Administration is Not A License to Censor
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??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).
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.
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 agreeI 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.
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.
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.