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When Should a Website Edit Its Users?

Cliff posted more than 12 years ago | from the when-self-regulation-doesn't-work dept.

News 159

rw2 asks: "Can a weblog edit users comments without opening itself up to liability in case of a slander suit? I run a political weblog and have a policy similar to slashdots in terms of the comments posted belonging to their owners. I'm worried about instituting something like lameness filters as it seems like as soon as you start regulating what your users post you have agreed to edit them for other reasons as well. Can someone point me to a good resource on issues like this. Those of us who aren't owned by publically traded companies are better off avoiding potential problems rather than hire lawyers to help us wiggle out later." Honestly, this greatly depends on the type of weblog you run and the community behind it. I don't think a one-answer-suits-all-sites solution exists, particularly for the reason that what may be inappropriate for one site may be more than appropriate for others. What say you?

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Can I? And how? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641057)

Can someone point me to a good resource on issues like this?

Yes. Not Slashdot. For further details search for Signal11 on google.

Re:Can I? And how? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641248)

There's no first post troll today ? I claim it to be mine then!

hahahahahaha right over your fucking head (-1)

Sexual Asspussy (453406) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641526)


Moderation (3, Redundant)

The Gardener (519078) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641059)

Moderation is not the same as editing. IOW, delete the lame crap, but don't alter any posts. Lots of places delete inappropriate stuff; no big deal.

The Gardener

Re:Moderation (1)

elem (411711) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641078)

Surely if you are implimenting an automated filter (like to remove posts with abusive words for instance) then you aren't moderating people comments since there is no thought process behind it...

Re:Moderation (1)

pohl (872) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641097)

Of course there was thought behind's just timelessly encoded so that a computer can carry out your policy.

Re:Moderation (1)

elem (411711) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641127)

OK... I guess I should qualify my statement... there is no-one makeing a value judgment about the relative merits/worth of one comment over another and then deciding that one can stay whilst the other comment get removed. There is just a set of strict rules that are inforced w/o making a value judgement about the comment; like if there is swearing, what ever the context, then it gets removed by the system.

Re:Moderation (1)

domc (11897) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641481)

Aren't the "strict rules" a value judgement at the time they were created?


Re:Moderation (5, Interesting)

verbatim (18390) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641110)

Define "inappropriate stuff". If the process is automated, then there is nothing you can do. However, if you (or any moderator) has subjective privieldge over what is and what is not appropriate, then the line is blurred.

There is obviously useless stuff, "f1r57 p057", links to inappropriate websites, and the sort. But if it isn't an automated process, then subjectivity can interfere with moderation.

What happens when someone simply pisses you off? Do you abuse your power and delete their post? What if the users start to withold posting out of fear of being "edited" or censored.

Perhaps write a clearly defined policy regarding what is and what is not acceptable. Adhere to that policy very strictly and make sure everyone is completly aware of it. Then, when some big wig company asks you to censor/change something, just wave your policy at them.

I guess.

Re:Moderation (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641133)

Well, since he's asking on Slashdot he probably means the usual stuff. On topics of "free speech" you need to make sure that you censor any comments that disagree with your point of view. Slashdot==hypocrasy.

Re:Moderation (3, Interesting)

Nishi-no-wan (146508) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641398)

[...] But if it isn't an automated process, then subjectivity can interfere with moderation.

What happens when someone simply pisses you off? Do you abuse your power and delete their post? What if the users start to withold posting out of fear of being "edited" or censored.

I fell into this trap myself. I had no moderation for two years, then all of a sudden, some jerk kid started posting things ranging from racial slurs to out and out attacks on what others wrote. My "regular" participants started writing to me off the list complaining, wondering what was going on.

I posted a request to keep it clean. That only sparked a bunch of personal attacks on my character. So, I started deleting the moron's more offensive posts. When that didn't deter him, I started deleting some of his less offensive posts to show him that I meant it. Some of those posts were pretty good, too, showing some insight in between the insults. Looking back, I regret deleting some of them, but...

I've now switched to a moderation system of approve or throw out. I've calmed down quite a bit since then and don't throw out anything slightly insulting any more - if there is a good argument behind it. If it isn't adding anything, like "You don't know what you're talking about, idiot," then it's gone.

Since I started moderating, the fool tried posting a great deal, with a lot of insults toward me, the first couple of weeks. He seems to have finally gotten the idea and tries once every week or two.

Deciding to moderate was a very hard decision. I didn't want to cencor anybody, and I still don't. But some of the other readers made a distinction between "free speach" and appropriate behavior. Free speach is vital when it comes to being able to talk about a governing body. However, the example one person gave where free speach is not an absolute law would be should somebody come into my home and verbally abuse me. To do so would be begging to be kicked out.

Nonetheless, I tried to be reasonable with him, but he obviously doesn't bow to any kind of authority whatsoever. I would have liked to have had a dialog with him off-line, but since I don't require valid e-mail addresses, and he didn't supply any, I was unable to contact him other than by writing articles "to" him.

Also, right from the start he used anonymisers and/or hacked into cable modems. That got me very interested in securing my box as best I could. I shut down FTP (only one person was using it), and pretty much everything else in /etc/inetd.conf was disabled from the start. SSH 1 was also disabled.

Other than the usual MS CodeRed and MS Nimda attacks, there doesn't appear to be anything out of the ordinary, so I could let out a sigh of relief that he's just a kid who knows how to use a limited range of tools (anonymisers to cause havoc), and not one who understands how thinks work (like a cracker). Nonetheless, my paranoia level has risen above the black helicopter level since then.

What did I learn? Don't bother trying to reason with the morons. Just moderate them away without acknowleging their existance. They seem to live to insult others and watch their reactions. If there are no reactions (other than their obnixious posts disappearing), they should eventually go away. (I'm hoping so, anyway.)

Re:Moderation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641233)

"Moderation is not the same as editing. IOW, delete the lame crap, but don't alter any posts. Lots of places delete inappropriate stuff; no big deal."

Wouldn't agree with that. Right here on slashdot anyone who don't agree with the leftish majority are quickly modded down.

Message from a metamoderator (3, Insightful)

fireboy1919 (257783) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641674)

I don't know about the rest of the metamoderators, but I consider any post that has their arguments qualified reasonably to be valid, despite the opinion.

Consider the following two comments, which lets say I found listed as "Flamebait":

Comment #1
Linux is no good. Microsoft is much better.

-That would be flamebait because it has no qualification - it is just to make people angry.

Comment #2
Linux is no good because there are no browsers that do as much as IE. Microsoft is much better.

-That would be valid - I would metamoderate a flamebait rating as "unfair."

Hopefully, I'm not alone in using criteria other than my opinion to moderate and metamoderate. But you know...I've been moderated down before despite adhering to my "make a qualification" policy.

Re:Message from a metamoderator (1)

dev0n (313063) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641822)

that's exactly how i metamoderate, so you're not alone.

just as an aside, though.. i find that on slashdot, moderation generally appears to be on par. so at least it's working. i think. :)

Terms and Conditions... (0)

HaloMan (314646) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641067)

T&C's would be the best way around this situation. "All messages could be edited at the disgresion of the moderator" or suchlike would do wonders, and get rid of all lawsuits in one fair hit surely?

