Forum censorship - The Issue

Censorship - The Issue

Over the last few weeks, particularly in the thread Total Buggy OS - Xperia 10 Plus, there has been a good deal of censorhip taking place with many users’ posts (including my own) being hidden under the guise of community moderation.

Jolla, in its Terms of Service and Forum Guidelines, state that "We do not believe in walled gardens, we prefer the open sea. We want our products and services to free you to express yourself as you see fit, not lock you down to a view of the world imposed on you by us” and asks community users to “be respectful of the topics and the people discussing them, even if you disagree with some of what is being said.”

In other words Jolla aims to encourage freedom of speech on this forum where robust, but respectful, conversations can take place without any users having to be penalised because they do not share the same views as others (who may or may not be community moderators).

The censorship that has taken place has been anonymous and without any explained reasoning to the users affected by the person(s) responsible for the censorship.

That some community users are able to wield such power indiscriminately over others without (a) needing to justify their actions or allowing any challenge to their justification, and (b) being able to do this from a position of total obscurity is, in my view, neither right nor in the spirit of Jolla’s stated intentions.

On occasions the language that has been used in the thread would not be what I would have chosen myself. However, I am from the UK and I recognise that the culture in other parts of the world is very different - what might be acceptable language in one country might not be in another; what might cause offence in one culture might not in another. This needs to be recognised and approached in a flexible and tolerant way by all.

Often posts have been censored for seemly no reason, other than perhaps the community moderator(s) didn’t like or agree with the post.

For example, @peterleinchen was censored for a one sentence post asking for censorship of other users’ posts to stop, whilst I was censored for simply copying and pasting Jolla’s own forum guidelines and terms of service (as repeated above) and asking for users to take note of them. When other users’s (such as @deloptes @olf , etc) openly challenged the censorship of these posts in the thread, they too were then censored.

Users also need to recognise that threads that start on one subject often develop over time to embrace related side issues or even morph into another area of concern that was triggered by the original subject under discussion. This is simply a recognition of how legally protected free speech works.

In these situations usually all that is required is a gentle and polite nudge to get the thread back on track after giving contributors an opportunity to air their views. Such situations are not crimes to be punished anonymously by an ‘off topic’ ban or censorship action.

In summary, although forum censorship is not a common occurrence, it does appear to be on the increase and this should be of concern to us all, including Jolla.

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It’s not censorship, the posts have been flagged and can be read just fine.

Personally I absolutely appreciate if over-emotionalised posts get flagged. I prefer a rational discourse without too much SHOUTING and OVER-DRAMATIZATION. It’s not healthy.

In this mentioned thread I read some posts by you, @Steve_Everett and to be honest didn’t like it. “Forum police”, “censorship”. Sorry, is this really necessary? Also a title like “Total Buggy OS …” is quite questionable, couldn’t this be formulated more friendly?

Occasonal flagging is fine for me, no concern whatsoever. It gives the poster a feedback and, hopefully, she or he will reflect about the reasons. Sometimes flags might be wrong :woman_shrugging:

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If I say something, I will be most likely punished again, so I just :slight_smile: and give you :clap:

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I must admit i couldn’t decide whether to bring pop-corn, mute the thread (from my notifications) or tell people to grow up. Flagging, however, did not feel quite warranted (but i also find myself having a hard time mustering sympathy even though i agree with @Steve_Everett in the broad strokes). My reason for feeling this is similar to @tomdi i guess.

I would more than probably have doled out a downvote or three had it been TJC though. The conversation didn’t bring any real substance, just attacks and needless insults.

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The title of the thread “Total Buggy OS” was not mine, nor was the term “Forum Police” - I simply contributed to an existing thread with my point of view on these matters (which was then censored).

You have now contributed your opinion on this matter - and that is your right to do so. Your opinion is obviously personal, genuinely held and therefore reasonable. You have, in my opinion, neither been offensive nor insulting in how you put your point of view forward.

But what if I didn’t like it because it contradicts my own?

What if I decided to hide your post because I wanted to suppress your view on the matter in favour of my own?

I’m not going to tell you my reasoning, I’m not going to let you challenge my justification in suppressing your view - in fact you won’t even know who was responsible for suppressing your point of view.

You might decide to try and post your view again - but that’s fine for me, I’ll just keep hiding it until you give up.

How do you feel about the situation now?

Suppression of free speech, communication or information (even if it is only temporary and can be accessed at a different time or in a different manner) is the very definition of censorship and, in my humble opinion, has no place in a civilized society.

If feedback were provided then I might agree with you, but it wasn’t and it isn’t. See my other post for proposals to make things better Forum Censorship - Some Proposals

I don’t know whether you meant to or not, but you have illustrated the point I was trying to make absolutely perfectly :grinning:

Perhaps it is not the most diplomatic solution to tell your peers to “grow up” but, more than that, I am somewhat pleasantly surprised that we actually agree (in broad strokes of course!) on something :smiley:

@Steve_Everett, thanks a lot for writing this up!
While I first wondered why you separated this post assessing the issue(s) from the follow up post “Forum Censorship - Some Proposals”, I concur that this split does make sense.

