Much for bloggers to ponder in managing comments

Something that I have a particular interest in is what part if any that others have in encouraging a lone wolf type attack, or any terrorist type attack.

It is probably easy for them to find a small number of like minded nutters online who bolster each other’s warped thinking, and increase the chances of one of them actually taking action, or trying to take action.

Do they look wider online? Do they get encouragement from others who share and promote their same prejudices and intolerances?

In particular for me (and others in the blogging world) – does allowing extremist views to be aired and promoted raise the risks of someone taking drastic action? I don’t know the answer to that.

But I do know that those with over the top or extreme intolerant views can be very persistent in pushing their agendas.

And also on a lower level, how much some contribute to intolerance, racism, Islamaphobia etc.

There are some who may genuinely feel strongly about what they see as cultural or political dangers who don’t go to extreme levels, but whose persistence, especially if amplified by numbers can be a toxic haze in online communities.

It’s a difficult time trying to work out how to deal with this.

David Farrar is grappling with something similar, putting in place auto-moderation on anyone who doesn’t use their own name (that is, use a pseudonym to keep their identity anonymous).

Kiwiblog: Moderation changes

I have put comments on manual moderation, as the normal process of waiting for someone to complain about a comment was not ideal in this period.

Having me manually approving every comment is not a long-term solution. But neither was the old system of having all comments appear automatically unless there were complaints about them. Because that means some unacceptable comments stay there.

If you use your real name for comments, you will be given a status that allows your comments to appear automatically. There will be no delay. You’re still subject to moderation after the event if your comment breaches policies, but you will not have any delays.

If you do not wish to use your real name, you are entitled to do so. There are many genuine reasons you may have for that. But it means your comments will be held for moderation until a moderator (currently just me) can view it and approve or decline it.

The idea is to incentivise people to use their real names, but to still allow an alias.

Some people have said they are happy to “own” their comments but don’t want to have their name listed as the commenter as it becomes the first thing which comes up on Google. One can qualify for “auto-approve” status if you link your user profile to a page that identifies you, even if you use initials or an alias.

In comments there is some support, but a lot of angst and threats to desert Kiwiblog. Some who have genuine reasons to remain anonymous, and who don’t want to comment with auto-moderation, will be a loss to Kiwiblog. Others will be a welcome clean up, and more may comment with less threat of attacks and abuse which was prevalent there.

What about here?

At this stage I have no plans to require use of real names to allow immediate commenting. Most people using pseudonyms here are good contributors, and I don’t want to penalise them because of the abuse of a few.

But I am considering using auto-moderation (where a person’s comments have to be approved by me before they will appear) more often.

I don’t want Your NZ to be used for promoting division, intolerance, hate, conspiracies, unsubstantiated accusations, abuse.

All first comments from any new identity will need to be approved before it will appear. After that comments will appear immediately – for now I will still give everyone the benefit of doubt, initially.

But some who breach the guidelines here, especially repeatedly, are more likely to be put on auto-moderation.

I don’t have time to monitor comments 24/7. I don’t want to be an on-call babysitter and policer.

So if I see anyone as a risk for posting inappropriate or suspect content, then I will put them on auto-moderation.

For those who comment responsibly and in good faith, nothing will change.

Also note that if I see a comment posted that is a cause for concern, I will bin it. When I get time I will review it, and may release it, edit it, or dump it.

I may not always seem consistent. Tough. I play things as I see them. Complaining about it won’t help your case, but as always I’m open to having reasonable queries brought to my attention.

Not the end of the world or a win for a terrorist

There has been some wailing at Kiwiblog that increased moderation is a win for a terrorist and the end of the free speech world. That’s over-wrought bollocks.

When people try to use a terrorist act to promote an extreme agenda, and that causes a tightening of moderation on a blog, it is the extremist commenters who are to blame for their voices being not being trusted s being responsible enough for unfettered speech.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments are the lifeblood of blogs

Posts are obviously essential for blogs, that’s what they primarily consist of. But comments give blogs life. A healthy commenting community is almost aan essential

There are exceptions – No Right Turn is followed and respected with no comments.

