Commenting issues – “breaking news” bulletins and updates

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  • #92424 Reply

    Past couple of days there have been quite some issues getting comments through. I have for example tried to post a harmless comment about ICC hypocrisy on Gaza vs Ukraine. I believe I have tried to get that comment through 4-5 times by now.

    Then is the issue of the sudden response that “your comment is waiting for moderation’ which make commenting useless, because one wonder, if this comment to be published at all and if, when? Some comments are not showing up even though no rules were broken?

    I do understand that the site’s owner do not want a flooded comment section and I admit I am part of that problem here. But other than that, could mods. give a clarification on these above mentioned issues? Why are my comments stuck in moderation? Why are some comments not showing up, comments that deal with issues that have not been dealt with before by other commentators?

    #92528 Reply

    Hi Jack

    Thank you for posting this enquiry in the proper place. The Blog Support forum allows for more complete answers than private annotations on comments and can also serve as guidance for other readers.

    I apologise for the long delay in responding to your enquiry. It has been very difficult to find time to compose a response, because the past fortnight has been exceptionally busy, with (among other things) some long-banned trolls trying to return under novel identities to incite outrage and chaos.

    It’s not quite true to say that “no rules were broken”, as you’ll see below. The rule infringements were mostly of a benign type. Moderators can exercise our judgement whether and how to take action to deal with them: e.g. by suspending the comment, issuing advice or a caution, or restricting the ability to post. In your case, the minor infringements were becoming increasingly problematic due to their sheer quantity.

    You’ve posted very prolifically on this blog over the past couple of weeks. When you were posting under the article “Fascism in the West to Enable Genocide in Palestine” you were briefly placed on the pre-moderation list. You posted over 135 comments on that thread, representing approximately 11% of the total number of comments. Only a few of them were individually problematic. The main problem was that you were posting too many “breaking news” bulletins, consisting of a URL linking to an external website along with a short passage of text copied from it, without any original commentary or argument. That practice is contrary to the following guidance in the moderation rules for commenters:

    Contributions which are primarily just a link to somewhere else will be deleted. You can post links, but give us the benefit of your thoughts upon them.

    Accompanying the URL with the headline of the article and a passage excerpted from the linked page does not qualify as offering your own thoughts.

    Due warning was issued in moderation notifications attached to your suspended comments. It seems that you may have been oblivious to them (although your own testimony – i.e. the sudden response that ‘your comment is waiting for moderation’ – implies that you could see them after all, because that message is only displayed within a suspended comment.) Suspended comments are made visible to their authors by means of a server-side php script which detects the unique identification cookies stored in the browser cache and renders any suspended comments with a matching ID key in the page code delivered back to that browser. If the same page is requested by someone else – who doesn’t have your personal blog cookie in their browser cache – the comment is not included in the underlying HTML code that is sent back to their browser, so it isn’t visible to them in any way.

    It appears you were able to read at least some of those suspended comments. Perhaps they were appearing selectively, but if so the reason isn’t obvious. An alternative explanation could be that you neglected to review those comments after they were annotated by moderators.

    So, in case you missed them, here’s a selection of moderator notifications that were left for you, as notifications appended to the top of your suspended comments:

    7/10/023 @ 2:05pm
    [ Mod: Off topic. If you would like to discuss interesting news bulletins, please create a new topic in this site’s Discussion forum. ]

    8/10/2023 @ 8:12
    [ Mod: From the moderation rules for commenters:

    Fair Play
    Play the ball, not the man. Address arguments, not people. Do not impugn the motives of others.

    ****** is as welcome to comment here as you are. Kindly leave the duty of moderation to the moderators. ]

    8/10/2023 @ 8:37am
    [ Mod: Evading moderation by reposting a deleted comment could result in you being blocked from posting anything. ]

    13/10/2023 @ 11:34am
    [ Mod: Jack, please stop dragging Ukraine/Russia into this thread about Israel/Palestine, when there are other threads about the situation in Ukraine which are still accepting comments. ]

    13/10/2023 @ 8:07pm
    [ Mod: You should be mindful of the following advice in the moderation rules for commenters:

    The biggest problem we face is anti-Jewish comment, which I will not tolerate. We are not in the business of stigmatising anti-Zionism as anti-Jewish, but there are quite frequently distinctly anti-Jewish comments. …

    Describing a racist anti-Jewish point of view and then arguing that it’s justifiable is equivalent to making those claims on your own behalf. If you show the same inclination again in this discussion you will be excluded from it. ]

    15/10/2023 @ 5:51pm
    [ Mod: Accusing another commenter of trolling is not compatible with fair play. From the moderation rules for commenters:

    Fair Play
    Play the ball, not the man. Address arguments, not people. Do not impugn the motives of others … No taunting.

