A member of the Editorial Team responds…

Dear Reader,

It’s been an “interesting” few days. As promised, we’ve let a “hundred flowers blossom”, and, for the most part it’s been interesting. But, and you probably guessed that there would be a “but”, there have been a few disappointments along the way.

So, for the benefit of some of you, might I offer the thoughts of Liberal Democrat Voice’s former Readers’ Editor, i.e. me.

Firstly, quoting from my piece a few days ago;

As you may guess from today’s content, Liberal Democrat Voice aims to be a safe place for some of that discussion. We’ll try to offer anyone with a constructive idea, even if it might be controversial, an opportunity to make their case. And there’ll be more of that tomorrow.

What that means is that we’ll publish ideas for debate. We personally might not agree with them, and nor might you. But, if you’re going to abuse the author rather than argue an alternative stance, we’ll reject it or, if possible, edit it to excise the offensive element. It makes our lives easier if you simply don’t do it. And, please, don’t assume the worst of the author, or of other commenters. Writing a clear, concise comment isn’t easy for everyone, and something that makes sense in your own head doesn’t always convey that same clarity to others. Question, don’t blindly attack.

Emotions are still high after a very difficult night on Thursday. There are those amongst us who were more emotionally invested than others, and who are still angry and hurting. I do get that. But lashing out at your colleagues probably doesn’t help.

And, I ought to remind our readers that not everyone here is a Liberal Democrat. Yes, the Editorial Team are, and you can rely on anyone whose name comes in orange highlight with the cute bird being a Liberal Democrat too. Everyone else is theoretically suspect… (wry humour alert). Oh, and I ought to remind those of you who are Liberal Democrats but aren’t signed up that you can register to out yourselves as Liberal Democrats.

We’ve received an uptick in people demanding, quite forcefully sometimes, to know why we haven’t moderated their devastatingly crucial comment within five minutes of their commuting the comment into the ether. I remind readers that we are a small (very small indeed) team of volunteers with other lives. We do this mostly for the love of it, and sometimes, some of you make that very difficult. We’ll try to get to comments as quickly as we can, but we need sleep, food and human interaction other than with you. We also have jobs, family and other stuff. And it’s nearly Christmas…

Finally, if you don’t think that we’re covering something, you can either write something for us yourself, or ask someone else who you think might be interesting to do so. They should, preferably, be a Liberal Democrat but not exclusively so. As a volunteer team, we have our own areas of knowledge and interest, but they are hardly likely to cover the full gamut of public policy, and I for one tend not to write about things I know little about.

So, there are some thoughts for you, and us, to reflect upon. And, in case I forget, a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to you all…

* Mark Valladares is the Monday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and retains a sense of humour despite that…

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53 Comments

  • I try to be constructively critical yet truthful and courteous. Probably because I speak my mind, my comments often face moderation and that sometimes makes me feel like a marked man and at times I was convinced that I was being censored. In fact, most of the time, my comments appear after a short delay. Recently, when I referred to Labour extremists in a derogatory way, my comment appeared with the offending word removed. I was quite touched by the effort taken to get my comment published. Quite often they just appear straight away.

    I would say to people, be patient. I have gone through the full cycle of being impatient, angry, jumping to conclusions to being more relaxed and appreciative. The moderators have a job to do and they do it well.

    I say to them sorry, well done and thank you. Without moderators there would be no site like this.

  • I’m sure the editorial staff here will not mind if I make the readers aware that my previous comment was held up for moderation!

    As a known troublemaker, I have to concede that it is all my fault. But the delay was only about a minute, so maybe that is a bit like early parole on good behaviour.

    It shows I was telling the truth so thanks, moderator, for backing up my comment!

  • My second comment was also held up. That proves how hard working the moderators are. It also means that I am becoming a pain so I promise to stop here and not keep this game going all night if this comment is held up too.

    It just shows that you cannot bribe or influence these people with flattery or praise. But you can thank them and wish them good health, Christmas Cheer and lots of patience in the New Year.

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Dec '19 - 10:02pm

    Thanks to the LDV team for all your hard work. I’ve had my disagreements in the past but it must take a big commitment to run a site like this on a voluntary basis. It’s a great website.

  • Just a reminder not to get upset if your comment is held up by the software. The software doesn’t care how you feel, and also doesn’t care whether any of us are around to moderate promptly or not.

