Message Board policy

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This isn't strictly a webmaster question, but more for those that set
policy for message boards.

I operate a fast moving message board that only targets the local
residents, and it has become the primary source of news for the area.
We're not like a traditional newspaper or anything like that, but if
there's a wreck then you can be sure that someone has posted about it
within 2-3 minutes.

We have always held a policy against using real names, UNLESS that
name is publicly known. Meaning, they can discuss a wreck, but can't
give the name of the person driving or of anyone injured until it has
been in the newspaper.

But I recognize that we've slowly taken the place of the local
newspaper, and it's just a matter of time before that newspaper
disappears altogether. So it no longer makes sense to wait for the
newspaper to print something before it becomes news.

I had always been concerned, too, about someone finding out about a
loved one getting hurt through my site before the police had notified
them, but just tonight the opposite happened; a teenager got hurt in a
car wreck and was unconscious, and the police had no idea of who to
contact. The mother read about the wreck on my site, though, and
immediately rushed to the hospital. Had it not been for my site, it
could have been several hours before she knew anything, if at all!

So, it's time to revisit that policy. My question is, what policies
have any of you developed in regards to the use of names that will
definitely be publicly known, such as in the case of a wreck? I'm
thinking of allowing names to be posted, but only by usernames that
are more than 48 hours old (to help prevent libel and jokes), and to
require a delay of, say, 2 hours between the incident and the names
being posted (to allow time for the police to handle it first).

What do you guys think?

Re: Message Board policy

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Your rules sound quite sensible, but in cases like wrecks  - or potential
libel  -the key is not so much the policy, as the moderation to make the
policy stick.

So long as you are mindful of the law, and attempt to be as sensitive as you
can within the circumstances, then you'll be fine.

Whatever you decide, run it past a few scenarios ... such as a
mis-identified crash victim.


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Re: Message Board policy

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Talk to an attorney about it.

Seriously, if your site really is becoming THE news outlet in your area, you
should keep an attorney on retainer.   Its only a matter of time before
you're sued (right or wrong) and you need to make sure you CYA.

Tina Peters
Serving the web since 1997

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