Blogs can be echo chambers for the disgruntled in opposition

Something I have noticed on political blog commentariats since the 2017 election is the increase in moaning on Kiwiblog, and a better tone at The Standard. For forums that are largely aligned with the left or right, or with National or Labour, the tone of comments seems to be significantly affected by whether the preferred party and politics are in Government or in Opposition.

This came up at Kiwiblog today in response to what are common complaints about the perceived affect of moderation on commenting there.

mara:

By the way moderators, what has happened to what was once a robust, feisty liberal blog? It appears to be moribund now and I wonder why I bother to write. It is sad to see the passing of good history.

Charmaine Hawke:

I will also add what happened to if we can determine who you are you will bypass moderation? It seems to me very few of the regulars are getting through.
DPF why didn’t you just say everyone will be moderated and leave it at that.

SGA:

the real time conversations you used to be able to have to thrash out ideas

That’s been slowly dying on KB for a while now sadly, imho. It was happening before moderation.
KB was better when National was government. Now it’s a bit of an echo chamber for the disgruntled. I’m guessing the Standard was a bit like that when Labour was in opposition.

I think to an extent at least SGA is right.

The Standard commenting quality seems to have improved since the Labour led Government took over, and Kiwiblog does seem to have taken over more of the  “echo chamber for the disgruntled” mantle.

Whale Oil has also become more or an echo chamber for the disgruntled, but the chief disgrunter was moaning a lot about the last government when he was cut out of the information and leak channels. Now with SB in charge she seems to be trying to model on more on Breitbart, with more ‘conservative’ (extreme) Christian leanings as well.

Has The Daily Blog changed?  I don’t follow things much there, I find the website a mess and difficult to find my way around, so don’t bother most of the time, but there are indications that Martyn Bradbury has moved his criticisms of National to criticisms of Labour since the change of Government. he isn’t keen on the greens and there is no other party that suits his politics to back.

Update – I just checked out The Daily Blog and Bradbury, obviously dismayed at the CGT capitulation, is promoting the idea of a far left ‘anti-neoliberalism’ party to challenge Labour’s lack of real transformation:

A new political party in the wake of the CGT betrayal & the Politics of Kindness vs the unCivil Service

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.

Farrar responds to Christchurch attacks and Kiwiblog content

As promised just after the Christchurch mosque attacks, David Farrar has posted on his opinions on what happened and explains more about his tightening up moderation in Kiwiblog content and comments.

Murder and Violence

The terrorist killed 50 people. He believed his beliefs justified violence and killing. There are lots of people with strong beliefs but very very very few who think it is okay to kill innocent people, let alone actually do it.

Any incitement to serious violence is of course not acceptable on Kiwiblog, and never has been. In fact I have on two occasions supplied information to the Police when a comment was seen as a serious threat.

White Supremacy

The terrorist was a white supremacist. He judges people based on their skin colour or where they are born. He doesn’t think non-white people should live in “European countries”

Again such views and beliefs are not and never have been acceptable on Kiwiblog. Judging people based on where they were born, their bloodline or the colour of their skin is repulsive.

Anti-immigration

The terrorist says he was profoundly anti-immigration, linked to his white supremacy. He claimed Jews were okay so long as they live in Israel. Muslims are okay as long as they live in a Muslim country. Asians are okay so long as they live in Asia. He says that he saw legal immigration as a very bad thing.

His views are repugnant to me. I am a huge fan of controlled immigration. I think NZ has a generally excellent immigration system where anyone can qualify for residency regardless of race, nationality or religion.

…there is a difference between debating immigration policy and the pros and cons of immigration and scapegoating immigrants who are already here. Statements suggesting people who have chosen New Zealand as their home should not be here will not be acceptable.

Islamophobia

When it comes to religion, it is a fact that there is huge antipathy in many quarters to Islam, compared to other religions. Why is this? Why does Islam have such antipathy which Hinduism doesn’t, Buddhism doesn’t, Taoism doesn’t, Shinto doesn’t, Sikhism doesn’t, and Baha’i doesn’t?

The obvious answer is because of the number of terror attacks that are done in the name of Islam or motivated by an interpretation of Islam.

The reason there is antipathy towards Islam in many quarters is because people are scared. They want these attacks to stop. It doesn’t matter they still have a higher chance of being killed in a road accident.

