Respectful Insolence

Two days ago, I posted my utter contempt for the idea of a science section in that cesspit of pseudsocience, New Age woo, and quackery, The Huffington Post. Part of the reason for my scoffing at the very idea that a science section in HuffPo would not rapidly degenerate into yet another outlet for more of the same.

Another aspect of the HuffPo culture that is utter anathema to good science blogging is its culture of deleting critical comments. There’s even been a whole blog, Banned from HuffPo, dedicated to discussing and publicizing HuffPo’s offenses against free speech. The blogger, Red Dog Bear, even lists the types of “moderation” that goes on at HuffPo:

  • Bot censorship. There appears to be an expert system or “bot” that pre-screens posts and either removes or puts in a queues for further scrutiny comments that it deems to be inappropriate. How this bot works I have no idea. All I can say is that it is incredibly arbitrary and in my experience screens out many perfectly reasonable comments.
  • Author censorship. Comments that are overly critical of an author, especially comments that point out bias that the author may have are often censored. For example in my experience any comment that deals with Depak Chopra’s alleged connections to healthcare corporations are always censored.
  • Censorship censorship. Comments that ask questions or critique the censorship policy itself are very frequently censored. I’ve personally left several comments on various articles authored by Ms. Huffington hoping for some type of response and those comments never make it through.
  • Huffpo censorship. Comments that have to do with the internal workings or bias of the Huffington Post are almost always censored.

So why does this matter? I’m not opposed at all to some degree of moderation. In fact at times I wish there was more moderation on the site. I often see spam, racist comments, homophobic comments, anti-semitic comments and countless comments that are off topic or simply pointless. I would be happy if more of those comments were moderated out. What makes this something I think worthy of concern is that the censorship has gone from being mildly annoying to a serious suppression of free speech on the site.

Particularly revealing is that, when it comes to “moderation,” the mandate is from the corporation. While HuffPo can run its affairs anyway its management sees fit, before it could ever have even a whiff of a chance of producing a decent science section, the iron hand of “moderation” would have to be much lightened, and, more importantly, it would have to be radically changed so that it isn’t intentionally designed to shut down criticism of the pseudoscience laid down by so many HuffPo bloggers.

In the meantime, J.L. Vernon is still flogging this putrefying corpse of a horse with his Letter to the @HuffingtonPost Requesting the Establishment of a Science Section. My advice to him: Give it up. HuffPo needs to clean up the pseudoscience from its medical and lifestyle sections. It also needs to radically reform its comment moderation policies to eliminate the heavy-handed censoring of critical comments. Until those things happen, any science section in HuffPo will either start out right from the beginning as or rapidly involve into a pseudoscience section.

Comments

  1. #1 Hank Campbell
    July 31, 2010

    Wait, you can get totally banned from HuffPo? Even when they were cool, during the election of 2008 when they were a political arm of the DNC, I wanted to be on that black list because of their quackery.

    Now I have a goal for the remainder of 2010.

  2. #2 Jack
    July 31, 2010

    I agree that a reasonable allowance for debate is neccessary for an honest blog. However, I feel the need to point out that “freedom of speech” is only in the public sphere and Huffpo is privately owned space. Just as Orac can delete comments or ban users on his blog if he wants, Huffpo has that right as well.

    Instead of lending them credence by generating lengthy threads, why don’t we just ignore all the woo coming out of Huffpo? Arguing on the site has never changed their editorial practices so why do we continue to provide content? I think a boycott may be a better strategy.

  3. #3 Orac
    July 31, 2010

    Uh, dude. I know that a private blog can do whatever it wants with respect to the comments there. I know the difference between government and private enterprises. So please don’t lecture me on that topic. I even alluded to the difference, although, given your comment, obviously not strongly enough. The point is that, as long as the moderation is as heavy-handed and biased towards woo as it is at HuffPo, there’s no chance that a legitimate science section could emerge, given the prevailing New Agey culture that permeates discussions of medicine and science over there.

  4. #4 Jack
    July 31, 2010

    While HuffPo can run its affairs anyway its management sees fit, before it could ever have even a whiff of a chance of producing a decent science section, the iron hand of “moderation” would have to be much lightened

    Sorry Orac, you’re right – you did allude to that. I withdraw that part of my comment. Teaches me to skim and then comment.

  5. #5 Sastra
    July 31, 2010

    I find it highly ironic that the New Agey culture that supports the pseudoscience is so very quick to ban criticism. One of the supposed values of said culture is its respect for the underdog, its tolerance, its open-mindedness, its sensitivity towards diversity. They usually see themselves as the put-upon minority, the voices that are being silenced by a powerful Establishment which is threatened by their dissent.

