Changing Standard

 

There has been noticeable changes at The Standard over the last few months. More rigid moderation has resulted in long time regulars being banned, and there has been a marked change in volume and nature of comments.

One of The Standard’s most prolific commenters, Colonial Viper, caused some controversy and last year was banned for several months. He returned to commenting yesterday, but didn’t survive for long.

Colonial Viper3.5.1.1.1

Hey always happy to argue my points hard out over a beer, but last time I was banned for a month for referring to what official exit polls said about demographics voting Trump.

So why bother.

[That’s not why you were banned. You were banned for making assertions as fact and not backing them up, and that specifically being a pattern of behaviour considered trolling. Here you are misleading about why you were banned. I can’t see any point waiting for yet another series of demonstrations of the patterns of behaviour that have led to multiple bans in the past, so I will just do it now. Banned until a month after the election. – weka]

That’s removed another dissenting voice for the election campaign. CV is wacky agt times, but he is prepared to challenge group think, something the new Standard seems to want to avoid. Ironically this happened on the 1984 post.

There were mixed reactions:

adam

I’m liking the new hard nosed weka.

To many people have spun shit about her point of view, they deserve what they get for misrepresenting her.

As we all should cop, if we tell porkies about the authors.

The authors offer enough reminders not to do it. Yet, people still do it.

Galeandra

Well you can carry on liking her on your own. I’m off again.

Weka banned me when she didn’t like her arguments challenged recently.

She was busy yesterday – also:

Peter Swift

Of course you are my bro, I’m inclusive. We’re all in this together, man, and like it or not, we are the BROtherhood of man.

Best stick that faux race outrage, I’ve lost the argument so will play a race card, back in it’s very naughty box where it truly belongs. :tut tut: 🙄

[ok, you’re out until Monday. Pattern of behaviour that is flaming, and you’ve been warned 10 mins ago and you still do it, so wasting mod time too – weka]

[just seen your response in the backend. You still don’t understand why you were moderated, so here it is again. You were banned for flaming, ignoring moderation, and wasting moderator time. If you don’t understand what flaming is, ask. That ban is now extended out to 1 month for ignoring moderation, wasting moderator time, and attacking an author. Expect moderations from now on to at least double but some will just go to past the election if you do something really stupid – weka]

Tim

The most reasonable commentator gets suspended because someone said the word ‘bigotry’… Your position is truly weak, weka.

[Peter got a short ban for blatantly ignoring moderation, and for flaming. Flaming is about behaviour. In moderation we are looking at patterns of behaviour that cause trouble for the site and increase work for the moderators. It rarely has anything to do with the content. Peter already has a history of this, which you are probably unaware of but the moderators are. Marty and adam were both warned as well and chose to tone down the flaming. I would have banned either of them similarly if they hadn’t.

Speaking of patterns of behaviour, and looking at your comments in general, I’ll let you know a couple of things. One is that I personally have a low tolerance for having my views misrepresented. People can disagree with me and they can go hard against my arguments, but when they start misusing my beliefs either against me or to further their own argument, then I will moderate. One of the reasons is that it’s hard enough being an author here without being attacked. The other is that I write to generate discussion, and if people choose to abuse or attack rather than debate then they need to go somewhere else.

You can count this as a warning. We obviously disagree politically, which is fine. But in addition to that you are stepping over a line that will result in a ban if you keep it up. Don’t make shit up about moderation (wasting moderator time is one of the quicker ways to get a ban), don’t attack authors, don’t misrepresent the views of authors. Pretty simple. – weka]

Weka does write to generate discussion, her Kaupapa Pākehā was good, but she also often puts strict boundaries on what can be discussed, and tends to ban when losing an argument (claiming things like ‘misrepresentation’, something she has done herself).

She is easier on some regulars, like:

bwaghorn14

”It looks like Labour are willing to bash those they see as being in their way politically”
it would appear you as a card carrying greeny are willing to bash labour when it suits weka

[ok, I’m torn between giving you a warning over stupid shit that’s against the rules (having a go at an author over perceived party politics), and asking you wtf you are on about. I’ll go with the latter. Please do explain what me being a GP member has to do with the post or what I said in it. I’m really curious what possible motivation I could have as GP member for apparently bashing Labour. – weka]

She uses her role as moderator to wield a stick in discussions:

Nope14.3.1.2

You can’t pretend your Green Party allegiance doesn’t influence your frequent attacks on Labour and Little.

