Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Monday, 21 November 2011

Antisocial Networking Sites - Moderate or Die

I like it - Nihilist approach to Social Networking - would this be more sustainable in the long term than what we have at present?

Another rant - probably a continuation of the same old rant. I guess I must feel strongly about it. Yesterday, someone passed me a link to a discussion thread on an English football (that's soccer) fan site. I am aware of what goes on in these cess-pits, but between visits I tend to forget how bad it is.

There are inspired worthies around who see merit in the Internet's role as a means of letting popular culture and mass opinion be seen and have their due effect. I have some very bad news for these people - whatever else it might be, the Internet is also a magnet for the uneducated, the antisocial and the peculiar, not to mention those who are not distracted by having something better to do. The haters and the abusers thrive in there, and the more extreme their behaviour gets, the more they frighten away the more normal folk who might have something worth saying, and who might balance things up a bit. Homophobia, racism, filth - these sites can be upsetting, evil places to visit - the prevailing atmosphere is hatred, pure and simple.

As a trivial, personal example, I cannot let my elderly mother or my son look at otherwise worthwhile items on YouTube or even Yahoo News because some zero-wits will have daubed obscenity all over them. Moron Rule is here to stay, it seems. I read a complaint from someone recently on some BBC forum or other that they were scared to let their children use the Internet freely, not because they might get coached or politically corrupted by some extremist site (or whatever the Daily Mail would claim), but because perfectly ordinary, valuable resources were defaced and spoilt by mass mindlessness. This in itself was hardly revolutionary, but I was appalled to see that one of the responses was from someone making the point that it was not up to a parent to censor what their children should see - instead the parent should ensure that their children were brought up to appreciate the damaging role which censorship has played throughout history. I realise that everyone is entitled to their opinion (are they? - isn't it also true that some people aren't fit to plead?), but do they actually have to tell us what it is? Personally, I would have given this person a kick up the backside, but that almost certainly offends against some human right or other.

All the above is a rather tired subject for debate in the pub. So what is the problem? - is there a graffitti instinct in people? Given anonymity, do people (and I mean most people) feel obliged to express themselves in extreme, provocative terms? Are they trying to present themselves as someone they admire, or aspire to be? As a rule of thumb, I reckon that if you say something anonymously which you would not say in a room full of the people you are addressing, then you should probably think carefully about what you are doing. In fact, the situation on discussion sites may be slightly worse than strict anonymity, since the contributors are able to cultivate some notoriety in their assumed identity. No need to look anyone in the eyes - no comeback - just let rip.

As ever, I am intrigued, somewhat offended, but have no real answers. However, there is a discernible paradox here. The sites which explain that the views expressed are those of their members, and do not represent the views of the site provider, are very happy to pocket the advertising revenue generated by site hits, yet they wish to duck any associated accountability.

Not good enough. Not nearly good enough.

Though the idea is attractive, the concept of having some defined standards and some kind of enforcer of Public Decency is impracticable - laughably so - the things that offend me probably won't offend you, and vice versa - it's far too subjective to make into a legal issue. However, there are a great many comments on public sites which really do offend against established law - racism being one of the more obvious. If some anonymous excrescence puts an illegal remark on a forum, then the forum should take full responsibility for moderation - a disclaimer is not sufficient. The contributors are invariably registered members of the site, so they are known to the site providers. If I rent the back room of the pub, and invite a bunch of crackpots in to have an unruly meeting, I would expect to be answerable if things got out of hand, or we offended or hurt someone. In my own interests, I might take it upon myself to keep my members in check, or I might expect to have the facility closed down. It's a no-brainer.

Here's my tuppence-worth - an idea which appeals to me: if a forum or message site is not properly moderated, then any illegal or offensive views expressed should be clearly the responsibility of the site provider, who should be directly accountable. If they cannot afford the work of moderation, yet cannot tolerate the risk of someone saying something illegal, then they should close the site. That should get rid of a few. OK, we might lose some things that we would rather have preserved, but something has to give - the situation we have is intolerable, and I don't think it can go on. A good many things, after all, are not worth saying - the fact that it would offend your grannie does not make it clever or apposite, however much it might amuse the lads.

Moderate or die.


  1. I don't like to think of myself as anti-social or uneducated but I'll cheerfully admit to being peculiar.

    My solution to the annoying deluge of comments, attacks, bile, etc etc is a little too drastic for most. I see no reason for anonymity on the net. Everyone on all forums should have to use their real name. If you can't admit publicly to an opinion or activity, perhaps you shouldn't do it or should at least hide. Perhaps even a registry of user names with electonic protection (never perfect of course) which would prevent attempts to impersonate someone and let any one confirm that the person is who they claim and that you have the right one. (which John Smith?) Maybe the passport office could take it on?

    The only exception I would allow is people who can prove that they live under a repressive regime where they might be disappeared, tortured or the like for expressing polite but politically. Perhaps the UN could run that registry? (yeah right)

    But instead I run my one email group like an enlightened despot or the Mess Secretary, and avoid dark alleys and sites where too many people are allowed to harass the public.

    -Little Lead Troll Bogey

  2. The problem with moderation (and I'm largely supportive of the argument you put), is that you may not agree with the moderator.... :o)

    I'd been a member of the Old school Wargaming Yahoo group for I don't know how long before a discussion with the moderator over his moderation of one topic lead to such a rude personal response I left....

  3. Ross - I like your idea, though I would have difficulty nominating a registrar.

    Steve - agree. There is a difference between a moderator checking on behavioural and language standards and a moderator who just likes to control people in general - again, I'd have difficulty defining where the borderline is!

    I did once look at the OSW Group, but was put off by what looked to me like too much complaining and tub-thumping by the organiser(s) - mind you, what do I know?