But mostly a blog with no or low comments is a sign of struggling to reach an audience, or ‘moderation’ that deters lively discussion – The Daily Blog is a good example of this (but the awful site layout and difficulty with knowing what the latest posts and comments are are also problems there).

Whale Oil still has an active commenting community, but this has diminished somewhat and seems to be concentrated on social rather than political discussion – a sign that message control moderation suppresses decent debate. Activity at Whale Oil has noticeably reduced since Cameron Slater had a stroke and stopped commenting altogether. Site failure to disclose what happened and apparent pretence that nothing had changed – possibly an attempt to try to protect revenue streams – has probably disappointed a number of now ex commenters too.

The most active commenting is on Kiwiblog – significantly more than on Whale Oil on political issues. This works in parallel to the often well informed posts from David Farrar. Very light moderation encourages a lot of commenters and comments, but detracting from this at times is the level of abuse tolerated there.

The Standard has changed significantly over it’s eleven or so years, in part due to substantial coming and going of authors. It’s commenting community has also changed quite a bit – recently I think for the better. They used to revel in gang attacks on anyone deemed some sort enemy of of ‘the left’, which was a form of self trashing as a serious forum for debate.

Then they turned over authors and moderation was dominated by ‘weka’, who tried to manage and manipulate comments to fit her agenda. She suddenly disappeared at about the same time Greens got into Government with Labour and NZ First. Since then there seem to be fewer posts apart from stalwart mickysavage keeping things ticking over, But the often toxic commenting environment seems to have improved significantly.

Recently MICKSAVAGE posted The Standard a decade on:

The site itself I believe offers a rich historical repository of contemporary New Zealand politics.  If you want to understand what has happened during the past decade from a left wing perspective then this site is a good place to start.

Proposals for suggested changes and critiques all welcome.

An interesting comment from Te Reo Putake (whose approach to blogging has evolved somewhat over many years involvement there):

He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people, it is the people.

For mine, it is the commenters who make this place special. If you look at our comrade Bomber’s blog, which often has posts on the same topics as TS, there is no life in the comments section. As I understand it, each comment at TDB is held until released by a moderator. That means that there is no flow, no conversation, no engagement.

It’s different here. The commentary is effectively live and takes on a life of its own. This permissive approach to debate is vital to the Standard’s success. As WtB notes above, the community has to a large extent self regulated and the moderation workload has dropped considerably in recent times.

That may in part be due to a change of Government changing some agendas, but there seems to have been a noticeable change in moderation practice, with open support for diverse views being expressed, quote a contrast to past toxic intolerance..

I’d also like to give a nod to the righties who comment here. TS is not an echo chamber and differing opinions make for good debate. It’s great that conservative opinion is not shouted down, but rather, is argued against rationally. Well, mostly!

The site is better for the contributions from people we don’t agree with, in my opinion.

In my opinion this is a positive change at The Standard.

I’ll take up the challenge “Proposals for suggested changes and critiques all welcome”.

Fewer posts attacking the Opposition.

More posts debating topical Government initiatives and proposals, and allowing wide ranging discussions (with personal attacks discouraged).

Through that I think that The Standard could become a more useful part of wider political discussion in New Zealand – comments are the lifeblood of political blogs. Too much bad blood is a real negative and puts many people off, but The Standard seems to have found a fairly good formula for now.

Blog moderation – musing and amusing

Blog moderation is difficult and relentless. You can never please all of the people all of the time, but the general aim is to please most of the people most of the time.

I’ve had a few challenges here, in particular a couple of years ago when there were deliberate attempts to disrupt and shut down the site. Now it usually just involves a bit of guidance in trying to balance free speech with stopping people from shutting down the speech of those they disagree with.

Before (and after) stating Your NZ I tried to stand up to crap at Kiwiblog, but I gradually lost interest as it was obvious that ongoing abuse and lies were going to be allowed to continue with little restraint. I deliberately broke a blog rule once to make a point, but it was probably fairly futile.

I commented occasionally commented at Whale and on one occasion challenged comments in a post and was banned, but that was during the mass purges in 2014 when a lot of people were being banned so it doesn’t mean much.

Russell Brown banned me from Public Address when I argued against the crowd who were claiming that Nicky Hager could do no wrong and had never been proved wrong – some of them kicked up a stink when I produced evidence they didn’t like.

