ChristianForums: Socks and the appearance of evil

2006-11-14 23:02

One of the quirks of CF is that, for as long as I can find records of, official policy has always been that moderators are strongly encouraged to have a separate account, not identified as theirs, which they use to debate.

The idea is this: If a moderator debates with you, then you know that moderator’s views, and might think the moderator is biased if that moderator ever deletes a post contrary to those views.

Since the Bible encourages people to abstain from the appearance of evil, obviously, the solution is to have moderators make all their substantive posts using an anonymous sock puppet account which is not identified with them openly, so no one can say what their biases are.

This works as well as you’d expect; moderators still moderate with biases, but it can be hard to guess which ones. Because moderators are very strongly encouraged to present themselves as impartial, they cannot admit their biases enough to take any steps to counter them. Furthermore, the sock accounts create an even bigger problem, in that they can break rules and nothing happens to the moderator. In some cases, the sock account becomes known to other staff, and begins to enjoy the privileged position moderators have, where their posts are not really subject to the rules. In other ways, it may go unknown, in which case, if the heat builds up, the moderator just stops using it and starts a new one.

In short, in their hurry to abstain from the appearance of evil, the staff have forgotten to find any way to prevent its substance.

In its essence, this policy is founded on dishonesty. The purpose of the rule is to cause people to falsely believe that the person with whom they are debating is not a moderator. Some staff claim that it makes no difference; if it makes no difference, what’s the point? The point is to mislead users into thinking the staff are impartial when they aren’t.

There’s an underlying tendency for many people to be unwilling to admit that they do have biases. On other forums, staff are often encouraged to participate actively. Their biases become known to the community, but so do their efforts to take those biases into account and compensate for them. Furthermore, with the information on the table, users don’t have false expectations or beliefs.

This policy has been there forever, and while it is not strictly required, the pressure on staff to participate is often strong.

With a standing policy that staff should deceive users, it’s hardly surprising that there are problems.

Peter Seebach

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Comments

  1. "In its essence, this policy is founded on dishonesty. The purpose of the rule is to cause people to falsely believe that the person with whom they are debating is not a moderator."

    As staff member I created the sock NEHI for debate posts. But my signature (which appeared on every Nehi post) made it clear that NEHI was my sock created for debate as Erwin requested.

    There was no deception and I honored Erwin's request fully. The policy did not require dishonesty as you state.

    Moderators are expected to rule impartially, but they are not precluded from discussions where they argue their POV within the rules.

    I would prefer all socks be disallowed at CF (and have suggested it) for a myriad of reasons but that is not the desire of the owner. However, I was never required to be dishonest to honor his request to use a sock for debate posts.

    To suggest that Erwin is requesting moderators to be dishonest is a shameful statement.

    "Since the Bible encourages people to abstain from the appearance of evil"

    Gander Seebs, live what you preach to the CF staff geese!


    — buzz · 2006-11-15 10:30 · #

  2. I think Erwin has faith that the moderators will not abuse this by debating on threads with their socks, and dishing out warnings as a moderator to those who disagree. I think for the most part his faith is well placed, I feel the majority of moderators are great people, but there are a few who aren't such great people.

    — Bella Goth · 2006-11-18 17:45 · #

  3. Multiple accounts for staff makes sense. I don't see it as dishonest at all. Does your forum (or ex-forum???) declare that duplicates do not exist?

    — tubby · 2007-02-07 20:05 · #

 
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