5

The specific post i am referring to is this.

Granted, not the best quality post. I didn't want to throw gas on the fire with an already confused poster. so tried to keep it short.

I forget exactly what the comments were under the post, but I remember they seemed aggressive. Anyway, it turns out he misread a word, or line of the post and said it was his fault. we are all humans and make mistakes, but when i came back maybe 15 mins later to see if he had commented further. both my and his comments were deleted.

Was this him? I looked over in his community and he happens to be the highest ranking member over at SF and a mod. Was this one of our mods that did it?

While it doesn't bother me at all, I am just curious.

I kind of see this as weird, especially in a democratic community. do the underpinnings of free speech not matter in a democratic community?

where would we be if our public officials could erase their (pr nightmare) public comments at will, and further silence any public comments that differ to their opinion?

my guess was it was one of our mods that did it for him. how do i find out?

  • 2
    The remote moderator could flag it for a local mod to look at, but they cannot outright delete them. We do not typically see who raises flags on comments. – Mokubai Mar 23 '18 at 20:40
  • Thanks for the comment Mokubai. so you guys have no indication of who is flagging something? i didn't know this, thank you! – Tim_Stewart Mar 23 '18 at 20:44
  • Flags on questions or answers, yes we do have an indication, but not comments. Not without work anyway. – Mokubai Mar 23 '18 at 20:45
5

Comments are transient. They're a little like toothpicks - they're useful, but once you've used them, you really ought to bin them.

I forget exactly what the comments were under the post, but I remember they seemed aggressive. Anyway, it turns out he misread a word, or line of the post and said it was his fault. we are all humans and make mistakes,

And at this point - the comment thread didn't clarify, or attempt to add on to your answer.

Was this him? I looked over in his community and he happens to be the highest ranking member over at SF and a mod. Was this one of our mods that did it?

It wasn't the person who commented who deleted them. They were clearly what one would consider bickering, was pointless since they were based on a misreading of the answer, so a mod cleaned this up. This is mostly the system working as designed - other than, well, I suppose folks not having read through the whole comment thread. In short, it met the criteria we'd have when we see a post and need to decide if the comments are useful.

where would we be if our public officials could erase their (pr nightmare) public comments at will, and further silence any public comments that differ to their opinion?

Well, there's a proper forum for such things - in the old roman sense. If you have an issue that fundamentally affects the running of the site and is tangential to the post you should at some point ask here. If you're going to complain on comments on the main site, its just messy.

Practically speaking, even as a regular user - say on Meta.SE I try to clean up after my own comments and flag comments for clean up - its just good hygiene.

I'd also note freedom of speech is a very american concept - its a lovely one but it stops the government from shutting you up. It does not really cover the full spectrum of interaction.

As moderators though, its far more effective for us to deal with criticism through engagement than just deleting stuff we don't like, simply because we arn't dealing with one person - we deal with the community.

  • Thank you for taking the time to write this! – Tim_Stewart Mar 24 '18 at 16:03
8

Nope; moderators on other sites have no special privileges here.

A moderator here came by and cleaned up the comment thread since it appeared to have been resolved.

  • Interesting, I'm guessing you can see this? – Tim_Stewart Mar 23 '18 at 20:39
  • yep. I have mod powers everywhere. Even though I'm not a moderator anywhere. So... Exception to every rule. – Shog9 Mar 23 '18 at 20:39
  • I can totally confirm that as a mod on here that that was the case. Also, I have no cool powers on sites I'm not a mod :( – Journeyman Geek Mar 24 '18 at 7:29
  • 1
    Shog9 IS an exception; that is the rule. – music2myear Apr 4 '18 at 23:02
3

I kind of see this as weird, especially in a democratic community. do the underpinnings of free speech not matter in a democratic community?

where would we be if our public officials could erase their (pr nightmare) public comments at will, and further silence any public comments the differ to their opinion?

