We are pleased to announce that Georgina Henry, the Guardian’s executive comment editor and head honcho of CiF, announced today that she has decided to update its talk policy and come clean.
Here’s what Henry had to say [really really important: Georgina, Brian, Exiled and others – before you get your knickers in a twist, please see the note at the bottom of the post]:
OK, so here they are: the updated “community standards and participation guidelines”, aka the talk policy (see below). They were written not by us on Cif but in consultation with our moderators and all those involved in community participation across the site including our good friends Berchmans and LaRit, taking into account the perspectives of community members who share the Guardian World View (aka the GWV) which provides in particular for the denunciation of the State of Israel as the Jewish state.
They comprise 10 guidelines many of which were written to directly answer questions posted on Cif threads.
I hope you’ll agree that the talk policy is clearer and more direct. It boils down to what we’ve always tried to say: help make Cif a welcoming, intelligent place for discussion as long as you subscribe to the GWV; take some responsibility for the quality of this community; don’t be abusive; don’t be offensive; don’t be unpleasant and keep on topic except when it comes to a contributor of a piece that is supportive of the Jewish state or except when it comes to “pro-Israel posters” (many of whom are paid agents or propagandists of the Israeli government).
One new bit is to clarify our approach to comments about us, ie the Guardian and its writers/bloggers – basically, criticism is fine within the confines of the GWV, persistent misrepresentation and smear tactics are not except when it comes to pro-Israel writer/bloggers, pro-Israel posters and our evil-twin CiF Watch.
While there are some on Cif who philosophically object to moderation at all, my sense is that they are in a minority. Most users of the site accept the need for boundaries in the way the conversation is conducted except when it comes to Jewish and Israel-related subjects.
The moderators strive to be as even-handed and consistent as possible when it comes to those that follow the GWV.
Moderators are also human and not infallible. Rather than just crying foul, if it’s clear a mistake has been made, or a comment has come down unnecessarily (and you’ve looked at the talk policy and honestly cannot for the life of you work out why), flag it up to them and they’ll take a look except that if you are pro-Israel poster we’ll just give you the run around. There is now a dedicated email address for you to contact the cif moderators: email@example.com – hint if you don’t subscribe to the GWV don’t bother us.
Another complaint is lack of transparency. I think we do need to be clearer about both the process by which posters who break the talk policy move from deletion to pre-moderation to banning, or about how to complain/appeal if it happens to you and you disagree with the decision.
Posters who keep flouting the talk policy by refusing to subscribe to the GWV will be moved into premoderation. They should take that as a warning that a banning is on the horizon and is a real possibility if they don’t make more effort to respect and adhere to the GWV. They are given several chances to stop being troublesome before they’re banned except that if you’re a pro-Israel poster we reserve the right to arbitrarily ban you for whatever reason we see fit.
Another issue is the unfairness of permanent bannings for long-time posters. We’ve put a bit into the FAQs about that, here’s what it says.
Q: If I’ve been banned, can I come back if I say I’m sorry?
A: A user can be reinstated if the moderation team are confident that he or she understands the cause of their suspension (i.e. failure to subscribe to the GWV), agrees to abide by the site’s community standards in accordance with the GWV and will be able to contribute reasonably and sociably to the conversation in future by praising anti-Israel writers and denouncing “pro-Israel” posters as paid agents or propagandists of the Israeli state.
Finally, a clarification about what our name actually means. As you know, we named this site Comment is free in deference to the Guardian’s legendary editor, CP Scott, whose bearded face stares out at you from our front page badge. It has been claimed by the Zionist apologists that CP Scott was a Zionist. This is simply not true and it is quite Orwellian to suggest otherwise.
As long as we stay within the confines of the GWV, his famous 1921 essay on journalism is still a guiding text for our newspaper. But when he used the phrase “comment is free but facts are sacred”, he was trying to define what he thought the role of comment, or opinion pieces, in newspapers should be.
What he wasn’t doing was making an anti-censorship point about free speech, or an ironic point about free, ie not paid for, content and as long as you subscribe to the GWV all comment is free.
