Based on reader feedback, it appears the community likes “occasional but not too often” information and discussion about the system for enforcing the Community Guidelines. So I have settled on an “early in the calendar year” annual update, and given the recent discussions it seems like a fine time to open this can o’ worms. I have broken this post into three sections: factual information, clarifications on how the system works, and a little closing commentary. For those who may be newer to AN, please note that CGV stands for Community Guidelines Violation.
In 2007, there were 23 complaints lodged resulting in 19 “strikes” or “warnings”. (In 2006, there were 38 complaints lodged, resulting in 26 “strikes” or “warnings”.)
Some Clarifications On How The System Works
- Any user, whether or not they were the target, may report a comment they believe is a CGV for evaluation by AN’s four-person sub-committee. The sub-committee does not actively look for CGVs and neither do the front-page writers or administrators. It is up to community members to report comments that violate the Community Guidelines – if a CGV is not reported, it cannot be considered and thus no “strike” can be given.
- When judging whether or not a comment is a CGV, the sub-committee is holding the comment up to the stated Community Guidelines as the measure of whether or not a “strike,” a “warning,” or “no strike” is warranted.
- Each sub-committee member considers a given complaint independently (not all together as a group). Thus, for a comment to be deemed a “strike,” a community member has to be compelled to report it and then at least 3 of 4 sub-committee members, when comparing the comment to the stated Community Guidelines, has to independently conclude that the comment is indeed a CGV.
- When a user is given a “strike” or “warning,” he/she receives an email (from me) that states what the offending comment was and which part of the Community Guidelines it violated.
- In contrast to the judicial system, “defendants” (complainees) are not contacted prior to a ruling for a chance to give their defense, and there is no formal “appeal” process in place if a “strike” is given. The sub-committee exists to compare complaints against the stated CGs, and their rulings are their rulings.
A Little Commentary
First of all, please be clear on something: It is really hard to get banned without trying really hard. Any “strike” rolls off after four “clean” months. There were all of 19 “strikes” doled out to the entire community in the entire calendar year of 2007, because most CGVs go unreported. If you get a “strike,” and then within four months get another one, and then – knowing you are one “strike” away from being banned – you can’t go four months without making yet another comment that a user, and at least 3 of 4 judges, all independently agree violates Community Guidelines that essentially say “don’t personally insult or belittle people, and leave politics out of this baseball site,” well then…maybe AN just isn’t right for you.
And honestly, the notion that there is bias on the sub-committee is pretty lame. A lack of transparency does not inherently mean there must be bias. First, realize that Blez selected the sub-committee members specifically because they were community members who had established his, and the community’s, trust and confidence. Then remember that the sub-committee members volunteer their time to AN solely because they care about the site, and wish for it to remain a community where the discourse is not just spirited but also civil and respectful. Finally, consider that by having four sub-committee members, and allowing each to cast a vote independently, there is not room for any one person’s opinion, or potential bias, to weigh too heavily. The system is designed so that a group of veteran community members who are fair-minded by nature can have an objective means (the stated CGs) to come to a consensus decision – in the name of holding the community accountable for treating each other decently.
Does the sub-committee always get it right? No. Do they deserve 1,000 thanks for every criticism? I think so. Now cue the worms, in 3…2…1…