How to block comments on individual stories on your publication's Facebook page

Web editors know they should remove message boards from crime stories when proceedings are active.

But message boards on the site’s Facebook page are more difficult.

Facebook either allows comments on the entire page … or none at all. You cannot have comment boxes on some stories and not others.

So the web editor either closes comments for the whole page … or monitors posts carefully and removes prejudicial ones as soon as they are posted.

But … there is an alternative.

I’ve recently worked out a way of blocking comments on individual stories on a Facebook page. Here’s how:

1.   Go to the page settings, and select Manage Permissions.

2.   Select Moderation Blocklist

3.   Type in words that relate to the story in question: words that commenters are most likely to use.  For instance, if the Hull Daily Mail wanted to make this story  safe (about a mother facing a manslaughter charge after her two year-old who drowned in the bath), they would enter these words:

Boy, mother, mum, bath, court, riley, lewis, kerry, abel, trial, court, baby, scald, scalding, hot, water, burns, believe, asleep.

Then comments that include these words will be blocked.

It’s important to use unique words. If you block all comments containing ‘the’, Facebook will block everything.

This method is not foolproof, but once you get used to it, it does allow web editors to trail crime/court stories on Facebook without too many contempt concerns.

One other tip: make sure you remove the words from the blacklist once the story has moved down the news agenda.

Cleland Thom is a consultant and trainer in media law.


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