That is one reason. Another is simply religion – some of those who are most anti-Islam are Christians. It’s common for fundamentalists to fear any different faith to their own beliefs.

There are also other aspects of the Islamic religion that some people find problematic.Sizable minorities support the death penalty for apostates, stoning for adultery, honour killings for pre-martial sex.

Islam also differs somewhat from most religions in that it has a political aspect to it, commonly called Islamism. Most Muslims are not Islamists. There are difficult questions about how compatible Islamism (NB not Islam) is with liberal democratic values.

So I absolutely reject that one should not be able to criticise the Islamic religion. However it should be done in a way that doesn’t stigmatise all Muslims and/or suggests a commonality of view.

That should apply to any religion – including Christianity.

That guest post

One issue that has been discussed on Kiwiblog is whether there should be a ban on Muslim immigration. I vehemently disagree with such a proposal, and the proponents of it. But does that mean it should be deemed as beyond debate?

In fact the sad reality is the growth in support of far right parties in Europe is because the mainstream parties have not come up with credible solutions to issues around immigration and integration. Populist parties will always rush to fill a void.

So for the last two weeks some people have tried to close down Kiwiblog because three years ago I allowed a guest post (which I disagreed with) by David Garrett which advocated for a policy that has been debated endlessly in the United States for three years, has majority support in Europe and plurality support in Australia.

Here is the Guest Post: David Garrett on A case for immediate cessation of all Muslim immigration. It contains some common anti-Muslim memes, like:

It is really very simple. Every western country which has allowed its Muslim population to exceed 2% has experienced problems generated by that community – or at least arising because of their presence within those societies.

And:

I truly believe we are, in a very real sense, in exactly the position Western Europe was in the  early 1930’s. The prevailing sentiment among both  the political elites  and the population of Britain at large was then, as ours is  now, one of tolerance, or at least wilful blindness to the dangers posed by the rising tide of fascism in Germany. It is important to be reminded that the very word “fascism” had none of the pejorative connotations in 1933 that it most definitely carried ten years later.

Coincidentally being pushed again now – see Jumping the Whale, piling on Godwin and hypocrisy.

Garrett concluded:

Muslim immigrants are a very real threat to our way of life. We should not take one more of them.

Farrar followed that with:

For the avoidance of doubt, the post is the opinion of the author, not of Kiwiblog. Kiwiblog accepts guest posts, even when I disagree with the views in them.

It looks like there has comments deleted from the following thread, possibly quite a few. That was in the days when Kiwiblog commenting was fairly open slather.

Back to Farrar’s post yesterday:

Media have demanded to know why this post has not been deleted. I’ve been labelled a party to the slaughter in Christchurch because of this post. The sheer bile on Twitter has been vile led by certain prominent people.

A number of people have contacted me offline to discuss Kiwiblog’s moderation policy and the desirability of changes. Those exchanges have been useful. Inciting virtual lynch mobs far less so.

The view of some on Twitter is that such a view in opposition to Muslim immigration is so extreme that one can’t ever allow someone to read something in favour of it.

Now one should recognise that debating stuff such as an immigration ban on Muslims is hurtful to Muslims. Absolutely it is. And most Muslims are themselves victims of the violent Islamic extremists. They are often both literal victims (ie are killed) but suffer the backlash where they have to worry about their safety in public. They can suffer acts of casual abuse, and feel that elements of their adopted country are hostile to them. And the Christchurch shooting has shown how real those fears can be.

So bearing in mind that allowing a debate on stuff such as an immigration ban can be hurtful to many Muslims, why allow it at all?

Well as I explained to the media, my preference is for people to be convinced their views are wrong. The thing I like on Kiwiblog is that we have people who comment from across the political spectrum.

I sort of agree with what DPF is saying here about allowing debate. But he would have (or should have) known that a post like that would have been a red rag to the Kiwiblog bulls.

In one of the malicious misrepresentations I have ever seen, Russell Brown took this explanation I made to the media, and summarised it was that I tolerate racists and don’t want them to go to even more racist websites and I am “a piece of shit”. Remember that this is about allowing a guest post on a topic that is one of the most debated issues in Europe and North America.

Something I don’t think DPF has appreciated enough is how comments on posts at Kiwiblog are seen as reflecting on Kiwiblog as a whole and on himself. He has allowed a lot of abuse and fairly extreme views to be posted for as long as I have followed Kiwiblog – ten years or so.

So as should be clear I am not deleting the guest post.

