I wrote, some time back, about the poor quality of moderation in the Guardian’s Comment is Free section, especially the habit of deleting any comments questioning the impartiality of the moderators, no matter how polite and reasonable.
The comment thread following this article, discussing the first student demo/riot (depending on which side of the argument you’re on), protesting about the grant cuts, and also covering the fact that the cabinet is so badly out of touch with reality because 18 of the buggers are millionaires, to whom the concept of a day’s work is, for the most part, entirely alien, is studded with deletions. And there are bound to be many deletions we don’t even know about, as comments seem to vanish without trace, as I mentioned in my original post,
And a thought occurred to me. To demonstrate the utter impartiality, honesty, intelligence, and good taste of the moderators, the Guardian could usefully publish the deleted comments in their own section, perhaps editing those which are libellous, but not otherwise, and not by the original moderators. And, probably, not allowing further comments, which would probably be deleted anyway.
Thus we would be able to see how many comments had been binned simply for questioning the mods’ decisions, and how many of the above batch had, for example, suggested a deer rifle and a handy rooftop, as useful political tools. I’m willing to bet there were one or two and, if not in that thread, then in others.
The thing is, such extensive censorship – and let’s not try to pretend it’s anything else – considerably distorts the pattern of opinion in any given thread, to its overall detriment. Or maybe it doesn’t – we have no way of knowing.
I think it’s high time the mods** were dragged into the full glare of accountability. After all, the people whose points of view they so (apparently), cavalierly delete help pay their wages (the online paper is free, but it attracts considerable advertising revenue), so why shouldn’t they have to demonstrate that they are doing their jobs according to CiF’s own house rules?
**To be fair, they’re probably no better or worse than their counterparts at other newspapers (the Daily Mail, for example, posts only those comments it approves of – so if you’re arguing against the house line, forget it), but it’s the Guardian I mostly read and, therefore, it’s the Guardian I’m concerned about.
Yesterday, for example, in an item about snow, someone got deleted. What the hell anyone can possibly say about snow that’s against CiF rules, I really can’t imagine.
So come on, guys – we’re mostly not allowed to question moderators’ decisions in the threads, and even if our complaints survive, they’re never answered, so don’t you think, in all fairness, that you should demonstrate, occasionally (or, better, make it a regular feature), the moderators’ compliance with CiF rules, not to mention total impartiality, the existence of which we’re expected to accept unquestioningly, despite considerable evidence to the contrary?
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?