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Cover image for Censorship on DEV Community 😶🤐

Censorship on DEV Community 😶🤐

technoglot profile image Amelia Vieira Rosado ・3 min read

Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

Disclaimer 🚨: No, despite the possibly misleading title of my post, I am NOT suggesting in ANY way that the team behind this platform is full of tyrants. Now, proceed.

Hey there 👋🏻 I'd like to start the week at a different pace this time. Hence this post.

As of late, I took notice of some posts around here where the author has chosen to hide certain comments. I can imagine that this has been around since the very inception of this platform. However, hear me out.

I'm not entirely okay with the practice of hiding comments. I am, however, fully onboard with the idea of fostering a safe, inclusive and respectful community on this platform. I follow the Code of Conduct (CoC) almost to the letter and I understand and acknowledge the need for the CoC in the first place.

Here's the deal. Imagine that I post a blog here and someone leaves a comment I disagree with. As the author I have the "power" to hide this comment for whatever reason I see fit, even if the opinion expressed in the comment/by the commenter didn't violate the CoC in any way.

I will be honest with you all. On more than one occasion I felt tempted to hide a comment or two on my posts (especially the unsolicited and shameless self promo). But I chose not to do so. However, I am seeing more and more folks hiding comments on their posts. Yes, their posts are sometimes controversial and hence elicit really candid responses from other members of the community. In my experience, it would have been great to see the hidden comments. I want to see the bigger picture, not just what the author wants me to see. That's it. That's the "issue" I have with this.

Now let me be very clear, before anybody jumps to conclusions:

  • I have no intention of telling people how to "moderate" the comments on their posts.
  • I understand that the CoC is there for a reason and that it will be enforced no matter what. That's great. No objections there.
  • No, despite the possibly misleading title of my post, I am NOT suggesting in ANY way that the team behind this platform is full of tyrants. They have noble intentions and are doing their absolute best to make and keep this place wonderful and welcoming.

The bottom-line is this:

  • Do we want authors to possibly misuse the "Hide comment" feature? Do we want authors to hide comments that disagree with their narrative but are otherwise respectful, constructive and abiding to the CoC?
  • Can we, as users late to the party, have a way of seeing the hidden comments? Never mind deleted comments, these are gone for good. (P.S. if there's a way of reading hidden comments, by all means please enlighten me.)

If I am missing something and this is already being enforced whatsoever, please share the relevant docs to such information. I am genuinely curious and just trying to contribute to making this corner of the net a little more wholesome. Would be a shame to see people getting censored just because an author fails to take criticism like a grown up. I've seen it countless of times across various platforms and would hate to see this take DEV.to by storm.

By all means, drop your comments and thoughts below. I won't hide them (no matter how great the temptation).

cambio y fuera

Have a nice week folks!




Still here? Catch me on Twitter or find me elsewhere! If you like my blogs and are feeling generous, kindly consider to 👇🏻




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Discussion (135)

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sanspanic profile image
Sandra Spanik • Edited

This has been on my mind recently too. It's a tricky one. If I experience abuse, I want to have the power to, in real time, delete/hide the comment that targets me without having to wait for content moderators to step in and remove potentially damaging or abusive content.

On the other hand, even just yesterday, a 100% respectful comment of mine I spent some time writing, got censored - presumably because it disagreed with the author's point of view. Whilst it's the first time this happened to me, I realise it must be a frequent occurrence overall. I don't see how we are to have productive discussions and healthy debates if we go around censoring each other's points of views.

I'm starting to think I'd rather forego the ability to hide/delete comments and rely on the content moderation team to assist me with a delay should I experience any issues, than exist in an echo-chamber with one-sided or heavily censored debates.

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial • Edited

I love how we are all dancing around the post we are talking about here. Keeps things civil 😄

I think the solution to the "hide" part could be simple - if a post is hidden by the article author have the ability to view hidden comments under a "warning, this has been deemed inappropriate by the post author" section.

Deletion should be a last resort and only under the strictest of circumstances such as direct harassment or abuse or inciting hatred.

At the end of the day I do not envy the dev.to team, it is hard to create a safe space free from abuse, harassment etc. without rules that will inevitably silence some discussions, but the balance definitely feels "off" given recent events.

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

I think the solution to the "hide" part could be simple - if a post is hidden by the article author have the ability to view hidden comments under a "warning, this has been deemed inappropriate by the post author" section.

Yep, this is exactly what I'd like to see implemented. I want to see the hidden comments despite them being hidden in the first place.

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sanspanic profile image
Sandra Spanik

Hmm, it feels like there must be a valid reason for why this feature doesn't exist. I can think of one situation where I'd immediately want to delete a comment instead of just hiding it behind an "inappropriate wall": if it revealed my address, phone number, and incited people to harass me. In matters of personal safety, the option to delete a comment yourself is useful, I'd argue.

I clearly don't have any answers :) All I know is I'd hate for open forums like this one becoming like the Twitter echo chamber we all know and hate (or love?). Diverse opinions are great, groupthink is bad, and I wish we all agreed not to go around censoring each other unless we have very, very valid reasons to do so.

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

Makes perfect sense. The difficult part is justifying valid reasons. I don't believe there's a shared idea on what a valid reason is (the CoC does exist of course).

I hope a member of the DEV/forem team hops in and shines a light on this somehow. On why some choices were made and what holds them off from taking other decisions.

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial • Edited

You see, this is the very reason why I shouldn't make any decisions, I hadn't thought of such an important point. 🤣🤣

At the very least then if something is deleted the person who wrote it should at least be able to view it (as I have reposted comments that were removed with a tiny amendment at the top and they were left up) and perhaps a reason should be given.

Saying that, if I posted your address on twitter, you wouldn't be able to delete that...but obviously that puts the onus on rapid moderation, not something a "small" team like the team at dev.to could do (and I actually don't know how quickly twitter would act on that either).

Perhaps we could display a "number / percentage of deleted comments" next to a users name, so we at least know who might be someone who silences people...just spit balling ideas though, it might also have unintended consequences!

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

This is the very point of this discussion: to brainstorm about this "issue". Together we can think up a pretty clever solution, I'm sure 😉

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

I'd be very much against displaying any sort of stats like that. DEV does well in not displaying metrics next to people's names at the moment, and I'd be sad to see them start, but regardless, starting with things that would most likely be considered negative is not the way. Someone who deleted 90% of comments could be the victim of someone with a bunch of sockies just as well as they could be someone who trolls and deletes.

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial

A valid point, yet again, a lot of the ideas I am throwing out are half-baked, I am hoping that one of my poor ideas leads to a good one!

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link2twenty profile image
Andrew Bone • Edited

Fail-fast is a very dev minded way to go about it 😉

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

I do believe your ideas will contribute to a fully-baked one, haha! 😊😂

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defman profile image
Sergey Kislyakov 🇷🇺 🇺🇸 • Edited

@sanspanic ,

In matters of personal safety, the option to delete a comment yourself is useful, I'd argue.

Safety vs freedom huh. While your argument is valid, I think there's a way to let people not censorship anyone with safety in mind: if there are enough reports on a comment - only the mods should be able to view it.

Edit:

After thinking a bit more, I've come up with another solution: hide comments until mod review when they are reported for a specific violation (e.g. doxing, hate speech, etc.). If the report was false, some restrictions could be applied to the one who've reported a comment. And I'm pretty sure if that's the case, not everyone would want to report something they disagree with using these categories.

With this system, we would have a healthy discussion and a person would not be vulnerable to doxing and other bad stuff.

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

I have no idea what post "we" might be talking about here, for what it's worth. So the dancing is working in that it's not sending people off in an avalanche to comment somewhere that's already problematic!

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

I have no idea what post "we" might be talking about here, for what it's worth.

No need to focus on whatever post or posts are meant. The bottom-line remains that some folks are being silenced for no good reason.

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patricknelson profile image
Patrick Nelson

I love how we are all dancing around the post we are talking about here. 😋

I honestly like that too. I'm here to just vent a little bit about how I feel but also I'm very strongly against any sort of pile on effect. We should continue to handle it respectfully. We are a community with a diversity of opinion and that's ok.

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial

Exactly, also sometimes it is easy to just "see red".

The last thing we need is more people going to that post with them already having an opinion about it, it just leads to comments that aren't "on the line" it just leads to attacks.

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cher profile image
Cher • Edited

On the other hand, even just yesterday, a 100% respectful comment of mine I spent some time writing, got censored - presumably because it disagreed with the author's point of view.

Your comment was not hidden.

It was (unfortunately) threaded incorrectly because you replied to someone else instead of me. I hid their comment because it was abusive until the moderators could get to it.

This just tells me there is an issue with the platform's UI for replying when there are other replies.

It's frustrating to me that you assert here that it's because I disagreed with you, when I clearly didn't hide any of the rest of your comments, and had dialogues with at least 15 other people who also disagreed with me.

