Tales from the Net

a work in progress

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

“Banned from HuffPo”

banned from HuffPo

This blog is meant to address the censorship on The Huffington Post. I’ve been a Huffpo user since the site launched… Since then Huffpo has been my main site for news.

— Red Dog in Welcome to Banned from HuffPo, April 14

Pssst…hey kid! Wanna a few words that will get you past the censors over on Huff-Po? Pay attention; you gotta use the weasel words and technique that make you appear normal; you know, conversational stuff or you get banned by JuLiA, HP’s newest software.

— Terry, in the comment thread

Censorship’s one of the topics we’re planning to discuss in Tales from the Net, so we were delighted when Expose the Truth left a comment on our Relaunching… post with a link to Red Dog’s blog and James Ballard’s petition to talk show host Thomas Hartmann.*

The blog’s got great information, too.   Red Dog’s intro post looks at the different aspects of censorship.  Automated filters (aka “bot censorship”) screen comments for potentially-inflammatory words and frequently get it wrong; authors frequently delete critical comments; and criticisms of Huffington Post or any meta-discussions of censorship are routinely deleted.  Comments and other stories on the blog have some great examples and discussions, including perspectives from an anonymous HuffPo blogger, snapshots of censorship in action, and the fascinating results of IzzyIdol’s Consumer Censorship/Community Moderation Test.

Red Dog, aka Michael, made an important point when we talked on the phone earlier today:

I’m not against censorship.  You need to moderate things.  I’m against arbitrary and pointless censorship.  The filtering just doesn’t work.  and they’re censoring out comments because they don’t like what they say.

Indeed.  Of course it’s not just HuffPo — I’ve had my own run-ins with automated filters and been banned from sites after critical comments — but that doesn’t make it any less irritating.

As well as the blog and a Facebook group, there’s also a mailing list for people discussing this.  Alas, HuffPo hasn’t seem particularly interested in engaging so far.  “If somebody says they’ve been censored and I try to reply with information about the blog and my email it’s instantly censored,” says Michael.  But there are ways to get around this:

So instead we leave subtle hints: “oh some interesting stuff here, check this URL”.   And I’m pretty sure they block links to my blog, so I have some other sites which point you to the blog.

You’d think that a story about everybody’s favorite example of an online newspaper (and one of the most powerful progressive news sites) censoring unpopular views would get a lot of media attention.   It hasn’t yet, but people are working to change that — and get the word out through other channels.  There’s a petition on change.org, and discussion in the blogosphere.

Will it all add up to enough to get HuffPo’s attention? Stay tuned!


* For any of you doing online activism, Expose the Truth’s comment is a great template: it succinctly conveys the issue, where to go to find out more, and how people can take action.  It piqued my interest!

To be continued …

To find out more about …

posted by Jon at 11:06 am  

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