Feb 6, 2005, 5:20 AM
I don't usually make these sorts of editorials in my forums, but a serious problem has come up [again] on another forum. As per usual, it's on the bead & jewelry forums on About.com. CENSORSHIP. The guides there, seem to favor a few special people and do not see the trouble those "special ones" stir up, but instead blame the new members, or the not-so-special people.
Editorial: Censorship in some on-line "public" forums.
Not only do the guides favor a select few, but they actually delete posts -- ALL POSTS -- from people who disagree with them. I don't know how that strikes you, but in 20+ years of managing on-line forums, I can probably count the messages I've actually deleted on one hand. Would you want your posts deleted, so someone else could "win" an argument or debate?
When you manage a forum, or public area, you have an obligation to remove totally offensive, or illegal posts, you can in some cases with clear conscience block a person from adding new posts, but to remove what they have posted (ALL they have posted on any subject), and allow the other replies to it to stand, is flat out wrong. Blocking a user from posting, notifies them they've gone too far There is no deception there.
In my mind, there is nothing more evil than what Paula and Tammy do in their respective forums on About.com -- censor ideas, make posts and people disappear, and basically decide what is and is not "OK" to say. They don't disagree with a post, they disagree with YOU as an entire person. They use their position to "win" an argument, or threaten someone into submission or silence.
In many cases, the people who were censored do not know they have been silenced, since they can still see/read their own posts -- but no one else can. So, deceptively, they allow the person waste their time, and effort, and *think* they are just being ignored, when in reality, they have been fully silenced.
This is evil. If you want to think about what is going on in Iraq, this is what we are fighting for. The right to speak, and be heard without being "killed off." If not that, then what are we doing there? Our FIRST Amendment right grants us this free speech, and protects the press as long as they adhere to it.
When one side of a story, an issue, or anything is actively silenced, the press -- and your rights -- are no longer free. They are at risk.
The administration at About.com does not seem to be interested in the problems, they are fostering this private little fiefdom among their guides. It's a bad business decision, and it may end them up in legal trouble, since they are starting to tread the waters of PRIVATE forums, not public, and thus, would be responsible for what is said across their system. They claim that 1 in 5 internet users use their system, so they have a responsibility to present BOTH sides, not just the side they want to. But more importantly, they should not be allowing the deletion of opposing views!
It's a really, really sticky issue, but your freedom of speech is protected as long as it is really FREE, and equal, not one sided or pushing a private, personal agenda. Equal time for the candidates, no matter who the editors have decided to support, for example.
In the case of About.com, a user (apparently the same non-Pittsburgh person) who broke up, and actively interfered with our relationship with a local beading group, said an acquaintance (customer) of mine was me (on both forums). It was a troll, a post that *should* have been deleted, but it wasn't. Those posts are still there. But, my acquaintances's responses were deleted, and so were ALL their messages -- ON BOTH FORUMS.
I've read the messages, and responses, and I don't understand why. I did see the response from one host who said "IT'S MY FORUM" in a way and context which tells me there are real problems -- since "moderation" or "guiding" does not mean taking sides. I have to decide if I'm going to take action, since what the guides did, and what About.com allowed them to do (they were notified of the situation) extends into libel, and tramples on the issues of protection of the press.
I'm most concerned about the one-sidedness of what the guides are doing. Their behavior is deplorable, and quite possibly illegal (which is what I will be exploring). If you have been deleted/silenced on that system, in any forum, I'd like to hear about it. I know a lot of people have been, I've seen the posts talking about it.
I get very upset, and take this issue very seriously, since it's the one major on-line right everyone has -- to speak their mind, and be heard.
Those who know me, know I don't use my position to "win" arguments. I don't silence voices, or block people from disagreeing. As long as the rules are followed, you have the right to disagree, and say your piece. I may not agree with you, I may privately tell you to shape up, or pick a more appropriate venue, but having to delete your posts is something that would be the last resort -- and it would only be the offending post, not your entire posting history! And, most importantly, it would bother me, and I would not feel I had "won" but rather had lost, since I had to take an action that I abhor.
Freedom of speech is something our forefathers & ancestors fought and died for, and for which our children are supposedly dying for today.
That said, I don't consider trolls, spam, or totally off-topic posts to be protected by the above. That is what playing by the rules means. If you are on-topic, legitimately posting, then I'll defend your right to say it, even if I disagree.
I invited the reposts to be made in the forums here, and in http://beadhell.com. I may not agree with them, their tone or timbre, or the replies that were made to them, but I do defend the rights of the poster(s) to say them. They were for the most part on-topic, and why most of the posts were deleted, I can't fathom.
Robert S. Pataki, MD President,
PUGDOG Enterprises, Inc.
[ posted here, not in Annoucements, so you can reply ]
PUGDOG's Rock & Bead Shop
Pittsburgh, PA 15217