Censorship is Bravery

Not long ago, I said some arguments are too stupid to treat with respect. I gave an example where people simply ignored the definition of “censorship,” replacing it with an absurd definition that could never work just so they could avoid admitting they engage in censorship. I avoided discussing anything else about the source, providing only a single link, because I didn’t want to “go after” anyone.

Unfortunately, that may have been a mistake. It appears the unchecked stupidity of their argument has bred even more ridiculous arguments. The most notable is, paraphrased, “Censorship is bravery“:

Personally, I think it takes courage to delete comments because you have to be prepared to deal with the backlash which is exactly what’s happening now. This is why it’s often easier just to ban users who becomes a nuisance as it saves the hassle of dealing with this.

That was Rachel, moderator for Anders’s blog where these arguments are being posted. That’s the same Rachel who has previously said:

I am not always consistent in my moderation but I feel that I have logical reasons for this, most of the time anyway. Sometimes I’m just having a bad day.

Suppose someone writes a comment that annoys you. You get upset. You start having a bad day. You delete future comments they write. According to Rachel, you displayed great courage.

But it gets better. Rachel deletes insults depending upon who they insult:

My reasons are as follows: Calling someone you are having a discussion with an idiot is not going to foster a good debate and my role is to foster the debate. Calling someone you are not having a discussion with an idiot, but who might read what you have said, is also counterproductive. But a person completely unrelated to climate change discussions probably won’t read the comment and so I am more likely to let it stand in these cases.

She is less likely to delete a comment that insults people who can’t defend themselves than one which insults people who can defend themselves. And this “takes courage.”

Ah, you say, but she has a reason! Deleting comments is brave because “you have to be prepared to deal with the backlash”! That backlash is scary, because it’s not like you can just delete it on a whim or anything… Oh, right. You can.

And really, what is she even talking about? The only reason there is backlash is because comments are deleted in unfair ways. We know the moderation is unfair because Rachel herself says her moderation is arbitrary. She’s creating a problem by behaving unfairly then painting herself a victim of the situation. That’s like saying it was brave to steal my wallet because you had to be prepared for me to tackle you.

As though that’s not silly enough, Rachel’s comment lists a cowardly alternative:

This is why it’s often easier just to ban users who becomes a nuisance as it saves the hassle of dealing with this.

This, of course, is the cowardly alternative taken on the blog she helps moderate. After Anders had a discussion with me on this blog, he went and banned me without any warning. He didn’t tell me I was banned. He didn’t say why I was banned. The only reason I even knew I was banned was I happened to read a passive-aggressive post which mentioned him having banned a person.

To sum up, if you write comments they dislike at Anders’s blog, they may arbitrarily or even capriciously delete those comments. They’ll describe this behavior of theirs as brave. They’ll also say it isn’t censorship because you can “comment elsewhere.” But be careful. If you do comment elsewhere, and they don’t like what you say, they may stop being brave. Then they’ll just ban you on a whim.

With that in mind, read this comment by Anders:

I don’t think I’ve ever stated – or even pretended – to be hosting an open discussion. If anything, I think I’ve regularly stated that my attempts at that have failed dismally.

Advertisements

58 comments

  1. Notice how the thread turns adversarial when use I attack science by asking if there’s any evidence for the positive CO2/extreme weather correlation in whose existence izen has faith.

    The famous “courage” remark comes about when the thread has turned into the narrative Anders wants: a series of attacks on skeptical “trolls” and their motives, which the “troll” threatens to interrupt with an unwelcome explanation of his motives (which must be deleted for the protection of the faithful).

    Anders professes that,

    > your right to free speech doesn’t override my right to not be adversely and unfairly influenced by what you say. What you say has to be true and defensible, especially if what you’re saying reflects on someone else.

    Which prompted me to wonder what his stance on Dana defaming Lindzen as a tobacco denialist was. So I posted:

    ___________

    If we grant that this is how speech “has to be”:

    [Mod : I don’t want this to degenerate into a discussion about whether or not what someone has said is libellous or not, so have removed this claim.]. Objectively false libel is intolerable, isn’t it?

    So I heartily agree with you here Anders.

    [Mod : removed name] right to free speech doesn’t override the public’s right to not be adversely and unfairly influenced by the lies he tells. What he says has to be true and defensible, especially if what he’s saying reflects on someone else.
    _____________

    I think it was Anders who may have whispered in Dana’s ears and finally prompted him to issue the new, “revised” libel.

  2. About 8 of my attempted comments never made it out of premoderation. Mostly they are simply blocked without a trace—no stub, no explanation.

    Just for fun, here’s a reply I tried to make to Tom Curtis:

    __________
    Tom,

    in my opinion you’re a bit too quick to condemn SkepticalScience here:

    “There is only one case that genuinely represents censorship in moderation IMO. That is when you pretend to have an open discussion about a particular topic while deleting without notice or notification your opponents evidence, and arguments.”

