Monday, January 02, 2006
Freedom of Speech... For Some...
Via my referrers, I can see UK Indymedia got into a frenzy over it as well. Someone pointed to my post in a comment on UK Indymedia and I received quite a few few visitors as a result. Visiting the page in question however, I can see no such post or comment pointing to this blog.
What's going on?
It would appear the comment which linked to my blog was 'hidden' by a UK Indymedia volunteer. Unfortunately, on UK Indymedia there is no way to view hidden comments, only articles.
In other words, the comment might as well have been deleted as it cannot be viewed by anyone.
Whilst I'm in favour of effective moderation, and don't know for sure what was said and subsequently hidden, there's a problem with this. Specifically, knowing UK Indymedia's Questionable Agenda I wonder what other dissenting comments are hidden for no reason other than the moderators disagreeing with them.
It's a fine line between effective moderation based on reasonable policy, versus censorship. Sydney Indymedia is evidence of what happens when you leave the gates wide open. This is bad. A lack of accountabililty on the other hand (and Indymedia has proved to lack this) doesn't help when the pendulum swings the other way and people in a position of responsbility delete content for no good reason other than they don't agree with it. I don't trust Indymedia to negotiate that line.
For example, this article appears on the front page of UK Indymedia. For any post regarding Israel, I simply can't believe in the nearly 5 days since it was posted, there wasn't a single comment.
I would love to hear from readers via comments or email (address on the left) of their experiences, especially with UK Indymedia. You don't need to register with Blogspot to leave comments, however select 'other' and pick a unique name rather than 'anonymous' to make any replies a little more clear.
Finally, whomever posted the comment on UK Indymedia is obviously a reader of this blog, so please let me know what you said. Update: It's happened - Check the comments on this post and scroll down to my next post - Hard Evidence of UK Indymedia Censorship.
Update 2: Via the comments, an anonymous visitor has accused me of censorship by deleting one of his comments. Thing is, I didn't. Commenter lied, people died...
Update 3: Apparently it is now possible to view hidden comments by appending "?c=all" (without quotes) to the end of the URL. For example, http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2005/12/330593.html?c=all. I don't know if this is a new change to the UK site.
Have a read of comments on this post , and then view the Bethlehem article with comments enabled (the preceding URL) and particularly comments by TH and Bobby. Can you see a problem? All six (at this time) comments have been hidden given the impression to readers not using the 'secret URL' that there is no reply or complaint about the article, when this is (un)clearly not the case. Can you say "crushing dissent"?
See also another comment of TH's which was hidden for similarly questionable reasons. Its hiding also breaks the flow of subsequent responses.
Update: Various comments on this post have speculated why some of the posts may have been hidden. The two latest comments by TH on the UK Indymedia piece which were hidden (and may be viewed here) suggest my theory is accurate, and UK Indymedia really is a disgrace, stifling dissent and censoring opposing points of view for no good reason. Any other excuses?
Update: I'm getting called all sorts of things in the comments. None of them are true of course.
Update: Indymedia UK is doing some introspection... Not really.
Update: After yesterday's antisemitic stabbing inside a Russian synagogue, one of my readers, Annie writes:
Here's a rum thing. This article: https://www1.indymedia.org.uk/en/2006/01/331254.html is a completely factual report about anti-Semitic incidents in Russia. It appeared only today on the newswire...but when I clicked on it, it says "hidden article"... Why on earth is it hidden? It says only the truth. Could that be the reason?Could be.
This is a continuing problem on UK Indy however complaints about it are invariably censored as well. I'm not obsessively "anti-censorship" and agree with you that good moderation is the answer. However several of my comments have been hidden for no *good* reason whatsoever. It's clear someone simply didn't agree with them. Especially on a site like what Indymedia professes to be, this is unreasonable. Considering their frequent railing against "censorship" and in favour of freedom of speech, it's downright hypocritical.
What I said was (from memory but eseentially correct):
"You are a bunch of morons if you actually believe the above. Here is something which will embarrass you terribly" - followed by a link to your blog entry.
I have just posted to the front-page story (http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2005/12/330593.html ) and like many of my comments, I wouldn't be surprised if that one vanishes without a trace. They may behave if they know someone is 'watching' (get it? heh)
There's a second comment beneath mine. Let's see what happens.
It is impossible to see hidden comments on UK Indymedia, only hidden articles. Many have complained about this as well.
Love your site.
On the Bethlehem "peacemakers" article, I saw 2 comments earlier today (which only appeared today) and they have already disappeared.
TH - I often see your comments on Indymedia and I'm glad you're there. Keep up the good work.
You too, Watcher. You do brilliant work.
You are a liar.
I have not removed any comments from this post nor other comments for several weeks (last one here and with good reason as explained therein.