I opened an issue for this on github: github.com/forem/forem/issues/13730

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sanspanic profile image
Sandra Spanik

I was motivated to engage with the current article due to my recent first experience with censorship. You'll note that I never linked to your post or left any identifying information whatsoever, neither did I assume that the article was about you - in fact, I'm fairly certain it wasn't. I did nothing wrong. I'm just trying to live my life and engage in the topics I'm curious about. The reason I'm curious about this topic might have been initially inspired by how your actions in your comment section affected me, but now no longer has anything to do with you.

I'm not attacking you, and I'm definitely not looking for a fight. In fact, I'm really scared of you and your 30k Twitter followers who you just actively tweeted at about a group you call "us" behind our back, LINKING to this article. Talk about cognitive dissonance.

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cher profile image
Cher • Edited

neither did I assume that the article was about you - in fact, I'm fairly certain it wasn't

It's not, and I'm not asserting it was.

You'll note that I never linked to your post or left any identifying information whatsoever

This comment thread was linked to me on Twitter because it was very obvious to anyone with context (including other people in this thread as you can see) was talking about me.

You specifically stated that I hid your comment because I disagreed with you. That is simply not true, as I did not even hide your comments. I agree it is unfortunate that your comment was hidden as a result, as well, and definitely not my intention, nor do I think that's what every author would want to happen unless they choose to hide an entire thread.

I'm not attacking you, and I'm definitely not looking for a fight.

To be clear, I didn't say you attacked me, nor am I saying that you did. The idea that you gave identifying information to anyone with context of my post really isn't an issue to me, nor is talking about how you feel about the fact that I hid comments, and talking about how the platform gives me the right to do so. My issue is that you said I did something that I did not do, and went further to say why I did that thing that I did not do, when a large portion of your argument against my post is precisely that you feel I was making assumptions about the antagonist's motivations that I couldn't possibly know for certain.

You may be reading this as hostile, and I have to accept and take responsibility for that, but I emphatically express that I am not being hostile. I am frustrated that I'm having to defend moderating my own content and further that it's as immature as "they disagreed" when there are 60+ comments of dialogue, including your own, debating the topic.

In fact, I'm really scared of you and your 30k Twitter followers who you just actively tweeted at about a group you call "us" behind our back, LINKING to this article. Talk about cognitive dissonance.

I'm sorry that you're scared of me, and in terms of power dynamics, I understand that I have that kind of advantage. I am doing my best not to create a pile-on, which is the reason I hid some of the comments.

The link to the article was to a moderator, not to my 30,000 followers. Only people who follow both her and I, or drill down into that content would see it. And that audience is extremely limited.

engagement of link to post, seen by 20, clicked by 3

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sanspanic profile image
Sandra Spanik • Edited

My issue is that you said I did something that I did not do, and went further to say why I did that thing that I did not do, when a large portion of your argument against my post is precisely that you feel I was making assumptions about the antagonist's motivations that I couldn't possibly know for certain.

Cher, this is a separate article about a separate issue. I was not accusing YOU of anything. I simply said that I recently had my first experience of censorship, without providing context or clarification.

I follow Amelia, and so I was one of the first people to comment on this article, if not the first one. I wasn't jumping on a bandwagon of a pre-existing, obvious theme. I simply mentioned my experience, in the fresh and empty comment section of a new post.

As for "assuming": how could I have known my comment got hidden due to a bug, and not your intention? That shouldn't ever be anyone's default assumption when they see the message "some posts have been hidden by the post's author". I implore you to put yourself in my shoes and have some empathy with the fact that assuming I got censored was the most logical assumption to make. Besides, when I ended up on the "comment graveyard" URL, I saw some other comments, similar to mine, that had also been hidden. How could I assume anything other than what I did, seeing multiple comments like mine tucked neatly away?

I would have stayed the fuck out of this article had it already had a lot of engagement, because as I said, I'm scared of your power and the ramifications our public interactions can have on my career and my life. You have 30k followers, and a DEV mod immediately replied to your tweet that they'd aid you if you need it. I don't think that's fair to the many people who have expressed their opinions here, opinions that have nothing to do with your article or you as a person. Seeing that Twitter interaction between you and the mod honestly made me lose faith in the fairness of this platform.

In summary: I can only speak for myself, but I've moved on from your article! I was thinking out loud about censorship in general, not in reference to you.

I'm not on a mission to tarnish your reputation or even engage with you at all at this point, and I really hope you stop referencing me in your tweets (which is, despite your claim, something I distinctly managed NOT to do in my interactions here) - your hostility towards me is causing me a lot of hurt. I'm here to help people like me transition to coding from a diverse background. I care about making coding accessible to all, I'm passionate about mental health, equality and I like to defend the underdog, even if the underdog is, god-forbid, a cis het white male on occasion. I'm not here for this, and I feel nauseous at how this escalated.

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sanspanic profile image
Sandra Spanik • Edited

One last thing, you're wrong to assume you did not create a pile-on, and you're wrong to think you've hidden the post. I can see it, and I follow neither you nor the moderator.
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cher profile image
Cher • Edited

I was not accusing YOU of anything

On the other hand, even just yesterday, a 100% respectful comment of mine I spent some time writing, got censored - presumably because it disagreed with the author's point of view.

I'll resign to the fact that you weren't saying I was responsible for hiding it, but surely you can see how you are implying that I did.

how could I have known my comment got hidden due to a bug, and not your intention?

This contradicts what you just said... but you could have waited for me to reply your repost? You could have asked me? I certainly didn't engage with you in a way that suggested I was uncomfortable with anything you wrote, and I even "liked" your final post because I was too tired to reply, but wanted to express that I appreciated it.

I implore you to put yourself in my shoes and have some empathy

I do, and I implore you to do the same.

I was honestly refreshed by our interaction, and given that so much of the emails I received were openly hostile and misogynistic, it was nice to engage in a discourse with not only no aggressive undertones, but also with someone who has had at least some similar experiences to me to discuss an opposing viewpoint. I sincerely appreciated our discourse.

When I was linked this thread, it wasn't pointed to your post (though I chose to reiterate that I didn't hide your comment as was implied, and link to it, and the issue I raised in github) because it was clear to others that it was about me and while the author as the ability and right to hide my standing up for myself and correcting misinformation, I hoped she wouldn't given her position on the matter.

Seeing that Twitter interaction between you and the mod honestly made me lose faith in the fairness of this platform.
I don't think that's fair to the many people who have expressed their opinions here, opinions that have nothing to do with your article or you as a person.

When I got here there were already more than 100 comments here. They were already watching it because of that. She just expressed if there was any sort of abuse happening that wasn't getting dealt with, to reach out to her directly, because it's already a lot for the mods to handle as it is.

Furthermore, my tweet actually had nothing to do with your comment, but rather many of the others. I don't actually think your comment on its own would be so obviously identifying, except if someone clicked through your profile, and while it frustrated me, it only prompted me to correct you and work to solve the underlying issue by opening a github issue.

you're wrong to assume you did not create a pile-on

Can you point me to the pile-on? I don't see that here or on Twitter.

you're wrong to think you've hidden the post

I didn't say I hid the tweet. I was saying that I actually hide replies and comments at times because they are aggressive in tone and I don't want anyone else to jump all over the person to defend me or attack them.

I'm not on a mission to tarnish your reputation or even engage with you at all at this point, and I really hope you stop referencing me in your tweets (which is, despite your claim, something I distinctly managed NOT to do in my interactions here) - your hostility towards me at me is causing me a lot of hurt.

I didn't think you were. I haven't referenced you in my tweets. It confuses me again, why you are saying you didn't reference me in your comments here. This isn't hostility. I'm sorry that it's coming across that way, as I said before, I'm actually trying really hard not to express the frustration that your assumption made me feel, and I'm struggling to find language in anything I've written that can be read as hostile, outside of the fact that we are clearly at odds over a misunderstanding.

You are not the only one hurting here. I'm glad you've moved on, and I had hoped that the churn of a new issue would give me the space to do that as well, but I didn't get to do that. I was linked a thread of people openly expressing their disdain for me (not including yours), and your implying I hid something because you disagreed with me, after I felt like we had a really good dialogue cut deep.

I wish you the best, truly.

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sanspanic profile image
Sandra Spanik

What I understand least of all is why you hold me accountable for making an assumption that this website literally DISPLAYED AS A MESSAGE to me. I got told my comment got hidden by the post author. And I got led to a URL where I saw others like mine, also hidden. I don't understand what happened on a technical level. I also don't understand, on a human level, why you think my assumption that I got censored, given the information I had, was the wrong one.

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cher profile image
Cher • Edited

I got told my comment got hidden by the post author.

I am so sorry, I wrongly understood based on what was said here that folks' comments have been hidden without being notified, unlike when it's deleted, and because in your reply on my post that it simply 'disappeared' because it was no longer in our conversation thread, and that you reposted it thinking it was a technical issue.

I have never had a comment hidden or deleted, so my understanding is based entirely on what has been presented here and in your reply on my post about it.

I also don't understand, on a human level, why you think my assumption that I got censored, given the information I had, was the wrong one.

I didn't have the information that you were sent a notification that I hid it, so hopefully that clears that up.

I completely understand now why you believed that.

I hope you can understand, from my perspective, why I was confused and hurt by what you said here, without the context that you were notified.

