On making LDV more inclusive

Today has not been a good day. It’s not a good feeling when you discover that someone has left the party over something you did, as Lester Holloway has done. I hope that he reconsiders his decision.

The story begins on Saturday when I published this story about Lib Dem Campaigns supremo Victoria Marsom’s visit to Botswana at the culmination of a year long  project to help our sister party in the elections there.

Lester said in the comments that he was unhappy with our interference in this African election. In the ensuing debate, onc eommenter, who as far as we know is not a member or even a supporter of the party, made a racist comment at around 11pm on Monday. I woke up to an email complaining about it at 8am on Tueadsy. I immediately removed the comment and had a fairly lengthy email conversation with a number of people who were copied into the email. I would have been quite happy to bin the comment completely, but I gave an additional option that it should be reinstated but with a very clear statement that comments of that nature are completely unacceptable. It was agreed that this is what we should do and two of the people who were copied into that email thanked me and seemed happy with the outcome.

It wasn’t until I woke up this morning that I read this post by Lester which was strongly critical of that decision that I realised that there was still a problem. And later this morning he confirmed on Twitter that he has resigned from the party.

Now, I stand by the decision I made in consultation with the people who complained. There was nothing in my comments that spoke of tolerance of this kind of stuff. That doesn’t make this easy to bear though.

What was tougher was when people whose judgement and work on diversity I really respect were heavily critical of LDV’s moderation policies on social media. One of them was Sal Brinton, who has given her her permission to post what she said on Facebook here.

I am appalled that Lester Holloway feels he has to resign from the party over racist comments, most recently on Lib Dem Voice.

Lester, please don’t go, we need you to help members understand why this is such an important issue and to make the moderation of Lib Dem Voice stronger so that BAME and women members feel that they want to contribute. Your voice is vital.

My co-editor Stephen Tall responded:

There are two separate issues which appear to be – unhelpfully – mixed together.

First, are political sites often dominated by one type of commenter (stereotypically, angry white males)? Yes, they are, and LDV isn’t an exception. Ideas for changing that are always welcome. I get rather tired, though, of the suggestion that the editors of LDV are somehow single-handedly responsible for achieving this – that we “need stronger moderation” or that it’s the comment moderation policy which is a “failure”.

Secondly, does LDV do all it can reasonably be expected to in order to promote discussion which welcomes all-comers, and does it respond to complaints quickly? We have a pro-active moderation policy which is much stronger, in my view, than any equivalent site (even though LDV is 100% volunteer-run). This means the team spends a huge amount of time dealing with complaints relating to comments – from those who think we’re too harsh and from those who think we’re not harsh enough. As far as possible, these are dealt with individually and personally. I know of no other site that does this.

And in this specific case, I cannot think of a way in which the complaint made could have been dealt with better by Caron. It was dealt with quickly and to the satisfaction of (two of the people who complained), and we haven’t received any further complaints from anyone about comments posted to the thread.

I and indeed the whole LDV team have long since been worried that the comments threads were putting people off. Sal asked as part of the Facebook conversation that we look at the participation rates of male and female commenters. I had already started to work it out for this past week and the results make grim reading.

In the 7 days 21-27 October, 881 comments on the site were made by men. 97 were made by women. That’s a ratio of 89% to 11%. Frankly, I don’t care if that’s comparable to other online sites. I haven’t checked. It sure as hell is not acceptable on a Liberal Democrat orientated site. I know from comments made on social media in response to Nick’s post from a couple of weeks ago and from other conversations I’d had that women simply didn’t feel comfortable about the aggressive nature of some of the comments and the fact that some threads were dominated by the same few commenters shouting down people who disagreed with them.

We simply can’t let this situation continue. We have to find a way of ensuring that we can debate issues in a way that doesn’t exclude people. Suggestions which have been made include:

  • publicly warning people who behave disrespectfully towards others and being prepared to ban them from the site for a period if necessary;
  • having threads for members only or women only
  • threading discussions
  • having a report abuse button
  • having a “like” or “dislike” button
  • Unconscious bias training

I have a few concerns about the last three on that list above. A dislike button could be used in itself to bully people, for example. What I’m looking for is suggestions from you about how this cold be made a place of passionate and lively but inclusive debate. But change there must be. It is not beyond the wit of anyone to conduct themselves in a way that does not demean anyone else and we will have to be much better at calling people out if they don’t. Unconscious bias training sounds like a good idea and it’s something that has been offered by the party as part of the Morrissey recommendations.

But we can’t do it without you, all our readers. And I know that this site is read widely by a diverse group of people given the number of people who contact me or speak to me at Conference about it. So please let us have your suggestions as to what should be done.

Comments on this thread will all be pre-moderated and anything which seeks to demean or undermine anyone will simply not be published. As the comments policy says, if in doubt, be extra polite.  I’m looking for ideas of how our moderation policy should change, what could be added to our comments policy. We are not an official part of the party but could the Morrissey wording on bullying and harassment be helpful:

You must treat others with respect and must not bully, harass or intimidate any participant or member of the editorial team

Should that or wording like it appear at the point you make a comment? Also, I wonder if we should be more explicit that racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic comments will not be tolerated?

We have to come up with something workable for a relatively small team of volunteers, too.

We must protect that important liberal principle of freedom of speech and expression, but how can we pretend that we have genuine freedom when only a certain fairly narrow group of people feel able to contribute for fear of being ripped to shreds by a small and aggressive group of almost exclusively men?

Let’s work together and fix this.

I’ll leave the lsat word to Sal Brinton, who spoke of the importance of improving the way we talk to each other online:

The debate about language, aggressive argument and boundaries should also be the responsibility of the wider party who post on LDV, rather than just relying on the mods, who do a brilliant and difficult job for no reward. 

I admit I’ve been one of the people who has stepped back when certain posters, members and non-members have gone off on one, and alienated me and others. I have talked to Those I know off-line, but I think the take home for me is to start to intervene personally if I feel that someone could be less of a warrior and more of a debater, but we also need more women and BAME to do the same, especially when they aren’t involved in the debate, so can be more independent. A early kindly comment, reinforced by others, may reduce the heat, and reduce the need for moderation.

The problem is when some people, mainly men, think the ‘banter’ is fine. I’ve asked Caron for the breakdown of women and men posters, but at a quick glance, women are voting with their feet. With Lester, this has broadened to race equality issues. Not something a liberal party should accept.

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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105 Comments

  • Meral Hussein Ece 29th Oct '14 - 9:57pm

    I for one welcome your efforts to bring greater diversity, & to be more inclusive, in promoting debate. Having been closely involved in the unfortunate case that has triggered this, I no longer feel comfortable posting articles, or responding on this site, and rarely do so. I’m not an expert, but there seems to be an awful lot of non party members, who simply post shouty negative, abusive, and as we’ve seen, racist comments. Is there a way of ensuring party members only can contribute? I’d also welcome a women only thread when we are discussing gender specific issues, which again tend to be dominated by a small number of men who can be incredibly and gratuitously unpleasant.

  • Liberal Neil 29th Oct '14 - 9:59pm

    OK – conscious of the fact that I am a white male, I would firstly like to say that, whatever the repercussions, I think you handled the complaint as well as anyone could be expected to do.

    And while I also hope that Lester reconsiders his position, it seems to me that he has over-reacted, particularly if he had been copied in to the email exchanges about the course of action you should take.

    On the wider issue, I think there does need to be a discussion about how to make the comments threads less off-putting. Online discussions do have a tendency to go negative and one way or another we do need to try and make discussions more positive.

    I’m not claiming to be immune from this. I know that sometimes I get caught up in pointless exchanges.

  • A sorry story Caron, and very sad.

    But I think that no blame attaches to yourself and your co-editors.

  • Caron, firstly I’m stunned that anyone could possibly think that you of all people would tolerate racism.

    The person who posted the offending comment does tend to post things which are close to the knuckle on occasion. I do think that some sore of ‘report abuse’ button would help – you guys can’t be everywhere all the time, and while there will be posts which are reported for petty reasons, this should be picked up quickly.

    I wouldn’t support threads being restricted to any one group, though. The joy of debate is hearing opposing views, and if you effectively eliminate 48% of the population from commenting then you’re going to be missing out on opinions just as much as not listening to the other 52%.

    I’d start by looking at the Guardian website policies. Their comments have a robust debate, the ability for mods to switch off, block or reject comments from individuals, and not have comments at all (as you did with stories about Chris Rennard.)

    I don’t think there’s much that needs to be done, or that can be done without restricting debate.

  • Foregone Conclusion 29th Oct '14 - 10:25pm

    The comments on LDV have come a running joke in large part because they are full of a relatively small number of people, who often have a relatively small number of topics which they prefer to focus upon themselves. The thread on Miriam G-D exemplified this – not just the dismissal of her very impressive accomplishments and important views, but also people discussing whether she is a secret Christian Democrat as part of a wider criticism of Nick Clegg which really didn’t belong there. The result is that nobody outside this wants to engage.

    I suspect that this domination of the comment threads by a small number of individuals – who happen to be men – is in large part because social media have overtaken LDV, in many cases, as ‘our place to talk’. I also wonder what happened to the passing Tories and Labourites who used to be a bit of fun – are they being filtered out by the new comments policy? The result has been a bit of a death spiral.

    As to what you do – obviously you can’t ban someone for saying something you find boring or repetitive. But I do think some kind of voting system might be part of the answer. The passing traffic on LDV is far greater, and rather more representative, than the small number of regular commenters, so I think that worries of bullying are by and large misplaced. Similarly, threading discussions might be a good answer to the same problem – side-discussions can branch off while the main thrust of the post can continue. Finally, an abuse button sounds good, though probably not much more use than the existing facility to just e-mail the LDV mods.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Oct '14 - 10:30pm

    I will do my bit and post less frequently and I am always trying to be more polite, but I have two comebacks to my critics:

    1. Some of the people who complain about the regular commenters have little intention of becoming a regular commenter themself. This is evident because I fail to see the occasional commenters reprimanding us regulars often – most of the complaints seem to come from non-commenters.

