Comment is Free (but some comment is more free than others)

You couldn’t make this stuff up, you really couldn’t…

So the article about ‘unpeople’ that I posted yesterday was supposed to be the last in this week’s series of six pieces collected under the banner one glass eye.  Their purpose is to highlight and critique examples of dodgy sex equality narratives (carried by UK national media) that are clearly corrupted by glass spotisim or data privilege.

Over the week most of the articles I’ve examined have been carried by the Independent so I’m slightly surprised to find myself adding an unexpected additional post based on something I read on the Guardian Website this morning…

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So as opposed to examining something that doesn’t contravene the Guardian’s journalistic and ethical standards, today I find myself considering something they believe does, namely two recent contributions made by yours truly in their comments section.

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I regularly read contributions left by readers in the comments section and, in truth, quite often find them to be more informative and revealing than the actual article they are attached to.  Based on this experience, I thought I had a pretty clear idea of the scope and nature of contributions that are considered acceptable and regularly pass whatever glass-firewall is in place.

Until today, I certainly didn’t think it would ever be necessary to actually sit down and examine the community standards that I am expected to abide by when tossing my proverbial tuppence into a discussion.  Mainly because apart from one tentative comment I left in February, I have to date only ventured 3 actual opinions of my own, all within the last week.

According to their FAQ section, their moderation team only remove approximately 1% of contributions.  Occasionally this will be for legal reasons but generally this will be because the team decided that they are ‘offensive, abusive or threatening’.

The vast majority of this 1% are removed retrospectively, after either the moderators spot something dodgy or someone in ‘the community’ brings it to their attention.  In ‘isolated situations’ however, if someone has been ‘identified as a risk, based on a pattern of behaviour (e.g. spam, trolling, repeated/frequent borderline abuse)’, then their comments will automatically be placed in ‘moderation’ and will be screened before approval can be given for them to appear on the Guardian’s site….

This is a temporary measure applied by moderators to a very small handful of people based entirely on patterns of actual behaviour, and should result relatively quickly in either their posting ability being suspended completely if no improvement is shown, or the filter being removed. The decision to do either of these things would, again, be based on that user’s behaviour and activity during the pre-moderation period. Guidance on pre-moderation.

Which is the situation I find myself to be in this morning based on a grand total of 4 submissions….

I’m pretty certain these two are ok because they haven’t been removed, which I assume means the ‘pattern of behaviour’ has been established based on the two comments that have been.

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I can’t quite remember word for word what I said 6 days ago, so I’ll begin by examining the succinct contribution I made yesterday in response to Laura Bates’s question Why do fewer women tweet political party hashtags?…. which I’m reasonably certain was: Have you ever wondered how Gloria de Piero can make 2 + 2.4 = 3.4? Along with, ironically enough, a link to the aforementioned Unpeople piece.


(A picture of Nikolai Yezhov walking shoulder to shoulder with Joesph Stalin)

So for context, this was a contribution to a discussion about women’s lack of participation in online political debate and my intention was to draw parallels with possible online hostility and the way that the current Shadow Minister for Women (& Equalities) recently presented a quite Orwellian narrative where men were screened out of some political debates entirely.

Maybe the inference was too subtle for the moderators to get but in fairness to them, I initially assumed that they had taken issue with my unashamed self promotion and the fact that I’d included a link to this blog…

Community Commandment 7: We will remove any posts that are obviously commercial or otherwise spam-like. This may also apply to people or organisations who frequently post propaganda or external links without adding substantively to the quality of the discussion on the Guardian website.

After reading the answer to the FAQ: Can I link to my own blog?  I’m none the wiser though because apparently it’s fine, as long as it’s to a specific post which is ‘revealing, relevant, informative and/or provides more background or context about a particular perspective, situation or topic’.

I do suspect that a greater perception of offence (or whatever) has actually arisen as a consequence of the contribution I made 6 days ago to the comments section under another Laura Bates article called Feminism doesn’t mean a battle of the sexes, but a common goal for all.

I’m struggling to remember exactly what it was I said and the moderators aren’t helping because it has already been dumped down the memory hole.  I would sincerely doubt that I said anything that most reasonable people would reasonably consider to be remotely ‘offensive, abusive or threatening‘ because apart from anything else it’s not in my nature and it would be counter productive, not to mention hypocritical, given that my efforts are focused on promoting ‘ethical equality’.

It will probably have included an ‘on topic’ criticism’ of Laura Bates’ apparent lack of interest in talking about gender inequalities experienced by men, a theme I further explored in a critique posted this week about another of her recent articles in the Guardian.  It certainly included a link to another of my posts (which consequently got a lot of traffic this week) where I was critical about the everydaysexism project’s apparent reluctance to document examples of everyday sexism experienced by men (except when it suits their preferred perception of patriarchy).

In both posts I did take the time to mention that I have a lot of respect for Ms Bates’s activism on women’s rights issues and I’d be confident that any implied criticism was fair and focused on the argument or position as apposed to the person.  For these reasons I can’t help but wonder if I’ve actually been the victim of some sort of slippery ad hominem attack myself, which has been voiced safely behind a glass firewall because somebody or bodies didn’t like my criticism of brand Bates.

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(a picture of Laura Bates and one of her critics?)

In fairness to the Guardian and their moderators, if someone has flagged my comments then I appreciate that they have to act responsibly and at least look at it, although it does seem a tad extreme (not to mention Orwellian) to put me on super secret probation after four seemingly innocuous but potentially informative comments.  So I’ve asked for an explanation or at least a few pointers as to where I’m going wrong.

I guess it’s at least possible that there is a perception that I’ve somehow broken one or two of the ten community commandments but I assume there must be some sort of misunderstanding at the centre of this.

Community Commandment 2: We welcome debate and dissent, but personal attacks (on authors, other users or any individual), persistent trolling and mindless abuse will not be tolerated.

Community Commandment 2: We acknowledge criticism of the articles we publish, but will not allow persistent misrepresentation of the Guardian and our journalists to be published on our website. For the sake of robust debate, we will distinguish between constructive, focused argument and smear tactics.

Things took a tentative step forward recently when my most recent contribution was set free but I can’t help but wonder if I’ve been the victim of some online abuse for the sole reason that EYEisBloke.

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I’ll let you know if I ever get a response from the moderators…



Update 1: 

Still no response from the cif.moderation team and I’m still in super secret probation but another positive development as my contribution with a link to this very post has been approved…

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Update 2:

So two days later and I’m getting mixed results about what comments are and aren’t being allowed out of moderation.  I’m posted a page documenting this.

A representative of the moderation team has responded with the not entirely convincing explanation suggesting that I’m being censored for adding a link to my blog.  I’ve also posted a page with this explanation and my reply.

Finally I’ve committed to writing a comment a day until my special pre-moderation status has been removed.


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