I’ve had an interesting history at The Standard, where they (some regular commenters and some moderators) tend to run with double standards, being tough on some while giving others a virtual free rein (and free reign for a small number of bullies).

I am often accused of disrupting discussions there, and have been deliberately provocative in a gentle way for sure, but most of the disruption is in the nature of deliberate mob attacks with an aim to having me banned for disruption – with the disruptors usually acting with ongoing impunity.

One of the worst offenders at The Standard has been One Anonymous Bloke – who is  currently targeting Colonial Viper who has recently returned there from a long ban.

I pop in there occasionally to test the waters. As Robert pointed out, yesterday:

One Anonymous Bloke:

So your response to Bradbury’s argument is to attack Bradbury. It’s the same argument I’ve been making. Wilson “Security” has been offering hush money: this is a matter of public record.

If you think anonymous Ian is a credible source, that’s on you, not Martyn B.

Me:

“So your response to Bradbury’s argument is to attack Bradbury. It’s the same argument I’ve been making.”

Irony or admission? You attack far more than you argue.

“If you think anonymous Ian is a credible source…”

That’s pure hypocrisy.

[3 day ban for flaming. Even in Open Mike you have to make some attempt to debate the politics and not just have a go at someone you disapprove of – weka]

Ferocious flaming! Weka has admitted paying special attention to me, and she frequently allows far worse from others – in particular OAB. She seems to me to overly protect comment and commenters she agrees with and approves of while being draconian with others with opinions from a different political spectrum.

A couple of days earlier a moderate and occasional moderator Bill made a big statement.

This is a long moderation comment applying to a number of people who’ve commented on this thread

In “the policy” there is this…We encourage robust debate and we’re tolerant of dissenting views. But this site run for reasonably rational debate between dissenting viewpoints and we intend to keep it operating that way. What we’re not prepared to accept are pointless personal attacks, or tone or language that has the effect of excluding others.

Obviously a number of people who frequent this site are Sino-phobic and/or racist. That’s life. And obviously those things are problematic as they most definitely exclude others when they form part of a comment or, more subtly, when they are the fuel sitting behind comments.

A pack mentality that revolves around getting a commenter to respond or react in a way that will bring a ban down on their head isn’t necessarily fuelled by those things – but then, it doesn’t need to be for it to fall foul of site policy..

So this thread’s got an example of a pack mentality that’s played out to its conclusion. Wei – a new commentator mind – has picked up a one month ban for submitting, absolutely and without a doubt, “less than flash” comments in response to ongoing needling and provocation. In the following incomplete – think “indicative” – run-down of stuff, I’ve disregarded the blatant Sino-phobia and racism that was marking some comments.

Anyway. Let me begin by offering a message of congratulation to those commentators who succeeded in their efforts to be seeing the back of Wei. We have so many Chinese voices – or in this case I suspect it would be more accurate to refer to Maoist perspectives – on this site, that I’m sure one less will make no perceptible difference to the breadth and diversity of the place.

Some of you should come down to Dunedin. We can walk down George Street or Princes Street and I can point out for you the Maoists and the Leninists, the Trots and the anarchists (both lifestylers and social). Or maybe you’d be more interested in the communists or autonomous Marxists? The anarcha fems perhaps? Nah. I guess not.

It seems (in the worlds of some hereabouts at least) that divergent political views can only be the result of (in this case) Chinese State Agents or “putinbots” (Simonm comment 29.1.4 and off-spring comments by – Psycho Milt, Union city greens) and any commentator expressing views that diverge from those familiar to “the pack” belongs firmly in the throw-away file, derisively labelled somethng along the lines of “you lot” (exkiwiforces comment ).

And of course, that file must find its way to the bin.

So circle and close in. Egg each other on and ignore or sidestep rational debate. Maybe start up with false accusations (exkiwiforces comment 28.1) and/or groundless appeals for moderation (Venezia comment 28), or just spring board from those points. Then goad, ridicule, belittle and jab in the hope of eliciting the inevitable bannable comment…and if that comment doesn’t come, then just keep going. Rinse and repeat if necessary (aster comment 29.1.5 / Union city greens comment 32) And if eventually something comes up but slips past moderation, then grab it, swallow it whole and keep regurgitating it because, well obviously it’s so damned offensive to you that you must repeat it again and again and again.

