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Thread: Censorship

  1. #1
    ********* Callithumpian silver trophy freakysid's Avatar
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    Censorship

    Hi. To what extent should you tolerate criticism and constructive debate amongst members of your community concerning the spirit, conduct, rules and moderation of the forum? I imagine it is a difficult issue to manage. From the forum owner's perspective, buidling an online community may form part of a business plan, and thus to the owner, the forum needs to be managed to meet certain business objectives.

    However, to a community member, the forum represents a place where they may feel they too have invested some time toward contributing to the creation of a community to which they contribute but also from which they are able to extract usefull information, advice, opinions, etc.

    So what level of community discussion, debate, should be allowed that is essentially criticism of the forum and how it is being run? I notice that Sitepointforums has a specific forum for member feedback on how the forums are run. Recently I have seen that forum get quite heated, howeve, I personally feel that the little bit of discomfort and discord such heated moments have created do not outweigh the benefits of allowing healthy participation. I feel even stronger about this when genuine issues of ethical behaviour come into play.

    Yesterday (Sydney time), I posted a thread to www.webhostingtalk.com When I look back on it may not have been the most tactfully worded or eloquent post LOL. However, to put it in context, there has been a general tightening of policy enforcement over there of late. This enforcement was seen as a little arbirary and unevenly handed by some people. Feathers have been ruffled, and members spat the dummy (and now it seems so have I). However, what is more alarming is that whole threads have been deleted from the general chit-chat forum that were critical of the way the forum policy was being implimented. These threads were not just locked with an explaination of the reasons posted by the mods, but completely censored, cut, gone, they never existed Iron curtain style moderation.

    So I guess I am raising two questions for you community developers to ponder over.

    1) Should you tolerate any community discussion/debate about the guidlines, rules, vibe, ethics, moderation policy of the forums amongst your members.

    2) If not, how does this impact on the credibility of your forums if members are effectively censored and gagged?

    3) How do you deal with a thread that does discuss criticise the forums direction and/or its moderation policies and their enforcement? Should you,

    - Lock the thread if you feel it is damaging to community harmony?
    - Post an explaination when you lock the thread?
    - Delete the thread?
    - Politely PM or email the thread starter or offending poster and explain why their post/thread was locked, deleted, edited?

    If you just delete a thread or post and don't inform the original poster, how do you think they are going to feel and react to being gagged.

    For a laugh here is a link to a transcript of the post that got me gagged at webhostingtalk. http://www.dasilva.f2s.com/wht.txt Obviously, I can't give you a link to the thread because it has been deleted. The last time I checked the thread there had been one constructive reply that disagreed with my harsh view. I've never been censored before LOL, although, I have been a little loose with my words from time to time when I've gotten a little cranky

  2. #2
    SitePoint Wizard TWTCommish's Avatar
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    The question is too vauge to apply to all forums, in my opinion. If the Admin is busy with other things, he or she may have no choice but to deal with things swiftly, without regard for who was wrong/right/out of line. I do think, however, that you either need to go one way or the other: let the community run itself, or have you and various volunteers run it. Ain't no inbetween.

    The rule I use for the forum I run right now is that "if you can't say it on network television, you probably shouldn't say it here."

  3. #3
    Ex-SitePointer silver trophy
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    Originally posted by freakysid
    So I guess I am raising two questions for you community developers to ponder over.
    Looks more like 3!

    Originally posted by freakysid
    1) Should you tolerate any community discussion/debate about the guidlines, rules, vibe, ethics, moderation policy of the forums amongst your members.
    To a certain extent, I will allow SOME parts of my guidelines to be discussed, but certain things are final and are not open for discussion.

    Originally posted by freakysid
    2) If not, how does this impact on the credibility of your forums if members are effectively censored and gagged?
    Since I answered maybe... I allow people to question and discuss some rules/guidelines, but certain ones, such as ones regarding spamming and profanity, etc are not open for discussion.

    Originally posted by freakysid
    3) How do you deal with a thread that does discuss criticise the forums direction and/or its moderation policies and their enforcement? Should you,

    - Lock the thread if you feel it is damaging to community harmony?
    - Post an explaination when you lock the thread?
    - Delete the thread?
    - Politely PM or email the thread starter or offending poster and explain why their post/thread was locked, deleted, edited?
    Well, if it is something undiscussable, I would probably post and lock it and then PM them if they wish to talk further.

