Playing the Role of Online Reputation Manager

Over the years, I’ve received requests from people wanting their comments removed from the site. I recently received a request from a reader that I remove a comment they made three years ago because it was showing up in Google search results for their name.

Normally, I ignore these requests as it makes me feel like I’m their online reputation manager. I asked my followers on Twitter what they would do if they received the same request.

The Tavern doesn’t have a privacy policy. It’s a blog that allows commenting where readers can choose to provide their name, email address, and URL. I don’t like deleting comments as it alters history and can make conversations look awkward.

Although there are privacy policies such as, the Right To Be Forgotten and GDRP, there are other things to consider that can help determine if removing a comment is the right thing to do.

  1. Is the comment spammy?
  2. Would removing it alter the conversation?
  3. Is removing the comment the only way to maintain their privacy?

I initially decided to trash their comment but discovered that removing a parent comment with replies also removes the replies. While this makes sense, this means that removing one comment can turn into removing many comments or an entire conversation.

Instead, I recovered the comment and removed their name, email address, and URL. This keeps the conversation in tact while giving back their privacy.

Many people who responded to my question suggested that comments shouldn’t be indexed by search engines. After giving it some thought, I’m conflicted. We’ve never had an issue before and we don’t receive so many requests that it’s a problem. We also highly value our comments and feel they should be discoverable like our content.

What are the pros and cons to blocking comments from search engines? What would you do if you were running the Tavern?