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kaydacode profile image
Kim Arnett 

@sanspanic Hi Hello Hey - I'm the mod you're referencing above.

I offered to step in because I know what it's like to be a woman on the internet as I'm sure you do as well! Things can turn toxic incredibly quick, especially when you're speaking out.

As a mod I have a responsibility to enact the COC put forth by the DEV team. I would never abuse that. I was apart of DEV from dang near the beginning. This community means a lot to me and I want to ensure peoples voices are heard.. IN A CONSTRUCTIVE MANNER. As do the other moderators of the site! There's an active mod chat where this article was flagged long before it came across my radar. Everyone on the Dev team want to make sure this community stays safe for everyone. That's it.

Just wanted to clear up any confusion on where my intentions lie. I'm a big fan of Cher, I'm a big fan of Dev, and I'm a big fan of authors having control over their space on this site. Carry on. :)

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sanspanic profile image
Sandra Spanik

Hi Kim. If this thread was already on your radar, then it means it was already getting moderated, so why engage publicly on Twitter? This platform also means a lot to me, I'm pretty sure it's basically the reason I now have a developer job. To get unfairly targeted on Twitter by someone with a large following, based on assumptions that even Cher herself has since apologised for, and to then see a content moderator of this website essentially say "I've got your back", makes me feel all kinds of sad and unwelcome.

Also sad is the fact that I've just posted a new article, arguably my most useful one yet, and I've never had less engagement. I can't shake the feeling that I've been put into a category of "troublemaker" and suppressed. All for speaking up, and respectfully sharing my opinion, which on ONE occasion happened to deviate from the norm.

The lesson here for me is that I need to bite my tongue before disagreeing on sensitive issues, if I am to remain in the moderator team's good esteem, and retain access to what has until now felt like a welcoming and safe space.

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kaydacode profile image
Kim Arnett 

That's not how moderation works, we honestly don't have much power.

It wasn't on my radar, it was brought up in a mod chat. I've not been on DEV for a bit, so I was unaware. As my tweet said, If there's a need for a mod let me know. I've offered that to others as well. Need for a mod == CoC was violated and is going unchecked. A lot of content goes through this site, it's easy for things to get missed.

I'll RT your article right now. Hopefully that will help drive some engagement. Best of luck Sandra - I'm glad you're here and a constructive contributor to this conversation, for what it's worth.

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sanspanic profile image
Sandra Spanik

Apology not accepted, I am hurt and thanks to you, I’ve lost both followers and faith in this website and at least one of its moderators. I feel like I have to take my content elsewhere. For an early career developer, losing my momentum and the opportunity to reach people in this way is a pretty big deal.

You have 30k followers and with that comes a responsibility to check your tweets before you make incendiary statements that are not backed up by facts. The most ironic thing is that you’re talking about me behind my back and making wrong assumptions, in what I can only assume to be a bout of cognitive dissonance, about me experiencing cognitive dissonance, and making wrong assumptions whilst talking about you behind your back.

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cher profile image
Cher • Edited

To get unfairly targeted on Twitter by someone with a large following, based on assumptions that even Cher herself has since apologised for

Sandra, I apologized for being frustrated with you and for saying you had no basis for assuming I purposefully hid your comment, because it was a misunderstanding. I didn't even express myself in any emotional way to you until you responded to this comment with hostility.

You claimed I did something I didn't do, I respectfully corrected you and let you know I found it frustrating that you attributed it to simply disagreeing with me, when there's obviously a ton of dialogue between myself and others AND YOU that I did not hide that is based entirely around disagreeing with me.

I'm trying really hard to be understanding of the dynamics here of having a discussion with someone with a large audience, and believe me, I've been there, but saying I targeted you on Twitter is just categorically false. This is absolute exhausting and I think my good graces and patience are spent on this matter.

thanks to you, I’ve lost both followers

I did not drive anyone directly, nor indirectly, to your content. Not on Twitter. Not here. Not on backchannels. I responded to you, both on your repost and here, where you mentioned it.

The most ironic thing is that you’re talking about me behind my back and making wrong assumptions, in what I can only assume to be a bout of cognitive dissonance, about me experiencing cognitive dissonance, and making wrong assumptions whilst talking about you behind your back.

I've told you more than once, that tweet was not about you. I made no wrong assumptions. You assumed I deleted your comment, which I didn't know at the time you received notification of, and I corrected you, here, on this platform.

I sincerely wish you the best, but I cannot psychologically handle this dialogue with you any further.

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Sloan, the sloth mascot
Comment deleted
kaydacode profile image
Kim Arnett 

Patrick, you are posting on a public thread, on public articles where anyone can see what you’re saying. Anyone could have pieced together what article many of these comments are referencing.

Please see Michael’s comment with more info on this safety feature of hiding comments.
The DEV team is always open to suggestions to make things better, if you have ideas!
dev.to/michaeltharrington/comment/...

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sanspanic profile image
Sandra Spanik • Edited

The fact that many people came here, independently, interested in this topic after having recently felt censored, is a natural result of many people having recently felt censored.

You continue to make us feel like we did something wrong by simply talking about a subject we have interest in, without any disrespect, without names, without links, indeed even without any recognition that a lot of us had been involved in the original post as well - for example, I never saw Patrick’s comments until now. They had, after all, been removed.

And you, a supposedly neutral moderator, are here because the author LINKED to this post on her public Twitter with 30k followers, actively pointing towards our cognitive dissonance. You’re making us feel like we were wrong to discuss something because it could have easily been linked to the initial post.

Doesn’t this strike you as problematic, even hypocritical?

If you think this thread is insensitive because it is public and could have too easily been traced back to some other thread, why do you think it’s okay for someone with a huge public platform to literally DIRECT people here?

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kaydacode profile image
Kim Arnett 

Again, this is a public post on a public article. Never did I say this thread is insensitive. Never did I say this was wrong to discuss, in fact I believe I thanked you for being a constructive contributor to the conversation.

If you or others feel anything in this thread/article or any other has been unfairly moderated, you're welcome to reach out to yo@dev.to.

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Sloan, the sloth mascot
Comment deleted
cher profile image
Cher • Edited

This is the last thing I’m going to say here.

the author LINKED to this post on her public Twitter with 30k followers
someone with a huge public platform to literally DIRECT people here

I did not direct anyone here other than a moderator. I showed you how it works, and that an audience of 20 people saw the link, and only that moderator has chimed in, reflecting that intention in its impact.

Everyone who saw this on their own that had context knew you were talking about me, which is why I was linked it in the first place.

Claiming that I have branded folks villains, censored people for opposing viewpoints, and the lack of general consideration for me as a human being led me to feel compelled to defend myself.

without any disrespect

You continue to push that all the commentary here has been respectful, and I don’t agree. It felt, as the subject, I was being dehumanized by being robbed of my perspective while folks publicly “vented” about how I moderated my own space, for my own mental health.

I am kindly asking you to stop saying I’ve done things that I have not done.

And a final note, context is key. And more often, ditching the context is powerful. It's easy to share one side of a story and not allow anyone else's to be surfaced. I hope that's what we are ultimately talking about here (in this article). Please take time to reflect on how we feel when our content is hidden, but also when we strategically hide others' to tell an untrue story.

[...she is now telling] me that I’m not entitled to a dialog with her. 😳

vs

You aren't entitled to a dialogue with me, nor am I to entitled to one with you.

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kaydacode profile image
Kim Arnett 

Not my website, not my decision! I'm a volunteer mod, as with many others that have already been responding in here!

There's an existing bug linked below. I will add a comment that notifications should be included as well.
github.com/forem/forem/issues/11636

Also I'll respond with I was watching that thread as well, just to ensure things stay civil. I feel both sides are expressing how the interaction made them feel. If you feel otherwise, or feel my judgement is not neutral, you're welcome to message yo@dev.to to get further help.

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patricknelson profile image
Patrick Nelson

Sorry about that! I'm relatively new to the site; thanks for the clarification. 😊

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andy profile image
Andy Zhao (he/him)

Hi @cher and @sanspanic . I want to apologize for the hidden comment feature's tooling and messaging, and how it's not as clear as it needs to be. It has caused a lot of misunderstanding, and what I believe has allowed for a decent part of the back and forth that you two had. I'm truly sorry for that.

If it's any solace, I'm taking a lot of the feedback here in this post and the discussion, and will be sharing it with our product team. There's a lot of room for improvement and additions to our tooling and messaging here. We definitely want to make sure folks can engage in the content and not spend a lot of their emotional energy feeling frustrated at misunderstandings.

I really appreciate you both sharing your thoughts on the platform, and hope you two can feel a little bit more at ease that Forem is keeping all of this mind.

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

On the other hand, even just yesterday, a 100% respectful comment of mine I spent some time writing, got censored - presumably because it disagreed with the author's point of view.

Yikes, so sorry to hear about that!

