Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
ET is an amazingly civil, tolerant, and thoughtful environment. This quality seems to be maintained largely through social pressure from established participants and self-selection by potential participants. These mechanisms make the question of banning mostly irrelevant to what goes on in the community....

But only "mostly". A few noxious outliers in the human spectrum will neither self-select themselves out nor respond to social pressure. They can damage the appearance of the community and the experience of participating. I see no reason why they shouldn't be tossed out, and I think that the proposed mechanism offers more procedural protection than an offender could expect.

However, it is wise to think carefully before constraining freedom of expression, even within a small, voluntarily assembled community. I will offer some thoughts which mostly express what I think we already think.

In considering what I see as our implicit standards, I see a distinction between freedom of adversarial expression that is intellectual, vs. forms that I would call "person-directed" and "raw-emotional" hostility.

"Person-directed" hostility obviously includes both name-calling and accusations of deliberate falsehood or bad motives. The latter, however, have no sharp line of demarcation to separate them from intellectually valid criticisms that I regard as acceptable if politely stated: for example, suggesting that a person's views seem to be aligned with a body of thought that includes specific, convenient untruths, or with one that advocates specific policies that don't stand up to moral examination.

By "raw emotional" hostility, I mean (for example) rants expressing ones hatred for something, as distinct from expression of reasons why one hates it.

The hardest judgements to make involve adversarial intellectual expression and the problem of classic trolling behaviour. In this area, a lone adversarial statement can seldom be judged as problematic, given that ET isn't a feel-good motivational site for political troops. Judgement of a commenter rests instead on a combination of three criteria:

  1. Wrongness: The comments have adversarial content that is based on factual or ethical premises that are, by ET consensus, wrong.
  2. Persistence: This content is expressed repeatedly, despite rejection, without new and plausible support.
  3. Proportion: A large portion of the poster's comments are of this sort, with no balancing contributions of sufficient value.

Criterion (1) is risky because it favours echo-chamber disease. Criteria (2) and (3), however, can moderate (1) to a degree that makes this risk acceptable.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.
by technopolitical on Mon Jan 29th, 2007 at 05:09:47 PM EST

Others have rated this comment as follows:


Occasional Series