    Kindly leave the identification of trolls to the moderators. ]

    15/10/2023 @ 6:01pm
    [ Mod: As explained in an annotation attached to that comment, accusations of trolling are contrary to the Fair Play rule:

    Play the ball, not the man. Address arguments, not people. Do not impugn the motives of others … No taunting. ]

    15/10/2023 @ 7:38pm
    [ Mod: Off topic. Please keep this thread focused on the crisis in Gaza. ]

    16/10/2023 @ 8:29am
    [ Mod: Off topic. To repeat previous instructions issued to you:

    Jack, please stop dragging Ukraine/Russia into this thread about Israel/Palestine, when there are other threads about the situation in Ukraine which are still accepting comments.


    Please keep this thread focused on the crisis in Gaza.

    As you can’t be relied upon to follow those instructions, your comments will now require approval by a moderator. ]

    17/10/2023 @ 12:27pm
    [ Mod: This was already announced by ******* @ 3:35. ]

    17/10/2023 @ 12:36pm
    [ Mod: Jack – please stop repeating earlier content and stop relating each piece of news loosely connected to events in Gaza to RUSSIA.
    As you’re not complying with moderator instructions, you’re back on pre-mod for an indefinite period. ]

    18/10/2023 @ 7:30pm
    [ Mod: Another comment focusing on Ukraine. ]

    18/10/2023 @ 7:58pm
    [ Mod: Attention should be on the crisis in GAZA, not on Ukraine or complaints about the ICC.
    You were already warned not to divert the discussion onto Ukraine, but it seems you can’t avoid it for very long. ]

    Those notifications tell their own story. Far too many advisory notices were issued to you, within a short period of time, advising you not to post so many external links and/or to stop changing the subject. Several other comments were deleted immediately, as there was little point in reiterating messages that you were ignoring anyway. At various times, you appeared to be defying the instructions to remain on topic. Moderator patience was starting to wear thin, so you were eventually placed on the pre-moderation list, meaning that your comments would be automatically queued for review and approval by moderators before becoming visible to other readers.

    A large proportion of your comments comprise, in whole or in part, external links to news articles. Many of them are newsdesk-type bulletins announcing ‘breaking news’, which are not always related to the article theme (e.g. your frequent updates on Russia’s interventions in Ukraine, under articles about Israel and Gaza). We don’t need a news announcer, thank you very much; people are capable of visiting news sites on their own, according to their own favourite sources. You are in effect directing readers away from this blog onto a different websites dealing with an issue that captured your own attention. That’s not what the comments section of this blog is provided for.

    In general, commenters on the Craig Murray blog are encouraged to venture an opinion, sincerely expressed, which can then be supported or defended in subsequent discussion. It isn’t enough merely to provide an external link or quote an evaluation written by somebody else without offering your own take on it. The rule isn’t absolute: there can be exceptions, to be considered in context on a case-by-case basis; but if there are too many exceptions, you can expect a nudge from the moderators. If you ignore those nudges, you could be placed on pre-moderation to stop you hijacking the thread with external links.

    The ‘Contribute’ rule was introduced to deal with former blog regulars who persistently pasted news items from their favourite sources, regardless of ongoing conversations or previous links to the same story. We call these contributors “newshounds”, because they seemed to spend all day scouring news sites, blogs, and Twitter feeds for updates on current affairs, aiming to be the first to break the news to the readers of Craig Murray’s blog. In practice, they often led readers into off-topic digressions, interfering with the primary purpose of the BTL comments facility: to publish readers’ thoughts on Craig’s revelations and perspective, as outlined in his articles.

    Some of the stories you linked to are of dubious relevance. For example, on a page concerning the unprecedented immediate humanitarian crisis in Gaza, linked to a 12-year-old report about the Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Breivik, with very little commentary to sketch out whatever tenuous connection you were trying to make. There is an onus on the moderators to keep the discussions focused on the topic, and if you obstruct that duty by posting complaints or demanding full explanations, you could get blocked for time-wasting.

    There is no vacancy for an amateur news editor to announce the news on Craig Murray’s blog. Readers can obviously access the internet, and so can visit whichever news sites they want to.

    It’s true that the BTL comments section serves many secondary purposes to a limited degree – e.g. as a thought-provoking commentary to follow up relevant ideas and perspectives, as a forum to engage with opposing views in order to expose errors in reasoning and exposition, or as a chat group to stay in touch with a community of like-minded regulars. Some people may use it as a primary news source for discovering developing stories from around the world, but the blog isn’t designed to serve that purpose. When too many second-hand news reports are posted (or, more accurately, ‘pasted’) by the same people, they can dominate and disrupt a thread, effectively steering the focus away from Craig’s analysis. When a comment thread consists largely of a clutch of stories all collated from one perspective, it tends to foster an ‘echo chamber’ where people try to shout down anyone who questions or dissents from (what is assumed to be) the political consensus among the blog’s regular readership. That isn’t a desired outcome. Craig has explained clearly, in the moderation rules for commenters and elsewhere, that he would like the BTL comments section to offer a space where a range of views can be discussed and debated in a constructive manner, without verbal abuse, taunts or threats.