I have to agree that one cannot solely rely on the moderators. I haven't been offended/disrespected by anyone around here (yet) but when that does happen, I think I'd rather report the comment instead of hiding it. I think I don't "benefit" the community by hiding the person's comment. By this I mean: "You said what you said. I won't protect you by hiding your harmful comment. Let the world see your true colors. After all you were very comfortable insulting/bullying someone online." Yes, I happen to be that radical at times 😅

But in all seriousness. This practice needs to be addressed somehow. Having constructive conversations online is becoming impossible. Most of the time things are either black or white, there's no greys in between. You either agree with them or you are against them. I get it, taking criticism is hard. But shutting out other people's opinions because you disagree with them is just bogus.

Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts on this one!

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patricknelson profile image
Patrick Nelson • Edited

My thread of comments was censored too. This felt like a battle of attrition and I lost.

Coincidentally it took exactly the same angle as yours; except I persisted until I was personally accused of "sweeping it under the rug." There was a bit too much drama and emotional retort (even after spending several hours in my replies) that I simply deleted my comments after they got censored (and having received a couple likes).

The crazy thing was that I agreed on the bigger picture; my fault I guess was nitpicking at a particular detail which didn't align with the author's perspective.

I see myself as such a hardcore geek; like, I live (like all of you) "in the weeds." I care so much about the subject matter and it really matters to me that everyone else also be able to enjoy their passion too, freely. I don't care what your race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or religion is.

EDIT: I really tried to move on. Even though I thought I had vented here, encouraging others not to call her out, I figured we had moved past this issue and came to agree that we are a community with a diversity of opinions.

However, the author decided to track me down here and use my own "final straw" against me. After my thread was hidden, she then revealed purposefully found me here and then revealed that, actually, she hid my comments because she felt attacked by me. This was not my intent; I sincerely thought I largely agreed with her except for a single detail (the core thesis of her article).

However, I'm now in a position where I feel forced to publicly defend my statements because of this escalation. Please see my latest comment on the current article for more context on the original conversation between her and I: dev.to/patricknelson/comment/1ecpj

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

I'm saddened to hear this. I really am. So sorry you were branded the villain. You don't strike me as a disrespectful person at all.

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patricknelson profile image
Patrick Nelson

Thank you. It was an interesting but nuanced discussion with some complexity to it. At the end of it, I just felt dismissed (as it appears the author did), even though I thought I largely agreed with them.

Even on dev.to, anything politically sensitive still runs the risk of descending into a potentially toxic discussion; ironically, even if the discussion itself is about toxic discussions.

Considering the time and effort it takes, to honestly consider the opinions of others (particularly those you disagree with) and to write a well thought out opinion of your own, it's often much easier to simply not participate. Particularly if the subject matter is at all potentially contentious in any way.

One lesson you could learn from this to simply stay anonymous or just don't get involved. However, I feel that degrades the quality of the content and the level of consideration, because I genuinely want to represent myself well when my name is publicly attached to to what I'm saying.

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

At the end of it, I just felt dismissed (as it appears the author did), even though I thought I largely agreed with them.

This is what upsets me the most! You basically agree with them but they still censor you. I just don't get it! How much lower do we have to fall as humankind?

I really don't like how things unfolded at all. Things were a hot mess over the weekend. And to think we are supposed to continue our lives like nothing happened. Oh boy, the audacity...

This is one of the reasons why people don't engage with any kind of content these days. They don't feel heard. They feel dismissed. They are treated like the villain. That's really uncool I must say.

I really don't know how to feel about this whole thing, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me. Chances are not much will change, because entitled folks will be entitled folks and well, the minorities are sacrificed along with their opinions.

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cher profile image
Cher • Edited

So sorry you were branded the villain.

The sad thing, to me, is that despite not using my name, you are all doing the very thing you postured against me doing. I never "branded" anyone a "villain".

I am exhausted after many days of having to respond to hundreds of comments, often repeating the same exact points over and over to each person making the exact same points.

@patricknelson :
Our exchange in particular left me mentally extinguished and I felt that your final reply to me threw out what I spent a significant amount of time and thoughtfulness writing to focus on one single word, dismissing all of that time and energy. I don't actually feel like our interaction was a healthy one at all, and somehow I had missed that, and on top of that, it made no points from you, nor from me, that weren't readily readable and available in any of the other dozens of comment threads challenging my post.

Your comments read to me as increasing in aggression, with the last one being the final straw to me.

I'll leave with this. You have absolutely zero right to take up any amount of space in my head, nor on my posts. You aren't entitled to a dialogue with me, nor am I to entitled to one with you. While I appreciated you taking the time you did to share your differing opinion, I, again, felt like your tone got increasingly more aggressive, and so I chose to simply disengage and let the other threads that remained more constructive into arguing these two opposing viewpoints stand on their own.

While I apologize that this made you feel victimized, I want you to consider that I hid your content because I felt attacked by you.

Edit:

the author decided to track me down here
she then revealed purposefully found me here

Neither of these things are true.

I was linked this thread of people talking about me, because it was obvious they were talking about me. I read the thread. I replied where I felt I wanted/needed to defend myself.

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theowlsden profile image
Comment marked as low quality/non-constructive by the community. View Code of Conduct
Shaquil Maria

I'll leave with this. You have absolutely zero right to take up any amount of space in my head, nor on my posts.

You really are getting worked up for nothing. Nobody mentioned your name or your post, why not just move on with your life? This post is about the habit of authors hiding comments and about how it invalidates the opinions of the commenters. This post is not about YOU. So please stop justifying yourself and move on.

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cher profile image
Cher

I'm replying to specific comments about me, in this thread. Thank you for your input.

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patricknelson profile image
Patrick Nelson • Edited

Redacted.

EDIT: Full deleted thread here.

EDIT 2: Cleaning things up here since it has gotten messy. Basically I'm asking that she not reply to me again and that I disagree strongly with her message above. I'll leave it at that.

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patricknelson profile image
Patrick Nelson

@cher I gave it more thought, reread what I said, what you said and etc. Please accept my apologies on this and the original thread. I was definitely too pedantic in my last comment to you and cut it unceremoniously short, I honestly wasn't in the best state of mind at the time; however that's no excuse. When I saw the notifications, I selfishly felt very overloaded (nothing like what you're experiencing, I'm sure). I took it much to personally as well and that's my fault. I hope you can understand and I don't expect anything in return per se. I've already made sure to edit out or remove most of my statements if it helps.

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cher profile image
Cher

I appreciate this a lot. I can understand feeling overloaded (I was there, too, when I started hiding comments to control the flow of notifications and repeating myself, mostly).

Hopefully we can all be a little more empathetic here and remember we're all just humans with totally different experiences trying to come together for a better understanding to work towards a more equitable and healthy environment.

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sanspanic profile image
Sandra Spanik • Edited

dev.to/devteam/changelog-hidden-co... This is a useful post.

We want to give authors the agency to manage the discussions happening on their own posts. After all, it is their post, and our community members shouldn't feel concerned that an incendiary comment may tarnish or derail their contributions. We hope this feature will help avoid situations where a comment thread becomes too heated, and will help allow authors to simply hide comments about typos or minor inaccuracies that have been fixed. This tool supplements the regular and consistent efforts of our community moderators, and of course its use is also governed by our Code of Conduct and Terms of Service.

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

indeed is! Seems like I woke an old demon today, by addressing this "issue" once more, haha

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sargalias profile image
Spyros Argalias

I seem to have an unpopular opinion on this, but I think it's fine for the author to be able to hide comments.

This makes dev.to similar to a personal website, where you have complete control over your content and deleting comments.

dev.to could have taken a different approach, such as being more like a guest blog post website (where you can't necessarily delete your post or the comments), or being something like reddit (where you can't delete the comments, only moderators can). But I like this approach. It means that we can make posts and feel safe about them. If we get inappropriate or irrelevant comments, we can hide them. And we can do so based on our opinion. In the end, the post and page can look exactly how we want them to. It's our content after all.

But I still think that only inappropriate (and possibly completely irrelevant) comments should be hidden. If someone deletes a constructive comment with a different point of view, that just means they couldn't support their point of view in an argument. So their point of view probably doesn't have merit. Also, everyone loses out on good discussion. Finally, it gives a bad impression to viewers of that page that the author isn't fair and may unfairly hide opposing comments. So I think that's sufficient punishment for the author.

The response is to make your own post with your own point of view.

It's not ideal, but I personally think that this con is worth it for the ownership it gives the author over their content. The point of view with the most merit can still come out on top. Additionally, I hope that people who hide comments are the minority.


Sidenote: There are many comments that are unconstructive (in my opinion), such as:

  • "This was a bad post"
  • "Testing is useless" (that's the whole comment), on a post that explains the advantages of testing.

I don't delete these kind of comments personally, but I wouldn't blame someone for wanting to delete them. And I wouldn't want them to have a jury of mods that need to agree on whether it meets their threshold of "low quality" before they're deleted.

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MiguelMJ

I actually agree with you. In my opinion, you can't have both: self-moderation of your content to protect you and complete freedom of speech. If you want one, the other goes away.

Each community needs its own approach. If DEV was about politics, I would be all in for complete freedom of speech. But it is about software development and computer science, so an insecure person hiding an opposite opinion won't make that much of a difference (even though is not a nice move). If you notice that a well intended comment is removed by the author, then remember his/her name and don't engage with them again 🤷. It's bad for you, but it's better for vulnerable people.