    This tendency to see themselves as the victims of oppression, however, probably explains their totalitarian tactics. They frame the situation in personal terms. People who disagree with them are the Oppressors, and they are simply fighting back against the bullies who seek to shut them up by being mean, and demanding evidence. Instead, they need a “safe” place, where their ideas are free to soar, unimpeded.

    Debate is interpreted as a way of shutting people up. At least, I can grant that it is, when you don’t have a good case.

    I’ve often heard or read variations of “If someone disagrees with you, the real problem is them, not you.” It doesn’t seem to occur to them that the problem may just be with the claim that is being disagreed with, and so they need not react as if they’ve been kicked.

  6. #6 knotfreak
    July 31, 2010

    HuffPo’s “bots” will put any comment on hold to any article that contains “key” words. For example, in a column about BREAST CANCER, the word “breast” will trigger the “this comment is being held for moderation” (or however it’s worded). It is ridiculous to moderate comments that would sensibly contain “trigger” words when they pertain directly to the subject matter. I have given up on HP for this reason, among other things, such as they have become a tabloid with little relevant content. If I like a columnist, I try to follow him/her on the relevant personal blog rather than through HP.

    I agree with the poster who says we should just boycott them. They aren’t going to change, no more than religion is going to become obsolete in the next century.

  7. #7 Chance Gearheart, NREMT-P/EMD
    July 31, 2010

    @Jack – 2:

    “Instead of lending them credence by generating lengthy threads, why don’t we just ignore all the woo coming out of Huffpo? Arguing on the site has never changed their editorial practices so why do we continue to provide content? I think a boycott may be a better strategy.”

    Because Huffington Post bills itsself as a legitimate source for new and health information, and it’s bloggers attempt to do such when they pass inaccurate, unproven, or down-right dangerous information onto people who are searching for information about their health? To me, that’s something anyone in healthcare should have an ethical obligation to oppose and question.

    Just one reason among many.

  8. #8 Travis
    July 31, 2010

    If ignoring the writing at such a place worked I would gladly do it but sadly few of these problems seem to get better by not saying anything, especially when they are high profile. If it was sketpical sites like this one that drove the traffic over at HuffPo I could see a point to ignoring it but most people who go there are not coming from this site or others like it. But by ignoring the writing I think we just allow it to become more of an echo chamber, one that is popular and read by many, and if ignored, unchallenged.

  9. #9 Rene Najera
    July 31, 2010

    Didn’t HuffPo have a “correspondent” at a White House press conference? WTF?
    Orac, I volunteer to be Respectful Insolence’s correspondent at the next press conference. I’ll ask the tough questions. I’ll dig for the answers. I’ll use words if I have to…

  10. #10 Jack
    July 31, 2010

    @7&8

    You raise good points, but I still wonder about the efficacy of the debates over there. If Huffpo is truly censoring legitimate criticism of their articles and contributors, then we’re playing on an uneven field. While skeptics have occasionally shut down the more emptyheaded writers (*cough cough* Kim Evans), I’m not sure that’s always the case. The big antivaxxers are unfortunately gifted with rhetoric and with appealing to emotion. I’m not sure if we’re really convincing the people with a woo mindset by posting there.

    It may be a pipedream, but I would love to see a well-publicized boycott and a heavily-trafficked independent site that refuted all the Huffpo woo. In this way we could promote science and rationality without being censored and we wouldn’t add to the traffic over at Huffpo. I realize that the key phrases here are “well-publicized” and “heavily-trafficked” but a boy can dream…

    In the meantime, you’re probably right that a quiet boycott would do more harm than good.

  11. #11 Chance Gearheart, NREMT-P/EMD
    July 31, 2010

    It’s one of those damned if you do, damned if you don’t situations.

    If we had a well organized, well presented, and well traffic’d website which debunked literally every bad piece of health advice on HuffPo (And most of them are, at very best, misleading), they’d respond with cries of Big Pharma/AMA/Jewish Illuminati Trilateral Conspiracy funding.

    A lot of the people that run these sites have a certain disconnection with reality coupled with a major case of self-rightous superiority complex.

  12. #12 NYC RVT
    July 31, 2010

    Dan Agin writes for the huff po and he seems to be a competent and interesting science/health and public policy writer. He’s the author of Junk Science which trashes the quacks/alt med types. Is he the exception that proves the woo at up?