Although I may have phrased the first paragraph a little softer, I absolutely concur with every assessment made in that post, which starts this thread.

But I am rather shocked about the some of the content in the replies. The paragraph which struck me most is:

Personally I absolutely appreciate if over-emotionalised posts get flagged. I prefer a rational discourse without too much SHOUTING and OVER-DRAMATIZATION. It’s not healthy.

  • This is the first statement in this thread and the thread which triggered all this, which utilises shouting (i.e., phrases wholly written in capital letters).
  • All the statements in that reply are obviously highly emotional and mostly transport a strong opinion (which is fine), often even explicitly marked as such by its author (“personally”, “I prefer”, “I didn’t like it”, “flagging is fine for me” etc.), which absolutely contradicts the content of the paragraph quoted above (which is part of that reply).

But the underlying issues I perceive, is that the three core statements in that reply, which are not phrased as opinion, are simply untrue:

  • It’s not censorship, […].
    It clearly is censoring to anonymously switch somebody else’s post invisible, without providing a reason, plus implicitly threatening that person to be permanently muted.
  • […] flagging […] gives the poster a feedback […].
    No, simply flagging a post does not provide any proper feedback beyond “somebody did not like that post”, when done without providing a reason.
  • It’s not healthy.
    Well, for whom and why? I just do not comprehend, what this is supposed to mean. Without any rationale provided, it just appears to be intended as a bold, derogatory statement.

What I do gather from these statements and also attah’s post much more clearly than from the original, anonymous suppression of the visibility of posts is that some believe that

  1. it is fine to suppress statements and opinions of others, just because one does not like them.
  2. that either their opinion is of higher value than that of others (so they are in the position to decide which statements / opinions shall be suppressed),
    or the really do not see the logical consequences, if everyone behaves like that: “Post suppression wars” and ultimately a dysfunctional forum

From Jolla’s FAQ for this forum:

Be Agreeable, Even When You Disagree
You may wish to respond to something by disagreeing with it. That’s fine. But remember to criticize ideas, not people. Always provide reasoned counter-arguments that improve the conversation.

Flagging and thereby suppressing posts anonymously without providing a reason is exactly the opposite of this first rule of this forum’s FAQ.
But also “I do not like the words used”, “I do not like the statement” and “I do not like that opinion” are not “reasoned counter-arguments”!

The other relevant sections of the FAQ and Jolla’s terms of Service for this forum were already quoted by Steve Everett:

The crucial point of the last statement is that one must perceive “a Problem”, i.e., something severely going wrong, not “I have an issue with that {wording / statement / opinion / author / etc.}”!

Unfortunately the way the flagging process and its consequences are currently implemented, they enable and even foster abusing them in a manner, which strongly contradicts these goals, as it has been demonstrated multiple times in a row.
What strikes me, is that no sailor has yet stepped up to defend the reasonable and clearly stated goals of Jolla’s forum FAQ and TOS.

This is the reason, why I took the effort to supplement @Steve_Everett’s initial analysis of the “FSO censorship issue” with some additional rationale, background and perspective.
Ultimately the main efforts shall be put into improving the flawed mechanisms of the flagging process.

And please mind that any wording, phrases, even foul language shall be tolerated as long as it is not ad hominem, while the suppression of statements and opinions clearly marks a totalitarian mindset (as derived by Hannah Arendt in her 1951 essay).

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With the repeated requests in the referred thread to stay on-topic (Xperia 10) and create a separate thread for other issues, I see the “freedom of speech” aspect there somewhat comparable to something like going to a tax office and demanding that the clerks must listen to an arbitrary length free speech on how the government is problematic (or better, go full Abe Simpson), even as a queue of people wanting to discuss their taxation issues is forming up.

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@olf excellent. Thank you for taking your time and putting forward in such logical matter my own thoughts. I hope someone listens/reads

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the comparison is false. I personally do not force anyone to listen nor I do cause a queue anywhere. I just have an opinion and hope that someone would listen. You are free to read, to agree or to go on with your live.
Also one could request anything, but I could follow or not as I like, because I do not live in totalitarian state however the experience here feels like such. Mind that in communism or in national socialism you were jailed based on anonymous annunciation.
Sorry to say this, but I feel like liberal people become even more totalitarian than communists and it is not a secret that the mindset of Jolla/Sailfish is liberal.
For me it is perfectly OK to have opinion and to discuss this even with emotion, but to flag anonymously based on subjectivity and cause the person to be banned is really evil and medieval.
It contradicts to democracy and any kind of rule of law.

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@tomdi “Total Buggy OS …” is exactly what I personally think it is. Perhaps we have different standards, but you should agree that I and others have the right to express ourselves as we like.
And what I said is that since 3.4.0.x it is unusable and more and more things are not working.
This is the reason for my frustration. While you have probably other experience or just do not care, I do not argue with you.
Also if you do not know the history of N9 I strongly recommend to go deeper into it, because IMO some of the same people bring up the same mentality, thinking that they can release buggy software, while they obviously can sit down and fix bugs.