Everyone has a political bias, and party membership and allegiance is a huge contributor.

I had hoped the MOU would give greenies a sense that there was one way to change the govt, and that was backing Labour and the Greens. Support for any other party that won’t commit to changing the govt just makes it less likely this will happen.

[“You can’t pretend your Green Party allegiance doesn’t influence your frequent attacks on Labour and Little.”

So much on one little sentence. I don’t have an allegiance to the GP. I vote for them and I am a member and I support many but not all of their policies, but if they had done what Little did I would be criticising them too. I don’t have to pretend anything. I like Little (that’s on record), I want Labour to do well, I want the Greens to do better, I want the govt to change. You and I disagree on how that might happen and what the best strategy is, that’s fine, make those arguments, but stop making shit up about me.

You will now provide 5 examples of my writing posts that attack Labour and Little in the past 3 months, or some other reasonable example of ‘frequent’ and ‘attack’. If you can’t/won’t do that, you have two choices. You can withdraw that comment and apologise, or you can have a ban. I’m putting you into premod until you answer. If I don’t see anything I will eventually ban just to tidy this up. I suggest you read the Policy and About and that you start paying attention to what is being said in moderation bold across threads so that you learn where the boundaries are.

You seem new here and look like you are bringing good commentary, so I’m cutting you some slack, but you need to understand that commenters are expendable and authors aren’t. Stop attacking authors, and debate the politics and points instead. If you don’t understand anything I’ve just said, ask for clarification. – weka]

These changes in moderation have generated quite a bit of comment. Violet:

Violet 2.1.1.1.1

We all know, that in little NZ, blogs like TS are often referred to. We also know that one of the biggest arguments against the left in NZ is that they fight amongst themselves constantly, and therefore are not capable of governing the country. The constant criticism of Labour here over the last few months, feeds directly into that view. And yes, I know this not a Labour blog, that is really not the point.

And as a reader for many years, I am sure this has been a relatively recent change. In the past, I have come to this blog to read a practical opposition to the government from a practical left wing perspective. Of late, it seems to be more often a fanciful view of what politics could be if everyone behaved in a way that is so far from practical reality.

I am so disappointed that this blog has turned this way over the last few months. What we need now, is strong support for a change in government at the next elections. And no, that doesn’t mean no criticism of Labour. But the reality is, like it or not, Labour doing well in the upcoming election is crucial for a change in government.

There is discussion on that, mainly from Weka, who continues here:

.weka 10

Violet, from here https://thestandard.org.nz/kaupapa-pakeha/#comment-1302361

A couple of points. One is that the Labour-bashing was going on for most of last year. I spoke against it quite a few times. I’ve even written a post about that that I haven’t published yet. It’s been delayed because of the US election mess here last year, and then more recently because of all the hooha over WJ (I had it loaded and just about ready to go). So whatever changes have happened in the past few months that you are seeing, Labour-bashing is not new here.

A large part of that was the fact that an author and prolific commenter had a lot of leeway here last year to Labour-bash. He’s not here now as an author and hasn’t been here as a commenter for much of the past few months either.

I”ve just had a look through the posts tagged Labour, and apart from the Kaupapa Pākehā one and the Poto Williams one, there aren’t really any ones that are that critical of Labour. Back in early Dec there were some but they weren’t critical of Labour so much as responding to criticism.

I”m not saying your perceptions are wrong, but that unless you can be specific they’re not that helpful in understanding what you mean or looking at what needs to change. I really like it when people talk about what works here and what doesn’t, so have it. I’d just ask that you give examples so we can know what you are referring to.

Long time commenter Anne:

Anne11

I am so disappointed that this blog has turned this way over the last few months. What we need now, is strong support for a change in government at the next elections. And no, that doesn’t mean no criticism of Labour. But the reality is, like it or not, Labour doing well in the upcoming election is crucial for a change in government.

My sentiments too Violet. Thank-you for expressing them so well. I have yet to figure out what exactly has happened to TS over the past few months, but there is a sense of intolerance and a lack of respect towards points of view that don’t always fit nicely with what the majority are saying on this site. I say that with some reservation because it only applies to a relatively few number of commenters who happen to be more prolific contributors, and by no means are all of them are at fault. However if it continues, it will start to turn people off coming here.

