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TheEmeraldProject On April - 7 - 2011

– Text: foxisms; Illustration: B. McCue –

[In this, part 2, of The Secrets Beyond The Emerald Curtain, we’ll take a look at some comments, replies and stories from others who have either broken away from HP for greener pastures of self expression on the web and an update on some of the damage control taking place at HuffPo in the wake of the continuing exodus of ‘posters’.]

“Question 67 and 68”…and 69…and…

The questions that need to be asked (and plenty of people are asking them) are these… Is this “extreme moderation” on the part of The Huffington Post a deliberate design and act of manipulation on the part of HP? Are these perhaps unreasonable expectations on the part of people posting there? Or is all this commotion simply over a matter of mismanagement on an all too convenient (and beyond merely coincidental) multi-million dollar level?

(Wait, for, it…)  Yep! I would bet on all that and more.

Let’s share, OK?

I’m going to share with you just a few of (IMO) the seemingly more legitimate bitches taking place in cyberspace about HP’s moderation just for clarity. Many of these are repeated again and again on a variety of sights, but in an act of mercy, I’ll try to not triple up on these talking points.

The following excerpts are from  but two of 45 similar comments that can be found at  http://www.beitz.org/node/113 under the lead titled: “Huffington Post Moderation Sucks”.

[Writer’s Note: I would recommend that the lead blog by the site owner be read for further details behind his/her perspective and choice for this title. It’s a fair and level story in the telling and for me to have broken it out of that writer’s context  may not do it the justice it deserves.]

Excerpt #1

“…I agree with a lot of the ideology of HuffPo apart from the idiotic anti-science new age blather… and of course their constant misleading headlines, sinking into the gutter talking about who has a new nipple piercing, etc. And of course their ridiculous and arbitrary moderation.

But today I find that I am deleted. My account is deleted. No explanation. I had a lot of fans, I am a liberal and generally take a liberal position, etc. So it’s not just censorship of conservatives or even simply differing viewpoints… you seem to get deleted just for tweaking somehow some faceless moderators pet peeve.”

Submitted by Jafafa Hots (verified) to http://www.beitz.org/node/113 Tue, 2011-03-01 14:03.

[And just one more excerpted post from the same blog site. No doubt about it…my personal fav!]

Excerpt #2

“Try to comment … Just TRY… In all likelihood, your comment will simply never appear. Don’t worry; this is no reflection whatsoever on the CONTENT of your comment. Don’t be ridiculous! Leftie, rightie, party line, free thinker, well-rehearsed, off-the-cuff – makes no difference at all. And PLEASE don’t tell me you actually thought it had anything remotely to do with the stated HuffPost “User Agreement.” No, it’s just a function of the wind direction… If you TRULY have no regard for your own well-being or sanity, attempt to contact HuffPost to find out why your comment was deleted. Needless to say, you will NEVER, EVER get ANYTHING back in the way of a reply – EVER. The heat-death of the universe will intervene before any human being at HP condescends to reply even to tell you to get bent. My HuffPost account was just deleted – I kid you not – because I made a joke about Zac Efron’s new beard. I swear to god. I guess one or more of the aforementioned surly manic-depressive imbecile censors is a big Efron-noisseur. So really I was asking for it. And thank God, really, that they deleted me – can you imagine if CHILDREN were exposed to less-than-reverential remarks about Zac Efron? Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.”

Submitted by John (not verified) to http://www.beitz.org/node/113 Mon, 2010-09-13 10:38.

[Writer’s Dear John Letter: “John”, if in fact you actually exist and you happen to see the above and recognize it as yours, let’s close a bar together sometime! I think we could have a lot of laughs! Please request the Planet’s administrators to give you my email]

“Please Sir, can I have another?”

The following is an excerpt of yet another incident of ‘extreme moderation’ which surprisingly is but one of the rare and few instances I found of someone actually receiving a reply from HP by email when trying to get an answer from HP on their practices. Bear in mind, this stinging excerpt is but part of one of the 33 comments that were posted to this site in response to the lead story addressing the same concern.

Excerpt #3

Arianna Huffington’s website is the epitome of liberal fascist hypocrisy. ~ 50% of my posts (and I’m sure thousands of others) disappear (usually never even seeing the light of day). My attempted / censored posts do NOT contain foul language – they merely disagree with Huffington’s “philosophy” – (and I am an Obama Democrat politically, not some republican wingnut trolling her site).

Especially if you call out one of her blogger “pets” – (Baldwin, Begala etc) you will NEVER get it posted. I complained to the site, was contacted (email) by an admin or assistant, and told my posts contained “ad hominem” attacks. This is bs – most do NOT. They again merely don’t fit the Huffington censors’ political agenda. I was not even allowed to reply to the email from the censor to refute the accusation – (my email reply was blocked).”

Submitted by Pie Arrianna  (not verified) June 29, 2009 at 3:49 pm  to http://americadoomed.com/2009/03/09/huffington-post-censorship-nazis/

OK. I could do this for a dozen episodes here on this subject, but then, I don’t get to prattle on self importantly as if I were an actual authority on anything…which is not noticeably likely.

