Our Opinion: Cultivating civility, encouraging debate in online comments

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Wilson County is home to some intellectual heavyweights at various points along the political spectrum, but you wouldn’t know it from reading this week’s bilious batch of comments on WilsonTimes.com.

Personal putdowns and schoolyard taunts share space with the garden-variety partisan jabs that have become part and parcel of online debate. Some of our most prolific correspondents seem to delight in dragging a simple political disagreement into the muck and mire of ad hominem attacks.

While we’re proud that WilsonTimes.com is the community’s forum of choice for debating the issues of the day, some recent exchanges have lowered the bar beyond what a responsible family newspaper ought to tolerate. Today, we’re rolling out a new set of ground rules to encourage civil, constructive and reasoned discourse.

The guidelines below are viewpoint-neutral, applying to all users regardless of their political persuasion. We function as a reluctant referee who intervenes only to ensure fair play, not a debate participant, ringmaster or fixer.

We hope these reasonable standards will elevate the quality of discussion and improve the user experience on our website. We’ll leave you with this bon mot from Eleanor Roosevelt: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

With that preamble out of the way, here is the new comment policy for WilsonTimes.com. It will remain available online for users’ reference at http://wilsontimes.com/commentpolicy.html.

WilsonTimes.com comment policy

The Wilson Times encourages reader feedback and provides a Facebook commenting tool that allows users who are logged into their Facebook accounts to post comments on WilsonTimes.com articles. Visit www.facebook.com to log in or to sign up for a free account.


Users who post comments to WilsonTimes.com grant The Wilson Times Co. permission to use their comments, in whole or in part, for print and online publication, including but not limited to the Talk Back feature appearing on the thrice-weekly Commentary page. Comments will be edited and may be truncated due to space limitations.


Facebook requires users to register accounts with their real names. However, the Times does not authenticate the identities of Facebook users who comment on WilsonTimes.com.

If a user suspects someone has registered an account under a false name or is impersonating another individual, those complaints should be reported to Facebook, which may take corrective action at its sole discretion. The Times will not be a party to any complaint regarding enforcement of Facebook’s policies.


The following forms of content are prohibited in comments posted to WilsonTimes.com:

• Profanity, obscenity and vulgarity

• Sexually explicit or inappropriate material

• Libel, slander and defamation of character

• Repeated and pervasive disparaging personal statements

• Threats of violence, both implicit and explicit

• Incitement to commit acts of violence or self-harm

• “Doxxing,” or posting private individuals’ personal identifying information

• Claiming to unmask or reveal the identity of a pseudonymous user

• Plagiarism, copyright and intellectual property violations

• Consumer complaints that reference specific individuals and businesses

• Posting hyperlinks to vulgar, indecent or otherwise inappropriate content

The Wilson Times Co. reserves the right to alter or modify the list of prohibited content at any time.


Moderation is complaint-driven. Users who believe a comment violates the Times’ policy can notify website moderators by emailing editor@wilsontimes.com and including the text of the challenged comment and a hyperlink to the story where it appears.

Comments that violate the policy will be removed. Users who commit repeated violations are subject to having their accounts permanently banned from commenting.