    If a group of people with a shared interest or clear bias dominate the thread and hound out alternative views – or, more brazenly, criticise Craig for voicing a different opinion – the moderators can step in by issuing advisory guidance with reference to the moderation rules for commenters. In the majority of cases, people heed the advice without disputing it and no further intervention is required. You, however, chose to disregard the advice and challenge moderation. When intervention by a moderator is disputed, we usually issue a standard notification that any enquiries about moderation should be raised in the Blog Support forum rather than under Craig’s articles. Thank you for following that advice in this case.

    Most moderation happens behind the scenes. Recently, we received numerous instances of verbal abuse (and even threats) directed at other commenters; but they went unseen, because they were either blocked by an automated script or promptly removed by an alert moderator. Accordingly, most readers remain completely oblivious to moderation activity, and don’t see the comments that get moderated out. Controversial threads – especially those on Israel or Ukraine – require especially close monitoring and rapid intervention, with occasional nudges to encourage certain people to stay on topic and to engage properly with the ongoing discussions. You received many notifications of that type. If you don’t want your contributions to suddenly disappear, then please make more of an effort to stay on topic and respond to other commenters.

    Even if a comment contains references to news stories that are obviously relevant, they should include more than simple links or recommendations (“Read this: “, “This is good … “). If the same issue has been covered elsewhere in the thread, the comment should be posted as a reply in that chain, with the main reason for citing the link explained and integrated into the conversation. (We have found that the most compulsive newshounds tended not to reply to other people’s posts, and rarely showed any awareness of replies to their own comments; seemingly they came to the blog just to post news bulletins rather than read other people’s views on the topics.) Comments are expected to contain personal evaluations and opinions, which can then be discussed by, and with, other commenters.

    Failing to fulfil the conditions of the “Contribute” rule is a normally a fairly trivial transgression. A link to an external news story without original commentary isn’t itself particularly disruptive when considered in isolation, unless it is clearly irrelevant to the thread or it mentions another controversial topic which could stimulate a series of distracting off-rants; subjects of popular conspiracy theories – such a 9//11, climate change or covid – are notorious for this. However, major problems arise when news bulletins are posted frequently and persistently: en masse, news bulletins can divert readers and commenters away from the blog, onto external websites. It’s like saying “Never mind Craig’s article, go to this other website to read what’s being said there”. Craig’s blog is not intended to serve as digest of other journalists’ views or an index of loosely connected news bulletins. Diversions to external news stories also disrupt the natural flow of conversation: imagine if a group of people were holding a discussion in a pub, and a newspaper seller kept poking his head in to shout news headlines at them (“Read all about it …!”).

    There is also a hazard in allowing commenters free rein to select whatever news stories they favour. In the past, some of the most eager newshounds often displayed a strong bias against particular nationalities or ethnic/racial groups; if they proved unwilling or unable to heed the numerous warnings communicated to them, they were eventually excluded permanently. Others were pre-occupied with their own pet topics, and aimed to to steer the conversation onto a subject of their personal obsession, and away from the issues raised by Craig. Eventually we started to apply the ‘Contribute’ and ‘Relevance’ criteria more strictly for certain threads, depending on a variety of contextual factors, including frequency of posting, relevance to Craig’s interests, and potential disruption to ongoing conversations. If the comment didn’t belong under an article, we invited the commenter to post it in the discussion forum. The more strict approach wasn’t always received well. Most people never bothered to repost their off-topic comments in the forum. Some persistent obsessives ignored the advice completely and attempted to bypass the pre-moderation filters by posting under creative pseudonyms; in the process, they managed to get themselves banned permanently for sockpuppetry and defying moderation.

    To return to your case, Jack, when some of your comments were suspended in the moderation queue and advice from a moderator was inserted in bold typeface, you appeared to take no notice. You were initially advised to slow down the steady flow of news alerts, and were eventually placed in pre-moderation for trying to repost deleted comments. It was hard to know whether you were deliberately ignoring the moderator’s guidance or just failing to read it. At one point you varied your email address in an apparent attempt to defeat the pre-moderation filter. Be warned that such evasive tactics are likely to place you one misdemeanour away from an outright ban, which would be rapidly invoked in the event of a repeat occurrence.

