Comment is free – at last!

I can’t let today pass without celebrating a major – and it has to be said long overdue – step forward for the Sunderland Echo.

From this momentous Monday all comments on our website will be post-moderated, allowing registered users to log on and say whatever they like without their thoughts being queued (sometimes for days) awaiting approval.

Such a baby step towards engaging with our users will still seem like a dramatic leap of faith to some. Afterall, it won’t be long before the first defamatory and/or offensive comment appears attached to a story (and I should know after some of the corkers I had to reject on the Michael Jackson tribute page).

In fact, in legal terms we are safer than ever now we don’t effectively endorse every single comment. From this day forth we are no longer saying ‘this rant is ok’, even though it might have been approved by accident or through bleary eyes in the moments before an onerous deadline.

Our legal experts have confirmed what we already knew – we should let folk say what they like, and make sure other users can report comments for review by moderators, instantly hiding them from view.

The boost for interaction will be significant, with the possibility of real-time debates growing in a space away from our extremely counter-intuitive forum.

Like I say, it’s a small step. But it’s an important one for a media organisation still getting to grips with the fact we  must enter a conversation with our audience, or risking losing it altogether.


  1. I found out the true legal status of supposedly being in charge of moderating comments on a site the hard way – 40 pages of legal documentation sent from a London solicitor.

  2. Josh Halliday

    Fantastic news! Perfectly summed: small but significant. I imagine you’re very excited.

    Also, it never occurred to me the legal position of filtering comments as effectively saying ‘this rant is ok’ – I think that’s a very strong argument. I will use it myself. 🙂

    Congrats again. Wishing you healthy comment, traffic and interaction.

  3. Shame you can’t go the same way as your employer, Lee, and post-moderate!

    To be hit with a great big orange ‘Your Comment Is Awaiting Moderation’ made me laugh!

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