“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” - Often attributed to Plato but likely from Ian McLaren (pseudonym of Reverend John Watson)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Blog host ethics

Certainly there are no laws on the ethics of hosting/publishing a blog and there are all manner of blogs out there. Some thrive on flame wars, insult hurling, etc. and do no moderation. Others are moderated strictly and say so up front. Still others, though, represent that they welcome open dialogue but moderate comments that disagree with the host's point of view. In my opinion, this is or should be in violation of what I'd consider to be a "blog publisher code of ethics."

The case in point involved a blog to which I linked from mine up until yesterday. It's published by Mark Chu-Carroll ("MarkCC") who publishes "Good Math Bad Math." This blog covers quite a few things that are of interest to me, among which are computer science, math and physics crackpottery, (lately) probability, and others. MarkCC also discusses recipes, music, and other eclectica.

But MarkCC will also delve into social issues and clearly comes from an extremely liberal viewpoint. That's all well and good and I certainly respect his right to hold, promote, and publish his point of view, though I frequently disagree.

Yesterday, MarkCC published a post entitled "It's easy not to harass women." And while I agreed with some of what he wrote and with some of the comments, I hold a contrary point of view on a few of the things. In particular, it's my opinion that the legal, legislative and administrative machinery make it all too easy for opportunists to hold employers, institutions, etc. hostage with the threat of lawsuits over things that may rightly be considered offensive or not even that. Careers, families, etc. are ruined in response to perceived slights using a regulatory schema that rightly seeks to protect (most commonly but certainly not exclusively) women from reprehensible conduct such as the "casting couch," offer of career advancement or employment in return for sexual favors, and other such clearly actionable conduct.

This happens despite the fact that no harassment or sexual innuendo was intended. I do not speak hypothetically. And, frankly, unwelcome sexual innuendo should be handled without lawsuits and without destroying people. And, let there be no doubt, this is neither to condone such behavior nor to suggest that there are no behaviors that merit the full legal arsenal.

On MarkCC's site, I left several comments. None were vulgar, extreme, or confrontational. None were of an ad hominem nature. But, after the first couple of comments and literally in the middle of discussion threads, my comments disappeared without notice or explanation. In fact, a reply to one my purged comments was left so that the subsequent comment was replying to a comment that was no longer there.

Now, can MarkCC do this? Obviously, since he did, he can. Should he be able to? Absolutely and unequivocally, yes. Do I think it's ethical or right? I do not. My respect for Mark has declined precipitously.

Am I writing this in "revenge?" Heavens no, I doubt that MarkCC will ever know that I wrote it and I doubt that his commenters and readers will ever see it, his readership is much larger than mine. But I did want to "get it on the table" and assure my readership that, if it's not spam and it doesn't make a threat, all comments at my site will stay. Even if they insult me personally (which some have).