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Moderating a Government Blog

Guest post by Curtis Robert Burns, better known as Blogger Bob, at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

As a blogger for TSA I believe moderating blog comments always comes down to an understanding of your employer’s mission, audience, and your specific privacy and comment policy, but in this post, I’m going to go over a few of the more common questions people ask about the TSA blog about how blogs are moderated.

Spam

If your blog has an automatic spam filter, be sure to check it regularly for valid comments. Legitimate comments can easily slip through the cracks at times and be missed amongst spam comments about kitchen gadgets and miracle cures.

Review All Links

Unless you want your readers to get an eyeful of something unsavory, it’s best to review all links people leave in the comments. Be careful, I’ve seen people try to post inappropriate content on our blog by hyperlinking a period.

On or Off Topic?

Some might challenge me on this, but after trial and error, I’ve learned that it’s best to allow off topic comments as long as they’re related, even tangentially to the organization, product, or mission. So, if somebody just pops in to talk about Sharknado and the effects it would have on aviation security, I would be inclined to approve it. If you decide to only allow comments that are on topic, it results in a lot of extra moderation and many of your readers will feel censored.

Anonymous Comments

I allow anonymous comments on the TSA Blog for the simple reason that many wouldn’t comment if they had to register. While I know it’s far fetched, some truly believe there would be some sort of reprisal if they were overly critical of TSA.

Links in Usernames

This is a difficult one. If the link directs me to a product or service that is for sale, I delete the comment as spam. But, this came back to haunt me once. Somebody sent an email to the blog address complaining that they were being censored on the blog. Their user name was their business’s name, and it hyperlinked to a page about boat motors that were for sale. Turns out they were actually trying to engage with TSA and not sell a product. It’s a tough call to make.

One of the tactics people use now is to take a legitimate comment that somebody else posted and use it as their own to camouflage their spam. If you only have a few comments, it’s easy to spot, but when you have hundreds, and sometimes thousands, it’s not feasible to compare the comment to others. So, it’s more practical to reject them as spam unless you have the bandwidth to do the laborious comparisons.

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