[TheStandard: A moderator moved this comment to Open Mike as being off topic or irrelevant in the post it was made in. Be more careful in future.]

Weka herself posted several comments that were “off topic or irrelevant in the post it was made in”. This double standard is effectively a warning to be careful what ones says, and where they say it.

Moderating is a difficult and thankless task. Every site has a right to do things as they want to. There’s no doubt that Weka’s interventions are having a marked effect at The Standard, for better and worse.

I’ve always had differences with the Standard on their moderation, but the bans and the need to tip toe knowing a moderator is hovering changes the nature and the value of discussions. It looks like this will become more of a thing as election year progresses.

Colonial Viper has been a Labour candidate (Clutha-Southland, 2011) and has since clashed in the party (in particular with Claire Curran in Dunedin South). He added a lot to The Standard (not to everyone’s liking) so his absence makes a difference.

The biggest difference is that even Labour supporters and members are now not necessarily safe to comment as they please there. Or at all. Earlier this week:

trpthestandard

So TRP can author posts but not comment on them?

That continued with CV joining in, click on this to see the thread:

 

Blog moderation and hypocrisy

There’s been a bit of a spat on Twitter about lack of moderation at Kiwiblog, with a number of people joining criticism of David Farrar’s hands off approach to moderation.

It’s well known that Kiwiblog comments can at times get very abusive. I’ve commented there a lot in the past and often confronted the worse of the abuse, and have been abused and lied about there quite a lot, sometimes in reactions to confronting them. Several times I reported abuse to DPF, and on one occasion  I had him remove defamatory comments, which he did as soon as I contacted him.

I have also been subjected to a lot of abuse and mob attacks at The Standard, and have been banned from there several times for confronting some of that.

So I was a bit bemused when Stephanie Rodgers joined in put me up alongside Farrar in the Twitter spat.

SRTwitterModeration.jpg

There’s a bunch of irony and hypocrisy in that.

King Kong is a regular abusive figure on NZ blogs. Yet you never see them on mine, because – radical – I moderate them.

Yes she does ‘moderate’. But one person’s moderation can be another person’s message control or even censorship.

Bloggers like DPF and Pete George want to pretend it’s hard to moderate out abuse, and it simply isn’t.

Rodgers has made that up about me. It can be easy to moderate out abuse.

What is difficult is getting the balance right between enabling and allowing free speech and free discussion but minimising abuse and personal attacks.

It can be particularly difficult to keep their own views and disagreements separate from moderation.

Likening my moderation to DPF’s  shows quite a degree of ignorance.

DPF’s moderation is very hands off. He relies on people reporting abuse to him, and rarely engages in comments threads. With the number of comments at Kiwiblog it would be a huge job to vet each one.

I am actively involved in moderation here as much as time allows. I actively discourage abuse and act on it whenever I see fit. It isn’t required often, apart from the occasional burst from individuals, because the regulars here understand my aims and support and help achieving a reasonable balance between robust comment and debate but avoiding personal attacks.

It’s imperfect, and it is hard, nigh on impossible, to please all of the commenters all of the time. But it moderation is a continual effort for improving the commenting environment.

You just have to give a damn about not publishing pointles personal attacks – instead of actively encouraging them.

This looks like blind hypocrisy from Rodgers. As has been noted here in the weekend there was a typical mob attack on me at The Standard in the weekend, starting here.

That not only involved abuse, it was an obvious attempt to discredit, shut down, shout down and get me banned by someone some of the numpties there – a number of familiar names.

And Rodgers joined in. That’s a form of active encouragement.

For people like Rodgers moderation seems to be a tool to shut down comment they disagree with and shut out people they don’t like, but to allow attacks when it suits their prejudices and agendas.

it helps not to nurture a commenter base made entirely of deplorables.

But then who would comment on DPF’s obvious flamebait?

Rodgers seems to be blind to the culture of the commentariat she is a part of at The Standard, where flamebait and deplorable abuse are allowed by moderators like her.

Trotter tightens moderation

All blogs and social media forums have their own moderation policies. It is obviously up to each how they want to run things.

