Update to commenting policy

Ever since the early summer, commenting has become much more polarised on the site. Our previous modus vivendi based on community moderation broke down. This is an update to the commenting policy laid out in August
Tony Curzon Price
Tony Curzon Price
21 September 2011

Our ideal is to have community moderation of comments. We want this because that is what responsible self-government - the heart of democracy -  is all about. But we have to recognise that the model which worked well for many years has broken down.

Iron Mike and BC have been excellent community moderators for three years now. They always combined vociferous participation in debate with judicious intervention to keep the debate civil. They always undertook their moderating duties as good citizens, willing to put time into an often thankless task.

But over the summer, this balancing act broke down. Without raking over every decision, it seems clear that Iron Mike and BC were no longer perceived as being fair moderators. I have not gone over the specific allegations in either case - I know that both have been excellent and fair moderators for many years, and I am not sure that a forensic re-reading of the comment threads will actually unearth why confidence in their abilities broke down. And the perception, in a way, is what counts here. If you as a commenter believe that the system is biased against you, you will spend more time complaining about that system than debating the matters at hand.

The causes of the break-down are interesting in themselves -- I actually believe that polarisation is increasing in the world and that we are reflecting that, rather than there being much that is openDemocracy-specific here. But we have a problem to solve - how to return to orderly debate on openDemocracy.

OK. Community moderation has failed. Here is what I now propose to do:

  • continue to ask the community to delete commercial spam. Iron Mike and BC have agreed to continue this part of their work. And if anyone else wants to participate in this "community litter-picking", please let us know via [email protected]
  • ask Iron Mike and BC to train-up a group of editorial volunteers whose only function will be to make sure that oD's moderation policies are adhered to
  • encourage anyone to use the "chaired debate" mode (as, for example, demonstrated here) and to put themselves forward as chairs for specific debates
  • encourage everyone to start debates in our forums

I look forward to reverting to community moderation as soon as possible. In the meantime, I hope that the separation of moderating and commenting will return us to spending more time on the issues and less on the form.


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