To bring this back to the concrete - what is your evaluation of the discussion in the comments for this post? There has been no moderation applied (though members are participating who happen to be site moderators, they're not acting to moderate the post of the comments AFAIK). There has been nothing that I'd call bullying. There has been nitpicking, as part of attempts (some of which I think are valid), to point out ambiguity and problems with your position.

Are you inspired to (choose one or more):

1) edit your post to be more popular

1a) in a... (read more)

Agreed that there hasn't been bullying but has been nitpicking. I think the comments here have gone seriously off-track from the main intent of my post and I intend to write another post that deals with the "is it OK to ban Nazis" issue more directly; I'm unsure whether I'll write a new version of this post.

This situation has made me less likely to want to write on LW in the future, but it's not to the point where I'm quitting or whatever.

Discourse Norms: Moderators Must Not Bully

by Davis_Kingsley 1 min read14th Jun 201951 comments

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One of the absolute worst things that can happen to a civic/public community online is for moderators to be bullies or for moderators to take the side of the bullies. Once that happens, the community is at grave risk of ceasing to be a public community and instead embracing cliquism. If the moderators enforce the will of their friends rather than good discussion norms, the space is no longer going to be a space for good discussion but rather one for a certain friend group.

The most common way I've seen this happen goes something like this. A newcomer with locally unusual ideas joins the community. Conflict between their ideas and the more established norms arises. Because these ideas are unpopular, people push back against them, often in mean or uncharitable ways. If left unchecked, the newcomer may soon become a target of bullying and sniping. [1]

At this point, moderators need to intervene in favor of the newcomer, because mean and uncharitable behavior shouldn't be allowed to stand in a civic/public space, even if it's towards ideas that are locally unpopular. Moderation is needed to rein in the attacks and keep things civil and productive. However, in practice what often ends up happening is that the moderators intervene against the newcomer, enforcing the local social hierarchy rather than good discussion norms.

This is toxic to a civic/public space and, if left unchecked, drives out views or discussion styles other than those that are locally popular.

One potential antidote to this sort of behavior is holding moderators to significantly higher standards than users. If a moderator and a user are in an angry, insulting argument with one another, the moderator should be removed from moderation or at minimum recuse themselves. If a moderator posts insults against another user - especially someone who isn't popular - they are at fault and should apologize or be removed from moderation.

Yes, this is a harsh standard. Yes, this means that being a moderator limits what you can say in some circumstances. But that's what you need to do to keep the bullies at bay, and ultimately, being a moderator shouldn't be a position of power but rather a position of responsibility.

Lastly, I want to point out that it's totally fine for a space to exist for a friend group or for those who agree with certain perspectives - and for those sorts of spaces, it's entirely fine for moderators to enforce local social norms or locally popular opinions! However, there's a big difference between that and a civic/public space, and if you're going for civic/public norms a higher standard is needed of moderators.


[1] This obviously doesn't apply to Nazis and the like, which should IMO be banned outright.

[2] Note that footnote [1] should not be construed as an excuse to go around calling everyone you don't like a Nazi in hopes of getting them banned, and such rules should be clearly articulated beforehand - the intent is merely to point out that you can have a civic/public space that still prevents certain objectionable content.



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