Hell. You can even get into frothing condemnation over “the target” committing an innocent enough faux pas in their choice of terminology if you want – every little bit helps.

Of course. Given that it’s against site policy to indulge in such shit, it’s probably not a good idea. And strutting your stuff after “mission accomplished” like (as martymars appropriately describes it) “puffed up roosters walking round cock a doodle dooing” – yeah -that’s definitely not a good idea.

OAB couldn’t resist strutting their stuff yesterday, protected from a right of reply:

I’ll always attack your beige drivel Peter. The mods here are alert to pointless personal attacks, or tone or language that has the effect of excluding others, so if you think they’re doing a poor job I suggest you take it up with them.

When I assert a fact I provide supporting links, so I’m not a source of anything. Reference to “anonymous Ian”, by the way, is a clue that he’s as credible as I am: which is to say, not credible at all without supporting material.

Have a lovely day 😈

OAB frequently attacks and lies with no supporting material (and has a right of reply here if they wish).

There’s an interesting discussion following Bill’s warning. My name came up – RedLogix:

As I indicated in the back-end, I’ve raised this issue of ‘piling on’, or ‘mobbing’ a commenter a number of times in the past and received no support at all. So in this respect I fully welcome this new moderating guideline.

The trick will of course be to apply it in an even-handed manner. It was always my expectation that moderators should focus on behaviour and remain agnostic about the politics.

And yes PG was gang bullied quite mercilessly on many occasions, but to my recollection he never retaliated. But it really is a highly subjective decision as to whether someone is simply ‘airing their opinions’ or ‘indulging in irksome derailing’.

Some there, like OAB, are not subjective, they simply attack peopler they don’t want commenting, for whatever reason.

Weka also commented:

As someone who has been in many, many conversations that PG has been in and who in the past year has also moderated him, I think the issue is one of patterns of behaviour that disrupt the thread or the community. In PG’s case, observing that over years makes the patterns of behaviour obvious. Sometimes it’s derailing, but not always.

She selectively ignores patterns of behaviour of some with an obvious intent to disrupt threads, and willingly or unwittingly gets played by those who disrupt and blame, but no moderator is perfect.

PG has been given a lot of latitude here…

She probably believes that. I deserved the wee break she gave me yesterday. If she was consistent The Standard would be better for it, but I don’t expect much change.

It’s a hard job being the perfect moderator.

New blog on ‘the political sugar rush’

Ex-ACT MP Heather Roy (she was an MP from 2002 to 2011) has started a blog. her first post:

The Political Sugar Rush

I’ve been an active participant in six election campaigns. My mind may be a bit hazy as exhaustion was a significant factor in most, but I really can’t remember previous campaigns being dominated by the extravagance and largesse of the current big spending promises by most political parties. Gareth Morgan, in his slightly clumsy, anti-politician way is actually refreshing when he tries to hold this spending to account and quite correct in my view when he says no party (other than his of course!) is looking at new solutions to old problems.

Over the last two weeks I’ve been wondering why this campaign is leaving such a bitter taste in my mouth.

Read what is causing the bitter taste: https://onesock.nz/2017/08/31/the-political-sugar-rush/

I’ll be voting for the party who can articulate a plan that provides incentives to let New Zealanders get on with their lives, that provides us with the platform to take care of themselves and our families. Surely one party at least can provide us with this?

Media failure over donation reporting?

Posted yesterday (Sunday) at 9:30 am on Whale Oil: Another big donation for National, none for Labour yet

National has scored another big donation, again from Stone Shi.

A New Zealand Herald article National gets $50k donation from Oravida founder is quoted (without being linked), dated Friday.

So, Act and National are receiving big donations. Why isn’t Labour?

Then an our later at Whale Oil: So, a rich man gave money to Labour and the Greens, yet no one reported it

Earlier today I posted about the media announcing that Stone Shi gave $50,000 to the National party and that Jenny Gibbs has given a hundy to Act.

But, what is curious is the lack of reporting over another large donation, given just a few weeks before Stone Shi’s donation.

So, just three weeks before Stone Shi donated to National, Phillip Mills donated the same amount to the Labour party. Why was there no news of this in the mainstream media?

