Moderation changes at Kiwiblog

Lurcher posted a comment:

I sent a really caustic email to David Farrar about the rubbish been posted on his blog [deleted the rest as inappropriate – PG].

He also provided a link to Kiwiblog: Quicker moderation

In this David Farrar has announced some moderation changes at Kiwiblog. He has a reputation as one of the most light handed blog managers, supporting the principle of free and open speech, but has chosen to toughen up a bit – by how much is yet to be seen, if it is notices at all, as he may now silently delete abusive comments – something Farrar has a negative reputation for.

For the last 15 years or so, I have tended to not delete comments that are overly nasty or abusive, but hand out strikes and eventually suspensions to commenters.

This has had the benefit of publicly showing that I don’t censor comments based on political opinion, but for breaches of my commenting policy. It also has allowed people to see what is and is not acceptable, and for most (not all) infringers it has allowed them to learn and stay within boundaries.

There have been minimal boundaries and much abuse at Kiwiblog as long as I have known (about ten years). It has popular for some, and I’m sure drives others away.

It has also caused problems for Farrar in wider media as comments on his blog have been seen as his responsibility. I suspect this is part of the reason for a change of approach.

I am not stopping this approach, but I am supplementing it.

So in future I am going to more frequently  simply delete comments that I deem are too abusive or trolling etc. They will simply disappear. If this happens to one of your comments, then you should change your commenting style in future.

If I see someone being persistently abusive or trolling, I may still take the time to do a formal strike and suspension.

I think enough people have seen my style the last 15 years they they know (unlike some blogs) I won’t just delete comments because I disagree with them politically. The whole point of comments (for me) is to have debate and disagreement.

A major point of comments for me has also been to have debate and allow disagreement and different views, but I think that lax moderation leaves too much opportunity for some to abuse the privilege of commenting on someone else’s website. A common approach by some – and I’ve seen this across a number of blogs including here – is to abuse people with views that aren’t agreed with and try to shut up alternate voices and drive them away.

I think this has been common at Kiwiblog, which is a shame because some of the comments and commenters are worth looking out for.

From my own experience some people (a small minority) can get worse if their freedom to abuse is curtailed. There could be some adjusting required.

Moderating a blog is a very challenging job, trying to get the balance you want somewhere about right most of the time.

It will be interesting to see if there is any noticeable change at Kiwiblog.

I hope the worst of the abuse is filtered out and it encourages more open debate and more freedom to express different views. Almost always, abuse is the opposite of debate,

I have rarely commented at Kiwiblog for years now, so it’s funny to get a couple of mentions on the thread.


And you know *Kiwiblog’s* doing something right, particularly when you see someone like Pete George @ YAWNZ, criticizing DPF’s moderation policy. LoL!

Very funny, but I suspect for a different reason.


In the past DPF has cracked down on ‘link whoring’
I recall Pete George used to do it a fair bit and got punished.

That’s straight out wrong, I haven’t seen any cracking down or punishment from DPF. I responded:

Blogs are commonly largely based on linking to other information. Like Kiwiblog.

One of the main features of the Internet has always been the ability to link to other information.

I don’t recall ever getting ‘punished’ for providing links to sources or to more detail (or to anything), apart from some commenters grizzling when they didn’t like alternative views, and that wasn’t punishment, it was success.

It was interesting to see who tried to attack the messenger or means of message, with no attempt made to debate points made or information provided.

Kiwiblog still has problems

Some blogs appear to have had a legal shake up this week over the Gayford rumour mongering. One blog has been having a big sook and claiming to be the big victim. They are full of contradictions and irony. This takes the cake:

One thing I have learned in politics is that when a political party accuses some other party or individuals of heinous political crimes then they are actually projecting their own actions and abilities against those they accuse.

This is a well known tactic. From what I’ve seen over the years that its exactly what they themselves often do.

At least they have fairly tight moderation and largely seem to have filtered out attempts to hint around the legal letter sent out to some media.

However this issue has highlighted a longstanding problem with Kiwiblog. It’s biggest strength is it’s biggest weakness – it’s very light moderation and very little monitoring. This has encouraged open and free flowing discussions, and there are some gems if you look for them.