    Try to view it from John Cook et al.’s point of view: the public identifies science with “debate,” so to make the science itself credible, a pro-science site is forced to profess support for the ideals of debate, yet it can never forget its moral duty to ensure the discourse doesn’t get contaminated with incorrect ideas, i.e. disinformer memes. So they’re in a “double ethical bind,” though not quite the same one Professor Schneider discovered, but a new one peculiar to fundamentally interactive-yet-permanent media like blogs: To openly be seen suppressing misleading comments and science-denying arguments would actually hurt the credibility of a science communicator, despite the good intention behind it. This really leaves a science blog no choice but to do most of its comment-hygiene practices “without notice or notification.” Sure, some cleaning-up can and should be openly documented, but some of it (unfortunately) has to be clandestine. It would otherwise be all too easy for deniers to point to a whole trail of deleted-comment stubs and yelp: “look how afraid they are of alternative arguments!”

  3. My history with Wotty was she/he followed me on twitter. I had no idea who “they” were but their avatar wasn’t horrible and they weren’t an obvious gun nut. I thought, what the heck? Obviously I could see he/she was at least a warmist, but by following me (with what I thought was my clear cynical/skepticism pre-warning) I thought, that’s interesting, he/she is interested in challenges to that opinion by accepting me. It flatters me by picking me out. So I followed back.

    I never realized what would happen later…

    Then, I saw the site and the moderation made me creeped out by the “pair” of them

    http://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/the-spirit-of-mawson/

    https://twitter.com/TLITB1/status/419829821816832000

    I mean, I left their site and never looked back.

    I could feel guilty by leaving them to their creepiness, without warning the authorities, I was really creeped out. I mean Fred West creeped out. maybe the neighbours should break in and stop it?

    But I thought nah!

    I dunno; they like it?

    But seriously, later? You guys go there and expect honesty and whine about censorship?

    Get over it!

    They have no power over you except the power you give them over your mind.

  4. tlitb1t, other people may go there then whine about censorship. I don’t. I’m content knowing I’ll never comment there again. I wouldn’t even visit the site except sometimes I see links to it on Twitter with descriptions that catch my eye.

    In regards to my recent posts, I just couldn’t resist highlighting the absurdity of their arguments. I thought it was worth remarking that these people apparently think it isn’t censorship if victims can “comment elsewhere.” I think it’s worth remarking at least one of them thinks it is brave to delete comments.

    These are people who somehow manage to believe their unfair treatment of others is not only okay, but admirable. That’s the exact sort of insanity I started this blog to highlight.

  5. I’m commenting here against my better judgement but I want to respond to this.

    She is less likely to delete a comment that insults people who can’t defend themselves than one which insults people who can defend themselves.

    I would prefer it if there were no insults at all. But let’s say commenter Fred calls commenter Alice an idiot and both are commenting on the same thread. Things aren’t going to go down so well so I will remove the reference to “idiot”. But let’s say instead that commenter Fred calls his best friend’s girlfriend’s aunt an idiot and none of us have any idea who the aunt is and nor does the aunt know who any of us are, then this does not seem quite as bad to me. What if the person isn’t named? Say Fred refers to “some guy who pissed him off” as an idiot. Is it really necessary to moderate that? I don’t think so and I would prefer not to.

    I really don’t like editing and removing people’s comments. That’s all I meant by needing courage. Don’t look too much into it. It was just a response to Brad’s “cowardly eunuch” remark. I’m certainly not trying to suggest that I’m brave. I’m terrified of earthquakes, spiders and all sorts of things so I’m probably the biggest coward of all.

  6. Rachel,

    your attempts at rationalising your corrupt moderation are… interesting.

    ‘I would prefer it if there were no insults at all. But let’s say commenter Fred calls commenter Alice an idiot and both are commenting on the same thread. Things aren’t going to go down so well so I will remove the reference to “idiot”’

    Let’s change the names slightly. Let’s say commenter Alice says commenter Brad’s comments are “bullshit” that nobody should listen to, without providing evidence for this. Let’s say blog owner Joe Blogowner says commenter Brad is arguing in bad faith, without providing evidence for this. Let’s say commenter Fred Blogcommenter says commenter Brad’s comments on another site belong in “psychology text books,” without providing any evidence for this.

    1. Are things going to go down so well?
    2. Will you remove the evidence-free personal insults?

    Actually these aren’t really hypothetical questions—we already know the answers already:

    1. Yes, this is exactly how you want threads to go down.
    2. No—there is no need to intervene until things get ugly. For example, when the insulted person posts a comeback—you must not, under any circumstances, allow other commenters to read this response.