I’ll trust, you (and the other members) don’t just flag posts because you have a different opinion. AFAIR I never flagged a post on this forum …but I would without bad feelings if I came across a potentially problematic post: just a chance for a moderator to have a look (it’s work, should be rarely needed). I’m not aware btw that a flag leads to banning (as @deloptes has written).

In principle I agree. But in reality it is sometimes complicated. And this forum is just a small phone (OS) forum.

I appreciate that a “Total buggy” title can be posted but I can also accept that there are limits. For me this is not “suppression of free speech” but an attempt to keep the forum positive, friendly and on-topic.

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It would be great if we could trust people to behave properly, but how would we know? They are (a) anonymous, and (b) not providing any proper explanations for suppressing a post or causing it to be suppressed.

Take @peterleinchen 's post for example in the Total Buggy OS - Xperia 10 Plus thread (quoted in full) :

peterleinchenRegular

17d

I guess I said it before: I do hate the possibility within this forum to censor other people’s posts/opinions.
Please do stop this!

It is not offensive, contains no bad language, does not represent a contentious point of view - in fact really all it contains is a short, polite request by Peter for whomever is carrying on the current suppressions of posts in that thread to stop doing this.

Yet this post too was suppressed.

What legitimate reason could there be for doing this? Without any explanation as to why this post was considered a problem serious enough for it to be hidden it simply looks like the person(s) responsible for the ongoing suppression of posts simply didn’t like his, her or their judgement or opinion openly questioned.

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Just my two bits, although I would prefer this flagging to never occur (I’ll read with warts, et.al), I think it’s a compromise. I’m not that sensitive (you can curse at me like a trucker, if you please). Some people are more so. The flagging mechanism ‘disfigures’ the dialog from my vantage point. For others maybe it’s healthy?

What does remain is that the content CAN be seen and one can clearly see that someone takes issue. I’m not sure that it gets better than this? If we want all cases that someone finds offensive to be escalated to a moderator by default, I believe this will result in REAL censorship.

As it is now, one can have a dialog about it, as we are here. And, in the initial thread we can see the original content if we wish. We can also see that it got out of hand and stuff started being flagged on a whim for the sake of whimsy? Maybe?

I think we should try to keep a sense of humor, even if we’re offended. I wasn’t offended by anyone. Just found the flagging annoying.

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At least, imo, the knowhow doesn’t have to be 100 %; if most people “behave properly” most of the time, all is fine. And I hope that e.g. Peter Leinchen in the mentioned post just shrugs the flag away as “unexplicable” (it certainly is for me).

Maybe because I’m unable to see the “suppressed” part as strongly as you – I explicitly clicked the link with the hidden/flagged contents (and paid more attention than were it non-flagged) – I don’t take much offense of a (small) couple of false or doubtfully flagged posts.

Damn. I had to try. I flagged my own content as off-topic. I must admit, I felt the power :wink:

Presumably, if I keep this up, YOU will eventually flag it :wink:

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Nope. I’ve never flagged anybody’s post and I don’t intend to do so in the future either. My preferred method is always to address the issue directly, constructively and objectively where I am able to do so.

Whilst I may not agree with some who post here, even those whom I find offensive, I will continue to defend their right to do so.

As for your new-found discovery of power, just be careful - who knows where it will lead … :wink:

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Sorry, I didn’t mean YOU, you, I meant, YOU, the people reading this post ! :wink:

This is a classic point, as a matter of fact. That poorly chosen words, in my case YOU, are readily interpreted in a way they were not intended.

I love this thread. In any case, I didn’t mean you, Steve. I’d never accuse you of being a flagger …

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I don’t understand the confusion about the feedback, but well… I also don’t get the impression that the feedback was received in any way.

The quoted Jolla policy rule was:
Improve the Discussion
… Be respectful of the topics and the people discussing them, even if you disagree with some of what is being said.

But in the thread that triggered all this I see quite a lot of disrepectful communication happening, like:
“IMO there is no excuse for the sh*t delivered (unfortunately).”
“It is indeed a disgrace to release such rubbish […]”

I think this kind of communication is highly disrepectful to the people creating the software. I prefer not reading this kind of rubbish on a forum like this, I think it is toxic. I didn’t flag anything, but I am perfectly fine with people doing that flagging.
If you don’t agree, I am fine with that too. But if you use this kind of words you can expect people to protest against it, it is simple dynamics. Respect goes both ways, it is not something you can demand to get, it is something you can give too.

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Since I read this post and it made me thinking I’d like to share my observation. It is indeed a lack of respect and some offensive language in some posts that can put some community members off. So I can understand the wish to flag some post as offensive. I don’t know whether flagging is a good reaction though. However, everyone should be aware that it matters how an opinion or a judgement is expressed. If it is respectful and non-offending, it is fine. So it is not about “the right to express ourselves as we like” because even if I would like to shout I shouldn’t and wouldn’t do so here.

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