Moderation or Censorship. A "force for good" or a disturbing trend?

#1
I like to browser the so called "real skeptics" forums (well that's what the members will declare, claim, and make damn sure you know it) to see what's making the rounds. Typically it's a round of ridiculing and marginalizing the usual fare of "woo", as the "real skeptics" are so fond of using, consisting of; Bigfoot, UFOs, ET, NDEs, global warming etc..., but on doubtfulnews by Sharon Hill I came across a piece titled
Climate change deniers booted from Reddit Science
which goes on to sing the praises and the virtues of denying and banning any dissenting opinions and, I would presuppose, any science or peer-review that is supportive;
Comment moderation is becoming a force for good, science that is. I’m all for it. Reddit’s science forum banned climate deniers. Why don’t all newspapers do the same? | Grist. The forum, known as /r/science, provides a digital space for discussions about recent, peer-reviewed scientific publications. This puts us (along with /r/AskScience) on the front…
The provided Reddit justification explains;
The forum, known as /r/science, provides a digital space for discussions about recent, peer-reviewed scientific publications. This puts us (along with /r/AskScience) on the front line of the science-public interface. On our little page, scientists and nonscientists can connect through discussions on everything from subatomic particles to interstellar astrophysics.

Given that our users are mainly academics (and all are nerds), the discussion generally resembles any scientific debate. That is, there are always numerous links to peer-reviewed science to support positions, people don’t deliberately mislead or misrepresent content, and there is a basic level of respect shared regardless of position. When a user strays from such decorum, they are kindly warned and, if necessary, the comment is removed.

Some issues, however, are particularly contentious. While evolution and vaccines do have their detractors, no topic consistently evokes such rude, uninformed, and outspoken opinions as climate change.

These people were true believers, blind to the fact that their arguments were hopelessly flawed, the result of cherry-picked data and conspiratorial thinking. They had no idea that the smart-sounding talking points from their preferred climate blog were, even to a casual climate science observer, plainly wrong. They were completely enamored by the emotionally charged and rhetoric-based arguments of pundits on talk radio and Fox News.

The end result was a disservice to science and to rational exploration, not to mention the scholarly audience we are proud to have cultivated. When 97 percent of climate scientists agree that man is changing the climate, we would hope the comments would at least acknowledge if not reflect such widespread consensus. Since that was not the case, we needed more than just an ad hoc approach to correct the situation.

The answer was found in the form of proactive moderation. About a year ago, we moderators became increasingly stringent with deniers. When a potentially controversial submission was posted, a warning would be issued stating the rules for comments (most importantly that your comment isn’t a conspiracy theory) and advising that further violations of the rules could result in the commenter being banned from the forum.
Sharon Hill continues;
Read how the site improved. The change quickly resulted in a higher level of discussion – less ad hominem attacks and more discussion of the relevant aspects of the research.

For a good comment section and healthy debate, especially issues regarding anything related to science, comment moderation is key.

We’ve seen the same here. There is NO DOUBT that this blog would get far more traffic if we allowed drama, manufactroversy, and a free for all comment thread. But there are far too many toilets on the internet. I do not intend to own one. So, I moderate. Brutally.

There are typically a few people a week who protest about our comment policy. But once again, I keep reiterating, this is not a forum, it’s got a goal and I’d rather not see that goal get derailed. Moderation is NOT censorship. You are free to start your own blog, petition Congress, post signs in your front yard, write a book, etc. Free speech, man. Just not in my living room.

Oddly, Reddit is a forum, more or less. But each subreddit is a bit different. It’s been demonstrated over and over that good moderation can hold the topic intact and avoid sidetracks, clutter and garbage on the site. Many of us, including these subReddits, don’t want garbage, they want quality. Good for them. Set the bar high. The internet NEEDS it.

Commenting is a privilege.
I haven't been on the Skeptico forum long, so here are some questions;

  1. Is this an acceptable practice on Skeptico?
  2. If so, what are some reasons or examples?
  3. Is this an agreeable practice?
I've been debating "woo" topics for several years and I have never felt the need to silence and censor anyone regardless of disagreement, so as you can read, I think this is nothing more than censorship and very poor behavior, especially with a group that lauds itself as "real skeptics", that proclaim to fight for truth, science, is open to all (well as long as you agree with them apparently), and to advance human kind. If an individual is being abusive, non productive, intentionally misleading, or a.k.a. being a troll, then I think we can all agree this persons gets what is deserved, but just disagreeing is not the same, should not be punished, and I diametrically oppose the idea "The internet NEEDS it."