    Let’s change the names again. Let’s say commenter Jessica has written a Guardian article alleging, with zero evidence, that random Jewish scientist Professor Jerry Goldstein of MIT is a tobacco denialist. Then commenter Joe Blogcommenter posts a link to this, and asks whether commenter Jessica was actually telling the truth in her hit piece, reminding blog owner Fred Blogowner that (in Fred Blogowner’s own words, quoted from the original post on free speech and its limitations), “What you say has to be true and defensible, especially when it reflects on someone else.”

    1. Are things going to go down so well?

    No; commenter Jessica was obviously libeling the scientist, as will be obvious to anyone who sees the [abject absence of] evidence for Jessica’s defamatory claim (and as Jessica herself will subsequently acknowledge by quietly and unapologetically modifying her libelous article). This would make the thread go down “not-well”, in moderator jargon.

    2. Will you censor the comment drawing attention to commenter Jessica’s attack on the scientist? Of course—commenter Jessica is a known and well-loved member of the blog’s commenter population, and blog owner Joe Blogowner is far too much of a cowardly eunuch to risk offending Jessica. Besides, the random MIT scientist is effectively just an anonymous stranger; just “some guy who pissed her off,” so commenter Jessica’s free speech rights ought to protect whatever she’s said, true or not, defensible or not, about the random denialist professor.

    Another profound and complex ethical dilemma all moderators have to flippantly dismiss is this:

    When censoring comments, should you let your readers know what you’ve censored?

    But you know the answer to this, don’t you Rachel!

    Of course you shouldn’t: letting your readers know what you’ve censored would defeat the entire purpose of censorship, which is to deny your readers the ability to know things! Duh.

    In fact there’s only one situation in which you would ever leave a trace of a censored comment behind: when the suspicion has been raised that you’ve been deleting comments without letting your readers know!

    To allay this suspicion, it is sometimes necessary to leave one or two “stubs” of deleted comments behind as a visible token of your integrity and commitment to transparency—or, as you put it when deleting one of my 10 or so comments:

    “Mod: Brad, please [respond to commenters’ statements about you] elsewhere, thanks. This comment is only here to avoid accusations that comments have been deleted without other commenters knowing.

    The rest of the time, you should just delete it without a trace. That’s Moderation 101!

    To be sure, this kind of thing won’t go down so well with notorious contrarians like Tom Curtis. He (predictably) cries “censorship”:

    “There is only one case that genuinely represents censorship in moderation IMO. That is when you pretend to have an open discussion about a particular topic while deleting without notice or notification your opponents evidence, and arguments.”

    Yawn. Transparency and honesty are just denier memes, which have been rebutted so many times already that there’s no need for anybody to take Tom Curtis’ whining seriously.

    In fact you should probably just delete his silly complaint while nobody’s looking.

    “Censorship”? LOL.

    More like “courage”!

  7. Brad Keyes, no comment I made at And Then There’s Physics was a criticism of moderation at Skeptical Science, and if you have so interpreted it, you have misinterpreted me. I note that on your interpretation, I contradicted myself in that I endorse as not being censorship procedures very similar to moderation procedures as SkS, but which you describe me as criticizing. That is because you do not understand what I wrote. Not because of any contradiction in my opinion. I further note that SkS have an active moderation policy that moderators should not comment on the same threads that they moderate, which precludes the situation I describe from arising. I do not consider you a rational disputant, so I will not bother responding to the misrepresentation or stupidity your present in response to this post.

  8. I’m one of the many who’ve given up on Ander’s unpleasant, creepy little “whingeathon” site.

    Occasionally, I pop in to correct a blatant lie or libel – but the results are never enlightening.

    Last time I visited was when Green-Inker-In-Chief Mashey tried to resurrect the pathetic, and long discredited, “deniers organised death threats to lady climate scientists” rubbish.

    Needless to say, the thread deteriorated into a long discussion on my manifold personality & mental health issues – without a single reference to the extensive evidence I linked to show Mashey had confected a pack of lies.

    An interesting exercise with sites like Ander’s (also Deltoid, Rabbett, Tamino) is to check a few long threads of over 100 comments or so and count the number of individual commenters.

    It’s rare for ATTP to exceed 15/20 names – and they’re always the same few old lags, reinforcing each other’s prejudices.

    If you carry out the same exercise at WUWT, BH or Jo Nova, averaged out over a few long threads, there is a much wider pool of commentators and divergence of views.

    The narrow spectrum of opinion, endlessly regurgitated by the same “usual suspects”, is a sure indicator of cult mentality.

  9. “If you carry out the same exercise at WUWT, BH or Jo Nova, averaged out over a few long threads, there is a much wider pool of commentators and divergence of views.”

    Why are people like Victor and DumbScientist banned from WUWT?

  10. Tom,

    I apologise for misinterpreting you. I just assumed you were complaining about the well-known climate deletionist blog SkS (nor does the “active moderation policy” you mention preclude the kind of censorship you condemn, as far as I can tell) but on second reading, your description far more closely fits the practices at ATTP. How I could have missed such an obvious reference I’m not sure!

