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Cleaning up climate comments

As part of our approach to improving comments on The Conversation, we’re paying particular attention to comments on climate change.

We know comments on this topic can often be derailed, deliberately or otherwise. We have the same problems as many other sites. Vitriolic “debate” runs across numerous articles regardless of topic. People accuse others of “warmist”, “denialist” or “troll” agendas to dismiss their arguments. Ideological comments masquerade as science.

And, like our ambition for elsewhere on The Conversation, we’d like climate change comments to be intelligent and constructive.

To help achieve that, we’ll be taking a more involved role on moderation of climate articles and to keep things on track we will:

  • Take a firm stance on what is on- and off-topic. For example, comments challenging the scientific basis of climate change will be regarded as off-topic unless the article is specifically about this subject (as opposed to articles about climate policy, for example).

  • Moderate against deliberate misinformation and distortion of facts.

  • Moderate against attempts to misrepresent arguments or community members.

  • Delete comments that attempt to hijack threads or to push an agenda or argument irrelevant to the discussion.

  • Encourage you to back up your claims with credible research. (Generally speaking, if you’re claiming something as a scientific fact but you can’t back it up with a credible reference, it’s unlikely to be a constructive addition to the debate.)

These measures are in conjunction to our community standards, which all comments must adhere to.

The other part of cleaning up climate comments involves you.

A lot of our commenters are passionate about climate change and want to have constructive, positive discussions. We’d like to ask those community members to model the discussions you’d like to participate in and not get involved in the unconstructive, cyclical arguments described above. We understand the impetus – you see someone posting something “wrong” and you want to correct them so we can get to the constructive conversations.

However, sometimes the mere existence of misinformation in the comments is enough to discredit the article – correction or not. Adding more noise to the thread isn’t going to help. Instead, if you see comments that are derailing an otherwise intelligent discussion, please report offending comments and move on.

We’ve heard you say you want to improve the discussion on climate and hope this helps. Share your feedback and any other ideas you have.


Cory Zanoni, community manager