Re:Terms and Conditions... (1)

breillysf (215223) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641261)

Most of it comes down to awareness, and your actions after you become aware of the "problem." For example, with defamatory material, there has to be some level of notice before you can normally be liable. You could be in trouble if you encourage people to post things you know are defamatory, but that might be pushing it. This crosses into the complex area of First Amendment law, prior restraint and publisher's rights. Bottom line, if someone contacts you that there is defamatory material on your site, best take it down and let those two fight it out.

Same with copyright infringement. Under the DMCA, you have to be put on notice that someone is using your site to infringe on another's rights. Once you are on notice, the DMCA (17 U.S.C. Sec. 512) spells out the specific procedure to hide behind the safe harbor so you are not liable, provided you follow certain procedures.

Overall, while this isn't speicific legal advice, generally, you should react quickly to notifications, and otherwise keep a hands-off policy on all other comments to weaken the argument of your complicity.

Moderation + Disclaimer (1)

gandalf_grey (93942) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641070)

Moderation constantly pushing stuff to the bottom, and a disclaimer stating that the content is that of the general public, not of the site owner should solve most issues

However, even slashdot has removed stories under threat of legal action I believe. It's just a matter of cost. Unfortunate, but true.

Do you Yahoo!?! (2, Informative)

satanami69 (209636) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641075)

You should, they have a pretty good template to start from here []

To Quote:
"Messages that are unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortious, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, invasive of another's privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable may be removed and may result in the loss of your Yahoo! ID (including e-mail). Please do not post any private information unless you want it to be available publicly."

Re:Do you Yahoo!?! (1)

jerrytcow (66962) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641367)

Messages that are unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortious, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, invasive of another's privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable may be removed

That's exactly the problem - when you let one person (or several) define what is "vulgar, obscene, etc." you start to do what the submitter didn't want to do - censor. It's been said before, but who decides the specific criterion that make something vulgar (as an aside, I was under the impression that vulgar means "common - as in boorish" not obscene).

A few of the criteria they list are so vague as to allow almost any message to be removed. Hateful towards what? Half the posts on /. are hateful (MS, RIAA, MPAA, etc. suck - would these get removed?), as for "otherwise objectionable", hell, I'll bet every single post is objectionable to at least one person somewhere.

Slow News Day^W^W^WBuy VA stock! (-1, Troll)

illtud (115152) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641077)

Hmph. Slow News Day^UBuy VA!

Freedom Of Speech (4, Insightful)

Klein Pretzel (538395) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641085)

Freedom of speech is mostly guaranteed in the US Constitution. However, I do not have to supply the forum for you to practice that speech. If I run a website or any other media forum (newspaper, etc), then I have the right to say what goes into that forum.

If I write a book, I'd probably have to go through dozens of publishers before being accepted. Certainly they're not forced to publish your work. Why should any other medium be any different?

Re:Freedom Of Speech (2, Insightful)

Stonehand (71085) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641447)

It's not so much a freedom-of-speech issue as a liability issue; by removing some posts, is the site operator implicitly condoning the others, and does that mean that he bears responsibility for it? After all, removing posts, even if it's automatically done, is basically taking an active role...

In particular, I'd worry about, say, harrassment law (maintaining a "hostile environment" -- remember that if an employer fails to act on the idiotic actions of his employees, the employer itself may be held liable).

Re:Freedom Of Speech (2)

Codifex Maximus (639) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641491)

I agree with this post. If you assert that the poster's own their comments then let it be your policy theme. You own the website so you have authority on what SITS on your website. Their rights end where yours begin.

If users say they wish to remove their comments from your website then remove them... if they want their comments delivered to them then charge them.

Quotes of the user's comments should be considered as being the property of the of the person incorporating the quote into their post; the original poster having given the person quoting the original poster the rights to quote by virtue of the fact that they posted in your forum.

Make sure you post the Terms and Conditions (or whatever you want to call them) for all to see prior to making decisions based on those T&C's. Make sure the users know that the Terms and Conditions are subject to change without notice. etc... etc... etc...

I hate RedTape(tm) but in a litigious (sp?) world, how can you get around it?

Re:Freedom Of Speech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641494)

Regardless of that -- if you believe in the concept s of your constitution (*I'm* not American), then you should try to ensure that things you create continue the model. If not, then, well.. I guess there's not a lot of point quoting from it -- make up your own constitution, and post it as your site policy.

do what does (3, Funny)

leo.p (83075) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641087)

Practice editorial censorship on idiot comments made by g**ks with insufferable intellectual pretensions. Otherwise you're just going to have a lot of shrill cranks drowning intelligent commentary in their din. I mean, look what happened to slashdot when Bruce Perens was allowed to create an account.

You dont want that.

Re:do what does (1)

talesout (179672) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641199)

You know, there are a lot of ways you could interpret the above comment. Funny is not, or at least should not be, one of them. Intelligent? Yes. Insightful? Yes. Informative? Yes. Flamebait? Possibly.

But we all know how much mods like to think they "get it" when someone slams them.

IANAL (5, Interesting)

Snowfox (34467) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641089)

Really, Slash is a funny place to go for this question. You really want to talk to a lawyer.

That said, if memory serves you lose your status as the equivalent of a common carrier and become responsible for the content as soon as you perform subjective modification or exclusion.

Dropping messages which violate an established set of rules is one thing, as was recently upheld in a lawsuit against Yahoo. But if memory serves, subjectively editing and dropping posts is what made a slander lawsuit against Prodigy successful. By having selectively removed posts, Prodigy was, in effect, endorsing the remainder.

Google should be your friend on both cases - the Prodigy case made a fairly big buzz in its time, and I have to think there must have been a dozen more since.

Re:IANAL (2)

scoove (71173) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641171)

dropping posts is what made a slander lawsuit against Prodigy successful

Likewise, the Compuserve suit of the same era ended up with a Compuserve victory because unlike Prodigy, they didn't guarantee the quality of the environment by filtering content.

Course, I'm still waiting for the proxy/filter lawsuits to start cropping up. "My kids school allowed them to see pr0n so I'm suing for $250 million" stuff...

Surgeon General's Warning: Internet contains porn, violence, bad language, lousy spelling, unreliable service providers and may cause addiction or offense. Turn off your PC and stick to NPR if you may be offended."

Re:IANAL (-1)

DivineOb (256115) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641189)


Re:IANAL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641245)

Really, Slash is a funny place to go for this question.

Not really. The guy was just using this as a plug to get more people over to his site. The question was a ruse.

Re:IANAL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641440)

Really, Slash is a funny place to go for this question. You really want to talk to a lawyer.

Hmmm... does anyone here actually think he's interested in the topic? I'm pretty sure he's just whoring out his site and trying to get a little attention.

erm... (2, Interesting)

2MuchC0ffeeMan (201987) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641091)

i'm a moderator for a somewhat large website,
and our rule is NEVER edit a post, only delete it... i've been told it's against the DMCA ... i dunno if it's fully true though, cause IANAL.

Editing, etc. (2)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641100)

Obviously, submitted stories, such as on Slash, can be edited, if nothing else but for an occasional typo, etc.

User comments should not be touched, and in fact Slash does not permit this. You would have to access the MySQL files and edit the comments directly if you wanted to do that. This can be inconvenient.