I think it’s a fair decision. Everyone can read and make up their own mind about Garrett’s views on Muslim immigration.

I also think it was wise to run a heavy hand over the comments and delete the worst of them.

Of course there are some topics I would not allow a guest post on, even with a rebuttal. The post on Muslim immigration was a borderline call. But in the end my judgement was that one could not pretend this was not a topic that could be ignored as if it didn’t exist and have support from majorities in many democratic countries.

Posting it “was a borderline call” – but allowing unrestricted comments left DPF open to criticism. He seems to have finally woken up to that.

Muslimophobia

As I indicated earlier I don’t find the term Islamophobia useful. In fact earlier today I quoted the leader of the world’s largest Muslim organisation saying the term is often used as a weapon to prevent criticisms of extremist aspects of Islam.

I have no problems with criticism of Islam (or Scientology or Mormonism or Catholicism). But I do have a problem with people smearing all Muslims as if they all have the same beliefs, same characteristics etc. Some people have an unhealthy antagonism to Muslims, and I would say they should be called Muslimophobes, not Islamophobes.

And Muslimophobia is not welcome on Kiwiblog.

Now. It may not have been welcome by DPF but it has been rampant in the past.

Judging 1.5 billion people off their religious affiliation is bizarre.

Kiwiblog is now applying far far more scrutiny to comments that fail to differentiate between legitimate scrutiny of Islam and are just bile against Muslims. They are not welcome here, and if you can’t work out the difference, neither are you.

That’s similar to what I have done here to the best of my ability.

And some (a small minority) need to learn some empathy. When the Prime Minister wears a hijab at a mourning celebration, it is not an Islamic takeover of New Zealand. It is the Prime Minister being a decent human being and respecting the fact 50 people of the Muslim faith were slaughtered. If 50 people had been killed at a synagogue, I am sure a similar gesture would be made. Such a gesture means a hell of a lot to those who have been targeted for their faith. Have a bit of bloody empathy for what it must be like to be a Muslim in New Zealand at this time.

Fair comment.

I agree with most of what Farrar says as quoted here and on his post. And on his new moderation policy, which I will cover in my next post.

Stuff imposes extensive commenting restrictions

Yesterday Stuff announced new terms and conditions for commenting on their website, which puts a lot of restrictions on types of comments and topics that be commented on. This is a flow on effect of  Christchurch Mosque attacks.

Immediately after the attacks David Farrar caused a lot of angst at Kiwiblog by imposing significant commenting restrictions, with anyone not identifying by their real name being put on auto-moderation (each of their comments needs to be approved by a moderator). There is still a lot of grizzling about it. From the last General Debate: (Monday, for some reason there wasn’t one yesterday):

DigNap15:

DF needs to change the name of this blog to
The sickly white liberal apologists blog.

Classical Liberal:

The moderation system is completely unfair to long term, reasonable KB supporters. I have always defended equal rights before the law for men, women, homosexuals, all ethnic groups.

But several of my perfectly reasonable comments are sitting here for hours.

I hope it’s just because it’s a slow Monday, not because the moderators have become immoderate!

Stuff updated yesterday – Terms and Conditions: User submitted content and comments

We (Stuff Limited) invite our readers (you) to post comments and profile information in a number of areas of the website.

The views expressed in the comments areas are not our views or opinions, nor the views or opinions of any of our staff or our related entities. We accept no liability in respect of any material posted in the comments areas, nor are we responsible for the content and accuracy of that material.

If you place reliance on material posted on this website you do so at your own risk, and you indemnify us (and our related entities) from any liabilities, claims, costs, loss (including consequential loss) or damage suffered or caused by reason of your reliance on any material posted in the comments areas.

Comment policy

Stuff welcomes comments from readers on our website.

We invite you to discuss issues and share your views. We encourage robust debate and criticism provided it is civil. But our comment section is a moderated online discussion, not a public forum.