    In any case we’re both on the side of transparency and open exchange of ideas so there’s no need to bicker. I agree with your complaint wholeheartedly and I admire your courage in speaking out: what Rachel and Anders do deserves no euphemism; it is censorship, plain and simple, and I only wish there were more Tom Curtises in the world, who were willing to say so out loud.

    Yours in the fight against deletionism,

    Brad

  11. Rachel,

    “Why are people like Victor and DumbScientist banned from WUWT?”

    I don’t know DumbScientist, I can’t speak for Anthony Watts and I’ve never seen a justifiable reason to ban anyone from my own blog.

    Nevertheless, it’s possible to speculate about a couple of specific situations in which it would be expedient and ethical to do so.

    For instance, let’s say it were public knowledge that a given person (on either “side”) had adopted a dialect of English in which everyone who disagrees with his climate opinions (for any reason or reasons) is called a “climate ostrich,” “anti-science” or “denier of [the|climate] science.” Perhaps this person has written a blog post advocating that a term such as “denier,” “skeptic” or “believer” be replaced with “gullibilist,” “pro-pollution”, “ostrich,” “confusionist,” “anti-scientist,” “pro-scientist,” “Communist” or “correct.”

    By committing himself to this language he has ruled himself out of polite disputation—he has defined himself out of the debate, as it were, no matter which “side” he belongs to. For the majority of reasonable people, the question we’re arguing about is whose view is supported by science? In order to discuss this most of us are willing and able to use neutral and objective labels where necessary. But someone whose personal dictionary says that to disagree with him is, BY DEFINITION, to disagree with science, or to bury one’s head in the sand, or to be an [eco-]fascist, or whatever, cannot take part in the debate because his vocabulary itself presupposes that he’s the winner.

    Therefore, in these specific circumstances, it might be reasonable to assume this person’s comments are venemous a priori.

    Rather than screening them for toxicity individually, banning the commenter in question might therefore be an excusable timesaver.

  12. Rachel M, I’m not “look[ing] too much into” this. I know what you meant, and I understand why you said it. It’s just wrong. It may take more “courage” to delete comments than ban users, but neither actually takes any courage.

    As for the rest, moderation should not depend upon who does and does not read your blog. If you want to say unidentifiable people can be insulted, that’s fine. An unidentifiable person can’t suffer harm from insults. But that’s not the standard you say you apply. There’s a huge difference between “unidentifiable” and “unaware.”

    Incidentally, editing comments to remove insults doesn’t work if people can tell what insult was made. Removing a word or phrase doesn’t change anything. All it does is indicate you don’t approve of the insult, something you could do just as easily by saying you don’t approve of it. It also raises a legal issue related to a recent post on your blog. Specifically, one of your commenters said:

    Since the publisher (blogger) can be held responsible, we all need a degree of caution. Especially if comments are not moderated. I think a lot is without legal response simply because many cannot be bothered, do not want the expense or are abusers themselves. That does not mean that it cannot happen.

    I can’t speak with certainty for laws outside the United States, but in the US, comments not being moderated is the best defense a blogger has. The more you moderate comments, the more responsibility you assume for those comments. It’s like how if you delete some insults but not others, you may get accused of biased moderation. If you allow all insults, you won’t.

    The reason is in the US, your blog is a passive medium through which people can transmit material (comments). You have no obligation to police it. That’s true for copyright defamation, as well as things like copyright infringement. You can’t ignore legal issues, but you only have to take reasonable steps as you’re made aware of the issues.

    Also, it should go without saying hosting defamatory material doesn’t indicate endorsement for it. You can simply respond to the defamation and say it’s wrong. That lets the comment stand while meeting your legal obligations.

  13. Brad Keyes, I think your comments are often lengthy and barely topical. That, combined with the openly hostile tone of many of them makes it hard to see why people should be bothered if you get moderated. I think Anders or Rachel could have reasonably deleted all your comments about Dana Nuccitelli’s Guardian piece just by saying they were off-topic.

    Tom Curtis, fortunately for you, I don’t delete insults. I’d normally insert an emoticon here to show I’m kidding, but the emoticon with a tongue sticking out creeps me out.

  14. Sorry for the triple post, but I was sleeping and I want to catch up. Upthread, tlitb1t said:

    I could feel guilty by leaving them to their creepiness, without warning the authorities, I was really creeped out. I mean Fred West creeped out. maybe the neighbours should break in and stop it?

    I didn’t get the reference at the time as I had never heard of Fred West before. It was only after Rachel highlighted a tweet from the same user that I bothered to look it up (or Fritzl, who the tweet also mentioned). Long story short, he was a horrible person who did horrible, and illegal, things.

    Comparisons like that are stupid. The inappropriateness is so obvious I don’t know how people can miss it. And if they don’t miss it, I don’t know how they think they won’t look ridiculous for making it. Even if you don’t mind the crassness of such comparisons, it’s an obvious tactical blunder. You’re just giving people more reason to tune you out.