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sargalias profile image
Spyros Argalias

Yeah, it seems like they contradict at some level.

Also, interesting mention about politics there. I hadn't considered it. It's interesting to think about how we'd do things differently for different topics and what impact it might have overall. Thanks :)

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miguelmj profile image
MiguelMJ

Thanks, Spyros. I believe that each community should have different purposes or we wouldn't want to even use the Internet!😂

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

It's bad for you, but it's better for vulnerable people.

Certainly a fair point

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

It's alright to have an unpopular opinion, absolutely fine by me!

I personally don't bother hiding comments (not even the shameless promo I get every so often in my comment section). I just leave them be. Not everyone has to agree with me on everything, and I've come to terms with that.

I started blogging with the intention to share what I know with others. And despite being in "full" control of my content, I don't feel motivated to weed out every last comment on my post. I just leave people be. I challenge self-promoters here and there and those that don't have anything constructive to add to the conversation ("This post is useless"-kind of comments). They usually don't interact back. Perhaps, because they feel like they are in the minority or because they are trolls.

Either way I stand for the protection and safety of the author, but I also value other people's views and I don't believe everything needs to be "censored".

Food for thought. Spicy way of starting the week, if you ask me. 😂

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sargalias profile image
Spyros Argalias

I think what you do is very good. I also leave almost all comments alone, even troll comments. So in a sense, I don't exercise "full control" over my content either :).

I guess we only have a different opinion at the extremities. I also definitely think that censoring opposing points of view is bad for the community. But I still believe that your content, on your page, should be your own. Other people can still get their view across on their own posts, which technically solves the censorship problem.

It's not ideal, but I think this way, the author can feel 100% safe, rather than have other people decide for them on what's allowed or not on their content.

But that's just my opinion and where I would like the balance. You've made some great points too. In the end, it's up to community to decide :).

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Patrick Nelson • Edited

It's a very valid opinion; I think the nuance for me was not on the existence of the feature, but maybe more how authors decided to use it when mixed with politically sensitive issues (which could get heated, importantly). This may actually entrench individuals on each "side" (when drawing lines) in the debate, particularly if they feel they are being unfairly silenced. So, the issue is not with the ability to censor itself (which I agree should still remain on dev.to, even though I "fell victim" to it), but rather the decision that is then made to censor someone after an hours-long back-and-forth that can potentially have unexpected side effects.

But that's up to the author.

On the flip side, I do moderate a minor subreddit of my own. As the moderator, I'm careful not to remove comments unless they violate some pretty obvious rules (i.e. follow "reddiquette," no harassment, bullying, name calling, hate speech, etc etc). This rarely ever happens, but: Even if I end up on the unpopular side of a discussion and end up with some negative karma, I will not flair my posts or delete comments or ban users or anything along those lines. For me it's more important that we have a forum where folks can discuss openly without fear of the moderator disagreeing with them. If it ever went that far (it hasn't yet), I'd rather just take all the negative karma and potentially just delete my comment in shame rather than use my power to moderate the discussion to my liking.

However, that's a completely different context and a totally different forum and type of discussion. Even in a place like dev.to though, I think I would still apply that approach. Particularly in the world of development. I can't count how many times I've had an opinion that ended up changing because I realized I was "doing it wrong" or that there ended up being much better ways of doing something that I never considered.

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Michael Tharrington (he/him)

Heyo!

Thanks for bringing this tricky issue up... I can definitely understand the pushback against giving authors the power to hide comments on their post. ​

Just for the record, here's the changelog post that originally came out describing the feature in case anyone would like to review the motivation and thoughts on the feature at the time of release.

First off, I don't think that giving authors the ability to hide comments on their post is a perfect solution. As you pointed out, it allows authors the freedom to hide any comment on their post, which means that authors may hide warranted criticism or any other discussions that they disagree with.

On the other hand, not giving authors this ability, means that the author must report a comment that they think should be removed from their article and wait for an admin to remove (or not remove) that comment based on whether it has violated the Code of Conduct as it's interpreted by the admin who is reviewing reports — after all, we're humans and so may have slightly different interpretations of how a comment should be handled based on the CoC. That waiting could be an excruciating experience for someone who has been majorly slighted or worse had their info doxxed.

Ultimately, we decided that the benefits outweighed the drawbacks — that we'd rather allow authors the ability to hide comments on their own post (without needing to report a comment) because we think providing this safety feature and giving authors the agency to control the discussion on their own post is more important than allowing an a commenter's comment to stay visible on a post when the author doesn't want it to be there.

Maybe there is some middle-ground area here that we could take. I definitely understand the idea of making it so that hidden comments are still visible to all by clicking in somewhere else to see them. On one hand, I really like this idea as it seems like a nice compromise, but on the other, I feel like it does sort of undo the purpose of making the comment hidden if it can easily be clicked to. I'd slightly worry that people would be drawn to read these comments because they want to see whatever controversy is happening on the other side.

Maybe when an author hides a comment that comment should be flagged behind scenes to DEV staff. I have a feeling that some of the time a comment is hidden and not necessarily reported... in some instances, we actually may want to take a harder stance against the commenter whose comment was hidden. Perhaps they have breached our Code of Conduct and need further action taken against them? On the other hand, maybe the comment was "This post is plagiarized" and thus it's the author, not the commenter that has broken our Code of Conduct and needs further action taken against them. I could see us potentially opening up a section for admin to review hidden comments.

While I think there are issues with allowing an author to hide any comment on their post, I still believe that the safety benefits outweigh the downsides. I do think it's worth exploring some inbetween options though and will bring this up with the team. Thanks for the honest feedback here and hopefully we can come up with ways to improve this feature!

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

Just for the record, here's the changelog post that originally came out describing the feature in case anyone would like to review the motivation and thoughts on the feature at the time of release.

Thanks for sharing, I'll take a look at it!

after all, we're humans and so may have slightly different interpretations of how a comment should be handled based on the CoC.

Yes, and well, because of this things often go sideways, haha.

I could see us potentially opening up a section for admin to review hidden comments.

I admit that it adds a significant overhead, but through this discussion, I hope anyone can freely contribute possible solutions and middle-ground approaches to improve the platform.

I knew that you guys thought long and hard about this. I know that perhaps not everyone is fully satisfied with the current way of doing things but it can surely be addressed. Yes, I don't want authors to feel unsafe but I can't help but sympathize with those whose comments have been hidden or deleted in an unwarranted way.

Anyhow, I hope that this discussion brings in some great suggestions that can be helpful to the DEV/Forem team!

Thanks for dropping in!

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kallmanation profile image
Nathan Kallman

I've also had a comment hidden. I was suspicious of plagiarism because I remembered the exact word-for-word introduction and general outline of the post (I remembered because it was actually an excellent article). It looked like the original had been deleted as the only evidence I could find was a tweet with the introduction linking to a now non-existent article.

I left a comment with my evidence and simply asking for an explanation. They removed my comment. It turns out they were the original author and were just republishing for themselves instead of the organization it was originally published under (which I learned from the DEV team after reporting the post). Why couldn't they simply leave that explanation? Why hide my comment? It just makes you look guilty. I lost a lot of respect for that author. If I ever see their post I wonder "what comments are you hiding?"

Since then I've sworn to never remove comments on my articles unless they are truly harmful (doxxing, harrassment, vulgur, etc.). I could remove "unhelpful" comments; but I'm not going to, stifling conversation is not a good way to learn and grow.

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link2twenty profile image
Andrew Bone

I think unhelpful comments like that should be flagged still. A comment like that would be enough to put some new devs off following the career and that's a huge shame. I'm sorry they were like that (though you're right, it feeds the algorithm 😉)

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kallmanation profile image
Nathan Kallman

You know I keep forgetting that I have "trusted user" privileges... I don't want to take the team's attention on something so mild that I can handle, but I did mark it Low Quality. Looks like I was the tipping point:

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

Since then I've sworn to never remove comments on my articles unless they are truly harmful (doxxing, harrassment, vulgur, etc.). I could remove "unhelpful" comments; but I'm not going to, stifling conversation is not a good way to learn and grow.

SPOT ON! Couldn't agree more!

It's sad to hear how unprofessionally you (and others) are being treated. And this is exactly what I mean. Some authors abuse the "power" they have over their posts and those who get to comment on them. This needs to be addressed because it's getting out of hand....

Thanks so much for joining and sharing your experience!

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

I have only been notified of one comment of mine being deleted, and it was one pointing out a flaw in the post's premise. I contacted the author and came to a satisfactory conclusion (though I can't remember whether they restored my comment or updated their post or what tbh it was a while ago).

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kallmanation profile image
Nathan Kallman

I'm sorry to hear that... it's always sad when someone responds that way.

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

despite the possibly misleading title of my post [...]

I think the cover picture and title are a little exaggerated. Comparing a discussion forum to governmental censorship and civil rights is hyperbolic, inspiring visions of people demanding to say whatever they want here regardless of the CoC.

