Saturday, July 24, 2010

The ethics of removing blog comments.

I was asked earlier today to remove three comments by a contributor to the discussion on one of my blog articles. The comments in question related to interaction the person had had with someone mentioned in the article and how that related to the subject under discussion. Some time after these events the two people had made up with each other and he wanted to remove a record of the disagreement.

I went ahead and removed the comments, but this did raise two interesting questions:

Should the comments have been removed or should an update have been posted explaining that they were now friends again?

Is this the same as Winston Smith (in the novel 1984) changing newspaper articles and destroying the originals?

My gut feeling is that blog comment threads should remain intact for as long as the article exists and that by amending the flow of the discussion at a later date we are attempting to change history. It may seem like a small thing but the principal is important.


  1. Some times a principal overlooks the individual. People are varied and some let their emotions or a pint get the better of them.

    If the comments added value to the original article, I can see the desire not to remove them. If on the other hand, if the comments carried some non related emotional content that the contributor wished removed, I don't see the harm.

    I don't have handy an English to English phrase book, but here in the colonies we have phrases like "It was said in the heat of the moment" and "Let bygones be bygones".

    Since the written word lacks the capacity to convey the entirety of human to human communication, what may have been written, failed to convey the intent of the writer. Allowing for the removal or permitting a contributor to edit a comment seems appropriate. But you should feel free to make it clear the such actions aren't the standard policy of your blog.

  2. In practice contributors can remove comments them selves. If you were logged in to Google or OpenID just go back to your comment and you will see a delete option next to it. In the case mentioned, though, the person did not have the log in details.

    It was not a heat of the moment case. WHat had happened was he had changed his mind about an issue and was now promoting the opposite to what he had been at the time of the comments. Rather than add that at the bottom he wanted to remove all trace on the internet of him having held the other opinion previously.

    I deleted the comments from the published page, but left them in the database.