet’s account and remind users of the principles included in the Community Guidelines, such as refraining from racist, sexist and other discriminatory statements, and limiting criticism to the content and not targeting journalists and authors.

For particularly problematic topics that tend to attract high levels of vitriol against journalists, moderators may want to point users to other articles supporting the positions expressed by the journalist.

Some news organizations even encourage their journalists to participate in the conversation for some time after the story is posted. While such participation has proven valuable in raising the quality of the conversation, it may expose journalists to even greater attacks. Discuss this possibility in depth with your journalists and ensure that any such decision is taken with them and not imposed on them.

Finally, if you have been successful in creating an engaged community of users, it may be worthwhile for moderators to encourage users themselves to express support for journalists who have been targeted in an attack and thereby defy the aggressors’ aims.

Engaging with users to promote quality debate over noise

Rob Burley, Editor Live Political Programmes, BBC, UK