    2. Some of the people most in favour of censorship have the most controversial opinions. Most of the solution needs to be simply getting a bit better at people skills and not annoying people so often, rather than relying on censorship.

    Regards

  • There are several tricky and important issues here, and it’s good to see that the response to criticism of LDV has been your openness in wanting to talk about how best to address them rather than (what would be a quite understandable) desire to simply defend the particular moderation decision and move on. Thank you.

  • Simon McGrath 29th Oct '14 - 10:43pm

    How about:
    1) No anonymous contributions. If someone has good reason for not giving their real name then they must give them to LDV. The late Simon Titley put this pretty well on the Liberator Blog “We will accept comments only from people who use their real, full name. Those who hide behind pseudonyms or who post anonymously are usually juvenile and boorish, lacking the courage to express their aggressive, snide or pompous opinions in person. If you have registered with Google using only your first name or a pseudonym, please put your full name at the end of your comment. Anyone with a genuine reason for anonymity, such as a politically-restricted job, should contact Liberator at collective [at] and we will respect your anonymity.”
    2) Limit of 2 posting per day per topic
    3) Stricter bannning on non on topic comments
    4) No women only threads – no-one’s views should not be heard because of their sex

  • Candy Piercy 29th Oct '14 - 10:48pm

    This post is very helpful Caron. Thanks for pulling the stats together,and for your open approach.
    I think we as Lib Dems need to take a deep breath and think very hard about how to respond to today’s events. Then we need to act.

  • Given LDV is “by and for Lib Dem supporters” how about we make the comments section for LD supporters only?

    I rarely read the comments on threads as most non-members are trolls letting off steam – and if I want to read troll comments, there’s always the Guardian website.

    Think of how much better the comments sections will be if only LD supporters are posting. We’d spend far less time, energy and effort dealing with trolls if we just keep them off the site. It would also allow intelligent debate which would worthwhile reading.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 29th Oct '14 - 11:06pm

    @ Eddie,

    This is a very difficult area indeed. If the comments sections are felt to be an unwelcoming space where a small number of frequent and aggressive posters dominate the debate and suck out all of the oxygen, then they simply won’t play. One of the regular comments from individuals whose input would be welcome at any level is “why engage when all that you get is abuse?”.

    That seems, to me at least, to be a pity, as those who genuinely wish to debate, as opposed to demonstrating their inability to do so with courtesy and tolerance, miss out on the potentiality of ideas that more voices may generate. And, indeed, I myself find the sheer harshness of the debate here on LDV difficult to comprehend sometimes.

    As someone who has attempted to improve the transparency of moderation on this site, I have had the ‘pleasure’ of being attacked for having the sheer cheek to debate some of the issues regarding editing and moderation in as open a manner as I can. It is hardly an encouragement towards greater openness and transparency.

    So, I’m afraid it is with regret that I take the view that the only language that some people will understand is banishment from the site, albeit for a short period as an initial warning shot, before applying more severe sanctions if the behaviour doesn’t change.. I may not agree with a particular view, but that in itself should never be cause to sanction – unless it is wilfully offensive (racist, sexist or homophobic to name but three types of unacceptable behaviour). Frankly, if you cannot at least treat those you oppose with a modicum of respect, you don’t really deserve the oxygen that LDV potentially offers you.

    And, for the record, that goes for some people who purport to be Liberal Democrats here.

    Yes, the moderators could be more active, but unless there is going to be a rush of volunteers who will share the burden AND be true to the ethos of the Editorial Team, I would rather have them work on bringing more and better material onto the site than waste their time and enthusiasm on policing individuals who simply don’t understand the impression they make or, worse still, don’t care.

  • I regret that the thread in question has been closed. It could have been left open but with all comments moderated. My first instinct when I saw the comment article was discomfort at apparent interference and total agreement with Lester’s point. I would like to have said so.

  • In my experience, those who comment regularly on LDV tend to conduct themselves in a reasonable manner, and be able to disagree and conduct arguments without going over to the offensive and rude territory. Then there are people who will post just a single, generally sentence long, crass or insulting statement. That’s a minority, but their appearance soils the entire system, and can lead to the thread of comments being overtaken by a generally negative atmosphere. When they are not stating anything political, merely insulting another site user, I would not call its removal a violation of free speech.

    One way perhaps to alleviate this would be to have a slightly longer period where a new poster needs to have their comments pre-approved by a moderator, say 5 posts as opposed to the 1. If all of them are without issue then they be allowed to comment without pre-approval as we do now.

  • First I’ve got to say I find Lester’s decision completely illogical. From my reading he got the wrong end of the stick about what was actually clearly meant to be nice, light piece. After that somebody made an outrageous statement which was fairly quickly removed. I’m not sure what LDV could have done differently and actually as a liberal party who believes in free speech we are quite rightly going to struggle with the extra moderation/rules and may put off even more people.

    I think much of the problem with Lib Dem Voice’s comments section being unrepresentative is symptomatic of the wider political blogasphere (and politics as a whole) which is largely male and white. I’m not sure LDV can really do that much to deal with that issue.

    However I do think perhaps all need as contributors to step back and consider others when we make comments. To often people make dismissive comments like “that’s garbage” rather than “I’m not convinced by that”. We need to call people out who are making harsh and personal statements.

    We also need a wider number of contributors. Stephen and Caron seem to write a vast number of articles (hats of to them and Thank you for you to you both for your excellent efforts) but most other contributors are white, men and most middle aged. I think there needs to be more engagement by our Parliamentarians with LDV and we should try and get writers from other political viewpoints.

    Finally as a party we campaign in masculine terms. Most of the paid campaigners in the party are men, which I think is uncommented on but important issue, The literature we put out is littered with terms like “slammed” “outrage” and “anger” which are overly aggressive and re-enforces a stereotype of us as a masculine party. Its perhaps something that needs considering.

  • Tony Greaves 29th Oct '14 - 11:26pm

    I had not seen the original and (in my considered opinion having read it all) rather ridiculous thread. There are too many times when threads on forums, social media etc “go off on one” and in my considered opinion this is an example of that.

    I am not sure that your very long introduction to this thread helps things at all. I do not know Lester and have no recollection of reading anything by him before so can only go on what was in this thread. All I can say is that some of what he wrote is eccentric, some just wrong (in my considered opinion) and a couple of comments offensive. But I read a lot of offensive stuff on the internet and some of it from people I know and quite like. In general LDV is remarkably bland for a political site (if you don’t believe me have a look at ConservativeHome or the Mail!)

    As for your bullet points they seem fairly peripheral to me.

    I thought you did this privately already? If you ban people publicly (and they are party members) you will have to accept public debate on your decisions that might make things worse.
    Illiberal – wrong in principle. Stopping a woman from commenting on what I say is just silly (and something I would find offensive).
    Go on then, what will it change?.
    Yes, good idea.
    Silly Facebook nonsense.
    Training of who, pray, by whom? People who happen to pass by and comment on LDV? Or compulsory for members of the party? Don’t be daft.

    A practical idea that might make a difference:
    • Ban people from using silly pseudonyms such as “jediwhateverhisnamewas”. (I would allow party members who can clear with you the need due to personal circumstances, in which case they must use a simple name).
    • Non-party members who want to comment on the site to have to register and provide you privately with their name and address, and an email address, so you know they are really people.

    By the way, people do resign from bodies including this party. My experience over many years is that for many people who resign from the party for a stated reason, that is just the proximate excuse – they have been intending to do so for some time. The real reasons may be political or they may be personal. Not commenting on the current case, just saying what I have learned over many decades. Best not to get too worked up over one person leaving, whoever it is.

    Tony Greaves

  • Stephen Clarke 29th Oct '14 - 11:30pm

    As a very occasionally commentor (3rd time only) There are a few straightforward reasons why I don’t bother much.
    1st if I really want to it’s easier to make a comment on the story in facebook. 2) If I stick to facebook I can actually usually see who is saying what. 3) the comments there are usually shorter and you get a better mix.

    The Anonymoity issue is a big one. If I’m having a discussion on here with person x and I don’t even know who they are it not only dis-inclines me to engage them as they may just be trolling but worse it de-motivates me to even be polite. If I am having a discussion with a known fellow Lib-Dem on facebook . I know 3 things about them a) we are ultimately on the same side being in the same party. b) We share some common values and c) I do not know when I might meet them on some forgotten doorstep in some election somewhere.

    Ultimately though I am pressed to ask has Lib Dem voice had it’s day? It has a facebook page with nearly 5000 likes but do even 1% of those engage here regularly. Might it not be easier and more useful to make the facebook page the site itself?

  • Tony Greaves 29th Oct '14 - 11:32pm

    Browsing through all this again I realise that Lester’s given reason for resigning is “over the toleration by some members of appalling racism towards Africans.”

    I honestly cannot find an example of that anywhere in these threads.

    Tony

  • Making LDV more inclusive? How can you do that when one of the suggestions is women only threads? How inclusive is that. You want to alienate more black males????? Why on earth is the emphasis always on Women???? How about Ethnic minorities, disabled etc.

    I haven’t seen the comment refered to, but if it was truly racist then it should not be tolerated.

    Sad that Lester felt he had to resign from the whole party because of this. I’ve had my issues with LDV in the past but it wouldn’t make me leave the party. Though the thought that some innocent comments are removed by moderators when a racist one can remain is not good.

