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Missing Comma: Readers Respond to Comment Policy Question

A week ago, we put a call out on Twitter and Facebook, as well as here at the blog, to gauge reactions to a prospective comment policy change that included “safe spaces” language. A couple of prominent figures, as well as ordinary readers, took the time to respond.

On Facebook, Sharon Presley from the Association of Libertarian Feminists said, “IMO Hell no. You would waste your time and mine with trolls and asshats. You have no obligation to give them spit. They are like vampires–sucking the life out of you for their own kicks.”

Angela Keaton, on Twitter, offered to “make fun of racists[…] for free.”

Another Twitter user, TaylorSwiftForeva, thought that the potential policy was simply about “protecing your feelz,” as they put it, and was intellectually dishonest.

Brendan Long, in the article’s comment thread, said:

It seems like a good idea to create a policy before you need it, since you’re more likely to come up with a reasonable general-purpose policy when you’re not looking at a particular comment you want to remove. Of course, you should update the policy as needed too.

I followed the link you gave to a safe spaces policy, and I’d argue the one in the link would be unhelpful on a political website like this one. Particularly, I think having an explicit policy that everyone in the comments needs to agree with us is dangerous.

It seems like a good start would just be to ban obvious trolling: Anything that contains racial slurs, rape threats, ad hominem attacks, etc. That would still leave plenty of room for people to criticize you in a respectful way, but won’t force you to leave the trash of the internet in your comments.

Ashley McCray, a doctoral student of History of Science, had this to say on Facebook:

I think it’s useful to reserve a space wherein individuals who suffer from oppression feel comfortable offering their perspectives and providing their input. I know as an individual who chills at the intersections of all sorts of oppression and stereotypes, I often have difficulty finding places like that. Of course, I’ve grown to become pretty brazen because that’s just my personality, but I have had to go to extra lengths so many times in order to carve out a space to accommodate my many identities and there have been times that I have been silenced because I know that I don’t have allies in certain settings. So I’d say yes, watching out for hateful comments that might turn away folks like me who are eager to share their experiences as an oppressed individual is extremely useful. First it ensures that more folks like me are willing and comfortable engaging with the topics you present AND second, hate speech doesn’t really do much to move any conversation forward (and is obvs offensive to the oppressed/silenced ind and their allies). This is my two cents!

A lot of the same concerns on both sides of the debate we here at C4SS have been having managed to come out in the wash during this public survey, but let’s keep the debate going! Let us know what you think of a potential comment policy change. Once again, you can tweet us @missingcomma or @c4ssdotorg, or let us know what you think with the hashtag #c4sscomments.

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