I received an interesting reply to my final email sent just before I removed myself from HP. The cynical me might think this only came because of days of users abandoning that site, but let’s give this moderator the benefit of the doubt, and deem her reply sincere.
Here is a recap of our exchange thus far, if she responds to my reply I shall post it then:
Tue, Feb 8, 2011 at 4:20 PM
Huffpost Username: zootliberal
3 years, 1300 some odd fans, and I get banned from commenting because I tried to tell some friends about a another blog. Ironically I had elected to stay here while keeping my options open. Telling friends at the other site not to be so strident in their objections to the merger. So much for 3 years of reasonable posts, where I had many conservative friends despite being liberal. I hope it was worth it for you, apparently nobody here has read “The Tipping Point” I would have said good luck, but now I hope your whole enterprise fails. You broke my heart.
Okay, a bit melodramatic, but today I received this reply:
From: Stephanie Vaughn Hapke
Date: Sat, 12 Feb 2011 23:14:10 -0800
Subject: Re: banned from commentingHello,
Your account was not banned, it was suspended for 24 hours. Furthermore, it was not done as a result of sharing another website, but rather your spamming of that message, along with the blatant obfuscation to try and conceal the other site’s name.
We define spamming as posting the same comment multiple times to the same or different article. Spammed comments are always removed, as are complaints about moderation. These two factors were the cause of your suspension.
I see that you have self removed at this point. If you change your mind and would like to come back, please let me know. If you do, you will once again need to abide by our posted comment guidelines.
Stephanie Vaughn Hapke
User Support Specialist
Huffington Post Moderation Team
To which I replied:
Date: Sun, 13 Feb 2011 14:38:46 -0800
To: Stephanie Vaughn Hapke
Subject: Re: banned from commenting
Thank you for replying, I am sure you have been very busy, so I do appreciate it.
I am not sure it would have made a difference, but the message I received simply stated that I was banned from commenting. No mention of the 24 period. That I felt the need to employ “blatant obfuscation” in passing on a useful link to my friends was of course in direct response to HP’s blatant censorship. If you doubt me, please note your email indicated as much, off-handedly stating “complaints about moderation” are “always removed.” Why would HP censor such complaints?
In case your defense might be there that were other channels – links to suggestions, & tips etc. – available for such complaints, note I availed myself of those numerous times. Always polite with my suggestions, always acknowledging what a difficult job it must be to moderate a site with millions of users, and almost always ignored. Almost, because about a year ago I suggested that when a comment is flagged ‘pending’ and later deemed suitable that it be placed at the top of the list of comments, instead of posted – and often buried pages deep – according to the time submitted. I thought this hampered discourse, and discourse is why many of us commented there. Indeed, eventually, and especially in the last couple months, discourse became difficult and frustrating. I did receive a reply that this suggestion would be considered, but its consideration obviously had no effect. At least I received a reply.
As for returning to HP, perhaps, though it’s doubtful. You won’t see my avatar at CNN, USA Today, or any of the other purportedly political neutral news sites either. I came to Huffington Post because it leaned left, because it offered those on the left a chance to have our voices heard by a large audience. The right wing has more than their fair share of similar outlets, so it was refreshing to have HP, for awhile at least. The other night, on the Bill Maher show, Arianna confirmed what we all were thinking when she stated that Huffington Post is “95% entertainment, and 5% political.” Like so many of your ardent and long time commenters, I didn’t come there for the entertainment. I didn’t complain about it either, and often enjoyed it, but there are an abundance of entertainment sites. I want a site that speaks for the left, that calls out the r/w propaganda machine on its lies. Forgive me if I thought that was the main mission of Huffington Post, and not entertainment, am I obviously slow and rather naïve.
I believe HP missed an opportunity, and perhaps the editors can make amends. May I suggest that instead of banning (even temporarily) users sharing such sites as PlanetPOV, you should investigate and maybe write an article on them, as places where people might go for further discourse. Sites such as PlanetPOV are not HP’s competition Stephanie. May I extend a personal invitation for you to join us, see what we are saying about HP, join in the discussion, argue with us for goodness sakes, your comments aren’t limited to 400 some odd words, or censored. And that wasn’t a criticism of HP. Millions of users, and tens of thousands of commenters necessitates some sort of system to keep things organized. Indeed. except for the heavy handed moderation – and the way “level 2 mods” learned to game the system – HP has perhaps the best commenting system on the web.
Once again, thank you for the reply.
The subtext here is that perhaps PlanetPOV could prove a valuable adjunct to such sites as HP/AOL, overtly, where users could go to really get down and dirty with the important political topics of the day. I have no idea how such a partnership might be engineered, but it’s worth thinking about. Yeah, I’m a dreamer, but can’t we all get along – lol.