We formed +972 with the intention of adding new layers to the discourse surrounding Israel and Palestine, because we felt there were too many pieces missing. Our guiding principles are: reporting facts on the ground, allowing multiple and often unpopular or unusual views to be expressed, and generating genuine, civil, intelligent dialogue among a range of readers.
To encourage broad thinking, we wanted to have a very open and accessible dialogue with our readers. We encouraged comments and placed no restrictions on how people can leave comments; we have tried to respond and engage, and we are proud to have attracted a wide political range of readers.
But among those who are genuinely trying to think through the issues, we have encountered readers who are mainly bent on sowing hatred, racism and disrespect. We, and even some of our readers, have become targets for some people who do not seem interested in the content of our ideas. Rather, they take any article as a pretense to attack one or the other side blindly, with invective instead of reason. Some of the comments were so offensive that we felt we could not condone their presence on our site by any reasonable standards of debate, and we have deleted or edited them. When we have not managed to catch these vicious attacks in time, other readers have rightfully taken offense.
We do not believe that fostering open dialogue means tolerating such behavior.
Our group has considered various options and we want to explain how we thought about the problem. We weighed very seriously the goal of inviting fresh dialogue and open minds, against the need to maintain standards of decency. There were a number of options available to us – such as: asking people to register on the site, to deter those who troll for quick targets; we considered developing a common 972 policy for editing or deleting comments (such as recognizing ‘hatefulness’, banning Nazi terminology (as Noam already did), banning personal insults or profanity; we thought about drawing up guidelines and letting each writer monitor his or her channel.
It was a difficult decision. Ultimately, we decided that we don’t want to deter any new reader with a registration process at this stage; we also doubt that it will really deter those bent on harming us. We would prefer a very minimalist comments ‘policy,’ because we want to give range to as wide a variety of opinions as possible, without inadvertently imposing political views on what’s acceptable. And most of all, we wanted you, our readers, to understand how and why we need to find an answer.
That is why we are writing this to make our thinking process transparent. We have thought through the kinds of responses appropriate for the level of debate we want to promote and they are listed here. At this stage, each writer will be responsible for reading comments, and has full discretion to edit or delete comments as he or she sees fit. This is the policy of the New York Times, the Guardian and many other respectable news organizations, and we feel it is the one that suits us best.
Please bear with us as we experiment with the right response. We want to create an atmosphere that promotes an interesting and constructive discussion. There might be a few hiccups as we experiment with various ways of maintaining a civilized, constructive dialogue.
Please do comment if your opinion differs from ours. Comment if you want to add to what we’ve written. Please respond constructively to one another. Please try to respond broadly to the topic in our article, rather than jump to unrelated issues that just distract others from the point our writers have worked hard to make.
Do not engage in name-calling, personal attacks, inappropriate use of WWII terminology or profanity – we will not accept those comments. Hateful tones are easily identified and don’t have a place on our site either. And please do not be needlessly argumentative or repetitive; best to reread your comment before you post, and keep it brief, relevant and courteous. If you find you have a great deal more to say, we encourage you to open your own blog so that you can express yourself without limitations.
Understanding these requests will lead to minimal editing and maximal substantive debate. If your intent is to stifle debate by trolling, provoking and driving away readership, we won’t let it happen.