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Author Topic: The case for and against Censorship on the forum  (Read 1979 times)
IainB
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« on: April 20, 2012, 09:12:44 PM »

I have started this thread in a constructive effort to try and pull together the discussion around aspects of censorship (of the Living Room discussions) covered in these two threads:
1. A change I've seen in the forum
2. Thoughts in remembrance of the 6 million (est.) murdered in the Holocaust

In the first, @wraith808 starts the ball rolling by giving focus with the opening post:
...and not necessarily a good one, in my experience/opinion, is the constant derailing (or dovetailing) on topics, especially in the living room area.  I've found myself doing the same.  It seems that no matter what's posted in the topic, the discussion degenerates into a general discussion of/commenting on anything that comes to mind.  It makes notifications of topics less than useful- I'm interested in the subject, not tangential conversations and posting of links to only peripherally related articles.  It makes this less a place that things can be discussed in a fruitful and rewarding way (IMO) and more of a schizophrenic melange of ideas on some bizarre stream of consciousness.  If some of these discussions took place in real life, I'd either be confused or walk away.  And it seems that more and more people that used to contribute are doing so... I'm not sure if that's the reason, or something else.
Anyone else notice this/have a problem with this?  And if so, is there anything we can do to make this less prevalent?
- and this is followed by some quite useful discussion.
 
In the second, aspects of censorship are discussed mixed-in completely off-topic with the original post, risking derailing/hijacking the original topic, but these comments give the idea some focus:
...borderline appropriate for DC...
I would be interested in any non-arbitrary definition you might consider for this.  It could form a basis for "Living-Room" censorship rules, where we could all know where we stand and thus what we need to conform to - i.e., the rules thus set. You would presumably (?) be the decision-taker on this.
Not censorship per-say, but focus.  If this isn't a place to discuss religion and politics, then that's just not the focus, and calling that censorship is IMO cheapening the effect of the word when used if not an outright misuse of the word.  There's a big difference between having a set of rules so that people that come to the site know what to expect and censoring posts.
- and this too is followed by some quite useful discussion.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2012, 09:20:40 PM by IainB » Logged
IainB
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« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2012, 09:19:48 PM »

Just to get my ten cent's worth in:
From my comment above - useful if we wanted censorship - let's get some definition:
Quote
I would be interested in any non-arbitrary definition you might consider for this.  It could form a basis for "Living-Room" censorship rules, where we could all know where we stand and thus what we need to conform to - i.e., the rules thus set. You would presumably (?) be the decision-taker on this.

- and if we didn't want censorship, then I thought these commenting guidelines (following) look like they could be of use and seem to be based on a pretty reasonable laissez-faire philosophy: (They are copied from PJ Media's comments section)
   
Quote
   PJ Media appreciates your comments that abide by the following guidelines:
   1. Avoid profanities or foul language unless it is contained in a necessary
       quote or is relevant to the comment.
   2. Stay on topic.
   3. Disagree, but avoid ad hominem attacks.
   4. Threats are treated seriously and reported to law enforcement.
   5. Spam and advertising are not permitted in the comments area.
   
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IainB
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« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2012, 10:31:55 PM »

A suggestion:
How about members only section, so that politics, history, religion threads don't show up in DC public feed?
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IainB
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« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2012, 10:33:41 PM »

And again: (my emphasis)
This is one of those cases where we might be able to use one more category, Other Discussions etc. There's value in getting this crew's opinions about any topic that isn't pure trolling, because y'all put more work into your posts than almost any other forum I've seen. Given our efforts to discuss the various censorship problems, it WOULD bother me (open mouth, insert foot moment coming up), "Oh, it's fine to refuse all censorship, until it hits YOUR pet topic, THEN it's "not appropriate".
That's precisely the profound fundamental problem with censorship - it starts with the edge cases of "not appropriate" and then according to people's agendas, slowly scope-creeps its way into people getting arrested for tweets.
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IainB
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« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2012, 10:35:21 PM »

This was the idea I had originally meant to insert here:
...I like to view things on an slider scale. Per Renegade, if he thinks he's become too loud on those issues, and wants to slow down a little, then great! Per Wraith Part1, presuming that enough of the social discussions are indeed in Living Room, then someone who just wants to talk about software ... shouldn't be looking at the Living Room. They should ... wait for it ... Focus on the other *twelve* sections! Or, if they *still* want to go to the Living Room but yet not see these hot topics, then there's that subdivision thing, they shouldn't go the Soapbox Nook. "Don't go to the Soapbox Room and then complain that people are talking politics!"

