Comments return to the Portland Press Herald

Less than 48 hours after comments were removed from the Portland (Maine) Press Herald’s website, they are back, using newly installed moderation tools.

Comments were pulled Tuesday after what Publisher Richard Connor described as “vile, crude, insensitive, and vicious postings” on the site. The decision affected Portland’s pressherald.com, as well as the websites of the Morning Sentinel and the Kennebec Journal.

In a brief letter posted on the Press Herald’s site on Tuesday, Connor wrote that comments could return when it became possible to hold contributors accountable for what they post.

Comments did return early Thursday morning, using the Intense Debate moderation tools. A note on the paper’s Facebook page states, “The Portland Press Herald has ended a temporary suspension of online commenting. Comments are now being accepted under a new system. Just trying to keep you on your toes!”

Much like its close competitors Disqus and Echo, Intense Debate appears to meet many of the criteria for increased accountability Connor laid out in his original memo. For readers, the system allows a variety of different log-in options, including Facebook and Twitter. For news staffers, the system includes advanced moderation tools, such as filtering, blocking or deleting of comments by keyword, e-mail address or IP address.

It is not clear if the paper plans to enforce a ‘real name’ policy, as nicknames are still currently being allowed. However, Intense Debate can be configured to allow users with Facebook accounts, but not Twitter, for example, to log-in and comment. That would significantly increase the percentage of users commenting on the site using verified identities.

Intense Debate is also used by the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, the flagship newspaper in a chain of publications Connor owns in Pennsylvania.

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