But it has also allowed a culture of abuse to become established, as well as enabling the pushing of legal boundaries. This made it a forum of choice for some of those intent on pushing Gayford rumours.

Stuff: Where did the false Clarke Gayford rumours come from?

One early April post on right-leaning site Kiwiblog featured a whole thread discussing the rumours as a “personal scandal” in the comment section, with several commenters with thousands of other comments to their name spreading them.

This probably about the time the rumours picked up steam, but they had originated from months earlier.

That thread remained up on Wednesday, but was soon deleted after Stuff contacted Kiwiblog editor David Farrar for comment.

Farrar told Stuff he deletes defamatory content when it is brought to his attention.

From my own experience he does this promptly and responsibly.

With two million comments and counting on the site it was difficult to keep on top of everything, and he didn’t routinely read the comments on every post.

“When you get that level of comments you can’t go and read them all, you can’t go and read them all it would just take hours every day,” Farrar said.

For a small blog it can be difficult, but for forum the size of Kiwiblog it would be very difficult. Yesterday’s General Debate had 500 comments.

“I tried searching to see if I could proactively find some of it, and actually it’s really hard because people don’t necessarily use the name you would think, they sometimes use nicknames etc. It is really difficult.”

He had suspended several users over comments concerning the Gayford rumours.

To that extent a good response, but the problem persists. Some of those intent on keeping the rumours going have switched tack, to ‘where there’s smoke’ and trying to talk up a Streisand’s effect. As well as trying a conspiracy angle of blaming it all on Labour.

This has turned into a story about the Left slandering National and it’s supporters with false allegations.

The most credible story I have heard is that these rumors came from within Labour and were just gossip about Ardern’s bit of rough. They were not politically motivated or anything new. Now she is promoted beyond her ability its a problem.

“I have heard” is not evidence. It is a common way of trying to spread dirty rumours.

But Farrar has a bigger problem – continuing attempts to hint at what the rumours were about. I have seen two examples already today.

This is a problem Farrar has created for himself to an extent, but having such a hands off approach to monitoring and moderation. But if he doesn’t find a way of dealing with it he could have difficulties.

Another problem for Farrar is his openly disclosed association with National. By allowing Kiwiblog to be used as an attack and rumour mongering forum he is giving opponents of National free shots with claims of ongoing dirty politics.

But changing a culture that has become established virtually unfettered for a decade won’t be easy.

Hooton apologises to Steven Joyce

There were claims that retiring MP Steven Joyce threatened to take Matthew Hooton to court for defamation over Hooton’s final column in NBR in early March. It appears that Joyce may have progressed such a threat after Hooton issued a public apology to Joyce today.

On Facebook:


On 2 March 2018 a column I wrote was published in the print edition of the NBR and on the NBR’s website. It was titled: “Joyce sacking first test of Bridges’ leadership”.

This article could reasonably be understood to suggest that the Hon. Steven Joyce had engaged in unethical, dishonest and/or corrupt behaviour during his tenure as a Minister in the previous National Government.

Nothing in the column was intended to convey such suggestions, which would be untrue. I apologise to Mr Joyce for any harm caused as a consequence.


Also on Kiwiblog “Matthew Hooton has asked Kiwiblog to publish this”: Matthew Hooton apology to Hon Steven Joyce

I don’t know why it was required there, it could have been due to comments at the time, as I don’t recall Farrar posting anything critical of Joyce. He did post Joyce resigns

This is a big blow for National. Steven wasn’t just a top performer in the House, but had been an integral part of National’s strategy and campaign team for well over a decade. They will miss him.

There has been no post about this on Whale Oil yet, but that’s not unusual, it has become common for little reaction for stories of interest emerging during the day until the following morning.

It will be interesting to see whether a couple of posts at Whale Oil stay as they are – Slater may have tidied things up, or he may be a bit edgy about the possibility of more legal challenges.

An interesting reaction:

There has also been quite varied reactions to Scott on Twitter.

NZ views on Trump versus Bannon

David Farrar at Kiwiblog: Trump vs Bannon

So of Trump’s two campaign chairs, one is indicted for money laundering and the other he now labels as mad. What does that say about the judgement of the person who hired them?

David Garrett:

Trump is one seriously unhinged unit…If you allow yourself to think about it, it’s terrifying that this guy’s hand is on the nuclear button at the same time an equally unhinged unit in North Korea has his hand on another nuclear button.