We reserve the right to reject comments, images or links that:

  • are offensive or obscene;
  • contain objectionable or profane language – including use of symbols (we maintain a list of banned obscenities and comments featuring those words will be automatically rejected);
  • include personal attacks of any kind (including name-calling; insults; mocking the subjects of stories or other readers; or abusing Stuff journalists or contributors);
  • are discriminatory or express prejudice on the basis of race, ethnicity, country of origin, gender, sexuality, religion, or disability;
  • contain spam or include links to other sites;
  • are clearly off topic;
  • are deliberate lies or attempts to mislead. While we cannot review all comments for accuracy, we reserve the right to reject comments we consider, on the balance of probabilities, to be deliberate falsehoods;
  • impersonate an individual or organisation, are fraudulent, defamatory of any person, threatening or invasive of another’s privacy or otherwise illegal;
  • are trolling or threatening;
  • advocate or endorse violence, vigilantism or law breaking;
  • infringe on copyrights or trademarks;
  • are self-promoting;
  • violate the law or breach court-ordered suppressions or have the potential to breach future suppressions; or
  • constitute a contempt of court or that contain details of cases and individuals before the courts;
  • violate our terms and conditions for user generated content;
  • promote, advertise or solicit the sale of any goods or services;
  • nitpick other commenters’ spelling or grammar;
  • deny anthropogenic climate change;
  • deny the Holocaust;
  • add nothing to the debate;
  • just generally aren’t very nice.

That covers just about anything stuff decide they don’t want to publish – which is their their right on their website.

Those conditions are quite similar to what Whale Oil has operated under for several years.

Usernames are also bound by these Terms and Conditions and offensive usernames will be blocked. Using your real name is preferred best practice.

We reserve the right to cut, crop, edit or refuse to publish your content. We may remove your content from use at any time.

With rare exceptions, we will not usually enable comments on stories concerning:

  • 1080
  • allegations of criminality or misconduct
  • animal cruelty
  • beneficiaries
  • Christchurch mosque shootings of March 2019
  • court cases
  • domestic violence
  • fluoride
  • funerals
  • immigrants or refugees
  • Israel and Palestine
  • Kashmir
  • missing people
  • race
  • sexual orientation
  • suicide
  • Treaty of Waitangi
  • transgender issues
  • vaccination
  • vulnerable children

That’s a lot of topics deemed out of bounds for commenters.

They say they typically have several thousand comments a day submitted, so it’s a big workload monitoring them all.

Restricted or selective commenting is becoming more common.

Perhaps a reality is that media sites are not suited to open slather comments. Not only are they difficult to manage, they distract from their core purpose, to report news and to provide commentary.

Any site has the right to allow or not allow public comments.

Stuff: Our rights

We retain the right and discretion (but not the obligation) to edit, delete, reject or remove any comment which you post or seek to post in the comments or Stuff Nation areas.

As does any website owner or manager.

Kiwiblog Comments Policy:

Who has the right to post comments on this blog?

Apart from me, no-one at all has the right to post comments. Posting is a privilege, not a right.

Okay, so who is allowed to post comments here?

Anyone at all, up until the stage I ask them to stop or suspend them

There are plenty of other places that people can comment online, so it’s not really a restriction on free speech – before the Internet there was far less freedom to speak via newspapers, radio  and television.

Online discussion and debate will no doubt continue to evolve.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Farrar belatedly addressing moderation at Kiwiblog

Kiwiblog has long had problems with lack of moderation. David Farrar can write good posts, and there are a lot of knowledgeable commenters who are worth looking out for, but the comments have been blighted by abuse and highly questionable agendas.

The Christchurch mosque terror attacks, and responses in comments at Kiwiblog, have finally prompted Farrar into taking more action.

It’;s difficult enough moderating a small blog like this, especially when some people are persistent and determined to do as they please despite requests and warnings to comply with fairly liberal guidelines.

Monitoring a blog the size of Kiwiblog is a huge task. It’s common for posts to have hundreds of comments throughout the day and night.

Due to lax moderation for years it is an even bigger task trying to get things under control there.

Yesterday:

General Debate 18 March 2019

Comments turned off until I have had time to delete and sanction those who have crossed the line.

UPDATE: Comments now back on. But they will not appear until manually approved. Those lacking in empathy will probably not appear.

This was a drastic step. I’m not sure when comments were turned off, or on again with moderation, but the comment rate slowed down considerably.

And later in PM announces inquiry

The last comment at Kiwiblog appears to have been posted at at 9:20 pm last night, so something significant is obviously going on there. Time will tell how that pans out.

However moderation and comments go now there it will be a major challenge changing the widespread perception that Kiwiblog is an abusive and toxic environment, with racism, political abuse and white supremacy issues.


Whale Oil has been heavily moderated for years, but that has largely been for message control and manipulation.