By all means start a blog, I can only imagine the sort of material you would publish and how seriously you might be taken.
"So you posted a comment on a website calling the users of that website 'a bunch of morons' and you are shocked when it's hidden? Which part of the queue were you in when common sense was handed out?
Secondly, do you acknowledge that I did not "censor" your comment, which for whatever reason did not appear. Did you actually submit it?
If so, how about a frank apology?
As for the comment on Indymedia, I did not write it, TH did. Your venomous (and untrue) attack on me was not only untrue, it was poorly aimed.
Regardless, TH's comment, as reposted here was not that inflammatory. It merely said, you are a moron if you believe the above is evidence of a conspiracy and provided a link to a 'Fisking' of the argument on this site. I would imagine Indymedia readers have thicker skin than you give them credit for and can handle the word 'morons' without losing too much sleep considering how freely the term "Nazi" is thrown around.
It does not justify the deletion of that comment.
Even if you disagree with me on that however, there is absolutely no question that other comments (as referenced in my later post here should not have been hidden and were only because someone at Indymedia simply disagreed with their pro-Israeli sentiment.
Who knows what else is being censored on a site which claims to endorse 'freedom of speech' and 'open publishing'. Hypocrites and frauds.
TH's actual comment was a little more inflamatory than he made out. This is it below.
"You are a bunch of morons.
See: http://indymediawatch.blogspot.com/2006/01/patriotism-tests-in-school.html which will embarrass the hell out of anyone who suspects the above is a conspiracy."
If you look at the indymedia article, there is another comment which refutes the original indymedia article but does not resort to abuse. That has been left up.
I'm not going to get into an argument about the Bethlehem article, except to say that an anti-israeli comment was removed, as well as pro-israeli comments. It's one of thsoe subjects where nobody seems to be able to keep a level head, and shouts of zionazi and antisemite do nothing to bring about peace.
Can I assume you are one if the UK Indymedia moderators?
If so, please tell me what was the specific problem with TH's post, visible here. I continue to fail to see the "editorial guideline" which appears to have been breached.
Whilst some comments were problematic, there was certainly no "shouts of zionazi and antisemite" in the comments by "TH" or "Bobby", simply a documented argument about the obvious bias in the article, a response to which (his) was denied.
The post by "denied" whilst a little off topic makes a valid point as well.
I note the hidden comments are now visible in a circuitous fashion and will update my post accordingly. What has changed?
I can tell you why the hidden comments are now visible though, the uk indymedia code went through a major update, and it seems they have only recently got around to fixing it so that hidden comments could still be viewed. There was an explanation on one of the links to indymedia from your blog.
Maybe he has been disruptive in the past
I can't say, though considering there is no form of user registration on the site, I believe blacklisting users is problematic. Particularly if a given comment is not of itself a problem. IT certainly doesn't seem to be a good excuse, though I know it's your theory alone. I continue to suspect UK Indymedia have no 'good reason' whatsoever and stand to be disproven.
they might also consider that linking to your blog is a form of personal promotion,
Another interesting theory, which wouldn't justify what happened. I can imagine numerous Indymedia types take exception to my blog. This is unfortunate, as whilst heavy handed, the criticism here can be seen in most cases as constructive. Blacklisting links to my blog would be stifling dissent as well. In any case, TH wasn't merely saying "Check this blog out" but pointing to specific posts herein which were relevant to the topic at hand (originally the bogus study paper). Not exactly blatant link-whoring.
Thanks for the update regarding comments. The new ability to view hidden comments will at least aid transparency of any abuse even though I doubt the problems I raise will go away at all. UK Indymedia continues to have a case to answer and I can imagine why plenty of fair-minded individuals would want nothing at all to do with them. This in turn radicalizes the group.
I don't think there's that many people who actually do the moderating, and they get quite a lot of stuff to filter out. I think they put quite a lot of unpaid work into it so if you want to post on there and your views run counter to the moderators it's probably best to be polite and careful.
Some of the better run IMC sites add a comment to hidden posts or comments specifying the problem e.g. "hidden - racist attack / off topic" etc. In most cases, it's quite obvious and justifiable why a post/comment was hidden. UK Indymedia apparently doesn't do this and "hidden - I don't get paid and simply didn't agree with it" probably would't suit. As mentioned, I see no other good reason.
Comments by others such as Annie confirm my belief this is not an isolated problem.
My position on moderation has always been clear. What I have seen so far doesn't cut it.
Of course, annie wanted to remain anonymous so we can't see why her comments might have been hidden.
Having a reason displayed for a comment being hidden would be desirable, but somebody would have to write the code for that, and then implement it.
Since Indymedia UK has recently switched to not displaying any comments at all by default, I think it's reasonable to assume that they just don't have the manpower to manage the racist, abusive, spam etc posts that they get.