The actual topic - people hidding comments they disagree with or otherwise abusing a feature - doesn't have anything to do with "freedom of speech".

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

inspiring visions of people demanding to say whatever they want here regardless of the CoC.

I don't believe I did any of that, to be honest.

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

It's what's generally meant when people complain about free speech on social media.

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

So, are you assuming I mean the same thing? Or how should I go about it? I'm curious.

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

No, no I'm not assuming you mean the same thing!

I'm saying that "free speech" and the people who tend to be most vocal about it conflate governmental (US amendment-style) freedom of speech with what they can say on social media, and in turn use that as a place to pitch their battles about their right to say whatever they want, and insult whoever they want. I'm worried that it'll make this post attract more armchair warriors than it would if it was something about comments and community.

"Free speech" used to be a positive idea, but it's been a big issue with places like Gab (for example) which build their image on free speech while really being more about hate speech.
Sometimes these DEV posts get shared via Twitter (especially when they get a lot of comments like this one is bound to!) and the splashy headline and picture might give people the wrong impression.

I know you're trying to catch people's eye, and I took the disclaimer on board, but censorship and freedom of speech are two concepts that don't apply to this site, and which have baggage. I'm not always the most tactful or graceful person in the way I talk, but I'd try to pitch it more like, "Discussion of how to help people manage their interactions" or as a way to balance people feeling safe with people trying to ignore others' points of view. If it's soley a discussion about people having their point of view excluded, then "What can we do to improve comment moderation?" is a pretty positive spin.

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

Makes perfect sense. I now fully understand what you mean. I'll take this into consideration. (Not gonna lie, picking a title and cover image was pretty difficult. I'll try to revise them and improve them as best as I can).

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link2twenty profile image
Andrew Bone

I appreciate that you changed your post image 😊

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technoglot profile image
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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

I put a disclaimer for a reason. Anyway, sorry to hear you disliked the title and cover image.

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jacobherrington profile image
Jacob Herrington (he/him)

Howdy! I work at Forem!

As I understand it, the ability to hide comments is more about enabling authors to protect themselves.

This is a good callout and (personally) I'll watch the discussion here to see what we can learn from our community. Thanks for starting this conversation 🦄

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

No problem, I contribute as best as I can! 🙇🏻‍♀️ Thanks for dropping by!

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial

I completely agree on the hiding and deleting comments.

In fact, unless a comment is directly bullying and individual, or inciting hatred, I would prefer to see it up so that people have an opportunity to explain to that person why their point of view is dangerous (or more importantly, perhaps start seeing opposing views that challenge their own).

We have spoken about this before on my (looking back perhaps inappropriately "tongue-in-cheek") post on having a way of communicating "I welcome all comments" vs "I would prefer nice comments only" and you made some great points there.

I think that is the only way to avoid biased conversations and echo chambers.

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link2twenty profile image
Andrew Bone

Sarcasm on the internet is hard and is often met with hostility because it's misunderstood. I also feel for people that don't have English as their first language, they can raise valid points but come across as confrontational and stand-offish just because they can't express what they're trying to say with the expected mannerisms.

I've been on the internet long enough to read something through a few times before I decide how they're trying to say something, the how is as, if not more, important as the what in my opinion.

There is a team of community mods, of which I am one, though we have only the power to flag a comment for an admin or to lower a posts 'hotness' (which makes it appear lower on the home page). I rarely feel the need to flag a comment, I have but that's generally unsolicited/unrelated self promotion stuff. I have however felt the need to tell people their tone comes across as argumentative (in a naïve hope that's not how they meant it).

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

I agree with your points! 💯

Frankly said, if anybody thinks they can hop online and experience rose-colored interactions only, they are pretty naïve. That's not how the net works.

Besides, inviting only nice comments (whatever nice is to the author) defeats the purpose of interactions at all. It is NOT realistic by any means. The only way one can learn AND grow, is by being exposed to the views of others. Otherwise all you do is live in your own bubble of bias. Whatever floats your boat, darlings.

I also think it's hilarious how some folks call out censorship as it happens in certain countries but they themselves censor folks online as soon as they don't agree with them. How does that make you much better? I just think that's hypocritical at best.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one! 🙌🏻

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial

Let's hope you open up a conversation on this one with this post! ❤

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

I'd definitely hope so. DEV.to felt pretty dry the past week. Hardly anybody interacted at all.

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial

I think there are cycles on here, not sure yet as only been here 3 months or so but I have seen posts where everyone interacts and I am surprised and then other posts and nobody bites.

One trick I find works (for the algo!) is to like and comment on your own post when you post it. That always seems to make a difference, but that is just anecdotal (although I have downloaded every single DEV.to post to analyse so maybe I will discover something interesting there!)

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

Be sure to share your findings! 😁 I also have no clue what's happening here lately. I've been around (actively) for at least two months.

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inhuofficial profile image
InHuOfficial

Will do 👍

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link2twenty profile image
Andrew Bone

Do we want authors to possibly misuse the "Hide comment" feature?

This is a complicated question, it can be boiled down to who polices the police. I'd like to think people want to hear opposing views and the people expressing those views do it in a respectful manor, I'm aware this is incredibly naïve, and therefor no one will feel the need to hide comments without good reason.

I imagine adding a simple way to appeal a hidden comment would be a step in the right direction but, of course, it adds a cost for the platform maintainer as they'll need a real person to step in an check if the they think the hiding was fair (what is fair anyway).

if there's a way of reading hidden comments, by all means please enlighten me.

There sort of is but not really, if you have the direct link to a comment you can see it, for instance if this comment was hidden the link to it would still work.

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

There sort of is but not really, if you have the direct link to a comment you can see it, for instance if this comment was hidden the link to it would still work.

That's too much a workaround, but it works I guess 😅

This is a complicated question, it can be boiled down to who polices the police.

Not exactly where I would like things to go. I literally just want to see hidden comments without needing nifty tricks to get to them 😅 I just would like to keep biased authors from hiding comments they don't like (just because they don't like them, not because its harmful or anything).

My suggestion is simple: let the author hide the comment if they want. But let other users view hidden comments EASILY and decide if it was rightfully hidden or not. That should remove the strain from the DEV staff. We should strive to empower a self-moderating community instead of relying only on the DEV staff and appointed moderators. Or so I think.

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jfbrennan profile image
Jordan Brennan

What I saw yesterday was someone who had personally attacked another person in a post. They made some pretty serious accusations all based on their own biases, which was pretty ironic.

Then one of Dev.to's moderators stepped in and started silencing pretty much everyone who was pointing out the violation and the double-standards applied by the moderator. It was clear the moderator and the author share the same worldview and they weren't going to allow any dissenters challenge it. Several of my comments were deleted and all I said was it's sad to see dev.to being used like Facebook/Twitter and the moderator justifying the author's behavior.

I 100% believe in free speech, so I actually support the author. She should be able to write what she wrote, BUT we should be free to point out the unfairness and blindness of what she wrote without being censored. Nothing I saw was private or dangerous, so censoring it was nothing more than an abuse of power.

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

Oof, that's rough!Thanks so much for sharing your experience here. I can't promise much but at least I won't hide or delete your comment. Consider this a safe space, hehe.

You know, in the end, a lot of measures we use to "moderate" content, are pretty subjective to some degree (despite the CoC and all). Hence the unfairness that we experience sometimes (even when we think we did nothing wrong).

Ideally, we would all share the same idea of what's an abusive comment is and what's not (among other things), however, the lines can get blurred really fast the moment that we interpret it in our own way. And allow me to add: it's HUMAN to do so. We jump to conclusions, we make assumptions, we fail in our estimations. Anyway, it is NO surprise that anything we create is also somehow a reflection of ourselves and our beliefs (and may I add, our shortcomings). At times, we literally code bias into our projects (and it bites us in the butt sooner or later).

Let's see what changes this discussion can bring about.

Again, thanks for joining, I appreciate a ton!

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ellativity profile image
Ella Ang (she/her/elle)

Thanks for this post, @technoglot ! You bring to light a number of salient points, some of which are in active discussion behind the scenes among the DEV/Forem team. As @link2twenty is also aware, there are conversations taking place in our repo and on forem.dev about how to handle hidden comments, among other pressing issues around content moderation.

I appreciate you taking the time to write this blog post as a contribution to the conversation, and have subscribed to the comments, so I’ll be dropping in every so often and adding what I can to the mix!

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

Thanks so much @ellativity ! I haven't been around here for long, so I'm unaware of what's going on (especially behind the scenes or on the repo). I appreciate any info that you can share with us. 🙇🏻‍♀️

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miguelmj profile image
MiguelMJ

I think that there's an triangle of self-moderation vs community-moderation vs no-moderation to classify every social-network/forum.

If you have self-moderation, like in DEV (mostly), you protect vulnerable people giving them the power to control their content and keeping trolls away, but you also allow ground-level quality content and censurable comment sections.

If you have community-moderation, you ensure some rules on the content of your site, but it's very easy for it to become elitist and very little beginner friendly, like Stack Overflow. I don't think this is necessarily bad, but it's not what DEV is supposed to be.