It isn’t like it is hidden, it is just two entries down the list from the Shi and Gibbs donations.

This can only be a deliberate deception by the NZ Herald to ignore large donations to Labour and highlight large donations to National and Act. It should be noted that on 9 November 2016 Phillip Mills also gave $65,000 to the Green party. Strangely that wasn’t reported either.

The register of donations is published in the interests of transparency to the government, yet the very people who are supposed to guard that transparency have failed the public because they have only reported donations to National and Act and not also to Labour and the Greens.

This is tantamount to a corruption of our news media, willingly, by them. The Media party has an agenda, and here is a perfect example of how they mislead, this time by omitting pertinent facts.

The bias is obvious, you just need to know where to look to reveal it.

National gets a donation, it becomes news. Labour gets a donation, not a mutter, not a murmur, not a mention. That is media dishonesty.

This is gobsmacking on a number of levels.

So Slater cut and pasted a Herald article and used it to diss Labour. Then he slams the ‘dishonest journalism’ that he repeated. I wonder if someone tipped him off to have a look at the donation list himself after his initial post, or perhaps he was just fed the details.

Whale Oil still claims to be media. From About:

Whaleoil is the fastest-growing media organisation in New Zealand. Its brand of news, opinion, analysis and entertainment is finding fertile ground with an audience that is feeling abandoned by traditional news media.

They often criticise other media  – while frequently using other media’s content. They claim they are a new way of doing journalism, much better than those they ridicule.

In this case Slater used Herald content to try and score a political hit against Labour, then turned on the Herald for ‘Dishonest journalism’. That in itself is highly ironic.

But why didn’t Whale Oil report on the donation to Labour three weeks ago? It’s as easy for them to monitor Electoral Commission donation lists as it is for the Herald.

They are slamming the Herald for not reporting on something that they didn’t report themselves, until they reacted to a Herald article that they used for their own purposes.

Whale Oil shows few signs of being a media site that does journalism these days.

The Daily Blog does a lot more original content than them now.

Whale Oil has reverted to being a blog that relies on repeating other media content, with trashing of the media that feeds them being some of their only original content.

The failure of Whale Oil to report the donation to Labour earlier is a symptom of it’s failure to become a credible alternative media outlet.

Is Whale Oil boring?

Most people find politics boring so yes, most people are likely to find Whale Oil boring (and Your NZ too).

But Cameron raises the question in a post that appears to be a mix of self sympathy and self promotion, not uncommon there these days.

Whaleoil is too boring, and its readers are getting shafted

That’s the gist of an email I received today.  The email essentially proposes that all the good stuff is now going into INCITE: Politics, and what’s left here is just the dregs.

More accurately perhaps – a lot of past readers (and commenters) were shafted and the dregs are left – and a few of them do their best to praise their web master.

But Slater has sounded jaded lately and that feeling continues in his post.

As for Whaleoil being boring.  After the mad heights of the last election with Kim Dotcom and then the Dirty Politics fallout, I hope you don’t mind if I say “thank goodness it is!”.   What’s the old saying?  May you live in interesting times.  I can assure you that something a little more sane and sensible is good for my health and general happiness.

However, I still live in interesting times.  The problem is that as I battle people through the courts, as I lay complaints with police, as I am a litigant and defendant in several court actions with Mr A, Colin Craig, Mr B and Mr C, I need to place my own needs ahead of those of my readers by not trying to waffle on in public about it.

That level of legal activity would wear anyone down. One could posit that he is reaping some of what he has sown. But he does waffle on a bit about it all.

And it is boring in the sense that this is a political blog and we’re going through an extremely bland period of politics.

It may be a relatively bland period for Slater as he seems to have been cast out into the political wilderness. Most of his exciting sources have deserted him. He is struggling in a period of significantly reduced importance, for him.

But politics continues beyond Whale Oil and I still see plenty of fascinating stuff around.

Slater asks:

Is the content in INCITE: Politics what you would normally find on Whaleoil?

A few people dutifully promote Incite for him, one of whom gets promoted as a ‘featured comment’.

From what I’ver seen of Incite (the first couple of editions) it’s different to Whale Oil, aimed at a different market – paying political customers. There was some interesting stuff but nothing compelling.