    I won’t delete stupid stuff like that, but come on.

  15. Brandon,

    “Off-topic” wouldn’t have fooled anyone, since the Free Speech post was about how nobody should be allowed to libel scientists (“what you say has to be true and defensible, especially if it reflects on others”) and Dr Nuccitelli is a regular commenter. Of course I’ve also raised the question with him, directly, at The Guardian. He’s ignored or deleted it. Every time.

    Anyway, half the comments under “Free Speech” are about extreme weather events, so “topicality” is clearly not a big concern for the moderators.

    I’d be surprised if my tone at ATTP could be described as “openly hostile.” Despite the steady stream of rudeness from the “denizens” I always kept my hostility bottled up so that I could release it here, at Izuru, the one blog open enough to call a filthy liar A Filthy Liar. It was my understanding that we could be open about our feelings here, Brandon… was I wrong? 😦

    “Lengthy”? Guilty as charged. Sorry. I’ll work on it. 🙂

  16. it’s an obvious tactical blunder.

    Probably where I part company with a lot of the climatarati of both sides is that I don’t have any tactics, or strategies. Or do I…?

    I admit my Fritzl tweet probably wandered into hyperbole that needed some better effort in justification, but this is how I view them. Rachel and Wotts. I probably should work on this analysis. 😉

    I just went to Wotts site now and of course Rachel reports my tweet to Wotts and Wotts responds like John Hurt as Caligula in a gloriously self important puffed up way saying this explains my banishment … except … I never was banished from her site. I had stopped commenting there pretty much straight after that edit I mentioned above.

    Wotts did overtly blocked me on twitter. But only after threatening to do so in such a pompously boringly posturing way that I explicitly asked Wotty to do it because I found her threats of blocking tiresome

    https://twitter.com/tlitb1/status/424678775658254336

    .@theresphysics “Why would I not block you after that?” What are you pretending here? We’ve never had a dialog to lead to your implication!

    Look; moribund perverse organisations like CiF or SkS are one thing, they are organizationally weird, however with those I think you get the innate opportunity of loopholes and rules that can be obeyed and used.

    Kafkaesque you can exploit.

    But there is something well, capricious is the word I have seen, but perverse more applicable, that exists in the weird world of the Rachel/Wotts double act. I can’t help be left thinking there is something intellectually perverse going on there. Well er, um like something like being trapped in a cellar.

    In a way I am quite impressed that they get victims into their forum and kick them around a bit and they stay. But then I feel it is perverse of me to watch that sometimes 😉

  17. Brad Keyes, as a moderator, I’d have probably told you the issue you raise might be worth pursuing, but specific instances of wrongdoing by commenters on other sites isn’t topical. It’s no different than if I wrote a post saying stealing is bad then you posted saying Rachel stole five bucks from you last weekend. Maybe she did, but that’s not what the post was about.

    However, you’re right to point out they don’t seem too concerned about topicality. One can’t (fairly) delete a comment for being off-topic while allowing a large amount of off-topic comments to stand.

    As for tone, I may have misjudged your tone there. I can’t say I pay much attention to the comments section at that site, and I don’t care to revisit the exchanges to find out (especially not with moderation making it hard to judge things).

    Either way, you can use whatever tone you want here. Short of using inappropriate language (or all caps), posting obscene/pornographic material (or links to such) or just spamming, there’s almost nothing anyone can do that’d cause me to delete their comments. The worst I foresee doing is mocking people who get out of line.

    Oh. I may also institute a rule of deleting any comment that uses this emoticon: 😛 I cannot stress how unsettling I find it.

  18. tlitb1t:

    Probably where I part company with a lot of the climatarati of both sides is that I don’t have any tactics, or strategies. Or do I…?

    To me, it’s not about tactics other than, I’d rather not have people laugh in my face and walk away. That’s my reaction to hearing someone compare their “opponents” to rapists and serial killers. I don’t care that the metaphor may some point or purpose. The inflammatory nature of it indicates there’s no room for dialog.

    To demonstrate, I’ve read your comments on this page, and I might understand your view, but my mind still just sees, “Anders and Rachel are serial killers.” Everything else is lost.

  19. my mind still just sees, “Anders and Rachel are serial killers.” Everything else is lost.

    I understand how this could be seen but I really hadn’t intended to merely depict them as serial killers. I value your feedback. And I do realise I went to an extreme. I have no respect for them (Wotts/Rachel) and my lack of connection to them allowed me to be extremely dismissive of them as you have pointed out.

    I wont promise to stop doing this however.

    I’d rather not have people laugh in my face and walk away.

    I don’t undertsand this. I will stay around and explain anything I have said. I have never denied anyone this opportunity within my limited remit of responsibility.

  20. tlitb1t, you don’t have to promise to stop doing it. Just know, every time you do something like that, I (and I suspect others) will probably tune out.