That being said, posters should be resonsible for their own comments. If they post something against the site policy, or illegal, then the site should be able to retain the option to delete the comments.

I happen to like the moderation system, because otherwise you can devolve into a sea of moronic cluelessness. It will do until something else comes along. Things like the open publishing system seen at Indy Media [] are great, but they do not scale well.

This is when slashdot did it... (5, Interesting)

ajuda (124386) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641106)

Click Here [] to read about the time when slashdot was forced to delete a post about scientology. It's interesting and relates to your question.

Re:This is when slashdot did it... (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641303)

Slashdot regularly edits or deletes posts. Michael is well known for distributing his unlimited moderation points in a manner he sees fit, and there have been posts showing the removal of posts using google cache as evidence. It would be nice to think that Slashdot was a model to emulate, but it is far from it.

Re:This is when slashdot did it... (2)

dattaway (3088) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641356)

That's a big statement. Care to give at least one example?

Slashdot probably safer than AOL (4, Interesting)

pdqlamb (10952) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641107)

You might want to institute something like the slashdot system, and let your users do the moderating. IIRC, AOL was held liable in a slander suit because they (AOL) were moderating users' posts. The act of moderating, to our brilliant judiciary (hack, spit!), is equivalent to your agreeing with, and even stating yourself, everything that's left on your message board. Let the slashdotters push the crap to the bottom of the heap; you're not exercising editorial control then.

It's good that you're thinking about this now, because I suspect political arenas would attract more lawyers and highly inflammatory idiots than most. That combination is asking for lawsuits, IMHO.

Re:Slashdot probably safer than AOL (2)

sulli (195030) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641596)

Except slashdot editors mod all the time.

Lameness Filter? (5, Interesting)

mESSDan (302670) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641108)

I'm worried about instituting something like lameness filters as it seems like as soon as you start regulating what your users post you have agreed to edit them for other reasons as well.
Slashdot has a lameness filter and I don't think it indicates that there has been other editing going on. Granted, it can hit at importune times, like when you're just trying to Karma whore and post a quick link to this or that, but it also does do some good, mainly by keeping the goatsecx man away.

Too bad they don't have a lameness filter on the submission box though, that would theoretically keep most Jon Katz articles from ever making the front page ;)

The potential upside in reference to your question is that since the lameness filter happens before the comment becomes a post and part of the static page (atleast here on Slashdot, I'm not sure on your site, I don't have an account and you can't post unless you do), You probably won't be sued unless its by someone who's going to sue you anyway.

Just my 2 cents.

Re:Lameness Filter? (1)

pdqlamb (10952) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641123)

Too bad they don't have a lameness filter on the submission box though, that would theoretically keep most Jon Katz articles from ever making the front page ;)

Durn straight. If /. ever institutes account filters like Linux Today [] , that's my first target.

Oh, I guess I'd miss a good discussion or two. Every year or two. ;)

Re:Lameness Filter? (3, Informative)

trb (8509) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641227)

If you're allergic to Katz, you can avoid him by clicking on preferences [] and checking him off in "Excluding Stories from the Homepage."

Re:Lameness Filter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641775)

Does he actually obey that now?

For a while, he was sending stories to Hemo who would post them. Has Katz made good?

Some honest tips from a troll (0, Troll)

The Turd Report (527733) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641109)

As a troll, I can post on-topic for this discussion.
  1. Don't follow Slashdot's lead. A moderation system can be nice, but any zealots on your website will just act ignorant with it. As an example; ALL my posts are at '-1', yet every other day, some moderator will try to mod me down. If you have moderation, you should ban people who will not follow the moderation guidelines.
  2. Don't try lameness filters. You see how well they 'work' here. the 'Eat my Nuts' ascii art still shows up, but if you try to post a semi-large snippet of perl, you get filtered.
  3. Is stopping the trolls woth the time and effort? As you can see, most trolls here post at '-1' by default. The only people who read the trolls are people who *want* to read them. If you are censoring trolls, they will see your efforts as a challenge and will just try harder. You might make your situation worse. I know many trolls troll slashdot because it gets a reaction from the editors.
But, since I am a troll, I just can't be 100% helpful, so here is a link [] .

Re:Some honest tips from a troll (-1, Offtopic)

Faulty Dreamer (259659) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641144)

|.- - - -- - - -.|
| |
| Eat My Nuts |
| |
| _ _ _ _ __ _ |
' - -- . . - - - '
| _|/
| ." ".
| /(o)-(o)\
/_)| / |
|_)| '- |
\_)\ '.___.' / |\/|_
| \ \_/ / _| '/
|_\ \.___./ \ ) /
\ \_/\__/\__ ==|
\ \ /\ /\ `\ |
\ \\// \ |
`\ /\ / |
; | \____/
| | |

Re:Some honest tips from a troll (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641149)

You do make a good point. Slashdot didn't have nearly as many trolls as they did until after they put in a moderation system and all this fancy crap. Remember, people reading this site are by its claim "nerds" and geeks and they love the challenge of finding ways around Slashdot's hypocritical moderation system. Its really no different than your average geek trying to hack their TiVo or iOpener or something. Slashdot's editors seem to think it is some kind of personal war.. hehe. It's actually pretty humorous to watch. No matter how hard you try someone will just be urged to try harder and suddenly you're going to find yourself in a pissing war which will take down the entire weblog with you. That's what has happened to Slashdot. If on the other hand you keep it quiet, find who is posting the crap, and just ban their IP address range you don't attract attention very easily.

Re:Some honest tips from a troll (0, Funny)

The Turd Report (527733) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641198)

Slashdot's editors seem to think it is some kind of personal war.. hehe. It's actually pretty humorous to watch.
The hard core linux zealots take it more personally than the editors, IMHO. My posting a troll to Slashdot is to a Linux zealot what me dry-humping the statue of the Virgin Mary during Sunday Mass is to a Catholic.

If on the other hand you keep it quiet, find who is posting the crap, and just ban their IP address range you don't attract attention very easily.
That is just another part of the challenge. I can get around an IP block, if I have a real hard-on for posting to a site:

dobbs# wc -l abused.web.proxies.txt

The weblog will have 25% of the net nulled before I run out of proxies; that doesn't include Wingates, SOCKS proxies, and the like. So, why bother?

Re:Some honest tips from a troll (3, Insightful)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641217)

I think you are fairly optimistic. It's not desirable nor sufficient to ban an IP address range. What about dialups? What about cable modem DHCP rearrangements? Besides which, CmdrTaco believe very strongly in freedom of speech. Since he also believes in the freedom to read only that which you want, he also has a rating system.

Slashdot has not been ruined. If you think it's been ruined, you must be reading with your score set to zero. Don't do that. Read with a minimum of one. A comment from an Anonymous Coward is almost *never* worth reading.

Re:Some honest tips from a troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641652)

A comment from an Anonymous Coward is almost *never* worth reading.

I agree.

I mean, this post sure wasn't...

Re:Some honest tips from a troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641782)

Anonymous Coward's lowest score should go down to -2. Accounts should only be able to go down to -1. This encourages trolls to get their own account.

Re:Some honest tips from a troll (-1, Offtopic)

CmdrTuco (537085) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641155)

Some troll you are. You're a KARMA whore troll. Yuck.