We trust Mouser overall, but that Focus theme is sadly the legendary wedge used by other forces with agendas to begin censorship plans. "Let's keep Focus, let's keep it Family Friendly, let's keep it Pleasant." The best answer in my view is to make the wide-topic area less visible if we like, such as not in the public feed, or even on the "recent posts" down at the bottom, but still freely available.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2012, 11:36:51 PM by IainB » Logged
TaoPhoenix
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« Reply #5 on: April 20, 2012, 11:00:15 PM »


Good opening effort Iain, and I've seen your posts, you're one of the people I thought of who puts work into them!  Thmbsup

One of my amusing mini hobbies is to make semi-scientific charts and diagrams of stuff. There's one going on here. Consider a Tree diagram - either vertically or horozontally is fine - that starts out with The Communication Medium Subset Content Guidelines. Here, the Communication Medium is all of DC, but this analysis applies to basically anything, from public parks to malls.

Branch #1: Governmental vs Corporate

This means that "Free Speech" works profoundly differently in Government controlled Public Areas vs Company controlled venues. Not counting sleaziness, playing it straight up, Free Speech is all that stuff you learned in 5th grade. Say what you want, don't call Fire in a movie theater, no slander/libel/harmful intent/etc. Otherwise - THEORETICALLY - you can say what you want.

All the rules change in Company controlled. (Even if Mouser doesn't have a Biz name, it's still his ballpark, basically still Company controlled, such as a sole proprietorship.)  Then it's all TOS/Code of Conduct/etc. Put fairly simply, there is more censorship on all Company controlled venues. How much then goes into the branches below.

Branch #2: "Acceptible vs Not Acceptible".
I basically disposed of this for the Government areas above. For Company controlled areas, it's all about the Company's vision of what they are offering. This ranges all the way from zero monitored areas that can indeed include a bad trolling culture, yet even that is at the edges of the entire concept of speech. There are some ways to handle that, but nothing's perfect.

There's various ranges of light-medium moderation, with 1000 different styles. You get a medium-good environment.

Then there are tightly controlled environments doing the whole "Family Friendly thing Safe For Kids". AOL used to be famous for that, Facebook might be today.





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TaoPhoenix
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« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2012, 11:12:06 PM »

The Tightly Controlled environments lead all to the discussions we just saw. The Power(s) That Be judge each post as Acceptible or Not Acceptible. You get a Disneyfied environment that's all warm and full of little marshmallow hearts, and who doesn't like marshmallow hearts? What's that? You don't? You Must Be A Terrorist! ... Sorry.

So then some percentage of people get tired of Pleasantville and want to actually wrestle with a topic. So they leave the Garden of Eden and hit any of the thousands of light to medium controlled venues. The owners of these places try a couple of different strategies to keep total ruin at bay. Slashdot uses Two Tiered Moderation, other places Vote Up and Down, while whole sets of other places just rely on judgement of the owner. That's what we have here.

The moderation strategy in its simplest is All or Nothing, sometimes with warnings. A better version is what we're leaning toward here, making the rest of the board fairly tightly modded but with the Living Room and even a Soap Box etc as pressure valves.

Then, just for completeness, are forums that have lost control and bad elements have crept in. They are important outliers of the Speech question, but only in a limited corner case sense.

So where I see this discussion is whether at a medium level Mouser starts to decide to delete any posts, and/or threaten with a warning, vs create a looser final enclave where they can go short of pure trolling.

Over to you all.


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mouser
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« Reply #7 on: April 20, 2012, 11:17:11 PM »

Some quick personal thoughts:

I try to think about forum policies in terms of balancing different goals that are occasionally in conflict, and in shades of gray.

The forum serves multiple functions.

It's a community where all of us regulars like to talk to one another about whatever is going on in our lives and about our ideas, etc. -- totally unrelated to software, technology, etc.

It's also a place where new visitors come for help and guidance on technical issues -- on software that we make but also on other technology problems.

This is obvious but it bears repeating: The forum is not the only place to talk on the internet.  In fact many of us regulars hang out in the irc chat room and talk till all hours of the night about whatever pops into our heads (politics, jokes, programming, employment, etc.).  And the internet is filled with wonderful political blogs and all sorts of different forums.

So I do think there is value in having a tangible kind of focus, flavor, spirit, mood, energy on this forum that is different from most others.  I don't want our forum to turn into something that looks like all the others.  And I'm very sensitive to the danger of our discussions becoming insular -- becoming just us regulars talking to ourselves and not being an inviting place for new visitors.

So for me, I don't see an issue of censorship as much as I see us trying to formulate a set of guidelines and principles that helps us keep this forum open, inviting, and, for lack of a better word, specialized.

I am warming though to the idea of setting up a special section (soap box) which is slightly off the beaten track here -- such that there should be no concern that discussions there would detract in any way from the main general public sections.

I think perhaps that is the crux of the dilemna here -- that with only one public "Living Room", there is some pressure to ensure that it reflect well on the site and be inviting and representative of the focus of the site.  But if we allow a "Soap Box" area where anything goes (politics, etc.) then perhaps that would not be an issue.

