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This site is named for the famous statement of US Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver from Missouri : "I`m from Missouri -- you'll have to show me." This site is dedicated to skepticism of official dogma in all subjects. Just-so stories are not accepted here. This is a site where controversial subjects such as evolution theory and the Holocaust may be freely debated.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

My biggest motivation for creating my own blogs was to avoid the arbitrary censorship practiced by other blogs and various other Internet forums. Censorship will be avoided in my blogs -- there will be no deletion of comments, no closing of comment threads, no holding up of comments for moderation, and no commenter registration hassles. Comments containing nothing but insults and/or ad hominem attacks are discouraged. My non-response to a particular comment should not be interpreted as agreement, approval, or inability to answer.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

NY Times on standardized blog comment policies

A recent (04-09-07) front-page New York Times article reported (this is a two-page article -- do not miss the second page):

Last week, Tim O’Reilly, a conference promoter and book publisher who is credited with coining the term Web 2.0, began working with Jimmy Wales, creator of the communal online encyclopedia Wikipedia, to create a set of guidelines to shape online discussion and debate . . . .

Chief among the recommendations is that bloggers consider banning anonymous comments left by visitors to their pages and be able to delete threatening or libelous comments without facing cries of censorship.

"Able to delete threatening or libelous comments without facing cries of censorship"? Holy crap, I'd be happy if bloggers just stopped censoring comments merely because of disagreement with the comments' opinions or arguments!

The New York Times article continues,
.
A recent outbreak of antagonism among several prominent bloggers “gives us an opportunity to change the level of expectations that people have about what’s acceptable online,” said Mr. O’Reilly, who posted the preliminary recommendations last week on his company blog (radar.oreilly.com). Mr. Wales then put the proposed guidelines on his company’s site (blogging.wikia.com), and is now soliciting comments in the hope of creating consensus around what constitutes civil behavior online.

Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Wales talk about creating several sets of guidelines for conduct and seals of approval represented by logos. For example, anonymous writing might be acceptable in one set; in another, it would be discouraged. Under a third set of guidelines, bloggers would pledge to get a second source for any gossip or breaking news they write about.

Bloggers could then pick a set of principles and post the corresponding badge on their page, to indicate to readers what kind of behavior and dialogue they will engage in and tolerate. The whole system would be voluntary, relying on the community to police itself.

Will there be a "seal of (dis)approval" logo for a policy of censoring comments merely because the blogger disagrees with them? That is now the policy of many of the blogs that I have encountered -- e.g., Panda's Thumb, Dispatches from the Culture Wars, Pharyngula, and Uncommon Descent. It is also a policy that is approved by Thomson-Scientific, whose policy is to list arbitrarily censoring blogs in the ISI Web of Knowledge scientific database. Ed Brayton of the popular Dispatches from the Culture Wars blog kicked me off his blog permanently because my literal interpretation of a federal court rule did not agree with his preconceived notions of the purpose of the rule -- he did not even give me a chance to answer his reply to my comment.

The NY Times article says,

Mr. Wales and Mr. O’Reilly were inspired to act after a firestorm erupted late last month in the insular community of dedicated technology bloggers. In an online shouting match that was widely reported, Kathy Sierra, a high-tech book author from Boulder County, Colo., and a friend of Mr. O’Reilly, reported getting death threats that stemmed in part from a dispute over whether it was acceptable to delete the impolitic comments left by visitors to someone’s personal Web site.

One of the causes of this "firestorm" is an Internet culture that approves of blog comment censorship for the most trivial of reasons, including a blogger's disagreement with the opinions or arguments presented in a comment. The accepted rule of netiquette should be that if you can't tolerate comments that disagree with you, then either you shouldn't blog or your blogs should not accept any comments at all. "If you can't stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen" (Harry Truman) And it should be understood that blogs whose bloggers insist on exercising their right to arbitrarily censor comments will not be referenced for any official authoritative purpose, particularly not by a government entity or by an entity that receives direct or indirect government support.

Blogs that are authoritatively referenced -- e.g., by court opinions and scholarly journals -- should be expected to meet exceptionally high standards of comment tolerance. Authoritative referencing of arbitrarily censoring blogs is not generally considered to be a form of "cyberbullying," but it sure as hell should be. It is a particularly virulent and vile form of cyberbullying because it has the wholehearted approval of the courts, government agencies, scholarly journals, etc..

Other articles about cyberbullying are at --

Business Week

Yahoo! News

Yahoo! News

For more articles on Internet censorship, just click on "Internet censorship (1 of 2)" and "Internet censorship (2 of 2)" in the post label list in the left sidebar (the list is not visible on the webpages of individual blog articles).

Arbitrary censorship and other forms of cyberbullying defeat the Internet's very purpose, whick is supposed to be a speedup in the exchange of information and ideas.