Greg M points out:

*Every issue has polls and analysis by Curia, this doesn’t come cheap, and as we all know Curia tends to be the most reliable and accurate of all political polls.
*Guest articles by respected commenters from all sides of the fence, Willie Jackson and Chris trotter, Carrick Graham and David Garrett have all contributed..
*Simon Lusk and Cam also do a detailed and in depth analysis of the latest events.

David Farrar’s polling and analyse is interesting enough.

But Jackson, Trotter, Graham and Garrett are hardly sought after heavy hitters in today’s world of politics.

And talking of heavy hitters Lusk and Slater, the editors of Incite, must have very limited credibility these days and are seen more as toxic. There’s unlikely to be many politicians who would want to be seen as associated with the Dirty Politics duo.

I suspect that the timing of this post, just after an edition of Incite was published, is trying to talk up some subscriptions, but the tears dripping into spilt milk are apparent.

So is Whale Oil boring?

It’s obviously popular with quite a few people, there are still active comments threads.

But it has become more boring from my perspective at least.

Slater has lost most of his sources so he doesn’t have anywhere near the number of scoops he used to post.

Since WO went to half hourly posts there’s a lot of padding and repetition.

And it’s become very predictable, Herald bashing, Little bashing, Green bashing, Goff bashing, McCone bashing, and until recently an incessant amount of Muslim bashing.

Many of the posts are predictable from the headings. Too much same old.

It’s hard to know how much moderating goes on because most of it is done silently but it’s still happening. But a lot of the damage was done when they purged a lot of commenters, the core of those left are friendly,  fake, or scared to step out of line because banning was done often for very little. Ironically they say they edit out comments that are too boring, and have become boring.

WO is a shadow of it’s heyday, and Slater sounds worn down too. Not surprising given the Dirty Politics exposure, his pariah status and  and all the court actions he has become embroiled in (and in some cases has chosen to get involved in and prolong).

Despite the lack of sources and scoops now Whale Oil does contributed something to the political blogosphere.

But as well as that it has become weighed down by financial necessity.  The number of posts – half hourly – and the number of click bait fillers are presumably seen as necessary to keep the ticks that pay the bills and the wages.

Less repetition and fewer fillers would make Whale Oil more interesting for a wider readership.

There is too much dross to wade through to be bothered. And there is limited appeal in the ‘poor me’ posts.

Whale Oil is obviously still ok for some but the gloss as worn off and Slater sounds worn out.

It’s actually bloody hard work keeping readers interested day after day, month after month, year after year.

And motivation must be especially hard for Slater after having fallen out of the political circles and excitement his was once in the centre of.

While I think Pete Belt is responsible for some of the fall in interest especially in the comments threads due to his fairly extreme ‘moderation’ methods he does seem to have pretty much held together what could have been a train wreck.

For a while it was the Flying Whale, but it has become more like a rickety old Thomas with not much energy left in the tank.

Still Whale Oil survives which is a major achievement in itself. It just isn’t what it briefly was in it’s heyday

I find it boring and mostly lacking in political relevance now. I only noticed this post because someone pointed it out to me. And even they said “I don’t bother looking into Whaleoil much at all these days”.

Perhaps Whale Oil will find a new lease of life some time but for now it is just another political blog that most people will find boring – if they ever find it. That’s a reality of politics and a reality of blogging.

The ‘press release’ and court imposed moderation

A New Zealand judge has ordered moderation on a New Zedaland website dedicated to freedom of speech and open honest debate on politics and democracy.

Chilling.

Further to the ‘press release’ that was posted in a comment on Your NZ on Friday night and referred to in The press release.

Some people have pointed out the oddness of posting something which prominently displays one’s name while pointing out a court order that prohibits displaying the name here.

Did this person break their own court order? Did they post it thinking I wouldn’t edit out the name and would therefore be in breach of the court order? It wouldn’t be the first time this person has tried entrapment here.

In keeping with the new age of communication, and the content of the order, [Name withheld] intends serving Mr George by posting the order on Mr Georges website, which will be, for the last time in its history, as of today unmoderated.