    I don’t undertsand this. I will stay around and explain anything I have said. I have never denied anyone this opportunity within my limited remit of responsibility.

    You misunderstand. You’re not the one laughing and walking away in my example. You’re the one being laughed at.

    Do you know what happens when I hear a comparison like yours? I burst into laughter, throw my hands up and walk away shaking my head.

  21. Do you know what happens when I hear a comparison like yours? I burst into laughter, throw my hands up and walk away shaking my head.

    Yeah I see now, but that’s fine 😉

  22. Rachel M
    April 26, 2014 at 4:06 am

    Why are people like Victor and DumbScientist banned from WUWT?

    As it happens, Rachel, I remember the thread when DumbScientist finally got banned from WUWT. It was a long thread. He started off by asking reasonable questions and, when he didn’t like the answers, just started bombing the thread with successive, unanswered rants and demands at the rate of one every few minutes.

    I think any blog proprietor would ban obsessive behaviour like that – since it simply destroys any chance of conversation.

    I don’t know why Victor was banned – but could it have something to do with the insufferable arrogance of his referring to everyone who disagrees with him as “the ostriches”?

    I wonder how long a commenter would last at ATTP if he only ever referred to the locals as “the sheep”.

  23. Brandon,

    I can’t speak with certainty for laws outside the United States, but in the US, comments not being moderated is the best defense a blogger has.

    From what I understand, the US is one of the hardest places to win a defamation case because there are more defences available to defendants. The has led to libel tourism which is where people pursue their case in easier jurisdictions like Britain and Australia.

    The Arts Law site in Australia has this to say about stuff written on your blog:

    Can I be liable for material posted by others on my blog post?

    The publisher of allegedly defamatory material can be anyone who takes part in the publication or replication of such material, so you may be responsible for material posted by others on your blog and potentially liable for defamation.

    As a webmaster, you too may be responsible for material posted on a website or blog carried by you even though you may have little if any control over the content of the website or blog.

    Can I be liable for defamatory material contained on others’ blogs or websites to which I provide a link to from my blog?

    It might be argued that a link to someone else’s blog or website is distribution of defamatory material and, as in the above example of the webmaster, you may be liable.

    I would say that comparing someone to a person who tortured, raped and murdered young girls and then buried them in his backyard is definitely defamatory but probably not actionable because I am not high profile enough and the extent of the publication not broad enough. Having said that, AndThen is fairly high profile and his blog has quite a bit of reach so there could be a case there. He’s too nice to sue someone though.

  24. Foxgoose,

    I wonder how long a commenter would last at ATTP if he only ever referred to the locals as “the sheep”.

    Sheep? That’s nothing! I wouldn’t delete that. We already get called warmists, alarmists, an echo chamber, propagandists and I don’t remove any of those.

  25. Hey Brandon, looks like Rachel is “bullying” you in Lewandowsky Elaine McKewon type language 😉

    Or is her careful language reminiscent of the Vercotti Brothers? 🙂

  26. Rachel, I’ve done a little reading on Australia defamation laws, and I haven’t found anything that supports what the Art Law site says if you take it at face value(I believe your link should have been this). Doing so suggests companies like Facebook and Twitter could be sued for material posted via their service. I don’t believe that is true.

    The most relevant case I could find was this one. In it, a company was held in contempt of court for not deleting a post on their Facebook wall. That was a very different situation though. A judge had found an advertisement by the company to be misleading, and he ordered them to take certain steps to correct it. Part of the order was an injunction against further spreading the misleading information.

    The reason this injunction was considered broken (and hence the ruling of contempt) is the comments on the wall were considered testimonials. In effect, they served as advertisements for the company. Given a court had already ruled such advertisements were unacceptable, the company was considered to have an obligation to remove them when the comments were brought to the company’s attention.

    The most important quote of the case is:

    The effect of these cases is that merely facilitating the commission of a wrong will not result in liability but it is another thing to procure or conspire in the commission of the wrong, in which case liability may be imposed, particularly if the procurer is aware of the material being published and has accepted general responsibility for its publication.

    In other words, merely letting people comment on your site doesn’t make you liable. You have to do other things which indicate consent for the defamatory material. One way to do that is to actively moderate comments. By deleting material you deem unacceptable, you implictly say material not deleted is acceptable. That tacit approval could, in theory, make you liable.

    But even then you wouldn’t get taken to court. A plaintiff has to show you were aware of the defamatory nature of the material. There is no actionable offense in innocent dissemination of defamatory material. It’s only if you are informed of the defamatory material and refuse to correct it that you can get in trouble.

    Even then, you don’t necessarily have to delete the material. It’s been widely ruled defamatory material can be published in order to discuss it. If not, corrections would be impossible. That means if someone did complain about defamatory material on your blog, you could simply publish a correction and be free of legal risk.

