17 December, 2006

Commenting in the Blogosphere

Posted in Free Speech, Online Discussion at 3:36 pm by Daran

NYMOM (replying to toysoldier):

Then so be it. It’s almost deception in advertising of some sort to allow people to get away with this…as you do since we’ve discussed this before.

By “get away with this” you seem to mean ‘get away with “only feature[ing] opinions of people that agree with them [on their blogs]”‘.

Where was it advertised, on toysoldier’s blog, or for blogs generally that they would “feature” anything at all, other than what the blog owner wants them to “feature”?

The only comments that should be allowed to be erased should be abusive ones and even that should have to go through the entity host.

That is anti-free speech. If a person buys a billboard, or even if they rent one, then it’s for them to decide what it displays. If they had to “go through the entity host” to delete objectionable comments, then the host would have to employ people to do this, increasing the cost hugely, and not really solving the problem because it would still be just another asshole deciding whether to delete the post, just not the blog owner.

Because what’s happens in these situations is that being allowed to discreetly erase comments challenging your position lets stand a perception that no one disagreed with your opinion. Thus it gives more validity to a post that many might have disagreed with or even one had very good arguments with, but you chose to secretly erase those comments so nobody would realize the opposing arguments even existed.

Yep. They can do that. And?

Thus, it’s manipulation of a public media in my opinion…making it appear that you have more support then you actually do…

It’s public in that it is displayed to the public, but it is privately owned.

It should not be allowed.

Says you. The trouble is, if you ban it, or regulate it in the way you suggest, then you are abolishing free speech. If you wan’t to see unmoderated discussion in action, check out usenet. It’s a discursive wasteland. But if that’s what you want, try it. Else if you want a forum with rules, there are plenty to choose from, so you should be able to find one with rules you like. If the site owner doesn’t enforce or abide by their own rules, feel free to ask for your money back. As a last resort you can set up a blog of your own and run it according to your own rules.

There is a real “abuse of free speech” issue, when someone can use a big blogging megaphone to lie aboutmisrepresent what another person is saying to a big audience and the victim who can’t project their voice can only squeek, squeek in reply. But this is different from the free access to another person’s platform that you are demanding. In any case, I’m not suggesting blogs should be regulated just because someone is lying about me. I won’t sacrifice the wider benefit of free speech just to serve my own narrow interest, however justified.

(Edited to strike “lie about”. Follow the link to the second update of that post for an explanation.)

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15 Comments »

  1. belledame222 said,

    …can you be a little more specific?

  2. Daran said,

    Welcome to my blog.

    I will be more specific. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.I have now. See also This post

  3. toysoldier said,

    NYMOM is referring to the comments she made on three threads on my blog. I felt her last few comments were attacks on male victims, so I did not approve them. My policy is to generally allow such comments to stand rather than heavily moderate views I disagree with, which is why I only disapproved those two posts.

    To a certain extent, I do understand where NYMOM is coming from. Having been on various boards and blogs over the past years, one thing that has become increasingly common are one-sided “moderation,” “friendlies only” policies. One cannot have a meaningful debate if one is prevented from even disagreeing with the presented position.

    I do not want to be “that guy who only wants to hear his own position repeated over and over” either.

    (Edited to fix markup. From the looks of it, one of your links went completely AWOL. You’ll have to repost if you want us to see it. — Daran)

  4. Tom Nolan said,

    Hey, Belledame’s here. The success of the party is assured!

  5. NYMOM said,

    That’s not what I’m talking about.

    It’s not a question of lying about someone. It’s a little more subtle then that.

    It’s discreetly erasing comments of people who disagree with you. Even if they haven’t cursed at you or been abusive in anyway…

    I find it gives a false impression to people about your blog. If you erase all negative comments about your post or even erase the ones that negate your main points, it makes it seem that no one has disagreed with you…It gives you more creditibility on issues that maybe you really don’t deserve.

    BTW, I’m not saying you ever did this. The issue just came up on your blog for other reasons. I have no idea if you’ve ever done this as I’ve only been here two days.

    (I haven’t. I have, however, edited this comment. See below for an explanation of how and why. — Daran)

    If bloggers wish to maintain credibility or should I say obtain credibility they need to stop doing that. AND start bringing up the ones who do it for public criticism.

    First of all it’s not a question of a private space. You are using the internet which is a public space, so even if you pay money to rent your space it’s still a public forum. Then you are using that public forum to put out a certain point of view to the reading public, similar to what other media does…The difference is that people can publicly criticize an article/opinion in other media, so the public understands that there is another opinion/viewpoint out there. However when you secretly erase comments from your forum for no other reason then they make you look bad or disagree with you, then you are (don’t know if I’m saying this right) but you are masking or shading the truth.

    But to return to the issue. It’s not even a private property issue as you tried to frame it. Since I understand the private property issue pertaining to blogs. They are a vehicle for the owners ideas and people who continuously argue or go against those ideas can be banned…this is something a little different then what I’m talking about however, as when you ban someone it’s usually a public thing. You state your reasons and generally highlight the post that finally led to you banning them…people can agree or disagree but at least you made a decision openly…

    But this discreet erasure thing is a totally different issue…it’s just the opposite of free speech actually, just the opposite.