Surely 2018 will be the year the world is closest to a nuclear conflict since the height of the cold war? Doesn’t bear thinking about…

MickySavage at The Standard: Duck and Cover

Makes you wonder if the nuclear button tweet was an attempt at diversion.

And Trump has lost his cool with Bannon.

Whale Oil may have a bit of a dilemma over the Trump-Bannon split. They were still championing Trump yesterday:

Bannon’s Breitbart may now be a front runner. WO have modeled themselves on Bannon/Breitbart,  and I suspect someone may have fancied themselves as a Bannon-like PM maker, but now Trump has dumped on Bannon (not posted about at WO) that may cause some flip flopping between champions, trying to ignore the bust up.


More 2018 predictions

David Farrar has posted his Predictions for 2018. Most are fairly general and aiming for success (of the predictions), and of little interest outside political circles.  There’s a few of greater interest.

2. Bill English will remain National Party Leader

That contrasts with the Stuff prediction he would step down this year. It could be as better informed (inside information) prediction, or it could be a PR ploy.

5. Eugenie Sage will be elected Greens female co-leader

Stuff also predicted Sage over Genter and Davidson. She could be a compromise option, or she could be popular as a co-leader option alongside James Shaw. I think she would be a good choice.

6. The End of Life Choice Bill will pass its third reading

If MPs follow public opinion that’s likely, but ‘will pass it’s third reading’ leaves open the possibility that it will go to referendum to determine whether it will become law, or it will take longer than a year to get there.

14. The Tax Working Group will recommend a Capital Gains Tax

That’s a safe prediction – about the only question mark is probably whether it will happen this year or not.

17. Lisa Owen will be the next Political Editor for Newshub

Someone has to replace the outgoing Patrick Gower, and she is a likely candidate. I think she would be an improvement, unless overdramatics and political agendas are a job requirement imposed by directors.



Lorde and Israel

A singer has removed a gig from their schedule. In the circumstances I have concerns about the use of social media pressure to coerce, but this is just the entertainment industry and the bottom line is financial, and that’s likely to be the reason for the change.

But some seem to think it’s a big deal.

The Standard:


It’s fair to question why Lorde has singled out Israel, but why single out Russia as a comparison? Activists in the world could probably argue against every venue if so inclined.

Tough talk from a dirty gutless flake? WO should know all about financial compromises and imperatives.

But this may not be the end of it, as the other side of social media pressure plays it’s hand.

Complaint against David Garrett/Kiwiblog


Tanya Toailoa says the guest post is inflammatory, racist and irresponsible. She notes that assertions made by the piece are factually wrong i.e. that all Samoans and Tongans hate each other; and that they all are aware of historical reasons for Tongan/Samoan enmity.

Mr Farrar says his offer of a right of reply to the complainant was the appropriate response to the complaint; and believes agreeing to the complainant’s request for removal of the article would have a chilling effect on the ability of publications to allow strong opinions to be expressed.

Mr Garrett’s guest post is unpleasant, grossly exaggerated and provocative for many readers and possibly intended to be so.

The complaint is not upheld, dissenting from this decision.


CASE NO: 2639





On 8 November 2017 the online commentary site Kiwiblog published a contribution by David Garrett headed “Guest Post: Pasifika is Bollocks”. The post was made after the recent Tongan/Samoan rugby match and the associated public disturbances including fighting between Tongans and Samoans, as reported in the media.  Among other points made, the guest post stated “Samoans and Tongans hate each other with a vengeance”. It also claimed the recent events described above disproved the implications of the term “Pasifika”, i.e. that underneath cultural differences, Pacific Islands people are all one big happy family.

The Complaint

Tanya Toailoa says the guest post is inflammatory, racist and irresponsible. She notes that assertions made by the piece are factually wrong i.e. that all Samoans and Tongans hate each other; and that they all are aware of historical reasons for Tongan/Samoan enmity. She does not accept that the article is acceptable, is fair comment or ‘just an opinion’. She wants the article removed from the site. The complainant cites two Press Council Principles: Comment and Fact; Discrimination and Diversity.

