Civility 2.0

In the wake of very distasteful things like the character assassination of Jill Filopivic and the horrendous cyberbullying of Kathy Sierra, there’s a welcome movement in the US blogosphere to adopt voluntary civility codes for blogs, as reported at Reason. Part of the idea is for different sorts of codes to be able to be chosen by different blogs – for instance some blogs might choose to allow, and others to disallow anonymous comment.

This is a particularly attractive feature:

Chief among the recommendations is that bloggers consider banning anonymous comments left by visitors to their pages and be able to delete threatening or libelous comments without facing cries of censorship.

What’s often most destructive of free speech is the loud complaints and vociferous and unbalanced denunciations of those who feel they should be allowed to troll, attack and abuse to their own content.

As Katherine Mangu-Ward writes:

Those who prefer a totally open comments section, idle gossip, and frequent personal attacks would be free to continue. But those hoping for a different experience could sign on to whichever new code came the closest to his ideal blog world, forming more exclusive communities–a bunch of private neighborhood associations for the blog world, not a police state.

There are links to some of the proposed codes via her post.

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in culture, Ethics
26 comments on “Civility 2.0
  1. Zarquon says:

    Teresa Nielsen Hayden has a set of guidelines for moderating a forum that work very well at the highly successful Making Light blog.

  2. Jack Robertson says:

    This is all you need:

    1. Comments which include the authors’ name and a contact address and telephone number will be published unmoderated and in full.

    2. All other comments will not be published.

    Everyone else is a tyre kicker. The right to free speech is inoperable without the concomitant obligation wrt to free speech – authorial ownership. The frat party’s over. Start taking ownership of your opinions or keep them to yourselves.

    Jack Robertson
    Room 13, 171 Rowntree Street Balmain
    02 9810 6816

  3. Zarquon says:

    How do we know that’s you, and not some other Jack Robertson?

  4. Geoff Honnor says:

    “How do we know that’s you, and not some other Jack Robertson?’

    You could call him on the number provided and ask, presumably.

    However, the reality is that the vast majority of people who engage with blogs wouldn’t, if their identities were revealed – vide LP, where very few people post real life identifiable comments. That’s not going to change anytime soon, for a whole host of often very valid reasons

    That said, there are ways to minimise the total anonymity/sock puppet effect – registration is the obvious one.

  5. Kim says:

    Well, I think that if you look at what’s being proposed, no one is going as far as to suggest that people should have to post details of their identity if they don’t choose to. One provision is that if people wish to adopt a pseudonymous net identity, they provide a genuine email address for site moderators to get in touch. That’s already in LP’s comments policy, for instance. I think the point about “anonymous” comments probably refers more to the blogger sort of site where you have the option of posting a comment without any email address or moniker.

  6. tigtog says:

    That’s an important distinction, Kim. On a site where several of the contributing bloggers are pseudonymous, it would be hypocritical in the extreme to ask commentors to forfo pseudonymity.

    However, a valid email address is not too much to ask, not at all. Registration is another solution increasingly adopted by online forums, but it’s not a cure-all. Vicious and abusive commenters can still register whith a free gmail or yahoo address and post what they want, and get another free addy when that one is banned. People posting form sharing IP addresses know that admins are reluctant to shut out an entire ISP or university from commenting, so they abuse it.

    If we wish to allow those who have a valid desire for anonymity/pseudonymity to post alongside the trolls and cyberstalkers, then there needs to be policing of comments not only by moderators but also by commenting communities. At least, unlike the unmoderated USENet of yore, blog-admins can come back later and delete offensive comments, but having a community that cares enough to call out the unacceptable for what it is is fundamental.

  7. John Greenfield says:

    I have found that posting as my real self greatly increases the flow of flowers to the door; not to mention phone calls inviting me to various dinners and cocktail parties.

    Sometimes my schedule permits my condescension, but more often than not it leads to disappointment as I am busy.

    Of course the total anonynity of the luvvie lower-academic set is unfortunate.

  8. Jeffrey Gibb Kennett says:

    For various reasons, I lean towards maintaining the seven veils of pseudonymity.

    As to what goes on on a blog – as TimT noted of Zoe: \”My blog my rules.\” They may be free and open but still private property. I always get a laugh out of members of the libertarian contingent in particular complaining about being moderated, deleted and/or banned.