And yet…there’s one more instance I wanted to share with anyone patiently reading this.

As a result of several composite elements taking place within the palace walls of Huffington Post, (the merge with AOL, the increasing frequency of bait and switch news packaging, the materialization of ideological definition and the overzealous moderation…) people began leaving their accounts at HP behind and seeking out new vistas of expression in a free and unrestricted cyber-homeland.

Oh, hell….let’s put it in the common vernacular, shall we?

People were bailing on HP in droves because they were tired of the bullshit and with the $318 million shekel sell out to AOL it was pretty self evident that things were gonna get a shit load worse before (and if ever) things would possibly get better again.

“…leavin’ on that midnight train..”

In the first few days of the birth of the HP/AOL mutant hybrid alone, this site (planetpov.com) absorbed approximately 100 ex-Huff Posters alone. From these ranks many have stories to tell about the causes for their immigration. One story that is very interesting can be found as a featured article right here, http://planetpov.com/2011/02/13/an-hp-moderator-replies-2/#comments .

It is well written, detailed and documented and is well worth the read if you’re in the market for a genuinely straight up accounting of what it may be like to negotiate with the interns and/or staff at HP after several years of contributing comments and being an active member of the social community that helped create the HP empire that exists today.

Damage control!

As of March 13, 2011, for reasons known only to Huffington Post (but fairly damned obvious to plenty of people) HP began a new print campaign about HuffPost Comments, HuffPost Badges and the HuffPost moderation team. Posted by Adam Clark Estes, it is a one page assurance of the pledge HP has made and renewed and a less than acceptable explanation about the badge program, that makes absolutely anyone a moderator on HP provided they narc out other people in that community (and often) which they may disagree with.

More thoughts on how this badge thing is part of what helped suck the life out of commenting on HuffPost, but after I tell you this…You’ve got to love this…1.) the site was already closed for public comment three days after the the article was posted and 2.) During the time comments were being accepted, every post was pre-moderated resulting in the pending hell so many of us have spent hours of our lives in!

You can’t conjure this sort of irony!

Badge-ers!

But let’s do the badge thing, just for slaps and tickles, and see the wisdom and rationale behind that stroke of brown shirted, youth brigade mentality.

I quote the Huffington Post’s FAQ on Comments and Moderation, RE: Badges

“Q: What’s a “Moderator”? How can I become one?
A: If you’ve flagged at least 20 comments that we ended up deleting and have a high ratio of good flags to mistaken flags, we’ll award you with a Level 1 Moderator Badge and enhance your flags so that they have five times more influence. If you’ve flagged at least 100 comments that we deleted and have a very high ratio of good flags to mistaken flags, we make you a Level 2 Moderator, upgrade your Badge, and trust you to delete inappropriate comments on the site. We will continue to trust you to delete inappropriate comments from the site as long as you handle the task responsibly. If you’re like many users, you’ll want to step up your flagging game and become one of our most trusted users.”

I think the narc/Gestapo parallels are fairly obvious for everyone by way of the request to “step up your flagging game…” But in the event that’s not quite enough to establish an opinion yet, let’s combine that policy, with the FAQ on Commenting and Moderation Policy in general, and one begins to wonder how anyone manages to get a comment through on Huff under any circumstances. I wouldn’t buy a car with a sales contract so deliberately full of ambiguities. Under these terms if sneezing were considered an abuse, you could be deleted for so much as sniffling should a  badge carrying ‘Mod’ decide to declare it a sneeze without so much as a hint of oversight or accountability.

Q: What is the Huffington Post’s Comment Policy?

A:Huffington Post pre-moderates comments on our blog posts and post-moderates comments on news stories. We never censor comments based on political or ideological point of view. We only delete those comments that include the following transgressions:

• are abusive, off-topic, use excessive foul language
• include  ad hominem attacks including comments that celebrate the death or illness of any person, public figure or otherwise
• contain racist, sexist, homophobic and other slurs
• are solicitations and/or advertising for personal blogs and websites
• thread spamming (you’ve posted this same comment elsewhere on the site
• are posted with the explicit intention of provoking other commenters or the staff at Huffington Post.
• contains content that may infringe the copyright or intellectual property rights of others or other applicable laws or regulations.”

Yet there are screen captures available of “badged moderators” that clearly shows that they enjoy a much greater latitude for their comments even when posting extremely toxic comments that fly in the face of just that very criteria listed above. And captures accompanying accounts of others who have had first their comments and then their accounts deleted for simply rebutting those remarks or (in the greatest of ironies) trying to have said moderator’s comment(s) flagged for these abuses.

Now let’s be crystal. Huffington Post is legally entitled to run their business any way they choose.

And those who have no qualms about current practices should then be able to find information and enjoyment there that fits their expectations.

Likewise those who can’t abide by these work practices at Huffington Post are equally free to go their own way and engage in internet communications more to their own liking or sense of fairness.

