Bloggers stifling freedom of expression? Not what it seems

Picture this: you’re a moderator/participant in a round table discussion. Someone has just brought up a very controversial point. Another person takes offense at this in one way or another, and rebuts. As the rebuttals go back and forth, you notice that they have strayed off topic, and it has become a contest of whose voice is louder and who can intimidate the other into submission first. What would you do?

Now let’s look at the other side of the situation. You’re another participant in the same round table discussion. Someone has just brought up a very controversial point which hits close to home. How will you respond? Do you retort in anger? Do you try to calm the opposing party down? Or do you simply do nothing?

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Webmasters and blog owners, are in effect, online discussion moderators. They are faced with the tremendous task of making sure that discussion remains lucid and proceeds with minimal deviation from the actual topic. They are also under pressure to diffuse any impending tension between or among the opposing sides of any argument. It’s a thankless job; just by sheer virtue of being a moderator, they are subject to the insults of the commentators and proponents themselves. The challenge for them is not to get carried away by any apparent misbehavior shown. In other words, they must remain impersonal and unmoved by emotions.

As commentators, or discussion participants, we have the freedom to express our opinions and sides of the story or argument being presented. However, this comes with conditions. We must stay on topic, avoid obscene or profane language, and use a logical or rational approach.

The biggest difference, of course, between live table discussions and online forums, is the anonymity that the latter provides. Unfortunately, anonymity, combined with “freedom of expression”, has provided many people the opportunity to be assholes in online forums. And, boy do they pounce on it. In fact, there are terms used to describe this type of people, taken from online gaming terminology: griefers and trolls.

The dilemma with this so-called “freedom of expression” is that everyone is focused on doing what they please, yet they forget the responsibility that goes along with it. More often than not, people who insist on running amok like headless chickens on internet forums are those who cry foul of “internet censorship” when they are moderated by the blog owner. Let me post a comment to a post from one of benign0’s older blogs, to elaborate on my point:

“To have comments published is not a right. In my view every blogger should moderate comments. It’s in the best interests of readers that published comments are lucid, to the point and interesting. Too often respondents wander from the point, criticise other respondents and generally degrade the quality of discussion. If a comment does not add value to the original posting then drop it. Who judges what adds value and what doesn’t? Easy, the owner of the blog.

While each blogger out there is bound to make his/her own rules for what constitutes both acceptable and objectionable content in his/her blog, the bottom line is that the blog owner has the discretion to weed out what to him/her is content that does not add value. That he stakes his/her entire reputation as a blogger on the content demands it.

Keep in mind that there is no absolute standard for acceptable commenting in blogs, and most likely there will never be one. But respect, decency, relevance, and lack of an ulterior sinister motive are good standards to abide by.

There are standards for the blogger too. If he/she can’t respect people who have an opinion different from his/hers what’s the point? You don’t need a blog to be a narcissist then; there’s nobody around to show how big your e-penor is. However, keep in mind that removing useless comments and censoring dissenting views are two things entirely different, yet confused for each other.

Now here is a tough question: Is it impossible for moderators/blog owners to balance out freedom of expression with maintaining the integrity of the blog discussion? Is it necessarily a dichotomy of having to choose which one to emphasize? Are these things, by nature, unable to coexist in the same place? The simple answer to all of these is no. The longer answer is that it is an extremely difficult balancing act to maintain both, and many bloggers stumble on this from time to time.

Is it too much to ask our fellow subscribers to think carefully before they post a comment on a website? Is it too much to ask our kababayans to understand the message of a post before they get into tililing and/or balat-sibuyas rampages? Is it too much to ask people to focus on the message instead of the messenger? Unfortunately with many Filipinos the above descriptions seem to be the case. They seem to think that freedom of expression means a freedom to be stupid, indignant, and an asshole on the internet, without any regard for the consequences whatsoever. It’s what makes us such lousy citizens of our own decrepit country, the internet, and ultimately the world.

16 Replies to “Bloggers stifling freedom of expression? Not what it seems”

  1. Is there any case, like a blog article that completely disrespect its readers, or even uses provocations or shock values to make up their points? Example, calling ‘all Filipinos stupid and deserves to burn in hell’ which shouldn’t be because not all Filipinos are stupid.

    Please, enlighten me. 🙂

    1. I’m sure there are lots of those out there — racist and hate sites, and the lot. You just need to make clever use of Google (or even not) and you will surely find them. By the way, that guy you responded to earlier usually has his comments deleted because he writes in jejemon.