    Originally posted by freakysid
    If you just delete a thread or post and don't inform the original poster, how do you think they are going to feel and react to being gagged.
    Thats why I never do any of that.

    Originally posted by TWTCommish


    The rule I use for the forum I run right now is that "if you can't say it on network television, you probably shouldn't say it here."
    I may have to use that one!

  4. #4
    SitePoint Wizard TWTCommish's Avatar
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    Yeah, I've found that it works quite well. It allows for some mild language, but nothing that can't be seen almost anywhere else. It's pretty hard to disagree with, and pretty hard to be offended by. I do allow just about any word though, so long as the letters that make up it's "middle" are blanked out in some way.

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    SitePoint Wizard
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    I don't run a forum, but if I did, I would probably add a vB hack to let users select whether or not they wanted swears *'ed out.

    My personal opinion is that we all have heard those words hundreds of times and it will do no good to censor them. But some people don't agree with me and would want a filter.

  6. #6
    SitePoint Wizard TWTCommish's Avatar
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    C'mon man. We've all been lied to, but we don't like that. The fact that we've heard swear words doesn't mean they do not necessarily bother some people. I don't get all upset over it, but at the same time, I am annoyed when people use them excessively. Whether or not I've heard them regularly before makes no real difference in my thinking about it.

    Anyway, I suppose an option might work, though there's always a small chance some parent might get ticked off. Rare, but possible. Besides: by limiting harsh language, I think you can improve the quality of the discussions. I think we all know excessive swearing is a hinderance to most discussion, and is rather primitive in some ways. Intelligent, or at least interesting, helpful people (the kind of people you dearly want posting on your forums) tend to avoid such language.

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    SitePoint Wizard
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    Originally posted by TWTCommish
    Anyway, I suppose an option might work, though there's always a small chance some parent might get ticked off. Rare, but possible.
    If a parent gets mad if their kid reads a swear word, then I think that it's the parent's problem. If they choose to shelter their kid from real life, well, obviously, there will be consequences (of which this is a minor one).

    I never swear, not in real life or on these forums, but I don't think that limiting people's expression will raise the maturity level at all. Just my opinion.

  8. #8
    SitePoint Wizard TWTCommish's Avatar
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    No, it won't raise their maturity level, but it's more likely to weed out those who are just in it for the shock value. I think a "higher-level" community which does not even allow people the opportunity to be offensive and vulgar is going to attract "better" participants. I hate to say "better", but some kinds of contributors are simply better than others.

    Flip side: what is gained by allowing it? Yes, it is another freedom, and freedom is a good thing, but overall, I feel just about any forum (with some exceptions) is better off banning such language.

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    SitePoint Wizard
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    Chris, we both know we have drastically different views on morality, so let's just agree to disagree.

    Agreed?

  10. #10
    SitePoint Wizard TWTCommish's Avatar
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    This really has nothing to do with morality. I'm not looking at this from a religious or moralistic standpoint at all. I'm thinking of it in purely practical terms. I believe that, regardless of how moral or immoral such language may be, it tends to attract less desirable members. How many really intelligent people do you know that swear more than a little bit? Of the people you know that do swear often, how many of them are articulate and helpful in general? I think there's a link between the two.

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    Ex-SitePointer silver trophy
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    Well... I agree with Chris.

    In regard to freedom, freedom doesn't mean that you can act like an idiot and say things offensive to others in a public enviorment. (Such as a forum... or even the grocery store.) For me, it means that you are allowed to speak and act on your own free will, within reason and within the laws. However, if you are in your own house, you can curse all you want - just not when your in my forum.

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    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy TheOriginalH's Avatar
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    In response to the ********* Callathumpian's post - top post. The fact that it was deleted shows massive insecurity on their part and perhaps indicates that you hit them with home truths?

    Power to the sales rep!

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    SitePoint Wizard iTec's Avatar
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    have you ever noticed how people on SPF blank out there swear words volanterely, i cant think of a post in the last 2 months that hadnt been blanked out by the poster... i know i do it.
    on a further note...

    a chatroom that im a mod in used to censor all rude words, you could get around it, but if you did then you would be banned (24 hours). people would come in swear there heads off just to get banned, then come in under a different name,..

    Recently they changed the rules to allow swearing... the result was weird... the first month everybody was swearing, often for no reason, just because they could. Now however it is quite rare to see any swearing.

    keep in mind that this chatrooms average age would be 15-19,
    with a community full of adults, you would expect less swearing, along with less people getting offended by it.