Let’s wrap this up.

The flaws to be found on HP comment boards and in the moderation of the same have been met with at least a modicum of attention from primary staff and management over time.

No public comment venue is perfect, which is no credit (to be sure) for Huff, but in fairness it should be mentioned.

At it’s launch HP had no pre-moderation and as such, (human nature being what it is) there was an awful lot of “Kill this [insert politician or government official’s name here] !” and “Bomb this [insert party here]” or “All [insert isms or ideological bend here] should die!”, kind of talk going on. This created a lot of negative buzz from other news sources and web sites early on. Interns were used and increased and in time a hired 15 person staff working 24/7 was reported to have been brought on board. But by then the site had taken off and the commenting had sky rocketed to approximately 500,000 comments per week which even with bringing the Mod Squad up to 30 persons it was like bailing water in a boat with a hull breach using a tea cup. An effort and a cause given little forethought seemingly programed for failure.

Recently, this density of population has brought pundits, analysts and journalists to seriously question whether or not Huff Po has reached it greatest heights and whether or not it’s best days are over.

Many of us who have jumped this ship would attest for more reasons than this section of this series has room to contain…that indeed Huffington Post has already jumped it’s shark.

The remaining articles in this PPOV series will shed light on the hows and whys behind assessment. Part 3 is going to deal with Huffington Post’s perceived practice of  manipulating headlines and the assumed subsequent effect on those who read and comment.”

 

10 Responses so far.

Click here to leave a comment
  1. Caru says:

    I got sucked in over yonder for a while yesterday.

    “Hey, you’re a moderator that doesn’t have the exact same opinion as I do! Stop deleting my posts!”

    “I’m a level 1 moderator, I can’t delete your posts.”

    Rinse and repeat. Reminds me of why I left.

  2. escribacat says:

    Thanks for another interesting post, Fox. I am still very puzzled about the uneven moderation over there. When I first began posting there, I remember thinking they had bugs in their software program that caused many innocuous comments to vanish. After I began to see others complaining about it, I realized I was probably being too kind. Either they just hire stupid people who literally cannot judge for themselves what does and does not fit HP rules or the people who work for them just like to screw with commenters’ heads.

    I’ve said this before (but I’ll say it again!). I think the Mod2 badges were a way of saving money and of shifting the blame for lousy moderation onto the commenters themselves. I chose not to “wear” the badges they offered me but I’ve flagged quite a few abusive comments over there. There truly are some nutbags — and now more than ever, the lunatics have definitely taken over the asylum. At one time, there was a sense of comraderie there (I’ll never forget watching Ted Kennedy’s funeral with a bunch of folks at Huffy.) Now, it’s just trollville. Too bad.

    • zampano says:

      I used to be puzzled too. Now, not so much (I opted out of the badge system the moment it was launched). There’s definitely been an increase in the openness with which some community mods clearly express their preferences for/against certain posters, to the point of even boasting openly about their abiity to get people banned (or their ability to intervene to prevent them being banned).
      All in all — not a good development.

    • Buddy McCue says:

      I wore a mod badge there, but I was very conscientious about using it. I do believe in free speech, after all.

      I would only flag stuff that used overly violent messages, racist or de-humanizing speech, or scatological insults.

    • Truth says:

      e’cat, saving pay is quite a realistic scenario:

      “I wish you had kept your status as CM1. It would help us clear out exactly the kinds of comments you had flagged in the past. Spam is a problem, and we thank you (as everyone should) for flagging those comments. Vile insults are also a problem. I’m all for letting foolishnes s speak for itself, but I’m not for letting aggressive bigotry or hatred speak for itself. If that was the kind insulting comment you flagged, we thank you for that too. Same goes for threats. When your flags counted five times as much as regular flags, you really were helping us clear out really corrosive speech. I hope you reconsider .
      Josh Young
      HuffPost Social News Editor

      Our official moderators don’t vet every comment. So, yes, sometimes they let nasty stuff slip through. But that is very, very much the exception. We often get more than one hundred thousand comments a day. Despite our deep commitment to moderation , we simply can’t look at all of them. If you’re seeing this kind of post stand, as you put it, it’s very highly likely that’s a result of our *not* vetting it. So, we believe users care about the quality of our comments, we empowering users to help.

      Josh Young
      HuffPost Social News Editor”

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Josh_Young/introducing-huffpost-badg_b_557168_46310738.html

    • foxisms says:

      ecat’, my pleasure.
      Thanks for checking out the piece.

  3. audadvnc says:

    I just wandered over to the Emerald Isle for a bit -- nothing too controversial -- but there are at least 3 pro-Empress apologies in the Media section. A little touchy, are we? Go figure…

  4. Khirad says:

    Efron-noisseur.

    That was priceless.

  5. jkkFL says:

    fox- Great post!
    I can’t believe how much the readers were exploited.
    Kinda makes me sad, embarassed and angry..
    I still go there- there are a couple of bloggers I follow- but if I find myself trying to comment on a moderated thread, I just move on.
    A pox on her!!


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