There have been a number of sites that have  put comments in the too hard basket and shut them down altogether, notably RNZ and The Spinoff and some have suggested that NZ Herald seems to effectively be doing similar.

This week Chris Trotter announced that he would continue allowing comments but under stricter moderation.

IMPORTANT MESSAGE TO READERS: Moderating Comments On “Bowalley Road”.

READERS’ COMMENTS to the postings on Bowalley Road constitute an integral part of the blog. That is why I do not intend to follow the example of Radio New Zealand and The Spinoff by switching-off the comments function.

I do, however, understand why those two sites chose to do so. The viciousness and crudity of anonymous commentators is extremely wearying to the spirit. Though the worst examples are swiftly deleted, they must first be read – and that is not a pleasant duty. Also vexatious are the tangential conversations and ideological disputations that ramble on between commentators. Though obviously engaging for their participants, they contribute very little to the overall enjoyment of the blog.

With these issues in mind, I have decided to tighten-up the moderation of comments to Bowalley Road.

The first and most important change relates to anonymous commentators. From now on all anonymous comments will be deleted without being read. My strong preference is for commentators to use their real names. I do, however, understand why some people feel very uneasy about doing so – especially on such an overtly political blog as Bowalley Road. Accordingly, I will continue to accept pseudonyms, but only with the proviso that commentators, having chosen a name, stick with it. The use of multiple pseudonyms, if detected, will result in the offender being permanently banned from commenting on Bowalley Road.

The use of multiple pseudonyms is a common problem where malicious people try to avoid moderation, some repeatedly.

But it can be difficult to differentiate between legitimate use of a pseudonym versus anonymity being used to avoid being linked to past abuses.

I tend towards giving people with pseudonyms the benefit of the doubt. The small number of serial abusers are usually easy to identify – the more they try the easier it is to pick up red flags.

The second change in moderation policy will be to shut down all tangential conversations and/or slanging matches between commentators. Those deemed to be straying from the issues raised in the posting will be warned once to stay on-topic. Persistent off-topic commentary will be deleted.

Chris can obviously do what he likes but I disagree with this approach, especially on ‘tangential conversations’. The more comments there are on a post the more they can naturally diversify. Often that diversification adds to the discussions in a very good way.

Trying to judge what is too tangential or off topic risks leading to selective pruning that can fit your own preferences, something I want to avoid.

There can be a fine line between banter, vigorously contesting opinions and slanging matches. Things can go to far but again I prefer to lean towards allowing freedom of expression. Otherwise there’s a risk of stifling discussion and picking sides (or a perception of picking sides).

With these changes, I hope to restore Bowalley Road’s commentary threads to their former high standard of tone and content. In essence, all I am asking from those who wish to participate in this blog is a modicum of self-discipline and a generous helping of courtesy.

Most of us would like that.

But ‘warts and all’ robust discussions are an important part of politics, as long as it doesn’t go to far, too personal and too abusive.

How to moderate is an ongoing challenge but I will continue to lean towards fair and balanced freedom of expression as much as I can.

This won’t be to everyone’s taste but there is a shrinking number of forums relatively free of restriction so I think it’s important to keep at least one going.

 

Slater protected from comments

It’s well know that there has been some fairly extensive moderation exercised at Whale Oil over the past two or three years.

While Cameron Slater is promoted as a someone prepared to speak out and tackle issues  vigorously, confrontationally, supposedly bravely, that sort of approach has not been allowed in comments.

How Whale Oil moderation works is further revealed in a conversation yesterday.

Macca:

Edit? What could I have possibly written in the above comment to require it to be signaled for approval?

Pete (Belt):

[MOD] You may have missed the “do not discuss moderation in public” rule. I guess you now know why. It drags everything sideways.

Spanishbride:

Our automatic system grabs comments with certain words so that a flesh and blood moderator can check it before it is released. Mine get held up all the time because I use my husband’s name. if I say his name the comment goes straight into moderation.

So all comments that mention Slater’s name automatically go straight to moderation awaiting approval.

Hookerphil:

And so it should, do you expect to publicly say or write something without your husbands approval. Are you not endeavouring to experience life as a Muslim female.

Interesting that that comment was allowed through.

It may have been an internal comment to try and make a point, Belt later appeared to try and explain “Humour is frequently lost in this medium, especially when it is accompanied by sarcasm or irony”.  Did he just approve the comment, or did he write it?