    Reminds me of big inner city parties in my younger days. Through word of mouth, anyone could turn up. But then anyone could be thrown out too. At least blog threads need less cleaning up the afternoon after.

    As to the wider blogosphere, well it\’s a bit like real life innit? The majority of people generally behave well but you\’ll always get a few wankers and pyschos.Tthe difference with internets as say opposed to the local pub is it\’s lot harder to get physical but a lot easier to stalk and harass outside the venue/arena.

    Like real life, there is no easy solution.

  9. Pavlov's Cat says:

    I’d like to suggest a minor alteration to LP’s comments policy, in the interests of furthering civility: any post with the “word” luvvie in it gets automatically thrown in the spammer.

  10. Kim says:

    It’s tempting!

  11. jo says:

    Can I second, PC’s suggestion?

  12. Derek says:

    Surely there’s a there’s a time and a place for “luvvie“, even in an LP comment:



    1. facetious

    Someone, originally in the theatre, but now also generally, who speaks and behaves in an overly pretentious or camp manner.

  13. j_p_z says:

    I can’t tell the degree to which “luvvie” is genuinely insulting, or is it just a bit flippant and dismissive; but either way, it certainly sounds colorful. Nonetheless, it has been over-used of late, so perhaps a moratorium is in order.

    The word I’d really suggest a moratorium on, though it isn’t actually rude or offensive, is the over-reliance on “strawman” and its corollaries. One gets the sense from time to time that everybody in Australia attended the same debating academy. Granted it has its legitimate uses, but I think a lot of folks here have come to depend on it way too much for a ready-to-hand riposte. Furthermore, it’s one of those elusive beasts that has a deceptively easy profile from a distance; but not everything that looks like a strawman at 500 yards turns out to be one upon closer inspection.

  14. Jacques Chester says:

    everybody in Australia attended the same debating academy

    I for one blame the University of Sydney Union Debates Committee.

  15. Katz says:

    I for one blame the University of Sydney Union Debates Committee.

    Typical strawman argument Jacques.

  16. Graham Bell says:

    Registration is not without its problems.

    There’s a prominent lawyer who is in severe need of having his ideas – not his person or his reputation – challenged.

    He uses “registeration” …. not to protect his site against libel, abuse, sedition, treason and all other forms of criminality …. but apparently just to protect his own petty vanity.

    Those who use – out of necessity – a public-access email address and a community-access computer are excluded for writing to this Great Man. He makes sure that he does not hear from pensioners, the unemployed and the struggling citizenry. He gives no alternative way to contact him and establish a bona-fide registration.

    He is, of course, entitled to do whatever he does with his site …… but what a whacker!!!!

  17. Jacques Chester says:

    Typical strawman argument Jacques.

    Do points get deducted for that? Someone ask the chair!

  18. Bernice Balconey says:

    Agree with Zoe – single user blogs in particular are fiefdoms which is part of their charm. Moderating comments is as much about the personality of the blog as the posts. But there is a fundamental difference ‘tween my fiefdom & a group blog such as LP where obviously debate is the purpose – presumably the question of your rudeness is my censorship can be answered by firstly utilising a jurisdication’s anti-vilification laws & a clear charter of what’s nice and what’s nasty upu front & centre on the homepage? No debate will be entered into – as Zoe said – go get ya own & complain…

  19. John Greenfield says:

    My apologies to those who are upset by the epithet “luvvie.” I stumbled upon it during the Republic debate, when the ARM foolishly pursued a “Luvvies First” stategy. By wheeling out Rachel Ward, Judy Davis, and the ponce Geoffrey Robertson up against the No-Frills Phil Cleary, the ARM “broke Australia’s heart.”

  20. Tony says:

    I don’t read everything on LP, but whatever you’re doing here seems to work OK. Things have occasionally got more willing than is appropriate (guilty), there’s been a few banned (but only a few?), and it probably takes far more work in moderation and control than it should – but the return is vigorous, engaging, entertaining, amusing and often enlightening discussion and debate, with people of widely divergent views coming back regularly.

    You sometimes need a thick skin, and if you’re active you’ll probably get your feelings hurt occasionally – but very often there’s apologies after the heat has passed, which is great, I think.

