Since our first issue 128 years ago, we at TSL have committed ourselves to providing a platform for student expression. This platform has always extended past the feet of our own staffers — guest columns and letters from our readers find important places on our pages.
For most of our history, these guest submissions have come as handwritten or printed letters in our mailbox. More recently, our email inbox has welcomed submissions and letters to the editor. As we’ve increased our focus on web content, we’ve learned to appreciate how online comments provide one of the quickest, most seamless ways for our readers to add to the conversation. With this in mind, we’ve updated our admittedly vague online comment policy to better match the expectations we have for other channels of expression.
We’re introducing the following community standards for our online comment section:
1) Comments should be relevant and civil. They may attack ideas but not people. They should add to the discourse and not intentionally mislead other readers.
2) Comments that encourage discrimination based on race, class, religion, gender, sexuality, ability, and/or other identities will not be tolerated. Neither will comments that contain private or personal information, commercial promotion, profanity, obscenity, libel, or defamation.
As journalists, we take freedom of speech very seriously. Without it, TSL wouldn’t exist. But we also understand that we have a responsibility for what we do and do not host on our website. Because this is such a tense issue, especially in the current political climate, we turned to large, established publications for guidance.
These basic tenets are drawn from the comment policies of The New York Times and the Guardian, with some modification. We don’t require real names or locations in order to let readers who are under contracts or policy to comment without risking their livelihood. We also sided with the Times’s screening model over the Guardian’s removal model, because our policy is centered around protecting our community, and moderation can’t always operate retroactively.
As those national publications mention, the motive behind any good comment policy is creating productive discourse, not shutting down speech that moderators disagree with. The rules we have in place are designed to protect members of our community from doxxing and hate speech — no more, no less.
One thing to note: since moderation is done by people, not algorithms, and is kept entirely in-house, comments may not appear immediately after submission, especially if they’re made outside of normal business hours.
We understand that community standards may change as the community values they reflect change as well. This document isn’t set in stone, and will be updated when the editorial board sees fit. You can always find the full, up-to-date policy at tsl.news/page/about/.