More about the ‘moderation’ of comments at ‘The Conversation’

Long-time readers of this blog would be aware on my concerns in relation to the pro-feminist bias and censorship of dissenting views that routinely occurs at an Australian current affairs web site called ‘The Conversation’.

I’ve had many of my comments removed and am on final warning prior to being banned from the site. On 1 April 2015 a moderator at The Conversation removed yet another comment, one that I added to this article about sexual assault. This is what I wrote:

“It’s deeply ironic that the title of your article is “let’s turn the spotlight on known perpetrators”, but within the first sentence you exclude acknowledgement or consideration of all female perpetrators of sexual assault. On what basis? There’s less reported crimes involving female perps, so it’s OK to just airbrush them out?

I’m also troubled by you referencing the 2013 National Community Attitudes Towards Violence Against Women survey, which didn’t bother to ask respondents about their attitudes towards violence to men. Thus the questions about violence towards women were robbed of context and so we don’t know the extent to which the issue is men’s attitudes towards women, or Australians attitudes towards violence generally.”

As usual my comments were fairly benign in the overall scheme of social discourse. But this time, on impulse I wrote to the two authors of the article to see how they felt about the level and nature of the moderation that was taking place:

“Dear Nicola and Anastasia

I write to you this morning in relation to your article in The Conversation entitled ‘Everyday rape: let’s turn the spotlight on known perpetrators’.

I’m a keen reader of The Conversation and like many other readers often feel compelled to offer a comment on the article presented therein. Also, like many other readers, I am frequently frustrated by the actions of the moderators in removing many of the comments contributed – indeed sometimes most of the comments contributed.

You will have noted that as of now, about half of the comments concerning your article have been removed (including one of mine btw). On this, as on previous occasions, my comments were neither offensive nor irrelevant to the matter being discussed.

I have previously raised my concerns about moderation policy with the relevant people at The Conversation. On those occasions when the moderators do not intervene as readily there have been some very good and quite robust discussions played out with no hint of undue unpleasantness.

Rather than just grumbling about it on this occasion, I was wondering how you – as authors – felt about the situation. Are you being consulted about which comments are removed? I assume not. Do you believe that your article – and indeed your own professional development – would be strengthened by allowing a freer interchange of ideas? My own view is that if one can’t have an honest and robust exchange of alternative viewpoints within a web site run/funded by universities, then where can you?

Thank you, and I look forward to hearing your views”

Dr Nicola Henry of Latrobe University, kindly wrote back on 2 April 2015:

“Thanks for your email. I think you raise a valid concern. I’ve read all of the comments that have thus far been removed (including yours). We of course have no say in this, but I did wonder why they were removed and personally wished they had remained on the site so that people can engage in debate about these issues. Sometimes there are very offensive personal attacks and inappropriate comments made on this site – so I can certainly see why moderation is important. In other words, I can understand why comments that contain vilification are removed, but not comments that pose an alternative view.

This is an issue that I discuss with my students who take my subjects – we discuss freedom of speech and censorship and the sometimes difficult lines that exist between offensive/discriminatory and opinionated speech (the latter I personally don’t think should be censored by the way).

I’m sorry I can’t offer you an explanation as to why your comment was removed from the Conversation site, but I can assure you that both Anastasia and I are always up for critical debate (that’s our job!).”

All good there. I wonder if other authors are mostly of the same view? If so then the problem lies with the attitudes of the management team at ‘The Conversation’.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The Conversation is a publicly funded forum for the discussion of current affairs and contemporary issues. It is operated under the auspices of Australian universities.

The Conversation should be about mature, free and open discussion (obviously sans expletives, threats and personal abuse).

The Conversation should not continue to be fettered by political correctness and ideologies du jour like gender feminism.

Here’s a relevant comment that appeared in an October 2015 reddit discussion thread concerning another biased gynocentric article appearing in The Conversation:

“I have opted out of The Conversation. Look at the number of “content removed by moderator” and you can bet that most of them were disagreement with the original article which Cory (the moderator) conflates with “breaching community standards” …

I have written several times to Cory pointing out that their editing is not ‘balanced’ and that they only publish a torrent of hate speech masquerading as academic “research”. His reply was to refer me the “community standards” which is a euphemism for a licence to censor opinions that they don’t like.”

This October 2015 Breitbart article provides an overview as to what is occurring in reader’s comments sections in left-leaning organisations like The Conversation.

And yet thankfully here and here we find evidence of a push-back beginning in some US universities. It’s been a long time coming & there’s such a long way to go.

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