As part of the registration process, it is advisable to ask users to read and accept two documents:

  • The Terms of Use includes all relevant information about how your news organization will store and use any information that users give you as part of their interaction with your website. Make sure you provide sufficient guarantees that their personal data will be stored securely, will not be given to third parties and will not be used for marketing purposes. Also, inform your users about how they can completely delete their data from your system. The Terms of Use will also ask users to agree to waive any liability on the part of the news organization resulting from their comments and their interaction with your website. Take advantage of the Terms of Use to present the values of your organization and what you expect from your users, in particular: respect towards those who have different ideas and opinions; no attacks ad personam, especially attacks against journalists, which will not be tolerated; and no comments that may contribute to violence, hate or discrimination against protected groups. The Terms of Use should encourage users to express support for journalists who are attacked. Make sure you have a legal expert review this document.
  • The Community Guidelines are a key tool for both users and moderators. They should include clear information about the criteria that user comments need to fulfil, such as being relevant, respectful, clearly formulated, in full respect of applicable laws, free from statements containing discriminatory language, etc. Community Guidelines should stress that criticism is welcome, but aggressive, threatening and insulting comments will not be tolerated. In particular, the Community Guidelines should urge users to express comments and criticism about the content of any article or of other comments but refrain from directly attacking journalists and other users.

The Community Guidelines should reiterate the values expressed in the Terms of Use and encourage users to support such values, including zero tolerance towards insulting and threatening attacks against journalists. Users should be reminded of the Community Guidelines every time they post a comment. The Community Guidelines should also be regularly referred to by moderators when informing users that their content was removed or when intervening in a conversation on potentially inflammatory topics.

You may also want to include a FAQ section giving users additional information about your moderation strategy and processes. For example, you may want to consider letting users know which comments are pre-moderated (if any) and which ones are post-moderated, informing them why they can comment on some articles and not on others, or explaining that if they act in breach of the Community Guidelines their accounts may be temporarily suspended.