Joined: 04 Apr 2003
|Posted: Wed Apr 09, 2003 3:35 pm Post subject: I've seen this a thousand times...
|It happens to a lot of publications. I watched this happen to the Internet Infidels discussion board, for which I was the first "outside" (not an officer of the parent nonprofit corporation) administrator. After I left, they went from a vibrant discussion group to a mutual admiration society where disagreement between nontheists is substantially restricted.
Editing any kind of a publication, whether a newspaper, magazine, website or message board, is very difficult. Not just technically, but also "ideologically". Too permissive, and you end up spammed worse than an alt.sex newsgroup on Usenet. Too restrictive and you end up like Pravda or Fox News.
There is simply no formula for maintaining a balance. A couple of instances of some yahoo pissing off the publisher, and suddenly the internal censorship takes off. Worse yet, it feeds on itself as people--especially Americans--that see themselves as having a commitment and investment in a site complain about the censorship, which serves only to make the publisher more defensive.
Don't get me wrong. Any publisher, including a message board publisher, has every right to publish what she sees fit, and, just as importantly, to refuse to publish what she sees as unfit. This right is fundamental to freedom of the press.
We, the readers and contributors, however, also have some fundamental rights: We can refuse to participate and we can start a competing publication. If the censorship here becomes onerous--and I must state that I've not been here long enough to have any kind of informed opinion--the publication will eventually lose readers to its competitors. If not, it will retain its readers. This is how the free marketplace of ideas works.
I'm not on either side of this debate; as I said, I haven't been here long enough. On general principles from my personal experience and study of ethical philosophy, however, I offer this general advice.
The management would be well-served to listen carefully to feedback. If you respond reflexively with, "I can publish or not publish whatever I please," you run the risk of losing your readership. Regrettably I myself made this mistake at Infidels, losing at least one good contributor.
Readers would be well-served to offer effective feedback. It's less effective to complain that the management has "no right" to censor users; they do have that right. It's much more effective to say, "I find this place less interesting and enjoyable without XYZ."