  27. The case I wrote about on my own blog recently is an interesting one and involved defamatory statements made on Facebook. But I don’t think Facebook were sued, just the individuals who made the statements. There was also a settlement reached between the plaintiff and Fairfax – the media outlet that linked to the Facebook page. There’s an article about the case here: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11239379

    Note that one of the defamatory comments was: “Karamalisation equals to ‘fudge the facts”. This was a play on the plaintiff’s name, Joe Karam. Joe Karam was awarded over half a million dollars and it looks like the individuals will file for bankruptcy.

  28. Oh, right. Sorry. I got so caught up in discussing the defamation issue I forgot to address this part:

    I would say that comparing someone to a person who tortured, raped and murdered young girls and then buried them in his backyard is definitely defamatory

    Nope. There are many ways to compare two things. Comparing you to Fred West could certainly be defamatory, but it wouldn’t always be. For example, it isn’t inherently defamatory to say somebody looks like Fred West.

    but probably not actionable because I am not high profile enough and the extent of the publication not broad enough.

    Interestingly, having a low profile can help in defamation cases. If you’re not considered a public figure for the case, your burden of proof is lower. Also, if you’re not widely known, it’s easier to damage your reputation.

    Ultimately, what it comes down to is you have to be able to show damages. A court can find material defamatory but rule its effect was trivial and dismiss the case. Odds are, that’ll be the case for anything said by any of us on our blogs.

    tlitb1t

    Hey Brandon, looks like Rachel is “bullying” you in Lewandowsky Elaine McKewon type language 😉

    I know! I feel so threatened!

    By the way, I modified your comment to resize the video.I don’t like editing comments, but embedded videos default to too large a size.

  29. Rachel, yup. If you< say something defamatory on a blog, you're liable for it. If you publicize defamatory material by linking to it in a way which seems to promote it (such as without offering any caveats), you're liable for it. It pretty straightforward when you actively publicize the material.

    Complications only arise when dealing with certain defenses or when determining who is and is not a "publisher."

  30. Brandon, the fact you re-sized a video that I had no idea of the size it would appear before I clicked post diminishes me. You will hear from my lawyer as soon as I hire one.

    Until then have your lawyer contact my dentist

  31. Dumb Scientist, I can’t say I really care about this issue, but your own link contradicts you. You did not merely object “to being called a corrupt lying godless anti-American murderer.” You said:

    WUWT accusations of dishonest godless Anti-American murder getting old.

    You specifically attributed the accusation to WUWT. This is discussed in the statement declaring your ban:

    Your assignment of this to “WUWT” implying it is somehow my sanctioned opinion in a tweet isn’t going to wash here.

    You weren’t banned before but now you are for playing these sorts of games as indicated by the moderators. All of your future comments will now go directly to the bit bucket.

  32. No contradiction. WUWT comments accusing me of being a corrupt lying godless anti-American murderer are getting old. Watts could’ve enforced his comment policy but chose to allow the accusations and ban me instead. How surprising that you support his behavior! Please go on.

  33. Dumb Scientist, your response makes no sense to me. You refer to “WUWT comments” yet your tweet clearly referred to “WUWT.” The two are not the same. Referring to one as the other is wrong.

    You also say I “support his behavior!” but I can see nothing which could lead anyone to believe I do.

  34. Tweets have a 140 character limit. I mistakenly thought you accused me of contradicting myself, which is implicit support for Watts. Obviously I just misunderstood you, and you were actually expressing your disappointment that Watts didn’t enforce his own comment policy.

  35. Dumb Scientist, your latest comment makes no sense to me either. I haven’t expressed any opinion on whether or not banning you was inappropriate.

    I will note, however, you are no longer disputing that you conflated “WUWT” with “WUWT commenters.” That seems to support my claim you contradicted what was said in your link.

  36. Ok, I think I see why DumbSci was banned.

    RACook writes:

    “Then again, millions of excess deaths by freezing, cold, starvation, poor water, bad sewage, no transportation, ill health in squalid poverty and inadequate farming methods ARE the preferred murder weapons of the CAGW crowd, so …”

    and

    Dumb’s hypocrisy is flagrant, disgusting, and anti-American.

    Dumb objects to these comments and gets banned.

  37. Again, your accusation is wrong. Please stop. Maybe you jumped to conclusions without knowing all the facts, and that’s okay as long as you eventually stop hurling these baseless accusations. As Tom Curtis pointed out in the second link I provided, one of the commenters accusing me of lying was “dbstealey” who is a WUWT moderator. Maybe the same WUWT moderator who argued with me in his own moderator comments rather than using his sock puppet. My archived account suggests that dbstealey abused his moderator privileges throughout our conversation by retroactively snipping the links from my comments. He’s not just a WUWT commenter, but again Watts could’ve enforced his comment policy by deleting the personal attacks. Instead he banned me.

