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After some very productive discussions about comment moderation on this blog and others, the Washington City Paper has decided to try out a new comment flagging system. It debuts today on the Sexist.

Here’s how it works: You’re reading along in a heated but interesting Sexist comments thread. You come across a comment that you feel derails this fine discussion. It’s so personally vicious, so explicitly bigoted, so off-topic, and so annoyingly capitalized that you just have to let your displeasure with the comment be known. Below the comment, you’ll see a button that looks like this:

Click on it, and the comment has been flagged. When a comment has been flagged by enough users, it will be hidden from view. If you’re one of those commenters who’s into seeing the flagged stuff, just head to the bottom of the comment thread, where you’ll be able to click a link to reveal the hidden comments.

What comments deserve to be flagged? For now, that’s left up to the commenting community. More on the flagging system, from CP:

From time to time, particularly when there is an influx of ugly comments on a popular blog post, people ask what our comment moderation policy is. The official answer is that we try to stay as hands-off as possible, and step in when a discussion is being completely derailed by offensive and/or irrelevant comments. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason or no reason at all, but we generally try to avoid it.

Starting today, we’re going to try something new. We’re adding a “flag this comment” button below each comment. If a comment is repeatedly flagged by the community, it will be hidden from view by default. You’ll be able to show comments that have been flagged via a link at the bottom of the comments thread.

What makes a comment flag-worthy? To some degree, that’s up to you. Most people feel that they know a valueless comment when they see it, and a comment must be flagged repeatedly by different people before it will be hidden. We recognize that no technological solution can enforce civility, and that flagging systems can also be abused. However, we hope that adding this mechanism will help create a better forum for thoughtful (if occasionally pointed) discussion on our blogs.

There you have it. As always, you’re invited to file your feedback on this new system in the comments thread here. And please be patient: It may sometimes take a moment for the “Flag This Comment” buttons to appear.

Photo via hopelessmatty, Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0

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