Comments there yesterday indicate that they still have problems with some of their content, both in posts and in comments. They may have stopped swearing, but they still allow political abuse, and anti-immigrant and ansi-Muslim sentiments.

They have started today with much of the same old anti-Muslim lines (that Farrar appears to be trying to claamp down on): https://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2019/03/face-of-the-day-1906/

 

It’s not “democratic crowd sourcing of the moderation”

It’s not “democratic crowd sourcing of the moderation”, it’s a small number of people abusing moderation at Kiwiblog to censor comments.

A few numpties continue to abuse the Report function at Kiwiblog that is intended to counter abusive comments. This shows on a thread starting with this comment:

Surely Knott:

Lol. It’s not mob censorship – it’s democratic crowd sourcing of the moderation. And it’s a blog for grown ups so we don’t need to be protected from ideas, generally.

It’s not democratic when five people can target and effectively censor comments – and they don’t look like they’re acting like grown ups.

Further on in that thread:

It took some time for this to go into moderation, suggesting a gradual accumulation of REPORT clicking. But this is a clear abuse of the reporting function.

From Kiwiblog’s Comment Policy:

The other way you can signal you think a comment is unacceptable, is to click on the link which says “Report Abusive Comment”. If a certain threshold is reached of people reporting it, then the system will automatically hide the comment from view, and place it into moderation for a moderator to review. This can be the quickest way to remove an abusive comment from view. This should not be used for comments you merely disagree with, but only ones that are abusive.

A second comment has also been parked in moderation:

Pete George

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Linking to a source is normal practice, especially when there is more detail there.

In the site Comments Policy – https://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/comments_policy – there is no indication that linking to a source is a problem. I have never seen DPF say not to do it. I have had a strike for doing it.

Accusations of ‘link whoring’ amounts to a form of trolling to try to disrupt or discredit or censor. Reporting ‘link whoring’ seems to me to be an abuse of site processes. It is used to try to suppress free speech, something that is against the pro-free speech principles of Kiwiblog.

These comments are clearly not abusive, so this looks like a clear case of ongoing abuse of the reporting function – more mini-mob censorship.

Update: on a thread on this at Kiwiblog from Muttonbird:

Interesting that the comments policy left out some important additional information on the report process outlined by Mr Farrar when it was introduced in 2014.

Note that this feature should not be used on comments just because you disagree with them. If you continually report comments that are not abusive or trolling, then I’ll suspend your account. The up and down vote buttons are what you use for agreeing or disagreeing with a comment. This feature is for comments that are highly abusive.

https://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2014/09/an_easier_way_to_report_comments.html

Perhaps Mr Farrar needs to update his comments policy and clarify just what he wants this feature to do and the conditions under which it should be used. Because I don’t see a lot of suspensions happening right now for flagrant misuse.

https://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2019/01/general_debate_8_january_2019.html/comment-page-1#comment-2397658

Mob censorship in action at Kiwiblog?

I posted about some over the top comments and a ban at Kiwiblog on Thursday. There was no General debate at Kiwiblog that day, so I posted a comment and link on it yesterday. There was some reaction to it for a while, but then it disappeared into moderation – not just the comment but the whole thread.

It is still hidden in moderation nearly a day later.

Perhaps David Farrar is otherwise occupied and hasn’t had a chance to check moderation over the last day, or maybe he chose to leave the comment and thread in moderation – that would be his choice.

But of more interest – is this a form of mob censorship?

Some of the reaction was predictable (for Kiwiblog), like ‘igm’:

Do you not think Ardern deserves abuse . . . wake up you tosser!

But ‘redeye’ tried this old trick

That’s pretty disgusting link whoring for mine.

People post comments with links all the time – that’s a fundamental way the Internet works. Bloggers link to source material a lot – it is what many political blogs are based on. It is widely accepted.

DPF himself has Kiwiblog set up to link to posts at other blogs – including Your NZ. There were a lot of clicks through to here on Thursday from an automatic Kiwiblog link. I don’t see that as ‘pretty disgusting link whoring’.

Link whore accusations are just one of many forms of trying to attack and discredit the messenger or source.

This comment came up from starboard (a long time KB commenter):

PG reported for link whoring.

Soon after that the comment disappeared into ‘moderation’. This was probably automatic. From the Kiwiblog comments policy:

If your comment has disappeared, it has probably been reported as being potentially abusive. A moderator will review the comment and decide whether it meets out comments guidelines.