  38. Rachel, I’m pretty sure that is not a fair characterization. I don’t care enough to read the entire post and see who said what, but I’ve already commented on one other relevant point in response to Dumb Scientist just above.

  39. Dumb Scientist, you claim my “accusation is wrong,” yet I didn’t make an accusation in my last comment. Given that, I have no idea what you’re asking me to stop when you say, “Please stop.” I also have no idea what conclusions you think I might have “jumped to… without knowing all the facts” given I’ve drawn pretty much no conclusions. I especially don’t know what “baseless accusations” you hope I “eventually stop hurling.”

    Given I apparently can’t understand what you’re saying, I won’t try to address your concerns. I can only hope other people manage to glean more from your comments than I do.

  40. Rachel, I apparently find this less interesting than you do. I don’t even remember how this topic came up. I will agree with you on that comparison though. Some people might argue “hate speech” is worse than insulting individual people, but I think if you allow the insults they allowed in that WUWT thread, you have little room to complain about other people’s insults.

  41. I should point out there is one significant difference. While people insulted Dumb Scientist, I don’t see him claiming anyone said anything should be done to him. Insulting someone is different than saying they should be tried for war crimes.

    But that’s only a difference in style. It doesn’t make one better or worse. It just makes them not directly comparable.

  42. So, Dumb Scientist, when someone debates you on a comment thread *and* uses moderator privileges to re-engineer your own comments, as you say dbstealey did, it hurts, doesn’t it?

    What if dbstealey followed up with a psychology paper describing you as a conspiratorial kook complaining about moderation on WUWT due to a heightened imagination?

    How would that feel?

  43. Once again, it’s impossible to end on a point of agreement. These WUWT hypocrisies aren’t personally hurtful, but they are amusingly ironic.

    Anyone who thinks accusations of murdering millions of people never leads to being tried for war crimes might want to pay attention to a famous WUWT guest author:

    “… These evil pseudo-scientists, through the falsity of their statistical manipulations, have already killed far more people through starvation than “global warming” will ever kill. They should now be indicted and should stand trial alongside Radovan Karadzic for nothing less than high crimes against humanity: for, in their callous disregard for the fatal consequences of their corrupt falsification of science, they are no less guilty of genocide than he.” [Lord Christopher Monckton, September 2008]

  44. Dumb
    I am reading your spammy WUWT thread now. Your claim that lots of science organizations supporting the orthodox theory of anthropogenic global warming proves something is enough in my book to inflict some form of blog punishment.

    I am careful in my rhetoric not to make absurd claims like yours and yet sundry losers try to ban me or delete my comments. You make patently stupid claims with comments containing lists of science organizations and you think your arguments deserve to be rolled on down on velvet carpets and mounted on museum displays?

  45. Telepathic visions of velvet carpets and museum displays might not be grounded in reality. In reality, I’m amused by the irony of WUWT guest author Eric Worrall writing:

    … Last time the Eugenics catastrophists, confident in their scientific consensus that genetic pollution would return us to the stone age, killed 7 million Jews to improve the race. Now poor people are dying because only rich people can afford the self inflicted expense of trying to appease the Carbon God. … How many poor Africans and Asians will die because of the great global warming swindle, before their pseudo scientific bluff is finally called? … [Eric Worrall, 2008-02-05]

    Consider a group of academics who claim the world faces an imminent catastrophe unless drastic steps are taken. Am I talking about Eugenics NAZIs or Climate alarmists? [Eric Worrall, 2012-12-18]

    Its not my fault if you guys are pushing for the implementation of harmful policies on the basis of pseudoscientific predictions of imminent catastrophe – just like the NAZIs did. [Eric Worrall, 2012-12-29]

    Given your gross advantage in economic and political muscle, its a wonder we’ve managed so far to hold off your new dark age. … [Eric Worrall, 2013-02-27]

    … As for my children, they’ll be laughing at the stupidity of their ancestors, wondering how we could ever fall for alarmist nonsense, gasping at murderous biofuel policies, talking about the need for reparations to compensate formerly poor people for the mistreatment of their ancestors – just as we marvel at the incomprehensible stupidity of people who mistreated the Jews in the early 20th century. … [Eric Worrall, 2013-03-21]

  46. In your blog, you rambled on and on with extensive links and archiving resulting in text so dense it is near impossible to discern through the thicket where exactly you were wronged. On what basis can you claim you are just ‘amused’?

    The beginning of the WUWT thread goes somewhat ok. Everyone has a basic ‘right’ to comment freely, including the occasional smack talk. Then it deteriorates into an ultimate banishment for you. It is alright to say this ‘hurts’. You may not be emotionally affected. That’s not what I mean by ‘hurt’. Unfair actions cause damage. Why deny it?

  47. You are the one wasting time. If you cannot bring yourself to answer a few direct questions but prefer instead to hide behind self-declared ‘amusement’, you deserve the treatment meted out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s