  13. #13 Sid Offit
    July 31, 2010

    Orac, I have to give you credit for maintaining a moderation policy that allows a freewheeling conversation that neither bows to political correctness nor strives to fulfill an overriding desire to avoid any comment that might, in someway, possibly hurt someone else’s feelings.

  14. #14 Thomas
    July 31, 2010

    Banned from the Huffpo, Okay
    I never wanna write there anyway
    Said they only wanted well behaved boys
    You think keyboards and internet are just fucking toys?

    [/crass]

  15. #15 DLC
    August 1, 2010

    How odd it is that Huff-Po censors comments that are adverse to it’s cherry-picked purveyors of woo and pseudo-scientific nonsense. Well, considering the nature of it’s owners, no, I suppose it isn’t. Ms H seems to be one of those poor fools who never met a woo she didn’t like.

  16. #16 Researchagain
    August 1, 2010

    Just found your site while searching for info on one of your favorites Dr. Jay Gordon. /s

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/02/dr_jay_gordon_will_you_please_stop_claiming.php

    Last night on Twitter I was surfing around and began reading some of Dr. Jay Gordon’s tweets. It took me nearly 7 seconds to stumble across an extremely inane, and frankly irresponsible comment from him. I began researching the topic and even read the material at CDC he had referenced and linked.

    Big surprise: the CDC link with statistics and charts completely countered Gordon’s claim. Then I pondered why would Gordon make a false statement and then provide a link to CDC which would disprove it.

    So far all he has done is dodge the question and say “We MUST be honest…” and then in another “You mislead.”

    It crossed my mind that perhaps I was corresponding with one of his secretaries or that maybe his twitter account had been hacked and some anti-vaccination type had taken over.

    Right now the twitter server is down for maintenance. I screen grabbed his comment on my twitter account and hopefully when twitter comes back up I won’t have been banned for arguing with him. I am unsure of your policy regarding linking to twitter so I’ll check back in later.

    Some time ago I almost chose Dr. Gordon to be my then infant’s Pediatrician. At the time his office staff told me that there was a long waiting list for new patients because of his popularity and because he lives in Oregon and commutes daily to Santa Monica via personal jet.

    Thanks for hosting this blog and for your healthy attitude regarding science versus snake-oil salesmen.

  17. #17 Ticker
    August 1, 2010

    One of the biggest differences between someone like Orac and the huffpo policy is that Orac actually allows comments from people saying he’s a liar, a pharma shill, a dangerous quack and whatever other rotten hateful comment people feel like using.

    He doesn’t seem to feel particularly threatened by any of these comments, and you can still find them in comment threads from years ago.

    It strikes me as a clear demonstration who has more integrity, and more courage.

  18. #18 Dr. Mary Johnson
    August 1, 2010

    Orac, honestly. HuffPo and Science?

    Besides, being banned is a badge of honor – it usually means you made someone THINK.

    Pesky problem that thinking business.

    Ticker, earlier this year I closed my blog to all comments. It’s because (among other things) I got tired of being cyber-stalked by a self-described “child-of-a-borderling with antisocial tendencies”, and finding anonymous comments in my Inbox saying I needed to “stop” (clear implication: breathing).

    The blood pressure . . . and the pressure period . . . has gone WAY down. And I don’t give a rat’s tail if I’m not considered “courageous” by people who cannot sign their real names.

  19. #19 Paul
    August 1, 2010

    Hopefully, shining a light on this practice will simply cause the HuffPo to become as irrelevant to everyone else as it has laways been to us. Self immolation seems imminent.

  20. #20 Ticker
    August 1, 2010

    Poor Dr. Mary Johnson can’t handle a few idiots on the internet, and closes all comments to make sure she’s safe from any form of discussion at all.

    One of the reasons I don’t use my RL name in a public area is that I can just shrug off random death threats and move to another combination of letters and numbers if someone starts to harass me. This is so common, and so obvious, that I don’t know why you don’t know this.

    I don’t see any actual benefit from tying these statements to my RL name, since I don’t refer to my credentials or employment in any way. It doesn’t make me any more credible, or argue more clearly, and it wouldn’t do you any good to know.

    That you choose to use your real name does not create any obligation on my part to also use a real name before criticizing you, and even, I wasn’t directing my comment at any person, just the Huffington Post.

    I also think your reaction to both me and the stalker that was apparently bothering you are completely disproportionate and even a little silly. Don’t you have regular readers who are constructive, engaging and friendly in their comments? Why cut them out too?