    I think whoever hosts sites should stop allowing people to freely erase comments UNLESS they are judged to be abusive. IF you wish to ban someone who continuously argues, disagrees, etc., or just doesn’t fit into the ‘tone’ of the space you are trying to create (and even this is debatable in my opinion if it should be allowed, but I’ll go along with it for now) then that’s a different issue. Like I said banning is generally done publicly as it should be…but this discreet erasure is something else.

    It needs to be looked at…

  6. NYMOM said,

    “…That’s not what I’m talking about…”

    This line should have been put at the top and winded up on the bottom… (Moved — Daran)

    Sorry.

  7. NYMOM said,

    “There is a real “abuse of free speech” issue, when someone can use a big blogging megaphone to lie about what another person is saying to a big audience and the victim who can’t project their voice can only squeek, squeek in reply. But this is different from the free access to another person’s platform that you are demanding.”

    I’m not saying that you have to be allowed additional access to their blog…

    I’m saying that once they have allowed you to comment, they should NOT be allowed to just erase the comment w/o justification…then if the host entity okays it on their list of reasons why an erase is permitted, then it can be erased …

    The free speech issue is just the opposite of what you are saying…as you are allowing people to subvert free speech through the use of the blogging system as it now stands.

    “In any case, I’m not suggesting blogs should be regulated just because someone is lying about me. I won’t sacrifice the wider benefit of free speech just to serve my own narrow interest, however justified.”

    It’s not a narrow interest to stop people from continuing to do this. It’s just the opposite. We are allowing people’s narrow self-interest and their attempts to ‘look good’ to mess with the whole blogging system and mess with free speech at the same time…

  8. Daran said,

    Moderator hat on

    Please note the above comment by toysoldier, which went into moderation, and which you may not have seen if you only looked at the end of the thread.

    NYMOM, I have edited your comment above to (a) move the misplaced line to the top, where you said it should be, (b) move the paragraph beginning with “BTW, I’m not saying you ever did this….” to a higher position within your post, and (c) reply briefly to it within the body of your post.

    I took this action because although I know you weren’t talking about me or about this blog, someone who hadn’t been following this discussion from where it began in the other thread would have been lead to believe that you were. I did not feel that the paragraph in the position you wrote it was sufficient to counteract this impression.

    I have not deleted any comments on this blog, although I reserve the right to do so. So far, this has been the most radical action I have taken on any comment, which is why I have posted a full description of what I have done and why. In other cases I have edited other people’s comments to fix markup (and – silently – spelling, but only if I was editing it for another reason). Other than spelling, I record the action briefly in the post affected. If necessary (as in this case) I will post a fuller explanation separately.

    For the record: I edit my own posts and comments for wording, clarity, spelling, grammar, markup and typos (Edit: and punctuation, and also style). I will sometimes update them, or retract something usually by way of a strikethough. I will always record that I have done so in the case of any substantive edit.

    Hat off.

  9. NYMOM said,

    “NYMOM is referring to the comments she made on three threads on my blog. I felt her last few comments were attacks on male victims, so I did not approve them.”

    I don’t want to bring a fight here that started at another blog but this is an example of what I’m talking about.

    The very first comment he erased had nothing to do with male victims whatsoever. But was a response to someone else who asked me why I ‘liked’ women being a victim so much. He clearly wanted to end the discussion on a note that implied I had no response to that question.

    This is not a big issue for me as I don’t want to turn this into an attack or support for one individual.

    As far as I’m concerned Toysoldier is a young person who has many years to grow and learn to temper his reactions. Additionally from his history he has more reason then many to have an axe to grind. But many other bloggers, much older then him, no issues of same magnitude, do the same thing on blogs.

    In my opinion, they are doing the same thing for far more mundane reasons and they shouldn’t be allowed to continue. It’s almost like we are allowing what are supposedly public forums, similar to newspapers, to be used as private vehicles to promote individuals, make them look ‘better’ more scholarly, etc., then they might actually be. Maybe newspapers have always been about that, I don’t know. Somehow I don’t think so, but if blogs are to gain and/or maintain any credibility it has to be found a way to stop this from happening.

    Anyway, I want this to be about the principle involved here not one person’s behavior. Hopefully the post won’t degenerate into that.

  10. Daran said,

    toysoldier:

    “NYMOM is referring to the comments she made on three threads on my blog. I felt her last few comments were attacks on male victims, so I did not approve them.”

    Obviously I cannot discuss the content of comments I have not seen.

    In the first two of the three links you provide, I can see nothing objectionable in NYMOM’s visible comments.

    In the third (actually the earliest chronologically) her initial post was rude to the point of being offensive. Despite the very restrained response from you, her followup was similarly offensive, and things seemed to deteriorate from there.