Slater responded to hookerphil:

I’m not a moderator…The monkey boy is in charge of that, ably assisted by the bogan pie eater.

Belt is Slater’s protecter. I was banned (about two years ago) when I posted an alternative argument to a Slater post, and it sounds like this was not uncommon.

Spanishbride:

You are joking right? His name is one of the many words on a long list because it may indicate that someone is abusing him rather than discussing the topic.

Slater, renowned for his abrasive name calling posts, sometimes described as abusive, is protected from anyone saying mean things about him.

An automated system is why our moderation is so good. The huge list of words means that anything potentially bad doesn’t get through until a moderator has checked it.

Many comments are filtered into moderation by ‘a huge list of words’. So commenters either have to take great care about what words are used or risk their comments being delayed or ‘disappeared’. That must affect the nature of discussions – which often sound sycophantic.

Most like mine are perfectly fine and are soon released. Remember we have been taken to court because of what our commenters have said on our blog.

Has Whale Oil been taken to court because of comments? I don’t recall seeing any examples of this. I’ve  seen Slater taken to court for some of his comments. And perhaps comments of people campaigning with him.

We have to err on the side of caution which includes what I say as a commenter.

Perhaps Whale Oil has to be more cautious due to past legal problems, but I don’t know why ‘a huge list of words’ has to be used to try filter out any problems.

That sounds like trying to monitor and control what is being discussed far more than protecting from legal threats.

Will Belt be contracting to run moderation at Freed? He has suggested offering hso moderation skills as a paid for service (unless that was humour, irony or sarcasm). Will any comments be allowed at Freed?

The Spinoff cuts off comments

Following the lead of Radio New Zealand who earlier this week announced they would no longer allow comments on their website, yesterday The Spinoff announced they are also disabling comments.

Editor and Publisher Duncan Grieve: The end of comments on The Spinoff

Today The Spinoff officially turns off comments. Here editor Duncan Greive explains his reasoning behind the decision.

As of today, as of exactly right now, The Spinoff is turning off Disqus, the comments engine we’ve used since we started in September of 2014. The motivations are simple and twofold. First, comments make us no money but have a cost. Second, they have been getting vile at times, a trend I see as likely to worsen as we evolve. I’ve been mulling it ever since I read this excellent summary of The Problem with Comments on, of all ye olde places, Popbitch. And I was spurred into action after reading Megan Whelan’s announcement that RNZ is doing it over on their platform earlier this week.

The financial side:

…we, more so than most commercial websites, lack a mechanism by which we gain from return visitors to a page. While comments may have started as a method of engaging with your audience and allowing feedback on a story, they evolved into mostly being another vehicle by which an advertising-funded site might gain a few more ad impressions. As we don’t get paid per page view – and have no plans to ever evolve into a site which does – return visits to a particular story are nice but essentially meaningless to us.

The cost comes in because comments need moderating. It needs to be part of someone’s job to read them. Which both takes time, and means some poor young Spinoff employee has to spend part of their day wading through a cesspit of weird raging avatars each day. I don’t really see the upside to that.

Using “some poor young Spinoff employee” to do the moderation suggests they put a low priority on comments and their management. It’s not surprising they ended up with a cesspit of weird raging avatars each day.

But the main reason is “We’re turning them off because they have been getting horrible at times”.

Seriously bleak and offensive. And I don’t see that changing.

Why am I so confident that the current plague of nasty, often misogynist comments is the beginning, not the end of a trend? Because we’re gaining a much bigger audience – in June we topped 400,000 unique users for the first time.

And because a big part of how we’re attracting that audience is by confronting some parts of New Zealand’s society and culture which have been toxic for too long. In the past month alone we’ve had commentary on racism, misogyny and homophobia – and that was just in a single piece on a vile RadioSport segment.

One, it should be noted, that has since been abandoned, thanks largely to the furore our reporting of the segment caused.

That’s a shame. Big issues need to be openly discussed. But decent needs to be properly managed, and it seems that mainstream media and journalists don’t have the skills or motivation to do that. So they give up.

This decision helps contain the risk of publishing bad words to just our staff and contributors, rather than a semi-anonymous section of people looking to fight the tide of progress to a more just and rational world.

