Typepad’s Response to Anti-Semitic Content, cont’d
Anil Dash has posted a comment here to my last two posts criticizing Typepad for its unwillingness to address (at least to my satisfaction) the issue of hate speech in their blogs. In reply to my request to ban the abuser’s IP globally from the TP blog system, Anil says:
…an individual IP is *not* necessarily linked to a single person. An individual
IP address can represent hundreds (or even thousands) of individuals on a shared
address, and it can also be reassigned, sometimes in just a matter of minutes to
another party, who may be completely innocent.
What Anil does not address is whether Typepad WOULD ban this abuser if it COULD do so. The answer to this question is important to me because if it is yes, then I’d feel more reassured that TP understands the problem and is willing to address it robustly. But if the answer is No, then the whole issue of IP banning is moot since they wouldn’t ban this guy even if they had a more effective way of doing so.
But let’s say that TP would be willing to ban him if they could. Doesn’t Anil’s answer prove how abysmal is Typepad’s (and probably other blog provider’s) ability to identify abusers and prevent them from abusing again? If the IP address is generally a bad way of addressing the problem, then find a better way.
I’ve been told that there may be fixes that TP is working on to address some of the issues I raise here. I’ve also been told that TP will not discuss any of that information with me because I’ve talked in my blog about conversations I’ve had with Typepad staff. What this approach misses is that the best way of addressing criticism is by being candid. If you mistrust me because I criticize, then what does that say about your ability to learn from users, even ones you find troublesome? I would be less likely to feel the need to discuss my concerns in my blog if I were confident that TP was addressing them seriously in terms of developing methods of coping with vicious blog abuse. By refusing to communicate, TP only raises more concerns in my mind.
On a different note, Dennis Fox posted me a very useful link from the Anti-Defamation League, Responding to Extremist Speech Online.
4 thoughts on “Typepad’s Response to Anti-Semitic Content, cont’d – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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“What Anil does not address is whether Typepad WOULD ban this abuser if it COULD do so.”
There’s no way we can make a blanket statement about that, as surely you must realize. We have millions of people using our tools and platforms to communicate, which means they’re reaching an audience that’s likely to number into the tens of millions, if not higher. I can’t dictate what each of those many millions of people will or won’t find offensive, so we have to have a policy that’s consistent.
If you can provide me with a single set of globally-applicable (in the literal, worldwide sense) standards that would describe the situations under which a commenter would be universally banned from our services, along with a framework of a technological mechanism by which it’d be possible to do so, I’ll gladly raise the issue with our product teams. But right now, the web just isn’t designed to prevent people from saying offensive things anymore than physical public spaces are.
We value your desires both as a customer and as someone who wants a more human discourse on the web. But there’s a *very* broad range of reasons people object to certain commenters, and there are individual people who comment in multiple contexts where some of their words are hateful and some of their words are constructive. We can’t and don’t want to get into the middle of these sorts of debates; We’d prefer to give you the tools (with better tools on the way) to manage your community as you see fit.
If you’re really dead-set on trying to keep this person off of the Internet, you’d be better served addressing his service provider who gives him his connection than to try to cut off all the sites he might post something offensive on.
That’s an unfair, non-responsive &, in some ways, a disingenuous response, Anil.
I asked you a specific question: would you ban this specific guy if you could? YOu reply by saying to me: well if you could cobble together a “set of global standards that would describe situations in which a commenter would be universally banned from our services,” and if I provide for you the technical means to do so, well then we MIGHT consider doing so. Sounds like lawyerspeak to me. You’re an extremely intelligent, probably brilliant person, Anil, but I think you’re allowing that intelligence to prevent you from engaging this situation in human terms. You just don’t want to grapple with the question seriously so you pass the onus back to me. At least that’s how I see it.
First, it’s not my job (nor do I have the technical skills) to create global or technical standards under which Typepad might do anything. I take seriously my obligation as a TP user to provide feedback & comments about features I’d like to see and to provide criticism when I feel your product or service doesn’t live up to its usual high standards. But I’m not a trained technician or programmer. So that’s why I see your comment above as clever, rather than serious engagement.
Second, it seems to me you already have those global standards in the form of your TOS. While they’re meant to apply to TP users, there’s no reason you can’t say that if a visitor/commenter violates standards you would not tolerate in your own users, then the visitor should be banned from your system. If the abuser was a TP user how would you have responded? OK, I know you’ll say you won’t respond to such a hypothetical situation. So don’t tell me the answer here. But if your private answer is, “I don’t think so” then why have TOS? I’ve posted relevant sections of your TOS here & by my count he violated twelve different aspects of them.
And I’m not trying to “cut off all the sites he might post something offensive on.” That would truly be a herculean, & impossible task. I’m only trying to cut off his access to my own blog service.
Approaching his ISP has already been suggested to me by Typepad staff. It’s a good suggestion and I will follow up on it. Unfortunately, his ISP is Qwest, IMO one of the worst around & I doubt they will respond any more affirmatively than TP did. I will certainly try though. But even if Qwest miraculously addressed my concerns & canned him from their system, as the Anti Defamation League FAQs on internet hate speech point out, he just goes down the road to the 100 other ISPs he has access to & starts all over again. So where does that leave you?
Sorry if my answer seemed anything other than forthright. Let me put it a different way: If we could ban this user, and he were participating constructively on other sites in addition to being abusive and offensive on your site, would you still want us to?
My short answer: absolutely.
But let’s look at it another way: if he were a TP member & violated your TOS in 12 ways in four different posts (he sent me four separate comments) but had other posts in his blog about growing roses…do the posts about roses somehow redeem him or mitigate his offense? Not for me they don’t.
If this were a court of law & you were trying someone for 4 criminal offenses the accused might try to argue to the jury that there were mitigating factors or that they’d never committed a crime before in their life. But if they committed the same crime multiple times, I think a judge or jury would have a right to be extremely skeptical about such claims of mitigation.