Rule #3, in our ongoing discussion about rules.

The Rule:

   3. Harassing other members of the site may result in a ban.
Harassment includes (but is not necessarily limited to) the following:

   1. Ad hominem attacks and name calling.
   2. Blatantly bigoted or derogatory statements or remarks about
someone’s race, gender, or sexual orientation.
   3. Posting any contents of private conversations without the
expressed consent of all people involved.
   4. Disclosing private information about a fellow member without
their expressed consent.
   5. Posting inappropriate or private pictures of fellow members
without their expressed consent.
   6. Making negative threads targeting fellow members.

The Reason:
Nobody likes being harassed, we'd like everyone to have a fair shot at
getting along on Atheist Nexus and nobody should be subjected to an
undue amount of hassle. We'll go over this one slowly as it is a
matter of contention among members.

First, note that harassment is going to be one of those issues in
which the mod is going to have to make a decision based on what they
can see is happening using their judgment. It is another instance
where "good faith" and "Intent" will be leaned upon. The body of the
rule even mentions that items in the list of "things that are
harassment" are not the only ways to harass people.

a. Ad hominem attacks and name calling.
The long and the short of it is this: if people avoid calling others
names, they'll never get in trouble for calling others names.
Attacking people's character in order to discredit their ideas falls
under the same heading. If one takes exception to a person's ideas,
they should attempt to discredit those ideas in a civil manner. If
that person is acting foolish, their actions will speak for
themselves. Opinions about their IQ, the likely chemical composition
of their brain, the legitimacy of their parentage and other such
things are immaterial to discourse and hurtful.

b. Blatantly bigoted or derogatory statements or remarks about
someone’s race, gender, disability, age or sexual orientation.
Keep it to yourself. The freedom to talk down to other races, genders, disabilities, ages
and/or sexual orientations, can be found plenty of other places on the
internet. This isn't one of them.

c. Posting any contents of private conversations without the expressed
consent of all people involved.
Things written in private should stay private. The exception to this
is if someone is making a report of another member harassing them in
public, in which case it is acceptable to forward messages on to the
moderation staff. It is never appropriate to publicly post the
contents of a private message without the senders permission.

d. Disclosing private information about a fellow member without their
expressed consent.
This rule is meant to protect people from being harassed via other
mediums or in their-day-to-day lives. Giving away another user's e-
mail address, phone number, home address, place of work or even real
name can be potentially harmful to that person, especially considering
the nature of this website and the prevailing attitudes toward
atheists and non-believers in most places around the world.

e. Posting inappropriate or private pictures of fellow members without
their expressed consent.
What is going to be inappropriate or private is sort of going to be up
to the person who's pictures is being posted. The onus is on each of
us to obtain permission before posting pictures of other members. 

f. Making negative threads targeting fellow members.
There is a fine line between targeting a person and targeting an idea
which has been associated with a person with such vitriol or passive
aggression that it becomes indistinguishable from a personal attack.
We'd like the free flow of ideas to remain free, and clamping down on
what people can and can't say is always a dangerous game--a game we'd
rather not have to play at all. However, our lack of action on matters
of harassment because of our respect for the freedom of speech is
causing a lot of problems.

On the one hand, as atheists, we have a great appreciation for ideas.
On the other hand, we typically expect those ideas to be based on
sound evidence and thinking. It's not wrong to challenge someone's
idea and it is not against the rules to upset someone. It is against
the rules to harangue them. Sometimes, people are wrong. Often times,
their minds can't be changed through argument. If it is evident that
no one is going to change their mind, continuing to attempt to
convince them or knock down an idea that has presumably already been
knocked down is accomplishing nothing. People are not obliged to
defend their ideas if they don't want to. They are also not obliged to
be right, nor are they obliged to acknowledge when other people are
right. These are all lovely, polite things, but they are not
obligations. Nobody has the right to persistently attempt to force
another person into a conversation they don't want to have.

By the same token, if a member takes exception to another person's
views and brings evidence and rational discourse to the table--that is
not harassment. Hounding people is. The difference will be up to the
moderators to decide. Their decisions need to be respected. 

The Action:
If it is determined that a member is harassing another member,
depending on the severity, they will usually receive a warning to
stop. After that, they may be banned. There will no longer be a chain
of warnings because a particular offender has decided to simply switch
targets. People who chronically hassle other members will be banned.
The culture of mean-spirited confrontation is getting stale and--as it
has manufactured nothing of value--it's going to stop.

