Ethics Question (28 posts)

  1. abrazell
    Posted 11 years ago #

    This is a more abstract topic and I was hoping to get some of your opinions. I have a No-Censorship policy at Technosailor.com. Anyone can write anything as long as it is not spam.

    But to steal from Sir Isaac Newton, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

    When trolls come on your board, how do you feel about responding with personally identifying information regarding the troll?

    The situation is that there is a post I made several months ago about Halo 2 Game variants. It's sort of an annoying thread because I get all the kiddies who can't spell and like to mumble.... but hey, no reason to censor. A troll hit that post today with "you're all gay"... no more. My response was to chide him and include his IP address in my response... lol. I thought twice about it but did it anyway.

    Which begs the current question...is it ethical to release personally identifying info about a poster ever?

  2. Jinsan
    Posted 11 years ago #

    Do you have rules? Rules does not equate to censorship - but courtesy, respect and constructive commentary are usually a requirement for some intelligent conversation.

    At the same time you say yourself nothing is censored, so if your user makes such a comment, chastising that user rather debunks the idea that you are a no-censorship site. You're in a catch 22

  3. abrazell
    Posted 11 years ago #

    When I say no censorship, I mean I won't remove comments because I don't like them, not that I won't challenge the comment. That would be an absurd definition of censorship.

  4. Jinsan
    Posted 11 years ago #

    well then there probably isn't a problem then with your specific site - if you didn't post their IP you'd be censoring your own thoughts now wouldn't you :)

  5. abrazell
    Posted 11 years ago #

    lol... unique perspective. :p

  6. Lorelle
    Posted 11 years ago #

    This is actually a very good question and one that all users with comments and interactivity must consider. When is censorship censorship, and when is it just housekeeping?

    I'd consider the "you're gay" comment to be a simple matter of cleaning house. It shouldn't require revenge or slamming, just a little squishing of the bug that got inside of your house and tossing it outside with the garbage. Remember, it's your house. You can make or break the rules.

    It makes it even more complicated for those who get these nice bits of comments that say "I really like your site and have recommended it to my friends" and "I'll be back, you have good information to share". My first few made me preen. Then I read this article by zengun on the fact that a lot of these vague little compliments are really spammers at work.

    So do you leave them - allowing their spam links to generate biz for them - or delete them because the words are nice but the intention isn't? Which is more important? Nice comments or protecting others from comment spam?

    It gets complicated, so I recommend you review your "rules" and add a little ditty that says "Play nice or get out of the sandbox" and add that you have the power to delete, and claim the rest as housekeeping.

  7. Marc
    Posted 11 years ago #

    First of all post rules for your site. If you run 1.5 make a separate page for them and have them easiliy accessable.

    Secondly there may be a slight legal problem with posting their pesonnel info. I'm no lawyer but better to be safe than sorry in this day and age.

    Third don't delete the comment. Edit it. Edit out the offensive words/phrases. Then leave your note why "XXX" replaces something in the comment.

    Worst case ban the IP address.

    Question. Did this person only drop "your gay" once in the thread or was it a continuing conversation in that thread and others?

    If it was one remark in one thread it hardly meets the "troll" stage.

  8. Joni
    Posted 11 years ago #

    I disagree about not posting the IP address. It's available in the site owner's server logs, so he now has possession of this information which he can, or not, as he chooses, share with his visitors, no?

    And if someone is worried about their IP address being disclosed, then they should stay out of people's comment boxes, am I right? No one has an unfettered right to do and say as he pleases on someone else's site without paying a price. A lot of forum boards automatically post the IP address of the person posting (usually a registered user). They don't seem to be concerned with posting this information. It's not like it's someone's social security number. And sharing the IP of an unwanted visitor is a good way to let others know to ban him from their own sites as well. Community housekeeping's finest hour -- or perhaps the mob on the front porch with the torches burning?

  9. Marc
    Posted 11 years ago #


    They don't seem to be concerned with posting this information. It's not like it's someone's social security number. And sharing the IP of an unwanted visitor is a good way to let others know to ban him from their own sites as well.
    You may be correct I don't hang around boards. But i bet as part of any registration to many if not most boards there is a disclaimer of some sort.

