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New Rules for Town Square

Original post made by stephen levy, University South, on Jun 13, 2009

I just read Paul Losch's Holocaust post and what followed.

I propose a trial period for Town Square editors where they simply delete any unsigned (full name) post that trashes public employees, city council members, the President or another poster.

Personally I am sick of the hijacking of this medium by repetitious hate filled comments by people too gutless to sign their name.

I am fully aware of the arguments pro and con about free speech and the relationship or not between hate speech and violence.

Editors, try it for a month and let's see what happens.

Comments (7)

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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Palo Alto
on Jun 14, 2009 at 9:22 am

Paul Losch is a registered user.


Thanks for the comment and the mutual support.

This forum attracts certain people, and that is what it is.

The "gate keepers" on PA On Line face challenges as this forum evolves.

What I find offensive is a set of individuals who choose to use any topic as a basis to bring up a point of view around other issues that at best are tangentially related to the topic at hand. And then go on and on with points that the posters have made in prior missives elsewhere.

I am glad to be a contributing "blogger," it is a work in process, but the experience thus far has been mixed.

I hope that those reading your blogs and mine see value in what we are doing.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2009 at 10:24 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I have been opining under my name for years, with only one adverse reaction when EarthFIRST broke a bottle of crankcase drainings in my driveway after I commented negatively on Campbell's assertion of the public's right to a visual easement when looking seaward. I previously wrote some under "Gene 6-pack" [I am ashamed of that] and "Inspire 28", my phone number in Korea. I was once subject to a serial assault of words, but no broken bones, so I remain,

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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 14, 2009 at 11:32 am

svatoid is a registered user.

the editors of this forum have taken enough steps to control some of the more ridiculous postings--previously people could post under different identities from the same computer--that has been eliminated. They also do a pretty good job of editing offensive and defamatory postings.
I do not think that the editors need to protect public employees, city council members, the President or another poster from criticism. If they are being seriously "trashed" the editor steps in and takes care of it. There are understandable reasons why people post anonymously. That is both the good and the bad of online forums.
For the holocaust shooting thread, I think the editors did a good job cleaning it up. And I think they should continue in that vein when threads go off topic and serve as a forum for bashing something unrelated to the topic. In addition certain threads are limited to signed in members.
BTW, Stephen, IMHO our city council deserves all the criticism they get on this forum.
I say keep things as they are

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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jun 14, 2009 at 11:57 am

stephen levy is a registered user.


I agree that drawing the line is tough and that criticism is appropriate.

One that bothers me is calling people corrupt annonymously with no evidence whatsoever.

There is a big difference in my mind between criticizing behavior or decisions and implying unethical behavior or self interest without any proof.

IS IMHO "in my humble opinion"? I am not up on all the abbreviations these days.

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Posted by Bill Glazier
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 14, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Bill Glazier is a registered user.

Anonymity has destroyed the usefulness of these forums. Town Square Forums have been regretfully hijacked by anonymous posters with political and other social agendas. The overwhelming majority of the topics and comments have to do with political agendas, and posters make statements they would never make in a public forum where their name, address, and occupation was identified. I do not believe allowing someone to be "registered" under a anonymous pseudonym has any measuring impact on a postings. Sharon and Perspective's postings - whether registered or unregistered - are the same content-wise and are both equally anonymous.

The Weekly wants this to be a 'thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion'. It is sad to say that it is far from this. It has been hijacked by people unwilling to identify themselves (Walter E Wallis the unique exception) who choose to dominate the creation of new Topics and try and steer every conversation back to their political philosophy.

There are the regular cast of characters who choose to bash Obama and anything perceived to be liberal in character. But there are also the less frequent anonyomus posters who abuse the cloak of anonymity to bash another person or institution at no cost to their own personal reputation, if they choose to play wild and fast with the truth.

It makes these Forums close to worthless to read. The potential for this Forum is extraordinary, but the reality is the bad actors are driving away the rest of us. Just like bad money drives good money quickly out of circulation. The bad actors demand the freedom to remain anonymous, and bridle about the threat and reality of censorship, but demand to monopolize the majority of these conversations.

Among the possible solutions:

1) Require every poster to be registered and personally identified, with name and address.
2) Limit the number of posts per day from any single non-registered poster to some small number. I respect the occasional need for anonymity, but no one needs to post anonymously 20+ times per day.
3) Limit the number of topics created by any registered user, and/or moderate the creation of new topics to eliminate the obviously biased topics.
4) Create a rating systems for posters, where readers can judge and express their opinion of the credibility/reputation of a given registered poster.
5) Shut this current experiment down, and acknowledge that in its current form, it is a negative contributor to community building and information sharing.

I find it very frustrating that such a great communications vehicle has so quickly evolved in a short time to such a dysfunctional state. This is not unique to PA Online, as we all know. I think the heart of it here is the anonymity. It allows irresponsible and domineering behavior at no personal cost or consequence. Anyone who in a work, school or social situation attempted to monopolize conversation to this degree and steer every issue back to a political agenda would quickly be marginalized and/or booted from the group.

And the beauty of this post is that I thought carefully of what I said here, because I know my name will be associated with this post 50 years from now if someone does a Google Search on it...

Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 14, 2009 at 1:05 pm

svatoid is a registered user.

Stephen--yes "IMHO" is in my humble opinion

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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Jun 17, 2009 at 5:51 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.


Thanks for clarifying that registering allows one to stay anonymous. And I think everyone knows by now that the Weekly editors are the only ones who control the deletion or editing of posts.

Some posters earlier were saying that the registration process was onerous. The Weekly website says registering is very simple.

What was your experience with the registration process?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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