Rules, Moderation, Civility

Many issues have been raised in the past few days in thousands of comments and many diaries about the venomous tone of incivility in the comment threads at Daily Kos. There have been calls for better – and fairer – moderation on my part. People have also called for better and fairer moderation by Trusted Users. In this call for civility, many accusations, new and old, have been tossed about freely. Some users have said the situation will only calm down when this or that individual, or this or that group, is banned.

This diary is not a reply to all the complaints and comments that have been made. Other diaries will follow in the weeks ahead. This one focuses on three matters: six rules which will be added to the FAQ this week; the imposition of a “clean slate” on three specific areas of contention among two opposing groups of users; and a comment about community moderation.

Civility and Interaction

When encountering someone who is breaking the rules as stated in the FAQ or behaving in a “trollish” manner, a user should first ask that person not to engage in rule-breaking. Even if the user has a long-standing disagreement with that person. If the response is to continue on the same route, then and only then should the user proceed to throwing HRs.

Users should not try to go around this by hauling out months – or years-old battles. If a person is violating generally understood rules right now, then call them on it. Ask them to stop. If they have been engaging in a pattern of doing so for the past couple of days or weeks, then point that out. But nobody should be HRed for something now because they also did something in 2008 that the HRer finds objectionable. Is there anybody who has been here for a couple of years who hasn’t messed up a few times? If we go the route of busting people for eons-ago misbehavior – in Internet time – we might as well turn the entire blog over to a permanent grudge match.

Some people would like that. Some people thrive on that. If you were to put them on a deserted island, half of them would be dead within a month. During the second month, they would be cooking the thigh bones of half the remaining castaways.

One more thing. I am not going to catch even 10% of the instances when somebody violates the rules here. Even me and 10 clones couldn’t do it. Community moderation requires community. All those seeking civility and fairness and an end to double-standards should focus at least 50% of their attention on what they themselves and their friends are doing to foster that kind of atmosphere instead of focusing 90% on what others are doing to foster toxicity.

Six Rules:

• Do not make threats or calls for violence. Threatening to beat up or kill someone, or suggesting that people should kill themselves, or saying that poison should be put in somebody’s crème brûlée, or making similar remarks, even as a joke, is prohibited and can lead to banning. This does not mean that all forms of cartoon violence, literary references, metaphors and the like are barred. Admin Moderation: A single warning. Second offense: Banning.

• Revealing the real identity or other personal information of a registered user who has not him- or herself made that identity known at Daily Kos or otherwise given permission for such information to be publicly revealed will result in summary banning. Among other things, such revelations include, but are not limited to, phone numbers, addresses, including email addresses not publicly available at Daily Kos, places of employment or clients, gender, sexual orientation, and the identities of other family members. Asking hostile outing questions such as: Do you work at such and such a place? when research has shown this to be true or likely to be true is a form of outing and will be dealt with as such. Admin Moderation: Summary banning.

• Registered users working in paid or unpaid positions for political campaigns must disclose their affiliation when it is relevant to the conversation. Admin Moderation: Warning, suspension, banning.

• Registered users who write GBCW diaries – saying they are leaving and never coming back – will be banned after their diary’s 24-hour recommendation period has expired. A user who changes their mind may return to Daily Kos under their pre-ban moniker and user identification number only after appealing for reinstatement to the Director of Community or Markos. Users who write diaries saying they are taking a temporary hiatus from posting at Daily Kos are not banned.

• This is a site for adults and language is not generally policed here, in terms of “shit,” “fuck,” “asshole,” or any of those other family-unfriendly words. Avoid “fuck” in headlines to avoid triggering browser filters of users who log on at their workplace. Anti-semitic, anti-Arab, racist, sexist, ableist and heterosexist language, however, is unwelcome. Admin Moderation: Warning, suspension, banning.

• Thread stalking is defined as having three requirements:
(1) On multiple occasions, one or more commenters follow a community member into diary threads; and,
(2) The commenter(s) posts comments that include false information, personal attacks, lies, or implied/express disclosure of private information; and
(3) The commenter(s) engages in this conduct with the intent to harass, harm, humiliate, frighten or intimidate another poster. This intent may be inferred from the number of times that the commenter follows a community member into threads and/or the nature of the comments posted.

Stalking does not include the mere expression of disagreement, seeking out diaries or comments of favorite diarists or simply frequent interaction on the boards.

Before calling someone a stalker or tossing HRs at a person thought to be a stalker, community members should post a comment explaining what conduct and/or statements constitute the stalking with a link to relevant evidence so that adminstrators and the community have a record to review. Admin Moderation:: Warning, suspension, banning.

Clean Slate:

Many allegations and counter-allegations have been made regarding the on-line (and sometimes off-line) behavior of various users here. Those who make these allegations and counter-allegations repeatedly say that the evidence is clear that their point of view is the absolute truth and that anybody who doesn’t see things their way is obviously biased. During thread discussions that began last week, I offered two means around this situation: a clean slate putting three of the most contentious allegations off-limits in future discussions; or handing the decision over to an arbitration panel chosen by people on both sides of the disputes from among Kossacks not party to the disputes. Some people – both those involved in the disputes and some not – liked one idea or the other, or both. Some hated both ideas. The third idea suggested was that I alone make the ruling.

And so I have. I am not ruling on who is right or who is wrong in the allegations made. I am ruling that further discussion of them, pro or con, is prohibited. Henceforth, there is a “clean slate” on discussion about whether those who made and recommended a specific comment in December at the blog Docudharma was racist. There should be no further discussion or posting of screenshots related to the formation of a private Facebook group to recommend diaries at Daily Kos as a means of keeping a user’s diaries off the Rec’d List. Do not continue to call someone a stalker whose case has been decided. All past cases have been decided.

No instances of stalking have been confirmed. Those who violate these rules – even as a reaction to others’ violations – will be warned, suspended and banned, in that order, if they do not comply.

This “clean slate” ruling does not mean in any way whatsoever that users are prohibited from discussing racism or new instances of alleged stalking.

Published in dailykos.

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