Well I hope I'm not the only one that is very disturbed and alarmed by this trend in bias group-think. And what is even more concerning is that these groups are often viewed as the social darlings and cited as the "modern thinkers", however, the only thing I'm observing is a consolidation of biases, stagnation of open discussion, individuals seeking group validation and acceptance promoting subjectively sanctioned and limited opinions rather than objective science, and the slow creep of dogma.

Ok, I'll step down from the soap-box and encourage or ask anyone else to speak.
 
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#6
Thank you. That was interesting thread. I didn't read every post, but I could see Skeptico is wrestling with the same issue. However, Skeptico didn't exclusively advocate banning outright, rather there was a discussion to allow dissenting forum members to voice their opposing opinion in threads where debate in this manner was designated and not in threads where the idea was to discuss the merits. I see no problem with this, but simply labeling all who oppose the popular opinion as "conspiracy theorists" and banning them on this justification is the ludicrousness I do have a problem with

However, I'm still perplexed why you believe my post was "irony". This was what I had asked for clarification on, so pointing at another Skeptico thread just makes it more confusing.
 
#7
Matt, I don't think the intention is to censor anyone, but simply to prevent every thread degenerating into a debate about whether psi is real. That can quickly become tedious, and as I have pointed out, skeptics have a whole forum here to use as they like- they can fill it to their hearts content - hardly censorship! The idea is to enable other parts of Skeptiko to deal with other aspects of the subject. David
 
#8
Well, I'd like to respond to your post you made replying to me in the why we need skeptics thread. I can't because Alex banned me from the thread. The same thread where paqart deleted a bunch of posts by fls where she had laid out her position in detail. When I protested to Alex about my ban and the deletions I was told to stop or risk being banned from the forum.

I agree for a - brief - time it looked like this forum was going to be given breathing room. But that seems to have been short lived.
 
#12
However, I'm still perplexed why you believe my post was "irony". This was what I had asked for clarification on, so pointing at another Skeptico thread just makes it more confusing.
It's ironic because you are complaining about censorship of dissenting opinions on a forum where dissenting opinions are censored. And it's even more ironic because one of the persistent themes of this forum is to rail against perceived censorship elsewhere.

One way to understand this is to hold up a mirror to the opening post.

"Well I hope I'm not the only one that is very disturbed and alarmed by this trend in bias group-think. And what is even more concerning is that these groups are often viewed as the social darlings and cited as the "modern thinkers", however, the only thing I'm observing is a consolidation of biases, stagnation of open discussion, individuals seeking group validation and acceptance promoting subjectively sanctioned and limited opinions rather than objective science, and the slow creep of dogma."

Is this paragraph true regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the people who are silenced? And if you think the answer is "yes", think about why don't you see the need to speak up about the censorship here. (This is directed at anyone, not just Matt.)

Note: I'm not suggesting that anyone should be persuaded to speak up. I'm just hoping it helps clarify, in your own mind, why it doesn't seem necessary.

Linda
 
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#13
Matt, I don't think the intention is to censor anyone, but simply to prevent every thread degenerating into a debate about whether psi is real. That can quickly become tedious, and as I have pointed out, skeptics have a whole forum here to use as they like- they can fill it to their hearts content - hardly censorship! The idea is to enable other parts of Skeptiko to deal with other aspects of the subject. David
Turns out that area is censored as well.

Linda
 
#14
Matt, I don't think the intention is to censor anyone, but simply to prevent every thread degenerating into a debate about whether psi is real. That can quickly become tedious, and as I have pointed out, skeptics have a whole forum here to use as they like- they can fill it to their hearts content - hardly censorship! The idea is to enable other parts of Skeptiko to deal with other aspects of the subject. David
I agree, threads can be ruined as you describe. The practice of designating a thread for discussing merits or ideas that move the conversation forward seems fair and should be respected. A thread can be created consecutively where disagreement occurs or a parallel thread. These 2 practices , as far as I know, are Skeptiko guidelines.

