Updated April 1, 2014 at 11:00 a.m.

Commenting FAQ

Q: Why was my comment removed?
A:Please refer to the Terms of service you agreed to when you registered, created, or activated your account or when you purchased your subscription, specifically under the heading "Restricted Content and Activities." Here's more detail on the most frequent reasons comments are removed:

  • Personal attacks and insults: Threatening, intimidating, libeling or defaming of any individual. Also forbidden is name-calling of other commenters or people who are subjects of the articles.
  • Hate speech: Language that degrades others -- including public figures -- on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, physical characteristics or disability.
  • Off-topic comments: Comments that have nothing to do with the subject of the article.
  • Private information: Material that can be considered an invasion of privacy. This includes phone numbers, e-mail addresses, URLs or other specific personal information.
  • Solicitations of any kind.
  • Advertising or spam, including a comment that is posted repeatedly within one thread or across a number of different threads.
  • Copyright violations: No content from or any other source can be reproduced in its entirety. Instead, use a small and relevant excerpt and then provide a link to the full version.
  • Comments where it appears the commenter is masquerading as another person.
  • Profanity: Particularly obscene or pornographic language (including attempts at disguising profanity with dashes or other symbols). Just as with articles in the Times itself, there may be situations where some common profanity is permitted based on context.

Due to the volume of comments received and reviewed, we cannot respond to individual questions about why a comment was allowed or removed.

Q: How do I report an offensive comment?
A: If you believe a comment violates the rules above, bring it to the attention of the online staff by clicking on the "flag" link that appears with each comment. It will be reviewed as soon as possible (at times there could be a delay of a few hours).

Q: Who reviews the reported comments?
A: The staff and other editors in the newsroom.

Q: Why are you censoring peoples' opinions?
A: The Seattle Times Co. reserves the right to allow or disallow any kind of content that doesn't meet its standards as outlined in the terms of service and this FAQ. The Times is under no obligation to publish every comment it receives.

Q. What about my right to free speech?
A: The right to free speech described in the First Amendment concerns the relationship between the U.S. government and its citizens. Any private business can require certain standards of conduct. Generally, a comment is removed not because of the idea it expresses, but because the comment contains a personal attack, insult, hate speech or profanity.

Q: What does it take to get banned?
A: See the section on "why was my comment removed?" above. We no longer have the staff resources to consider a commenter's past conduct when making a decision to ban them. If you break the rules, you're out.

Q: Will you tell me when I’ve been banned, or tell me why? And can I be reinstated?
A: Due to staff time limitations, we cannot respond to individual questions about why a particular person has been banned. Bans are permanent. Based on the severity of rule violations, we have the ability to render a commenter’s posts invisible to everyone but themselves. And we reserve the right not to tell the banned user that this is happening, because to create and maintain such communication is a strain on our staff’s time.

Q: As a Seattle Times subscriber, can I still be banned from commenting?
A: Yes, our Terms of service apply to all users. You will still be able to access digital content if your subscription includes such access but violations of our Terms of Service will suspend your commenting activity.

Q: Why don't you make people use real names?
A: Because we don't have the resources to verify that names are real. People could too easily impersonate someone else.

Q: Why don't you pre-screen all of the comments?
A: We do actively moderate and pre-screen the comments for threads on some stories that we think will be particularly controversial. But we don't have the staff to read and approve every comment on our site before it is posted. That's why we gave you the tools to help us keep the conversation civil through the "flag" and "like" links.

Q: Why do you require registration to comment?
A: Several reasons:

  • It's the only way to allow such tools as comment rating.
  • Adding the step of having to be registered and logged in deters the hit-and-run troll.
  • It allows us to better control the legitimacy of commenters, and to ban them more easily if they break the rules.
  • It's the best way to keep spam out of the comments.

Q: Can I comment with my subscriber account, or do I need to register separately?
A: Your subscription includes access to post comments and you do not need to register separately. However, if someone else in your household would like to comment under their own identity, they would have to register separately. For more information, see our Frequently Asked Questions about Digital Access.

Q: What is the "Like" link for?
A: You are allowed to recommend an individual post once.

Q: Can I change the way I view the comments?
A: You can. By default, the comments begin with the newest first, then chronologically to the oldest at the end of the comment thread. At the top of each comments page, above the first comment, you can reverse this by clicking the "Oldest" link. You can also click "Top Comments" to see the comments with "likes" listed in order of most "likes."

Q: Can I remove a comment after I've posted it?
A: No, so please be absolutely sure you want to make such a comment publicly. Comments could remain on our site for many years and are indexed by search engines. You have the option to edit a comment for up to 5 minutes after you post it.

Q: Why do you have comments?
A: Because we want to be a town square for our community. We want the stories, blogs, columns and editorials we provide to be a starting point for conversation, not a dead end. What separates from Seattle Times in print is the ability to interact with you. That means answering your questions, hearing your concerns, listening to your ideas. Commenting on stories is part of that community conversation.



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