    A Google search shows no other posts on your site which have comments by her, so it looks as though this was your first encounter with her (unless you had encountered her elsewhere). First impressions count. If her first post here had been as rude as that, my opinion of her would doubtless be lower than it is.

    Nevertheless, it might perhaps be better to blank out, or even just strike objectionable comments, rather than delete them silently.

  11. Daran said,

    NYMOM:

    I don’t want to bring a fight here that started at another blog but this is an example of what I’m talking about.

    Hat on.

    You are welcome, if you wish, to use this thread as a relatively neutral[*] space to discuss moderation issues with toysoldier. If you would like a similar space to (re)post the deleted comments or otherwise reply to the substantive points in the threads on his site, then ask, and I will create a thread here for this purpose. You may not do so in this thread. Also you must understand that I would moderate such a thread according to my standards, which could conceivably involve me striking, blanking, or deleting your comments (or, for that matter, his). (Edited to add: It is very unlikely that I would do this, and it I did, I would give a reason. I will not delete you silently.)

    [*]Disclosure: I regard TS as a friend. I regard you as a respected and welcome contributor, and maybe a future friend. (I would like that.) Nevertheless, I will do my best to moderate fairly between you.

    hat off

  12. Daran said,

    NYMOM:

    In my opinion, they are doing the same thing for far more mundane reasons and they shouldn’t be allowed to continue. It’s almost like we are allowing what are supposedly public forums, similar to newspapers, to be used as private vehicles to promote individuals, make them look ‘better’ more scholarly, etc., then they might actually be. Maybe newspapers have always been about that, I don’t know. Somehow I don’t think so, but if blogs are to gain and/or maintain any credibility it has to be found a way to stop this from happening.

    The thing about free speech is not that it is such a great thing, but that it is better than the alternative. If the kinds of control you have suggested were to be implemented by law (as they would have to be, bloggers would not accept such restrictions voluntarily) you would not solve the problem you have identified. Rather you would concentrate the power to control speech into the hands of a small number of people. But what happens when they abuse that power? As things stand, if you are not happy with TS’s moderation, you can go somewhere else, including your own blog. But if you are not happy with WordPress’s (hypothetical) censorship, then where do you go? Blogger, maybe, but it’s more likely that Blogger’s interests will coincide with WordPress’s so you would have the same problem there. In any case, you will have much less choice over who to have controlling your speech, and no choice at all to be that person.

    I think part of the problem here is that it is you who have this mistaken idea that blogs are public forums, in the sense of owned by or serving the public. They are not. They are open to public view (if the owner chooses), but they are owned by, and serve the owner. In this respect they are like people’s gardens. It is none of your business if you do not like the condition of my borders, or the colour and variety of my crocuses.

    You are also mistaken if you think that newspapers are any different. They are usually bigger, and some of them trade on their reputation. (This is also true for some blogs.) But at bottom, they have owners, and they serve those owners. If a paper decides to trash you, then you will need a lot of money to buy a lawyer, or even more to buy a media bullhorn to compete with theres, if you want to contest or compete.

  13. toysoldier said,

    Nevertheless, it might perhaps be better to blank out, or even just strike objectionable comments, rather than delete them silently.

    I agree. In the future I will do that instead of deleting the comments.

  14. NYMOM said,

    “In the third (actually the earliest chronologically) her initial post was rude to the point of being offensive. Despite the very restrained response from you, her followup was similarly offensive, and things seemed to deteriorate from there.

    A Google search shows no other posts on your site which have comments by her, so it looks as though this was your first encounter with her (unless you had encountered her elsewhere). First impressions count. If her first post here had been as rude as that, my opinion of her would doubtless be lower than it is.”

    Yes we had encountered each other in other places and he had argued with me about other issues.

    But rather then rehash that, I will just say I agree with your assessment and think that if Toysolder felt my very first comment was offensive he should have censored me at the first post…however, once you allow a discussion to begin on your blog, you should not be allowed to alter the transcript if it doesn’t go your way.

    I felt the transcript was altered here to allow this comment to remain unanswed:

    “Why do you find so much comfort in the idea that women suffer more in this world than men?”

    That’s what I am referring to when people on blogs do this…

    Not a lie really, but a modification of the final transcript.

    I mean other media isn’t allowed to do that why should blogs be permitted to…

    I think though that your suggestion of the xxx would solve that…but a lot of the blogs don’t allow you to do that…the Google free blogs have many more limitations in what you can do then the WordPress ones. But it’s a good idea in that it shows a ‘transcript modification’ was done…

  15. NYMOM said,

    “I think part of the problem here is that it is you who have this mistaken idea that blogs are public forums, in the sense of owned by or serving the public. They are not.”

    I’m not sure if this is true. Or if it is true, if it will remain true much longer.

    I think maybe bloggers want it both ways. They want to function like other media available to the pubic, but then claim private ownership rights/protections…which other media does not have. When you post something on the internet it automatically becomes public. You can’t retract it the next day or change it (or shouldn’t be able to) just because you feel it might reflect badly on you now or the converse you’d like it to reflect badly on someone else you disagree with.


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