Moderating the Social Media Marketplace of Ideas

Eliot Brenner
Public Affairs Director

Blog button medWhen we launched this blog nearly five years ago, we thought it would be a great vehicle for informing the public of the NRC’s activities. We also expected that the comments feature might be a new channel for dialogue with our readers.

On the first goal, we believe, the blog is a resounding success. We have posted more than 600 posts on a whole range of subjects, which, we think, have provided additional insight and understanding into the NRC as a whole, as well as into the actions we take and decisions we make.

With the comment section, we’re not so sure. One recent commenter observed: It soon becomes obvious to the casual reader that a short list of the usual suspects come here for no other purpose than to disrupt the conveyance of information from the regulator to the public.

And it is true that a small number of people submit a substantial number of comments to our blog. It’s also true that they tend toward the critical. (Six individuals account for 40 percent of the most recent 1,000 comments.)

As we approach the blog’s fifth anniversary, we have considered various changes — including the possibility of closing the comment function (as many federal blogs do).

We were reluctant to do this because of the NRC’s commitment to openness and transparency. We here in the Office of Public Affairs, which administers this blog, are proud to deal daily and forthrightly with members of the media and public who call, email, or post comments asking questions about the NRC’s activities.

We also decided at this time not to change our comment guidelines. We already ask that submitters refrain from personal attacks – and while some comments may come close to that line – the vast majority of comments submitted are approved and posted.

In the end, we decided it is important for now to keep the platform open to all points of view – even those critical of us or with which we might disagree. We do continue to ask for civility, though. And we hope that an expanded number of blog readers will see fit to contribute to the comment dialogue.

We will continue to try to address direct questions posed in comment, and to occasionally point out factual errors in comments. We will continue to refrain, however, from weighing in on every comment discussion. We feel it more appropriate for the blog visitors to be given the opportunity to share their views civilly with us and each other.

As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions on how to improve the blog.

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