Mumsnet moderation policy

(543 Posts)
JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 11-Nov-16 15:59:08

If you've visited Site Stuff in recent times you'll know there's been a fair bit of grousing about our moderation policy. There have been lot of calls from the SN boards in particular but elsewhere too for us to delete many more posts than we are doing at the moment. Equally some on the feminism boards have been particularly angered by the position we've adopted around transphobia.

Those of you who have been around for a bit will also know that some of these debates have been going on a long time.

Mumsnet has always believed - been founded upon - the idea that civilised debate is a broadly positive thing. That we can disagree but agree that people have a right to different opinions. That freedom of speech is in general good and that we'd rather let the conversation flow than censor it. That exposing ourselves to the widest range of arguments and opinions is generally healthier than banishing the ones we don’t like.

Increasingly you'll find that other places on the web will filter out views and information you might not like automatically - Facebook and Google both do this based on the data they have about you (which is a lot). Just take a look at the debate raging in the US right now over whether this kind of tailoring of news – some call it the “filter bubble” effect – was to blame for the election of Donald Trump. Whatever you think of Facebook’s role in sending Trump to the White House, it’s unarguably becoming increasingly hard to watch or read something that hasn't been selected for you.

We've chosen to be public, un-paywalled and welcoming to newbies with different opinions. That means from time to time we may be confronted by views that we think are outlandish and even noxious. Of course - given we're called Mumsnet - we're always going to be a space dominated by women but the only qualification we require of our users is a basic level of civility.

This doesn't mean that it's a complete free for all. Of course we do and will continue to remove posts that break our rules – for instance personal attacks and those that break the law or promote hate. But there are always going to be posts which fall into a grey area - posts that cause offence without intention, perhaps by using words in common use that some believe should be disallowed like “moron” or “idiot”. And our inclination here is to err on the side of free speech rather than censorship.

Many Mumsnetters have told us they've had their minds broadened by posts they've seen on Mumsnet and have become more tolerant and understanding as a result. We do understand it can be frustrating being told that we'd rather host a debate about why something was offensive so folks might change their mind, than delete it. We're mindful of the fact that many of our users are exhausted and often in impossibly difficult situations and would much rather people just understood or piped down - that we just deleted those comments which upset them or banned those who made them. But rightly or wrongly, that's not the Mumsnet we've chosen to be. We've chosen to be open and welcoming to new people and challenging different opinions. We've chosen to be a broad church not a narrow one.

At a time when the rise of intersectional politics often seems to be squeezing the space for public debate, when no-platforming has entered the everyday vocabulary of university campuses and social media reverberates daily to howls of outrage over some linguistic transgression or other, this seems more important than ever.

No-one is pretending that any of this stuff is easy. Rights only really mean anything when they are difficult to protect. And in the case of many of these arguments, we have deep instinctive sympathy with users calling for us to delete posts or ban certain words. We understand how anxious many who’ve battled for women’s rights feel. We understand that language plays an important part in making them feel marginalised and vulnerable. And many of us who have for years read the stirring and humbling posts on the SN boards will instinctively wish to defend parents who feel the casual, thoughtless language used by other posters is making their already hard lives harder still. We would go to the barricades with them in many ways, but not at the expense of a principle which makes Mumsnet what it is.

I think all this is worth stating because, frankly, the aggressive attitude of some Mumsnetters towards the community team in particular needs to stop. It's becoming demoralising and almost impossible to do the job. You couldn't actually hope to meet a nicer, more patient, diligent and selfless crew than the MN community team. Day in day out they do their level best to be fair, decent and consistent. Of course we get things wrong and don't always word things right - who doesn't? - and I know the majority of users know this and I'm really grateful for your support and kind words. The one thing I'm certain of, though, is that decent moderation is a big reason why Mumsnet has thrived and grown over the years.

But there are some users who, from what I've seen, are relentlessly denigrating the team in a way that can really only be described as aggressive heckling. Some of the attacks have been personal and downright nasty. In recent weeks members of the community team have been called ignorant, stupid, rude and not giving a shiny shite. The disabled members of our team have been described as tokens. I personally have been called sneering, supercilious, classist, venal and a hypocrite who’s drowning in the Kool-Aid amongst other things. (Let’s not get into a debate over whether that’s fair…)

The last thing we're saying is that we don't want feedback - we value it hugely, and we will always hold up our hands if we've messed up. (Incidentally almost none of the above critical posts have been deleted.) But, to be frank, if Mumsnet makes you that angry then maybe it's time to accept that it isn't the site for you - you probably need to acknowledge that we simply aren't and never will moderate the way you want us to. After all, we're here to make parents' lives easier and if the way we moderate raising your blood pressure on a daily basis - so much that you're calling the moderators “cunts” - then with the greatest respect I think you need to take a break.