      1. Thanks, I’ll take heed of you advice. I see that guy a lot here posting wherever making funny comments. 🙂

  2. Some blog commenters let imagined slights get the better of them and then try to insult the writer with ad hominem as retaliation because they truly believe the writer has insulted them. Never mind that the article was not even about them. They can’t simply leave their views or opinion and then move on. It all boils down to lack of foresight. They can’t foresee being kicked out eventually for violating the guideline.

    I also wrote about it in one of my previous articles: Filipinos cannot progress if they cannot follow even simple guidelines

    “As a blogger, I quite often come across commentators who cannot even follow simple commenting guidelines. There are some participants in the blogosphere who constantly violate the guidelines by consistently writing obscenities and foul language on forums just to give the impression that they are above the guidelines. The funny thing is, being moderated does not even stop them from misbehaving. They even cry foul for being moderated instead of conforming to the guidelines.

    This brings us to another world-renowned Filipino mentality — the “victim” mentality. Filipinos are good at playing the “victim card” because they are very sensitive and emotional people. They play the victim card in front of the public to get as much attention as possible. Filipinos always try to get around following any rules and regulations or even simple guidelines by appealing to emotion.”

  3. I have been Blogging for many years…I started with the “Filipino Voices” Website, some years ago. The Website was bought by a certain person, before the election of Noynoy Aquino. What I found out after the Website was bought. They Kicked me out, when I commented against Noynoy Aquino. When I wrote the truth, they deleted my comments. Moderation was their reason for forcing me, to tell only the good side of Noynoy Aquino. Now, in the FaceBook: they hired YellowTard Computer Hackers, to steal your password, and control your blogging. Torment you while you are commenting. They even put:viruses, malwares, trojan horses, etc…on the Websites and on your computer. We have the right to give our opinions. It is the readers who decide, what is true and what is not. What to believe; and what not to believe…No to any Censorship, or so called “Moderator”…If you are well read, and smart: you’ll survive as a Blogger. There are many intelligent people worldwide reading your comments. So, don’t contribute your own ignorance. Talagang mabisto Ka, Dude…

  4. Here’s my take. I don’t censor my blog. Everyone is invited to comment about whatever they feel on the topic I posted. Healthy arguments would only go overboard if trolling and spamming are tolerated. If anything, the bloggers have the right to filter out the feedbacks if they feel they don’t cohere to their blog’s format/agenda/whatever. There are some bloggers who don’t like liberal minds that spew out their wildly contrasting opinions even though they make more sense than the subject being tackled. I respect that too, but I don’t think being a push-over onion-skinned (for no apparent reason without validating first the intention of the commenter) helps anyone to get better with handling any sort of criticism and backlash.

  5. In my experience, most Filipinos dont want to discuss or share knowledge. They want to talk to inflate their pride or to shout down anyone that makes them question their fragile and irrational beliefs.

    Eventually, all critical views are stifled and their removal is justified with various rationalizations and hypocritical guidelines. This blog is no different, which is why it wont rise very far beyond the status of an echo chamber.

  6. Unfortunately most Filipinos’ coping mechanism relies on denying and distorting the reality they live in, shutting off their deepest reasoning and sensing capacity to anything that does not reinforce what they want to see, hear and believe. Anything that disrupts these coping mechanisms are perceived as a personal threat because they don’t know any better and couldn’t broaden their understanding to a level that they can ultimately be friendly with someone they completely disagree opinions and principles with. A psychology that lies on top of thick layers of cultural problems piled on top of one another that we cannot tackle completely, and to a much lesser extent address, by posting in blogs and perhaps not even by writing a formal treatise on the subject matter.

      Filipinos think they are ugly. Their coping mechanism is import half-bred hybrid half-white foreigners to represent Filipinos that do not look like Filipinos at all. THAT IS COPING MECHANISM FOR THEM.

      Filipinos are aware and understand that they are not intelligent race. Their coping mechanism once they arrive at their hated-colonist countries to apply for re-colonization which they struggled to be independent from is criticizing their host country do not know how to spell check and grammar check their written English.

      Another coping mechanism their host country are afraid of Filipinos. NO! We are not afraid of Filipinos we treat them with respect and treating them with respect means we are capitulating to their bravery and brute personalities.

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