    Oh, and… why bring your personal problems onto someone else’s blog, anyway?

  21. #21 Jack
    August 1, 2010

    http://drjshousecalls.blogspot.com/2010/07/independence-day-board-certified.html

    Dr. Mary Johnson,

    I think you would do well to have a comment section on your blog. You need somebody to reflect to you that your bad experience doesn’t exempt you from being evidence-based. I guess I’ll have to post my comment here instead.

    I was dismayed by your post that I linked to above… especially your conversation with the ABP VP. The VP who e-mailed you seemed quite reasonable and offered to provide you evidence that their policies are well-founded. You didn’t follow up on that, you merely sent a long screed back about how horrible your experiences have been (with some irrelevant references to health care reform). Yeah, what happened to you is terrible and you should be telling the world about it. No, it has nothing to do with recertification. It’s also clear that the ABP is willing to make accomodations for your ADD so why do you make such a big deal about it? It’s as if you never even read the man’s reply to you.

    Let’s not miss out on the fact that you don’t support any of your own claims with evidence. I agree that the liscencing process seems overly complicated (in Canada too). But since I don’t have evidence that it’s unnecessary for public safety, I’m going to keep my mouth shut.

  22. #22 Pablo
    August 1, 2010

    While having a blog in itself is pretty pretentious, what is the point of having a blog that does not allow feedback or comments? To allow you to preach to others without having the darn problem of people actually responding? Man, talk about vanity…

    Weeee, look at me!!!! Look at me!!!!!

  23. #23 Dan Agin
    August 1, 2010

    Since my name has been mentioned here, I’d like to put two cents into the pot. Most of the “moderation” on HuffPo is done by the bloggers themselves, who have more control over what appears than the editors, except for profanity, slander, etc. I have slowed down writing for HuffPo because the comments drive me up the wall–too many right wing nuts, imbeciles, and people who would be laughed out of any college class for saying what they say so easily on HuffPo. In reality, the most serious and useful writing about science is usually without comments from the mob–in journals, serious magazines, public radio and TV, and so on. I don’t know any evidence that a forum open to everyone and his barking dog leads to greater public understanding. I think it’s a myth of the Internet Age. Given all of that about our present circumstances, there are indeed advantages about an open forum, but there needs to be a mechanism for keeping the conversation sane. In a town hall, you must stand up and be responsible for your stupidity. Making a comment to a HuffPo essay, you can say nearly anything you want under a screen name and not suffer the consequences of your imbecility. It’s not a good way to move forward. We need a way to manage public comments made under false or no identities. Cheers, Dan Agin

  24. #24 Dan Agin
    August 1, 2010

    One further point in response to “Pablo”, who writes in the post immediately before mine (his post #22). Why write a blog? Because, Pablo, I’ve had 50 years as a bench scientist, I’m now 80 years old, and I’d like to say a few things before I check out. Pretentious? Call it what you like, but if you have something to say that you think might be useful to people, do say it–and use your real name. My best to you, Dan Agin.

  25. #25 RBH
    August 1, 2010

    Dan Agin said

    I don’t know any evidence that a forum open to everyone and his barking dog leads to greater public understanding.

    Read The Loom Carl Zimmer) for one example of the reverse.

    Agin wrote further

    We need a way to manage public comments made under false or no identities.

    Writing as one who for a decade has both moderated and administered large secular web forums (e.g. the late lamented Internet Infidels Discussion Board) and who blogs at Panda’s Thumb moderating the comment threads on my own posts there, that’s a wheel that’s been invented numerous times. However, it takes time and attention and a certain amount of thoughtfulness from the moderators, and a clear set of guidelines for them to operate under. See The Secular Cafe’s guidelines for an example of the distilled experience of some pretty good moderators and administrators.

  26. #26 Pablo
    August 1, 2010

    Yes, Dan, it is pretentious. Then again, that’s the age we live in.

    But as I said, at least you allow people to comment on it, and discuss it. It’s one thing to throw out your opinion as a start for a topic of discussion. That I am here shows I don’t object to that.

    But to grandstand your opinion on display, without letting anyone even comment on it or discuss it? That’s the ultimate of hubris. Who died and made you King Shit? I don’t care about your 80 years of bench experience or whatever, if you are full of shit, you are full of it, and deserve to be criticized.

    Jeez, even newspapers allow Letters to the Editor. Cutting off discourse completely defeats the purpose of media, and is nothing more than arrogant grandstanding.