But I have seen censorship frequently on many science, skepticism forums, and comments section of sites with similar mind-sets of articles. Typically the censorship is banning, but I have had experience where my argument or opinions being deleted or never posted. These actions are usually justified by claims and accusations of "conspiracy theorist" or pseudo-science regardless, quite often, of whether there is data, evidence, science, and including peer-review. These are the situations I'm concerned with.

And just to be clear, I consider myself a skeptic; open mind, suspend judgement, and investigate. And I consider Skeptiko one of the better forums that adhere to the precept I utilize. So, no one can claim to be the sole arbiters of "skepticism". However, the split within skepticism, IMO, is the varying metrics that individuals use to gauge a phenomena with a level data, evidence, and science they are comfortable with. Some may believe the science has answered it, science is faulty, more science is needed, it's not even science, or the science needs to advance for measurements. I'm sure there are more, but I think you can understand my point.
 
#15
It's ironic because you are complaining about censorship of dissenting opinions on a forum where dissenting opinions are censored. And it's even more ironic because one of the persistent themes of this forum is to rail against perceived censorship elsewhere.
Why are you assuming I'm exempting Skeptiko? I'm aware of designating threads while other threads are not moderated, but I don't know the full extent of what may have occurred on Skeptiko. I am quite aware of censorship behavior on many other forums and comments section. I think the practice of censorship is a problem that is not only on skepticism forums and sites, but one that is increasingly becoming common on the internet, MSM, media etc..., globally. So I would suggest, Lisa, more inquiry, discussion, and clarity before prejudging and criticizing.

One way to understand this is to hold up a mirror to the opening post.
How would this help understand? Did my opening post somehow censor someone or something? You seem to be implying you know more about my own thoughts than I do which is patronizing and belittling. Was this your intent?

"Well I hope I'm not the only one that is very disturbed and alarmed by this trend in bias group-think. And what is even more concerning is that these groups are often viewed as the social darlings and cited as the "modern thinkers", however, the only thing I'm observing is a consolidation of biases, stagnation of open discussion, individuals seeking group validation and acceptance promoting subjectively sanctioned and limited opinions rather than objective science, and the slow creep of dogma."

Is this paragraph true regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the people who are silenced? And if you think the answer is "yes", think about why don't you see the need to speak up about the censorship here. (This is directed at anyone, not just Matt.)
I have not been a Skeptiko member long enough to know the biases you're referring to, but I will better aquatint myself with the threads.


Note: I'm not suggesting that anyone should be persuaded to speak up. I'm just hoping it helps clarify, in your own mind, why it doesn't seem necessary.

Linda
It's clear your focus is mainly on Skeptiko and your concerns may be valid, but while this would concern me as well, I'm looking at a bigger picture and not separating Skeptiko from it. Maybe this point was not evident from my original post, but that is what I meant to convey.


Matt
 
#16
It's ironic because you are complaining about censorship of dissenting opinions on a forum where dissenting opinions are censored. And it's even more ironic because one of the persistent themes of this forum is to rail against perceived censorship elsewhere.

One way to understand this is to hold up a mirror to the opening post.

"Well I hope I'm not the only one that is very disturbed and alarmed by this trend in bias group-think. And what is even more concerning is that these groups are often viewed as the social darlings and cited as the "modern thinkers", however, the only thing I'm observing is a consolidation of biases, stagnation of open discussion, individuals seeking group validation and acceptance promoting subjectively sanctioned and limited opinions rather than objective science, and the slow creep of dogma."

Is this paragraph true regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the people who are silenced? And if you think the answer is "yes", think about why don't you see the need to speak up about the censorship here. (This is directed at anyone, not just Matt.)

Note: I'm not suggesting that anyone should be persuaded to speak up. I'm just hoping it helps clarify, in your own mind, why it doesn't seem necessary.

Linda
In my opinion you were doing a splendid job of arguing ad infinitum when you were banned ? I thought you were keeping to the CD threads and were displaying the very properties that Alex wanted to show off ?

