Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Some Thoughts on Censorship from A Huffpo User

Some interesting thoughts on Censorship conveyed via Email by a Huffpo User with some knowledge of the internals at Huffpo:

"Here's the thing, badges are allocated on the basis of merit, merit is judged by numbers. Random or false deletion based on ideology that varies from mod to mod skews these numbers and reduce the integrity of the system in a way that is amplified beyond each single post removed. For example: pundit badges are allocated on the basis of replies, deleting a post can affect this not only for the poster but for other posters who converse in the thread leading to a sort of silent censorship."

Silent or Badge censorship is the fifth kind of censorship. Those conforming to whatever strangely mutated guidelines result from a combination of miscreant bots, moderation problems and flags gone wild due to the number of alts/socks are given a higher degree of input and interactivity than others.

The pundit badge is particularly bad in this regard. Based on the number of replies to posts it allows the user to rack up incredible amounts of replies that are not deleted ensuring a sort of incumbent advantage over other speakers. It also rewards trollery as folks tend to respond to blatant falsities with corrections more often than to factual posts with affirmations.

The bots are a nuisance I think this is due more to the management style of Arianna than anything else I have been around her online ventures for years and don't believe she's evil. I think she is very well intentioned but sort of ditzy and more a starter than a finisher. Her choice of staff at times is spot on, at other times lacking and I think the IT guys have sold her a bill of goods.

I'm wondering if the moderation problems (HP mods not community mods) stems from lack of oversight and maybe some sort of quota system, perhaps unofficial where mods are expected to show some work for their time. There may be a hint to this sort of policy in the badge FAQ where they urge users to "step up their flagging game" to earn a higher level badge. The lack of oversight may result in deletions for ideological reasons by true believers, the randomness may be several mods with differing ideologies and no firm guidelines working simultaneously.

Add the well known problems caused by socks/alts everywhere on the web and you have HP, a really good thing compromised by lack of focus.

I have been around Arianna's online presence throughout all their incarnations and may have an idea or two about how to effect policy change there in a positive manner. I would really like to see the trend of sound bite trollery and rebuttal caused by seemingly random deletions of long well thought out posts reversed an HP live up to it's potential.

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