    As for posting the IP on your blog, that IP is known only to the blog owner not the rest his/her readers.

    By posting it yes it could lead to others banning the same IP. Not a problem. But what if someone does something more destructive? Can you say Dos attack? Or someone could flood that IP with their version of spam.

    All without you, who posted the IP, knowing about it.

    But guess what you would be just as liable as the person who committed the actual act itself. There are way too many nutzoids out there to take the chance. Just ban the IP and be done with it.

  10. Marc
    Posted 11 years ago #


  11. lmcgaffey
    Posted 11 years ago #

    I checked your site and didn't find the offending
    post or your response. But I offer the following

    NO, I do not think you should have posted his IP
    address. Would you like it if someone who didn't
    like something you said decided to post yours?
    Think about it - the statement the "troll" made did
    not include any "dirty" words and was a properly
    composed English declarative sentence used to
    express his opinion. Would you have taken the
    same extreme action against him if he had said,
    "You're all idiots"? Certainly both sentiments
    are argumentative and nasty. But, I would bet
    that you wouldn't have come down as hard on
    the guy if he'd just said you were an idiot. You
    might have even thought he was a relatively
    legitimate visitor with an extreme opinion about
    the game. And you might have "chided" him
    about his attitude and then truly challenged him
    about his opinions on the game - i.e. tried to
    steer him back to the subject at hand.

    Instead, you re-acted to the word "gay", which
    is not a dirty word, and leapt all the way to
    trying to harm him. Harm him? Yes, to get
    others to block him, etc. TO SILENCE HIM.

    So, you've got quite a dillema. You don't want to
    "censor" yet you punished (censored) someone
    who posted something you didn't like. You say
    you know that "challenging" someone is not the
    same as "censoring". Yet, you didn't challenge
    the offensive poster. You censored him, in a
    most extreme and knee-jerk fashion.

    "Challenging" that person would have involved
    asking him why he thought the way he did or telling
    him that you disagreed with his assessment. Or
    maybe even just ignoring the comment and not
    giving him power to pull your strings.

    But choosing to take offense and punishing the
    person was a form of censorship since you are
    the one with the power to EDIT his statement
    (censorship), DELETE his statement (censorship),
    and PUNISH HIM for his statement via banishment
    or publishing his IP address so others can
    potentially hurt him (censorship).

    I close by saying that I understand your dilemma
    and suggest that you just start admitting that you
    WILL censor when YOU want to. And then be
    VERY SPECIFIC about what measures you
    will take if someone posts something YOU find
    offensive (which is your right, in my opinion,
    by the way). I read the disclaimer at the bottom
    of your site where you say censorship is rare but
    will be done for "legal purposes". That sounds a
    lot like a cop-out. Or maybe just an overly
    generalized statement that can be interpreted any
    way you like which makes me very, very nervous.
    I sure won't be reading and/or posting to your
    site with that disclaimer now that I know you will
    go as far as posting IP addresses of those who
    say things you don't like. The disclaimer
    sounds too much like you're saying, "I don't
    censor. But, if I arbitrarily dislike something
    someone says, then I'll do whatever I feel like to
    control/manipulate that person, including publishing
    their IP address so others can help me silence
    (censor) him."

  12. Marc
    Posted 11 years ago #

    All excellent points lmcgaffey.

    Couldn't have said it better than myself. I tend to think someones panties got in a bunch because of the word "gay" also. Another word, a different response.

  13. somefool
    Posted 11 years ago #

    "the fact that a lot of these vague little compliments are really spammers at work."

    true, Ive taken to deleteing any comments which seem suspicious in any way, especially "you are all gay" comments - which clearly dont bring anything to the table.

    Also, dont forget that even a "shut up" response may well incite more unwelcome comments from a troll. Best just delete it, theyll give up soon enough.

  14. abrazell
    Posted 10 years ago #

    Wow...leave the front door open and look at the party I've created. :)

    Thanks for the insights folks. lmcgaffey, do a search for halo 2 and you'll find the entry. "Gay" wasn't the offending word. It was how he was choosing to interact with my readers under the cloak of percieved anonymity that irked me.

  15. Anonymous
    Posted 10 years ago #

    You may be correct I don't hang around boards. But i bet as part of any registration to many if not most boards there is a disclaimer of some sort.

