For years, the policy at The Daily News has been to allow people without paid subscriptions to read and post comments on any content we’ve made free on our website, provided they registered a username and password.

That policy will change today. From now on, the only people who will be able to comment on articles and read the comments will be paid subscribers, even if the content has been provided free.

People without subscriptions will still be able to read the free articles, just not the comments.

The change should have no effect on people reading our digital content through a paid subscription. It will only affect people who are reading the free content without a paid subscription.

We’ve taken this step in an effort to battle digital robots that have been seeding the comments section with various types of self-serving and otherwise inappropriate content.

The vast majority of the offending content is fairly benign advertising for essay writing services and the like, mocked up to look like something other than advertising.

That’s annoying both to readers who’ve been reporting the posts and to our staff members who are constantly having to track down and remove the posts.

Despite that annoyance, we’ve been willing to tolerate the bots rather than restrict access to the reader comments.

Recently, however, a new type of bot-post has appeared advertising businesses trafficking in pornographic material and sexual services. That’s bad enough, but the posts also contain very vulgar language.

We can’t tolerate that.

After consulting with the vendor that provides web-hosting services for, we have determined that the only way to stop the bots is to restrict access to paid accounts.

The reason is this: The bots are sophisticated enough to register a username and password, to provide an email address for verification and to complete the steps necessary to verify the information and register.

At this point, the only way to separate the bots from the real people is to require payment for a subscription. The rationale is that the bot masters are not going to pay for access to our comments, since doing so would undermine the whole value of parasitic advertising, which is that it’s free.

Our web-hosting vendor is trying to come up with some other way to counter the bots. So, we may reverse or otherwise amend the policy in the future.

Until then, however, accessing the comments will require a paid subscription.

We appreciate the efforts of readers in helping us police these nuisances and thank you for your patience as we worked to come up with a solution. Even the less-than-ideal solution we arrived at took a lot of talking and thinking and required our web-hosting vendor to create special programming for our website.

• Michael A. Smith

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206;


(28) comments

Carlos Ponce

"....we have determined that the only way to stop the bots is to restrict access to paid accounts."
I thought each comment was read and approved by GCDN staff before being allowed to post on the website. Guess not.

KevinMCox Staff
Kevin M. Cox

Carlos, while we could enforce moderation on all comments, the high volume of reader participation (which we love) would be severally hampered if every comment needed to wait for a staff member to approve it for posting. It would put a serious dent in the fast paced discussion that happens here every day and we don't want to discourage that.

We count of readers like yourself to use the "Report" button when you spot a comment that shouldn't be on our site. When an article is reported it fires off an email to several staff members so that we can quickly review it and take action if necessary. Additionally, if enough readers flag the same comment by reporting it, the system will automatically take it offline and leave it in a queue where we can either permanently remove it or reinstate it to the site.

Gary Scoggin

This works for me.

Anne Reiswerg

great decision!

AJ LeBlanc

Would you like to extra earn cash in your spare time? Well here's an exciting opportunity....... Ha-ha! Sorry folks. Just kidding. Nobody enjoys nuisance emails, advertisements, etc.

KevinMCox Staff
Kevin M. Cox

Haha, you got me AJ!

Bill Broussard

Sorry it’s come to this but great decision Michael

PD Hyatt

I thought you had to be a subscriber to be able to read, much less post on this site. I have not been able to read any articles for the last several years without a subscription and now you tell me I could have been skating free? And as for people using their correct names, that has been a policy for the last couple of years and in fact when you changed it there were many who left the site.... I really don't believe this little article that you wrote Mr. Smith.... Sounds like more fake news to me!

Doyle Beard

Same thing with me PD. I don't know where this guy is coming from.

Gary Scoggin

I’m guessing the guy that runs the paper knows what he’s talking about.

KevinMCox Staff
Kevin M. Cox

PD, when we first switched our website model in late 2012 we implemented what is known as a "hard paywall." Virtually all content on the site required a paid subscription to read.

Over time this began to loosen somewhat organically as we realized that it is in the public's best interest to have certain content available for all. One great example of this is the news article from Jan. 30 with the headline "Galveston police say Little Jacob didn't drown." Keeping this article exclusive for subscribers would have been counter to the public interest of soliciting help in identifying "Little Jacob" and finding out what happened to him.

While almost all of what we consider our premium content remains behind the paywall there is a large amount of content that goes online free to everyone each day. One specific example of this are Letters to the Editor. Publishing these community generated letters freely to encourage public discourse is at the heart of our mission as a newspaper.

Diana Dow

Sometimes, for example during Hurricane Harvey, they allow free access to articles.

Diane Turski

Thank you for taking action against bots! I hope more businesses and government entities will also develop policies that take bots more seriously and take action against them!

Ron Binkley

I guess this will be Carlos' last free post!

Curtiss Brown

I *knew* Carlos was a bot.

Carlos Ponce

What "free post"? I even had to pay for the Galveston Daily News back in the sixties when I delivered it along with The Texas City Daily Sun. Albeit that was at deliver's rates back then.But no online posting back in the last century. You had to submit a Letter to the Editor.

Jarvis Buckley

I'll pay for Carlos's subscription😀

Curtiss Brown

Evidently, Jarvis is a bot too! Looks like we are in a horror film. Attack of the Bot-ty Posters.

Steve Fouga

Because Carlos is a music lover, I can tell he's not a bot. Sometimes he and a few other participants do seem automated, though, in responding to any discussion of President Trump. [beam]

Jim Forsythe

Steve you may like this CHRIS REA. 03. You Must Be Evil
this is not my favorite Chris Rea song but seams right for this discussion. As Some Bots are EVIL

My favorite Chris Rea song is, Texas.
One you may like,
Chris Rea - Hobo Love Blues (Blue Guitars, Electric Memphis Blues)
Chris Rea "Easy Rider"

This one I had not played in many years, but when I read about "Little Jacob" it seamed I needed to play it.
Chris Rea - Tell Me There's A Heaven
After that, you may want to play a happier song, Chris Rea - Driving home for Christmas
It should be played for Christmas
All are on U-Tube

Steve Fouga

Jim, I've heard a few of these, because they're on my only Chris Rea album, The Road to Hell. "Texas" is also my favorite.

The guitar work on Hobo Love Blues and Easy Rider is fabulous. Thanks for posting this! [thumbup]

Jarvis Buckley


Lawrence Kagan

I agree with what GDN is doing....

PD Hyatt

what is amazing is that I have not seen anything change, nor have I seen any of the bot stuff get through when I have been perusing this site....

KevinMCox Staff
Kevin M. Cox

PD, that is good to hear. This change should be transparent to our subscribers. This was also the first day in many months that I didn't have to start my day by removing spam comments from the site.

Jarvis Buckley

Good job Kevin

Steve Fouga

Kevin -- I thought participants in this forum were required to use their legal names. "Gulf Coast?"

KevinMCox Staff
Kevin M. Cox

Correct, our Real Name Policy is still in effect. Details here:

If you see a post with an obviously fictitious name, please use the Report button just as you would for a post containing inappropriate content.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for Reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.