One of the problems with so many micro-publishing platforms is the lack of any kind of consistency in censorship policy. This is to be expected, of course, and is preferable, in spite of its faults, to any centralised control of what is and is not permissible to say.
In most cases, especially outside of the govt-corporate complex whose polcies in this area tend to be Draconian albeit clearly expressed and consistently applied, censorship is down to the whim of the person whose finger is on the delete button. We all know them. Touchy admins emotionally attached to their pagerank, negative-libertarians who think anything that might conceivably be considered a nuisance by any other person should be criminalised, the work-shy looking for easy money online sufficient that they be excused from working a day-job, charlartans with their myriad varieties of snake oil, right-wingnuts on a personal crusade to segregate the Internet into white and non-white partitions, single-issue agenda-of-rage ranters, bible-thumpers, and sophomore forum moderators whose orders must be obeyed without question.
Often it’s just unpaid interns who simply couldn’t care about their scumbag slave owners’ corporate PR.
At the skankworks.net we have been banned from many such sites and we’re pround of it. Which is hardly surprising since we frequently run articles mocking websites that lack professionalism while they’re asking for your money, sites that rip-off their readers financially or intellecutally, and sites catering to finger-pointing madcap muck-spreaders of dangerous drivel otherwise known as “the middle class”. Such as those distributed by Gawker Media LLc, for example.
We were once banned from a site’s forums for giving a link in a comment to another page on the same site. URL spam they called it, one link to their own website and they call it URL spam. We couldn’t even post back and thank them for giving us a laugh. LinkedIn, an allegedly professional website professing that is run by professionals for professionals and certainly not an NSA front to get access to corporate email accounts worldwide stealing trade secrets for the purpose of, even ban you from using your professional titles.
Linkedin also cite URL spam, simply because you have a hard-earned “M.Sc” after your name. Get a Master’s Degree, and get banned from posting on “the website for professionals” because the imbiciles who moderate it think M.Sc means you are spreading URL spam. To webmasters URL spam is as terrorism to governments, as pornography to the church. Nobody can really define what URL spam actually is, but they’ve all got strict rules against it.
Some sites will use swearwords in their own articles, sometimes in big bold-typed titles without even having the courtesy to warn readers that it might be NSFW. Then they will automatically delete any comments that use the same words, citing their house rules against “profanity”. They make it impossible for you to quote the very article you are commenting on. Why do they bother allowing comments in the first place? What is achieved by having house rules that do not apply to the house master other than to assert the master’s superior position in the hierarchy? Sometimes it gets to such ridiculous heights of pomposity that even mention of the word “Hitler”, in any context, will get not only your comment deleted but your account and IP address banned.
The Scunthorpe Problem has been known for decades, and one has to question the sanity of any continuing censorship policy that renders a comment as, “A g**** is a fruiting berry of the deciduous woody vines of the botanical genus Vitis“. I mean, why not draw attention to the very thing you are trying to hide at every possible opportunity? But worse than any poorly-coded pattern-matching algorithm are the impossible-to-follow requirements of idiot moderators for whom decisions on whether or not to delete a person’s comment are amongst the most radical they will ever make the closest they will ever get to having power (one hopes, shuddering to think of the consequences should such people ever be put into a position of real responsibbility).
Censors frequently operate in the dark, like masturbators thinking nobody can see what they are doing. But they leave behind visible evidence on the page like so many disgarded Kleenex beneath their desks. Here for example we see a site that has no comments on it, but also says there are 3 comments.
In fact there were at least five comments, all deleted. The first four discussed the article the comment was attached to and offered well-researched opinions that contradicted the article’s conclusions and presumably offended the person who posted it. The fifth comment posted to criticize the censorship after the first four were deleted was also deleted.
Censorship is thus unpredictable, and it is frequently incomprehensible as to what is and is not acceptable. The overwhelming message being sent from all quarters, left and right, lunatic fringe and mainstream, is one of guided self-censorship – and we know whose hands that plays into. With the corporates and the civil servants at least we know where we stand; in their eyes those who speak their mind are to be crushed like cockroaches. With most other commercial websites, we are to simply agree with everything or say nothing.
If admins are going to use deletion to craft their comments towards their own biases, then there is no point in commenting on their sites except to congratulate them. On the one hand, this is precisely how commercial publications have historically prospered – by finding a market and then pandering to it. By telling people what they want them to hear and surpressing dissent. Middle-income blogmeisters, on the other hand, tend towards allowing you to agree with their personal views as opposed to following any organised editorial policy. Perhaps they’ll grant occasional permission to deviate, albeit within tightly controlled and vaguely defined limitations. Limitations that, if they are defined at all, are defined ex post facto, crafted to suit whatever fuck-up the moderator is trying to worm his or her way out of. Such an environment is neither conducive to commentary nor is it debate. It’s a string of long-winded “likes”, no more no less.
At the skankworks.net we encourage users not to comment on such websites, instead to start your own sites where you can take control of your own content. Why make the effort to provide other sites with content that you have taken the time to write and that they profit from? Who will not even extend to you the hand of professional courtesy as they are reaching the other into your wallets and purses? Who will not pay their interns for the work done to keep the site running? Especially when you consider that you risk losing all your work to some incomprehenisble whim of an emotionally-motivated moderator.
Put your thoughts as you see them on your own blogs. By doing so you’ll particpate in the wider debate rather than losing your mind in an endless stream of throw-away comments and meaningless tweets.
One day, maybe soon, even saying nothing might be cause for suspicion.