The Response

David Farrar, editor of Kiwiblog, says that from time to time he publishes guest posts offering a variety of points of view. This does not mean he, as editor, agrees with all the opinions expressed, as in this case.

He responds that in relation to Principle 4, Mr Garrett’s article is clearly an opinion piece, and that no reasonable person could regard his assertions as factual. Principle 7 provides that race is a legitimate subject for discussion where relevant, and the context of the piece was extensive media coverage of Tongan/Samoan disturbances.

Mr Farrar says his offer of a right of reply to the complainant was the appropriate response to the complaint; and believes agreeing to the complainant’s request for removal of the article would have a chilling effect on the ability of publications to allow strong opinions to be expressed.

Discussion and Decision

A search of the Internet reveals that there are traditional stories of past Tongan and Samoan rivalry, and unverified accounts of recent incidents, including some involving rugby matches. Apart from that is hard to find a basis for Mr Garrett’s surprising claim that Tongans and Samoans hate each other. In fact he contradicts himself by noting “you would never know it at pan-pacific gatherings – at least until cocktail hour”. Mr Garrett’s guest post is unpleasant, grossly exaggerated and provocative for many readers and possibly intended to be so. It is not surprising that many people commented online about the guest post, both positively and negatively.

Sporting events worldwide can provide an emotional environment where racial prejudices are revealed and unruly behaviour occurs. The Press Council believes the media are entitled to report these occurrences, and commentators to express their opinions. The complainant certainly has a legitimate contrary opinion to Mr Garrett. She has been given the opportunity to express that in a balancing Kiwiblog opinion piece, but has to date not taken that up.

On Principle 4, Comment and Fact, the Council believes the article is an opinion piece and marked as such by the heading “Guest Post”. The contentious statements in the guest post are assertions, and we accept the editor’s submission that they are clearly Mr Garrett’s opinions. The facts of the historical basis and recent history of Tongan/Samoan rivalry are publicly (although perhaps not widely) known and do not appear to be contested.

The Press Council Principle 7 notes that issues of race are legitimate subjects for discussion where relevant.  In this case Samoan/Tongan sporting rivalry was an essential part of the news story sparking the opinion piece. Given this context, we consider that dealing with the Tongan/Samoan issue in an opinion piece could not be considered gratuitous emphasis on race.

The complaint is not upheld, with one member Hank Schouten dissenting from this decision.

Press Council members considering this complaint were Sir John Hansen, Liz Brown, Jo Cribb, Tiumalu Peter Fa’afiu, John Roughan, Hank Schouten, Marie Shroff, Christina Tay and Tim Watkin.

Also posted at Kiwiblog: Press Council decision on complaint against Kiwiblog


Assassination comments on Kiwiblog

I’m going to go in to bat for both David Farrar and lprent here regarding the challenges of moderating blogs.

Note in advance: I have chosen to include unacceptable language in the following post to demonstrate what has happened. The comments have been seen and circulated widely and are still public on other sites. Inciting, promoting or encouraging political violence of any type is totally unacceptable here on Your NZ, as it should be in New Zealand generally.

Controversy was sparked by a comment at Kiwiblog on Saturday morning when ‘rightoverlabour’ posted a comment saying:

I believe in eliminating terrorism. Winston is a political and economic terrorist. He has held the country to ransom, and is obfuscating on everything. His assassination would not be something I would shed a tear over. I have time for Jacinda, and the greens (even though I oppose most of their policies), as they have been open and transparent. But Winston is a despicable, narcissistic individual. Emperor Nero comes to mind as a close comparison. Sometimes the elimination of a clear and present danger is a neccesity for the survival of a reasonable society. Assassination may be a step too far, but a society has to protect itself from these types of individual gaining power. Ask the Russians, Germans, North Koreans.

I don’t think this is a threat to assassinate, but it clearly suggests and probably encourages considering it as a political act. As such it is clearly a silly, and a very irresponsible thing to say on a public forum. It deserves condemnation.

A warning was posted in response: “be careful inciting assassination is a crime”.

‘rightoverlabour’ replied to that:

Hmm, I’m not inciting it as such, just wouldn’t care if it happened. However eliminating terrorism is not a crime. I suppose it depends on how one defines terrorism. I am happy to retract the post if it is breach of the rules etc, (in which case, DPF delete it) but when does freedom of speech come in?

