Posted by Steve Price on 11-20-2003 05:43 AM:

Moderating or Censoring?

Hi People

One of the difficulties of running a topical public forum is deciding how vigorously to moderate it. An unmoderated discussion site will be taken over by the most boorish of the participants, who drive almost everyone else out and make it their own venue - you can't engage in conversation with yapping street dogs. On the other hand, moderating with too heavy a hand inhibits the free flow of ideas and defeats the purpose of the forum.

When we took Turkotek over, Tom Stacy had been using minimal moderation. Posts were rarely, if ever, deleted, although one or two people who were repeatedly uncivil and/or who held conversations with themselves under multiple pseudonyms were asked to stop participating. We adopted this system, and permitted two of the previously banned people to join the discussions with a "clean slate". It wasn't too long before we found it necessary to ban them again - the alternative was to let the site turn into an on-line food fight.

This has worked pretty well for us. We've occasionally have to delete a commercial post, but most of those seemed to be due to misunderstanding of our rules. There's only been one person who persisted in posting despite being told that he was unwelcome, and we solved that problem by installing a subroutine in our software that permits us to subject posts from some sources to a moderator queue. It is, unfortunately, not as selective as we try to make it, and some of our regular participants' post are delayed by it while the posts of others bypass the queue. We have not been able to find the glitch that makes this happen, and if you are among those whose posts get delayed, I apologize for the inconvenience.

We rarely edit the content of a post that someone makes unless the person has authorized us to do so. Once in awhile someone puts on a rug for discussion and mentions the dealer from whom he bought it, and we edit the dealer name out and insert something like (dealer name deleted by editor) in its place. That's happened, perhaps, three times in the past five years.

We believe that this constitutes a reasonable level of moderating, and doesn't hinder anybody's ability to post messages as long as they are within the rules stated on our forums page.

There has been a recent episode in which the editor of a rug forum has modified the content of a post by deleting substantial blocks of text without the consent of the person who posted it. Remarkably, he insists that this does not constitute censorship (his site, unlike ours, claims to be free of moderator interference). The deleted material is, in his opinion, irrelevant to the matter at hand. In fairness to the author of the edited post, who has no other way to make his position known, here is a link to a web page on which he presents it:
We will not permit further comment on this matter on Turkotek. The web editor in question is banned from posting here and cannot respond to comments made about him in this venue.

We do welcome comments and suggestions about the moderation policy on Turkotek, of course.


Steve Price

Posted by Stephen Louw on 11-20-2003 12:28 PM:

Hi Steve,

In my view, which I hold even more firmly after reading the link in your post above and the discussion around it, Turkotek has steered the thin line between censhorship and necessary moderation quite well. I have seen the disasterous impact which a few wild canons can make to an unmoderated discussion, and you are quite right to ban such persons from posting, once all attempts to convince them to behave cordially have failed.

More importantly, I think the Turkotek moderators have been especially sucessful in keeping the commercial aspects of carpets at arms length from our various discussions. Well done.