    I haven’t commented much, not because I am female or feel intimidated, but because of the quality or subject of the articles. Either they have been a soapbox podium for certain people or badly informed or not interesting.

    Perhaps evaluate the quality and subject of the articles?

  • Joshua Dixon 30th Oct '14 - 12:04am

    @Simon McGrath – Some people may have good reason to not show their real names, particularly if they want to contribute but fear for what people may think of them, particularly if the topic is personal / sensitive.

  • Andy McGregor 30th Oct '14 - 1:30am

    I am a fairly recent follower of LDV and normally just lurk and read other people’s comments. It is an interesting site and as others have said seems restrained for a political one!
    Freedom of expression should not be only for those we agree with and I think a better response, than banning people is to have robust responses from as many other comentors as possible pointing out the opposition to their views.
    I don’t like anonamous posters and think you should not make online comments you would not make face to face.
    The idea of an “offside” button has merit. Maybe a better term would be Out of Order (OOO) I would think the moderator and the person judged OOO should be the only ones to see the results. Other readers should be able to make their own judgements and not follow a trend.
    Keep up the good work providing this facility and let us not be either too thin skinned, or over concerned if one member resigns.

  • Lesley Abdela 30th Oct '14 - 4:35am

    Caron, your gender analysis of followers of the LDV blog may partly be for the reasons you give, but I think it may also reflect the disillusionment women feel about the Lib Dem Party right now due to a combination of factors – This Coalition Government’s policies have been a disaster for women. Since the start of the crisis in 2008, almost a million (826,000) extra women have moved into types of work that are typically low paid and insecure. Since 2008, female under-employment has nearly doubled (to 789,000) and an additional 371,000 women have moved into self-employment, which is typically very low paid. 1 in 8 low paid women now describe themselves as on a zero hours contract. – The increasing levels of women in low paid work, along with the declining value of low pay, is contributing to the widening inequality gap between women and men. Last year the gender pay gap increased for the first time in five years and now stands at 19.1 per cent for all employees – Low paid women are feeling the cost of living crisis sharply: nearly 1 in 2 say they feel worse off now than five years ago; nearly 1 in 10 have obtained a loan from a pay day lender in the last twelve months; nearly 1 in 12 low paid women with children have obtained food from a food bank in the past twelve months. Add to this the lack of women on Nick Clegg’ s Lib Dem Ministerial line-up, the low percentage of female Lib Dem MPs and the disastrous mis-management of sexual harassment in the party.

  • Simon McGrath 30th Oct '14 - 5:58am

    @Joshua Dixon “@Simon McGrath – Some people may have good reason to not show their real names, particularly if they want to contribute but fear for what people may think of them, particularly if the topic is personal / sensitive.”
    Yes – that is why i said people should in those circs be able to make anonymous comments providing they have given their real name to the LDV team.

  • Andy Dowland 30th Oct '14 - 6:50am

    I’m a long time reader and occasional commenter under the “DM Andy” handle but fully agree with Simon McGregor’s suggestion over anonymised names so won’t be using that anymore. As I’m not a Liberal Democrat supporter I try to remember that I’m a guest in someone else’s house though I know I have overstepped those bounds, especially in the immediate aftermath of the 2010 elections and been far more careful about that since.

    LDV does have a member’s forum so there is an option to simply turn off comments on the public website and have a parallel thread for discussions among party members. That would not prevent unpleasant comments but would make policing the comments much easier. The disadvantage would be a potential danger of getting into the habit of just talking to yourselves.

    If you retain comments here then you can encourage use of full names, you wouldn’t be able to stop people using pseudonyms but a long comment thread with lots of real names will by itself suggest that new commenters should use their full name.

    If this is possible with your blog software I would recommend that you massively expand comment moderation to as wide a pool of trusted commenters as you can. Those new moderators would be able to do only two things, to temporarily remove a potentially abusive or libellous comment and to put a commenter on time-out. Both things can be reviewed by a proper moderator in due course and made permanent or reversed as needed. If a moderator abused their power that would soon be reversed and that moderator can lose their privileges. Often all that is needed to make a thread more pleasant is for one or more commenters to have time to calm down and not reply to each other immediately and would solve the problem of a racist comment staying visible and unaddressed on the site for 9 hours.

    I haven’t helped here, the male/female ratio in this thread is very similar to the 89%/11% ratio mentioned by Caron Lindsay. I think Meral Hussain Ece is correct when she says that the comment threads can be unpleasant through restricting it to party members only might not do as well as she hopes. As much as I would like it to be otherwise being in a particular political party doesn’t automatically make you nice.

    Finally, LDV is better than the average political forum, this thread is a testament to that. But being better than the average isn’t a very high bar and I commend the LDV admins’ efforts to make the site better.

  • Steve Haynes 30th Oct '14 - 7:24am

    1) Threading comments and responses to them is not a bad idea at all. Implementing that would make it easier to gloss over the bores and idiots.

    2) Perhaps a proper membership system for LDV is required? Sign up and you get to comment, if you’re a party member you get access to the forum, if you’re a supporter you get access to a specific part of the forum ( this could be good for engaging supporters and allowing recruitment as well). If you’re not a party member or a supporter, you still get to comment but we ban people who go OTT or off topic too much.

    Combine the with public warnings, and some specific threads every now and again designed to let people vent about the leadership and I can see it working.

  • Tony Dawson 30th Oct '14 - 7:25am

    If a subject is being discussed among a dozen people in a pub and a couple of those start getting in an aerated ding-dong about a side issue, which is of interest to themselves and no one else, then one of four things happens. Either the rest of the bunch tolerates this ‘hijacking’ of the shared space, or they go away, or they usher the pair off into an alcove where the two of them can carry on their discourse on their own. Or they tell them to shut up which they may or may not ignore.

    A ‘nested’ system of commentary allows viewers to be shown the majority of a blog’s comments but press a single key to ignore not a named poster(who may have interesting things to say on other matters) but the particular thread which is boring/too aggressive etc. The presentation of this Blog in a non-nested manner is a bit primitive.

    The other issue relates to participation. Most postings on this forum do not get many comments at all compared to those on other comment blogs. A sizable number of the comments which do occur at present are Labour or UKIP trolls. There may be other reasons why people do not get involved besides ‘aggressiveness'(sic). One, I would suggest, is the way in which interesting discussions disappear down the page behind postings which hardly attract a comment. Maybe, since some of these are rather predictable, hey need a ‘minority interest page’?

  • Ian Hurdley 30th Oct '14 - 7:52am

    I subscribe to a Facebook page, Fr. James Martin S.J, which by its nature, people often find controversial. He operates a simple but effective comments policy; NO ad hominem and no more than two comments per person. (If anyone needs more than two, they are free to open a thread on their own FB page). It seems to work.

  • It’s your site and you can moderate it how you like. However, a couple of observations:

    1) While you can defend toleration of racist, or perceived racist, comments under the banner of free speech and attempt to mitigate their offence by adding editorial condemnation, you have to be open to the possibility that tolerating such things will only encourage others to offer similar views.
    You then risk turning many comment threads into discussions of racism and offence, although obviously something society needs to talk about, it would detract from the specific issue the original post intended to raise.

    2) In general, more freedom is given to members self-identifying as LD members and using their real names than others. This again is perfectly defensible, after all you are a blog run by liberal democrats to further the aims of the liberal democrat party. However, it does create a huge bias towards the establishment, which in this context is lib dem members happy to use their real names as they do not have anything to lose within the party, or in wider society by doing so. These people, and you can find examples above this comment, often do not realise they are the status quo and are what other people want to change in one way or the other about the make up and attitudes of political activists.

    These are difficult issues to resolve. Good luck.

  • Ian Hurdley 30th Oct '14 - 8:54am

    @Tony Dawson.
    I think your point about the Labour/UKIP interventions is a good one. Often I have the feeling that if I do comment, I am swimming against a torrent of abuse rather than debating/discussing a topic with fellow supporters, who still disagree, but politely. If these people came to an actual meeting and began shouting other people down, they would be ‘asked’ to leave. Why not here?

  • First of all, to expect website moderators to be able to effectively offset moronic comment posters is unrealistic. Incidents like this one lower my expectations of the general public. The moderators here do an admirable job.

    Second, this is a risible reason to leave the Lib Dems. IMO there has to be something more going in here than simply an opinion that a moderators decision means Lib Dems tolerate racist remarks. Seriously? When people have long toes, it’s just to easy for them to be stepped on.

    Third, too many of us seem to think the only statement of protest available to members is to quit the party. Lack of imagination, that looks like to me.

  • For the second time in a week I find myself agreeing with Simon McGrath.
    He recalls Simon Titley’s approach to those who hide behind false names, which is one that LDV might want to consider.

    Both of Tony Greaves comments (some of which reflect Simon McGrath’s) are also eminently sensible.
    People should note Tony’s observation about why people resign from the party.
    Anyone who has been in the party for more than five minutes will be ale to recall someone who has left the party for a stated reason, when we have all seen it coming for months before. I have still not stopped laughing about Peter Hain’s resignation which he said was in protest against the Lib-Lab Pact — he went to join the Labour Party !

    In recent years we have lost tens of thousands of members, we should maybe see things in that perspective when one person resigns.

    I agree with the Stephen Tall comment. LDV folk could not have dealt with this any better than they did.

    I would however point out the irony of Stephen commenting “..political sites often dominated by one type of commenter (stereotypically, angry white males).”.
    It is not obvious how “angry” or “contented” or “complacent” Stephen is — but he ticks the other two boxes.

    Anger is not an exclusively “white” failing as the thread in question shows only too clearly.

