Moderating Trolls ≠ Censorship

As many would know, Pirate Parties are about stealing stuff, right? That’s all we’re for. We want to rip the artists and film makers off and throw them in the gutter. We’re anti-culture. We’re nerds. And the future we aim for is a bleak world filled with zeros and ones and sterile electronic music, just like you see in the films of the writers, directors and actors we’re putting out of business. We want to stop the film, television, publishing and music industries getting all their lost money back by suing teenagers and their families for downloading songs. How dare we? We actually want to allow students to share textbooks with each other so they can afford to live on something other than two minute noodles. It’s stealing that we want to legalise at the expense of the publishing companies.

Of course, Pirate Parties are also about a couple of other things. We want to rip pharmaceutical companies off by forcing them to price medicines affordably so that poor people can afford them. The plan is to make the pharmaceutical company employees just as poor as the starving people in the third world. What’s even worse is that we want to allow generic pharmaceutical companies to distribute cheap drugs to AIDS sufferers. Why the hell would we want to allow cheap medicine to dying people when pharmaceutical companies are losing money?

Oh and privacy. We’re foolish to believe that we should have our privacy protected. Of course I should show my privates to anyone who asks to see them. Of course the police should be able to examine my Internet history without warrant. Why am I being so unreasonable? I should just hand over the keys to my life and let it be dragged out into the open.

But of course, while we lose our privacy, the Government should be able to keep their activities hidden! Only madmen would propose that the Government be accountable to their electorate. We must be crazy to suggest we actually see treaty negotiation drafts before treaties are signed. This is not how democracy works! Democracy occurs in secret! Just vote every few years and keep being fed the same shit.

</sarcasm>

So, with all that out of the way, I will move on to the purpose of this post, which is to discuss another vital element of the Pirate Party platform – censorship.

Censorship has a pretty obvious meaning to most. It’s the filtering out of ideas that someone does not approve of. However, censorship should not be confused with the moderating of trolls. To adapt Rick Falkvinge’s Troll policy:

I place a very high value on…open and honest discussion.

Unfortunately, I have also learned that there are individuals who are motivated by sabotaging the discussions and grabbing all attention for themselves by…provoking me. While this kind of indiviudal fits badly into my ideal image of the human philosopher hungry for the exchange of ideas, part of the charm with humanity is that all people are different, and motivated by different things and aspects of life. Nothing is wrong or right, there is just natural variation.

However, this is my blog…I invite people to be guests here in order to discuss ideas, concepts and aspects of information policy. That’s the topic of the party. When people are guests on my blog, I expect people to behave like guests in my house. I am entertaining a fruitful exchange of ideas with large amounts of hospitality in return. However, I also expect guests to honor that hospitality.

People who are rude to other guests at the party, or to me personally, will have this fact pointed out to them and asked to be friendly, once. If they continue to violate my hospitality, I will show them the way out so they will not ruin the party and discussion for all the other guests.

This does not mean that disagreement is bad. Quite to the contrary! Countering an opinion with reports saying the opposite stimulates discussion and the fostering of a sustainable, sensible information policy. But disagreeing rudely is another matter. The keyword is “rudely”, not “disagreeing”.

But the question that needs to be answered is “what is a troll?” So I shall define a troll for my own purposes as anything that includes either of the following in more than two comments:

  • Garbled nonsense that attacks me or someone else without any attempt at coherency; or
  • Logical fallacies, particularly:-
    • Strawman: misrepresenting someone’s argument to make it easier to attack. By exaggerating, misrepresenting, or just completely fabricating someone’s argument, it’s much easier to present your own position as being reasonable or valid, but this kind of dishonesty serves to undermine rational debate.
    • Black or white: where two alternative states are presented as the only possibilities, when in fact more possibilities exist. Also known as the false dilemma, this insidious tactic has the appearance of forming a logical argument, but under closer scrutiny it becomes evident that there are more possibilities than the either/or choice that is presented. A circular argument in which the conclusion is included in the premise.
    • False cause: Presuming that a real or perceived relationship between things means that one is the cause of the other. Many people confuse correlation (things happening together or in sequence) for causation (that one thing actually causes the other to happen). Sometimes correlation is coincidental, or it may be attributable to a common cause.
    • Ad hominem: Attacking your opponent’s character or personal traits instead of engaging with their argument. Ad hominem attacks can take the form of overtly attacking somebody, or more subtly casting doubt on their character. The result of an ad hominem attack can be to undermine someone without actually having to engage with their argument. Avoiding having to engage with criticism by turning it back on the accuser – answering criticism with criticism.

Is this censorship? Not that I can see. By moderating this sort of nonsense, I am not preventing you from starting your own outlet to criticise what I say.

If someone argues with you and repeatedly misrepresents your argument, what is the point in continuing the discussion? Is it worthwhile? No. If they then turn and make remarks about you in an attempt to divert attention away from your valid points, then moderate away. The power of the Internet, as I have discussed before, is that everyone has the opportunity to put forward opinions.

This is the space I have staked out and paid for, respect it and me. Moderating comments from people who choose to distort my words is a reasonable reaction.

Oh, and before I forget: to whoever linked to my résumé on Delimiter, cheers for the free advertising! I plan to write a full article on the peculiar relationships between the various Pirate Parties soon.

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Author: Mozart Olbrycht-Palmer

Pirate Party Australia Deputy Secretary and Press Officer. Former member of the Pirate Parties International Court of Arbitration.

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