We're about to go live with a new innovation that we think is important to keep our site a place where courteous, intelligent civil discourse is maintained. We're proud that we can claim that to our knowledge there is no high traffic (top 6000 sites in USA according to Alexa.com, top 500 blog sites according to technorati) where as wide a range of discussion on issues is allowed. Many sites ban discussion of some of the topics we allow or only allow one-sided discussion and advocacy.
We call the new innovation our "Think Twice" system. It uses software we've custom designed to detect the use of words we add to a control panel, then delivers a message to the content submitter. The message has two parts-- one specific to the word and the other describing the category of word. We've identified three categories of words to be detected by the "Think Twice" system, listed immediately below, and explained in detail further below.
-Hurtful, Offensive and Hate
When a person submits content (article, diary, comment, quicklink) the "Think Twice" system will, when the writer previews the writing, present a screen that lists the word or words, the explanation of our concerns and suggestions, with a button to return to revise the article or proceed to the next step to publish it. There will be no censorship.
We will track the use of this language. Currently we will do nothing with the tracking except look for patterns. If a member uses the same words and language very often, we'll be able to easily see. Is the person a thread hijacker, bringing up issues that are not really relevant... often?
We may decide to post a warning icon on comments, below the user name, signifying the category of word that is in the comment (remember, comments are not moderated before coming live on the site.) This is a way to protect readers, let's say, who don't want to encounter foul language. But that function is NOT currently up and running.
This whole project started after a passionate discussion on banning the words zionist, zionism, islamicist and islamicism, here Banning some words HERE on This Website.
That led me to realize just how wide a range of discussion we allow, and how rare it is. For example, I was speaking with a widely respected leader of a local peace group and he told me that one of the reasons they'd been able to stay in existence for over 26 years was they do not allow discussion of the middle east. He explained that this was a policy that higher ups above the local level instituted as policy.
The Middle East is a very difficult, challenging area for conversation and it is often abused as a vehicle for bigots and members of hate groups to express veiled hate.
Here at OpEdNews.com we welcome discussion by advocates for and supporters of both the Palestinians and Palestine and Israelis and Israel. But we require that it be civil, meet the basic rules of netiquette and never engage in hate.
This project is an experiment-- an attempt to raise consciousness and awareness using the technology we have available to us, and to let haters know we are keeping an eye on them. If your intention is serious, sincere, well intended advocacy or just creative discussion of issues, your participation, your contribution of content is welcome and encouraged and we hope you'll see the "Think Twice" system as a handy reminder that helps you write more effectively and considerately. If you find it intrusive, consider that there are, to the best of our knowledge, no other sites on the web where such a wide range of discussion of issues is allowed. This system is part of what enables us to make it possible.
First, here are the three word categories we've identified and the message content submitters get when using them:
Languaged Words You've used a "Languaged word."
"Languaged words" are words that certain groups have sort of taken ownership of, expending much effort in imbuing upon those words overlying meaning, often creating a reflex reaction to the words. For example, "death tax" is a phrase that right wingers use instead of the more neutral inheritance tax. Another example is "iraq war" which is a phrase that the war and occupancy opponents believe is better characterized as the "Iraq occupancy."
This note is just a suggestion that you think twice about your use of this word and consider using alternative wording. But the choice is yours. You make the final decision.
Foul Language -You've used a word that we consider "foul language." We suggest and request that you consider using other language. There are times when foul language is the best way to express an idea. But we've found that over-used, it lowers the discourse and professionalism of the conversation, the community and the website. Very often, writers regret the use of the foul language later. Also, there are some readers who do NOT ever use foul language and they find its use offensive. Many in this category will just stop reading your article. If your goal is to communicate, then for them, you have failed, even though they might otherwise find your message valuable. This is just a suggestion. The final decision is yours. View Modify
Hurtful, Offensive and Hate -You've used a word that we feel is often abused, used as a foil to hide hate and bigotry, or inappropriately used, often causing hurt and communicating bigotry or hate. We encourage you to be very careful in your use of this word and, preferably, to use an alternate word, particularly if you are not certain that your use is precise and clear, not potentially labeling with too broad a stroke.
It may be that your use of the word is totally appropriate. This message is an automated software function aimed to get our content contributors to be more conscious of their use of words. That's why we call it "THINK TWICE."
The final decision of whether you use the word or not is up to you.