Keywords: censorship, moderation, blocked, banned, filtered, Facebook

When I visit a Farm Bureau or Rotary meeting, I’m just a guest. Their rules apply, not mine — I have no say. When I write to a newspaper, publication of responses is at the editor’s discretion, not mine. When I go on air, it’s the radio station host who screens callers. Facebook groups are the same. All groups have administrators or owners. I’m not partial to any one group. People are free to gather, invite me and I’ll participate equally wherever I’m wanted. I make a point of posting official communication directly, not in a group, because I want to ensure everyone has equal access to provide feedback. Priority is not given to input from any one channel. News clippings and the like I tend to post where invited, because not everyone following me wants the verbosity and these subject matter specific posts are not about issues coming before the Board of Supervisors.

I too desire an unmoderated, uncensored public forum. I love the ideology. I don’t know of a model that works. The MCN listserv is mostly uncensored, but as a result, it’s often full of bickering and off topic noise. There is a tradeoff between moderation and maintaining usefulness of a forum. Someone needs to moderate in order for a forum to be useful. I categorically cannot assume this role. The public at large will not agree on the sweet spot of balance between rules, enforcement, tolerance and noise. Ongoing debate about the rules is enough to negate the value of a gathering.

Much of the value of forums is based on interactions and cross pollination of ideas. It’s the reason I do not maintain an email list. Email does not scale up to the thousands of participants who engage regularly with me via social media. Threading and multi-directional dialogue capabilities elevate the usefulness of modern online forums, leveraging greater equality amongst peers, yet the technology fails to eliminate the need for moderation.

I encourage persons on both sides of moderation disputes to privately resolve conflict and find ways to build community. Don’t immediately call each other out in public. There is no shame in starting a conversation to explain the mixup, i.e. “I’m trying to participate in community discussion. You blocked me. I think it’s a mixup. Can we work it out?” Unfortunately, involvement in private forum disputes resolution is not a role I can assume. For those who cannot agree on etiquette: start another group, invite like minded friends, tag me and I’ll be there.

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