It is my hope the the dialogue here will become more dialectic and a
little less argumentative.

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Replies to This Discussion

Where would you suggest drawing the line then? Imagine the other side of the spectrum. Imagine beyond "idiot" and "coward." Imagine a guy named.... Gary69.

Imagine one day you log in... no, your grandmother logs in, because she is an atheist--secretly.

She comes on here and posts pictures of her grand kids and a recipe for cookies and she accidentally confuses baking soda for baking powder. Gary69, who happens to know everything about everything explains her mistake, tells her her grandchildren are ugly and then calls her a stupid cunt.

Fair enough. It's a free country. But every so often, your grandma runs into Gary69 again and every single time, he says something passive aggressive, or just plain mean and then wraps it up with a nice big "stupid cunt!"

When confronted, Gary explains that he is merely expressing himself and that if the moderation team were to take action he would be forced to cry foul against their soviet-esque attempts to silence him.

What would you do with Gary? Remember, he's not alone, there are a couple of people that have warned you that you better not do anything to Gary or by golly there will be a hell to pay.

Do you ban Gary? Do you tell your 80-year-old grandmother to buck up and quit being a "whiny bitch?" She is 80. She is a person with wants and feelings and she didn't come here to play games with Gary69. Where do you draw the line? People will demand to know exactly where it is so they can cozy right up to it. Is cunt too "nasty" of a word? Fine. How about "dirty slut?" "Cock?" Well now you're just making it up as you go along. Who are you to determine what is "appropriate?"

How dare you?

Now people what would have stood with you had you had a solid rule in place are questioning whether or not you are a freedom hating communist.

It's really damned if you do, damned if you don't. But, regardless, there is a rule in place to tell you where the bar is set and as I have said before, you don't have to call someone a name to launch a smear campaign against them that will get you banned from the site.

Again, in the end the mods will be the arbiters on the matter of what is and isn't harassment on a case by case basis. I am merely attempting to clarify as best I can.
Reductio ad absurdum
In formal logic, the reductio ad absurdum is a legitimate argument. It follows the form that if the premises are assumed to be true it necessarily leads to an absurd (false) conclusion and therefore one or more premises must be false. The term is now often used to refer to the abuse of this style of argument, by stretching the logic in order to force an absurd conclusion. For example a UFO enthusiast once argued that if I am skeptical about the existence of alien visitors, I must also be skeptical of the existence of the Great Wall of China, since I have not personally seen either. This is a false reductio ad absurdum because he is ignoring evidence other than personal eyewitness evidence, and also logical inference. In short, being skeptical of UFO’s does not require rejecting the existence of the Great Wall.


Slippery Slope
This logical fallacy is the argument that a position is not consistent or tenable because accepting the position means that the extreme of the position must also be accepted. But moderate positions do not necessarily lead down the slippery slope to the extreme.
If the entire transcript is available, and if there are enough mods, and if the mods have enough time, and if the mods are perceptive enough, the mods should ban Gary (well, warn, then ban). Unfortunately, that's not what seems to happen. Instead, Gary is a little more subtle and makes passive-aggressive comments because he enjoys getting under people's skins and pissing them off until they explode in frustration and get themselves in trouble.

Now. Do the mods have the time, patience, perceptivity, and temerity to weed out the devious assholes? Or are they going to punish the ones who push back? It really does actually matter who shoots first. I'm not particularly fond of the film, but Pacific Heights is a good example of a nightmare scenario.

Most web sites simply take the low-cost approach that they're not going to police their forums. If you choose not to do that, then you really have to ramp up the time that mods spend investigating, and then you run the risk of actively committing miscarriages of justice. Which is, of course, what Felch and others are complaining about.

There really isn't any point revisiting the site rules. They're fine. But if A|N is serious about this, they need to enforce the rules fairly and benevolently. Perhaps the mods could draft juries of members or have standing juries to consider these cases. Just a couple of mods with no time for forensic analysis is not going to cut it. Better to not make the attempt.
Honestly, MoJoe, you will receive responses more to your liking if you were to come to us with a list of things you have fixed and accomplished since you were given the title of "head moderator".

You could still go over the rules, one by one. You will have earned some respect in the meantime, and those who think it is "all talk" will not have a leg to stand on.

