color: SOME SOLDIER'S MOM: Administration is Not A License to Censor

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Administration is Not A License to Censor

I have belonged to a private 3ID family support forum since Noah's 2005 deployment. The forum was originally formed to offer support to the families left behind during the 2003 deployment and continued through the 3rd ID's 2005 and 2007 deployments. Membership is controlled via a free application process: if you can prove a connection to a 3ID soldier -- you're "in"! Even though families move out of the 3ID Family to other Divisions and some members' soldiers are no longer in the Army (like our youngest), many remain members on the site because we have "been there, done that" and use our experiences -- in and out of the military -- to offer support and encouragement.

Basically, there has been no topic that I have not seen addressed in the 4 years I have participated on this site -- from diaper rash, ink on furniture, PTSD, benefits, housing, re-integration, abuse... and every health problem and family situation imaginable. Members talk about husbands, parents, in-laws (and out-laws), children, siblings. Topics are accessed via a menu of topic titles. Military operations are discussed in the most general of terms -- OpSec is strictly enforced -- ESPECIALLY during deployments. For the most part, threads (topics) and the discussion they engender are caring, supportive and respectful -- sometimes raunchy and occasionally even crude (a fair share of bathroom/body humor kind of stuff.) There are occasional posts and rants about Congress or the stupidity and misinformation that comes from politicians mouths or perpetuated by the media. Occasionally conversations turn to politics and whether we should have gone to Iraq in the first place and whether and how long we should stay (ALL IN TO VICTORY is predominant.)

The forum has two volunteer administrators; they do not own the site and members make voluntary financial contributions to keep the site running. On election night this past week, a long-standing member (who also happens to be an administrator) began a thread wondering how they could be calling the election when the polls in her state had not even closed and in other states had just closed minutes before!!?? The comments and discussion turned quickly to the two candidates and the media... why this one voted for that one and vice versa. It was clear that some people were very passionate, but it was a pretty respectful discussion that contained about 30 posted opinions/comments.

Last night I logged on to the forum and saw a recent update to the topic, so I clicked on only to find that the second site administrator (not the one that originally started the discussion) had determined that the whole discussion was inappropriate for the Forum and was being deleted (although she said it would be deleted in a few days, minutes later it was gone.)

I am aware of just one or two -- maybe three -- other threads over these past four years that have been deleted in the past: one that was a personal attack on another member (a soldier's wife) by the former spouse and family of the soldier who had been killed in action, one was a thread promoting an x-rated business started by one of the members... I can't recall what the third one was. In all cases, the content of the deleted threads was rude, crude, personal attacks, name-calling or promotion of a commercial endeavor and I -- and based on complaints of other members at the time --thought that it was appropriate in each case to delete the content and ban the offending members. I don't think the administrator acted unilaterally in any case -- the deletion was at the behest of many members' complaints.

After I saw that the political discussion had been deleted, I began a new discussion thread that said:
I'm sorry to see the "I Wonder Why" Thread gone... I presume "soft deleted" means that once you access it, it disappears? I do not believe in censorship. I thought it was a respectful posting of positions on each side after a very passionate election. I saw no name calling or disrespect to any member or between members. After all, what could more affect the lives of our military members and their families than a new CinC??

Additionally, no one is forced to read the threads nor post comments there: like television and radio -- members are free to "change the channel". I can understand deleting the posts of individual members if there was disrespect or threatening or uncivilized behavior... but there wasn't -- and the entire thread was deleted?? I believe it was totally inappropriate to have the thread deleted... it smacks of censorship because some of the posting wasn't to someone's liking.
Comments this morning from other members were in support of my position -- one even saying that she thought we didn't need to have our fingers slapped like two-year-olds and told what was or was not appropriate. Another member sent me a private message saying that she whole-heartily agreed but didn't want to say so publicly on the site BECAUSE SHE WAS AFRAID TO BE LABELED A "TROUBLEMAKER" AND HAVE HER PRIVILEGES PULLED. One other commenter said, "who cares, let's move on" and another that said, "well, I didn't think it was an inappropriate topic, but I was afraid it might get personal" (after 4 days, it had not).

And there was one comment from the administrator that deleted the discussion that said she had been asked by the originator (also a Forum administrator) to either close the thread so that it could not get personal or out of hand (in 4 days it had done neither). Instead, the primary administrator -- who had posted the last comment before deletion that said she didn't care for some of the content and which inferred support for the winning candidate -- decided it should be entirely deleted instead... and basically she said, "Thanks for your opinions but they're meaningless, it's not open for discussion... tough titties -- I'm the boss and I said so."

To which I responded,
sorry... don't agree

were there complaints from the members who posted or even read the thread? I saw no posted complaints about the content -- only informational (and some passionate) exchanges on people's positions. We are not sheep and we do not need to be led to the kumbaya side of the world (no matter how well-meaning or intentioned). Nor are we children that need to be sent to sit in a corner. The administrators have the email addresses of most members, they could have picked a random sample of the active members and ask if they were offended and should the thread be deleted?

As I stated above, what could be more important to the military and their family members than the election of a new Commander in Chief? And does this mean no one will be allowed to discuss or inform the others about the decisions this man makes (or the Congress) for the next four years that affect the lives of the people here? Was the thread deleted because it contained objectionable posts (rude, crude, cursing, name-calling or threatening?) or was it deleted because someone didn't like what was being said? What next? Will we have to have new threads and comments pre-approved?? Someone thought that maybe, might, kinda, coulda, shoulda, woulda gotten personal? Then THOSE posts -- if it had actually gotten personal -- should have been deleted and/or a warning posted to keep the discourse civil -- or even just CLOSING the thread. but delete?

