New policy on trolling in this blog
Posted by Abravanel, the Blog στο 21/07/2008
My latest post here was a proposition: naming a station of the new subway of Thessaloniki as «Old Jewish Cemetery» or «Εβραικά Μνήματα». Both Athinaios in Αθηναίου Βορβορυγμοί and Panos in Η Καλύβα Ψηλά στο Βουνό also wrote about it and there was an interesting discussion in the latter. An interesting discussion began here too but soon it degenerated. Why? Because many small-minded bigots and jew-haters plummeted here and began trolling on – what a surprise! – the Israel-Palestine-Arab countries conflict. The academic level of their arguments was centered around jews/israelis (terms used inter-exchangeably) being behind the terrorist attacks of 9/11 etc etc. On the other hand at Καλύβα none of this happened and the discussion was a fruitful one; all of this made me wandering what went wrong here and what is the position I should keep, especially given the recent talk in the greek blogsphere on self regulation.
First things first. A blog is not a forum; it is not an independent, neutral platform on which people meet and talk. Above all it is a private soap box, a stand, where the blog author/s say their story. Commenting allows interacting and often leads to discussions which are more meaningful than the post itself. But a mistake people make is that they think they have a moral or legal right to say whatever they want and get away with it. First the legal right is limited: by posting or commenting in an Automattic blog (the company behind WordPress.com) we all agree to the Terms of Service (TOS). Among them is the prohibition of posting or commenting that can be found inciting religious and ethnic hatred, plus avoid libel. This latter one is especially important for me, since all the recent legal prosecutions of greek bloggers were based on this accusation.
The moral right is bit trickier. As I said a blog is private area echoing the personal opinions of it’s authors – only the abstract concept of a «blogsphere» can be described as a public space. If you don’t agree with them and they don’t let you post you can simply open yourself a new blog and tell the world – that’s what I did. Comment moderating is not censorship and neither loss of information since if you think Jews are behind 9/11 you can simply post about it in a brand new blog which has exactly the same possibilities of attracting readers like mine. On the other hand some claim that since one author keeps the comments open, he implicitly accepts discussion whatever the outcome. This claim does have a point, though I must remind that in real life one is not obliged to hold a conversation if he feels that the other one is not in bona fide. I accept that once a conversation has began the moderator (the blog author) is morally bound of granting the same conditions to all participants, ie to do not alter their comments or censor them unless they are breaching the TOS and in that case inform the readers. Once exception of course, is when specific persons or groups are being addressed in a post, eg if Metropolite Anthimos or Chrissi Avgi sents me an email complaining, I should publish it even if I feel it’s out of line.
On a much more shakier ground lies my main problem here: the trolls. In internet slang a troll is the person who posts highly provocative material in order to achieve a sentimental response and disrupt the normal ongoing discussion by deviating it and discouraging normal commenters to enter the conversation. Practically e.g. I begin posting on the cemetery of Thessaloniki and people begin posting on jewish religion being racist or Israel being nazi. What does this have to do with the post? Nothing. And why they post it? Because this way the discussion gets deviated and we loose focus. Also it can provoke an emotional response in some and shift the «middle ground». What is this? Most people tend to go for the middle ground in an emotional arguments when personally not biased; so when your antisemitic commenter says that Jews where behind 9/11 because they rule the world and I say they weren’t, he or she will probably think that probably the truth lies in the middle – a way of thinking typically lazy and stupid.
Until now I’ve altered/ censored a comment only twice, once because the commenter posted supposedly real names behind nicknames and once more when the reader pointed to a site with extremely racist content. I intend to keep this policy and shall not delete comments, hell it’s even interesting to show that despite my posts on antisemitism being more subtle, we still have good ol’antisemitism of graffiti and broken jewish tombs. But I also intend to protect this blog and all the readers who want to participate but are disgusted by all this mess. So from now on I shall move these posts to a new page called Troll’s Nest. If I arbitrarily, in the usual deviated and cunning jewish way, decide that you are breaching the Automattic TOS or trolling then your post shall be moved there. This does not mean that I will move comments that I do not like, until now I have even left stuff like «Your Jewish God sucks cock». But right now the majority of my readers comes from sites from declared white-supremacists, racists and even neo-nazis; I must admit that this «success» (?) is impeding this blog to function properly at least as a point where people can ask questions and have myths dispelled. It also explains why Panos get to make an intelligent conversation on the matter of the name of the subway station while I’m obbliged to write this post, instead of working on a draft of the proposition.
Suggested Reading before crying at censorhip:
Plagal’s take on the subject.
What real comment censorship looks like and why the comment is moved and not deleted, (demesamere on mr.Venizelos blog).
Is deleting comments from my blog censorship? (askdave)
A – very – theoretical take on the subject (omadeon).