    Also please don’t get upset if your comment is rejected by a human moderator. Submitting a comment is like raising your hand to speak in a public meeting. The chair is not obliged to call you.

  • It might be good to put at the top of the comments some note that says “Not all people commenting are members or supporters of the Liberal Democrats.” (maybe directly under the bit that says “8 Comments”)

    I remember quite a few posts from non-members who seemed convinced that they were the only non-member commenting on the thread.

    I try to regularly mention that I’m no longer a member, but generally there is no way to know one way or the other, if the person doesn’t have their name in yellow.

  • Toby Keynes 18th Dec '19 - 1:20pm

    “Finally, on gender, as in many other things, your definition of reasonable is not… definitive. It’s your view on a spectrum of positions seen as reasonable by others. Again, we’re the Editorial Team, we’ll define the boundaries of reasonable (not what we necessarily agree with) in line with our risk aversion.” Mark Valladares

    I have great respect for Mark, and I absolutely agree that the LDV team is entitled to make judgements about what they are willing to publish.

    However, I am concerned that Mark is indicating that the editorial team tries to judge comments on whether they are “reasonable”, rather that whether they are abusive.

    We, as liberals, may have wildly conflicting views on many things, but the best way to challenge the reasonableness of the views of others is to debate rather than to suppress.

    Yes, there will be limits, holocaust denial being one.

    But we should be able to debate whether, and in what senses, a person may change their gender, or in what circumstances if any abortions should be legal, or whether paying for sex is inherently an act of rape, or whether anti-Zionism is inherently antisemitic – all areas in which liberals, or people who think of themselves as liberals, will take wildly conflicting positions.

    Of course, no matter what the position on a contentious issue, there will always be some on the other side who argue that this position is not reasonable and is therefore illiberal and unacceptable.

    You don’t have to go far down that road before LDV becomes merely an echo chamber.

    If a comment is abusive, by all means block it, but please do allow us to express views that you consider to be just plain wrong: other who also consider themselves liberal may wish to be allowed to judge for themselves.

    Of course, defamation is a whole different ball game: the team is quite right to be cautious.

  • suzanne fletcher 18th Dec '19 - 1:46pm

    just testing I get a birdy

  • Peter Martin 18th Dec '19 - 2:27pm

    I have to say there is not too much to complain about with the moderation on LDV. The last time I can remember having something rejected was when I called someone the “village i_____t of LDV”. Except I didn’t hide any of the letters.

    I think the way it works is that certain words automatically flag up an alarm which can increase your chances of going into moderation in the first place. So, a good rule is to avoid being too rude which I would accept I probably was in this case.

  • Toby Keynes 18th Dec '19 - 2:52pm

    Thanks, Mark.
    Unfortunately, the term “offensive” is also highly problematical: to close down a position, all you have to do is to persuade enough others that the expression of that position gives offence.
    Taking offence is a right, but it should not entitle anyone to close down the viewpoint that offends them, or (as is often the case) to close down viewpoints on behalf of others who might be offended.

  • Nonconformistradical 18th Dec '19 - 4:15pm

    @Dj Pocock
    “My reply vanished. Bravo well played.”

    In my personal experience, if a comment from me in LDV is picked up by the automated mod system I see a message telling me that my comment is awaiting moderation. OK – I get that – it just needs to wait for a human to check it out. Better a human checks it out that a robot. No big deal. But my point is – comments don’t just ‘vanish’.

    Are you implying that you are not seeing such messages?

  • Nonconformistradical 18th Dec '19 - 4:34pm

    For the record – my comment at 4:15 was caught by the automated system, I saw a message that it was awaiting moderation and it has appeared around 18 minutes after I posted it.

  • Innocent Bystander 18th Dec '19 - 4:48pm

    Mark, Paul (and others),
    I, for one, sincerely appreciate your efforts even though some of my own bon mots have bitten the electronic dust.
    This is one of the few places I know where civilised debate and interesting viewpoints are to be found It can not be easy getting the right balance and it’s your own time which you just as easily spend on writing your own “War and Peace” or building a model of St Paul’s from matchsticks (either might be better than delivering LibDem leaflets).
    It is a pity there are not more such fora, in this era of angry fanaticism.

  • David Allen 18th Dec '19 - 6:31pm

    When I write a second-rate posting which rambles a bit and which doesn’t make its point very clearly – It generally gets published.