Moderation Wars! (-1)

The Turd Report (527733) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641391)

Moderation Totals: Troll=2, Interesting=1, Informative=1, Total=4.

When Should Website Moderates Its Users? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641122)

It's really an open secret that the editors will mod comments and even "bitchslap" them.
I think this is as bad as editing a user since the moderation is supposed to be done by users who earn their mod points, while the editors, as the superusers have unlimited points to mod as they wish.

I wish the editors will realize one day how stupid this is and remedy it. Otherwise it is akin to an election which has no real power.

Re:When Should Website Moderates Its Users? (4, Insightful)

jamie (78724) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641410)

"It's really an open secret that the editors will mod comments and even 'bitchslap' them. I think this is as bad as editing a user since the moderation is supposed to be done by users who earn their mod points, while the editors, as the superusers have unlimited points to mod as they wish.

I wish the editors will realize one day how stupid this is and remedy it. Otherwise it is akin to an election which has no real power."

We do mod comments, yes, but we're fair about it.

I can say this with some certainty because, like all moderations, ours get metamoderated -- so if we start unfairly modding people up or down, we get email a couple of days later letting us know we screwed up!

I can't speak for the other Slashdot editors, but as for me -- of all my mods in the last several months, only two have gotten Unfair judgements. Both were trolls that had posted links that looked like they went somewhere informative but didn't. Apparently the metamoderators didn't bother to check the links, oh well. So I stand by my record of massive Fairness.

Basically I spend mod points where I see that I can save our regular moderators some time. Slashdot gets a lot of crap posted anonymously that is obvious trolling, flamebaiting, or offtopickism, and it would get itself modded down to -1 anyway if we flooded the system with mod points. My taking care of it lets our users focus a little more on picking out what they consider to be the good stuff to mod up, rather than just having a troll cost them a point (and the opportunity to participate in the discussion).

In short, I do a little bit of grunt-work, so that our users can be more choosy and careful, genuinely improving the quality and controlling the tenor of the site. And the built-in feedback of our M2 system will let me know if I ever stray too far from how the users think the site should be run.

Also, for the record, "bitchslap" refers to a specific script [] in the codebase which retroactively sets all of a user's comments to score:-1. Important point: it's only ever been used on user accounts that posted using scripts. And it hasn't been used in months, AFAIK, since the existing moderation/metamod system has been working so well.

Slashdot itself needs a few user deletions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641124)

I'd say that Slashdot itself very badly needs deletion of a few users. How many trolls, with nicks like Wipo Troll, Wil Wheaton and a million of other stupid posters etc, virtually make it impossible for moderators to read.

Slashdot's policy of under-rating all these lamers is nice, but it'd be nicer still if Slashdot just blocked them out, or deleted those offensive people.

Slashdot could be a much better place, if not for all these stupid people. It maybe nice for a 14 year old kid to read all those -1 posts, but for serious, and slightly older audience (yes, there are even 60 year old people I know of who read Slashdot) this puts them off.

I seriously think Slashdot has to do something about this. Despite lamer filters, and link filters, links can still be spoofed. And a lot of nonsense goes on at the lower thresholds that unnerves a lot of people.

Before giving advice to others, Slashdot -- cut out your stupid populace.

Re:Slashdot itself needs a few user deletions (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641183)

You, sir, are a fuckwit.

Dear acerebral AC fucktard. (-1)

The Turd Report (527733) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641220)

Set your reading level to '0' or '-1' and the evil trolls magicly go away. By default accounts are set to read at '+1'. If you are reading '-1' posts, it is because you have set your reading level to make those posts show up.

Re:Slashdot itself needs a few user deletions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641242)

if you don't want to read the trolls, set your settings higher. personally, i think one of the best things about /. are the trolls. they're good for a laugh and often more interesting than the artcles and more "legitimate" discussion.


Re:Slashdot itself needs a few user deletions (1)

lardbottom (537885) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641693)

The trolls are good for a laugh and are more interesting than the articles. GROW UP! EVOLVE! Contribute an article or two to improve the content instead of bitching about how there isn't any. Go out and find some. There was a kick-ass AI show about HAL and the state of AI today a little while back on PBS.. What happens in society when you see A) someone cursing horribly over and over B) someone encouraging them They both get thrown out of macy's. Sometimes the cops throw them in jail. They should do they sameon the net. Fine people for profanity in "public forums". Slashdot needs user deletions, because society cannot police the internet yet.. but with the new powers in congress, it might not be so long before they can.

Dear moderators (-1)

Anonymous Pancake (458864) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641838)

please mod the parent post as -1 troll


Whenever you fucking feel like it (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641130)

You pay the monthly fee for hosting, etc.

They're stupid fucking users. If they don't fucking like you, they can fucking go some fucking other fucking website.

stupid fucking whiny users.

Lameness Filters = Censorware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641131)

What is censorware? The definition is very simple: software which is designed to prevent another person from sending or receiving information (usually on the web).

I find the hypocrisy of slashdot pretty amazing. They will rant and rave about any company's attempt at implimenting or developing censorware, yet they have their own half-assed version here.

Lameness filters are censorware, simple as that. From One good test for whether software is censorware is to ask: do you need a password to turn it off? If it is designed to be turned on and off only by people in authority (who may or may not be you), it's censorware.

Don't forget about the IP, Submit, and Account bans. Any editors see the hypocrisy here? Perhaps that censorship icon should be placed next to the slashdot banner.

Consider yourself as a publisher (3, Insightful)

redzebra (238754) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641132)

You can publish all the user posts but you're not obliged to publish those you don't want to. From that point web owners are not any diferent than normal publishers. All risk are avoided if you stick to the publishing part, since you only publish what you want too. Messing with people's post will nowhere be accepted. Deletion is not a problem since it's surely your right not to publish things you don't want. For the rest, your visitors will decide wether they feel you do an honnest job. If you'don't they won't come back :-)

No editting, filtering OK (3, Insightful)

alphaque (51831) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641134)

The way I read it, and IANAL, is that if you're not into editting the text of the posts but are displaying them verbatim, then you cannot be responsible for them. You're just a carrier of the message.

Filtering out whole posts based on some ranking (think /. moderation) is just as alright as it's a method of ranking entire posts and not within a particular post.

However, if you are in the habit of editting or posting snippets of postings, then you are exerting editorial control and perhaps are liable.

Usually, as long as the posting mechanism is automated without passing thru a human being, you can claim to being a common carrier. Newspapers and dead tree editions dont have this benefit as they pick and choose which stories they carry as they have limited print space. An online forum doesnt do this, and acccepts everything.

Once again, IANAL, so take all of this with a pinch of salt.

Re:No editting, filtering OK (1)

breillysf (215223) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641466)

, is that if you're not into editting the text of the posts but are displaying them verbatim, then you cannot be responsible for them. You're just a carrier of the message.

Tecnically, this is not true. IAAL, and in most jurisdictions, it comes down to your notice that material is infringing, contains trade secrets, defamatory, etc... the ususal stuff that invokes 3rd party liability.

A newspaper retains a bunch of lawyers exactly for the fact that they DO have liability as a publisher. With defamation, for example, if they published it with a reckless disregard for the truth, they can be liable, unless the article involved a public figure.