  14. #14
    SitePoint Wizard Aes's Avatar
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    You also need to keep in mind the mentality there [in that chatroom] is most likely far below what it is here.

    Almost everyone on these forums acts extremely mature -- even those that are younger. It really depends upon the community. This one is built on web development -- therefore those who post here are in that line of work or practice. Naturally they will be more mature than those who just talk in a chat room like you were referring to, iTec.

    I must admit I do like qslack's suggestion that members can have the option of automatically ***ing out offensive words or not. I think it should be a choice -- and that would be a nice feature.
    Last edited by Aes; Aug 19, 2001 at 10:27.
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    My opinion is that if there is anything at all that you don't want posted in your forum then you shouldn't even have a forum for discussions.

    I can't say that I've always had this opinion, but I can say why I have it. I live in a very small, country-esque county in Maryland that is sandwiched between 2 of the biggest metropolitan areas of the US. There are very few good representations of where we live online and only 1 has a discussion board. Well, the owner of that site ROUTINELY deletes threads that he doesn't happen to agree with. The result is that very few people use the board. This drives me crazy because in such a small county that discussion board could be very useful to the residents here.

    The upside though is that the door is wide open for me to start my own site for my area. I just don't have the time right now. Oh well. Anyway, if you're going to be offended or worried about posts made in your forum of any nature then do us all a favor and don't put a forum on your site. You can't ask people to pontificate if you're going to censor it.

  16. #16
    SitePoint Wizard edshuck's Avatar
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    I will be opening a forum but it will be a bit more diverse than SitePoint, or TWTCommishs', of IFroggys'.

    Homelessness, alcholism, drugs, prostitution, housing, education, parking, gangs, etc.

    I will not allow slander or libel. And if the charge is true, then the maker of the reply will need to file charges with the police. Not on the forum.

    Profanity, choose other words. No one wants their lack of education showing. Need help, maybe the forum can work out some proctors.

    I have recieved many good ideas from you folks. Thanks and thanks again.

    peace

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    Ex-SitePointer silver trophy
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    Ed,

    That sounds very good.

    I have enabled filters on one of my sites, so that is working well, but overall, not too much profanity on my sites.

    And as for Diverse: KarateForums.com, SportsForums.net, phpBBHacks.com > Forum, RapForums.com, ToonForums.com, PHPForums.com, others. Thats pretty diverse! Just not all open now. lol

    I have no idea if I should even TRY to not have profanity at a RAP site, would that be the death of the site? I mean, I am not going to allow profanity, because well, my parents see what I do! Plus, I don't use profanity and don't like reading it. I guess my site will be for semi-clean posts, discussion and verses. No hard core profanity.

  18. #18
    SitePoint Wizard edshuck's Avatar
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    Hi

    I do not know how to eliminate the profanity. Like your comments, I do not think I can.

    For the most part, I think it will be encouraging the visitor to take the post to a higher level. One thing I will do is spend a lot of time reading other forums. What works, what don't.

    The only certainty is tha t it will be exciting.

    peace

  19. #19
    SitePoint Wizard Anat's Avatar
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    Funny how this turned into a discussion about the type of language used. The original question was about criticism of the forums.

    I actually encourage members to give their feedback in the feedback forum. I want to know what they think. They are usually very positive and if they have ideas for change, I am always willing to hear and either to accept or to explain why that won't be possible.

    My problem is less with criticism about the forums and more with general flame wars that burst every once in a while. They pose pretty much the same problems - should you lock the thread, delete it, give an explanation as to why or what? From my experience people who are involved in these threads feel attacked when you tell them they've been flaming and tend to colmpain that their freedom of speech was infringed.

    It's always a problem and never one that is nice to deal with. What I tend to do is lock the thread after adding my last post explaining why I'm doing that. I also ask anyone that feels offended by my decision to PM or email me with any further complains rather than bring them up elsewhere in the forum to avoid more flamings. They often do and I find it easier to defuse them in a one-on-one correspondence.

    As for language - I am not a cop, but we do have kids (12 years old) on the forums and people are aware of that. We don't really have any problem with swear words.
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  20. #20
    Ex-SitePointer silver trophy
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    Originally posted by Anat
    Funny how this turned into a discussion about the type of language used. The original question was about criticism of the forums.
    This thread was started about censorship really. And censoring profanity is a part of censorship.

    Thanks.


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