    Moderators’ time is limited: we have many other duties, not to mention private lives, family responsibilities, and other professions and projects. We moderate as deftly as possible, and neither seek nor require the consent of whomever is being moderated. Similarly, we don’t strive for consensus with anyone who has an alternative vision for the blog comments section. Specific moderation decisions can be re-examined and revised where appropriate. If a genuine mistake has been made, then we can correct it; otherwise the decision will stand regardless of the commenter’s attitude to it. Be advised that disputing moderation without sufficient reasonable cause can be interpreted as needlessly wasting our time. That interpretation may be relevant here. At first glance, the moderation decisions were fully justified. You have no right to demand a detailed report on the reasons for removing your comments. The most appropriate response to your list of specific questions would be to lock you out. If you don’t accept moderation here, then you will no longer be allowed to comment.

    When a moderation decision is made according to a settled policy, the moderator normally inserts a private notification which cites the relevant guideline, and the matter is considered closed. If a commenter attempts to extend the exchange by disputing moderation policy, that is tantamount to rejecting the terms and conditions for publishing comments on the blog. Bear in mind that nobody (other than Craig Murray) has an irrevocable right to have their comments published here. Comments are published at our discretion, and if you continue to insist on your assumed right to publication, we can easily demonstrate that you have no legal entitlement to publish anything here by blocking you from further participation.

    The final means of appeal is to contact Craig via the online form. Be advised he’s not likely to respond positively (or at all) if he considers that the moderation decision was fair, or the appeal is either groundless or trivial, or the complainer’s attitude seems antagonistic, confused or bizarre. On the rare occasions when he has asked for clarification from the blog team, we simply forwarded the supporting evidence to him and the matter was quickly laid to rest.

    So, Jack, that’s an overview of the reasons for moderating your comments and putting you on the pre-moderation list. You should construe this explanation primarily as a constructive nudge to change your approach slightly, rather than as a reprimand for breaking rules or a warning of potential sanctions. If you continue to demand rights that you don’t actually have, then to avoid wasting effort we’ll simply terminate the interaction and bid you farewell.

    I would like to emphasise that your overseas perspective is very valuable and adds to the richness of the discussions. Given that English isn’t your native language, I appreciate that writing your own opinions may pose more of a challenge for you than copying text from other sources. While your comments commonly have errors of spelling, grammar and punctuation, I’ve routinely corrected and amended your expressions to make them more grammatical and intelligible, partly as a courtesy service to you and partly for the benefit of other readers who might struggle to comprehend your intended meaning. However, with the volume of comments you’ve been posting on a daily basis, that task has become quite a drain on moderation time. If you could proofread more carefully before you post, that would be a great help. But please don’t let difficulties with expressing yourself in English discourage you from posting your own views and opinions.

    Best wishes,

    #92578 Reply

    Hi Jack.

    I acknowledge the 3 replies you’ve posted so far today, including the list of 8 follow-up questions in your first one. As well as the additional questions you’ve posted in yet another reply when I was writing this message. (For your information, they aren’t being deleted: they’re just held in a moderation queue.)

    This is what tends to happen when moderators get involved in dialogue: explanations prompt more questions and more demands for explanations, and on it goes. That’s why Craig strongly advises against it. But hopefully we’ll have time to answer your queries in due course – possibly in a few days, possibly longer. Some can be answered by citing the response above. Others were answered by notifications in the suspended comments that you’re apparently unable to see, so we’ll repost them here. But there’s no hurry.

    I see that today you’ve also tried to post more links to “breaking news” bulletins. When you said “I am confused”, you’re right about one thing: you are confused. However, we don’t provide a running commentary on which specific comments are acceptable and which aren’t; we also don’t need to hear your own opinions about it, nor about other people’s posts that you think should be deleted too.

    As it happens, you’re not the only person who has been posting a lot of news bulletins recently. We’ve started reminding the others about the ‘Contribute’ rule now as well. You should see fewer bulletins interspersed between the conversational comments over the next few days.

    It’s true that there’s a good rationale for drawing the attention of other blog readers to urgent developments, but the comments section isn’t the right place to do it … unless you have a (substantial) personal and original comment to contribute. Linking to news stories isn’t a primary function of this blog, but we’ll have an internal discussion among the team to see if we can find a workable solution to enable it.

    In the meantime, there’s no point trying to post more news updates in the comments. Any bulletins you do post will be removed without further explanation. Maybe a reply in this forum thread will eventually enlighten you; maybe not. Bear in mind that commenters don’t have an automatic right to explanations: at some point you either have to accept moderation decisions or stop commenting. In the meantime, please don’t risk escalating the situation and getting needlessly banned for disputing decisions and refusing to be moderated.

    Kind regards,

    #92603 Reply

    OK, there’s a new thread in the discussion forum, specifically for news bulletins and updates (whether from a news website, Twitter, another blog, or wherever):

    !! BREAKING NEWS !! (Gaza)

    See how you get on with that.

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