Bottom line - be caureful what you exercise editorial control over because it is evidence of "notice" and deliberation.

Re:No editting, filtering OK (1)

alphaque (51831) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641524)

OK, maybe I wasnt clear, but I was expecting the usual disclaimers about 3rd party et al to already be there. But you're right in clarifying that this is important.

Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide (3, Insightful)

Fatal0E (230910) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641135)

You run the weblog, you have the final auth concerning the posts.

I know that sounds overly simplistic but anything that falls outside the scope of protecting yourself legally you can decide what goes and what stays. Whether that means letting people stray into OT conversations via moderation or lack thereof is up to you. If you feel you have a legal issue to deal with, consult a lawyer that specializes in libel and slander.

Again concerning the non-legal issues... If you feel strongly enough about something that bothers you on your BBS (note I didnt say something you disagree with) wield your authority. If you do your best to be fair, people will appreciate that and anyone who doesnt like it can be reminded that another discussion board just like yours is only a google search away.

Editing posts is rude and possibly libelous (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641137)

If a post contains irrelevant/offensive content the proper course is to delete it. Do not attempt to edit it.

Editing someone else's words without their express permission will highly annoy a significant fraction of those who get edited.

It also could open you up to a civil suit on libel charges if the edited post changes the sense of the post in a way that defames or injures the reputation of the poster.

Newspapers do edit letters and opinions before publishing them without express consent but they (1) use professional editors (2) have lawyers (3) have limited page space. Even so, they often annoy opinion writers and risk lawsuits by changing the writers' original statements.

If you are running a bulletin board your best practice is to let people speak for themselves.

The Problem - Taking Credit (5, Informative)

Ieshan (409693) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641145)

There's nothing long with Editing something as long as your approve of the rest of it. As soon as you edit something, you've "agreed" that you're taking out material that you, the editor, finds unworthy of your publication - be it a weblog, a book, a magazine, or a television show.

Because of this, the remaining portion is now just as much your work as it is theirs. It's like touching just a single paintbrush to the Mona Lisa: while you can't claim you've painted the Mona Lisa, you could claim that you've done "art". In essense, by altering it, you've created something else, and that represents you and your views.

Now then, back to your blog. I say that no one could hold you libel for posts you didn't edit, but then, there's a problem - namely - that people against the material on your site can ask why you didn't exercise the right to edit the material, and claim that everything represents your opinion if you have the ability to edit and aren't exercising that ability.

Oh well, it's a tough call. Just some feedback.

Slashdot doesn't need to edit it's users (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641146)

If Slashdot were to do this, no more trolls.
No way.

POOP [] .

Not as good as a lawyer but.... (3, Informative)

GeauxTigers (540471) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641159)

When I'm doing legal research, my first stop is Perkins Coie LLP's Internet Case Law digest [] . In this case, you should probably look under defamation.

Editing comments (5, Interesting)

buss_error (142273) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641168)

On the one hand, the Slashdot style (perhaps not slash code, but you get the idea) gives you the ability to let your reader community decide what is crap and what isn't. On the other hand, a community can develop that tends to moderate down ideas they don't agree with, even though the idea itself may state a point. (Valid to the reader or not, it is still a point.)

I've noticed that I tend to moderate up most things, and only mod down Goat Sex type posts. I don't even do the "First Post!" type comments down. The Goat Sex guy may have had a point at one time, but it's been made, let's move on now. Nothing to see here.

On the other hand, someone is always going to get ticked off no matter what you do, sometimes even if you do exactly what they espouse they want. This is called Damned if you do, Damned if you don't, and Damn them all anyway.

Part of the problem, as I see it, is that if you give yourself and out to edit or remove comments, that same out conversely gives you a liability to do that on demand from someone else. I was reading the other day that a judge ruled that as a general rule, postings to forum sites are generally accepted to be opinion, not statements of fact (IANAL). As such, these are not for the most part actionable in any case, though you can START an action anyway.

The real problem here is the legal system that allowes for suit for just about any reason. You may not win, but for (in Texas) $144.00 you can submit a complaint to a court, send a Sheriff to drop off papers to appear in court, and scare the living bejesus out of almost everyone involved. Take a walk through case law on a site like findlaw, and you will see the most amazing suits for what seems to you and me to be the silliest reasons. One guy's family sued a plane manufacturer for not putting in the operating manual for the plane that gas was required to fly, and his family won the case.(I think it was Cessna, it might have been Piper. The guy was killed when the plane crashed after running out of gas. May have been overturned later, but look at the cost of fighting it!) I don't know that making the filing of a suit harder is the answer. A more technologically cluefull bench would be a start, and perhaps sanctions against those lawyers and their clients that bring silly stuff to court may help. I don't have an answer for this problem, and I don't pretend that I do.

I guess this all boils down to this: no matter how you do it, be consistant. No execptions to posted rules at all ever, unless ordered by a court. No matter what you do, someone sometime will bring an action against you no matter what it is you do.

Remember, I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice. Some restrictions apply.

This is the First reply (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641427)

Yepp! First post, First reply, absolutely the coolest post!

Censor the Censors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641203)

We'll never slander your comments (all 5 of you) at ScaredCity [] .

We WILL however, be striving to give this web address [] , including a year's free hosting, to some deserving indevisuals, so they have somewhere to hang their hack, as the GNU millennium kicks .asp.

Aristotle would say "beauty and the other beauty" (1)

f00zbll (526151) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641218)

Who are you protecting with filters? Yourself or other people? Fact of life is posts like ones on /. range from good to bad. Without the bad posts, it would be harder to know what was good. It's all part of a continuim, so if something is taken out, it's no longer a natural continium. It is your continium.

That makes it less valuable in my mind.

To be honest... (3, Interesting)

Millennium (2451) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641222)

I'm something of a free-speech absolutist myself, so I would say that at least ideally, the only time editors should be doing any actual editing is cleaning up duplicate posts, and perhaps mving posts from one forum to another one that's more appropriate, in multi-forum setups.

Beyond that, Slashdot-like moderation by users is the way to go. Slashdot's system has its flaws (the amount and direction of moderation should be independent of description, though there's definitely a need for both), but it's the best general idea that I've seen.

DMCA section 512 (5, Informative)

blakestah (91866) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641243)

The DMCA section 512 guarantees protection if you do NOT alter the contents of the users posts. See
The DMCA section 512 []

Ask the owners of the Home Theater Forum (2, Interesting)

Rectal Prolapse (32159) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641254)

That site is the absolute BEST discussion forum I have ever seen in my life. Take a look at their rules/policies, and you'll quickly see why. And the moderation is extremely fair. I have not seen ANY evidence of abuse or hypocrisy anywhere on that site.

Quite frankly, it frequently puts Slashdot to shame in the quality of content and signal-to-noise ratio.

Still, I find Slashdot an amusing place. Sure, most Slashdot folk don't have a clue about home theater hardware hacking, but hey, it's fun!

So far, the HTF has not been threatened by any lawsuits that I know of, even though they deal with movie studios and their employees.