While you are posting the rules that have been in place since the beginning, the site is active, and quite busy, and it's been clear that more moderation has been needed for a long time now, and there are many things to take care of immediately.

I don't understand why you felt that this was the most important thing you could do in your first week. It certainly makes it look as though your being in charge of things will be a lot of talk with not only nothing actually being done, but also that everyone will have to walk on eggshells because was was previously disallowed is now being clarified to disallow much more. It is bordering on the laughable at this point, and not one thing has been done. Use the rules already in place, and show us that you are here to make things better.

In the days since you have announced your new position, I've seen all sorts of things that break the rules clearly, and definitively, but nothing has been done.

Please bring us an accomplishment of yours. Show us that you will be the change for the better, your words are hollow until you do more than talk.

As for the above comment of yours, you are making it more difficult than it is. Some instances need no action on your part, some only a "please tone it down" warning, some a warning like you gave to me, and progress from there. There is no way to make a rule when it has to do with the circumstances and tone. This is part of your job, to step in and access each situation individually, even calling someone a "cunt" (and in the US, this is probably the most offensive, derogatory word you could say to a woman) sometimes is not what it appears to be. A member called me a cunt not too long ago, and it broke the tension and we both laughed.
Discussions and words are not so cut and dry, you will have to make a call on each instance, and if you are wrong, you must be able to admit it, and remedy it immediately.

Please begin to moderate, and stop wasting time trying to get rules that will work in every instance. Show us what you can do to make this site better.

MoJoe is going through the list of rules first, because I asked him to do so. As everyone knows, the rules have not been enforced effectively. Dead horse I know, but it seems I must repeat this again. If MoJoe came in and started swinging an ax, the fallout would be much worse. I thought it best that we give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and get clear on the rules. Perhaps we could even tweak them based on the experiences of the last year. My thinking was it would be beneficial to make sure we were all on the same page.

MoJoe is not going back in time and correct all the problems of the past. It would take too much time, and, like all other mods, he is not getting paid. The discussing of the rules should be a fresh start. We all would have a clean slate.

We have already begun adding to our list of moderators (a list will be available soon). For a site of this size we need to have at least 20. Again, my bad. However, there were many reasons in the past that moderators were not added. There were some serious security issues with the Ning platform. Until recently there was no real way to differentiate between site moderators and site administrators.

It should also be pointed out that "reported issues" were handled and not ignored. Many members were banned from the site, and many comments were deleted. The negative side of moderating is that there is no way to point to your successes. The offending items (or members) are removed and only the missed ones remain. The result looks like nothing has been done.

Another reason we should all get on the same page is due to the fact that the vast majority of the items that are reported are not in violation of the rules. I understand that this causes people to think their complaints were ignored, but this is not true. For example, there has never been any rules concerning how a member handles their personal blogs. We have never said that a member could not close or delete comments. We have never said someone could not promote their other sites or endeavors. This issue will be discussed when we get to rule 9. Perhaps, we can modify things then.

I know, for a fact, that since MoJoe has been involved, 100% of reported issues have been handled. If there has been "all sorts of things that break the rules clearly," they have not been reported.

Instead of removing all comments that are in violation, I have suggested that we leave them and simply reply to the comment with a notification of violation. This way members can see that we are on it, and it doesn't allow for people to hide and say, "show me where I was wrong."

Finally, I don't see MoJoe as the "king moderator." I have asked his to help manage the moderators (there is a subtle difference). In fact, I would have called him a "community organizer," but that title isn't too popular these days.

Sacha, I hope you understand what we are trying to do here, and I hope you are willing to remain with us. I know you are genuinely and rightfully frustrated. I apologize to you personally. If this is unacceptable, I understand as well.
To be clear, are you are suggesting that it is absurd that anything like this could happen? Furthermore, that the rules should be somehow framed around the best case scenario rather than a not unlikely bad-case scenario? I would like you to come out and state your position on this for the sake of clarity.

I was not asking a rhetorical question, either. I am curious to know how those of you who don't seem to have much love for the rule would handle the problem. What would you do, sacha? Would you abridge Gary's right to free speech because you didn't care for what he said? Or would you uphold his rights no matter what your grandmother had to say about it?