The problem is that even if there was no intent to incite it could possible do exactly that, so the risk must take precedence over ‘free speech’.

This cause a stir in social media and was seen as an example of the bad right and dirty politics and a sign of vicious attacks on the incoming government, amongst other things. More on that soon.

Some time later yesterday, over a day later and after it had been well publicised elsewhere, David Farrar moderated the comments:

I believe in [deleted by DPF for advocating murder and Strike 1. Do not do again]


Hmm, I’m not inciting it as such, just wouldn’t care if it happened. However, eliminating terrorism is not a crime. I suppose it depends on how one defines terrorism. I am quite happy to retract the post if it is in breach of rules etc, ( in which case, DPF delete it) but then where does freedom of speech come in?

Now I give DPF the benefit of doubt here, I think he would likely have deleted the comments with a warning as soon as he found out about them. Blogs can’t be moderated 24/7, especially on holiday weekends and DPF has a baby in the family. Blogs rely on others alerting moderators them when someone steps over the line.

When concerns were raised ‘rightoverlabour’ should have contacted DPF to alert him to his comments. Others should have also done this.

As previously mentioned, these comments spread around social media and were strongly criticised for obvious reasons. They deserved condemnation. However some of the reaction was itself over the top.

A post on this appeared at The Standard mid-Sunday: Kiwibloggers discuss assassination of “terrorist” Winston Peters

There were comments in response that made unsubstantiated assertions – this is normal and allowed at TS in some situations, in contrast they demand proof and links of just about anything I post there, but that’s another story.

Brendan posted:

I hope someone contacts the police. I also hope the new government use their resources to stamp out this vitriol and disturbing behaviour.

Political disagreement is fine. Calling people names (rather than criticism of a person’s actions) is not productive, but still fine. But sanctioning violence (life-threatening violence) because you disagree with somebody’s position has no place in a peaceful democracy like ours. I’m embarrassed these people exist in New Zealand.

Embarrassing and at times disgraceful behaviour are fairly common at both Kiwiblog and The Standard. In my opinion Kiwiblog is not monitored closely enough and moderation can be lax – at one stage I deliberately broke the rules there to highlight a recidivist liar who frequently repeatedly attacked and defamed people, but I doubt it made much if any difference to ongoing behaviour there.

Kiwi blog and Whaleoil might be the haven for National’s minions, but it’s a breeding ground for New Zealand’s own far-right hate trolls. Never, ever have I seen anyone here at The Standard advocate or sanction the use of violence against political opponents.

I have, however it has usually been dealt with appropriately.

This is sick, and it’s a right-wing problem, not a left-wing problem (well not here in New Zealand), that’s inherent to the anti-democratic mind-set they espouse.

An interesting moderator response:

[lprent: It isn’t just a right-wing problem. It gets moderated out here pretty fast and long bans are often issued. Partly because most advocation of violence are offences against some of NZ’s laws, but mostly because it adds absolutely nothing to any national debate, robust or polite. Which is pretty clear when you read the sewer where the moderation is sporadic, lackadaisical and professionally inept. Even Whaleoil is better these days. ]

I pretty much agree with that. There is a real problem at Kiwiblog that I think sets it part from any other site in the way abusive and harassing behaviour isn’t controlled – it’s often out of control, and it has been for as long as I have been an observer (7-8 years).

But any site can have idiots letting loose. As happened later in that same Standard thread in two comments by ‘millsy’ (who has a history of over the line comments):

OK. if they want to kill WP, then perhaps [deleted]

They will probably be looking at about 10-20 years in Paremoremo. But seeing as they think its a 5-star luxury hotel with silver service, should be all good.

[lprent: Suggestions of illegal acts is actually a crime. Could you calm the fuck down before I have to make you? ]


Oh, we have only just begun, Ian. We have only just begun, The Second October Revolution has taken place, You have lost all right to complain when you have made the choice to poison your communities water supply to ensure a boost in your profit margin. As far as I’m concerned, you deserve everything you get.

[lprent: You really need to read moderator warnings. Implied threats are still threats. Banned for two weeks. ]

That was last night, and it appears that lprent was on to it quickly. I expect he would have been aware of risks and would have been keeping a closer eye on things.