I don’t know why it’s still there after a day but that’s not the issue.

What is of interest though is that a small number of people (depending on how the moderation trigger is set) can effectively censor a comment and thread if they want to. DPF may eventually release reported comments from moderation, but by then the audience has moved on.

This is the first time I have seen it happening at Kiwiblog, I don’t know how common it is, but I wonder if it is used as a deliberate means of suppression of comments and threads, a form of mob censorship.

On a blog that generally leans strongly towards free speech this is a bit of an anomaly.

UPDATE:

Morrisey at Kiwiblog:

Mr George has got it exactly right. DPF keeps away from the fray, generally, which is admirable; however the “Report” function is routinely, cynically abused by a small group of grumblers. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the same half dozen haters of free speech pushing that button compulsively.

https://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2019/01/general_debate_5_january_2019.html#comment-2396211

Comment from muttonbird:

It is a common practice on that blog. I have had several comments disappear in the same way. From memory just one was restored by the lone moderator.

Pete. It requires just 5 users to hit the report button for the comment and all replies to disappear from general view. And yes, if you have said something which really gets under the snowflakes’ skin they’ll use it regardless of whether it could be called abusive or not.

As is Farrar’s laissez faire, fact-free attitude to blogging he might restore the comment or he might not. Remember Kiwiblog only recently got the sub-comment feature having previously been a linear only comment structure which was a nightmare.

https://yournz.org/2019/01/05/mob-censorship-in-action-at-kiwiblog/#comment-337203

Farrar acts on ongoing attacks on Ardern

David Farrar has finally stepped in and done something about the ongoing and increasingly nasty abuse at Kiwiblog that has been directed at Jacinda Ardern, her partner and her baby.

Longknives:

By signing that ‘Migration Pact’ fraud Ardern has signed the Death Warrant of so many New Zealand women and children.

It will take a few years for Kiwis to wake up and actually realise what this vile woman has done but one thing is for sure- History will not remember her kindly.

No, that isn’t the comment that Farrar moderated. It was the reply to it from realityczech:

I hope the first victim is her wretched spoor of the cursed union. I’m sick of ordinary people paying the price of decisions made by an elite who are removed from the consequences. I want her disgusting brat to suffer hideously so she can know the pain she inflicted on millions of others.

Upticks 5, downticks 23

[DPF: You need to see a psychiatrist. That is also Strike 7 and a three month suspension]

Strike 7 means that ‘realityczech’ has been moderated before (they seem to have commented as Kea too) – their record:

  • RealityCzech – 1st strike 1/4/17, 2nd and 3rd strike – 3/2/18, 4th strike – 7/3/18, 5th strike – 19/5/18, 6th strike – 15/9/18, 7th strike – 02/01/19,

That’s just addressing the tip of a vitriolic iceberg, which continues on the moderated thread (some comments will have been posted before the ban).

Someone confronted the comment. Awww C-mon:

Fuck that’s more than a little OTT.

You need to chill the hell out and stop being a fucking cunt.

19 upticks, 3 downticks.

And as per normal an attack back from realityczech:

Here come the sleazy virtue signallers.

Tell ya what have it your way – Who’s kid do you volunteer, yours ?

3 upticks, 18 downticks.

It continued went on between the two.

There were also some abuse supporting comments from Longknives:

To be fair to realityczech- This Labour/Green Government are quite happy for my kids to become ‘Collateral Damage’…
So why should I give a fuck about Ardern’s kid?

15 upticks, 10 downticks.

And:

You do realise that Labour /Greens intend on closing ALL prisons and releasing ALL crims back into society? (Every rapist, murderer and child predator..)
And that Ardern’s puppet Andrew Little said he was prepared to accept ‘Collateral Damage’ when they do this??
Throw in the Migration Pact (Open fucking Borders!) and it is clear that Ardern and her lunatic Government are quite happy to play games and endanger my/your kid’s lives…

19 upticks, 4 downticks.

And:

I certainly don’t wish any harm on Ardern and Gayford’s kid.
I feel sorry for it though- As I’m sure one day it will realise it’s whole existence has been some kind of twisted publicity stunt to further it’s Mum’s career…

You will never convince me that Ardern and co wouldn’t celebrate the demise of one of my kids though- I honestly think they are that morally bankrupt and utterly ruthless in their ambition…(Look at how she cashed in on the death of that poor tourist girl..)

