[LINK] Moderator Censorship - volunteers should write a charter

rene rene.ln at libertus.net
Mon Mar 28 13:06:50 AEDT 2011

On Mon, 28 Mar 2011 00:57:52 +1100, Robin Whittle wrote:
> Those who criticise my attempt to do so should firstly check their
> facts 

In an attempt to clear up some apparent misunderstandings (and with serious 
attempt not to further inflame this debate)...

Firstly I have not said or even implied that RW was attempting to stop TK 
from expressing his opinions about nuclear/radiation etc. I am quite 
certain that RW was not.

I have also not said that the list should be "completely" "unmoderated".

What I have objected to is what appeared, at the time I first posted, to be 
a change to the pre-existing list management policy and without prior 
notice to list subscribers. Moreover, that it appeared that the new policy 
was (and still is in the view of at least one list maintainer) one that 
would extend the pre-existing criteria for moderation (e.g. prevention of 
spam) to include criteria that constitutes a highly subjective judgement on 
the part of a "moderator" that the *manner* in which a person has expressed 
their opinion is not appropriate on this list.

So far, probably the clearest statement of intention as to criteria that 
I've seen is (quoting RW 27 Mar 2011 00:29:58 +1100):
> As one of the Amigos, its my view that if you want to use a mailing
> list to discourage other people from expressing their opinions - or to
> characterise what other people write in such negative terms
> ("claptrap") without sufficiently detailed supporting arguments - then
> you should not use the Link list for this purpose.

(Note: The term "claptrap" was used in referring to contents of a 
moderation note, not in connection with the nuclear/radiation debate).

I consider the above type of moderation criteria to be entirely 
inappropriate for Link because:

a) the criteria is so subjective, broad and vague, that it is impossible 
for posters to know with any surety what types of expressions of opinion 
will or won't result in a reprimand from a person wearing the mantle of 
moderator. That will, in my view, discourage posts - chill freedom of 
expression of opinions.

b) the criteria is so subjective that it will most certainly result in 
other list posters, who perceive what was said by the reprimanded person to 
have had a different motive or intention than that perceived/alleged by a 
moderator, and/or consider that the particular expression of opinion was 
not inappropriate for Link, to criticise/complain about the moderation. 
That will result in even more inflamation than what was originally said.

c) sometimes it is just not possible to provide "supporting arguments" for 
an expression of opinion, and in any case, imo people should not have to do 
so. As I've said before, imo the vast majority of Linkers are perfectly 
capable of deciding for themselves whether or not to pay any attention to 
someone else's opinion, including whether or not it might have been more 
likely to be persuasive if supporting arguments had been included.  

d) such subjective, vague and broad criteria is almost certainly unable to 
be applied consistently and without an appearance of bias as to what is or 
is not an appropriate manner of expressing an opinion. Inconsistency and/or 
an appearance of bias will certainly result in even more inflamation than 
what was originally said.

In relation to (d), there is imo already "evidence" that that is case. I 
refrained from entering this moderation policy debate until my concerns 
were exacerbated by the observation that expressing the opinion that what 
someone said in a particular post was "claptrap", without detailed 
supporting arguments, does result in a reprimand from a moderator, but 
expressing the opinion that someone who posts to this list is "a bit of a 
kook", without detailed supporting arguments, does not. The latter just 
results in a response which starts off with "Sure.  I have no intention of 
discouraging kooks from writing to Link". I am of the opinion that 
referring to any Linker as a "kook" is even more likely to discourage some 
people from posting than is merely opining that what someone said in one 
particular post is "claptrap". 

The task of language police is indeed difficult.

I have no intention of writing a proposed list charter, because I am of the 
opinion that the pre-existing light-handed list management policy has 
worked well for well over a decade. Therefore I am of the view that anyone 
who opines that a more heavy handed policy is necessary or desirable, and 
especially one based on highly subjective, vague and broad criteria, should 
provide supporting arguments for that opinion, including examples of any 
instances in the past where the pre-existing list management policy is 
opined to have inadequate. Who knows, maybe someone could convince me and 
others that such a change is necessary or even desirable However, 
repetition of things the same as or substantially similar to what has 
already been said will not change my opinion.

Furthermore, Robin, I would appreciate your advice as to your intention 
concerning how you, and/or the other list moderators, would intend to deal 
with a poster's failure to comply with a moderator's judgement that the 
manner of expression of particular opinion was inappropriate. To be 
precise, if a poster continues to express their opinions in the same or 
similar manner, will the poster be banned from the list?

If not, then I suppose I probably don't really care much about whether or 
not you continue posting moderation notes of the recent type. Reprimanded 
posters could choose whether or not to 'voluntarily' comply with a 
moderator's subjective judgement and almost certainly some other posters 
will speak up when they disagree with a moderator's judgement. So, the list 
would continue in largely the same way as it always has.

As you Robin remarked in February:
> Making the corrective suggestions on list...has the
> disadvantage of potentially inflaming the on-list trouble, and casting
> public aspersions on the motivation and judgement of individuals who
> are doing their best.
(Ref: [LINK] Maintaining the link list - changes in policy?
http://mailman.anu.edu.au/pipermail/link/2011-February/091771.html  )

The former has been proven true, and with regard to the latter, *if* you 
have somehow acquired the impression that I have been casting aspersions on 
the motivation and judgement of individuals who are doing their best, then 
I am sorry that that impression has been perceivable. That was certainly 
not my intent and I have absolutely no doubt that you have been doing and 
advocating for what you genuinely believe is best in relation to list 
management policy. I have been expressing my opinion that I disagree with 
your opinion.


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