How to cope with racist issues in the forum?

In the past 12 years which I was active in the web community I have never before came across such a level of hate speech displayed towards me and other folks on a public gaming-related discussion forum. Quoted below.

I hope the forum management does everything necessary, so that users with racist and/or anti-semitic attitude get no opportunity to spread their fascist ideology and poison this community. I understand that this a privately-owned forum with its own terms of use, but never the less such behaviour is just over the edge and unacceptable, even in a heated discussion.


[rant=Moderated: The following quote may be objectionable to some users.]


Posted on May 11th, 2010 in Announcing CYOA competition

I see that the post in question has been deleted. I fully understand the reasoning behind that action, but I wonder whether deletion might not be that good a principle?

Make no mistake - I believe that the post which originated this thread was, simply, past all limits of acceptable; offensive; senseless. Nevertheless, I’m always uncomfortable with plain deletion of information.

When you delete things, they disappear. People can no longer learn from them - they can no longer see what reaction they’ll get to some attitudes; they can no longer even see that such attitudes are dealt with as they should. If you lock a topic, on the other hand, everyone can see what happened, and how it was dealt with. It’s out in the open. It’s much better to deal with things out in the open.

Even things such as racism, which the Retro brings up. I honestly see absolutely no racism in the offensive post - just a very, very, very offensive post - but it’s a fair question: how to deal with it? Again, I don’t believe deleting is the answer.

I’ve been in the AGS Forums for quite a while. It’s not the best ever place in the whole wide world, granted, but it’s very nice. Very fairly moderated. A very nice place to hang out, even if you do have you share of not-really-helpful-or-even-useful posters (but you get those everywhere). I’ve never seen anyone banned - as far as I know, they never have, and CJ is very proud of that. I’ve never known threads or topics to be deleted. That’s because they’d rather instruct by punishing mistakes, not by making the mistakes go away - which is what deleting is. They also prefer to take turn between gently coaching the offender and, if he’s being an ass, being sarcastic. Some of the offenders are laughed to death. Some others learn what they did wrong and turn their act around. All of this without deleting anything, or banning anyone.

Now let’s be realistic - AGS is a place for adventure-game lovers, and it gets all sort of people, of all sort of ages. IF is a bit more elitist by its very nature, and we’re much more unlikely to get the sort of dreadful, childish behaviour I’ve seen in a few posts over there. But if they can handle it efficiently and transparently, why shouldn’t we?

It’s always a tough call to determine how much moderation should be applied to a forum. Too little and you can drive the non-abusive posters away, too much and … well, I guess that’s bad too. I don’t go out of my way to say offensive and insulting things so it doesn’t bother me personally.

I do think that deleting posts should be extremely rare, it’s like removing history and does more to cover up the problem rather than deal with it. Also, it makes the posts that follow it appear out of context. I think people should have to own their words, and others should be able to make judgement by those words.

I say smack them with a 48-hour ban to cool off, and after three strikes make it permanent.

Some members privately objected to the post, and so it was deleted. I was initially going to let it stand, but ultimately agreed that it was incredibly out of place, not only in that particular discussion but on the board as a whole. Even now, I have no idea what it was in response to. I had not replied to that poster, there or elsewhere, to my knowledge. Its only purpose seemed to be to spark this very chain of events – to force administrator action, and then watch the fallout.

I can take somebody telling me off. Wouldn’t be the first time. But the post in question was a red-faced tirade that crossed the line into being a personal threat.

Another poster and well-known IF contributor actually warned me a few days ago that something like this seemed to be brewing. Now is probably the time to get this straightened out. Having no policies at all isn’t going to work, except maybe for those who enjoy going off on umprompted, red-faced tirades. Realizing that opinions will vary from the need for heavy moderation to the need for no moderation whatsoever, I’d like for this to be the result of defining the community standards. But let’s discuss in a different topic. If outright deletion is offensive, then maybe a special board for trolling and attacking is called for, where such posts could be moved.

I’ve posted some additional thoughts here:

As for coping with racist issues, I’ve seen no racist issues here. The only thing I’ve seen, Emilian, is you claiming that there are. So that’s kind of a separate matter at this point.

The post I’d written here is now at viewtopic.php?f=27&t=1096&p=6114#p6114, a much better place for it.

I can neither agree nor disagree with that statement, because I know that forum administrators usually decide themselves how to act in situations like these where postings are being reported. This is their exclusive right which we, as the forum users, may have an opinion about but have no influence on.

Ah okay, I’ve just clicked on the topic again and noticed that you deleted Aina Grey’s post. Thanks for the alertness, Merk.

I think you did what you decided was the best solution for maintaining order on your forum. I would probably have done the same on my forum if I had to decide in a similar situation.

Aina Grey called you a “subhuman”. When someone calls you a “subhuman” then it’s no racist issue to you? That’s odd, because I know people who would be very upset if someone called them “subhumans”. For example, if someone called a group of Jews “subhumans” in a public forum then this someone would had to face some dire consequences, such as deletion or suspension from the forum. But who am I to tell you what is racist and what not. As I told Peter Pears, as the board adminstrator you usually have the exclusive power to decide how to respond to a specific action on your forum. You did what you had to do and deleted Aina Grey’s post. The motives behind your action, frankly don’t matter to me, as the outcome remains the same for me. Why should I complain how you judged the situation after all?

Alright, I’m going to read your thoughts and/or comment in the other topic now…

There’s a larger point. Even if there was a racist posting, creating a new topic called “How to cope with racist issues in the forum?” is an inappropriate response. If you think someone is out of line, that’s what the “report this post” is for…to notify the admin that someone is out of line.

I think most people see that title and are psychological put-off.

I would prefer this topic be moved and renamed to “Issues with name-calling on the forums” or something more appropriate.

David C.

Well, that didn’t work. I created a new topic called Archived: “How to cope with…” topic, added a header giving the original topic title, the current status (archived/locked), and the reasons why. Then I merged the two topics, thinking my new post would appear first. No such luck; it was last.

I agree with you that to new users or those not following the discussion, the topic alone is misleading and seems to state a fact that wasn’t really true. Hopefully, though, anybody with a concern over racism will catch up rather than taking the topic title at face value. But I did put the re-posted quote in a “rant” tag.

I would certainly have deleted that post. In a nanosecond. But I wouldn’t call it even faintly racist. Calling one person “subhuman” is not racist. Calling an entire ethnic group “subhuman” would be racist.

Personally, I’m convinced that Rush Limbaugh is subhuman, but that doesn’t mean I dislike or shun white people in general.

The term I usually use when referring to those individuals whom the genetic lottery has not bequeathed a full set of intellectual faculties is “knuckle-dragger.” It means the same thing, but it’s more graphic.