As I’ve said on other threads far too often, I was extremely peeved to be banned for life from Comment is Free, the Guardian’s interactive website, since I think commenting there is one of the most useful things a simple footblogger in the Climate Wars can do.
The Guardian is read by Greens and the pro-green centre-left, so it’s possible to have a real debate, and perhaps influence opinion on the opposing side. Guardian readers are clearly far more numerous than those of any sceptical blog, they are more likely to be believers in global warming than readers of Delingpole or Booker, and they are therefore more in need of enlightenment. I also felt that if Guardian editors realised that a majority of readers did not accept the warmist argument, they might put pressure on the Environment Editors to be more even-handed in their treatment.
On the last point I was clearly totally wrong, as evidenced by a recent interview given by Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger in “the Hindu” newspaper, in which he said:
“A year ago we decided the environment was the biggest story of our lives. So we have six reporters doing the environment … And then we built a network of … about 20 or 30 sites. A huge amount of editing and resources goes into the environment.” and by the comment by Environment Editor James Randerson that climate change is “editorial policy”.
Commenters here and elsewhere have objected that commenting on CiF is a waste of time, because of the distracting tactics of warmist trolls, and because of the apparent bias of moderators. Andrew Montford (Bishop Hill) was recently prevented from commenting on the thread to his own article when he was subjected to “pre-moderation”. I’ve never been convinced that the moderators are biased, since warmist comments frequently disappear, even comments by Guardian contributors, like Blucloud and GPWayne.
I’ve just conducted an experiment at CiF, and I’m fairly sure I know how the “censorship” works. I can state with certainty (well, let’s say, with IPCC-style 90% confidence) that:
- The moderators will not take the initiative in removing comments. They only act if someone presses the “report abuse” button with a justified complaint.
- One complaint is enough to get a comment removed.
- Since the rules list a large number of types of “abuse”, it is very easy for a determined troll to get an opponent removed by persistently reporting abuse.
The debate on the infamous 10:10 “Splattergate” video is currently raging at:
At the time of writing, there were 100 comments on the above thread. Ten of them have been deleted, all of them posted by Onthefence, and all of them reported for abuse by me. They started at 15:28, when Onthefence addressed Ecocampaigner as follows:
“You laughed when Stephen Schneider died after being targetted in a hate mail campaign, and you went on to wish similar deaths on other climate scientists”.
Ecocampaigner replied, and Onthefence repeated his accusation at 15:34, 15:37, 15:45, 15:59, 16:15, 16:36, 17:27, 17:41, and 17:49. I reported abuse on two of the comments, adding that the statement was a lie. An hour later they had been deleted, but others kept popping up. I reported abuse each time, and they went, but I didn’t spot the first one until five hours later. I reported it, and forty minutes later it was gone.
The fact that the first abusive post stayed up after I’d reported and had deleted the other nine clearly demonstrates that the moderator didn’t read the other comments, even one posted six minutes before the comment he’s been invited to delete.
The fact that comments disappeared when and only when I reported them strongly suggests that I was the only one reporting abuse. It was obvious that Onthefence was being picked on, and it would have been easy for anyone else to join in the fun and report his first abusive remark. The fact that it stayed up for five hours, until I spotted it and reported it, demonstrates that it was all my own work.
Clearly, the system is open to abuse. The fact that Ecocampaigner’s replies stay up, quoting Onthefence’s defamatory remarks, shows how ineffective the system is. If the Guardian carried out their stated policy of deleting replies to deleted posts, there would be nothing left on many threads. Clearly, the removal of polite, reasonable comments by the likes of Andrew Montford strongly suggests that dedicated warmist trolls are deliberately targeting the opponents they most fear. There is censorship at CiF, but it’s the work of commenters, not of the moderators, and it’s a result of a weakness in the Guardian’s system.
Let’s give the last word to the admirably even-tempered Ecocampaigner. Onthefence at 19:.41 complained that his comments were all deleted just after Ecocampaigner complained they were “off topic” To which Ecocampaigner replied at 19:54pm “It wasn’t me who complained, I’d have preferred it all stay up to be read. I want the world to see your viewpoint’.
Update 06/10/2010 20:40 :- The point I wanted to make is that, had I openly accused the commenter of lying on the thread, my comments would have been deleted. By secretly and anonymously accusing him of lying in my reports of abuse, I got his comments deleted. Clearly, there is something seriously wrong with the CiF moderation system.