So on two blogs irresponsible and possibly illegal and certainly a poor show for the forums they were posted on were moderated appropriately, albeit slowly on Kiwiblog.

It is bloody hard moderating a blog. Most people are fine most of the time, but with relatively free speech forums people sometimes say stupid and irresponsible things, and sometimes people deliberately try to put blogs at risk – there was a spate of that here two years ago, which is eventually like to prove costly for some of those involved.

After Dirty Politics went public three years ago DPF said he seriously considered shutting Kiwiblog down, but decided to keep it going. He will have ongoing risks allowing a feral element to continue commenting there largely uncontrolled.

Anthony Robins just announced today that he is ending his stint as one of the most respected bloggers active at The Standard. He was the mainstay of The standard through the campaign, and they are likely to miss him a lot. I can criticise some of what he claims, even in his valedictory, but as far as I have seen (which is a lot) Anthony has always stayed away from dirty attack politics, he has always come across to me as a decent guy.

But I can fully understand why Anthony has chosen to move on. It can be a time consuming and at times demoralising task, especially when you try to keep standards others choose to shit in your nest.

As we shift from a Government of nine years to a completely different combination of parties there is likely to be upheaval on blogs and across social media – there are already signs of tension and conflict from both sides. Some are sour about the result, some are very defensive about any criticism of the incoming government or the parties who have formed it.

I think blog moderators will need be vigilant about bad reactions, change directions of attack, and also alert to the potential of deliberate sabotage. Small things can easily blow up into major scandals or arguments.

I think it’s sad, but in enabling and encouraging political debate it also gives the immature and the uncontrollable a means to mess things up.

All I can do is ask those contributing via comments here to keep things decent and fair – robust criticism is fine, but aim at issues and policies and actions of politicians, and keep the personal shit kicking out of it. Please.

Blogs hard out on attack

Political blogs tend to cater for their own audiences much of the time, but in an election campaign tend to put a lot of effort into attacking the other lot. That’s certainly evident at this stage of the campaign.

Kiwiblog is run by David Farrar, who has close associations with National. He can be critical of National and praise other parties, but is mostly posting praise of national and attacks on others. Posts over the last day:

Farrar should be considering displaying an authorisation statement under the Electoral Act, something The Standard displays as a precaution. Recent posts there:

For some time the Standard posts have been promoting the Greens and attacking National, and have recently rediscovered their Labourness joining the Ardern adoration club.

Whale Oil has been noticeably anti-National and pro-Winston for months, but recently has been spreading attention across the spectrum, attacking Ardern and Labour, the Greens, TOP – pretty much anyone but NZ First.

The Daily Blog is a mess of messages. Authors are out in force trying to promote their favourite issues.

John Minto doesn’t see much hope in Who to vote for?

Voting involves a moral choice.

In a capitalist economy you either vote with capitalism’s winners or with the losers. With those who have used the system to enrich themselves at the expense of others or those forced to struggle at the margins.

After this election the new government will be dominated by either National or Labour – not the dramatic choice it should be because Labour brought only a tentative, watery policy mix to the election and capitulated on tax before the first vote was cast.

Labour by itself won’t make a significant difference. Ardern has addressed the desperate social situations of child poverty and homelessness with the usual hand wringing rather than policies.

Labour talks values but these are useless without policies to give them meaning.

The best hope for a half-way decent, policy-driven, progressive government comes with a strong Green Party in coalition with Labour.

Greens are the only option this election for left wing revolutionaries.

Anyone voting National this election has a personal moral deficit.

Trying to attract voters by shaming them? Negative political attack is the fall back option for political activists, and that is evident across the blogs.

Poll trends

Polls are useful indicators, albeit backward looking. Trends are also worth keeping an eye on, but they can disguise sudden shifts.

David Farrar tweeted on a post at Kiwiblog:

This is quite misleading. I don’t know whether this is deliberate or not but the timing of this is questionable. August polls are already out of date. Farrar is National’s pollster.

There has been three public polls in September that add a lot to knowledge of poll trends.

Opinion polling for the New Zealand general election, 2017 is more up to date, and much more informative.

This shows that the dramatic Labour upswing has been sustained in September, and National support is diving.

It also highlights the Green dive in support, and shows that so far there is no sign of the  much touted late campaign improvement for NZ First.