27 votes

The Life of a Comment Moderator for a Right-Wing Website

5 comments

  1. [5]
    Algernon_Asimov (edited ) Link
    I moderated the largest history forum on the internet. Not politics, not news: history. It was a place to ask experts questions about history. Seems innocuous, right? Wrong! Sometimes the...

    Before working as a moderator, I never would have known how many comments on a story about Africanized bees it would take before they started taking a racist turn.

    I moderated the largest history forum on the internet. Not politics, not news: history. It was a place to ask experts questions about history. Seems innocuous, right? Wrong! Sometimes the discussion would take a racist turn in the question itself. Asking why Africans never developed "civilisation" was just a Trojan Horse for espousing racist opinions. And then there were the questions about the Holocaust...

    I had a breakdown after moderating that place for 6 months. I'd never been exposed to that much hatred and anger - not since I was bullied as a gay teenager (in real life).

    But then I learned how to let the hatred and anger slide past me, rather than taking it personally.

    However, I lost some of my faith in humanity as a result of moderating an academic forum about history.

    30 votes
    1. [4]
      masochist Link Parent
      Ouch. I may not always agree with some of the decisions taken there, particularly when I disagreed with the staff over what constituted good discussion, but I've seen some of the stuff you work...

      Ouch. I may not always agree with some of the decisions taken there, particularly when I disagreed with the staff over what constituted good discussion, but I've seen some of the stuff you work with, and I'm sure a lot of folks here have as well, even if you haven't explicitly named the place you were talking about.

      I want to thank you for your work. Even if you did things I disagreed with, that doesn't mean you always did things I disagreed with, and you still made the forum a better place. I've run much smaller communities with a much better staff:user ratio and even that took a lot out of me. And my users were not nearly as bad as yours. I really do think that one cannot do that kind of work without losing something, without sacrificing, perhaps permanently, something about oneself.

      Thank you. And I'm sorry it had to take so much from you.

      6 votes
      1. [3]
        Algernon_Asimov Link Parent
        I didn't want to make this all about me. I was trying to show that the problems which this writer is describing are not limited to conservative news sites - and the effects can be the same, no...

        I didn't want to make this all about me. I was trying to show that the problems which this writer is describing are not limited to conservative news sites - and the effects can be the same, no matter where you encounter the problem.

        I also don't want to give the impression that these racists and such were a majority of the people who caused problems. Most problems came from people who wanted to give shallow unsourced answers, or make jokes. The racists were a minority of trouble-makers - but they were nastier and more dedicated than the people who made casual mistakes, so they became more noticeable and harder to deal with.

        5 votes
        1. [2]
          masochist Link Parent
          That's entirely fair. You're right that those issues are not limited to conservative news sites, and the end of my reply to you tried to relate that as well. Perhaps I didn't do a very good job...

          That's entirely fair. You're right that those issues are not limited to conservative news sites, and the end of my reply to you tried to relate that as well. Perhaps I didn't do a very good job there, and I apologize. I wasn't trying to make it about you, though I did want to express some gratitude and recognize the human which is what a lot of online discussions tend to lack, as you've seen in moderating them.

          The racists--and other more egregious troublemakers--are the ones who stand out in our minds. They're the outliers, and our brains are focused on the outliers. The 1 000 rule-abiding comments fade from memory, but the 50 rule-breaking comments stand out, and the 5-10 racist ones of course stand out most. And, of course, the persistence you mentioned keeps them in your mind as well.

          1 vote
          1. Algernon_Asimov Link Parent
            Having numerous fake accounts created to abuse and mock me is a great prompt for the memory - as is having death threats delivered to my inbox. Those people aren't content to just spout their...

            And, of course, the persistence you mentioned keeps them in your mind as well.

            Having numerous fake accounts created to abuse and mock me is a great prompt for the memory - as is having death threats delivered to my inbox. Those people aren't content to just spout their racist bullshit, they will actively attack anyone who tries to shut them down. They're nasty and they make things personal.

            3 votes