Because that’s in part what The Spinoff has evolved to become. A place where ideas are tested, where some of the shittier assumptions our society has lived with for too long are confronted and dismantled.

So, as of right now, we’re following Bloomberg, CNN and others into the comment-free future. If that makes you mad and you want to respond, you know where to find us.

How are you supposed to confront and dismantle “some of the shittier assumptions our society has lived with for too long” without allowing them to be discussed?

It’s challenging enabling online debate on contentious issues, but I think it’s important that the effort is made.

It requires hard work and time.

But I think in the modern age of communication we have to find workable ways of being inclusive with our handling of issues.

People want to participate. In an open and democratic society they should be able to participate.

It’s the choice of major media to scrap their attempts to be inclusive. RNZ, The Spinoff and others do some good but we need more than elite media lecturing to us.

Fortunately there are plenty of alternatives that will continue to allow open discussion, and that are prepared to minimise the crap and grow the good things that debate can give us.

RNZ turning off comments

Radio New Zealand is ending an 18 month experiment and plans to turn commenting off later this week, saying it’s too hard to moderate adequately.

Why we’re turning off comments

From later this week, we’re removing comments from RNZ.co.nz

When RNZ switched on comments last year, it was an experiment to see whether we could create a space where thoughtful and insightful comments would thrive.

And while the comments have been, for the most part, exactly that, there haven’t been many people involved in that conversation.

More and more, the conversations around RNZ’s journalism are happening elsewhere. We want to focus on making those spaces reflect that journalism and our charter.

They explain:

Comments on news websites are a fraught topic. For a long time they seemed like the way forward, a way to bring the audience into the stories, and let’s face it, comments are still what media analysts like to call “content”. In the social media, mobile-driven world comments are the ultimate in “engagement”.

But for as long as there has been comments, “don’t read the comments” has been a common refrain. If you’ve spent any time in discussion forums, you’ll be familiar with the pedantry and bad behaviour often found there.

As far back as 2012, Gawker Media founder Nick Denton said the promise of thoughtful discussion hadn’t been fulfilled.

“I don’t like going into the comments … For every two comments that are interesting – even if they’re critical, you want to engage with them – there will be eight that are off-topic or just toxic.”

And so, news websites began turning off comments sections. Popular Science, CNN, Mic.com, Reuters, Bloomberg and The Daily Beast have all turned off comments in the past couple of years.

“It is no longer a core service of news sites to provide forums for these conversations,” wrote The Week’s editor-in-chief Ben Frumin. “Instead, we provide the ideas, the fodder, the jumping off point, and readers take it to Facebook or Twitter or Reddit or any number of other places to continue the conversation.”

Stuff made it clear that they still allow commenting…

Patrick Crewdson Retweeted RNZ News
RNZ commenters will be welcome on @NZStuff. (Have I mentioned this?
https://www.fairfaxmediacareers.com/jobdetails?jobmc=22137TW

…with a link to a job description:

We are seeking two highly-motivated Comment Moderators to join our dynamic and growing team at Stuff, based in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch.

This job would suit a journalist who cares about fostering lively (but civil) debate; who believes that audience views should be solicited and celebrated, not disparaged; and who wants to help shape the conversation on the country’s biggest news website.

You will need to have a strong understanding of media law and ethics and be comfortable making judgment calls about community standards. You will be able to work quickly in a high-pressure environment without compromising accuracy.

You’ll be adept at spotting potential news stories or Stuff Nation submissions in the comments section and will help bring them to life.

StopPress discusses news site commenting and moderation: RNZ scraps its online comment section

Whelan says that for RNZ to serve the public, it needs to know what its audience is interested in.

“Increasingly though, that’s happening in places away from our own website. In the days before social media, the idea was that comments were a place where our audiences could engage with our journalism, add their thoughts and expertise to stories, and in the best possible way, deepen the discourse,” she says.

Fairfax group digital and visual editor Mark Stevens says comment sections are important, and that some of Fairfax’s audience is reading/watching content on its social platforms, but some aren’t.

“But they all deserve to be able to engage with us on that content. Commenting is a very important part of the relationship between the newsroom and our audience,” he says.

However, he admits moderating comments on Fairfax’s websites and its social media channels is difficult.