I understand the role of "administrator" but I think this was outside the parameters as I understand that function. Administrator -- not moderator.

Additionally, I have seen some pretty raunchy and crude threads -- some of which were thinly disguised as humor, but those were not deleted as inappropriate. So I guess the policy is if it's talking bodily functions or orifices, it stays, but if you want to have an intelligent discussion on politics it will be deleted?

If the policy is going to remain that someone else gets to decide what's appropriate to post when it is clearly not offensive or pornographic, please remove my information from the data base. I no longer wish to participate in a group that so actively censors content.
I cannot believe that there are people in the world who do not see the difference between "administering" (solving technical problems, keep the site running, approve access, etc.) for a site -- where people join voluntarily to discuss whatever -- and censoring and stifling the content and discussion because they don't agree with what others have said or don't like where the discussion MIGHT go. Shameful behavior. This woman has forgotten what her soldier is (or was) fighting for.

As soon as I posted my second comment, my access to the site was terminated and-- if previous practice is followed -- every entry I ever made to the site will also disappear to the round file cabinet. I hope the extensive reference/link library on services and resources available was preserved. I will miss most of the people on the site but it's the principle (can you believe -- it wasn't even my post!)

And Administrator P needs to be reminded whose site and whose content it is: it belongs to the Members... the Administrator might think it prudent to close a thread if the discussion has strayed (in this case, it had not) or has gotten out of hand (again, this one had not) but the members alone should decide what's an appropriate or inappropriate thread. Adminstrators administrate... they do not get to censor.



At 11/10/2008 10:45 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree! I had planned to sign up for it but after reading your post I felt it would not be a place I would feel comfortable. I don't think I could have said it better than you did how i would feel about the censorship!

At 11/10/2008 3:36 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are right -- they should have gone with the middle of the road... close the thread. I have been a member of the 3rd ID site since before the big split (when the x-rated biz was bounced and those members left in a huff??) but rarely post because of the few members that dominate the site and don't seem to play well with others. Thanks for your honesty and forthrightness. You will certainly be missed!

At 11/10/2008 4:57 PM , Blogger Was A Dem Not Now said...

unbelievable! I can't believe that other members didn't speak up! what is this country coming to?? is this how "that side" silences "this side"? good for you for challenging that policy.

At 11/14/2008 7:50 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow..seems pretty self rightous if you ask me. I have been a follower of this blog for quite sometime. Sitting in the shadows reading what I always felt to be an informative point of view. This time I'm not so sure about that. You state that this post was deleted only for the reason the Admin didnt like it ? Have you thought that most likely the concerns and or complaints were made privately ? This would be my guess. My concern on your point of view is the fact that you stated and I quote "this woman has forgotten what her soldier is ( or was ) fighitng for". you should feel great shame forever making a comment like that either publicly or in private. I dont know how you look in the mirror an face your self each day. I will no longer come here to read what I once thought was so good

At 11/15/2008 9:49 AM , Blogger Some Soldier's Mom said...

well, I sleep just fine and, while there are more lines in the mirror than I care, I look at myself just fine.

the admin never once mentioned that there had been complaints, and I assume, she w/h said so had there been.

again, her comment when she deleted it was that SHE objected to the content... and then the original poster commented that she was afraid it MIGHT get out of hand (after 4 days, it had not).

the administrator had other options other than just deleting it... but she chose to censor the post by deleting the entire thing. THAT, sweetheart, is censorship -- to stifle conversation because you don't agree with what is being said.

just like whether you come to the blog to read or not -- you have that Freedom... to click or not to click, to comment or not to comment -- the "freedom" that was denied by the overreaction by the administrator of the Forum.

At 11/15/2008 10:49 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

well, Sweetheart, you are censoring here. Mis-quoting from that thread, opting to re-arrange what occurred, and or was written, to put yourself in a better light. Over the past few months, there has been several times when the site was down, unavailable, due to server problems. There has been numerous times when most of the members had difficulty logging in, while others did not. Whether or not your membership was revoked is neither here nor there seeing as how you still return to the site to see if you are missed. See-- YOU requested for your memebership to be removed 3 times! Did you mention that here? NO, of course not, see the truth of the matter is you are blowing smoke.... to hide your own fire. You neglect to put that fact to light. So go ahead and say what you want while living in your blog, where you revel in having control. If you are so crushed, insulted, upset,that you opted to bring the situation here to air your ego-manical, self-serving, horse blindered opinoin to get public approval. So enjoy your little pity party in your self imposed martyrdome. I won't be following your blog anymore!

At 11/16/2008 11:26 AM , Blogger Some Soldier's Mom said...

dear anon -- from the time I posted my request to be removed from the site, I could not log on that day... whether that is accident or design I don't know or care. but I haven't been back to the site since my last posting there... so it's a lie. and I asked that my membership info be removed just once in my comment in my thread. so you lie again. if there is more than one request, perhaps an administrator with access is posting the requests. not my doing, I assure you.

these comments posted here in my blog are copied directly from the site the last time I was there and complained that I didn't buy the excuse for the deletion. it is exactly as I experienced it... as you can see this was posted and remains on the day I asked that my info be removed from the forum.

not interested in debating your point of view. this is my blog... get your own. (and for someone who isn't interested in following my blog any more, you sure are here often enough...


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