BoingBoing goes censorship crazy again!

So BoingBoing (you’ll recall I got banned ages ago), a site which regularly criticizes other sites, corporations, and entities for censorship and abuses of free speech and other basic human rights, once again fell victim to its all-too-common hypocritical nature and went censorship crazy on its users when they dared disagree with a post’s rather politically-extremist content. As much as BoingBoing paints itself as an ethical player and a promoter of cyber-rights, they have a long history of heavy handed moderation and abuse of commentors who disagree with them. Sometimes this takes the form of simply silencing single posters, or posting snide and insulting responses (while killing the person’s ability to reply), but when the overwhelming opinion of the readership disagrees, they outright kill comments altogether. Many have left the site due to what they see as a cowardly and fascistic unethical “do as I say not as I do” modus operandi.

Anyway, today’s “problem” post (made by Cory) was “Little boy talks to Michelle Bachman about his gay mom” which contains this video of a shy little eight year old boy very quietly telling Michelle Bachman, after much prompting from his mom, that “My mommy’s gay but she doesn’t need fixing”. The overwhelming response from viewers both on BoingBoing and around the net, even those who completely agreed with the sentiment, was that using children as a political weapon is reprehensible.

Obviously I am 100% pro-gay rights and pretty much 100% anti-Bachman. That said, I think using an eight year old to advocate for your sex/love life is extremely dangerous to their psyche — it’s analogous to the damage that can be done to a child that’s been caught in a divorce. It’s doubly dangerous when the child is being asked to share or shoulder the burden of the parent’s pain. It’s wrong how American society treats gay people. Gay people know this better than anyone — and I’d have thought that this would make them understand how important it is to protect their child from all this pain. Willingly making a child feel like their family are unwanted outsiders is extremely troubling. Worse yet, it plays into the hands of hateful fools like Bachman who will use this as ammunition against gay parents — “see, they even drag their children into their sex lives!”

And that doesn’t even begin to consider the collateral damage that can occur from the posting of the video, which as I write this has been viewed approaching three million times. The kid is a celebrity of the moment — a celebrity that many people will have extremely negative attitudes about. Why put a kid in that position willingly? And what if the immediate situation had become hostile? What if people in the crowd had started screaming at the mother or worse? Why put a kid in the middle of that? It’s terrible parenting in my opinion.

Now, some people are saying “it was the kid’s choice!” I don’t doubt that if Bachman made some “gay people have a sickness that needs curing” that the child would have disagreed if they’ve spent their life being taught that there’s nothing wrong with homosexuality — which there isn’t of course. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to turn the child into a political weapon at the rally let alone in front of the whole world via YouTube. Nor does the fact that the child has healthy views about sexual orientation mean that they should be brought into an environment that’s so negative toward his family and his sense of security and home. He’s already going to have stresses that so-called “normal” family children do not. Why many it harder for him?

Anyway, none of that is really my point for this post. I’m not trying to argue about whether the end justifies the means. Is it acceptable to put a child at risk to make the world a better place? Maybe, I don’t know where that line should be drawn. But I do know that IT SHOULD BE DISCUSSED! My point and revelation in this post is that when people expressed this view — completely politely I might add — BoingBoing chose to censor it. At first I thought it was a technical glitch because it seemed so outlandish that BoingBoing would get worked up about people taking what I assume is the “obvious” response, but then it became clear that it actually was another censor party. Now the entry is completely devoid of comments and none may be added. Incidentally the YouTube video was similarly stripped of comments. Shame on everyone involved. And double shame for doing it silently, without commentary. I think that’s what makes BoingBoing’s incessant censorship especially dangerous — the fact that they go out of their way to hide it and pretend it doesn’t happen.

I did however take a screen cap of the whole thing before Ken Snider (it is hard to not sink to their childish level and comment on his unfortunate avatar) or whoever was in charge of BoingBoing’s censorship team managed to kill it off — although if it is Ken, I wonder if Cory et al tolerate this embarrassment simply because they’re afraid to bite the hand that feeds him since as far as I know he’s in charge of making them their all-important advertising revenues. But hahahaha on you, wannabe censor king, you were too slow! If anyone wants to see what was so incredibly offensive that BoingBoing thought that they should stop the world from seeing it, click the picture above. Be warned that it’s a giant one meg 1050×12158 pixel image that may well crash your browser. Sorry about that if it does.

