Of course moderation is censorship

Anyone who has moderated any sort of forum has engaged in censorship if he has deleted comments or banned a disruptive user. That is not a bad thing and we should not run from the word “censorship.”

Disqus is one of the leading comment providers on the web, used by a number of high-profile sites. They had a useful blog post about moderation, but this one statement caught my eye: “Removing hateful comments or banning users who are there to antagonize others isn’t censorship.”

Actually, censorship is exactly what that is. And that is not automatically a bad thing.

Think of it this way: If someone comes into your home and calls you a bunch of obscene names, you will probably ask him to leave. You are censoring what he is allowed to say to you in your home, and you have every right to do so. It is no different when someone is on private property on the Internet – a blog, a forum, or a Facebook page – and behaves in a way not allowed by the established rules of the site.

Censorship can be a bad thing, such as when government tries to make criticism of politicians illegal or engages in other ways of intimidating or punishing people who speak truth to power. Censorship can be a good thing when it preserves the decency of a forum, protects innocent people’s reputations from libel, or silences disruptive trolls. The only thing that really matters is how censorship is used, not that censorship is occurring.

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