Comment is Free (but don’t abuse the privilege)

Politics / Wed 28th Dec 2022 at 05:17pm

AS the year draws to a close, may we gently remind readers that our comments section is supposed to be a forum for debate and not a hub for hate.

This may be the third time we have written a version of this appeal but it still needs to be said.

We have had to ban more people and remove more comments in 2022 than at any other time in the past fourteen years of running digital publications.

We welcome a healthy debate on all subjects. As the historian Evelyn Beatrice Hall once said: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

There is no law against being negative, sucking the life out of a story, not listening, repetition etc.It may drive us mad, but hey ho, it is part of our job to embrace that.

But we will not tolerate racism, rudeness and aggression.

You should also appreciate that with just under 20% of Harlow’s population non-UK born, then we want every corner of our site to be a welcoming place, a safe space.

There is no doubt that post-Covid, the fragile people are still a bit fragile and the angry people are even angrier.

We are not alone. Headteachers, hospital bosses, police officers, shop managers, MPs and councillors all bear witness to the wrath of the angry man and woman. They kick off very quickly and have no notion of compromise.

We have just had our second criminal court case in as many years. As we said, we take a zero tolerance approach to any harassment, malicious communication etc.

We want real people interacting with real people. In short, if we suspect one or two persons are using multiple identities, then we will simply put the IP address on our banned list.

Obviously we don’t mind pseudonyms but there are a few people who are getting a bit carried away.

So in short, be yourself. Please.

In the old days, there would simply be the Letter to the Editor. Sometimes signed and some times “name and address supplied”. We still offer that.

But the Times newspaper has just decided that all comments must have a real name attached to their comments.

We really don’t want to go there but it is tempting.

We keep an eye on the Facebook comments as well and all we ask is that people are considerate and respectful. Oh and contributors don’t leave themselves open to legal action. There is no such thing as free speech. It comes with rules, obligation, qualifications and lines.

We are a trusted, respected award winning news source with a local, national and international reputation. That has taken a lot of work and with that comes a lot of responsibility.

We have had over 17 million page views in the last four years. We want to make sure that YourHarlow is everyone’s Harlow and no-one feels excluded.

We want to thank everyone who looks in.

Anyway, be kind……

Michael Casey

December 2022

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6 Comments for Comment is Free (but don’t abuse the privilege):

James Griggs
2022-12-28 21:46:41

Well said Michael. I, like many, love a good debate but when it’s just abuse I simply refuse to engage. Frankly, I don’t like the use of pseudonyms. We all know there are councillors who comment on here but don’t reveal their identity. Why would they do that? Your Harlow is the best media forum in town and long may it continue to thrive and grow. Well done and thank you. James Griggs Labour Councillor for Netteswell

2022-12-29 09:19:22

Hate speech is awful: free speech a goal as is respect. Unfortunately even to express a non hate, honest and constructive opinion or alternative view as should be respected in an honest debate and not to use a pseudonym to reveal different views is to invite personal attack in the face to face world even from elected persons in positions of power. A point at which Your Harlow provides an honest voice for the people, the disadvantaged and the weak, for those who would otherwise be silenced.

2022-12-29 09:40:04

I guess a lot of people are just unhappy or bitter and enjoy a good whinge on here ...I just tend to write twaddle when I'm bored😁

Kay Morrison
2022-12-29 13:25:36

We need a decent news outlet: Your Harlow is it, evidenced by awards earned and by how highly-regarded it is generally. It's too easy to post nasty comments while hiding behind a pseudonym but, in a respectful forum, that's not necessary. (Maybe the term 'keyboard warrior' bears some analysis?) However, that two contributors (above) still aren't using their names shows how generous this space is. Surely we can help you feel safe? In the meantime, thank you, Michael Casey.

2022-12-29 16:25:53

Freedom of expression is a bedrock of a free society. It should jealously and zealously guarded and its limitations should be restricted primarily to defamation. We have, in the past 20 years or so seen our liberties curtailed far too much. We should not constrain ourselves through fear of causing ‘offence’ in certain quarters. By definition, that is wholly subjective and does not constitute legitimate grounds for censure. The whole point is to hear opinions different to one’s own. Our educational system and public sectors have suffered an onslaught in the sinister name of ‘political correctness’. I think the authors the US Constitution got it spot on with the First Amendment: “ Congress shall make no law…… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…..” A British Bill of Rights should emulate that clause.

2022-12-29 17:24:54

James, that is a fantastic comment! I agree!

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