I used to really enjoy and even “look up to” BoingBoing so it really made me sad when I realized that the emperor wore no clothes.

Update: I just noticed that since writing this BoingBoing has banned my name from posting new comments to BoingBoing. So…. in addition to all of the above, it seems that BB’s policy is that if you say something critical about their policies on another site, they ban you whether or not you’ve been a problem commenter on their site. I guess that’s what you call a “preemptive strike” in the censorship world.


  1. Shannon wrote:

    Fascinating — I’ve just revisited the page, and it was originally 52 comments, then it was 0, and now it’s up to 14… So instead of an all-out censorship, they have done something even worse. They’ve EDITED THE CONVERSATION STREAM in order to present a false view of what actually happened.

    Trying to change history is even worse than not talking about it at all I think.

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Permalink
  2. Shannon, you’re adorable!

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Permalink
  3. Shannon wrote:

    And I won’t delete your comment even if you say the opposite.

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Permalink
  4. Shannon wrote:

    Ah, Rob, I see you (or someone there) has decided to block my account from being able to post at BoingBoing.

    So… say something critical of BoingBoing on another site, and you get banned from posting on BoingBoing? Is that really how it works there?

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Permalink
  5. AVDisco wrote:

    Love your blog.
    I had heard of this story before and felt similarly about it. After reading your entry about this site, I was curious and went to the page and see that comments are closed with the 14 being the only responses to remain.
    Thanks for writing this – I won’t waste my time on this website. I like Reddit, anyway. XD

    Friday, December 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Permalink
  6. “BoingBoing (you’ll recall I got banned ages ago), a site which regularly criticizes other sites, corporations, and entities for censorship and abuses of free speech and other basic human rights, once again fell victim to its all-too-common hypocritical nature and went censorship crazy on its users”

    It’s true that in a trivial sense of the word, our moderators censored your comments—from our website. But you have your own website, and we are not censoring you here. Our disinclination to publish your submissions at our website is not quite the same thing as what you equate it with here — stories about campus cops macing kids in the face in public, being murdered in one’s bed by the Syrian secret service, etc.

    It’s also true that we are all hypocrites, now and again, being human and frail. But refusing to publish you is not hypocrisy, because we’ve always been picky about what stays up. I admire your stated goal of publishing all submissions to Zentastic, but Boing Boing is moderated.

    As you can see, the top comments remaining in the thread are largely in agreement with your position. So the idea that it’s all got something to do with disagreeing with the editors is silly.

    I don’t actually know specifically what you got booted, because our moderators operate autonomously and don’t file reports. It’s entirely possible that you were canned without much thought, by someone who has not the slightest idea who you are. My guess is that they found your postings liable to encourage hostile responses and just deleted them and any subsequent threads en masse.

    Looking at the Disqus dashboard, I see that the comments that were deleted in that thread followed a theme: concern hype about the child’s wellbeing; speculation about long-established comment policies; and people accusing Boing Boing of being under the nefarious control of our part-time system administrator, Ken Snider.

    We just don’t want to publish that sort of thing. Never did, never will.

    Post it here. If you want to publish at Boing Boing, which you clearly do, you have to post less flamebait and less crazy talk about the help.

    P.S. Our comment system, Disqus, was having problems last week (and continues to). obviously canned many comments in that thread. BB editors aren’t a collective, but generally don’t care much about comment moderation. This is because we have moderators to care about it for us, and we trust them.

    P.S.S. The big picture deal is that we see Boing Boing as a publication by us, not a platform for others. I’m sure an argument could be made that the presence of comments establishes an implicit social contract otherwise, and that’s an interesting debate. Regardless, our stance may at least explain why most of us don’t care when people accuse us of hypocrisy or censorship.