If you have no moderation, you have the worst sites on the internet, because human nature.

All communities have their advantages and disadvantages. DEV may be full of low quality, low effort content and easily censurable comment sections, but is a friendly community, full of wholesome people. I don't think it's possible to have both of best worlds, sadly.

Have a nice day!

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

Thanks for the in-depth comment as usual @miguelmj ! It is indeed a tricky question and the triangle you explain here makes absolute sense.

I don't think DEV has to become the next Reddit or Stack Overflow. I'm not pro that per se. But I do think things are getting out of hand here and I'm not sure the hide comment feature is (always) being used in the best way. Thought I'd bring it up and see what others think about it. Who knows, maybe we can find a middle-ground. Maybe.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate it!

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panditapan profile image
Pandita

Oooh I had no idea that very spicy blog post had reached that point. Last time I saw something like that it was with an incredibly innocent post about PHP that some devs took it as a call for war hahaha

Now, my thoughts on the post: this is a touchy subject! I think when it rolled out the dev.to team did admit that it was a bit of a controversial feature (if my memory isn't mistaken) but they wanted to give authors the ability to guide the conversation and hopefully avoid abuse. Sadly, censoring is a possibility and well... it happens!

Either way, I think in posts with these encyclopedia dramatica levels of drama, mods should be able to handle this. Back in ye old day, when forum threads started to get heated and/or start flame wars, mods would step in, close it out and dish out punishments (depending on the severity you could be suspended or banned). I wonder if this might be a possible route for these cases? 🤔 Closing things out and not allowing anymore comments would be a way to calm things down? I don't know x:

I'm not even sure if the dev.to team is even considering doing anything at all, this might be what the author wants as a conversation in their post so, it's not going against their initial thoughts for the feature.

It's a complicated problem that's for sure. DX

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

It's a complicated problem that's for sure. DX

Hence why I bring it up. Not sure we are talking enough about this anyway. We are just letting fires start and we have (almost) no way of calming them down.

One thing is for sure, humanity has never been this polarized before. And there's no way to stop this "toxic" development. The principle of agreeing to disagree is DEAD.

Closing things out and not allowing anymore comments would be a way to calm things down? I don't know x:

That's quite the drastic measure. But it can be an option, I think. Not my go-to, favorite option, but an option nonetheless.

Thanks for joining the discussion!

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panditapan profile image
Pandita

oh yeah I'm with you! recently humanity is very polarized. Everything is either black or white and if you're not with me, you're against me. I don't feel like it healthy, but it's how things are lately! DX

and yeees, closing things out is a very drastic measure which is why in forums it was only used in extreme cases and like I mentioned, there were consequences for taking a thread that far, but it worked to keep some level of peace O:

also, anytime! c:

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

but it worked to keep some level of peace O:

For sure! Though drastic, in the worst scenarios it can help calm things down. (But seriously, do we need to get so worked up about everything xD? I think not)

I don't feel like it healthy, but it's how things are lately! DX

I really don't see this being sustainable to our species on the long run. Can't believe this is the new normal.

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jmau111 profile image
Julien Maury

You don't always get comments with, let's say, the best intentions. There are various ways, including "shameless self promo" (like the expression BTW).

I find it sad, especially when those guys think you don't see what's happening. However, I can't use that "hide comment" feature.

The problem is where you put the limit. I think it could take you to a dead-end where you only accept comments that praise you or with the same opinion.

Things don't work like that. That's not discussion. Don't get me wrong. I don't blame those who use that feature as it's available.

I don't like the term "censorship", though. I would prefer "bad faith" or "intellectually dishonest", which are also sad and shameful.

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

The problem is where you put the limit. I think it could take you to a dead-end where you only accept comments that praise you or with the same opinion.

That's something I don't personally want for myself. I don't think I'll grow as much if all I see is praise and compliments.

I don't like the term "censorship", though. I would prefer "bad faith" or "intellectually dishonest", which are also sad and shameful.

Yeah, I got such remarks already. I agree it is not the best term, but it was the best way I could convey the message. I'm not a native speaker, so my vocabulary is far from being as extensive as it should be. Not blaming my word choice on that, just saying there's plenty of room for improvement on my end. I'm well aware of that. An overall revision to this entire post might be due.

Above all else, thanks for dropping in and sharing your thoughts on the matter!

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jmau111 profile image
Julien Maury • Edited

it was the best way I could convey the message.

That's a good point.

Above all else, thanks for dropping in and sharing your thoughts on the matter!

A pleasure, thanks for creating this useful discussion on the platform.

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ekafyi profile image
Eka • Edited

One possible solution could be to have a "temporary hide" (echoing @egilhuber 's idea) + "soft-hide" + disable new comments.

  • Author can hide comments then and there. Those would not be visible except for generic text "some comments are temporarily hidden pending review".
  • Within 2x24 hours (or whatever is reasonable for the DEV mods), mods decide on 1 of 2 outcomes: (a) permanently delete it, or (b) restore it in "soft hidden" mode.
    • Permanent deletion should only be only for illegal content, slurs/violent threats, or strongly litigious comments.
    • (??) Add an appeal system for those who believe their comments unfairly deleted. (more on this below)
  • Comments in "soft hidden" mode are marked "This comment has been hidden by the author", CAN be viewed with a toggle button, but CANNOT be replied to (to discourage further pile-on). Maybe add a dropdown option or text input where the author can optionally add a reason for "soft-hiding/locking" that comment.
  • Lastly, author can disable new comments. This is equivalent to when discussion board threads are "locked". Existing comments (including the "soft hidden" ones) stay as they are.
  • Alternatively, author can "soft hide" comments directly without going through "temporary hide" (= less load on DEV team). Maybe warn authors that temporary hide is only for serious violations.
  • On every status change, the affected commenter receive a notification.

(Side note: "temporary hide" and "soft hide" are probably not the best user-facing copy text, but 😆🤷🏽‍♀️ we're just brainstorming here)

Where does the onus lie?

  • At the "temporary hidden" stage, the onus is on the DEV team to decide if the comment is severe enough to yeet permanently OR to leave it to the author.
  • At the "soft hidden" stage, the onus is on the author. As in it's the author's personal decision to hide it.

This flow shall solve several issues:

  • Protect authors & general users against time-sensitive, severe forms of abuse eg. scams, doxing, death threats, sexually explicit content.
  • If, as @michaeltharrington mentioned, it's the author that did a violation (eg. plagiarism), this would be discovered during the moderation phase, and appropriate actions can be taken (ban the author).
  • It enables two opposite needs to meet in the middle: the author can make unfavourable/disagreeable comments less visible, the commenter can express their views without getting "censored". <-- I think this part was the main gist of your post?
    • What constitutes "unfavourable" or "disagreeable" is subjective and differs from person to person and I dont think it's possible to police to that level. Let each author decide.
    • If I, as an author, hide respectful, on-topic comments just because I disagree with it, the community will still be able to see the comments (and learn from different perspectives). Each community member will then be able to assess according to their own judgment whether it's me (the author) or the commenter who's being unreasonable.
  • If a pile-on happens because of previous comments/interactions, author can prevent further attacks or pile-ons.

No system in the world is perfect, let alone in online forums. This flow WILL NOT solve disputes where an individual moderator and an individual commenter disagree on what's considered bad enough to delete permanently. The solution is (a) to find a neutral third-party arbiter—take it to court? or (b) have literally all users vote (hard to do). I think this is a spin-off issue that requires a separate discussion.

Myself, I'm a realistic person. I think some cases will still be a dumpster fire regardless, but outside of that, having a system that works for most cases would be great.

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egilhuber profile image
erica (she/her)

These are all great points for working towards a solution! I wonder if @ben is watching this thread.

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

WOW... that's a thorough suggestion! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I really don't know what else to add here 😅

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

Alright folks. Things are getting a little (just a little) heated around here. Let me make a statement or two:

  • The topic of the discussion is entirely about the practice of hiding comments and how to prevent this to turn into "censorship" or "silencing" of other people's opinions on this platform. How can we have balanced discussions while also maintaining a level of respect towards each other? How can we ensure that people can express their views (so long it is inline with the CoC and otherwise), without risking their comments to be hidden with no apparent reason? This is the gist of it, really.
  • I am not to be held accountable for how people express themselves here. I can only be held accountable for what I say and how I say it. No harm is intended by this post in any kind of way. Also, please bear in mind that the CoC is applicable here as well. I'm not responsible for any actions admins take here. That's at their own discretion, not mine.
  • Lastly, some commenters do refer (in between the lines) to a certain post. However, many others share experiences about other posts where they had their comments unfairly hidden (in their experience). The point here is not what post is being referred to, it is about the practice of hiding posts and how we can prevent potential abuse of the feature. Yes, authors deserve tools to protect themselves from harmful comments and commenters, but commenters should not fall victim to this same feature if the did not violate the CoC (and were otherwise respectful and such). Hence this discussion.

Thanks to everyone who has participated so far!

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

When you say you've seen this happen more recently, do you mean you see a notice like "comment hidden by author of post" or you're inferring it from other context?

I don't remember seeing anything like that (though I've not been on the look-out for it).