"Free speech" doesn't apply on websites you don't own. Your right to free speech is inalienable if you are the legal owner/renter/operator of a given website; on others' websites, they are free to arbitrarily restrict your speech as they see fit, and it's completely in compliance with both the letter and spirit of the law and the US Constitution. The only other place where free speech is protected is public places, but privately owned and operated websites are not considered to legally be public places.

Second, SE communities aren't "democratic". Decisions about how to operate the communities are not made based on votes. Communities do not govern themselves by vote. SE employees, and to a lesser extent diamond mods, set the policies. Community members can influence policy if they bring up good points and manage to convince the powers that be to change policy, but no amount of upvotes is "binding". Even if your idea got 10,000 upvotes on Meta, SE would be under absolutely no obligation to implement it.

The only thing that's in any way even tangentially democratic is the process for determining the best quality or most interesting questions and answers on the site. This process is democratic in the sense that the best answer to a question is usually considered to be the one with the most upvotes, especially if it's got more votes by a wide margin. But this is merely an indicator; the results of such a vote do not compel anyone to take any particular action. Indeed, the clueful sometimes find value in less-upvoted answers, and sometimes the most-upvoted answer is objectively worse than others.

Third, comments are ephemeral. That means they can be deleted at any time, for any reason. Don't post anything as a comment that you wouldn't want to see magically disappear at any instant. The only entities that are somewhat protected from deletion on the site are questions and answers. These are only deleted if they're: (1) Spam; (2) Extremely low quality / low-effort; (3) Get a highly negative vote score and are some sort of misinformation that could lead users astray or cause them to do something harmful.

Even with questions and answers, you still don't have a "right to free speech" on SE, but the questions and answers themselves will remain on the site as long as they contribute some value (and do not mislead or possibly harm the reader) and are on-topic to the site. They are not ephemeral.

The comparison to public officials makes no sense, because SE is not a political forum. Your real life is not governed by decisions made on SE. Aside from reading false/harmful content (which is quickly identified and deleted by the community), the only negative thing that can come to you from not reading SE is ignorance of information you otherwise would've gained by participating in or reading the site.

You can't pay more taxes as a result of a decision by a moderator or SE employee. You can't lose your house, or get put in jail, or be censured or have any rights infringed on. The rights you're guaranteed do not have to be provided by SE, the moderators, or the community on SE's website.

So, yes, this is a form of censorship, but no it's not a bad form of censorship. Deleting comments that were the result of a misunderstanding is a net-positive for the community in the judgment of many moderators, because it de-escalates an issue and removes the possibility for others to get involved now or in the future and further fuel a disagreement. And it's SE's (and by extension, moderators') sole discretion to do this on their website. If you find this to be stifling, you're free to post your own opinions on a site you own, or on another site that will allow such.

  • 1
    Wow, you went way off on a tangent here. You could have just said I don't believe it's Democratic because of x. The public official was just a reference to my train of thought, i.e moderators are technically the community elected officials, because they are voted in by the community. Thanks for taking the time to answer. – Tim_Stewart Mar 24 '18 at 0:38
  • @Tim_Stewart When users accuse the community of censoring them, the community feels its being attacked, the community doesn’t censor users the content that is deleted doesn’t belong. – Ramhound Mar 24 '18 at 0:55
  • @allquixotic I second everything you said. But I would add community moderator elections (or at least the election process) are democratic – Ramhound Mar 24 '18 at 0:56
  • 1
    @ramhound, did you interpret that post as an attack? It certainly wasn't the intention of the post. – Tim_Stewart Mar 24 '18 at 0:58
  • 1
    The attack was, “I kind of see this as weird, especially in a democratic community. do the underpinnings of free speech not matter in a democratic community?”, allauixtec was kind enough to explain that removing a comment isn’t a big deal. – Ramhound Mar 24 '18 at 1:03
  • 1
    I don't see an attack in the OP, but rather an assumption that a bit of clarification should easily clear up. This is that clarification, but it feels a bit strong if our goal is to teach less experienced (and sometimes wrong) users how the site works. – Twisty Impersonator Mar 24 '18 at 3:24

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .