Civility Wars Continue

April 9th, 2007at 11:21am Posted by Eli

The story is actually not as bad as it intro makes it sound:

Is it too late to bring civility to the Web?

The conversational free-for-all on the Internet known as the blogosphere can be a prickly and unpleasant place. Now, a few high-profile figures in high-tech are proposing a blogger code of conduct to clean up the quality of online discourse.

I’m not exactly one of the more foulmouthed bloggers out there, but cries for “civility” always make me wary – they usually sound like right-wing bloggers demanding that we liberal bloggers unilaterally disarm.

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

(…)

Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Wales talk about creating several sets of guidelines for conduct and seals of approval represented by logos. For example, anonymous writing might be acceptable in one set; in another, it would be discouraged. Under a third set of guidelines, bloggers would pledge to get a second source for any gossip or breaking news they write about.

Bloggers could then pick a set of principles and post the corresponding badge on their page, to indicate to readers what kind of behavior and dialogue they will engage in and tolerate. The whole system would be voluntary, relying on the community to police itself.

Still not great, but it seems targeted more at abusive comments and rumormongering than bloggers who use cusswords. Still, I’m not sure how realistic or practical it is to expect bloggers to police their comments. Big bloggers like Atrios simply don’t have the time to monitor their comments without help. Kos uses a community-based approach, and Firedoglake uses multiple actively-engaged moderators, but most bloggers don’t have those options.

My own blog is too small and obscure to attract many trolls, so I should theoretically be able to clean them up pretty easily. But it seems that the civility advocates are not taking the obsessive nature of trolls into account. They’re not just driving by; they’re checking back constantly to see if they’ve gotten under your skin. If you delete their comments and don’t have a way to ban them, they will camp out and start saturation bombing. You can end up even worse off than if you had just ignored them, and with a lot less free time. But if you want to try, that’s your right, and I don’t think you need an explicit “policy” to give you permission to delete or ban commenters who are threatening or just vile.

On the flip side, if you’re too overzealous about policing those on your side who you think go too far, it can have a chilling effect on commentary. I would at least try to distinguish between genuine threat and hyperbole before I would delete anyone’s comment.

All that said, the comment spammers can fuck off and die. Spam comments are the only ones I will delete without a second thought (except for the very very rare ones with entertainment value).

Entry Filed under: Blogosphere,Technology,Wankers


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