The pedandic nature of some of the discussions and arguments seem(for me at least, a Joe Public type of guy) to be completely irrelevant ? It is interesting that people still keep coming to add to the bonfire? Moths to a flame in my opinion.

I thought you would be allowed to post, within your restrictions, to your hearts
content ? (As long as you weren't abusive or rude obviously) Wrong, obviously ?
 
#17
Why are you assuming I'm exempting Skeptiko?
I'm not assuming that you are exempting Skeptiko, but rather assuming that this is the way you feel about Skeptiko:

"And just to be clear, I consider myself a skeptic; open mind, suspend judgement, and investigate. And I consider Skeptiko one of the better forums that adhere to the precept I utilize."

I'm aware of designating threads while other threads are not moderated, but I don't know the full extent of what may have occurred on Skeptiko. I am quite aware of censorship behavior on many other forums and comments section. I think the practice of censorship is a problem that is not only on skepticism forums and sites, but one that is increasingly becoming common on the internet, MSM, media etc..., globally.
The censorship here is the same as you described above elsewhere:

"But I have seen censorship frequently on many science, skepticism forums, and comments section of sites with similar mind-sets of articles. Typically the censorship is banning, but I have had experience where my argument or opinions being deleted or never posted. These actions are usually justified by claims and accusations of "conspiracy theorist" or pseudo-science regardless, quite often, of whether there is data, evidence, science, and including peer-review. These are the situations I'm concerned with."

I think it is easy to say "censorship is bad" when you are the one who is censored. When I suggested a mirror be held up, it was to show you the good side of censorship. What would be reflected back would be regarded as desirable - a forum with the precepts you utilize - open mind, suspend judgement, and investigate - despite squelching dissenting opinion here just like they do elsewhere.

How would this help understand?
I hoped you would understand the censorship you see elsewhere (against your ideas) from the perspective of the person who the censorship benefits (the person who can now discuss their ideas freely, without disruption).

Did my opening post somehow censor someone or something? You seem to be implying you know more about my own thoughts than I do which is patronizing and belittling. Was this your intent?
No, I wouldn't assume I know more about your own thoughts than you. I agree that would be patronizing and belittling, which is something I'm against. I apologize if I gave you that impression.

My suggestion was directed at anyone who regards Skeptiko as a good forum for useful discussion (which may or may not be you, but does seem to be).

I have not been a Skeptiko member long enough to know the biases you're referring to, but I will better aquatint myself with the threads.

It's clear your focus is mainly on Skeptiko and your concerns may be valid, but while this would concern me as well, I'm looking at a bigger picture and not separating Skeptiko from it. Maybe this point was not evident from my original post, but that is what I meant to convey.

Matt
I agree that Skeptiko would not be separate from the bigger picture. I don't know what the solution is either. But whatever it is, it should apply to forums in which censorship may be working to your benefit as well as forums in which it works against you. I'm not assuming that you (or anyone else) aren't looking at it from both perspectives. It's just that your opening post didn't really seem to include the perspective that the justifications for censorship are valid. And despite some members here who put a lot of effort into railing against censorship elsewhere and also put a lot of effort into wholeheartedly endorsing it here, I haven't seen a discussion here which addresses this apparent contradiction.

Please note...I'm not arguing for any of the censorship I see here and elsewhere. I'm just arguing that discussion not exclude Skeptiko (a place where censorship is wanted) from the picture,

Linda
 
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#18
In my opinion you were doing a splendid job of arguing ad infinitum when you were banned ?
What is your label for the proponents who kept the argument going?

I thought you were keeping to the CD threads and were displaying the very properties that Alex wanted to show off ?
I was.

The pedandic nature of some of the discussions and arguments seem(for me at least, a Joe Public type of guy) to be completely irrelevant ? It is interesting that people still keep coming to add to the bonfire? Moths to a flame in my opinion.
I don't know either. I must admit that I don't put too much thought into why some people enjoy critical discussions and some don't. I'm just happy for variation.

I thought you would be allowed to post, within your restrictions, to your hearts
content ? (As long as you weren't abusive or rude obviously) Wrong, obviously ?
I did too. Wrong, obviously.

Linda
 
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