The Winnipeg Free Press is restricting its online comments to print and online subscribers in an effort to keep “the e-party going without the party-crashers.”
The newspaper’s editor Paul Samyn said the new commenting policy designed to reduce the "digital diatribe" will go into effect on June 3.
“The thinking behind our policy change is the bulk of the ugliness that lands from time to time on our website comes from those abusing the "free" in Free Press to engage in gutter talk or worse on our no-cost forum,” he said. “There will no doubt be some who will accuse the Free Press of limiting their right to free speech, or complain that we're not living up to the "free" in Free Press. They, of course, are entitled to their opinion, but, just for the record, there are no charter rights requiring us to have their voice heard at our water cooler.”
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The Free Press gets about 80,000 comments monthly, but roughly 1.5 per cent, or 1,200 of the comments, are flagged for violating the newspaper’s terms and conditions, Samyn said.
“In some cases, it appears people will register for a free account just to launch a drive-by smear and then never post again,” he said. “To put it bluntly, we want to keep the party-crashers out so those who've paid for the right to be part of the online conversation can do so without being turned off by yahoos spewing vile and bile.”
Samyn acknowledged this new policy might result in a drop in online engagement; however, he said the goal is to boost the “quality of the online debate, not the quantity.”