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Editorial - Those who violate online comment rules face consequences

The Echo Press online comment section is a popular way for people to express an opinion about a story, an issue and other people's viewpoints.

It's amazing how well this kind of informal, interactive forum has caught on. Some stories generate hundreds of comments.

The tone of the comments varies widely. Some are informative and insightful. Others are sarcastic or witty. Some stray off topic - which can be OK. Some like to reminisce about how things used to be. Often, the discussion turns political and the conversation gets heated.

That's usually when problems arise. Instead of addressing someone else's opinion, some feel a need to attack others personally by calling names, using crude language or trying to guess who he or she is. It's sandbox behavior that adults should have left behind in their childhood.

Thankfully, our online community has been good about putting such people back in their place. Also, if readers see a posting that they believe is offensive, they are encouraged to report it to us; there is a "report violation" link under every comment that is posted.

We do the best job we can to keep the online postings respectful. Every page of the online comment section states that the newspaper, at its discretion, will remove information that is "unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable."

The policy is enforced. We've installed profanity-filtering software that screens out inappropriate language. We've removed comments that crossed the line. We've shut down entire threads where the discussion deteriorated into personal attacks or name-calling. We've posted moderator warnings telling posters to keep their comments respectful. We no longer allow postings on stories involving criminal cases to prevent idle speculation that detract from an accused person's right to presumed innocence.

And in a few instances, we've prevented posters who have flagrantly violated the rules from posting anything to our site again.

Some may wonder if allowing people to post online comments is worth the trouble. We, along with many newspapers across the country, believe it is. This kind of informal, immediate discussion can be enlightening, or at the very least, entertaining. It's a convenient way for the entire community to share their thoughts about important issues and topics that shape their life. It's also resulted in more than a few good story tips and ideas.

It's a shame that some let mean-spirited emotions enter into the debate. While it's understandable for the postings to get heated from time to time - that happens when politics enters the picture - people should still be respectful of others' viewpoints. Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Before posting a comment, remember the three "Golden Rules" of our Web site:

1. Don't attack other posters personally, try to guess their identity or pry into their personal lives.

2. Be respectful of others and their opinions, even if you vehemently disagree.

3. Don't use profanity. This includes using symbols or acronyms that represent profanity.

The Echo Press takes its role as the number-one online resource for local information seriously. We have every right to take action against those who violate the rules of our Web site. Those who can't abide by those rules have only themselves to blame.