The managing editors provided considerable input into conceiving and writing this, but I take responsibility for the final draft.
At the bottom of every article, diary and poll on OEN, the following rules are clearly stated:
These discussions are not moderated. We rely on users to police themselves, and flag inappropriate comments and behavior. In accordance with our Guidelines and Policies, we reserve the right to remove any post at any time for any reason, and will restrict access of registered users who repeatedly violate our terms.
- OpEdNews welcomes lively, CIVIL discourse. Personal attacks and/or hate speech are not tolerated and may result in banning.
- Comments should relate to the content above. Irrelevant, off-topic comments are a distraction, and will be removed.
- By submitting this comment, you agree to all OpEdNews rules, guidelines and policies.
Those rules have been on the site for months.
But these rules were being ignored by a group of members who used the comment sections of articles indiscriminately to sell their message, insult people who didn't agree or even who failed to emphasize what they considered important, and to organize their loosely held group, COTO (church or coalition of the obvious, depending on who you ask).
After repeated complaints from other members, and extended and lengthy discussions among the managing editors, policy decisions were reached, to begin more strictly enforcing the above rules.
Rady Ananda, one of our senior editors, had identified herself as a member of COTO. I emailed Rady, asking her to call me to discuss the new rules.
She refused my request to speak, insisting I only communicate with her in writing. Responding with the support of the managing editors, her access to the site was temporarily suspended until the issue could be discussed and resolved.
I again informed Rady that I needed to speak directly to her, and made it clear that email was not acceptable. She email replied that she would not speak to me ever again. Still, I offered her the opportunity to speak to one of the managing editors, that if she did, we could reinstate her. She responded that she would not speak with ANY senior editorial team member and would only communicate in writing. This created an impasse as open communication among editors is imperative in order to function as a team. This and other factors led to her losing access to the site control panels. That decision has since been justified, in the opinion of the managing editor team.
Rady and others have accused OEN of censorship, of not allowing criticism of Obama. This can be easily disproven by simply looking at articles we have HEADLINED in recent weeks and months. A number of those accusers were banned because they, after being repeatedly warned, violated the above-mentioned commenting policies which appear on every comment submission page.
It's been said I sold out to... some company or someone. Not true. Lies.
It's been said Rady was banned to silence her. Not true. She brought it on herself by her refusal to function as part of the editorial team, because she REFUSED to speak.
The others who have been banned posted irrelevant comments, often promoting COTO, on articles. These articles have authors who care about what is said in response to them. When coto diaries have been published, they have been allowed to stand and commenters have been allowed to comment, unless other rules were violated.
Some say this has been a purge. So be it. But it has not been about censorship. It has been about civility and maintaining reasonable rules that support an activist, progressive community.
We were saddened by the extreme position Rady took. She has been a valuable supporter and volunteer contributor to the site and she will be missed.
We have banned less than 10 people at this point, since the policy decision was reached. The most visible and active of them have written filthy emails to me, calling me "rat f*ck," gestapo pig," Jew f*ck bastard, and chickenshit coward."
They think they are martyrs, banned for their ideas. But we will continue to publish pretty much all the ideas they espouse. The reason they were banned is because, after repeated warnings, they were unable to communicate in a civil manner and unwilling to follow simple rules about spamming.
OEN will continue to be a tough progressive media and opinion site. Being tough includes not being bullied by a handful of people who refuse to follow basic rules aimed at supporting community and cooperation. We feel that we can better serve the progressive vision and action by taking a tougher stand that maintains a community where people and writers have a safe place to write and share ideas. That doesn't mean we're going to lose our edge. It means we will stay focused.
We have no problem with comments and articles criticizing Obama, Democrats, or anyone else. We publish them every day. But our policy to enforce our comment rules is firmly in place and violations will lead to banning. We have over 30,000 registered members now. We've banned less than 10 people over these rules in the past week. For the vast majority of the members, this is a good thing and we have received positive feedback at least five to one.
Just to be clear, this diary has been created with the intention to allow comments about the policy decisions. It is not a place to announce COTO plans or communications. It IS a place to express your opinion about things. It is not an excuse to engage in personal attacks or name calling.
We've been publishing OEN for over six years and we've gone through changes and growth through that time. I see this series of events as part of the continuation of the growth and evolution of the site. You have to make conscious choices about where you are going. Hopefully, you'll continue as part of the community. I think we have an exciting ride in front of us and a lot of work to do, holding all the members of congress and the white house's feet to the fire. We think we can be more effective doing it without disrespect and intolerance aimed at each other.