    I plead guilty to “anger”. There is a lot to be angry about, I am also male and what people describe as “white”.
    I would however like to think that I do not always express myself in an aggressive manner or that I always resort to “shouty” remarks.

    As usual the pigeon hole of “class” has been ignored. Nobody is complaining that most comments in LDV (male and female) come from middle class people. Nobody is seeking to rectify that imbalance.

    If males comment less in LDV would that result in in more females commenting? I doubt it.

    Almost every day there are topics in LDV on which nobody at all comments, there are no aggressive comments, no “shouty” male comments, no comments at all.
    Nobody is being excluded it is just that some people have better things to do or are happy to just read. For generations people read newspapers and whilst a few wrote Letters to the Editor, millions did not. They were not being excluded, they simply chose not to.

    My guess is that people comment in LDV if they feel sufficiently moved to do so. Some may feel shy about so doing and and some simply prefer to just read the comments of others. Shyness or a reluctance to step forward are not exclusively female.

    Andy McGregor’s comment is very balanced. He says he is a relative newcomer and usually prefers to just “lurk”.
    I especially like his last sentence —
    “..Keep up the good work providing this facility and let us not be either too thin skinned, or over concerned if one member resigns..”

  • I agree that anonymous contributors (unless they have good reason for being so and their real names are known to LDV moderators) should not be allowed. I think that the threads are often dominated by a few people who seem to have a lot of time on their hands in which to attack the party and certain individuals within it.

  • JohnTilley

    In recent years we have lost tens of thousands of members, we should maybe see things in that perspective when one person resigns.

    It would be interesting to know what the demographic make up of departing members is, gender/ethnicity/age, then to compare that with the remaining party? That might tell you if you have a problem beyond simple political disagreements.

  • There are still some of you who call people who disagree with you ‘Labour Trolls’ or just Trolls. I have been called the same when distraught after that first budget attacking the sick and disabled when I called on Liberal Democrat Activists for help. I and others were derided as many of you would not criticise your MPs then. I and others of course became angry and sensitive. I am pre moderated but I have seen certain LibDems constantly attack fellow LibDems who think differently and I expect you know who I mean. I did vote for you in 2010 but was called a liar. I think that you should go back to those threads and see what I mean. Myself and others were attacked unmercilessly while a few LibDems were allowed to say dreadful things to us.

  • David Allen 30th Oct '14 - 9:56am

    I think many of the comments on the Botswana thread – from mainstream Lib Dems, not just from one specific poster – demonstrated an appallingly insensitive attitude toward racism. I can quite understand why an anti-racist campaigner would feel out of place in the Lib Dems. It is nothing to do with moderation. The comments I am talking about could not reasonably have been modded out. You can’t mod out a comment just because it fails to recognise that Britain has a colonial legacy and that it behoves the Lib Dems to take some cognisance of that fact.

  • Helen Tedcastle 30th Oct '14 - 10:40am

    Caron

    As one of the few women who comment on here reasonably regularly, I think that the LDV team do a great job. In fact, I think there has been a big improvement in the past year and a half. There is a greater encouragement of free speech and expression and on a liberal site, this is essential. In fact, I felt that in the past, the mod button was used too liberally by certain mods who were easily offended. This has changed for the better.

    However, there has been an increase recently in angry posts but I think this reflects the state of the party at this time.

    Indeed, there is a lot of dissent and frustration, especially since our meltdown in the Euro elections. However, this does not excuse the use of directed- personal abuse towards individuals on threads..

    On specific proposals, I would be completely against a women-only thread. Women need to debate with men and vice versa. I am also against a like/dislike button because there is then nothing to stop ‘ganging up’ on an individual in a debate – not helpful, especially on highly emotive topics.

    Tony Greaves’ suggestions on how to deal with non-party members seem eminently sensible to me and should be considered.

  • Richard Church 30th Oct '14 - 10:40am

    On line bullies and trolls thrive by anonymity. Think of the worse cases suffered by Mary Beard and others, particularly women, that have sometimes led to police prosecutions. OK, nothing that bad here, but all popular blogs suffer from intimidating, bullying and at its worst threatening behaviour. The fantastic opportunity which modern technology provides for millions more people to engage in debate is being wrecked by a tiny number of people. The bullies are leading to a decline in both the quality of comments and the number of commentators.

    It’s time for LDV to take a lead that perhaps will be followed by others and to say they will only accept posts from people using their real name, which can be verified, except in special circumstances verified by a moderator. It won’t eradicate the problem, but it will make a huge difference. If people want to post anonymously, without good reason, they can go to sites that continue to accept anonymous posters.

  • Sometimes there is a need for a person to keep their identity totally anonymous.

    Especially if that said person sometimes posts on matters that are extremely personal to them and revealing their identity could cause distress to not only to them, but potentially to members of their own family.

    I am in a such a situation myself, although I must admit in my case Caron Lindsay. knows my full identity and all my confidential details.

    I think there needs to be caution about denying people a voice, sometimes internet forums are the only place where some people in complex circumstances feel that they have a voice.
    That being said, such people should still try and adhere to forum rules, at all times. I have gotten carried away at times and blurred the lines and I appreciate it when I get a stern word from a Moderator pointing out the error of my ways.

    I would finally add though, there are just a couple of Party members who thrive on conflict and relish the opportunities to turn constructive debate into personal arguments which can be infuriating and descends discussions into utter chaos. It is also noted that said people are no longer just targeting Non party contributors and is becoming more and more confrontational with his own colleague and party members with whom he disagrees with..

  • I’m finding it interesting that Liberal Democrat members are assuming all non-members are Labour or Ukip trolls !

    Jedi-whatever his name is was a LD member, as evidenced by his name being in blue !!

    I am an ex-LD voter & nothing in the comments above are tempting me back – your party is becoming more & more illiberal with every passing month.

    If non-member comments are such a problem, close the site to us & force all conversation into the members-only forum.

  • I have to agree with Sara Scarlett, the response she received to her last article was disturbing. Many posters playing the “(wo)man not the ball” including attacking the body producing the paper she cited not the content.
    Some of the responses to her I considered creepy, and it was not anonymous posters. Some of them demanding to know details about people who were supportive to her case though it was entirely irrelevant to the argument.
    When comments get really unpleasant they are not just anonymous posters. Often they get boring due to people just trying to “lable” others rather than engage in the debate.
    Unfortunately some others have been unfairly tarred by this behaviour an anonymous poster recently mistook Matthew Huntbach for some other named posters on here who had previously been very aggressive (and probably creepy) towards them, which Matthew is not but some who post on similar topics to him are.
    Interesting debate requires a variety of views and people to engage in the actual issue. Instead on LDV too many people are keen to just throw labels around particularly ones that have no clear definition in a lazy attempt to use a reverse version of the Mott and Bailey technique to shut down discussion.

    You have to be careful, in trying to make things “inclusive” you run the risk of turning the comments in to an echo chamber, and that would be too boring for more than a few to bother looking at. The comments for the most part are relatively tame, though as I said can be made quite boring by certain people deploying certain techniques to push dissenting views out.
    I have to agree with Tony Greaves (for a change) that it sounds like there is more behind this, otherwise it sounds like a dramatic over reaction to what was a couple of very bizarre comments (that I found offensive).

  • If you read Lester Holloway’s post carefully, you’ll see that he wasn’t mainly complaining about the moderators. He was complaining, understandably I think, that when a racist comment appeared, very few of the following posters seemed to even notice it. Most of them just carried on arguing, often along the (insensitive) lines that offering British help to African liberals is in no way different from offering it to, say, Swedish liberals. It seems to have left him feeling that the Lib Dems are not a good party for an anti-racism campaigner to belong to. That seems a pretty good reason to leave, doesn’t it?

    “Anyone who reacts in the way Lester has (out of all proportion to any supposed offence) is in the end probably better off somewhere else.”

    So, here we see insult being added to injury.

    Caron has treated all this as a moderation problem, but it just isn’t. It’s more fundamental than that. It’s a Lib Dem attitude problem. One more nail in the coffin, I’m afraid.

  • I would support those who have argued for comments being limited to Party members and for full name identification.

  • As someone who doesn’t use their full name on here, for work reasons a degree of anonymity is necessary, I am more than happy to go along with the lines expressed above about users such as I confidentially prove to the LDV that team I am a member (and, for what it is worth, a former party employee) and my identity. Seems a reasonable position to take in light of the sad concequenes of a non-member being involved with the loss of a welcome, thoughtful LDV contributor and party member.

  • I agree with Helen.

    There is some pretty sexist stuff on this website, for instance in a heartfelt debate on abortion when women who sought one were dismissed as sulky children who wanted their own way and another when a debate on the under-representation of women drew sarcastic remarks about the under-representation of the dead and the illiterate. It would be ridiculous though for Caron and her colleagues to have to take these comments down

  • •publicly warning people who behave disrespectfully towards others and being prepared to ban them from the site for a period if necessary; Yes, this might work
    •having threads for members only or women only Potentially, but the exception rather than the rule. There’s something illiberal and less useful about allowing only certain people to post
    •threading discussions Don’t know – gut reaction is that it might make it harder to read a thread
    •having a report abuse button Yes agree
    •having a “like” or “dislike” button Like button – yes. For example, I would have just “liked” Helen Tedcastle’s post above. Dislike button – please no.
    •Unconscious bias training Not sure how that would work in an online forum

  • I’m an angry white male. I’m angry about climate change, poverty, racism, exploitation, oppression, intolerance and about half-hearted responses to these evils.

