Should companies have the right to delete negative comments on the Internet?

It’s a debate we’re hearing about more as a growing number of companies use social media to interact with customers. The thinking is that if people can post comments and suggestions about products on Facebook or Twitter, then problems can be solved faster, without needing to tie up customer service phone lines.

But as you may have noticed, social media invites a lot of negative comments and profanity. And many companies are finding that if they delete those comments, it often creates more problems than it solves. For example: Apple was caught deleting comments about a bad review by Consumer Reports, and a department store chain was in the news recently after it was caught deleting comments about a mugging that happened outside one of their stores. At first, the company said the comments violated certain terms. Then, they said the comments were deleted by mistake. But most customers called it “censorship.”

Who’s right? David Armano is a social media expert who says all companies have the right to control the image they put out to the world. But for some reason, deleting comments on Facebook or Twitter is generally seen as, quote: “a major no-no,” because when companies are caught deleting comments, word spreads fast on the Internet, and the perception of censorship doesn’t go away. In fact, any attempt to erase negative comments usually makes things worse. What do you think? Should companies have the right to delete negative comments online?