“It’s hard. It’s time consuming and the comment queue can be a pretty toxic place. But that’s not a reason to give up on it or ditch it for the majority of commenters who actually have something constructive to add to our stories,” he says.

It’s difficult enough moderating a small website with a modest number of comments.

We have seen here the extremes some go to to try and disrupt and shut up sites that they don’t like. Marc Spring, with the help of Cameron Slater and Dermot Nottingham, misused the Court to gag Your NZ and put me in jail because they didn’t couldn’t handle a bit of criticism and didn’t like me stopping their ongoing harassment here, contrary to Court limits (to those who complain about me continuing to critique Whale Oil one reason why I don’t roll over and shut up is to keep standing up to the bullshit bullies).

Is comment moderation endangering freedom of speech?

“Possibly, but equally we have a responsibility to ensure we aren’t breaking the law or being unnecessarily offensive in what we publish on our site,” he says. “That doesn’t translate to moderating out opinions we don’t agree with, but it does mean we have no tolerance for hate speech, or swearing, or defamatory remarks etc.”

He says in addition to ensuring comments met Fairfax’s terms and conditions, he is also an advocate of keeping the comment section civil. “We don’t nail that every single time, but we do try hard to keep the nastiness out of there, even if the trolls are managing to stay on the right side of the law.”

We’ve had a few pathetic trolls here too – see The Willis syndrome.  Why some people seem determined to disrupt sites, hijack discussions and abuse people is hard to comprehend but a small but dirty dishonest minority do things anonymously online they wouldn’t dare doing under their own identity in person.

It’s a tricky problem, and its trickiness is in perfect correlation with the rapid growth of publishers’ online audiences. It seems only time will tell if comment sections will buckle under the pressure of offensive comments and trolls, but with initiatives like The Coral Project aiming to solve the technology behind the problem, hopefully things will only get better and people can continue to comment freely, sans those bad eggs. 

One of the advantages of a smaller site is it is easier to build a community that gets the aims, limitations and responsibilities of free speech and jointly keeps the crap to a minimum.

As in real life there will always be people intent on causing others harm and challenges when they are determined to shit in other people’s nests but they lose if we keep succeeding.

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.

Contrasting moderation styles

In contrast to the moderating shown in Kiwiblog troll is this from The Standard.

In the Colmar poll post:

Sable 5

Stupid people are allowed to vote too….

Further down the thread:

Alan W 13

hey Sable, how about a serious reply to Fisiani’s 10.30 am post – rather than your banal, ill-tempered comment at 7.41 am.
Calling 49% of the voting electorate stupid is not particularly constructive.

[lprent: Demanding behavioural changes on this site is the realm of the moderators. It is not the purview of pompous idiot trolls like yourself. You can yank on your dick/brain for pleasure elsewhere.

Sable’s comment was an exact paraphrase of the electoral act. So what was your point? That you really could do with a personality transplant?

This is your warning. Trying to usurp the role of a moderator and wasting my time again will result in long ban from this site. I was thinking of a couple of months… I figure that it’d take you that amount of time to read the policy. ]

That’s funny considering the number of times a number of participants demanded that I change my behaviour, and how often demands are made that others change their behaviour.

And anyway this was far from demanding, it sounds like a fairly reasonable query on a blog.

And lprent loads the irony on thick:
“pompous idiot”
“could do with a personality transplant”
“wasting my time again”
“So what was your point?”

Alan W13.1

Pardon???
Sable said, “stupid people are allowed to vote too”
How is that an exact paraphrase of the electorate act?????

UPDATE: since been added:

[lprent: You really are thick aren’t you? What is the basic principle of any law? Where does it say in the Electoral Act that to be able to vote you must not be stupid? There are limitations about age, coercion, residency, and prison residence. But there are none stopping the stupid from voting. Therefore they are entitled to.

That you are entitled to vote is probably a good place to start thinking from. ]
(A paraphrase is ‘a restatement of the meaning of a text or passage using other words’. Sable’s comment was nothing like a paraphrase or any part of the Electoral Act – PG)

That question crossed my mind too, but questioning authors at The Standard risks being banned.

The Act allows most kiwi citizens to vote, regardless of mental capacity. The same rule does not apply to commenting here at TS, as you may soon discover.

