Petaluma Patch’s user agreement imposes a high standard of behavior for posting online comments. They require that real names be used and insist that personal attacks be avoided.
Such a concept!
To give you an idea of their policy position on public comments as posted on their site, I am reproducing portions of that agreement here with the permission of Janine Iamunno of PATCH Public Relations:
We want everyone to enjoy Patch, so you may use the Service without registration (ie, signing up with a email address and password). However, in order to access some aspects of the Service, you will need to register for an account…. Patch believes in transparency, and we ask that all your registration information be truthful. You may not use any aliases or other means to mask your true identity. (Emphasis Added)
Communities thrive when people care about each other, and as such, Patch expects all of its users to be respectful of others. If you notice any violation of this Acceptable Use Policy or other unacceptable behavior by any user, please report it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
While we encourage people to be honest and post what’s on their mind, there are some types of Content that we simply can’t allow on Patch. We’ll go over some of the prohibited items…but these are merely examples and the list is not intended to be exhaustive.
We understand that everyone has different opinions, but Patch will make the sole determination as to whether Content is acceptable for the Service. is defamatory, abusive, obscene, profane or offensive…
Instead of trying to memorize all (this), you might boil it down to three main policies: “Keep it clean,” “Don’t try to trick people,” and “Treat others as you’d like to be treated.” Easy, right? (Emphasis added)
However, having a well written policy is one thing.
Enforcing it is another.
So far, it appears that Petlauma Patch is willing to do so. But there are signs of waffling on this issue. Note how the monitoring comments by the editor have shifted:
- “Please keep your comments to the issues at hand and refrain from personal attacks. Also, you must use your real name when commenting on stories or we will delete your thread.” (Emphasis Added)
- “Dear commentators. While we love and encourage your opinions on our site, you need to keep them civil or they will be deleted. There is no need to get nasty. Patch is about fostering community and divisive and rude comments do not help. Thanks!”
- “Hi Patch readers. While we’re very happy you are discussing this important topic on our site, we just want to remind everyone to keep the comments to the issues at hand and not make any personal attacks. In the spirit of transparency, we also encourage you to post using your first and last name so it’s clear who the comment is coming from. You can also submit letters to the editor to email@example.com, which will be reviewed and posted on our site.” (Emphasis added)
- ARTICLE: “Comments Rule up for Debate”–“Two items we’ve posted… have generated a stream of comments on our pages. That has resulted in discussion about whether Petaluma Patch should require every person commenting on the site to use their real name.” (Emphasis Added)
- “As a new site, we are a work in progress, so we may amend our policy as we go on, but for now, our hope is that people will respect our “honor system” and not hide under aliases or nicknames.” (Emphasis added)
Monitoring comments is a daunting task and I applaud the effort.
- Will Petaluma Patch serve as a model for other online news communities?
- Will they stand by their written policy regarding identification?
To read the entire Patch User Agreement, Click Here
For supplemental information, go to 13 Things You Need to Know About Petaluma Patch