    Sunday, December 11, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Permalink
  7. Shannon wrote:

    Rob, I didn’t create any “flamebait”. Remember, the conversation is here for anyone to read so it’s difficult to misrepresent it. Initially I posted telling people to calm down and not jump to conclusions because it seemed so crazy that BoingBoing would actually censor reasonable discussion — although that did end up being the case. And my comments in that thread, while deleted, had no effect on the status of my account. I was still able to post on other threads afterwards. My account wasn’t banned until quite some time after that discussion — I have to assume that it was this posting that got me banned. There’s no other reasonable assumption. It was banned shortly after you commented here. It’s difficult for me to believe that it was anything other than retribution for off-site comments, rather than on-site behavior. The thread is here in its entirety before the moderators axed it. You can see I was not a troublestarter, nor did I have an atypical or extreme response.

    It’s a little disturbing to me that your moderators operate without any transparency or oversight. I know you admit to hypocrisy, but still, I find it a little disturbing that BB spends so much time calling — rightly so — for transparency and ethical behavior in others, yet seems to feel absolutely no need to hold itself to those standards. Corey at least has always presented himself as a bastion of modern progressive ethics — I would hate to find out this his views are cynically just “for the paycheck” and he doesn’t actually believe any of what he says.

    I also don’t think it’s fair to say that the vast number of on-topic comments deleted were “concern hype”. As someone who is both a parent and a political activist — and has solid credentials in each and I think the right to speak with some degree of “expert status” — I think when a video is posted showcasing a highly controversial method of activism that it’s not unreasonable to discuss that. I think you’ll see that most people agreed with the message, but not the means, that the woman in the video took.

    As to the rest of the “don’t want to publish, never, never” stuff, the only reason that any of the speculation about moderation policy was there in the first place was because of political extremism acting out on the part of the comment moderators. When large numbers of comments espousing a certain viewpoint get deleted you have to expect people to notice!!! Don’t turn it around and blame your readers for wondering why their comments were disappearing — this was wholly the fault of your moderators for being so sneaky about it. Personally, if I was BB, I would be extremely pissed off at the moderators. It’s one thing when Antinous posts his rather far-out views and slags commentors — at least he has the balls to do it publicly and with his name attached, which I can respect — but a completely different matter when the moderators abuse their power by selectively censoring based on political views that are in this case way out of the mainstream from BB’s readership. That demands transparency. That demands an explanation as to what’s happening and why. It’s wrong for it to happen the way it did, and I sure hope that behind closed doors they’re not getting the pat on the back that you seem to be giving them here. This whole episode reflects very poorly on the site.

    And again, the issue isn’t BB’s political take on the use of children as political pawns and when that is and is not appropriate (for example, I’d say in this case, it’s not appropriate, but in the other recently posted case of the police ripping up the paper hearts, it IS appropriate). The issue is the censorship and subsequent “editing” of the conversation thread to attempt to misrepresent the stance of the readers. The fact that this went on silently, with no transparency, and so on, is disturbing. If the moderator’s wanted to state their view and say “no more comments on this aspect”, then fine, while I’d disagree with their stance, that’s at least ethical. But now, if anyone were to check out the comments on that post, they would come to a highly erroneous belief about the ststus quo among BB’s readership, when that’s not at all true — it’s just that posts have been carefully censored to present a false reality. You can’t seriously tell me that if another entity behaved like this that BB wouldn’t call them out on it? Again, I think BB loses all legitimacy to call out other entities on these subjects when this goes on. You don’t get to suspend your ethics to promote your political goals any more than America can eliminate its freedoms to protect freedom.

    Frankly, the only good thing that BB has done on the subject of this post has been your responses here, and I do greatly appreciate you taking the time.

    PS. And please don’t try and tell me that this came down to a Disqus bug in ANY way. I find it extremely hard to believe that this had anything to do with anything other than rampant, overreaching moderation. If Disqus hiccuped, it was because it never assumed moderators would behave like this.

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 5:27 am | Permalink
  8. Not sure who who banned your account, but it wasn’t me. Switching to Disqus comments lifted all the bans. It’s likely that the mod who deleted your comments didn’t know you were supposed to be banned, but someone who saw the thread later did.

    It’s not that the moderators don’t operate without any transparency or oversight. They just have a tedious, often overwhelming job to do and we don’t micromanage it.