    I haven’t seen the racist post, but if it is clearly racist, then the poster should be banned from the site. Some things are totally unacceptable. This should however be done on a permanent basis after proper discussion and giving the poster a chance to explain him/herself. On another site, a literary one, I once took part in a debate on whether poetry could be immoral. I gave Adolf Hitler as an example of evil and suggested that a poem praising Hitler would be wrong. I found myself pursued by a very angry person who clearly had never written something in praise of Hitler but thought I was accusing her of having done so. The moderators stepped in eventually and persuaded her I’d never said that.

    There is already a members’ site. We ought to welcome participation here by people who are essentially Liberal but have left the party. or by members of other parties who genuinely want to discuss things with us. The safeguard should be excluding people who post unequivocally and unashamedly against fundamental Liberal values, and those values are few.

    Like/dislike buttons would achieve nothing except a series of straw polls on controversial issues. It would be totally illiberal to remove a post because many more people disagreed with it than agreed.

    I’m deeply sorry Lester Holloway has resigned from the party, but I don’t think someone should resign from a party because some members of the party do unacceptable things or because a discussion site not controlled by the party handles a sensitive issue in a way he or she strongly dislikes.

  • Tony Greaves 30th Oct '14 - 12:09pm

    @David Allen

    Of course the UK has a colonial legacy. That does not make me (or any other individual citizen of the UK) a racist.

    I happen to be very critical of the British and European colonial histories, though I understand how and why they happened. I do think that this history means we always have to be sensitive to perceptions held by people in Africa and indeed any other part of our former Empire (and beyond in places that were subject to our imperial influence – which doesn’t leave much left of the world outside Europe).

    I still cannot find examples of “appalling racism” by any of the Liberal Democrat contributors to the original thread (or indeed this one). Just because one person thinks something is racist does not make it so. I will always try to understand why such a view is held; I will always retain the right to disagree.

    The legacies of our imperial past are not always negative. It’s the UK that is providing most assistance on EBOLA in Sierra Leone and France in Guinea. For somewhat different historical reasons it’s the USA in Liberia. Of course the UK is partly, possibly substantially, to blame for the deplorable state of public services in Sierra Leone, even over half a century after it became an independent state. But as an individual I am not responsible for that.

    Tony Greaves

  • There seems to be a massive disconnect between party policy and the demands of many activists on this thread. The Liberal Democrat Party opposes the state snooping into the personal lives of its citizens, yet the members want this blog to only be open to people prepared to disclose identifiable personal information that will allow their critics to snoop on whatever traces their personal lives have left online.

    You only need to know somebody’s real name if you want to know something about them other than what they choose to disclose. Arguments should stand and fall on their own merits, not the status of the person presenting them. It’s worrying that so many people appear not to accept this.

  • I dont think Caron should feel bad about this, it seems to me she acted correctly throughout.
    The effective exclusion of women from the comment threads is a problem I have spoken about before; I would suggest –
    1 Only include the first 10 lines of any comment, we could then click on the comment if we wanted the rest.
    2 Delete comments that refer to other comments instead of the article itself.
    3 Perhaps a list of trigger words that would automatically put comments into moderation, violent or insulting words for example.

  • For everyone saying that Lester’s reasons for leaving were incomprehensible – you’d have to read his writings over the past 3-6 months. It had become clear months ago that he was getting frustrated with the lack of progress within the party as regards ethnic diversity and I suspect this was the last straw.

    Lesters been trying to make the party more diverse for some time now and to mis-characterise his departure as disproportionate or silly is to misunderstand the narrative. Some seem to think this incident is isolated and doesn’t have any connection to all of the other frustrations people other than white men find within the party, which Lester was very vocal about. Sadly, I’m sure the answer will be to ban something or other and it seems like privacy is the thing most likely to get outlawed here, so good news for Google and the thought police, terrible for debate and participation!

  • David Evershed 30th Oct '14 - 12:45pm

    Commentators should be respectful of other commentators opinions. In general this seems to be the case on this site, particularly compared with sites such as Guido Fawkes.

    My fellow commentators do seem to be people who care about the topic and are frequesntly knowledgeable. People who don’t care are unlikely to comment whilst people who care enough will comment.

    Of course there will be arguments on subjects but if you have a good argument why would you be frightened of a lively debate.

    As Margaret Thatcher probably said …..If you can’t stand the heat (of a rational debate) then get out of the kitchen.

  • I find some of the comments raised, particularly on this and the related thread, https://www.libdemvoice.org/how-to-further-improve-our-comments-threads-your-suggestions-please-42945.html, a little worrying.

    The fundamental question is whether the LibDem’s see themselves as a political party or as a think-tank.

    It is an important distinction, a think-tank lives in its own world creating reports calling for this and that; but taking zero responsibility for their realisation and outcome (although they will scramble to claim it as their idea if the outcome is a success). A political party on the other hand has aspirations to power and actually try and deliver change in the real world; with all its complications and compromises. To do this a political party, operating in a democracy, has to engage with the electorate, not just the card carrying members. I therefore find it concerning that various members of the party are effectively saying they don’t like interacting with the public and calling for measures that can only serve to put up walls and reduce interaction with the public and so make it more of a think-tank…

    Against this background we can ask what is the role of the LDV Forum and Public site and who exactly are “LibDem supporters”? From some of the comments (on the public site), it would seem ‘supporters’ are party members, not those who may make contributions to party funds, regularly vote or who could be persuaded to vote LibDem, etc.

  • David Allen 30th Oct '14 - 1:01pm

    “I’m deeply sorry Lester Holloway has resigned from the party, but I don’t think someone should resign from a party because some members of the party do unacceptable things or because a discussion site not controlled by the party handles a sensitive issue in a way he or she strongly dislikes.”

    I think this misrepresents the reasons for the resignation. Read what Lester Holloway actually says, not how it has been spun by others. Holloway explicitly recognises that the moderator acted in a positive way. His beef is specifically with all the other Lib Dem posters commenting on the site, who seemed to be unworried by the appearance of a racist comment on it. I don’t know Lester Holloway, but I think he resigned for reasons which deserve respect.

    http://lesterholloway.com/2014/10/28/why-its-unacceptable-to-say-africans-dont-know-what-a-toilet-is/

  • Richard Dean 30th Oct '14 - 1:08pm

    For those who don’t understand the nature of the offence that caused the international aspect of this, it was well explained in Jonathan Hunt’s comment that “The comment about toilets had nothing to do with ceramics and sanitation, and everything to do with spreading ignorant racist propaganda about black African people.” That kind of propaganda, and the erroneous idea that Africans had no civilization before Europeans arrived – the idea that Lester was arguing against – was one of the historic justifications for, amongst other things, the slave trade.

    No-one is perfect, so editorial decisions will sometimes be wrong, whatever system is put in place to reduce the errors. So it’s important to have a way of re-visiting decisions. Obviously this would need to be done rapidly when comments come fast. Perhaps it’s too much to ask for volunteers, but one approach could be to ask Mark Pack, Mark Valladares, and others who have proved their reliable judgment over the years, if they could act as occasional rapid response advisers. Perhaps they could be chosen by vote.

    As far as attracting women voters is concerned, well, that’s a question! It’s probably a question you should ask women voters. Similarly for other large and small sections of the community you want to attract. While this party seems to have relied a lot on support from minorities in the past, it probably needs to recognize the reality that a majority of women voters have major concerns that relate to children and family life. So the first tasks of LibDems will involving asking, listening, inviting, and being ready to change in response to what is learned.

    Even JS Mill got a mention in yesterday’s thread. The mention seems to illustrate a feeling of LibDem superiority that is very unattractive to voters looking in. It happens to be erroneous in my opinion. Being humble, being ready to change, are being able to learn and listen, seems like a common thread in the way forward.

  • David Allen 30th Oct '14 - 1:15pm

    Tony Greaves 29th October:
    “Browsing through all this again I realise that Lester’s given reason for resigning is “over the toleration by some members of appalling racism towards Africans.””

    Tony Greaves 30th October:
    “I still cannot find examples of “appalling racism” by any of the Liberal Democrat contributors to the original thread”

    Two very different statements Tony. The first one is the one which is accurate. What Holloway is saying is that, when the Jedi from whoknowswhere put up a post about Africans and toilets, nobody much apart from the moderator complained. The Lib Dem commenters didn’t commit “appalling racism”, but they did appear to overlook it when it appeared.

    Frankly, I think there is a case to answer. The best interpretation is that the Lib Dem commenters just didn’t notice what Jedi said, they only had thoughts for what they themselves were wanting to say. That’s a common failing of course (I plead guilty to occasional skimming myself), but it sure left a disastrous impression on that thread.

  • Stephen Campbell 30th Oct '14 - 1:24pm

    I’ll start by saying again, as in previous threads about moderation, that it is your house and therefore your rules.

    That said, I agree entirely with @Anne above. There were several people who, towards the beginning of the coalition, were constantly called “trolls” or “Labour trolls” if we dared to disagree with the direction this government and more specifically this party has taken. There was almost a cultlike mindset at the time that all dissenting voices could be written off as Labour supporters and people like myself who voted Lib Dem for over a decade were outright accused of lying. There was indeed a strong whiff of authoritarianism at the time on this site. It is nowhere near as bad now, but there are still some people here who don’t want to face up to the negative things this party has done, specifically when it comes to the NHS, the disabled, unemployed, and low paid, not to mention the failure to challenge corporate power. I think, as was and still is the case with Labour, the party needs some serious moments of self-reflection as to how it has let down so many of its voters (most of whom are now ex-LD voters).