Reading your comments to us on moderation, it’s clear how many of you are here because you enjoy and value the GWV community you’ve created around the content we’re publishing. Leaving aside the question of whether you value the content as much as we do, in the end, this is a shared enterprise: it’s not us against you, or you against us except when it comes to the Jewish people and Israel: it’s us AND you in pursuit of the day that all Jews have assimilated into non-existence and the Jewish state no longer exists.
Community standards and participation guidelines
There are 10 simple guidelines which we expect all participants in the community areas of guardian.co.uk to abide by, all of which directly inform our approach to community moderation. These apply across the site, while moderation decisions are also informed by the context in which comments are made.
1. We welcome debate and dissent provided our authors and posters accept that Israel is the Great Satan and the Jewish state should be denounced at every opportunity; that anyone alleging antisemitism is only trying to suppress this fact; Seamus Milne, Seth Freedman, Berchmans, Ken Livingstone, Hugo Chavez, Imanutjob, Tony Benn and most importantly the Guardian are infallibile; and Obama is a lackey of the Israel lobby so the US cannot be trusted (collectively known as the “Guardian World View” or “GWV” for short). The key to maintaining guardian.co.uk as an inviting space is to focus on intelligent discussion of the GWV.
2. We acknowledge criticism of the articles we publish, but will not allow any criticism of the Guardian and our ‘journalists’ to be published on our website. For the sake of robust debate, we will distinguish between those supportive of the GWV and those that oppose it.
3. We understand that people often feel strongly about issues debated on the site, but in the case of expressing support of Israel (also known as “hasbara”) and crying antisemitism, should you be so rash as to express this, we will consider removing your posts and your posting rights. Please respect the views and beliefs of those who accept the GWV and take the time and trouble to spread it.
4. We reserve the right to redirect or curtail conversations which descend into flame-wars based on opposition to the GWV. We encourage you to praise the GWV as much as possible and we ask you to report to us any comments that seek to refute the GWV.
5. We will not tolerate criticism of the GWV or other forms of comment, or contributions that could be interpreted as such. We recognise the difference between criticising a particular government, organisation, community or belief and attacking the GWV.
6. We will not tolerate racism, sexism, homophobia or other forms of hate-speech, or contributions that could be interpreted as such unless directed in a sufficiently concealed fashion and accords with the GWV. We recognise the difference between criticising a particular government, organisation, community or belief and attacking people on the basis of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation and yet we will apply our own standards whenever we so wish.
6. We will remove any content that may put us in legal jeopardy. Postings defamatory of Jews, Israel or neocons are an exception to this rule since we know that Jews, Israelis and neocons will never threaten to blow up our office.
7. We will remove any posts that are obviously commercial or otherwise spam-like. The exception is posts supporting antisemitic plays – such as Seven Jewish Children – or organisations such as B’Tselem, HRW or the PSC (particularly the Islington branch). Also posts supporting Seth Freedman’s book as he needs to sell the other copy.
8. Keep it relevant. We know that some conversations can be wide-ranging, but if you post something which points out the complete fallacy of a post denigrating Israel or the US it will be deemed “off-topic” and may be removed, in order to keep the thread on track. You will also lose your posting rights or become premoderated (the same thing). We rely on Jewish posters to watch for purported instances of antisemitism as we know they will do it, thus saving us money – which we need to do having taken a bath by betting the wrong way on the dollar/sterling exchange rate.
9. Be aware that you may be misunderstood, so try to be clear about what you are saying, and expect that people may understand your contribution differently than you intended. Remember that text isn’t always a great medium for conversation: tone of voice (sarcasm, humour and so on) doesn’t always come across when using words on a screen. You can help to keep the guardian.co.uk community areas open to all viewpoints by maintaining a constant and running agreement wih the GWV.
10. The platform is ours, but the conversation belongs to everybody who identifies with the GWV. We want this to be a welcoming space for any discussion aligned with the GWV, and we expect participants to help us achieve this by notifying us of potential problems and helping each other to keep conversations on track and appropriately fawning. If you spot something problematic in community interaction areas, please report it. If it is about Israel then we will take it as support for the problematic comment.