Comment Graffiti: Art or Vandalism?

Squashed wrote an interesting post comparing blog comments to graffiti, suggesting that there are similarities between the two, and that having high hopes for quality comments on blogs is an exercise in frustration:

The part that sometimes surprises me is that a lot of people get quite upset about the nastiness of comments on other people’s blogs. To me, this is sort of like complaining that a limerick written on a toilet stall door is obscene and poorly-spelled. Of course it is! Were you reading a stall door looking for literature? It’s possible you could have uncovered the work of one of the world’s great, constipated poets. But that’s certainly not what you should have expected.

As someone who does get upset about the nastiness of comments on other people’s blogs, I have a hard time agreeing with Squashed on this one. The reason being that publishers (bloggers, newspapers, etc.) have the ability to decide what’s acceptible on the platform they provide. While you can’t control what people say elsewhere, you can certainly control what people say on your own site. It’s your site.

As I’ve shown before, Andy Post at Minnesota Democrats Exposed has taken an editorial stance that allows for racist, violent, and downright distasteful comments to be posted to his blog. To me, the type of commenting graffiti Post hosts looks more like graffiti vandalism than graffiti artwork, but our tastes may differ.

Comment graffiti is not something that publishers have to tolerate on their own site. It’s up to publishers to decide what level of civility they consider tolerable on the platform they provide to commenters.

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