Indymedia itself is as far as possible from non-partisan. I have no doubt if you linked to 'similarly minded' sites, such links would be promoted to the front page and highlighted. Dissenting viewpoints, howsoever genuine seem to get different treatment.
Explanations next to hidden comments shouldn't really be neccessary if a reasonable person could look at a comment or post and work out what policy was violated. On the better IMC sites, which still occassionally get trolled, one can work out straight away what the problem is. In the case of UK Indymedia however, it is unreasonable and consequently one can't.
For example, this article is about a comment which started "You are a bunch of morons." and you couldn't see why that would be removed.
Compare and contrast "Moron" which was hidden, with say numerous examples of Zionazi which were not, the "Nazi" Pope, which was not, or indeed the highly dubious content of the original post in question.
This is before you even approach the very questionable 'moderation ' (read: Deletion) of the comments in the Front Page anti-Israel article. Go to the page with the hidden comments shown, and point out to me the problem with at least three of them for which I can see no problem whatsoever, and a further one or two, which whilst heated are not sufficently bad that they should be deleted giving the impression that the article stands unchallenged.
UK Indymedia provides another terrific example here where someone is called a "Fuckwit" (which I believe trumps Moron). This is followed by: There is no point trying to have a sensible debate with the people who post on Indymedia.
The two latest comments by TH on the UK Indymedia piece which were hidden (and may be viewed here) suggest my theory is accurate, and UK Indymedia really is a disgrace, stifling dissent and censoring opposing points of view for no good reason. Would anyone care to suggest some other excuses?
Also you dishonestly state that the 'view all comments' URL is some kind of secret. It's not. If you had bothered to go to the Editorial Guidelines page you would have seen the link to the 'view all posts' index from there. Not a secret, not a conspiracy. But carry on with your theories by all means.
Of course. You see, I am big enough that I can deal with that. According to your theory though, "morons" hurt the feelings of people who have been called a lot worse. Curiously however, in the other examples (I cited several) the comments were not hidden, but on some posts, the policy is not followed. I wonder why.
As for the view all comments' URL, if a siginficant number of people couldn't find it (including myself) guess what? It might as well be a secret. This is however irrelevant.
As indicated by an earlier comment on this page, that functionality is quite new (last fortnight) so you may find the comments on the editorial page to which you refer are new additions as well.
See also this Google Cache of the 7 Jun editorial page which states: " hidden comments are not showing via there, untill planned changes to system are implimented"(sic).
This is at the time of posting, also the case on the live page at http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/london/static/editorial.html as well, which wholly negates your claim.
So can I expect an apology and retraction now?
The fact also remains, that not a single comment disagreeing with the Bethlehem post has been allowed to remain on the page. I suspect you won't have a good answer for that seeing that several of the posts didn't call anyone nasty names like "moron" or "doo doo head".
But feel free to carry on with your conspiracy theories if it keeps you amused.
The fact remains, if a visitor read at least one article off the front page of UK Indymedia, or numerous articles via the newswire, they would be oblivious to commentary with which certain UK Indymedia editors disagree, and have hidden, making a mockery of themselves and the site as a whole.
This is not 'conspiracy theory' but clearly documented, with examples, and endorsed by several others who have left comments along these lines.
With respect to your comment, I note this is a new feature and the editorial guidelines page has been updated (refer above Google cache and comments from last week) so you may not wish to be so smug, it demeans you further.
Of course, none of what you say contradicts anything I have pointed to with regards to censorship of valid commentary, to which there appears to be no response at all.
I have already provided a full explanation as to why the comment referred to in the original article was censored; because the commenter called all Indymedia readers 'a bunch of morons.' You see this as unacceptable censorship so I hardly think it's worth discussing other cases with you.
Hidden articles and hidden comments are not the same.
I have no qualms with an editorial policy. Indeed, good editing is something I have long called for.
What happens on UK Indymedia is not, however, good editing, or indeed adherance to any policy. Unless you can point to the policy which was breached in the numerous examples I have cited, not merely one trivial example involving the words morons.
For starters, the other comments on the Bethlehem article, or the post raised by Annie's email (check updates to the post).
You continue to skirt around this issue. I will assume at this point you haven't missed my raising of it, and have other reasons to ignore the question.
Hidden articles and comments are treated exactly the same, both are viewable from the Editorial Guidelines page.
But this is what it really comes down to. You don't like IMC UK's editorial policy and you are trying to dress it up as a freedom of speech issue.
Again, I pointed to a very clear breach of policy in the point you originally raised, and you still consider this unacceptable censorship, so I repeat again that I hardly consider it worthwhile discussing other cases.
No, it's like talking to a tin-foil hat wearing version of Vicky Pollard. Not surprising at all.