Free Speech

How Is the New "Mute User" Function Working for You?

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I blogged two weeks ago about this function, and got some very helpful feedback about it; but now that many of you have had some experience using it, I'd love to hear what you think. (I've found it quite helpful in helping me focus on comments that are most likely to be interesting and useful, but that might be just me.) Here is my earlier post:

Reason has added a new feature to its commenting system: You can now mute, just for yourself, comments posted by any commenters; simply click "Mute User" on their post. (You need to be signed on to the site to do that, since your personal muted-users list is kept with your user profile.)

As you may know, I try to take a light hand in moderating the existing comments. People can and do express all sorts of views in the comments; I occasionally delete comments that involve personal insults of fellow commenters, vulgar insults more generally, threats of violence, or, occasionally, rhetorical calls for mass killing of one's opponents.

One commenter, for instance, has repeatedly complained that I deleted his posts where he called other commenters "slack-jaws" or, presumably thinking himself clever, labeled defenders of the police that he disagreed with as engaging in "cop succor." I stand entirely by those decisions; I think these sorts of insults and vulgarities poison the conversation, and I want the comment threads to be a conversation. Every so often, I'll entirely block a commenter on similar grounds.

But I don't like to do that, and I don't generally ban commenters who I think are persistently foolish, dishonest, anti-Semitic, racist, and so on—or are just merely cranks trying to shift each conversation to their peculiar hobby-horses. Life is too short to spend much time on comment moderation. And, more importantly, I generally want each of you to decide what comments you want to read, rather than having me do that.

This new feature will make it easier for each of you to do that. None of you has any obligation to read any commenter (or for that matter to read our blog at all!)—if you find that someone's comments make the blog less valuable for you rather than more, you should feel free to mute them. I expect you already do that mentally, by just skipping over comments from certain people. This will make it easier.

Naturally, I hope our readers won't mute a thoughtful commenter just because they disagree with that commenter: I think part of the value of our comments is the ability to read interesting perspectives from many sides. But that's a choice that each reader will get to make.