Having said that -- I think a great deal of the charm of this forum is that we share a common experience -- that we aren't broken up into little enclaves.  So I think it would be important that the soap box not become a kind of alternate forum inside a forum where there is no shared experience.
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TaoPhoenix
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« Reply #8 on: April 20, 2012, 11:33:45 PM »

Good start Mouser.

Though there still aren't that many divisions.

Iain, sorry for your thread - that was just one of many signature topics that start these kinds of topic shifts, and very often with a "this is not appropriate" remark from someone, both owner and member.

Mouser, you need to decide if the Living Room itself can handle the heat, and really, or then if for fear of getting warnings everyone leaves the Living room for the Soap Box, that's a signal. If you put a quick guideline to save the Soap Box for topics *especially* expected to be controversial, then that helps avoid cheapening the Soap Box itself! Then all the usual Kitiez and Music Videos and stuff is classic Living Room faire, but religious topics are famously Soap Box.

Be careful, the Soap Box WILL get a little light trolling, but then that's someone pushing the edges to be sure the middle is safe.

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mouser
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« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2012, 11:39:42 PM »

I think you said it pretty well Tao.
Let's give the Soap Box idea a try, and see what happens: http://www.donationcoder....rum/index.php?board=311.0
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TaoPhoenix
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« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2012, 11:50:58 PM »

I'm getting a Topic Locked error.
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IainB
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« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2012, 11:52:18 PM »

Just inserted another comment from @TaoPhoenix - out of the "Holocaust Remembrance Day" thread. See above - « Reply #4 on: Today at 22:35:21 »
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IainB
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« Reply #12 on: April 20, 2012, 11:54:20 PM »

Thought from the 2nd thread:
mouser has always said that he feels that dc is not the right place for political and religious subjects. He's often ignored, but that wish does keep most of those discussions in check, which is helpful imo. I dont consider that censorship.
I've never seen a post censored here in the sense of removed.
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TaoPhoenix
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« Reply #13 on: April 20, 2012, 11:58:28 PM »

Thought from the 2nd thread:
mouser has always said that he feels that dc is not the right place for political and religious subjects. He's often ignored, but that wish does keep most of those discussions in check, which is helpful imo. I dont consider that censorship.
I've never seen a post censored here in the sense of removed.

Combined with your other nice shout out of my post, this is mostly "superseded" with the advent of the Soap Box.
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IainB
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« Reply #14 on: April 21, 2012, 12:45:08 AM »

Good opening effort Iain...
...
...make semi-scientific charts and diagrams of stuff. There's one going on here. Consider a Tree diagram - either vertically or horozontally is fine - that starts out with The Communication Medium Subset Content Guidelines. Here, the Communication Medium is all of DC, but this analysis applies to basically anything, from public parks to malls.

Branch #1: Governmental vs Corporate
This means that "Free Speech" works profoundly differently in Government controlled Public Areas vs Company controlled venues.
...
All the rules change in Company controlled. (Even if Mouser doesn't have a Biz name, it's still his ballpark, basically still Company controlled, such as a sole proprietorship.)
...
Branch #2: "Acceptible vs Not Acceptible".
I basically disposed of this for the Government areas above. For Company controlled areas, it's all about the Company's vision of what they are offering. This ranges all the way from zero monitored areas that can indeed include a bad trolling culture, yet even that is at the edges of the entire concept of speech. There are some ways to handle that, but nothing's perfect.
...
First off, thanks for the appreciative comments. In my better moments, I generally tend to invest my cognitive surplus and do my best in anything that I:
(a) consider worth doing;
(b) consider could be of help/use to me or someone else.
...
Your branching tree scheme makes sense to me, and I think you are spot-on with your comments on "Company controlled". You there reflected my own thoughts about censorship by Google (which is discussed in another DCF thread).
That's one reason why I am ambivalent regarding business-necessary censorship in any commercial forum, including (say) the DC forum. One thing that I generally do have an issue with though is the potential for censorship through or combined with the use of stigmatisation.
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IainB
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« Reply #15 on: April 21, 2012, 12:49:26 AM »

...this is mostly "superseded" with the advent of the Soap Box.
Yes, sorry for the duplication. I was intent on capturing all the basic/original thinking/ideas from the other thread into this one.
I'm not sure but I think I have most of it now.
Someone please sing out if I have omitted something that should be in here.
EDIT: Oh. Oops. I see what you mean. I hadn't seen @mouser's post and thus did not understand why you said "...with the advent of the Soap Box".
I think we may have all been updating at roughly the same time, and that's possibly why you said:
I'm getting a Topic Locked error.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2012, 12:55:32 AM by IainB » Logged
TaoPhoenix
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« Reply #16 on: April 21, 2012, 01:17:38 AM »

Naw, I think the original post from Mouser was locked, not to get flooded. I added a couple of new test topics.
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