Larry Fafarman

Founder, Association of Non-Censoring Bloggers
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4 Comments:

Anonymous "Fake" Dave said...

An attempted policy regarding "anonymous" postings will run aground on noms de plume or pseudonyms, which will likely remain in principle undetectable (unless obvious).

Speaking of which, what is your recommended procedure for dealing with some bloggers' attempts to "anonymize" (to coin a word) certain responders?

Sunday, April 22, 2007 11:03:00 AM  
Anonymous "Fake" Dave said...

I agree with the emphasis on the second page of the Times article. These remarks are particularly helpful:

“Any community that does not make it clear what they are doing, why they are doing it, and who is welcome to join the conversation is at risk of finding it difficult to help guide the conversation later,” said Lisa Stone ...

Mr. O’Reilly said the guidelines were not about censorship. “That is one of the mistakes a lot of people make — believing that uncensored speech is the most free, when in fact, managed civil dialogue is actually the freer speech,” he said. “Free speech is enhanced by civility.”


Perhaps you could address the issue of how a blog should deal with posters who have a consistent, stubborn, and loud position that is at odds with the community. That would seem to come under the rubric of "civility".

Sunday, April 22, 2007 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Fake Dave,

>>>>>> Speaking of which, what is your recommended procedure for dealing with some bloggers' attempts to "anonymize" (to coin a word) certain responders? <<<<<<

It is appropriate to anonymize known impostors. BTW, you have not coined a word; anonymous proxies -- e.g., www.hidemyass.com -- are often called "anonymizers."

>>>>>> I agree with the emphasis on the second page of the Times article. These remarks are particularly helpful:

“Any community that does not make it clear what they are doing, why they are doing it, and who is welcome to join the conversation is at risk of finding it difficult to help guide the conversation later,” said Lisa Stone ... <<<<<<<

Exactly! So why are so many Internet users hiding their heads in the sand in regard to the problem of arbitrary blog comment censorship, i.e., censorship of comments merely because the bloggers disagree with them? And what about the even greater problem of authoritative referencing -- e.g., by court opinions and scholarly journals -- of such arbitrarily censoring blogs? What reason will there be to ever trust bloggers and blog commenters who have shown no interest in improving the integrity and reputation of blogging? If bloggers don't take action to clean up their own house now, who knows, the courts may someday rule that no blog may be cited in any court opinion because blogs may be unreliable because of the possibility of such censorship. Do you think that the courts won't do it? The 9th Circuit federal court of appeals once had a rule that no district court opinion -- published or not -- could be cited in any court of the 9th circuit, which would have meant that Judge Jones' lousy Kitzmiller decision would not have been worth the paper that it is printed on (it isn't anyway) in the 9th circuit courts. Also, individual judges might refuse to cite blogs because of this reason. Scholarly journals might prohibit citation of blogs in their articles. Etc., etc., etc.. And the usurpers who tyrannize Wikipedia have pushed their luck and as a result Wikipedia has now lost a lot of credibility -- e.g., the history department at Middlebury College has ruled that students may not cite Wikipedia as an authoritative reference in their papers.

BTW, folks, please send in those emails protesting authoritative referencing of arbitrarily censoring blogs -- and I would greatly appreciate it if you would send me a copy at LarryFarma@aol.com This is your first real chance to tell bloggers who arbitrarily censor your comments to go to hell! (that's what Handgun Control Inc. mailings used to say about the NRA)

>>>>>>>Mr. O’Reilly said the guidelines were not about censorship. “That is one of the mistakes a lot of people make — believing that uncensored speech is the most free, when in fact, managed civil dialogue is actually the freer speech,” he said. “Free speech is enhanced by civility.”

Perhaps you could address the issue of how a blog should deal with posters who have a consistent, stubborn, and loud position that is at odds with the community. That would seem to come under the rubric of "civility". <<<<<<<

Well, I think that sometimes mere "zealous advocacy" can be interpreted as incivility. As the Earl of Kent said in the play King Lear, "anger has a privilege." However, what we have here in the NY Times article is not just a matter of "civility" but is something far more serious -- death threats, including graphic threatening images. These threats, which deter people from posting blog articles and comments, have the same effect as arbitrary blog comment censorship.

I usually have no problem remaining civil when commenting on other blogs. However, what really pisses me off is when, for example, I am commenting on Panda's Thumb and other commenters start taunting me, knowing that they can get away with it because the bloggers are on their side and that I risk being censored if I retaliate. The bloggers encourage these taunts by having a double standard of civility -- one standard for their supporters and another standard for their opposition. This is another form of cyberbullying.

Sunday, April 22, 2007 2:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Bill Carter said...

Larry(?),

> If bloggers don't take action to clean up their own house now... <

Does this mean you will be starting a new policy?

Thursday, April 26, 2007 6:59:00 AM  

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