The Guardian publishes article about the awfulness of people being silenced online, and then silences me

TL:DR version: I posted perfectly civil comments in relation to pro-feminist article in The Guardian that weren’t fully supportive of the author’s position. The article was about the horribleness of women’s voices being silenced online. TG then:

  • deleted my comments from their web site
  • deleted my comments from their Facebook timeline (in relation to post on same article)
  • placed me on their pre-moderation grey-list (where I remain to this day)

And now in more detail

I recently read and commented upon the following article in the web site of the Australian version of The GuardianWomen are silenced online, just as in real life. It will take more than Twitter to change that (23 April 2015)

I would suggest that you read the article now and then come back for a brief discussion.

I submitted a comment on the article which briefly appeared online only to then be removed without trace. It didn’t even get the usual place-marker of “This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our community standards. Well, I have read the “standards” and (hand on heart) my comment did not contravene them.

So just how hypocritical is that? Publish an article bemoaning how people are silenced online only to then silence others. Not that The Guardian is any stranger to employing heavy-handed pro-feminist censorship.

Let’s look at a couple of the readers comments that made it through the wringer:

“I dunno. Speaking as a female here, I’ve never had a problem being bullied by the boys online. If we disagree, I can usually deliver a sufficiently ferocious tongue-lashing to make them cringe back in respect. More often, though, we end up flirting through our discussions.

I’ve also had more than one off-putting experience in heavily-moderated forums. While I’m all for civility and respect for fellow-commenters, emotions will rise, taboo words will be used for emphasis, and respecting diversity needs to include accepting that many people don’t share the Official Civilized View on any given issue. There are otherwise intelligent and moral people who have genuine reasons for supporting racist, sexist, and homophobic viewpoints, often backed by science which is at least as solid as that backing the Politically Correct Ideology. And it’s these off-center, alternative, maverick views which offer the most interesting diversity in the marketplace of ideas. Moderating them out of existence because someone will be offended is the worst way to prevent intelligent conversation.

I know I’m not a typical female. But frankly, “typical females” bore me, and I’m afraid that when internet forums are made safe and secure enough for the lame and timorous, it’s the intellectual equivalent of pulling half the water out of a swimming pool so that it’s safe for the little kids. I’m not a little kid anymore, and I don’t swim in the wading pool.” (Cynndara)

Another reader stated:

“Whilst you may have a some of data, on “who” is posting, your analysis is deeply flawed. Let’s start with the click-bait: “Women are silenced online, just as in real life”

The first analysis of your article shows that women are quiet (vs silenced) online and this probably matches offline behaviour. (Yes, in ANY gender balanced group, the loudest are often males… oh goodness… online news matches)

Sadly, this hyperbole characterises much of the rest of your article. Limited data – eg. a paucity of obviously female pseudonyms on some news commenting sites – are extrapolated to such breath taking gender stereotypes as:

Many women are still doing the primary family management and caring roles, so don’t have time.

Yeah, that’s implied by the data isn’t it? Me (a male name) must be hacking out comments whilst my female-type partner (if I have one) would be cleaning the kitchen and caring for the kiddies! Jeez men are slobs.

Of course, matching the template for a standard gender-based argument, the next sentence completely contradicts this:

On the other hand, women are bigger users than men of Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, platforms that offer a public voice in a personally controlled social environment.

Whut!? No time to write, but time for FaceBook… yes, of course… no problem, keep that mud slinging…

And so we move on to “hey, but women don’t post because THEY’RE FRIGHTENED!!” (ie. women are abused)

Yes, people – and probably more women – are abused online. although seriously, the “article” that you use to support this – 100,000 tweets mentioning rape – hardly merits mention on scientific grounds, let alone relevance for news-based blogs.

Then we go beyond mere hyperbolic extrapolation of limited data, to explaining the whole news-blog world should be reformed in the image of a single web site, because

moderators silently delete, block and ban rather than facilitate conversation, and journalists don’t take part.

Wrong! Sorry, but even here, on the Guardian, where you’re making this claim article authors DO sometimes contribute. In fact (in my anecdotal experience) the most common authors who respond are those with female-like names! And the Guardian already gives the ability to “up vote” (but not good enough, because they don’t throw in a buzz word like respect…)

Moreover, it is best practice to remove (without trace) reported comments. It does not improve the conversation to tolerate/facilitate trolls.

Here’s a thought: stick to what you can argue from the data, and don’t use a sample to help drive your own barrow. For future research you might consider:
1/ IS there ANY relation to female/male roles on the posting of news items — eg. why is it that most Guardian posts are NOT during evening times and other “males do nothing in the home” time periods, but rather, during normal office hours?

2/ MAYBE (just maybe) women AREN’T INTERESTED on commenting on the news and opinions of random strangers. I’m taking a sample size of one here, in that I actually asked an actual female, rather than impying gender from anonymous poster names, but I say that’s one more than you’ve done.

It could be shocking to internet-gender researchers, but a LOT of people could not care less about commenting into the void, and many females (at least that I talk to) find it quite funny that so many men do so: no-one is hiding 19th century style, they just have whole lives to lead.

3/ TOP posters are irrelevant. They are just loud. Look for meaningful attributions, such as “who becomes a Guardian featured poster” OR “who gets lots of replies”

4/ Keep your abuse tags to where they are relevant. Yes, on Twitter there is a surfeit of abusive idiots. Here, less so. As a male-pseudonym, I get ‘abused’ 2 posts out of 5 or so. Of the most critical, I’d say 50% are female pseudonyms. Why not actually look at (on this site)
(i) the type of articles that attract abusers (I can give you some guesses)
(ii) the type of post that attracts abusers
(iii) the “gender” of abusers.

5/ How many female authors have posted, but then stopped. Preferably with correlation against abusive responses.

At that point, please, feel free to extrapolate.” (Stephen Weaven)

I also subsequently posted a comment on the Facebook entry for this story, which can be found here. That entry is no longer visible in the Guardian’s Facebook timeline, having been removed soon after I posted my comment (shown below). Was this a coincidence? Perhaps, but probably unlikely given that other stories uploaded the same day are still visible.


Below again you can see another person’s comment taken from the Facebook entry for the article. This is one that perfectly typifies the entitled feminist mentality that anyone not fully supportive of the feminist position is a “male troll” whose views are unworthy of publication. On the other hand, feminists who “challenge too directly” are victimised when their posts are deleted.


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