Commenting on openDemocracy

Our aim is to produce a self-governed comment space in which views about the articles we publish can be passionately expressed, exchanged and shared, without resorting to abuse.

We want readers and authors of articles to regard the comment space as an opportunity for public participation and conversation, leading to a culture of understanding.

We are interested in providing a space that serves what we hope everyone would like to see – a widening and diversifying community of commenters. When you comment on an article make sure it is on topic and respectful of the author, who may have contributed his or her ideas for free. When you reply to other comments, do the same. Bear in mind the effect that your comment will have on those who may want to come into the discussion – readers who have not yet participated and may be put off by irrelevant and hostile comments and those who hog the space.

Aims of moderation

We practise moderation to remove off-topic and abusive comments and ad hominem arguments. We try and do this in a fair and consistent manner, but we have no divine oversight and we have little time, if we are to publish the work of our authors.

openDemocracy does not and cannot set itself up as a ‘just judge’ capable of adjudicating or getting involved in disputes between readers. We will simply delete comments that contravene the guidelines. We want to facilitate good conversation about the articles and the issues involved. We believe that you can recognise what a good conversation is.

Sometimes we won’t get the moderation right. But we will try, and the obvious truth is that we can only do this with your mutual cooperation and common sense. 

Commenting guidelines


We encourage readers to use their real names but recognise that there are legitimate reasons for using a pseudonym. This should be respected by moderators and other commenters.

Disqus, the commenting platform we use, allows you to log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google or a Disqus account. However, we recognise that some people do not want to be forced to use one of these services, so we have enabled ‘guest’ commenting that just requires a name of your choosing and an email address. If you comment as a ‘guest’ you must provide a valid and working email address.

We will not tolerate sock-puppets: those who create multiple identities for the purpose of contravening our simple rules, including our right to exclude people from these spaces. 

Rules of engagement

  1. Comments should always engage with the article. Stay on topic and avoid taking up space by making marginally relevant debating points. Keep your comments concise and avoid repetition within a comment and within a thread.
  2. Avoid ad hominem argument: Argument made personally against the author or another reader instead of engaging with the issues discussed in the article will not be tolerated. Avoid reductive categorisation of other readers’ views to advance your own argument. Please don't use simplistic labels or alleging that a whole group of people have views in uniform when they are not. Often this is simply name-calling rather than a genuine engagement with another’s point of view.
  3. Retain a respectful tone in your comments: Do not resort to abuse and avoid sarcastic dismissal – which can become very boring and not funny. Sexist, racist, xenophobic, homophobic and other discriminatory comments will not be tolerated.

Readers can assist the moderation process by flagging comments - using the flag to the top and right when you hover over any comment – but we ask you to do this responsibly and fairly.

Trolling – the deliberate use of inflammatory posts to elicit an emotional response from another reader – will not be tolerated.

Please do not post personal contact information – such as addresses and phone numbers – into the comment space. Any comments containing personal contact information will be deleted. Anyone posting the personal contact information of others will be blacklisted.


A group of openDemocracy editors and staff currently have the power to moderate comments across the site. In time we may seek to train volunteer moderators. These people will be trained by the oD staff and will not be people who are actively participating in threads.

Moderators will delete:

  • Off topic and irrelevant comments, including those that are needlessly repetitive and those that are using an article as a jumping off point to start a marginally relevant debate
  • Ad hominem arguments
  • Abusive and discriminatory comments, including racist, xenophobic, sexist and homophobic comments
  • Incitement to violence and threats
  • Defamatory and libellous comments

Moderators reserve the right to delete entire comments that contain any of the above – even if portions of that comment are making reasonable arguments.

Moderators are under no obligation to provide an explanation for the deletion of a comment, other than to provide a link to the commenting guidelines, although some situations may call for explanation. 

Trolls, sock-puppets and people who persistently make abusive, ad hominem and off-topic comments will be banned.

openDemocracy, June 2015

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