Pittsburgh City Paper turns off web comments | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh City Paper turns off web comments

Last month, after posting a news story about a public official who is trans on Pittsburgh City Paper's official Facebook page, our feed was soon filled with transphobic comments. Dozens of them in a short time span.

When hateful comments appear on our website or social media pages, we do our best to monitor and delete them. We also alert readers of our policy against hate speech, then block people's pages who ignore our warnings.

After June's transphobic comments, which were the worst examples of hate speech on our platforms we have seen in recent times, we added a long list of filters to our Facebook page moderation settings, where you can block posts or comments containing certain words or phrases. Still, more hateful comments continued to make their way through our page, despite our filters, which meant if we weren't monitoring our page 24/7, offensive posts could remain on our page for hours at a time.

Today, City Paper's management team — which includes myself (editor in chief Lisa Cunningham), ad director Jasmine Hughes, and our director of operations Kevin Shepherd — have made the decision to turn off all comments on pghcitypaper.com.

This decision comes in light of the difficult decision of company-wide furloughs and cutbacks on Friday, including three editorial staffers. This decision is made based on the fact that we no longer have the staff to monitor comments on our website. We would rather disable comments entirely than risk having even one transphobic, racist, or hateful comment appear on our site.

Let me be clear, however. Our aim is not to silence reader responses or voices, and we welcome readers to send us feedback on our stories, whether positive or negative. Since we are removing the comments from the website, we are instead announcing a new weekly curated Letters to the Editor section launching on our website as early as Mon., July 6 if we get submissions, which will include links to the stories readers are commenting on next to their feedback.

If you are interested in submitting a Letter to the Editor, please email submissions to [email protected] with "Letter to the Editor" in the subject line. Submissions must be 100 words or less to be considered for publication.

If you have a question and/or would like to request a response from a writer or editor, please include that in your email, and we will do our best to include answers in the post along with your letter.

Additionally, if it was possible to at least temporarily disable comments entirely from our Facebook page until we are able to get our furloughed staff back full-time, we would do so. Unfortunately, after looking into this, it does not appear to be an option. In the meantime, we will continue to try to monitor our Facebook page as much as we can, but since we are short staffed, we are afraid comments will sometimes fall through the cracks. If you do happen to see a comment slip through our filters, and if you are comfortable doing so, we would really appreciate it if you are able tag us on the post so it brings it to our attention, or you could email me directly at [email protected] and put "HATE SPEECH" in the subject line, and we will do our best to remove it as quickly as we are able to do so.

And for any trolls reading this who are now just going to fill my inbox with hate mail: I've read it all before. At least try to be original this time.