In an increasingly polarised world of trigger warnings and safe spaces, preserving Mumsnet as a place that can host the widest debate in the most civilised fashion seems more important than ever. You’ll have to forgive me if this sounds pompous but this really is about freedom. As so often George Orwell put it best: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

cozietoesie Fri 11-Nov-16 16:04:56

Thanks for that, Justine. smile

BolivarAtasco Fri 11-Nov-16 16:14:28

Excellent post and I 100% agree. The rudeness and aggression from a certain group of posters who seem to feel they alone have the right to dictate what others post and scream for banning and moderation at the drop of a hat has been massively putting me off the site of late.

MadameCholetsDirtySecret Fri 11-Nov-16 16:16:19

Well said.

PigletWasPoohsFriend Fri 11-Nov-16 16:18:36

I think all this is worth stating because, frankly, the aggressive attitude of some Mumsnetters towards the community team in particular needs to stop.

I completely agree.

PortiaCastis Fri 11-Nov-16 16:23:02

Well said

Ginslinger Fri 11-Nov-16 16:23:04

flowers

Ayeok Fri 11-Nov-16 16:23:17

I think that aggression on MN in general is a problem. I'm not saying the team should be subjected to abusive comments or personal attacks, that's disgusting. But I can see how some posters get hacked off when it's happening to them and MNHQ don't seem to care.

chemenger Fri 11-Nov-16 16:25:38

A very well considered post, Well said.

NerrSnerr Fri 11-Nov-16 16:27:29

I'm really pleased Justine has posted this. The recent personal attacks on the community team have been really bad.

Hamiltoes Fri 11-Nov-16 16:28:18

Well said.

Hamiltoes Fri 11-Nov-16 16:30:54

abusive comments or personal attacks, that's disgusting. But I can see how some posters get hacked off when it's happening to them and MNHQ don't seem to care.

Why should they, though confused

I really don't understand this mindset that it's up to someone else to come and intervene for you if you feel personally attacked? How is it their responsibility? Its an open forum!

DixieNormas Fri 11-Nov-16 16:31:07

I thought we had already come to the conclusion that token wasnt aimed at mnhq, but was badly worded?

I think its unfair Just because you are getting grief on the femanist boards to bring all this back up hmm

Ayeok Fri 11-Nov-16 16:31:49

I wasn't saying that abusing MNHQ was ok, it really isn't and shouldn't be happening. I'm talking about the general tone on MN lately which really isn't very nice and some posters are being attacked by other posters and nothing is being done.

Ayeok Fri 11-Nov-16 16:32:21

I haven't seen the attacks on MNHQ so I don't know the content of them, but they need to stop too.

Smartleatherbag Fri 11-Nov-16 16:32:38

I agree with the overarching sentiment of this, but timing absolutely stinks of 'shut up, feminist board frequenters'

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 11-Nov-16 16:32:56

Ayeok

I think that aggression on MN in general is a problem. I'm not saying the team should be subjected to abusive comments or personal attacks, that's disgusting. But I can see how some posters get hacked off when it's happening to them and MNHQ don't seem to care.

But that's my point Ayeok - it's not that MNHQ don't care - we wouldn't leave personal attacks that were reported to us standing. If you feel this is happening consistently then it must because we don't consider those reports personal attacks and we're just never going to moderate the way you want us to.

Ayeok Fri 11-Nov-16 16:34:05

Fair enough Justine, and for the record I don't think personally attacking MNHQ staff is ok, in any way. It's not.

PigletWasPoohsFriend Fri 11-Nov-16 16:35:31

Some of the personal attacks on MNHQ over the past few days/weeks have been disgraceful.

noeuf Fri 11-Nov-16 16:35:34

we're just never going to moderate the way you want us to.

This! I don't want the boards moderated that way either, I am disabled and have dc with disabilities and I don't feel the same way as the vocal minority. I don't want this to be a bubble where ignorance and stupidity and unkindness and inexperience are deleted so we never have to see it.

Saucery Fri 11-Nov-16 16:37:29

I couldn't disagree with the Blog Guest thing more if I really, really tried, but I do agree with this line in the sand you have drawn.
The attacks on MNHQers in recent weeks were out of order.

My Site And I'll Run It How I Like is entirely your prerogative

PaddingtonLoverOfMarmalade Fri 11-Nov-16 16:38:04

Agree, diversity is good.

WatcherOfTheNight Fri 11-Nov-16 16:39:00

Well said JustineMumsnet flowerswine

MauiChristmas Fri 11-Nov-16 16:40:20

Well said. Can we have a 'Gin' emoticon - your team need to be offered more gin, flowers and chocolate for their patience and humour.

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 11-Nov-16 16:41:47

Smartleatherbag

I agree with the overarching sentiment of this, but timing absolutely stinks of 'shut up, feminist board frequenters'

My post is of course partly prompted the hostility on the feminist boards wrt to our position on the transphobia debate, I've said as much I think. It's a genuine attempt to explain why we moderate the way we do and what we believe in, in the hope of finding some common ground so we can get to a better place.

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