    Shimo Knuddels

    [Moderated - URL removed]

  16. Mark (podz)
    Support Maven
    Posted 10 years ago #

    shimo - quit the link-whoring / spamming okay ?

  17. Anonymous
    Posted 10 years ago #

    okay okay, just checking the possibility ;-)

  18. Mark (podz)
    Support Maven
    Posted 10 years ago #

    It's not possible :)

  19. Anonymous
    Posted 10 years ago #

    what a pity! :>

  20. billsaysthis
    Posted 10 years ago #

    Podz, I find this little back and forth with shimo amusing since this forum's design automatically gives users a link back to their page if one is specified in the profile. Amusing is possibly not quite the right word and I'm not saying this to rebuke you, only to point out that shimo still has two links to his page on this thread (if the one you edited out was to the same).

  21. Mark (podz)
    Support Maven
    Posted 10 years ago #

    Ah .. I shall get that seen to.
    At the point I did what I did, he/she/it had not linked their name.

    Thanks :)

  22. asparagus
    Posted 10 years ago #

    Wow -- like a swimming pool. Deep and shallow this thread is.

    Blogging is new to me, as is Word Press and all of you. Some names I begin to recognize, but I believe everyone has something to teach. The thread began with such a broad declaration "Anyone can write anything as long as it is not spam." Isn't adding the limit 'not spam' the first act of censorship? I hasten to add that it is not a bad idea, even a necessity.

    When the idea of rules was introduced, it raised an excellent point. As the creator of your site, you have a clear idea of what it is, how it should look, what it can do and be. When you adopt the mental model of blog or weblog, you bring with you a mental model of what that means. Those terms are still being defined but a schema of 'netiquette' exists. If you begin with a different mental map of Content Management System, then the onus to make and state rules is clearer.

    Shifting back to the cenorship concept, by having the ability to mark an entry with No Comments is level of a priori censorship. This also is not a bad or evil thing.

    Publishing an IP is bad form IMHO and as someone pointed out, if anyone wants to discover it, ve haf ways.... The notion of anonymity on the Net is illusory, at best. Fostering the illusion may border on unethical. Operating under it is just plain silly.

  23. Forever
    Posted 10 years ago #

    Why don't you think that publishing IP is a bad form? I think that it's good to prevent spamming (when I see on the other messageboard spammer and his ip, I can put it in my black list).

  24. Forever
    Posted 10 years ago #

    ups, I use 'back' in my FF

  25. asparagus
    Posted 10 years ago #

    "Why don't you think that publishing IP is a bad form?" You meant do, I think, from the context. The whole notion of black listing is questionable. Some argue fundamentally flawed. When you see an IP, do you actually check that it is who the posting says it is? Some don't. Is the poster making a justified accusation or is it a squabble over something else?

    Is it the IP to your target or to their host server where others may be hosting and be blocked unintentionally? This once happened with a large hosting company being put on a black list by a spyware blocking group and affected me. I was merrily editing pages but outside the editor I could not view them while the particular blocking software was run and altered my Hosts file effectively censoring a large chunk of the internet for me and anyone who used that software.

    Yes, spamming is bad, wasteful, evil, and a royal pain in the asq, but posting an IP so others will preemptively censor remains bad netiquette in my mind and it invites abuse and misuse as I outlined.

    PS I was testing the spyware blocker at the time, but it still took over a month to rectify and though the toolis better I still wouldn't even mention it by name, let alone recommend it. ;)

  26. Mr_Cynical
    Posted 10 years ago #

    Is IP blocking even effective? I mean even if you have broadband all you have to do is disconnect the DSL modem (not sure if its the same for cable, someone enlighten me) and voila, new IP address.

  27. asparagus
    Posted 10 years ago #

    Also, with some ISPs and a properly configured router an email's IP points to a larger pool of users. The IP to a website is a different matter. If it were effective, spammers and pop-up advertizers would have been out of business long ago.

  28. James Huff
    Volunteer Moderator
    Posted 10 years ago #

    Is IP blocking even effective?

    Keep in mind that most spammers use random IPs. Blocking spammers by their IP does temporarily break up spam floods, but it also increases the chance of blocking legitimate users.

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