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Town Square Selective Moderating?

Original post made by delete-happy moderators?, Barron Park, on Sep 5, 2006

Just wondering why the moderator of this forum selectively deletes posts?

Some of these posts are getting deleted that are not offensive in any which way.

For example, in the hummer thread someone replied saying it would cost just as much to fly to europe bleh bleh...that was offensive somehow.


the 'banning pit bull' thread went on and on with extremely rude and personal insults/comments yet it was only closed after 425 comments.

I guess "we are the sole judge of whether the content you post meets these Terms of Use" really means "If we don't agree with you, you get deleted"

the point of Town Square is to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing commmunity information and opinion.

see the last word in that sentence?

it doesn't matter, it will just get deleted :)

Comments (18)

Posted by J.L.
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 5, 2006 at 1:27 pm

It's not about one's opinion, it's how one expresses that opinion. Moderating is done by a human being, who is fallible. Sure, sometimes he goes overboard, and sometimes he waits to long, but overall the forums are well moderated.

Being a moderator is like being a referee in a boxing match, or a basketball game. Sometimes it's hard to make certain calls, but generally they do a good job because they're OUTSIDE the heat of the action.

Posters are usually focused only on their opinion, and thus often have a limited perspective of how their post contributes to or subtracts from the general tenor of the discussion.

Try posting what you posted before, but word it differently. :)

Posted by Bill Johnson
publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Sep 5, 2006 at 1:52 pm

Bill Johnson is a registered user.

Sorry you object to our decision-making regarding inappropriate posts. If posters stick with posting their opinions and not characterize others, there will be no problem. There is plenty of evidence to show that we don't make deletions based on the opinion expressed...virtually every controversial topic has lots of conflicting viewpoints being expressed. This includes posts that are critical of articles in the Palo Alto Weekly.
We also will delete posts we deem to lower the quality of the discussion by trivializing the views of others or that are links to sites or images that undermine an intelligent dialogue.
The specific post you reference described Europeans as "losers." Other deleted posts on that topic included a link to a cartoon image of the world that was tasteless.
JL above is right: if we delete something you've posted, re-word the post and try it again.
Thanks for expressing your concerns about our monitoring. We're doing the best we can.

Posted by Graham
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 5, 2006 at 2:20 pm

I noticed on the "Ban Diana Diamond" discussion thread that, for example, Doug Moran is allowed to post any kind of criticism he wants. However anyone post criticizing Moran is quickly removed.
Basically Bill Johnson considers anything that he does not want to hear as "lowering the quality of the discussion".
What is lowering the quality of the discussion in this city is these attempts at censoring free speech--whether it is the mayor turning over e-mails she does not like to the police or the publisher of the PA Weekly deleting posts he personally does not like.

Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 5, 2006 at 5:29 pm

Actually both local papers are p****cats compared to the Murky Turkey where only one pro nuclear power letter was posted in 15 years. Of course then the Turkey was gatekeeper as opposed to today when they are just one voice in the chorus. It must pain them. Good.

Posted by Bill Johnson
publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Sep 5, 2006 at 5:44 pm

Bill Johnson is a registered user.


Just so you are aware, we removed a portion of Doug Moran's posting earlier today for violating our policies. Believe me, if we deleted anything that I personally didn't like that has been posted on Town Square, there would be a lot missing from this forum!

Posted by Graham
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 6, 2006 at 7:54 am

That portion of the post was online for a few days before you censored it--any criticims of Moran and the incident with the neighbor in Barron Park were removed rather quickly.
Seems to me that part of your agenda is to protect Doug Moran.

Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 6, 2006 at 10:08 am

Did you see that the naughty-word filter censored the word "pussycat?" I noticed that, a few weeks ago, somebody deleted an entire message of mine simply because it contained a link to a item.

Generaly they do a good job, but I think they need to dial it back just a bit to avoid losing credibility here.

Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 6, 2006 at 10:09 am

I stand corrected. I guess that, strangely enough, Walter E. Wallis censored himself.

Posted by Carlos
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 6, 2006 at 11:56 am

Just when a particular forum began to get interesting the moderator "locks" the good ones. I really don't understand who or what the moderator is trying to protect by doing this. I must admit that I kept coming back time and again to see what those half dozen or so self rightious idiots were posting in ever more serious tones. It wasn't all that threatening, it ultimately just made the authors look more and more foolish. Come on, bring back the Home Depot at Sears San Antonio site slugfest (37 comments) and my personal favorite; Time to ban pit bulls (392 comments)!

Posted by Graham
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 6, 2006 at 1:43 pm

Well, there definitely is selctive moderating, 3 recent posts on the "Ban Diana Diamond" blog, including one by me, were deleted within a short time.
Suffice it to say that two of them discussed a certain community member and a certain incident that occured with said community member. My post was saying that I wondered how long the post would last.
Certain people are allowed to say whatever they want (i.e. see posts by said community member on the Ban Diana Diamond blog, also see posts by Jag Singh) while others are censored by the PA Weekly staff.

Posted by hah
a resident of another community
on Sep 6, 2006 at 3:15 pm

surprised this thread didn't get deleted either!

Posted by KH
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 7, 2006 at 1:34 pm

My comments were deleted from the "Time to Ban Ms Diamond" thread.

They related to an incident involving one of the posters on that thread who attacked Diamond. Somebody who doesn't live in our neighborhood might take the comments of that poster seriously unless they knew more about him. So to provide the rest of the story, I simply put up a link to an April 22, 2005 article in the Weekly.

The post consisted of only a web link to a Weekly story, nothing else. No commentary on my part.

This simple web link was deleted from Palo Alto Online because it was, in Johnson's opinion, a personal attack.

How could the words that Johnson had published a year ago now be considered a personal attack?

I'm sure Johnson believes in presenting both sides of a controversy in a story, so how could a story from his own paper possibly be an unfair personal attack?

And if personal attacks are forbidden, then why did Johnson allow an entire thread headlined "Time to Ban Ms. Diamond" to remain in Palo Alto Online?

Johnson's decisions to ban certain postings provide an insight into how he edits his newspaper.

Posted by R.S.
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 9, 2006 at 2:32 pm

The posts that get deleted are those that make favorable mentions of other media that compete with the Weekly. It has nothing to do with personal attacks, or else many other postings on PaloAltoOnline would have been eliminated.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Sep 14, 2006 at 12:55 pm

It's well known that the Weekly will not print critical letters of itself. I would imagine that policy now has been extended to this forum.

Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 15, 2006 at 9:33 am

I thoought that they were doing a pretty good job here until they removed a very minor personal attack (against me) and my low-key reply from the "noisy restaurant" thread.

Moderating forums is not an exact science, but they're starting to cross the line here into a moderation style that will discourage posts. And that can be fatal to a discussion area.

Posted by kyle
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2006 at 2:13 am

Wonder how long it takes before this string disappears?

Posted by Patrick
a resident of University South
on Oct 4, 2006 at 1:36 am

An entire string was removed from this forum over the weekend because another newspaper (I better not name which one) was mentioned in a discussion. There were no personal attacks from what I saw. I think the Weekly's unwritten policy of banning the mention of that other local paper should be put in writing.

Posted by WH
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 4, 2006 at 10:17 am

The Weekly has a well known policy of not printing letters critical of its stories or editorials. They must be thinking that since they've gotten away with that, they can stop people from mentioning other newspapers too. I always get a chuckle when I see the Weekly editorialize about ethics.

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