10 upticks, 3 downticks.

While Farrar is not directly responsible for comments from individuals at Kiwiblog, he is responsible for the overall tone prevalent on his blog, and he is responsible to ongoing hit to his own reputation because he allows high levels of vitriol, attack and personal abuse.

For as long as I’ve been aware of Kiwiblog (about ten years) it has been bad for virtually unrestrained abuse and attacks. I think it has been a major detriment to the site, and has continued to harm Farrar’s political reputation. While David Farrar paused to consider his blogging future when linked closely to Cameron Slater in Nicky Hager’s ‘Dirty Politics’, he carried on, and so did the toxic discussion forums.

It’s difficult to moderate any online forum (I know from my own wxperience), especially when managed by one person, and with the number of comments posted at Kiwiblog – often many hundreds per day.

Farrar has always largely kept a distance from Kiwiblog’s comments, favouring free speech. This is a laudable but ultimately lax approach – I and many others have found that you can’t rely on online commenters to act like responsible adults and to not abuse others and to not abuse forums where they are effectively guests.

Sadly shitting in other people’s online nests is very common – some people get way with as much nastiness as they can, and then push boundaries more. I guess some people just have nasty streaks. perhaps they get some sort of power thrill from attacking others. In some cases try to deliberately trash the reputation of blogs (as happened here in a major way in 2015).

One ban is not going to fix Farrar’s problem. He is either going to have to try and clean up his mess – that wouldn’t be easy, online abusers seem to get a sense of entitlement to use forums to abuse, and can get worse if any attempt is made to restrict them. I used to confront abuse at Kiwiblog and with virtually no moderation it usually only escalated the abuse.

Kiwiblog has some very good comments and very interesting commenters participate there. But all the good is badly tainted by the rampant and largely unrestrained abuse.

This affects Farrar’s reputation. He must know this and seems to just accept it. I have seen no indication that he cares about it.

But it also impacts on the National Party by association. Farrar has been closely associated with National for a long time. From his disclosure statement:

Since I joined Young Nationals in 1986, I have been affiliated to, and a member of, the National Party.

As a volunteer, I established National’s initial Internet presence in 1996 and have held various roles in the party up until 2005, including Deputy Regional Chair. I have three times been a temporary contractor to National HQ, helping out with the campaign in 1999, and also between staff appointments – in 2004 and 2007 for a total of ten months. I still help National HQ from time to time on data and IT issues.

I worked in Parliament for almost eight years from July 1996 to March 2004. I initially worked as a media advisor to Ministerial Services when Jim Bolger was Prime Minister. I then had the rare privilege of working in the Prime Minister’s Office for Jenny Shipley, and in the Office of the Leader of the Opposition for Jenny Shipley, Bill English and Don Brash.

I am a Director  of  Group Ltd and Curia Market Research Ltd.

Clients who have used Curia publicly are the New Zealand National Party, The Parliamentary Office of the National Party Leader…

This is well known.

National don’t have any responsibility for Kiwiblog, which is Farrar’s personal blog. There is no indication to me that National have any connection with the ongoing abuses and attacks on Ardern and her family. But they are tainted by association. I would be extremely surprised if the party or their Parliamentary offices have any direct connection to personal and political attacks at Kiwiblog.

But Farrar continues to leave them open to accusations due to his hands off aiding and abetting of nasty political attacks.

And the abusive environment also deters people from participating, as demonstrated by this comment at Kiwiblog earlier yesterday from SGA:

It seems to me that lots of the posters on KB have moved to the left.

I can’t say I have noticed that, Viking2. For myself, I enjoyed Kiwiblog a lot more before the last election. Nowadays, I seem to scroll over increasing amounts of content-free bitterness and name calling to find anything worth reading. But maybe that’s just me

Upticks 21, downticks 5.

realityczech, a prolific commenter, responded to that:

You don’t notice it, because you don’t like freedom of speech.

Us liberals do notice it and you are far from being a liberal.

Upticks 3, downticks 16.

The ticks for and against those comments indicate that most don’t like the nasty and abusive tone that a small minority persist with, largely unrestrained by Farrar. In effect Farrar is favouring a few over the preferences of many. That’s what unfettered free speech tends to do.

Farrar can choose to run his blog however he likes. He is an astute political operator – but he seems to have a blind spot to the damage the abusive forums at Kiwiblog have on his reputation and on National.

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.