    When I write something that really gets to the root of an issue. and would have made a real impact if published – It commonly doesn’t get through!

  • Yes, I readily agree with Mark that while the small group of editors/moderators try to be consistent, we do differ over borderline cases.

    Not long ago I realised that I was online moderating comments at exactly the same time as a colleague – she trashed one and I published it, then I trashed one and she published it. It would be a miracle if we agreed precisely over every single one.

    But we do our best, and the criterion we have in mind is whether the comment contributes to civilised debate or whether it sends the discussion towards a downward spiral. And we do stop any personal invective (even when we agree with it!)

  • It does seem as though during election time the site becomes more robust in its moderating towards certain people.
    That’s how it feels whether rightly or wrongly.

    I am curious though, once one is put on the naughty step, how long does one have to wait before they can talk freely again lol, It;s been a while since I have been on time out and as any good parent knows, overuse of punishment can sometimes be counterproductive 😉

  • Toby Keynes 19th Dec '19 - 9:39am

    Mark, Mary,
    In relation to whether comments that may be considered offensive should be published, have you as a team explored the question of WHY particular comments might cause offence?
    The fact of a particular comment causing offence should, I believe, be immaterial: it is all too easy for a faction to take offence in order to suppress opposing viewpoints, especially where religion, ethnicity or nationality are concerned.

  • No problems of differentation for me: everything I submit gets seemingly audited/censored!!! I know my place.

  • @Paul

    I dont think I have ever abused anyone on this site, if I had, I would certainly apologise profusely.
    I am curious as to why I have been on the naughty step for such a long time though and wonder how much longer the rehabilitation and corrective behaviour therapy is going to take lol 🙂

  • “It varies between a few weeks and several months on average.”

    In which case I must be the outlier that ensures the average is a several months, given pre-moderation has been applied to me for several years.

  • And, genuinely, I don’t understand why, as I have never written anything at variance from what is permitted from other posters.

  • Toby Keynes 19th Dec '19 - 6:19pm

    Paul,
    “Let’s try this Toby. If someone denies that The Holocaust took place in a submitted comment, I would not publish it. It would offend virtually every right thinking person on the planet, in my view, whether they be gypsy, homosexual, Jewish or none of those categories.
    How does that strike you?”

    Thoroughly agreed, and not a difficult call at all.

    Except that surely there are some pretty massive underlying reasons why such a comment would be both offensive and upsetting, and it is precisely those underlying reasons that should make this such a clear judgement to make.

    In any case, I’m guessing this is not the only scenario in which LDV has ever rejected an offensive comment.

    Are there any prospects of the LDV team considering principles that could be applied in order to distinguish between a comment that may offend some (or even many) people but is essentially a legitimate expression of a contentious viewpoint, and a comment that is offensive for underlying reasons that ought to justify its exclusion?

  • Paul Griffiths 20th Dec '19 - 5:22pm

    On the other hand, I would like to thank the moderators for removing a recent comment of mine in which I was being a complete ass. Apologies.

  • Peter Watson 1st Jan '20 - 5:12pm

    @Paul Walter “In short, if someone wants to …”
    Over all I think the approach followed by those running this site is fair even if it is occasionally a little frustrating to see a post held up (especially if permanently!).

    However I just want to flag up an example where censorship on a specific topic has the potential to cause problems in the future. Earlier this year any post was blocked or removed if it referred to a certain incident involving an MP who might later have replaced Vince Cable as leader. If that candidate is in the running to be leader in 2020 I would suggest a more relaxed approach as avoiding discussion of that topic risks it returning later as an issue for that leader and the party. I can understand not wanting to provide ammunition for the party’s opponents, but they’ll find plenty anyway, and rehearsing the arguments here first might make it easier to rebuff those attacks.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 1st Jan '20 - 6:02pm

    Paul, as I said recently, Lib Dem Voice are usually very good about allowing a wide range of views to be expressed. But the situation that I think Peter is referring to, was a rare example of no discussion being allowed. I’m inclined to agree with Peter that comments should have been allowed, but I can see that it was a sensitive situation.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 1st Jan '20 - 6:03pm

    I think this was the only occasion in which comments of mine have been removed, if this helps

  • Peter Watson 1st Jan '20 - 8:29pm

    @Paul
    Sorry for the vagueness. I realised there were certain sensitivities so was trying to allude to the topic without starting a conversation about that instead of the pros and cons of allowing discussion!

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