    No matter how it is cast, our support of free speech doesn’t oblige us to publish comments or make us hypocrites for banning commenters. We’re not stopping you from speaking; we’re just not letting you use our megaphone. Tough titties!

    When comment threads spin off into heat and argument, the moderators tend to gut them irrespective of who is on what side. As the comments still published in that thread are largely in agreement with your position, some of your complaints don’t make much sense to me.

    Hundreds of thousands of people read that post, and only a few dozen commented. So commenters represent themselves, not the readership. I’m not convinced that comment threads amount to texts in their own right that may be “edited” or “misresprensented” by deleting unwanted individual comments. It’s a good idea, though!

    The Disqus problems manifested as comments taking a very long time to appear after being posted. It was a different issue, but one easy to confuse with intentional deletions.

    Friday, December 16, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Permalink
  9. Shannon wrote:

    Rob, I think it’s a little bit of a cop-out to say “we’re just not letting you use our mic”. That would be fine if it was transparent. But it becomes a big problem when there is selective censorship to misrepresent public opinion.

    And really, selectively censoring opinions that don’t back up your politics? That’s just weak… It reflects pretty poorly on the strength of those arguments if they can’t even handle friendly comments that happen to disagree… And in this case, the comments didn’t even disagree with the message — just the method. Kind of over the top.

    Most of the issues I’ve raised are ones that BB has raised with other entities in the past. I think BB loses an awful lot of foundation to make these statements on when it can’t hold itself up to the same ethics.

    Friday, December 16, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Permalink
  10. B wrote:

    Wow, so BoingBoing is still censoring stuff? I left their site years ago because they didn’t like my comments. Here’s the thing: they like to say that the law allows them to block anyone’s comments from their servers and their comment threads, which is true, but it’s still manipulative and anti-free-speech. The excuse that you can still comment elsewhere on the internet is not that relevant because they did what they wanted to do: block your opinion from discussion at the place where the discussion was happening. Sure, you can place your opinion elsewhere on the internet — where nobody involved in the discussion will read it, and therefore, your opinion will be minimized. I’m betting that BoingBoing also complains that corporations have too much control in the political process because they have so much money that they can control the conversation. Saying that you can comment elsewhere on the internet sounds as disingenuous as corporations saying that people shouldn’t be concerned by the money corporations pour into elections because, “Hey little people, you still have freedom of speech, you shouldn’t complain that we control the megaphones with our money.”

    Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Permalink
  11. hal wrote:

    I’d just like to add that this practice continues to this day. Xeni and her minion Antinous are the worst offenders. They delete comments which disagree with or criticize their posts in any way, and will lock threads and leave up only comments they approve of when they experience too much dissent.

    Rob’s position is very weak. BoingBoing stifles open, respectful discussions in their comment section. That, I believe, is antithetical to what they purportedly stand for. It’s a practice I had previously only associated with extremist sites like freerepublic.

    Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Permalink
  12. Rob Beschizza wrote:

    “BoingBoing stifles open, respectful discussions”

    The only Hal canned on July 11 was angry at Xeni for writing about Tosh’s rape jokes — something like “Is this what Xeni has come to? A humorless blogger getting offended by a mediocre comedian.”

    You know, it is time to uncheck that “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail” box. It’s been unreal, guys!

    Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Permalink
  13. stedge wrote:

    It has happened to me, too. There seem to be certain topics where dissenting with the authors viewpoints gets your comment removed rather easily, like religion, especially Islam, and feminism, and censorship on boingboing. I find this rather surprising, because I am certainly not a racist Islam-hater or an anti-feminist, or a troll. I’ll call it “overmoderation” for now, but it borders on censorship.

    Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Permalink
  14. Steve wrote:

    I was blocked and censored recently, for reasons I’ll never understand. I’m appalled by their censorship, and will never return to Boingboing.

    Too bad, because I rather enjoyed the vast majority of their posts.

    Xeni killed it.

    Monday, November 19, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink
  15. Charles Barnes wrote:

    I was banned from BoingBoing (apparently permanently)some time ago. Oddly, I had a pretty good track record of likes at that site–averaging about five per post, as I recall.