The brave TRP joins in under lprent’s umbrella of abuse. Also very ironic, given the mental capacity on display. And they are still blind to the self inflicted damage, even when it’s pointed out to them in black and white.

infused 13.1.1.1.2

yeah. the left wonder why they gain no traction. they’ve been saying this sort of shit now for years and still don’t see the problem.

te reo putake 13.1.1.1.3

Nope. I’m pointing out that your behaviour here can also be seen as stoopid.

One could consider how one’s own behaviour looks TRP.

And it goes on.

The lost+sheep 13.1.2

It may be a paraphrase, but that doesn’t alter the fact it displays a breathtakingly facile assumption of the intellectual superiority of The Left.

As such, and considering that Sable is willing to post it on a publicly accessible forum, it is the stupidest comment I’ve seen for some time.

But I stand shoulder to shoulder with the moderators in defending Sables right to make a complete arse of his/her self in that manner.

[lprent: You can make an arse of yourself as well and do so on a regular basis. I guess that is what happens when a herd animal like those damn wooly trolls leaves the flock.

Sable isn’t “The Left”, any more than you are the voice of the jerkoffs of the world. Sable speaks for themself, just as your sticky hands speak for you.

Just so long as they don’t cause me or the moderators any more work than is required, people can say what they like on OpenMike. Making work for me can consist of making comments that implicitly request me to look at peoples behaviour and finding that there isn’t anything to look at. You will find that listed under the self-martyrdom (or in your case the self-baatyrdom) offences. ]

That’s the standard of free speech on the Labour left.

Pissing in the begging bowl

Whale Oil Wednesday: We Need a Nudge, Can You Help?

Earlier this month I wrote that I hoped some people would be able to find a spare few dollars to donate to Whaleoil.  December and January have been lean, and the buffer we had built last year has been used up.  To the point where we’re kind of looking forward to seeing donations return to previous levels.

At the time, some people wrote “if you need a hand, just sing out”.  We’re a bit reluctant to (what feels to us like “constantly”) be begging for money, but the truth is that were tight last month, and things are now close to becoming a problem.

We know we’ll catch up soon, and we are working hard with things like the caps and shirts, but, well, to be blunt, there is a serious cashflow problem now.

So here I am, on behalf of the big fella himself – can you please consider chipping in a little?  Even a small amount helps because if everyone just did $1 he could retire…  no, forget I said that.

Whale Oil Thursday: Labour Turns to Crowd Funding

This rather unconventional approach is a New Zealand first.

They have no money.

“Crowd-funding as part of a campaign is a slightly novel approach for us but
one that seems to be working.”

They have no money.

Mr Twyford says Labour is looking to use the crowd-funded money to finance
one full page ad in a daily newspaper but will advertise as much as they
can with the money which comes in.

They have no money.

He says at this point, the campaign has generated a thousands of dollars,
mostly from smaller donations.

They have no money.

But Auckland University senior marketing lecturer Mike Lee says this
initiative seems a bit strange.

They have no money.

So not just politically and intellectually bankrupt, it appears Labour are financially bankrupt as well.

Yep.  They’ve screwed over all their effective donors one by one.

Whale Oil Sunday: Whaleoil T-Shirts sale closing soon

If you haven’t ordered yours yet, you might be running out of time.  So get on with it!

Apart from being a great addition to your wardrobe, it will be an awesome conversation starter.

Equally importantly, these are part of our fund raising drive – it’s a way for us to fund Whaleoil.

So stop sitting on the fence, and orders yours now.

Whale Oil Sunday: Moderator’s Notice

Moderators are noticing a sudden ‘relaxation’ by commenters.  After weeks of minimal moderation, we have major off-topic discussions, discussion hijacking, self promotion, promotion, deliberate profanity, comments that are just links to other sites, one liners that add absolutely nothing, one word(!) comments, 2 letter comments (groan), comments on just about every article and multiple comments per article by the same person, and so on.

We’re going to be handing out some commenting holidays to people who should know better because we’re getting tired of tidying up after some people.

In the past a number of people have complained about being banned from Whale Oil for trivial reasons, so they decided to stop donating to support Pete (Moderator) Belt’s wages.

As a private blog they can ask for donations as much as they like. And they can ban anyone they like. But they risk being seen to be pissing in their own begging bowl.