The Town Square: A followup on commenting on Blogit

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A followup on commenting on Blogit

First of all, thanks to everyone who's helped clarify why it's important for people to behave reasonably on Blogit. Education about this issue is critical, and it's important for people to hear it from others with different perspectives and experiences, not just us.

Since it seems to be confusing to some people, I'd like to reiterate that we want people to express their opinions, and, yes, disagreement. It would be pretty boring if Blogit was all the same. However, the goal should be to allow as much freedom of expression as possible, by as many people as possible, not only those who are the rudest and most vicious.

The concern is with actions such as people deliberately and repeatedly leaving comments on someone's blog to "flame" them (i.e. make insulting criticisms or remarks to incite anger). The purpose of such verbal abuse is to try to intimidate the writer into not expressing their opinions, and it can easily escalate into a "blog war".

Even in off-Blogit life, there are limits on freedom of speech. For example, if someone uses "fighting words", it can help influence whether their attacker is convicted.

Maybe an example will help. Say 'Joe' reads a blog written by 'Jill'. If Joe posts a comment to that blog saying "Jill, I completely disagree with what you said", that's very different from him saying "Jill, you're a stupid idiot".

Calling Jill names isn't going to make her want to discuss Joe's opinions, but it will make her think twice about writing again (the goal of the abuser) or call Joe names in return, and pretty soon, it's just going to be a name-calling competition. If that kind of censorship-by-intimidation or fighting is what you're looking for, Blogit isn't the place for you.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to ask people to alert us to offensive comments by clicking the "report" link next to the comment. Please note that we review every comment that is reported before taking action. Since we don't monitor Blogit, if you don't report it, we probably won't see it.

When reviewing a comment, we try to consider the context and the combination of comments, not just an individual comment. It's actually far more likely for a comment to be deleted by the blog owner -- which is their privilege -- than by us.

In response to some concerns/suggestions on the original blog entry:

metalrat, please do report similar comments so we can address them. It doesn't make any difference to us whether they're religious or non-religious -- as in off-Blogit life, it's about the behavior of that individual, not that of the entire group. You can confirm this for yourself from people who've been on Blogit a long time.

kooka_lives, as I described above, comments are always reviewed before being deleted (although this doesn't mean everyone's going to agree with every decision we make). And, we wouldn't currently consider a negative blog title related to a political party a violation, since you can choose not to watch that "channel". I think it's pretty obvious there's a big difference between that and deliberately going to someone's blog to flame them.

Regarding your request that we evaluate the reporter as well, we do consider that, and will continue doing so.

gapcohen and FineYoungSinger, I understand your concern about posting the link on the home page. We initially tried to deal with the issue privately (see the email in the original blog entry), which is how we've always done things before. Once a few days went by and it felt like misstatements were being made to the point that it could actually disrupt the site, it seemed useful to try full disclosure, which is something people have asked us to do before, and post the link for 24 hours so people were aware of it.

That isn't our preferred avenue, so we will continue to try to handle the issue privately whenever it's possible to do so, and otherwise make the information available in a designated spot instead. If you have any further input, please let us know. (And gapcohen, I'm sorry to hear that you experienced negative comments. If it happens again, please let us know about them so we can take action.)

Xeno-x, thanks for the input on considering issuing a warning first. We'll definitely do that whenever possible.

I think we'll have to disagree on the name-calling. There's a big difference between say, calling a public figure a name, and flaming another Blogit member on their blog as I described at the top of this blog entry.

I'm not sure why you feel you "cannot make comments on others posts" without name-calling. Ironically, why not express your opinion as you have done in these comments (i.e. without name-calling)?

Maryka77, as much as I wish I could agree with you, sadly, not everyone "means no harm". If we truly were to make Blogit a pure anarchy where the only "rule" was survival of the "fittest", soon, only the rudest and most vicious would remain, and only they would be left to speak. As in off-Blogit life, shouldn't we want everyone to be able to express themselves, not just a select few?

-Robert

[Edited to add info on lack of monitoring and on the consequences of verbal abuse]

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