In regard to your seeming implication of fallacious reasoning on my part, if you're positing that trolls, rules lawyers and crazy internet people don't exist and that they haven't come here before, nor will they come here again and therefore my concerns the the rules should be flexible to deal with them are fallacious and baseless, I am going to have to disagree. I have evidence that they exist and that they have, in fact, come here. There is a banned list full of them.

Now, how will you deal with them, I wonder. Bind yourself up with rules so that everything is fair and on the up and up? No rules and leave everything to the mods? Let's hear it. I want constructive or hold your peace. I hate to be brusque, but we're getting off track.

In regard to your second post:
You are repeating yourself. I heard your opinion on the matter of rule clarification before on a number of occasions. I happen to disagree and am going to continue on. I trust that won't be a problem?

In the mean time, I am perfectly willing and able to issue correction and bans where needed. If you have a complaint about the way a fellow member has been comporting themselves, please fill out the "Report and Issue" form including your complaint, the name of the person you are reporting and a link to the relevant article(s) and I'll moderate them.

I am not omniscient and cannot correct mistakes that I don't know about. I made it a point to include a statement about using the link in my very first post announcing my intentions. You have not reported anything. Other people have and I have dealt with their issues and replied to them informing them of the fact.

Do you have any other concerns?

you have cleared a few things up for me and I appreciate the fact that you understand I am frustrated. I've spend a significant amount of time here in the past year and just about a half. I liked it here, and I love my group. I don't want to see the site turn into where it has been headed. I am angry that the career victims, the stalkers, the whiners, and the idiots have had the upper hand and those who have "pushed back" are taking the brunt of the criticism. Judging by the replies here, I'm clearly not the only one who feels this way. I'm afraid MoJoe is not making us rest easier, but agitating us even more.

Stephen Moore's comment sums up how I feel:

There is a world of difference between calling someone a coward, based on observation of their behaviour, and calling dear old Granny a stupid cunt because she mixed up an ingredient on a recipe.

I am astounded, astonished, and incredulous that the dear Granny example was presented in response to the coward comment. If this is the level of acuity under which we are to be moderated, to borrow a phrase, may God help us all.


this is great:

Instead of removing all comments that are in violation, I have suggested that we leave them and simply reply to the comment with a notification of violation. This way members can see that we are on it, and it doesn't allow for people to hide and say, "show me where I was wrong."

These are the types of things that we would like to hear. When you leave people in the dark, they get angry, and make assumptions. By telling us where you are changing things, and why something was deleted, we can see the change. Please be more upfront from now on. If a discussion is deleted, the poster should receive an email explaining why, and perhaps have time to save the discussion for themselves.

Many of us were surprised when the "sky burial" post of mine was deleted. If I had known about the reason, I would have saved the comments, taken it down myself and posted not only the reason, but a new discussion without the photos, or even better, I could have just deleted the photos, explained why, and left the discussion up. That was a great discussion, really quite interesting, and everyone was intrigued, there was not one person who took offense to it. Positive comments went on months and months after it was originally posted. By just removing it with no warning, and not even a courtesy email explaining why, many of us were angry. Keeping people in the dark is never a good idea if you want support.
what was the ad hominem, MoJoe? I have read all of the posts on "rules".

I feel as though I am in kindergarden.

On a side note, it is great that the email notifications now have the entire comment included. That is very nice.
Yes, my compliments to the chef on including the full comment in the notification email. That makes my wasting time on A|N so much more efficient. With this innovation, I estimate I can waste at least three times as much time as previously. Excellent.
Diana: When a few members are consistently name calling and harassing other members "with a creepy sort of intensity" people stop visiting the site.

This is unreal. You just finished slapping together a fable accusing another member here of hatred, stalking and verbal violence because they committed the crime of skepticism - and you write this? Having created "a creepy sort of intensity" yourself out of nothing, for no reason other than to deflect the skepticism, you now blame other people here for doing it? This is a Barney Frank moment. Priceless.
--- Diana - When a few members are consistently name calling and harassing other members "with a creepy sort of intensity" people stop visiting the site.

--- Felch - This is unreal. You {Diana Agorio} just finished slapping together a fable accusing another member here of hatred, stalking and verbal violence because they committed the crime of skepticism - and you write this?

I assume the presumed fable is This Reply?

If so, it came after she wrote the quote you inserted, not before.

If not, to which fable do you refer? A link would be useful.




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