    Or have I missed a lot somewhere?

  21. Zoe says:

    You’re all a pack of cunts. Fuck off.

  22. Tony says:

    Zoe, it took 22 comments, but someone finally took Kim’s straight line.

  23. Jack Robertson says:

    “You could call him on the number provided and ask, presumably.”

    Yeah, come on, Zarqy, pick up the phone and talk luvvie to me. It gets lonely in this garret.

    Your points are all fair enough. It is your site. It’s a fine one and the guidelines as they are function very well compared to most. And it takes quite a bit to get yourself booted from here, I must say. (If I ran the place I’d have banned myself years ago, frankly.)

    I do suggest that the ‘anonymity’ question is not going to go away any time soon, though. As the MSM masters the mere technical aspects that have to date differentiated this medium from its predecessors I expect amateur bloggers with something worthwhile to write read will have to up their authorial ante to keep both credibility and hit count apace with that of the pros. Speaking mere anonymous truth-to-power is like so last millennium man, etc. When Blairelzebub has the stones to publish photos banned by Islamic fatwahists without availing himself of what was surely a splendidly ‘valid’ reason to hide, and Tony Lowenstein likewise has the guts to take on their almost equally scary Jewish counterparts without a mask…I think the anonymous blogger anxious about his job or his wife’s disapproval risks appearing a teensy bit wimpy dilettantish anachronistic. A perceived lack of authorial accountability is a major reason why many pros bound by MSM standards tend to dismiss non-MSM blogging. The recent stoush at Sarasparilla on TV reviewing provided a variety of articulations of this attitude, a few of which were merely abusive, but others which were not without a lot of merit.

  24. Laura says:

    That recent stoush at Sarsaparilla clarified for me what I think about the anonymous / pseudonymous / name and address provided schema.

    I’m very wary of demands for ‘real’ names. Most of the time such demands are, at best, a thinly disguised expression of credentialism, a completely different bag of cats to accountability, and a game that we shouldn’t get drawn into, particularly with people who feel their turf is being threatened in some way.

    The darker side of the request for real names is that it is often part of a form of cyberbullying: ‘we know who you are and where to find you’.

    On the comments policy issue, I am not a fan of the Berners-Lee proposal. I am sure those people have good intentions but I dislike the way they’re going about it – the post Kim linked to implies that allowing anonymous commenting is trivial and I think the proposal implies that too. (Plus, the sheriff’s badge thing is utterly naff.)

    To me, it smacks of an attempt to be seen to be doing something about trolling and cyberbullying or stalking, in a way that media types can quickly grasp and understand, without really addressing the deeper problems (and they *are* deep.) For one thing, as lots of people have pointed out, there are plenty of blogs with effective and thought-out comments policies. My impression is that random drop-in visitors of the ‘aren’t blogs shocking’ variety don’t spend the thirty or so seconds looking around a site necessary to find and read comments policies before launching into their moral indignation schticks. Otherwise they would not claim, wrongly, that blogs are free-for-alls.

    For another, widespread adopting of comments policies and codes of conduct won’t have any effect on what happens at sites that are set up expressly to be bitchfests, eg that place, or our very own TSSH (which is shutting down, apparently.) Or, if there is an effect it could very well be to goad those kinds of sites onto bigger and bigger feats of dickheadedness.

  25. Kim says:

    On the comments policy issue, I am not a fan of the Berners-Lee proposal. I am sure those people have good intentions but I dislike the way they’re going about it – the post Kim linked to implies that allowing anonymous commenting is trivial and I think the proposal implies that too. (Plus, the sheriff’s badge thing is utterly naff.)

    The sheriff’s badge – yeah, very lame!

    I’m not necessarily endorsing any of the links, or the proposed codes, just suggesting that it’s an issue worth discussing.

    Agree about the stoopid “why don’t you post under your real name like us famous journos” shtick on the Sars thread – and generally it’s a very weak rhetorical device. And also, as you say, does have the potential to be a tool of cyberbullying given that many people blog pseudonymously for good reason. Implicit is the threat to “expose”. We’ve seen actual “gotcha” exposures a number of times in the blogosphere, and it’s sucked.

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