As I have stated a number of times, this has never been an unmoderated website. In the past (prior to the last ten months or so) this site has required very little obvious moderation because people here respected and enjoyed the open, non-toxic environment. That all changed, largely due to the arrival of people associated with the press release.

“The  statutorily enforced moderation of blog site comments should be made law in an immediate amendment to the HDCA, with the addition that the website owner is liable for any comments that are posted after moderation. If these additions were to become law, the significant expense to date will have been worth it” said [Name withheld].

A ‘blog’ is a loose term for a public forum. It would be impossible to differentiate blogs from other forums.

Does this person propose “statutorily enforced moderation” of all forums for public discussion?

Twitter? Facebook? They are as open to abuse as any type of forum and can be and are used to abuse and defame on a much greater scale than so-called blogs.

Imagine what the Internet in New Zealand would be like with “statutorily enforced moderation”.

I think the ‘press release’ and the court action are extremely unlikely to prompt a change of law as stated. They are more likely to force a rethink about how the Harmful Digital Communication Act can be abused by people with agendas.

Nevertheless that it was possible to legally enforce moderation of this public forum is alarming.

Did [Name withheld] actually write that? The PDF version of the ‘press release’ emailed to me showed:

PressReleaseAuthor

This sounds to me the sort of thing Nottingham would write.

What appears to me to have happened in the past few months is that there has been a campaign by a small group of people to disrupt, harass, abuse, accuse people here and to legally compromise this website.

And now it appears that this campaign has been used to convince a judge to impose a court ordered form of moderation here just like that which has been proposed in the ‘press release’.

I think this is an abuse of legal process.

One of the key things in an open society with a healthy democracy is the freedom to speak about and debate political issues. These are key things that this website has been established to provide.

Your NZ was providing this successfully and without any moderation problems until the campaign of anonymous abuses over the past months, followed by Friday’s order.

Court enforced ‘moderation’ inhibits the freedom to speak and debate.

What has happened is an insidious assault on your rights and freedoms to discuss politics. I will do what I can to overturn the court order and hold those responsible for it to account.

Commenting on Your NZ

I think it’s worth looking at a few points that have been made in discussions over the last few days about commenting here, about moderation and and anonymity.

Moderation

It’s been claimed that Your NZ is “an unmoderated website”, and also “probably the most moderate and balanced blog there is”.

I generally try to be moderate and balanced here – as do a number of regular contributors in comments, so it’s more than just me. But a wide range of views are also encouraged. Growing support suggests there’s a niche for this approach.

This isn’t an unmoderated blog.

The tone is set via my posts and comments and by the comments of regulars. It’s a social media and people usually tend to adapt to the social setting they go into.

Every day I post this on Open Forum:

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is to encourage you to raise topics that interest you. 

Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some basic ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.
  • Debate hard if you like but respect people’s right to have varying views and to not be personally be attacked.
  • Don’t say to a stranger online anything you wouldn’t say to their face.

Moderation will be minimal if these guidelines are followed. Should they ever be necessary any moderator edits, deletes or bans will be clearly and openly advised.

There’s more in About but most people don’t go there, and a menu link to Good commenting, so there’s ample opportunity for visitors to get an idea about what’s encouraged.

I occasionally give gentle reminders to people if I think they are getting into inappropriate territory. I occasionally edit comments, showing clearly that I’ve done this. I very occasionally delete comments. And on some occasions I’ve moderated on request – anyone is welcome to query what they think are unfair or potentially illegal posts or comments.

Sure when free expression is seen as important sometimes people can express strongly and may push boundaries but that’s a fundamental part of an open forum.

And anyone who doesn’t agree with or like something that’s posted here has a right to respond.

Moderation isn’t very visible here because it’s not needed much, not because there isn’t any.

Anonymity

The question of whether people should be required to use their own names or be verified before commenting comes up from time to time.

I have chosen to be open about my identity online, as do some others. It has it’s advantages and it’s down sides.

But I think it’s important to allow people to comment using pseudonyms, there can be very good reasons for people having a degree of anonymity.

Readers can make their own judgements on the authenticity of comment.

Allowing anonymity is especially important when allowing and encouraging rights of response. If commenter identification was essential it would deter people from speaking up for and defending themselves.

Some people can abuse anonymity – but some people who are easily identifiable can be very abusive online too.

