Upcoming Changes To MLBTR Commenting Policy

My April 6th poll regarding the MLBTR comment section received over 5,800 responses, and the post had over 650 comments.  The MLBTR readership is passionate about how we handle commenting on sensitive topics like domestic violence, COVID-19, and politics.  The poll results:

  • 67.1% would like comments to remain closed on posts related to domestic violence
  • 63.8% would like comments to remain closed on posts related to COVID-19
  • 56.6% would like comments to remain closed on posts related to politics, such as MLB’s decision to move the All-Star Game out of Georgia
  • 74.4% would like MLBTR to continue attempting to remove comments that are unrelated to the topic of the post
  • 73.0% would use a button that allows you to mute specific commenters

I gave this data a lot of thought, and I also gave consideration to the individual comments left on the post.  I’ve gotten emails from people saying that they’re done with MLBTR because we have been closing comments on sensitive topics.  I’ve also gotten emails from people saying they will stop visiting MLBTR if we open comments on sensitive topics.  I hope people don’t leave.  We’re doing the best we can.  It’s clear there’s not a solution that will make everyone happy.

After much deliberation, here is what I’ve decided to do.  These new policies are subject to change.

  • We are going to create a mute button.  You will be able to easily mute all comments from a specific user, which will include the entirety of a thread started by that person.
  • We are going to continue closing comments on domestic violence posts.  I’m glad two-thirds of respondents agree with that choice.  There isn’t really a baseball discussion I want to host on those posts.
  • We are going to open comments on COVID-19 posts.  We started closing these over a year ago, when there was a lot unknown about COVID.  At this point, I hope it’s possible to discuss the implications of baseball COVID cases on rosters without debating the disease itself.  I don’t see why a baseball website should host political opinions or arguments on COVID.  This will be a test to see whether those comment sections can be apolitical.
  • We are going to open comments in cases where baseball and politics intersect, such as MLB’s decision to move the All-Star Game out of Georgia.  This was a difficult decision.  My feeling is that each individual already has the ability to “close” comments on a given post, by not clicking to reveal its comments.  I lean toward putting the power in the hands of readers: if you feel that the comments on certain posts or topics are not worth reading, you should not read them.  And if you do decide to wade into a sensitive topic, that is at your own risk, and you’ll have the ability to mute people you feel are not adding value.  You’ll also have the “flag” button for comments that violate our policy, which will be added to the Trade Rumors iOS app soon.
  • With the above point in mind, I am going to make a few changes to ensure that viewing the comments is an intentional experience.  On desktop web as well as the iOS app, rather than have the comments show automatically below the post, we are going to put in a View Comments button, similar to what we’ve long had on mobile web.  You will have to purposely click View Comments to see them.

As a reminder, our commenting policy still requires that you avoid the following:

  • Attacks, insults, or trolling toward other commenters, the MLBTR staff, journalists, team personnel, players, or agents
  • Otherwise harassing other commenters in any way
  • Commentary that is unrelated to the subject matter of the post.  Take special note of this one.  74% of respondents don’t want off-topic comments, and once comments are open on COVID-19 and political posts, there will be little excuse for that.  A post about a Braves IL move is not an opening to discuss the All-Star Game decision; there will be a contained post for that.
  • Inappropriate language
  • Inappropriate avatars or images
  • Spam links or self-promotion
  • Personal contact information in the comments section

Specifically when it comes to attacks, insults, trolling, and harassment, doing this will still get you banned.  It is also important to note that we don’t try to assess who “started it,” and someone else getting away with a violation doesn’t justify yours.  We catch as much as we can.  If someone trolls or insults you, we ask that you flag their comment and resist the temptation to respond in kind.  Once the mute button is available, we will ask that you flag their comment and then mute them.

As I mentioned, this is subject to change.  If we find that commenting policy violations increase drastically and/or require a greatly increased amount of moderation time from our staff, we may choose to close comments to better focus on the core aspects of running MLB Trade Rumors.

These policy changes will go into effect when our mute button is rolled out on the website, likely by the end of April.  Until then, this policy remains in place.  The mute option will not initially be available in the Trade Rumors app, but we’ll get to work on that.  Once that’s done I intend to turn our focus to other ways we can improve MLBTR, and I’ll be surveying readers on that topic.

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