Arbitrary!!! (2)

under_score (65824) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641256)

Any sort of editing (including no editing) is essentially arbitrary. I run an educational web site [] that allows anyone (registered) to post content. In my terms of use when people register, I basically say that the line between appropriate and inappropriate is arbitrary and determined on a case-by-case basis. This is the only true answer. Even slashdot has removed a small number of posts. My system (Oomind) has a complex moderation mechanism and complex lameness filters. I use 10 dimensions of moderation so that people can filter based on a pretty sophisticated set of interests. The lameness filters include the usual "bad words" and "bad html" but also include post length, and a few other nifty things. So far the Oomind moderation system and lameness filters have not been pushed hard enough to really know if it "works", but hey, here's hoping :-) Blatant plug: Oomind is to education as open source is to commercial software:

An idea: why not just say it's a buggy system? (2, Interesting)

wadetemp (217315) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641259)

This is just an idea I had. If you want to delete certain offensive posts without suggesting endorsement of the other posts, why not drop some legal-speak down in the bowels of your documentation stating that the software you run (which it sounds like you wrote) is "use at your own risk" and "not guarenteed to be free from defects, including those that might affect your post's appearance on our site."

Sure, maybe you have a backdoor that lets you delete things you don't like, if you don't have the ability to implement such a "feature" directly. It would naturally be something you wouldn't want to do all the time, but if someone starts goatse'ing your site, just delete thier posts using your backdoor. So the system "loses" posts of a certain character length, or that contain the word goatse, or that are from a user who's username is a certain combination of characters? And who's to say that it's NOT a bug that's causing the posts to be deleted? (Of course, I'm assuming your source code isn't available by request :) )

I realize there are alot of moral issues with this idea, but hey. I'm just trying to think of a way you could delete things. I don't know that I agree with my own idea, feel free to knock it down or improve it. But you know, I don't know of anyone who's held MS liable when Word crashes, thus "censoring" what I'm typing. I don't give it a second thought.

Re:An idea: why not just say it's a buggy system? (1)

debolaz (526572) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641605)

I can seriously say that I dont like this idea very much. This is just not an acceptable way of doing things.

I think this would fall into the same category as governments putting people in mental hospitals because of their political opinion.

Dont worry, im not comparing you to the government ;) but the idea falls into the same category as the example mentioned above. I think that if it finally comes to censoring something, it should at least be made clear that its censorship, with a clear reason given why it was censored.

"If you can be nothing else, at least be honest"

Even Slashfart should delete "snuff" posts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641263)

A few days ago there was a posting describing the sexual torture and killing of CmdrTaco. It was moderated down to -1, but if there was ever an example of what should be moderated, that was probably it.

Fortunately for the constitution (!?), the oh-so-hip Slashdot moderators did nothing except moderate it down. Thank god for right-thinking clods like these!

allowing comments to be edited (1)

imrdkl (302224) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641264)

The real cost for a megasite like Slash would in UPDATE on the database, which is always more expensive than insert. If you have reasonably good security (not just a cookie) for your authentication, then plausibly any user could edit their own comments.

I've occasionally wished that I could rewrite some of the hasty stuff I've written. Of course, I can also see where editing after the fact could change the nature of any thread that follows. Maybe it isn't such a good idea after all.

Comment cancellation as on Usenet, Real Life (3, Interesting)

iskander (9699) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641849)

You said:

I've occasionally wished that I could rewrite some of the hasty stuff I've written. Of course, I can also see where editing after the fact could change the nature of any thread that follows.
* []

This is why I believe it should be possible for a user to retract his comment - not edit, retract - just as it is possible to cancel a Usenet post. People may have seen the post, quoted it in their replies, and perhaps even archived it, but the post will no longer be available on the newsgroup itself. In fact, the unavailability of a post at the top of a thread is a common phenomenon on Usenet, where posts simply expire without the intervention of the author, so this feature needn't be shocking to Slashdot users if ever it were implemented.

This is a lot like what happens in Real Life (I choose that phrase because Taco likes to use it when defending his site policies) where you can't unsay what you said, and some people may never let you live it down as long as their memory serves them -- but you can certainly stop saying it and, if you're humble enough, you can take it back. Now, you might say that, in real life, one takes something back by saying something else, and that's true enough; however, in real life, one has the option of no longer saying something, whereas, in Slashdot, whatever you say is repeated everytime a request for the page containing your comment is served, even if you later change your mind. I think the ability to take something back (post cancellation/removal) would compensate for the inability to change one's position (post editing) as clearly as in Real Life.

Now, it seems to me that if Slashdot were to honor the poster's copyright, as the notice at the bottom of each Slashdot page claims it does, then it would have to comply with a user's request to remove a comment of which she herself was both the author and the copyright owner. In light of that consideration, would it not be simplest for this functionality (removal of a post by its author) to be available on the board so that administrator intervention is not required? Given that, in the recent Slashdot review of a book on the design of community websites [] , defined by the author as websites where users interact with one another directly, our very own CmdrTaco is interviewed as an expert, I think it's safe to assume that he's already thinking about this sort of stuff. ;-)

Now, I can't know how easy or how difficult it would be to add post removal functionality to Slashdot because I've never looked at the code, but I think this would be a welcome Slashdot feature -- one that would make this community seem more like the ones in so-called Real Life, and indeed more like others on the Internet itself.

Rules of our website (5, Informative)

wrinkledshirt (228541) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641269)

I belong to a website where there's tons of political talk, personal sharing, advice etc. being posted all the time. The basic rules are:

(a) You cannot out anybody. If you give out a name or location, that post gets edited or deleted. People who post that sort of thing are often warned about it, and have the option to fix it themselves within the 30-minute "edit window" for a post.

(b) Hate speech is usually deleted. This is a sticky situation, and usually it requires a ton of people complaining to the site administrator that such and such a post is offensive. We don't automatically filter out any words, and each post is often treated separately.

(c) Spam. Nobody wants it there, so it's toast the moment it goes up.

(d) Copyright violations. This is one of the regulations for the hosting corporation, and so we usually have to replace text with a link to it. Sometimes we get away with it if we're siting a literary passage for a debate or something.

(e) Every now and then, if something is truly indecent, it'll get cut. That's too bad, because I had this really great run of posts that said "Don't click this!" and pointed to our goatsex friend. It was quite funny, but one silly twit who couldn't take a joke complained and it got taken down. Fortunately, that was almost two months after the fact so nobody there was liable to read that post again anytime soon anyway.

(f) Every now and then we self-police, and gang up on somebody if they're being really cruel. Many people enjoy their anonymity there, and use the opportunity to talk about a lot of personal stuff, so if a particularly mean poster uses that stuff against them, they'll usually face criticism and pressure to be a little nicer.

(g) We also have a board dedicated to flaming. This is great because once discussion gets heated, every poster on that particular board who isn't interested in hearing it can redirect the posters in question to the flame board to air out grievances. Needless to say, our flame board is pretty popular.

I think the important thing isn't so much what gets a user edited, but whether or not that user knows about it beforehand and is given fair warning. Yeah, it ends up being subjective, but one of the reasons people like to go to this place is because they can safely discuss things. Our administrator is great about leaving political talk alone -- I've been ranting and raving about how stupid this whole Afghanistan war is, for instance, and there's been no deleting of any of my posts. That said, I've had to stand up to some pretty harsh criticism, but that's okay -- as far as political speech goes, it's really free. Even though we do self-police, we never ask someone to change their opinions on issues in debate.

