Friday, January 22, 2010

On Censorship and Human Nature

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all

Censorship, Debate and Discussion

WARNING - The content of this post may disturb some readers.

The vagaries of censorship are mentioned throughout Hillary Clinton’s recent speech advocating Internet Freedom. Censorship is an action that often takes place behind the scenes. It is sometimes difficult to detect. You can be sure that someone somewhere will be confused, disturbed, annoyed, or even enraged when its occurrence is noticed.

Lately, printed news has come under threat. There is a belief that blogging might replace newspapers with a more up-to-date, less censored conduit. As well, the Web2.0 channel is purportedly a space for open debate and discussion.

Well, I wonder about all this. I believe that there is a place for censorship. Furthermore, my experience tells me that censorship is alive and well and is existing quite comfortably – in the blogosphere.

By the way, this post is not meant as a rant.


During my first month of blogging I was introduced to some of the technologies that permit a blogger to choose whether or not a comment is published. Comment moderation is such a facility.

Some blog applications can even permit the content of a comment to be edited, before or after it is published. Comment moderation also gives bloggers relief from the increasing nuisance of spammed comments.

Hand in hand with all this is the idea that, through the provision of comment guidelines, commenters can sometimes be given the opportunity to learn what is likely to be accepted by a blogger on his or her blog. (Here’s a link to mine.)

Comment guidelines give the valid reasons for the culling of comments that may be in contravention of the blogger’s guidelines.

Biased opinion?

But comment guidelines are not the only criteria that may be used by a blogger who culls a comment. Am I not entitled to delete any comment that appears in my list of comments to be moderated, whether or not it meets all criteria in my comment guidelines?

How could I be accused of any discrimination even if I do cull comments containing valid opinions other than those that are aligned with my own? Who’s going to know?

You might say, “But isn’t this still a form of raw censorship?” Well of course it is. It also stymies healthy debate and discussion.

Okay, I’m being a tad hypothetical.

Or am I?

My quality comments

Over the years that I have been actively commenting on blogs, I‘ve witnessed this form of censorship. Of all the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of comments that I’ve entered against posts on other blogs, there have been a significant number, through the bloggers’ discretion in comment moderation, that have never appeared on the Internet.

You could say that this is a reflection on the quality and calibre of my comments. Well, there are enough of them still left out there. Take a look and judge the quality and calibre of my comments for yourself.

But I have always been careful to note, when my comment was removed or excluded, if the blog had any associated comment guidelines that I may have contravened. Most bloggers do not provide comment guidelines. I put it down to raw censorship.

So you may think that the blogosphere is entirely a place for freedom of expression. Just check when you leave comments on posts that have comment moderation. You could be surprised at the proportion of your comments that never appear on the blogs you post against.

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later


Claire Thompson said...

Hi Ken,
Have you ever contacted any of the bloggers who have not posted your comments? I am not as prolific a commenter as you, but on the couple of occasions that my comments have not shown up on blogs I've contacted the bloggers (via twitter or other contact info they may have made available) and asked what's up. In both cases the bloggers found that my comment ended up being marked as spam by AKISMET (perhaps I included too many links in my comments or something) and they both posted my comments ASAP.

The first time a comment of mine didn't show up I was really ticked off! I had spent a lot of time crafting it! I had lots of nasty thoughts about the blogger, and then I thought, well why don't I just ask them (in a polite, un-nasty way) what's up. I'm glad I did :-)


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora e Claire!

Thanks for this - good input and good advice. I too have had probs with some blogs when I put in too many links - Edublog is one - but I usually get a message that tells me.

Yes I do think you could be on to something - would form part of my statistics, true.

I happen to know that some were not as you say though, for in some instances they contacted me, which is unusual.

Controversy, as you will appreciate from some of the topics in my blog, is where a lot of my discussion is at. Not nasty - at least I don't think so - but even a difference of opinion can be enough for some, which is sad.

Happy New Year to you! And thanks for your friendly comment.

Catchya later

Sarah Hanawald said...

I think Claire is right.

Ken--you just made me realize that I need a comment statement (I don't get enough traffic to warrant calling it a policy) I openly blog with my real name. I also teach students as young as 11. From time to time, I get a comment that would be inappropriate for them to see due to foul language (not terribly foul, but I'm going for a G rating). I understand that some people consider those words just part of their vocabulary. I choose not to publish such comments though. I need to do a better job of explaining my position.

Thanks! I haven't been by here in way too long and I always learn from you!

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora e Sarah!

Yes, the term 'Comment Policy' was something that put me off, I must admit. Early on in my blogging, I learnt that the term policy also put a lot of readers off, so I adopted Comment Guidelines, which was used by blogging colleagues.

I'm happy to say I very rarely delete a comment unless it's spam. I have my blog set on comment moderation for posts older than a few months and I monitor that regularly.

Thanks for dropping by.

Catchya later