In August 2012 Jahanshah Javid, the founder and former editor/publisher of iranian.com, gave an interview to Arash Karami which was publisehd on PBS ForntLine's tehranburaue. Before you read the full interview, and to demonstrate my point of view, I invite you to read excerpts from the interview and compare them with some of the guidelines of the iranian.com's current Community & Commenting Standrads.
"Q: Can you briefly take us through the evolution of the first edition to what it is today?"
"A: For the first year or so, new content was published every two months. That's how long it took to find, write, and publish new articles. Eventually as viewership grew and more people submitted articles, it became easier to gather and post content. The site became a monthly and soon later, around 1997, it was updated every day. But the updates were all done manually by myself and people could not express themselves directly. Finally in 2007 I teamed up with a group of private investors in northern California and Iranian.com was transformed into an interactive site."
"It is difficult for me to measure and understand Iranian.com's impact in these 17 years. I have been involved too deeply in its day-to-day operation to be able to give an objective assessment. That's for others to judge and make sense of its huge archive of hundreds of thousands of pages -- the largest of any Iranian site. But one thing I am sure of: Iranian.com has been the freest, most diverse and progressive forum in the history of Iranian media. Its motto "Nothing is sacred" meant anyone could publish virtually any opinion, story, photo... without fear of state or religious persecution. That was a first for Iranians."
"Q: How does Iranian.com work operationally and managerially as far as producing content is concerned? How are editors, bloggers, staff structured, and with so much content is it possible to fact-check everything and make sure due diligence is done before everything is published?"
"A: I have been the only editor/publisher since the beginning. In recent years I have had volunteer help to moderate the news section and comments. We make sure that no one breaks the law as far as slander is concerned, and we do not allow profanity in the comments. Other than that anyone can post or submit whatever they like. It is impossible for us to check who is telling the truth or what is the real identity of anonymous writers who make wild claims or outrageous comments. That has caused some instances of abuse but as a whole the freedom to post freely has encouraged Iranians to set aside their fears and allowed them to express themselves in ways they could never imagine before."
"Q: On social media and different media sites, one would get the impression that the Iranian community is deeply divided. Do you feel that only a niche group is compelled to express their opinion on comments sections and that perhaps they're not reflective of the community as a whole?"
"A: The Iranian community is polarized but not really divided. Because of the extremely unnatural situation in Iran where the government represents only a small minority of religious zealots, the vast majority of the population inside and outside Iran are becoming more and more frustrated. And what we see online is a reflection of that. There's a lot of anger and it's getting worse as the regime gets more and more isolated and militaristic. We will not be able to escape its nasty effects online."
"Q: Do you feel that comments sections contribute to constructive dialogue and better understanding or does it serve as a platform for the various groups to diverge even further while attacking one another with anonymous profiles?"
"A: The comments section is not where you'd often find civilized discussion especially when the topic is about politics or religion, but it's still better than no discussion at all. I think there are better ways of managing comments and one of them is by allowing each user to moderate comments under his/her own posts and even block users. Just like in Facebook. "
"Q: After 17 years, why are you leaving Iranian.com?"
"A: I sold my shares because Iranian.com is being redesigned to make it more user-driven and much less reliant on an editor or moderators. Basically once the new design is implemented, I would have no role in the publishing operation. So it's the best time to move on and start something new and somewhat different."
THAS WAS THEN, when Iranian.com was handed over to the new management.
THIS IS NOW:
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IN OTHER WORDS:
In terms of interactivity, spontaneity, respect for anonymity and freedom of expression without judgmental intervention we are back to pre-1997.
Congratulations Said Amin!