On other method that gets used, new users go through a trial period where they can't post on every board, even though they can read them all. This gets them a chance to see how our particular dynamic goes before they are allowed to post. It's arbitrary (two weeks), but it does filter out many people who aren't genuinely interested in the site themselves (spammers, trolls, etc.). This is a new measure we've taken up, and it's pretty controversial right now, so I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to anyone unless they KNOW something like this could fix some problems they're having.

As a website administrator, you've got to dedicate yourself to figuring out your own sites needs and getting everyone to stick to them. Oh yeah, and be prepared to be underappreciated and called a fascist pig if you ever do edit, even if it is the right thing for your site.

Re:Rules of our website (2)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641431)

(d) Copyright violations. This is one of the regulations for the hosting corporation, and so we usually have to replace text with a link to it. Sometimes we get away with it if we're siting [sic] a literary passage for a debate or something.

What country do you live/operate in?

Even in the US (where, IMHO, we have nutso IP laws) this wouldn't be "getting away" with something; it would unequivocally be fair use.

Of course, I assume you mean "citing" above."


Re:Rules of our website (2, Interesting)

zenyu (248067) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641445)

(a) You cannot out anybody. If you give out a name or location, that post gets edited or deleted. People who post that sort of thing are often warned about it, and have the option to fix it themselves within the 30-minute "edit window" for a post.

This is the one thing about the "either you censor everything or nothing" idea that bothers me. If someone posted the home address of someone that wasn't a public figure tagged with some hate it could actually endanger someone, even if it was mod'ed to -1. I can see how in a public square you could say it and you could even make a 1000 copies and paste it all over town, but there are controls there. People could take them down off the telephone posts and we should have the same ability in cyberspace without opening ourselves up to litigation. It shouldn't be required, I can see how posting the same private address for a public protest would be ligit, but it should be safe to take it down.

What if...? Nonsense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641461)

First off, I'll be redundant and say "never edit. delete only."

Having said that, it's really annoying to me when people start doing the whiny bit about "but but what if people say stuff you don't like? Does that mean you abuse your power and delete it?"

Yes, of course you do, but only if you want to. You're building a community, not some random page where any random human can come and say whatever random thing is on his mind. All decent communities require moderation. Anarchy is notoriously unreadable.

The editors of a weblog decide the level of moderation and apply it in order to selectively choose the users they want and the users they don't want. The ones who don't like the way things are going wind up going away, to the benefit of the entire community, which becomes more cohesive. Be a fascist pig if you want, but be careful not to scare everyone away.

The definition of "community" is NOT "anyone who shows up". Just as Heinlein said in one of his books, to paraphrase, you don't let a guy join your revolution just because he wants to. You're not bound to take in and coddle every loser who wants to pontificate on your webpage. Use some common sense and the delete key to prune the crap and make the rest flow.

- chatte

Other ramifications (3, Insightful)

Tony Shepps (333) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641482)

There are a lot of comments talking about the legal ramifications, but you don't want to forget the personal/social ramifications to your community.

Your community is not about you; it's about your subject first, then about all the people who find your subject interesting, and about getting them together to communicate. This is important to remember. A lot of community owners find themselves so entranced by their status as benevolent dictator that they quit being benevolent. It's usually an ego-related thing. This is the worst-case scenario. Avoid it.

If you delete posts that people generally expect to be deleted, you'll find your community happy and rewarding. This includes spam, obvious mistake posts with no content, personal information that shouldn't have been communicated, and cases where someone set out to purposefully cause trouble with the system or the community.

If you delete posts that even one person finds useful, you'll find yourself in the middle of a controversy. Think about it from the user's point of view. A user may spend hours developing a post, even days contemplating what to say in a situation. Maybe they didn't take hours to write the post that you edited or deleted, but users don't want to even think about the possibility that their words may disappear. Delete a few posts without warning, even in a site that announces that it's heavily moderated, and you may find the community goes quiet for a few days. This sort of thing happens all the time.

This goes triply for editing posts instead of removing them. I would never participate in a system where my own, attributed words could be changed around as the site owner sees fit. Would you? Why would you? Why would anyone?

Also remember that a good, strong community will police itself to a degree. This sort of thing is not possible on someplace like /. where its popularity, has lead to effective anonymity. When most /. readers read most /. posts, they don't know or care who wrote it. This isn't true of smaller forums where there is a stronger sense of community.

For a long time, newsgroups were the only net community going, and they were so prone to abuse that the communities in them had to develop a combination of thick skin and newbie-flaming. In fact, many people wrote that the flame was an important, necessary tool for the survival of these communities; if people wrote things that the community didn't like, they flamed, and this was their only defense mechanism. And for a while, it worked, until the net grew all out of proportion...

The point is, you may feel that you desperately need to take action as the site owner and moderator, but your best action may well be to leave well-enough alone and let your community take care of it.

Be consistent and open about it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2641485)

To me, all censorship is **very** wrong. Although, given that some posts might considered unsuitable in terms of basic profanity, etc, it might be OK to remove them. In this case, I still feel the only acceptable way to do it is to have a highly visible published policy about what is considered profane, and have it automatically filtered, or filtered manually if that can be done in a very fair and consistent way.

Depends on the mission, IMO (1)

Spinality (214521) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641532)

If you're running a site that has a particular mission, e.g. to discuss wristwatches or Earley's Algorithm, then I think it's totally appropriate to remove off-topic posts. It's not censorship, it's moderation, and it's part of the site's intent. Often, such moderation is the difference between an interesting/useful site and yet another cheesy slugfest.

In general I abhor censorship, but censorship is only relevant IMO when you're talking about an open public forum. Editorial judgment is quite appropriate and even necessary in a forum with a specific purpose.

Cry censorship (2)

dswensen (252552) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641498)

This may be only marginally on topic, but... I help run a very small, out-of-the-way weblog / community, which is basically just a site for people to get together, talk about whatever they want, and bullshit. It's not tied to a particular genre or ideology.

In general, we're small enough that we've never had problems with abusive / troublesome users, and so there's never been any call to edit users or delete posts, except for one.

Someone ran a story on Mohamed Atta [] , one of the terrorists on the planes that smashed into the WTC. Someone, apparently having searched for Atta's name online, found his way to our site and anonymously posted a link reading "Here is my message of patriotism!" The link led to a Shockwave animation saluting the "heroes" who destroyed the WTC and declaring "they died for justice."

I deleted the post. The guy came back, created an account, and reposted the link. I deleted the account and the post. He went away after that.

A couple of other users complained about my "censorship," but I would absolutely do it again under the same circumstances, without hesitation. It's a free country -- he's free to say what he pleases, and I'm free to nuke whatever he says from the board if I find it inappropriate. It says so right up front, when you click to the comments page. And that definitely falls outside the boundaries of what I will accept on my web site.

There is no issue here (4, Insightful)

rudy_wayne (414635) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641531)

There is no need for moderation/censorship/editing on a message board. None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

As a participant in a forum or message board, if you see something "offensive" - IGNORE IT - DO NOT REPLY. If you are the owner of a message board and you are not willing to accept posts that you don't like, then DO NOT RUN A PUBLICLY ACCESABLE MESSAGE BOARD.

It's that simple. Period.