I don’t think the majority of people, who act responsibly, should be limited or discouraged from speaking out because of the abuse of a few.

Requiring commenters to be registered discourages some so it limits the possibilities for getting varying opinions. I find some registration systems to be a hassle so I don’t bother with them, so I don’t insist on them being used here.

I hope I don’t have to limit the easy access to speech here.

Yes there’s some risks with allowing free and relatively unfettered speech. But I think there’s significant risks fettering speech.

Thanks to those who support and contribute to the commenting culture here – open forums need to be joint projects.

Breach of interim injunction?

The Sunday Star Times (and Stuff) may have at least come close to breaching an interim injunction, and if covered by the injunction commenters on a major New Zealand blog have fairly blatantly breached it, and has so far the blog has taken no action about it. Tony Wall wrote:

A Cabinet minister’s brother is due to appear in court this week on child indecency charges.

The man has been summonsed to appear in the District Court on Tuesday — but the man’s lawyer, high-powered Queen’s Counsel Jonathan Eaton, last night went to the High Court in Christchurch to obtain an injunction stopping the Sunday Star-Times naming the man or the minister concerned.

Last night, High Court Justice David Gendall imposed an interim injunction preventing the newspaper naming the accused and the Cabinet minister.

But the article gives enough details to make it quite easy to narrow down possibilities.

And commenters on a major New Zealand blog have fairly openly and blatantly identified the Minister. And site moderators have taken no action, despite the comments being prominent, and despite being advise of possible legal issues, and despite a moderator being active on the same post.

And despite that blog having clear policy against this behaviour.

If we and/or our lawyers feel that the the comment or post oversteps a legal bound, violates good taste, invades the privacy of people outside the public domain, or goes beyond the scope of our site – then and only then will we do something about it.

Most of the time the moderators will be harsher on offending content than any court in NZ is likely to be.

The breaches began about 8.30 am this morning and subsequent comments confirmed what was heavily hinted at.

If they have identified the Minister then it’s clearly defying the intent to prevent revealing the identity which sounds likely to be subject to a name suppression application.

And the blog management would appear to be allowing these breaches to remain on public view.

UPDATE: I’ve been advised by the blog that if they haven’t been advised of an injunction then they don’t have to stop speculation (but they are obviously aware of the injunction).

They also claim that speculation is fine as ling as it doesn’t explicitly name the people protected by the injunction (despite the collective comments clearly identifying someone).

And the claim that suppression orders “just stop people being named, not speculated on”.

That surprises me – it’s not how I understand that name suppression works, and I’m surprised this blogger is taking this position.

UPDATE2: This question has been asked on the blog:

The courts granted an injunction to prevent publication by the SST of the Minister’s name. Does that injunction apply to the public?

A response from the moderator:

Likely. As I have no idea who it is, So to conform to the reported suppression, I will just limit people saying explicitly which minister it is.

From a legal point of view that surprises me. Taken as a whole the blog thread clearly identifies the Minister.

Mind you, after the questions on how Carmel’s mothers name got into media, I am only inclined to follow the letter of suppression orders.

From a blog and political point of view that doesn’t surprise me.

‘As if we are in opposing WW1 trenches’

This statement appeared in the early hours on another blog:

“Talking to each other can be a lot more than shouting from established positions, as if we are in opposing WW1 trenches.”

Thanks to those who choose to contribute here I don’t think this applies much at all here at Your NZ.

But shouting from established positions is common on other political blogs. People with differing views seem to be viewed as arch enemies, and the only option in their arsenal is to mow opinions down with withering bursts of abuse.

This is unfortunate because it results in a cacophony of noise that frequently drowns out the worthwhile pockets of discussion that pop up from time to time.

Some blog regulars would probably bitterly fight over the suggestion of a Christmas truce.

Adults behaving badly seems to be the norm on some blogs, and is common in other forums like Facebook and Twitter.

Why does destructive animosity dominate political discussion?

There seems to be a hard core of political combatants who see online forums as an outlet for their frustrations, but they never work out that what they do just keeps kindling those frustrations.

Thanks to Your NZ contributors who come here who are able to allow people with alternate opinions to voice them without risk of someone trying to bomb them out of existence.