    Yes, I am male. Yes, I am angry. I find the desire to discourage “angry” posts, on a political site of all places, another symptom of this party not wanting to face up to the things it has done in government. After all, there is plenty this government has done to be angry about. Your party used to talk all the time about getting more people engaged in politics, yet the way this site is run, particularly with regards to dissenting voices, won’t endear yourselves to the electorate at all. It’s your right if you decide to restrict the comments to only party members, but if that action is taken it will only make you look even more elitist and out of touch with the electorate than you already are. This site and the party in general are in danger of becoming a closed, middle-class echo chamber who live in ivory towers and don’t want to deal with the people you have hurt during this course of this coalition.

  • I think Lester Holloway must have had other reasons for leaving, beyond a decision by a moderator on post from a non-member on a website not controlled by the party. Doesn’t add up.

    There’s a bit of risk of navel gazing here – broadly the comments on LDV are a class above other forum sites by a county mile. I’d just like more readability, so replies stay with the original post. Perhaps the reply thread could be minimised by default as well. A flag for ‘report abuse’ would be good as well to get abusive comments removed quickly. Other than that, I don’t think we should be restricting what people can say and who can say it.

  • Stephen Campbell 30th Oct '14 - 1:30pm

    One more thing I’ve noticed: there are several Lib Dem members who engage in nit-picking, pedantry and outright rudeness towards non-members and ex-LD voters who never seem to be censured, especially when it comes to following the government line. Their rudeness always seems to get a free pass since they are party members while heartfelt and sometimes angry posts by non-members or ex-LD voters are often thrown into the memory hole. Again, this sends the message that the views of people who have been let down or negatively affected by this government aren’t valid and can therefore be disregarded.

  • By way of an example of how the comments are less-bad than other sites. I often batter out a post messing up the spelling or punctuation in the process. In other places people make a big fuss over spelling, punctuation or grammar here people want to get to the issue.
    I must admit I’m slightly disturbed by the examples cited of some of the sexist comments previously posted (on abortion etc) but I don’t remember them so I don’t know how long ago they were. Perhaps we should all state how long ago some of the events occurred (my examples were in the last month or so) as anne did above.

    g
    “Arguments should stand and fall on their own merits”
    Sadly a point that is often lost, I could add to the end of several arguments that only fully named posters should be allowed to state “those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear” and it wouldn’t look out of place. That is not a position I could ever agree with.

    Perhaps if there were a few recognised ground rules not for what is unacceptable but what is a boring argument “you’re not a liberal,” “that proposed course of action is [insert a label that is interpreted differently by different people],” “Why don’t you go join Labour/Tories/UKIP/Socialt Workers Party” or any comment that “plan the (wo)man, not the ball”. You don’t need to ban these comments but if they were constantly criticised for how empty they are perhaps we would see less of them and more substantive discussion of the relative merits of the matter at hand. Making it less personal and more interesting, looking at the argument not the advocate.

  • Robin Bennett 30th Oct '14 - 1:51pm

    Comments are of a relatively high standard, though some are TLDR (too long, didn’t read) – one commenter in particular. Tony Greaves’ views (on what should change) are – as usual – sensible. And finally, members of the competent team which runs the site deserve our warmest thanks for the time they give.

  • Ruth Bright 30th Oct '14 - 2:35pm

    Psi – the comments on abortion were in response to an article I wrote in November 2013. The belittling of women’s under-representation (ie comparing it with the under-representation of the dead) was on September 4 this year.

  • Phil Wainewright 30th Oct '14 - 2:39pm

    Lester Holloway has invested huge amounts of energy and passion into attempting to make the Party more inclusive. His departure seems to have been crystallized by attitudes displayed in the comment thread, not by failures of moderation. It appears that he has simply despaired of ever achieving any improvement against the odds he and other BAME participants face. That is a chilling conclusion that no one should greet with complacency. .

  • Thought the mod action was the correct one. I did not see the racism at first, but after reading Mr Holloway’s response now see the way a lazy generalisation reinforces a negative stereotype. This is something we are quick enough to point out in other parties!

    That said some level of anonymity is a must for those of us currently skiving from work!

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Oct '14 - 3:24pm

    We have helped people and parties with similar views to our get established in other countries. People from other countries have helped us. We have some good ideas about ways in which elections can be fought, new approaches to campaigning and the like, this is very much part of what attracted me to the party.

    I would consider it appallingly racist if it were suggested that the liberal and democratic ideals I have do not apply to black people, and that I should not even be allowed to advise people in black majority countries about ways of campaigning that seem to be effective. That appears to be what Lester Holloway is saying – people in Botswana don’t deserve the sort of liberal democratic approach to politics that we hold dear.

  • David Evans 30th Oct '14 - 6:47pm

    I, like everyone else in the Lib Dems, am profoundly saddened by Lester’s resignation. Indeed on his website I have asked him to reconsider. However, in particular I agree with Paul Walter on this. As I said to Lester

    Lester,

    I am profoundly saddened you have chosen to leave the party. However the reason why I, and probably quite a few other Lib Dems didn’t post specifically about the racist comments on LDV was because we all know that you are quite capable of looking after yourself. Indeed by the time I saw it on the thread, you were demonstrating it very clearly with your nine comments, plus those of Meral and Ruwan, so it seemed you had quite enough support already. You asked for support and the Lib Dems delivered it. If you had needed more, you only had to ask more people.
    I hope you will reconsider.

    David

  • Rabi Martins 30th Oct '14 - 6:49pm

    I am grateful to Mary Reid for giving us an incite into the challenes that the Editor, sub-editors and moderators of LDV face It is clearly a thankless task which these good people do purely out of interest We owe these people our thanks rather than the abuse that Mary reveals they often have to endure

    This current episode demonstartes that LDV is a victim of its own success
    It works precisely because it is open to both members and non-members We can learn even from our critics
    That having been said it is probably time bring in some new controls

    Like Julian Tisi and others I would advocate publicly warning people who behave disrespectfully towards others and being prepared to ban them from the site for a period if necessary A decision that sound be taken by the Editor and one other person
    Also agree that having threads for members only or women only seems illiberal and unduly restrictive It would also be against what the Party believes in – A Fair – Free – and Open Society

    Having a > Report Abuse < button would hopefully act as a reminder to posters that they need to be mindful of waht they say and how they say it

    I really don't see that LDV has a role in Unconscious Bias Training It is asking too much of volunteer moderators to judge whether a post is displaying unconscious bias

    As to whether Lester resigned because of what was said on LDV or an accumulation of other factors is for him to know and for him to decide if and when to make that public
    Personally I do know that an increasing number of BAME members are disappointed that the Party that claims to value Diversity and Equality pays so little attention to racial discrimination be it conscious on unconscious
    It would not suprise me if others from this group of members come to the end of their tether an give up on us

  • Like g said, it’s your site and do what you like with it. I’ve always been upfront about being a Labour supporter (definitely not a “Labour troll”) and have said many times that if the LDV comments policy ever changed from the current one (which openly invites comments from non-Lib Dems), then I’d be off. With some sadness, as I’ve enjoyed engaging with many of the people here.

    To be honest I don’t really recognise the culture of bullying and abuse described by some above. Not in many comments that I’ve seen. But Caron and the other moderators may have views coloured by some of the posts we don’t get to see.

    I’m not sure that banning non-Lib Dems will necessarily make the comments more civilised.

  • A commenter’s name in blue means there is a link to their blog, NOT that they are a party member, as incorrectly claimed above. The racist comment came from a non-member. Had it come from a member they would be kicked out.

  • Ryan McAlister 30th Oct '14 - 7:11pm

    As much of an issue, and relevant to the wider discussion of the comments sectin is how Lester willfully chose to use that thread to talk about something completely irrelevant to the main story. A light hearted puff piece about an election in Botswana, and he chose to use it as a platform to talk about Britian’s colonial past.

    It is that kind of off topic tedium that is killing the comments section of this site. That he happened to pick a topic many might sympathise with doesn;t get him a free pass for doing it.

  • I think a reply to comment function would work well, That way if people want to get into a wild Tangent discussion with one another they can do so without disrupting the flow of the rest of the thread. It will also help with comments that get stuck in auto for a length of time, as that comment will later be released in the sub thread comments section rather than the main thread which results in old heated discussions resurfacing. It would put an end to the “see my comment @…pm” rant.

    I also think it would be a good idea to add a section under the name, E-mail, Website TABS and include which party supporter, ie, Libdem, Labour, floating voter etc.
    Not so that non Liberal Democrat supporters can be ignored, I personally would find it helpful to know if someone responding is an actual Liberal Democrat member, especially when a few of the commentators engage in a rather heated manor as though they represent the views of the party and it turns out that they are not party members at all.

  • Stephen Donnelly 30th Oct '14 - 7:25pm

    This is one of those occasions where what needs to be done is nothing.

  • Peter Chambers 30th Oct '14 - 8:57pm

    LDV is a space on the Internet. It needs defending, a fact discovered by the Reddit team some time ago.

    I agree with the suggestion that posters should register, and use their real name or a registered alias if needed.

    Anyone, including visitors, is free to comment, as long as they give their name to the door.

  • Stephen Donnelly – quite right. As I have said on previous discussions about this sort of topic, what is all the angst about? This is a political website, not a blog about cake making (though I bet they have some pretty vicious discussions as well). Politics is about conflicting opinions and hopefully out of that conflict some sort of resolution might emerge, or as Marx summarised it: thesis, antithesis, synthesis. Without discussion, or even argument, no one will ever change their mind about anything. Ok, abuse is another matter, but that is very rare on LDV in comparison to other political websites, which may be a tribute to the sort of people who mostly contribute here or may be a function of the good job that the moderators do. To have blanket restrictions on who can post here would kill the site: I have no interest in only having discussions with people who agree with me. I want to know what people who have stopped voting for us think; I want to know what people who have been politically enthused by UKIP think. We are suffering as a party and it is natural that we are having anguished discussions about how we have contributed to the situation we are in, but we are not collectively racists, homophobes, or misogynists. And having been around nearly as long as Tony Greaves I would endorse what he says about the reasons for people resigning.