If your ego is so big that you really MUST be in control of what people say, then draw up a bunch of rules and institute a registration process requiring a valid e-mail address. Then, when someone says something you don't like, or violates one of your silly rules, you can play dictator and revoke their posting ability.

The real problem here is ego. Trolls, flamers, assholes, etc. post crap in order to get a reaction and get attention. 99% of them do not have the patience and/or attention spam to conduct a long term campaign. Ignore them and they will go away. IGNORE THEM AND THEY WILL GO AWAY. Unfortunately, too many people are unable/unwilling to follow this simple advice.

I've seen it a million times in usenet newsgroups and various message boards. As soon as people see an "offensive" post their ego immediately kicks into high gear and they launch a retaliatory attack. The whole place becomes mired in attacks and responses to attacks. In the end, the "regulars" blame the trolls and flamers and cite this as another good reason for moderation, conveniently ignoring the fact that all they had to do was ignore the idiots and they would go away.

Re:There is no issue here (2, Interesting)

nusuth (520833) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641717)

Presumably you can ignore all offensive posts, I can too. Presumably everyone with enough bbs boards/fido/usenet/internet boards experience can along with some few people who has an insight to abuser dynamics without digital discussion platform experience. But not all users belong to these groups, we -if you won't be offended by the pronoun- aren't even the majority. And a few users respond to abuse, others rookies will follow. So your scheme won't work. They WILL get reaction, they WON'T be ignored unless you are running a board for the "elite."

Re:There is no issue here (3, Interesting)

Legion303 (97901) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641786)

As a participant in a forum or message board, if you see something "offensive" - IGNORE IT - DO NOT REPLY. If you are the owner of a message board and you are not willing to accept posts that you don't like, then DO NOT RUN A PUBLICLY ACCESABLE MESSAGE BOARD.

It's that simple. Period.

No it isn't. As someone with a public guestbook myself, I know the difference between something "offensive" and something "abusive." When someone posts the same idiotic joke hundreds of times in a row, I delete them all. You go ahead and ignore messageboard abuse and see how fast your board fails.


consistency and tolerance (2, Insightful)

Stalcair (116043) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641635)

this is not a complex issue unless you wish it to be.

First of all, let us not act like angry monkeys throwing our feces at each other. Let us not fall into the trap of hostile hypocricy that only hurts us and our 'causes' more than anything else.

That said, I believe that self filtering/censoring is up to each individual. Some use the phrase, "if you don't like what is posted, dont read it". This is a good if simplistic representation of the entire issue. However, it is used by those who are frankly nothing but parrots who repeat words without understanding either the words' meanings or the collective meaning behind the phrase, thus relegating it quickly to the knee-jerk cliche trash heap.

I see many situations where this phrase comes in handy. After all, it does no good to get all worked up because of some flamer that is just pathetically attempting to get a rise out of people. But before the rhetoric spouters begin their little crusades of mentioning how "if you don't like what is posted, then don't read it", let us look at what is ruffling the feathers first.

If I have a forum site that polices topics in specific threads, and perhaps even has a 'general thread' for offtopic posts, is it then bad to filter out offtopic posts relative to the section posted in? What if I have only one topic and the stated rules about 'appropriate behavior' clearly let everyone know to keep on subject due to the very nature of the board?

Now, let us say that I police content that is considered uncivilized, like personal attacks, slandering, cussing, etc. Is this bad? If in this situation, it is easy to see how many defending it would say, "If you don't like it then you don't have to be a part of the forum" See how that sounds so similar? Wouldn't someone who is trully 'tolerant' extend that tolerance towards those that he views as intolerant? Am I to claim enlightenment and tolerance by letting any subject be posted regardless of the topic at hand, or how negatively or positively it is posted, yet ONLY if I agree with said posts? Guess what, that is NOT TOLERANT? No matter how many fancy words, quotes, etc I throw at it, it is intolerant due to my very own definition. It is the worst sort individual that can not even stand the judgement of his own criteria that he applies so readily towards others.

If you want an open board, then good for you. If you believe that is morally and ethically superior, then continue to do so confident in that knowledge. Let education and your actions inspire others to do the same. If however, you attack others (and I will expand that below) in an attempt to free them, then by your own definition (and that of histories) you are a tyrant. Attacks consist of direct attacks such as slander, malicious statements, etc. but also very much include actions that attempt to shut others down (If you choose, good for you, if you 'organize' others to sheepishly follow you through fancy words and hateful rhetoric, that is much different). Also included is an inconsistent application of ethics or morals. You must be better than those you attack and must police yourselves first before you jump on any bandwagons to burn, rape and pillage others.

I am curious how many here have ever defended someone who they do not agree with, but did not wish to see an opponents rational addition of opinions and ideas be trampled under the draconian boots of some intollerant moderators. I also wonder how many would support laws, people, ideas (ATTACKS) that would take away the choices of forum maintainers and creators to filter their boards for what they themselves believe is important. I then wonder how many of these people that support the above, would then ironically do so under the banner of tolerance and being open minded. How many would admit that they simply wish to get rid of those they do not like or agree with. (it would be more respectful in that case).

This can be applied to so many other aspects of life too. I remember a time before the draconian laws restricting smoking in many private domains where gaining in popularity. I remember many smokers saying that not only were such laws bad, but the 'constitution' protected smokers from being "oppressed" in private restaraunts and the like. Oppressed for them meant that I as a shop/restaraunt owner could not restrict anyone from smoking. So, once again it became a lawyers game between two bands of zealots whom when looked upon with even the slightest scrutiny where seen for what they where... two different shades of brown from the same pile of manure.

If I was in charge, (1)

nusuth (520833) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641684)

These would be my rules:

a) An account is activated after 16 hours of application

b) In order to post, one must subscribe

c) All subscribers must supply a valid e-mail address, no other information is collected

d) All subscribers must have a unique e-mail address

e) In case of offensive/inappropriate posts, one might be banned from posting. The ban might be timed or permenant

f) An IP can apply for multiple accounts only if the IP can not be proved to belong to same person

These rules can keep abusers away without deleting or editing posts. Since you do not delete/edit any post in any case, you probably won't be responsible for their content. Obvious drawback of this scheme is a abuser might accumulate a set of accounts, in case one of the accounts is banned. If you can replace rules d & f with better rules that can be more strongly linked to identity, the system would work better. It would not be bulletproof in any case, but I doubt any other mechanism can.

Slashdot doesn't censor its posts (-1, Redundant)

Gizzmonic (412910) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641734)


Meanwhile, across the Atlantic... (2)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641809)

This is a very US-centric discussion so far, it seems. Certainly in the UK, there has been some legal history in this area. Anyone planning on running any sort of on-line message board should be well acquainted with things like the Godfrey vs. Demon case, what constitutes being a "publisher", and so forth. I am not a lawyer, but I suspect that many of the comments made here would hold little water in UK courts with the current legal position, even as unclear as that may be.

Not a good time for censorship.... (1)

sdprenzl (149571) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641815)

This is not a good time to join the rush to Big Brother.

Your first mistake. (2)

flikx (191915) | more than 12 years ago | (#2641826)

Your first mistake was running a political weblog. I know, because I made the same mistake [] . Though I still believe that self-regulation can work.

My best advice is to walk away, and let some other sucker take the fall.

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