Petition to site moderators and owner
by MS01 Indie, Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 02:34:23 PM EDT
During the primary, there were many heated exchanges between the opposing camps. The fervor for one candidate or another was to be expected and if some posters went over the line it could be understood as coming from someone who was a passionate supporter. Since the primaries ended, things have deteriorated.
The moderators have pretty much let people feel free to express themselves and have tolerated some things that would never have been permitted during the primaries. This has been great, in that it encouraged a vigorous debate. They have been quick to respond to certain abuses, however. For instance, a new user was created with a spinoff from another regular user. The new user also copied the established user's sig. S/he went on a spam and tr abuse spree for the better part of one evening. The moderators quickly banned the user, once informed of the abuse.
On a normal site, during normal times, this would be good enough. Unfortunately, few subjects are as divisive as politics and these are far from normal times.
We currently have several trolls freely operating on this site. They constantly trash Democratic candidates and Democratic principles. They mock progressive values and come to the defense of Republicans. This in itself would be enough to get them banned from most sites. However, they take it a step further. They register under numerous usernames, thus creating 'sockpuppets' so they can rate their own comments. These sockpuppets also make it seem as if there are more users that share their views than really exist.
The site is slowly becoming a battleground between trolls and troll spotters. Every diary degenerates into name-calling and finger-pointing. Real, substantive discussions get disrupted by abuse similar to that caused by the one-day troll I mentioned in the second paragraph. Any praise of the Democratic candidate is met with derision and stale arguments by users who echo right-wing talking points. They are supported by users who seem to be coming here straight from PUMA or other anti-Democratic groups. How long can it go on before the site withers away?
I have a suggestion on how to fix the problem, but before I make the suggestion I'd like to explain what I am NOT proposing. I am NOT proposing the site resort to censorship to the point that it becomes nothing more than an Obama cheering club. I am NOT suggesting that dissenting views should be stifled. I am NOT suggesting that there is no room for posts that are critical of Obama or stances he might have taken on an issue. I am NOT suggesting that there is no room for complaints about sexism and the effect it had on the campaign nor am I suggesting that anyone "get over it" or that they should "get in line".
What I am suggesting is that accusations of trolls should be investigated by the moderators and when those accusations are shown to be accurate that the user be banned. I realize the moderators are already doing this to some extent, but I think they should make it clear that they welcome reports of abuse and want users to become more active in helping to moderate the site.
Once a user is banned, they shouldn't be allowed back on the site under another username. This is a common practice that could be easily stopped by implementing IP banning. Almost all blog software has a method for IP banning. Without that in place, a banned user can be back on the site in a matter of minutes. If IP banning is put in place, there has to be an appeal process so users that feel they have been unfairly banned can make their case.
I would also like to suggest limiting usernames to one or two per IP address. This would eliminate the sockpuppet practice.
I realize these suggestions will make more work for the current moderators so I'd like to make one more suggestion. The current moderators could appoint more mods to police abuse. These moderators would have more restrictive permissions than a full moderator and might have to be supervised, but even then they could take a load off the current mods. There are plenty of long-time users on the site who would make good mods. They can be evaluated for fairness by reviewing their ratings and comment history.
These are only suggestion on my part. I am not complaining about the site admins nor am I saying that unless these changes are made I will go somewhere else. As I mentioned above, I don't want to see this site turn into an echo chamber. That's one of the last things I'd want to happen to the site. The reason I post here, instead of on other sites is mainly because there are differing views. Having differing views on a site adds to the flavor of a site just as salt adds to the flavor of a meal. That analogy only goes so far. The trolls on this site are not acting like salt on a steak. They are more like someone rubbing salt into an open wound. That hurts. And, I'm afraid it will eventually hurt this site.
What do you think?