  • There is nothing inherently sinister about using an alias. I use an alias for the straightforward reason that I am a public servant who has worked in politically sensitive roles (and will be returning to one next week). If I am required to display my real name, then I cannot post. For those who might be delighted by that possibility, I would remind you that such a prohibition would apply to many more than myself. My mugshot is real enough.

  • Talk about missing the point!

    Obviously, what Lester Holloway objected to was nothing to do with the tone of comments in general putting other people off commenting. It was about a particular comment he found offensive having been allowed to remain, and about the fact that most other commenters hadn’t expressed any objection to it.

    The second objection, by its nature, can’t be addressed by editorial policy (unless anyone has the idea that people were too frightened of other commenters’ reactions to say what they thought of the offending comment). The first is just a question of where the moderators draw the line (and it does seem nonsensical to remove the comment, say “comments of that nature are completely unacceptable” and then reinstate it!).

    But regarding his resignation from the party, I do think Lester Holloway should give some thought to the facts that (1) LDV isn’t the Lib Dems and (2) other people may not have responded to that comment because they were already inured to illberal comments of various kinds from that particular commenter.

  • My thoughts:

    This might cause some of the moderators to splutter into their tea, but I think that on the whole the site is well moderated and the site rules work well. Where I do tend to have an issue is the interpretation of those rules – they don’t seem to apply equally to all people.

    With regards to most of the posts being from men, I thing it is fundamentally wrong to attribute the lower number of comments from women to the greater number of comments from men. Reducing the number of comments form men would right the imbalance only by stifling debate and it would do nothing to increase the number of comments from women, so the site would be poorer for it. I also find it incredibly patronising to women to suggest that debates are too aggressive and are therefore off-putting. Encouraging women to post would be far healthier than discouraging men. Besides, a purely quantitative assessment of the posts by men/women disregards the quality and when that quality is included then the balance isn’t as unbalanced. I would also add that this discussion isn’t helped when certain women misattribute the motivations of those that disagree with them to sexism when, to me, it appears nothing more than the fact that people disagree with their arguments. The fact that most of those that disagree with an article written by a woman are likely to be men is a symptom of the imbalance of people commenting, no the motivation of those commenting.

    Three types of problem poster:
    1. Those who write very long comments and repeat themselves.
    2. Those who write a large number of incoherent comments.
    3. Those who deliberately and repeatedly derail debate by misrepresenting other people’s comments and never offer anything constructive.

    On the whole I have no problem with 1. and 2. – if someone wants to talk nonsense that’s up to them – I can always ignore them. If it really becomes problematic in drowning out others then there are methods the moderators can already use through auto-moderation and by contacting the people concerned with the threat of permanent blocking if they refuse to co-operate.

    The people in group 3. are the real problem and they are, quite often, Lib Dem members and elected officials who give their full name. I can think of one person in particular that fits this description very well and appears to be allowed to post with impunity. This really is an issue because it does destroy not just the quality of arguments and debate but increases the anger of those who are being attacked in this manner, thus increasing the number of aggressive comments.

    The only change I would like to see to the submission of comments is a method (drop down menu?) of letting people know your background – e.g. Lib Dem member/official/ex-member/voter/ex-voter/other party. It would stop the silly claims of people being trolls and people getting upset when they realise that not everyone is a Lib Dem member. As regards the anonymity thing – I thought this had been done to death already and I can see no issue with anonymity provided commenters provide, as they do, their email address to the moderators.

  • “Anyone, including visitors, is free to comment, as long as they give their name to the door.” [Peter Chambers 30th Oct ’14 – 8:57pm]

    A good summary of a theme often expressed, however by way of analogy, do we ask members of the public wishing to attend a public meeting, to provide proof of Id? I suspect not, certainly none that I’ve attended; yes if you ask a question, it is often common courtesy to give “your name”, but not to provide Id.

    I believe the current arrangements used on LDV give a reasonable approximation to a public meeting: The email address can be regarded as a substitute for my body, it identifies an individual. When I comment I provide a name, hopefully the site is doing basic checking so that certainly within a single article (and preferrably across the whole site) there is only one name used per email address, so when I comment again others present know it is the same individual speaking, just as they do at a public meeting. Likewise, if I attend a subsequent meeting and try to use a different name, others who attended the previous meeting would question my motives. Perhaps, for new posters (and this may already happen) an email is sent to the provided email address just to check that it does in fact exist.

  • Matthew Huntbach 31st Oct '14 - 11:06am

    Chris

    Obviously, what Lester Holloway objected to was nothing to do with the tone of comments in general putting other people off commenting. It was about a particular comment he found offensive having been allowed to remain, and about the fact that most other commenters hadn’t expressed any objection to it.

    It was a silly and rather ignorant comment, but one that could very easily be argued against rationally. That is, after all, very much an aspect of the John Stuart Mill argument for liberalism and free speech – it enables us to have a rational discussion on these issues. The approach to this comment should have been to have pointed out from a position of actual knowledge that Africans do not all live in the sort of stereotypical way that comes from old books. Some people who are a bit ignorant might think that, just as, for example, many Americans seem to have some very strange and outdated ideas of what Britain is like, supposing that we are still in a land dominated by aristocratic titles, and we all go round in bowler hats singing “God Save the Queen” and so on. Well, one can politely point out them that they are wrong, not go off in some sort of hissy fit about it.

    As someone from a southern working class background, I’m often offended by the stereotypical view of southerners as all wealthy people with top jobs in the City or Westminster, living in mansions and voting Tory. When this stereotype comes up in debates – and it often does from people with a northern or Scots background – I correct them, and in some cases I feel it;s good to have the opportunity to correct them.

    Also, I could sort of see the point this person was trying to make, even if he expressed it badly, and in doing so revealed that bit of ignorance or prejudice. But, come on, haven’t we all done this at times? I know I have, in trying to make a particular point and struggling to explain it, used words which can be interpreted in a way that I hadn’t really intended. Yes, it happens when I get fired up about something. The nature of this forum is that we do write quickly to it, we aren’t spending hours considering our wording.

  • Stevan Rose 31st Oct '14 - 3:51pm

    If I may correct you Matthew, as someone living in the North West I know of no-one who thinks southerners are all wealthy City types living in mansions. Don’t stereotype northerners please.

    There’s a huge difference between a quaint and inoffensive American view of Britain that might raise a rueful smile and a negative comment on black Africans that went largely unchallenged. That you can use the former as mitigation for the latter kinda proves Lester right.

  • Matthew

    Well, the moderators remove quite a lot of comments on the grounds – often rather tenuous – of “impoliteness”. If the policy is not to allow impoliteness, then racist comments really shouldn’t be tolerated. I think most people consider racism less acceptable than rudeness.

  • Stevan Rose 31st Oct '14 - 8:06pm

    “If you want to make a substantial reply why not do so as a rebuttal/response op-ed?”
    Because you split the discussion into two parallel articles and cause double posting.

  • I wish the Mods, who I know have a hard job already, would limit the comment section to 200 words.

    If you don’t like long comments, what’s the problem with just scrolling past them?

  • Eddie Sammon 31st Oct '14 - 9:01pm

    I don’t agree with word limits, but Sara makes a decent point: long posts can be counter-productive. I think they are less likely to be read. Mostly, people want a quick intro, analysis and conclusion of a person’s point of view.

    Of course, there’s a time for posts of all different lengths, but people should work on getting their main point across clearly and chucking the waste off the boat.

  • Malcolm Todd 31st Oct '14 - 9:14pm

    Indeed, people should keep their comments short if they want to be read. I often skim past very long comments, especially if they seem particularly dense or if it looks like something I’ve read before. (Sometimes, commentators who complain “I’ve said this over and over but you never seem to acknowledge or respond to it” should perhaps ask themselves whether their own writing style is to blame — it doesn’t matter how often you’ve written it if your correspondent has never been inspired to read it.)
    Short, well-argued comments are (usually) more likely to be persuasive, and anyone who seriously wants to engage in discussion and win people over should bear that in mind.
    But as Chris says, if like me you find lengthy repetitive screeds tiresome and unhelpful, then why not just scroll past them?

    (Am I never guilty of lengthy screeds myself? Let’s pass over that one quickly — you’ve probably stopped reading by now anyway…)

  • Paul Kennedy 31st Oct '14 - 10:39pm

    Like others, I am very disappointed to hear that Lester has decided to resign. As the nice party of British politics, the Lib Dems are every reactionary’s punchbag, but I honestly can’t think of any other political party which is less tolerant of racist, sexist or indeed any other discriminatory remarks than the Lib Dems.

  • Jonathan Brown 1st Nov '14 - 1:50am

    I am really saddened by Lester’s decision to leave the party, on a personal level and because I think it is a huge loss to the party. And because it demonstrates a fact that we sometimes talk about but very rarely do anything about: we have a problem with race in this party.

    Not generally with overt and obvious racism but with subtle, often unintentional racism. Institutional racism, in other words. A mixture of obstinance, ignorance, lack of time/resources, a sense that ‘we’re liberals and therefore not racist’, etc. are all causes I’m sure. And of course I think the history and geography of the party is part of the explanation too. I think many of the party’s problems with race are not dissimilar to some of the problems we have with gender, although we are probably even less far advanced in effectively dealing with the problem than with female representation.

    As for making Lib Dem Voice more inclusive, I don’t personally think making commenters identifiable would make much difference. I don’t feel strongly about it either way. I also don’t think excluding non-party members would help.