    However, criticisms of the prevailing ideology there are not tolerated, even if respectfully, thoughtfully, and good-naturedly stated.

    Perhaps the fact that I noted their hypercritical sponsorship by DeBeers, even as they continually and smugly criticize corporations for their treatment of people, pushed them over the edge.

    I regret not being able to comment at BoingBoing any more, but at the same time I can sleep well knowing that all that really happened is that a bunch of rich, white, small-minded hipsters no longer want me messing up their talking points and Spencer Giftian sales pitches. I guess I’ll live.

    Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Permalink
  16. Mat wrote:

    I actually think there is a basic problem of definition of what a blog is. The problem actually resides in the fact that the comment function of many blogs allows or even incites the users to use the blog like a forum. Are those users wrong? I personally think they aren’t in many cases. There actually is a thin line between a blog and a forum and the line runs quite exactly where blogs offer a reply function to comments. I’ve often heard the argument that “this is my show” and that “comments are there to address the author, not to start a chat” and of course the “my turf, my rules” argument which ends every discussion. Now, the problem is that the reader will tend to see a blog post as a sort of topic that is thrown in for discussion, specially if the blog offers a reply function. On the other side, I’ve experienced that the owners of influential blogs, which are mostly prone to being used as discussion platforms by a part of their users, don’t see things that way at all. To them, what they do is not to throw in topics as a base for discussion. To them, what they do is mainly run a channel where users have a limited possibility to interact. I feel the field of definition between a blog and a forum is still very open and that sites like boing-boing are just very insecure about how to position themselves in that field. BTW, I’m here because my comments get erased now and then on boing-boing, although I personally don’t sense them as inflammatory. I found this discussion here by googling “boing boing comment censorship” but the whole discussion has certainly widened my field of view and I think everyone who posted so far has a valid point of view. I just think that blogs are still quite undefined in their function and in the way people use them.

    Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 4:34 am | Permalink
  17. regeya wrote:

    “I regret not being able to comment at BoingBoing any more, but at the same time I can sleep well knowing that all that really happened is that a bunch of rich, white, small-minded hipsters no longer want me messing up their talking points and Spencer Giftian sales pitches. I guess I’ll live.”

    I came across this post after my latest ban. I’m not sure what got me banned this time. Maybe it was posing the question “Can I link to this on the next LOL RELIGION post?” on their “Catalog of Internet sins” post. I’ve been banned before for talking about their LOL RELIGION attitude, on a story about why we should respect women’s right to wear hijabs (surely a case of “lol religion”. More likely it was for my devil’s advocate comment on a story about a Republican senator’s comments about mass media playing more of a role in mass murder than the availability of guns, and comparing it to mass media’s role in shaping peoples’ perception of women, and how Boingers tend to agree that the latter plays a role in “rape culture” but when a Republican says the same thing about violence in media, he’s an idiot because LOL privileged rich white goat-humping hillbilly. I wonder if they feel the same way about Tipper Gore and the late Paul Simon’s similar stance on the issue?

    They don’t even bother to make fun of people’s class in an ironic manner, they just do it. Fair game if you’re white, of course, because you will never, ever experience prejudice. Ever. I certainly never did in college. No…wait…I experienced the “you don’t deserve an A because you’re privileged” as well as the “you’ll never get very far because you’re a dumb redneck” attitudes. But do beat me over the head with the privilege stick, because there’s no way my dumb cracker ass would ever figure out that minorities and women have it rougher on my own. Too busy shooting at woodland creatures and humping my immediate family, you know.

    Goodness, that turned into a rant. Sorry about that.

    Friday, February 1, 2013 at 6:25 am | Permalink
  18. John wrote:

    Happened to me too. Got posts deleted. Posted a few more and got banned. Yes, it was for a subject that most involved got offended over, including the moderators apparently, but not me.

    The majority was against me. It was torches and pitchforks.

    Take me at my word when I say that I was gentle but they were violent. I think that either the internet or the role of moderator induces psychosis.

    It’s like people lose their moral center or something. Fall into a swimmingpool of their own opinions. Lose perspective and such.

    Somebody should do a paper on the subject.

    Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 9:54 pm | Permalink
Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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