Changes to moderation of website comments

Moderation of comments is an ongoing challenge on any online forum.

Facebook have just announced they are clamping down on ‘hate speech’ and the promotion of racism and white supremacy.

I posted recently about Stuff imposes extensive commenting restrictions.

Yesterday Whale Oil posted about this – Stuff follows Whaleoil’s lead but then takes it one step too far – claimed credit for being a leader in moderation.

Whaleoil five years or so ago broke new ground when we committed to a comprehensive moderation system to make our commenting section a respectful and pleasant place in which to debate ideas.

Pleasant for those left allowed to comment, although posts and comments still attacked people through derogatory and insulting images and name calling.

And that post is heavy on hypocrisy and light on admitting their own heavy handed censorship on some topics, but I don’;t want to get into that here.

Kiwiblog has long been labelled a cesspit due to fairly unfettered commenting policies. David Farrar initiated changes after the Christchurch attacks, has just announced more detail on major changes.

New proposed moderation policy

Commenting on Kiwiblog is a privilege not a right. The privilege will be removed for repeated unacceptable comments.

Unacceptable comments include but are not limited to:

Defamation

Do not make comments that could expose Kiwiblog or yourself to defamation.

Trolling

Trolling is an attempt to deliberately disrupt a conversation by being grossly offensive or massively off topic.

Comments on a post should be a response to the topic of the post. While some thread drift is inevitable, do not try to divert the thread into another topic. Use the daily General Debate for other topics.

There are several equivalents herfe for general topics:

  • World view – for international news and topics of interest
  • Open Forum – to discuss anything of interest
  • Social chat – for general social chat, not for debate
  • Media watch – links to things of interest on media issues or mostly New Zealand news

I allow a lot of flexibility on what is talked about where, except for Social Chat.

Personal Abuse

Attack arguments, not people. It will generally be unacceptable to call someone a moron, but it will be acceptable to say their argument is moronic. That may seem a fine distinction, but an important one. However don’t try and push the distinction to breaking point. If you say that someone’s argument has the integrity of a syphilitic pygmy (for example), then that would find you with a warning or strike.

Abusive nicknames for MPs such as “Ardern the liar”, “Golly G”, “Simple Simon” will be unacceptable. You can critique something they have said or done, but not just repeat an abusive nickname.

That sort of name calling is still prevalent at Whale Oil. It has long been unacceptable here.

Gratitious references to attributes people have no control over

People can’t choose their gender, race, skin colour or sexual orientation. There will be times when those attributes about a public figure can be a legitimate discuss in in relation to an political event.

But slagging off someone on the basis of something they can’t control is unacceptable.

Generalisations

Grossly offensive generalisations are not acceptable either. Treat people as individuals. This is not to say one can’t discuss group characteristics (such as why certain races are over-represented in crime statistics), but it should be done in a way which is not derogatory of the entire group.

Lumping 1.5 billion Muslims all in together is almost certainly going to be unacceptable. One can criticize a religion and/or specific acts or teachings. But don’t attribute things to every follower of a religion. Be as specific as you can. If there was an attack by Islamic extremists, say “Islamic extremists” instead of “Muslims”.

The same applies here to political lumping such as ‘the left’ or ‘the right’.

Language

There is some tolerance for swearing so long as it is not directed at someone. Calling someone a c**t is almost never acceptable, but the use of the word in other contexts may be. Telling someone to f**k off is not acceptable.

Personal Details

Give other commenters the courtesy of referring to them by the name or alias they use on this blog. Do not reveal personal details about them such as their name, address, phone number etc. unless it is somehow connected to a public issue. If in doubt, check.

It’s good to see DPF finally taking control of comments at Kiwiblog.

I agree with all of these policies, they are similar to what I have used here – I see them more as guidelines than rules , but I put a big emphasis on decent comment and respect of others while allowing for robust debate and some jocularity.

You get better debate without abuse and without general or targeted attacks – especially when arguments are backed with facts and sound reasoning.

There’s been a lot of moaning at Kiwiblog about the change. Like:

Shut the hell up you Fascist!

Bye bye

But this is what fernglaas said:

You’ll get less commenters, but the quality of them will be vastly improved. The anonymity of the internet gives freedom of expression to many but also provides a platform for cowards, bullies and those who prefer prejudice to facts. I wish you the best in trying to balance the objectives you have set out. I don’t envy you.

Moderation is difficult, but I wish DPF the best with his latest changes.

Leave a comment

4 Comments

  1. Sunny

     /  29th March 2019

    The comment is made by a person with a pseudonym called – Shut up you fascist!. The actual comment was “bye, bye.” So not a controversial comment at all. He received 9 up votes and 9 down votes. And the commenter that responded to him was “Bye. For the most part after reading your posts, and judging by your username(s) I don’t think you will be missed. In the words of the great liberal Austrian – Hasta la Vista baby.” Which received 25 upvotes. So a fellow commenter called him out on his controversial username and from the number of upvotes we can see that the public supported that point of view. The self policing in this instance worked. I don’t find Kiwiblog a cesspitt. It’s one of the most interesting political blogs. I note that the Standard commenting doesn’t get a mention. And I find Stuff’s policy over the top and banning certain topics from public conversation authoritarian.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  29th March 2019

      AFAICS Stuff commentary drowned in its own wetness long ago and is of no interest. It is Pete Belt level authoritarian and mindless to boot.

      Kiwiblog is a different intellectual level and there is a lot of gold amongst the dross.

      Reply
  2. I got a comment blocked on facebook recently first ever….

    “The threat level is high, crazy crackers who cant get laid pose a real risk”

    Reply
  3. Norm Grey

     /  29th March 2019

    A complete OVER-RE-ACTION!
    We are all individuals and all have our own backgrounds,. beliefs, loves, hates and points of contention and any attempt to squash these shows ignorance of the nature of homo sapiens.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s