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link2twenty profile image
Andrew Bone

Some posts have a notice at the bottom.

hidden comment notice

There was a, particularly polarising, post the other day and things got a little heated leading to Admins stepping in. Which I imagine has lead us here

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rolfstreefkerk profile image
Rolf Streefkerk

this is how dev.to deals with "difficult" discussions or other viewpoints.
They're either marked as non-constructive or hidden.

Cancel culture is at the root of all of this, you want to start learning from people and taking their viewpoints into account? Stop censoring

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

The example Andrew kindly provided wasn't caused by anything DEV did, it was something the post author did. If you wrote a post, you could hide someone's comment.

DEV moderators can flag comments as being in violation of the code of conduct, and if enough agree, or if staff have to weigh in, then the comment can be hidden the way you suggest. That's how the community moderation currently works.

It's not about shutting down other viewpoints, it's more about stopping people from writing comments that are ad hominem attacks on other members: "I think X is a bad technology because Y" is fine, even if everyone else likes Y. "You're an idiot, X is stupid" is not fine, because it's just plain rude - and that's what constitute the majority of collapsed comments. Well, that and spam bots!

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

Gotcha.

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

do you mean you see a notice like "comment hidden by author of post"

That's what I mean. Sorry if that was not clear

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aleksandrhovhannisyan profile image
Aleksandr Hovhannisyan

I'd prefer an approach similar to the one on Reddit, where comments that have been downvoted below a certain threshold (or, in this case, reported a certain number of times by users or flagged by the author) are collapsed, but they can still be viewed when clicked.

This is better than giving authors the power to hide any and all criticism (since what constitutes "abuse" is subjective). Authors must accept that people are going to react to their work and likely even criticize it. Unless a comment is purely abusive (e.g., harassment or spam), there's no good justification for removing it.

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

I'd prefer an approach similar to the one on Reddit, where comments that have been downvoted below a certain threshold (or, in this case, reported a certain number of times by users or flagged by the author) are collapsed, but they can still be viewed when clicked.

I could live with that. I really wanna see some of the hidden comments at times but currently the platform doesn't accommodate for it (at least not in Reddit-esque manner described above)

This is better than giving authors the power to hide any and all criticism (since what constitutes "abuse" is subjective). Authors must accept that people are going to react to their work and likely even criticize it. Unless a comment is purely abusive (e.g., harassment or spam), there's no good justification for removing it.

Yup! Well said. You know what they say: if you can't handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Putting yourself and your content out there brings consequences with it. People may agree with you but some will surely disagree.

Thanks for joining the discussion!

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cher profile image
Cher

Although it's not this platform, I have frequently hidden replies on Twitter on posts with high visibility or engagement.

While this can be because the content itself is destructive or abusive or spam and it hasn't been removed yet by Twitter, sometimes it's because the tweet is mildly aggressive or openly hostile in tone without actually violating Twitter's rules. Before I had such a large following, I would simply mute or block these people depending on the content of their tweet. This changed because suddenly, despite not getting notifications from that particular person, suddenly, I was getting inundated with notifications involving what I perceived to be a toxic interaction, because other people were engaging in it.

So if I block or mute someone for my own mental health, that doesn't actually do enough to stop that particular content from continuing to show up in my notifications without deleting the tweet altogether. Hiding the reply cuts all of that off, without having to delete the original content.

Another aspect of that is that I have a somewhat interesting mix of followers because I was in the competitive gaming community for more than a decade, and worked in games development. Some of my long-time friends will say things that can be understood to be harassment towards me, and again, because of my large following, this quickly devolves into a pile-on on that person and them having to delete their post. Hiding it does a great job of keeping that banter to just myself, the friend, and the friends we have in common.

And on the topic of pile-ons, sometimes it's just at the author's discretion to see the potential for it, even when they aren't friends, regardless of the reason.

As for why I've, personally, hidden comments, it's exhausting for an author to field redundant content, and it's even more daunting when that content is contentious. While it's understandable if the content that got hidden was mine, it would be difficult for me to see the forest through the trees, that I'm simply regurgitating the same talking points as other people, and the author, for some reason, found the other similar dialogues to be more constructive and healthy than mine.

And as others have stated, there's numerous other reasons as fill in for community-led moderation.

At the end of the day, I don't believe in policing what content should or shouldn't live on someone else's content (ie, it doesn't bother me that other folks my hide replies or comments because they simply didn't like what was said or disagreed with them), but I do believe that authors should have autonomy to police what is posted on their articles.

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egilhuber profile image
erica (she/her)

When a comment is hidden, is there any indication to users like when a comment is deleted?

It's an interesting line to draw in the sand. @sanspanic made a good point above about how authors being able to moderate comments is super useful in cases like doxxing (and to a lesser extent, the shameless self promo/spam). Maybe an option to immediately hide comments until they've been reviewed by the mod team? This way, if it is potentially harmful, the comment isn't still floating around, but if the mod team determines the comment isn't harmful and doesn't violate CoC, it goes back up.

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

Maybe an option to immediately hide comments until they've been reviewed by the mod team?

Good suggestion!

I think the community should be able to see hidden comments and report them if they feel it is harmful indeed. In that way we could maybe limit biased authors from silencing others.

I definitely wouldn't want authors to feel threatened or abused in any way. But I don't want people being silenced for sharing a balanced and constructive opinion.

Though topic, but I believe its important to bring it up.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! 🙌🏻

When a comment is hidden, is there any indication to users like when a comment is deleted?

P.S.: I have no idea tbh 🤔

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lukeshiru profile image
LUKE知る • Edited

The only comments I had to hide so far in one of my posts was made by a dude that compared functional programming to communism in a really mean tone. Let's say I didn't wanted to discuss at that level, and I didn't wanted to give him a space on my post for such comparisons :/

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

I think that is justified, that isn't much of a problem. I don't see why functional programming would have to lead to a discussion about politics and communism (of all freaking things). Some folks are a bit...out of it.

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

@kaydacode I just caught up with some comments below. I have one question:

There's an active mod chat where this article was flagged long before it came across my radar.

Which article is being referred to here?

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kaydacode profile image
Kim Arnett 

Yours. This one. Flagged wasn’t the right word. Called out, raising awareness is a better descriptor. Mods have already addressed some concerns you've called attention to in the other comments.

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

Understood. Thanks for the clarification

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siddharthshyniben profile image
Siddharth

I didn't even know we could hide comments or delete them!

About hiding comments, there could be some kind of moderation? Maybe.

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

About hiding comments, there could be some kind of moderation? Maybe.

Any suggestions on how to keep authors from abusing this feature? 🤔

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siddharthshyniben profile image
Siddharth • Edited

My comment was a bit vague I guess.

To prevent abuse, there could be moderators who can see the hidden and deleted comments and decrease some kind of "reputation" of users if the deletion or hiding was inappropriate

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technoglot profile image
Amelia Vieira Rosado Author

Interesting suggestion! Thanks for elaborating!

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alekseiberezkin profile image
Aleksei Berezkin

Can poster hide comments just as they wish? Seriously? Never could even guess so. I used to get criticism in comments but never ever considered an option of hiding anything. That function should not exist IMO.

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niorad profile image
Antonio Radovcic

Authors should have the option to remove comments as they see fit, and to prevent comments in the first place.
It has nothing to do with censorship. Everybody is free to write their own article with their point of view.

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zilti profile image
Comment marked as low quality/non-constructive by the community. View Code of Conduct
Daniel Ziltener

It's not just the authors, but the mods, too. I just wanted to also write an article about this, coincidentally. Because I wrote a reply to a comment commenting an excerpt of the Code of Conduct (criticizing it). Dev.to silently deleted my reply without even notifying me. The comment was getting hearts, so it suddenly disappearing from my notifications made me suspicious. Crap like this makes me angry. @graciegregory you know exactly what I am talking about.

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michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington (he/him)

This comment is totally inappropriate.

Publicly harassing an admin who rightfully removed your comment because it was breaking the Code of Conduct would also be considered violating the Code of Conduct. To be clear, publicly harassing anyone is against our Code of Conduct.

While we strive to message everyone in these situations, first and foremost we prioritize reaching out to the affected party — the one who might've been hurt by the violation — and only after that do we reach out the offender — the one who violated the CoC. In some cases, we may not reach out to everyone. Understand that it's a courtesy to reach out to someone and explain why the've broken the Code of Conduct but not a hard responsibility. If you read the Code of Conduct, it says:

Violations of the Code of Conduct may be reported by contacting the team via the abuse report form or by sending an email to yo@dev.to. All reports will be reviewed and investigated and will result in a response that is deemed necessary and appropriate to the circumstances. Further details of specific enforcement policies may be posted separately.

Moderators have the right and responsibility to remove comments or other contributions that are not aligned to this Code of Conduct, or to suspend temporarily or permanently any members for other behaviors that they deem inappropriate, threatening, offensive, or harmful.

We make no promises to reach out to folks who have offended the Code of Conduct. We certainly try to, especially if we believe there is guidance that can be offered for the offender to repair the situation, but in some instances we may not reach out.

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