    I very much get the sense from people I know who don’t comment here (and from some who do) is that a significant part of the problem comes from party members who don’t hide their identity. For the most part I think any one comment on its own would be considered perfectly reasonable and no one would expect it to be moderated away. The problem is one of the cumulative effect. So one negative comment from one person may be of little consequence. But 40+ comments from 4 or 5 people adds up to an atmosphere of intimidation and denigration that puts off many people.

    Perhaps the answer is to limit the number of comments any one poster can make? (Perhaps the author of the article could be given the power to lift the automatic ‘2 posts but no more’ block so that interesting conversations could be continued, at the author’s discretion, but repetitive attacks would be restricted?)

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Nov '14 - 12:20pm

    Stevan Ross

    If I may correct you Matthew, as someone living in the North West I know of no-one who thinks southerners are all wealthy City types living in mansions. Don’t stereotype northerners please.

    Sorry, but I very often DO come across remarks which make assumptions like this about people in the south, which annoy me enough to the point that I feel I have to respond. I have looked at what I wrote and nowhere in it was I suggesting that ALL northerners think like that, so you are wrong to accuse me of saying that.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Nov '14 - 12:29pm

    Chris

    Well, the moderators remove quite a lot of comments on the grounds – often rather tenuous – of “impoliteness”. If the policy is not to allow impoliteness, then racist comments really shouldn’t be tolerated.

    It is done by an automated system. So something perfectly innocuous but which happens to contain a particular word gets blocked. Something else which is unacceptably offensive gets through.

    The comment that was interpreted as “racist” was something about “not knowing about toilets”. Well, this IS an issue in various parts of the world. Maybe it wasn’t expressed very well, and obviously it is wrong to suggest it applies to everyone in the whole of Africa (but I don’t think it actually did). However, I think it fell short of the sort of obviously intended just to be offensive comment that should be blocked. I think there’s a great danger when people feel they just can’t say things they are actually thinking for fear of how it might be interpreted.

  • Morwen Millson 1st Nov '14 - 4:45pm

    I do not envy the moderators who have to draw conclusions from all this! I am sad that Lib Dem Voice has been hammered over this saga. As someone said early in the thread, the original article seemed pretty uncontroversial to have come to this. Also saddened at Lester’s resignation from the party, whether or not it was entirely due to the article and the comments.
    As a female reader, I rarely look at the comments, largely due to negativity. I wrote one piece for the page ages ago and as a first time contributor, felt slightly bruised at the initial comments. I simply don’t have enough time or energy to deal with more misery – council and executive meetings , as well as the party’s ratings in the polls, are quite enough to cope with!

  • Stevan Rose 1st Nov '14 - 7:25pm

    Matthew, I didn’t say you said “all” Northerners think like that. You said “and it often does from people with a northern or Scots background”. Which is stereotyping based on a person’s origin and liable to cause personal offence. I repeat I know no-one who thinks that way. You post, using the word “often” twice, implies you think there are a lot of ignorant or stupid Northerners and Scots. If that wasn’t your intent you need to think about the words you use and the order you use them in.

    That there is an issue with access to sanitation in parts of Africa, and Asia, is indisputable and there are agencies that exist for the specific purpose of improving sanitation. This isn’t racist. Saying Africans are “people (who) do not know what a toilet is” most definitely is racist. It implies they are too backward to understand sanitation rather than understanding it but not having access to it. If the former point was the intention then it is important to know that it is how a point is expressed that is critical as to whether it is offensive or not. Excusing a racist comment by suggesting it was just careless expressing of a different point is, I think, the major part of what Lester was saying. Pick the correct words and put them in the right order. If you genuinely make a mistake, which is possible, then apologise profusely for the inadvertent offence. I’d be mortified to make such a mistake myself.

  • Jonathan Brown 1st Nov '14 - 10:58pm

    @Matthew, if it the comment about toilets really wasn’t intended to be racist, then there was ample opportunity to apologize. It appeared to me to reference racist stereotypes of ‘primitive natives’. That was clearly the way it was taken by the ethnic minority commenters on the thread.

    No one expects a person never to say anything offensive or never to make a mistake. But it is reasonable to expect that those who do cause offense apologize. If they don’t, when alerted to the fact that people of colour find something they have said offensive, then I really don’t see how we can take it any other way than as racist.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 2nd Nov '14 - 12:30pm

    Dear Colleagues,

    Welcome to the real world, it is not always nice, some people live this everyday!

    I wish to state formerly though that I stand by Caron for being brave and taking the decision not only to challenge the bigoted comments in an LDV thread, but to show the world what is deemed as offensive. There is simply no learning for the majority of people if we continue to hide bigotry because we find it distasteful. It exists, and it exists in our Party.

    Society is not merely institutionally racist and sexist etc, individuals are as well, and we as a Party seem to think that this blight does not affect us, well sorry, but it does.

    Attempting to dismiss or otherwise put down the knowledge and experience of people with first hand experience, by intellectualising the benefits of theoretical liberalism can be another form bigotry, and there are a significant number of individuals that do this, both within the threads of LDV, and also within the Party itself. The most saddening aspect of what happened for me, was seeing the ‘feeding frenzy’ of ‘Good People’ who decided to lunch on those of us that decided to challenge the bigotry. Thankfully being ‘liberals’, most took their false teeth out first, so we merely received a thorough gumming, but the damage to the Party’s image by such people, we will live to regret.

    LDV, is a reflection of the Liberal Democrat Party, and there is in my opinion a need for cultural change within the Party. If we genuinely believe in equality and fairness, and that the barriers of intolerance should be removed, then we need more than laudable rhetoric, which we are supremely good at. We actually need to make sure that our policies, procedures and practises are genuinely inclusive and that the people with the appropriate knowledge, understanding, skills and ability are recruited, retained and progress to the highest levels if this is what they so wish to do.

    If people require further training in order to acquire the appropriate knowledge, understanding, skills and ability, then we should put in place ways of assisting them to acquire them. This is called affirmative action, and will level the playing field and make the selection process far more equitable.

    I hope that we can as a Party learn from this ‘revelation’ of reality and start to progress forward in a positive manner regarding all equality issues, but we must stop the patronising, and move into delivering solutions so that we can regain the mantle as the Party that is genuinely committed to equality and fairness above populism.

    I am now expecting to be ‘gummed’ again, but this is why I am a member, and my reason for being!

    Lastly, Caron is a hero!

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera

    Liberal Democrat English Party Diversity Champion
    Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrat (EMLD) – Vice Chair

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 2nd Nov '14 - 12:53pm

    Dear Colleagues,

    It should not go without saying that with the resignation of brother Lester Holloway, we have lost a valuable friend and ally for the Liberal Democrat Party. I suspect that people will be bustling ‘Googling’ Lester, and only then will they see the reach, and the respect that he has within the civil rights movement within the UK. He is simply a ‘giant’ of a man, who has the highest integrity and is totally humble about his abilities.

    I am pleased to be able to say that Lester will remain working with EMLD, as he remains a deeply social liberal in all that he does, and is committed to the betterment of society for all.

    Along with EMLD, I personally value his friendship and continued advice and guidance.

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera

    Liberal Democrat English Party Diversity Champion
    Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrat (EMLD) – Vice Chair

  • Matt (Bristol) 3rd Nov '14 - 12:24am

    Some personal comments in response to what here touches on the general tone of LDV:
    – I am a member, but felt I had been accused (or it had been insinuated) of being a ‘labour troll’ a few times (I must have been having a leftwing day). I haven’t worked out how to register my member-ness with the forum yet.
    – I have made no secret of who I am, but generally use a slightly anonymised version of my name. Requiring people to explicitly give their full name may cut down on some aggressive language to a bit, but it wouldn’t be enforceable to the nth degree.
    – Some of my posts have been naieve, angry, odd (when I read them back) and incoherent (when my fingers get carried away). I hope this doesn’t mean no-one reads anything else I post.
    – The most useful suggestion I see on here is limiting the character length of comments.
    – I have reported racist comments on threads on here before and the response was swift and appropriate.
    – the only longterm complete guarantor of a good tone and an intelligent debate is personal restraint and mutual patience and respect. This is difficult to continually maintain in a multi-member, totally open format, but I and many others come here and keep coming here for something we can’t get down the pub, our church, our local party or anywhere else where the persons are known to us face to face; and that’s the diversity of participants.

  • Lauren SALERNO 3rd Nov '14 - 1:45pm

    Given the actions by Lester Holloway this weekend in breaching the confidentiality of a secret FaceBook Lib Dem page, deliberating outing me on his blog and subsequent refusal to even apologise do you still stand by this statement?

    If so how?

  • Michael Berridge 3rd Nov '14 - 9:07pm

    Phew! After scrolling my way through 100+ comments – far more sensible than the usual – I sympathize with the commenter who said the best thing to do is nothing. I really dislike the constant recourse to Facebook as if it were some generic forum. FB is a public corporation and we have no interest in boosting its profile and its profits: rather the reverse. For what it’s worth I prefer Twitter – the 140-character limit concentrates the mind wonderfullly.
    Oh, and I never even saw the original comment condemned as racist. So I can express no view on the present case.

  • Sadie Smith 4th Nov '14 - 5:08pm

    I missed the original comments.
    The one goodish piece of news is that Lester will have some involvement with at least part of the Party.
    I expect Liberals to be intolerant of racism. This has flagged up so ething which matters for the future.
    I do comment on LD V now and then, but I don’t get caught up in long, repetitive discussions. And I do find some comments too aggressive .
    There are times when I know that there are sensitivities and do my best to choose words carefully. Not always I suspect.
    LDV has an odd responsibility in that it’s surveys of members are published as the views of all members. Afraid that adds to your problem, Caron.

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