ChristianForums: Moderation and politics

2006-11-11 03:52

This is gonna be a partial story, because there’s a lot more to the story, but much of it is covered by various confidentiality agreements.

I have removed the name of one of the participants, replacing it with the deeply mysterious “Ms. X.”

By the way, flesh99, one of the CF staffers of old, is now also writing about CF.

So, Ms. X. Ms. X was a very active moderator. She was also, I think, the single worst moderator I have ever seen in my time on internet forums. She believed it was her job to win arguments. She moderated the politics forum, and did it with an iron trunk; she was, as it happens, a Republican. Lemme be clear that I don’t think her behavior was abusive because she was a Republican; it just happens to have been her bias.

Ms. X actively sought to reclaim the politics forum from the liberals she believed were destroying it. Her tactics were many and varied, but mostly they consisted of issuing warnings for anything and everything that might stick. Calling George W. Bush by the nick-name “Dubya” was worth an instant official warning… if you were a liberal, anyway. Calling Bill Clinton “Bubba” or “Slick Willy” was, of course, a recognized nickname.

The pinnacle of this, of course, was the Republican Safehouse, a thread in which only Republicans were allowed to post. It consisted of snide remarks, sweeping generalizations and hyperbole about Democrats, mocking and insulting pictures, and so on. She defended it as a purely social thing, insisting that they were “just joking”.

Well, no, that’s not the pinnacle. When a couple of Democrats started a very similar (though tamer) thread called the Democrat Safehouse, she gave out warnings like candy, and closed the thread.

What followed was a marvel of bad moderation. As an active participant and even flamer, she picked fights with members. She spent a number of days arguing with one particular member about this decision. Some readers will remember that, in theory, there was a rule against arguing with staff. Why, then, did she keep arguing?

So that, after a couple of days, she could assign him three warnings at once for posts in that thread, triggering the “permanent ban for three warnings in a week” rule. (This rule was used heavily by some staff as a way to get rid of users they didn’t like; they’d sit on reports and then process a bunch at once. No appeal, sorry.)

Ms. X, more than any other moderator I’ve seen at CF or any other board, blurred the line between personal beliefs and forum rules. She made remarks about the topic of threads in her official moderator postings, saying things like “This thread is getting really loud, and those of you who believe X should read the Bible, because you’re wrong”.

Ms. X was also central in another event. Sometime previously (I think it was during the Great Crash of 2003, so there’s not much for records), there was an announcement on CF: There had been a dangerous sexual predator on staff, but he was removed and banned now. As time passed, more information came out; it turns out the “dangerous predator” had been out of town (at a funeral, no less) when the story broke, and no one had gotten a chance to hear his side.

His side, as it turns out, was rather interesting. In his words:

I would like to know what stories went on about me and [Ms. X]…. I mean I have heard from some but many kept their silence. Did anyone know of the Nudes [Ms. X] sent me. I know she created a site for Christians and I posted her nudes on every thread possible. That let her and many MODS from CF that followed her show her true colors. I even posted the emails. I had nothing to hide from anyone

See, that’s the other half of the story. It turns out that Ms. X was the only actual source for concerns about his alleged behavior; the other people were too shy to come forward, but they told her.

Riiiiight.

My best guess at what actually happened is that the victim didn’t react as positively to the nudes as she hoped, so, next time he was out of town… Bang. Case resolved before he got back, let alone heard anything. He was not told about this until quite a while later.

Now, here’s the thing. Eventually, the victim was allowed back on CF. People concluded he was innocent.

Do you think this led to Ms. X losing her staff position? It did not.

And I know what did, but it’s confidential. I will say, while it is certainly something that could be seen as a problem, I would not have viewed it as being nearly as serious as setting users up for spite bans, actively persecuting people you disagree with using moderating powers, or setting someone up to take a fall for sexual harassment that, so far as anyone can tell, never happened.

Peter Seebach

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Comments

  1. Just a point of clarification: The Republican Safehouse was open to liberals and democrats, but we were not to challenge or abuse Republicans or something like that. Our participation was fine so long as we did not argue. My own objection to the thread was that it was consistently used to insult specific members of the form so long as names were not mentioned. Several times Republicans that thread referred to their opponents in previous discussions as rude, crazy, irrational, etc.

    And in fact the OP to the Republican Safehouse was a direct reaction to a thread the previous day in which [another member] had flamed another member then whined about the harshness of the response. That he would then turn around and start a thread commenting on how rude liberals were and that Republicans needed a place to be free of the persecution was ironic in the extreme. That he later made comments directly pertaining to the prior discussion in the context of a thread in which liberals were forbidden to respons was simply to much to bear without comment.

    That The Republican Safehouse in its original form was allowed to function on those terms and to be used in that manner has always been a source of amazement to me.

    I will say this that my banning was reversed without any effort to accomplish this by me. CF took it on itself to correct the matter, and the email I received from Angel Amidala was one of the most sincere and courageous apologies I've received. While the original incident continues to strike me as a real low point in CF history, I am at this point quite satisfied that CF made good on the matter.

    — Brimshack · 2006-11-11 17:37 · #

  2. Brimshack: What you may not know is how many tries it took to get you unbanned. I probably brought the question up once a week for a month or two. I posted detailed documentation showing that the warnings could not possibly comply with current policy, and it kept getting bumped up to the admins and then ignored.

    — seebs · 2006-11-11 18:17 · #

  3. I assumed it took effort by someone, though I didn't realize you were still pursuing the matter. Thank you Seebs.

    — Brimshack · 2006-11-12 02:31 · #

 
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