The NNC recently reviewed a complaint from a reader who was displeased that Sudbury.com had removed a message posted to the comment section at the foot of June 23, 2020, article under the headline, “Graduate students say request to LU to waive tuition fees met with ‘basically silence’”.
The complainant expressed concern that the news organization acted unethically by removing the comment, and stated that the act amounted to “unlawful censorship” and violation of Charter rights to free expression.
In its review of the complaint, the NNC noted that policies for comment moderation were clearly laid out in the publication’s community guidelines. These guidelines provide news organizations with wide latitude to review and approve comments that adhere to the stated parameters, while enhancing the discussion of the topic at hand. It is worth noting that a news publication is not obliged to print any or all comments submitted.
The news organization’s community guidelines explain that those who wish to post comments on their site are requested to stay on topic. The NNC supports the view that it is the prerogative of news organizations to moderate comments it considers to be relevant and appropriate.
As the NNC is a self-regulatory organization, and not a court of law, it declined to interpret the complainant’s concerns about a breach of Charter rights. From a journalistic point of view, however, the NNC concurs with the observation that comment moderation does not constitute censorship.
For the reasons above, the NNC decided it would not take further action on the complaint, as there were no clear violations of journalistic standards.