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Guidelines revised for online postings
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Earlier this fall, we told our readers we were reviewing guidelines for online comment submission. We published our proposed guidelines and accepted feedback from readers on the issue of posting anonymous comments.

After reviewing reader comments, here's the bottom line: Anonymous online comments will continue to be allowed. But personal attacks will not.

We appreciate those of you who took the time to let us know your thoughts. And we agree, in theory, with those who feel posters should be willing to back their comments up with their real names.

Still, we understand that some people are reluctant to use their real names in an online forum - for a variety of reasons. We don't believe this reluctance should preclude them from being able to participate in the virtual discussion.

So we're going to continue to allow anonymous comments. But to safeguard the integrity of our forums, each comment will be screened by a Times staffer using more precise guidelines than previously employed.

These guidelines should help keep our online forums a more positive place in which to share ideas:

No profanity or vulgarity, implied or explicit will be allowed. The definition of what is profane or vulgar is at the Times' discretion.

No name-calling or slurs against race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.

Personal attacks against individuals, including fellow posters, will not be posted. Comments should address ideas presented, not the personal characteristics of those writing.

Comments about elected or public officials should be related to their job duties and/or job performance, not their personal characteristics.

Comments must relate to the story to which they are attached. Comments posted in the wrong discussion thread will not be posted.

Comments relating to the guilt or innocence of individuals involved in police, accident or court items will not be posted. To ensure these comments don't slip in, we will disable the comment feature on these news items.

Comments that contain information presented as a factual statement but cannot be readily verified will not be allowed. The determination of what information is "readily verified" is at the discretion of the Times editorial staff.

Libelous comments will not be allowed. Libel is knowingly writing something false about someone to damage his or her reputation and it is against the law.

No external links will be allowed.

Comments will not be edited. If a comment is otherwise acceptable but has even one objectionable word, it will not be posted.

The Times will not contact posters if their comments are rejected. Questions regarding comments can be direct to Mary Jane Grenzow, editor.

One change regarding the Athletes of the Week, suggested by several readers, has already been implemented. Readers previously sent in comments to "vote" for their Athletes of the Week choices. That feature is now an online poll - it's a better option and we appreciate the suggestion.

We cannot stress enough that the public's ability to make online comments is not a right - it is a privilege that The Times offers readers. As always, we reserve the right to reject any submission for any reason.

We endeavor to offer a vibrant forum for readers to share their thoughts and ideas in a constructive manner. We're optimistic these new guidelines will serve to help create a better digital community for our readers.