  27. #27 Dan Agin
    August 1, 2010

    Sorry, this is over my head and I can’t engage it. Have a good one.

  28. #28 Roger
    August 1, 2010

    @ #6 Knotfreak

    I believe leftbrainrightbrain operates the same way (keyword moderation).Every comment I have ever posted there has been moderated.Both the good guys and bad guys do this.

  29. #29 Dedj
    August 1, 2010

    “Call it what you like, but if you have something to say that you think might be useful to people, do say it–and use your real name.”

    Why? Unless I were to also provide my profession (although people have worked out my profession, gender and country of education from my posts), I’m as faceless as any of the numerous people with my name, at least one of which is more likely to be presumed to be me than I am.

    Using your ‘real name’ only works if it’s possible to tell which of the people with your ‘real name’ is making the post. It’s only a viable request for those that are prominent and well known enough for it to work.

    Effective enforcement of any such rule would require limiting access to those with a centrally held ID, linked to a proven real world identity. Not going to happen anytime soon.

    Personally, I’ve never identified myself, yet I’ve received arson threats, had people save up months old comments and post them out of context and with false descriptions in order to discredit me, and been signed up to filth spam – 7 spam a week to 2000+ a month the same month I posted on a known vaccine skeptic site critical of the person who just happens to moderate the comments and therefore knows my address? Not co-incidence.

    I know of others who have been approached on their own property, or at work. I know of others who have had their personal details, including work address and picture, collated and cross posted on hostile websites.

    And that’s just for posting comments. Others get it worse.

  30. #30 Travis
    August 1, 2010

    I use my real name because I am fairly open about my beliefs and do not like using a nickname in general. However I cannot criticize people who do not. As Dedj mentions simply using a real name does not guarantee any sort of truth or increase trust. It is very easy to post under an apparent real name, or post under someone else’s name. I have been on a few sites were it is possible to verify your profile but few people do this. To put extra weight to people who post under their names is to add extra weight to something that is almost meaningless online.

  31. #31 Dedj
    August 1, 2010

    Well, I didn’t mention trust or truth, I was more talking about the practicalities of being able to tell which of the 100′s of people who share any regular name is the one claiming to be talking to you.

    Even so, unless there is concordance between the persons comments and their personal writings, or public offline comments, there’s no way to effectively hold someone to any post made under their name.

    And, of course, they could be the only person in the discussion with their name. It doesn’t mean you’re any more likely to know who they are.

    I could tell people my real name and home address right now. It wouldn’t add a bean to the discussion, but if I were to reveal all on some websites, my safety would decrease.

  32. #32 Travis
    August 1, 2010

    Sorry, I should have been more careful with that I said so as not to attribute incorrect facts about your statements. I appologise for that lack of care.

  33. #33 Dan Agin
    August 1, 2010

    re #28 dedj
    I think your argument is okay if the blog that you comment about is written under a pseudonym. Then anonymity is fair. But if the essay has a real name and affiliation as a byline, I don’t see why any commentator should not be identified. Are you afraid of the real person who wrote the essay? I doubt it. Are you afraid of other commentators? Maybe. But evidently the essayist is not afraid. The essayist takes a risk that you want to avoid. Why should your risk take precedence? Science is not politics. If a discussion is about science, why isn’t it useful and just to know who is talking? It’s a problem. The end result is that many people are drifting away from places where you get called pretentious because you choose to write for the public under your own name, while the people who call you pretentious hide under a false name. It’s borderline disgusting and juvenile. A comment was made about letters to the editor of a newspaper. Yeah, well, you have to identify yourself to the newspaper, telephone number, address, affiliation. The New York Times does not publish any letter without such information to the editor–and every letter writer is identified by a real name.

  34. #34 Science Mom
    August 1, 2010

    Dan @ 32, Dedj, like me and many other commentors here post about controversial issues, namely anti-vaccinationism and alternative medicine. I don’t think you must be very familiar with these groups but Dedj did provide a sampling of what they are not only capable of, but regularly conduct as an attempt to silence their opponents.

    The author of this blog was recently subjected to their tactics via harassing his employers into firing him from his post. An employer who has nothing to do with his blogging activities no less.

    If you choose to blog under your real name, that is certainly your prerogative, but it is unreasonable and hardly judicious to expect commentors to your site to do so. It is hardly a problem to address an anonymous commentor, provided they use a consistent username and judge the content of their comments, rather than using a real life-sounding name.

  35. #35 Travis
    August 1, 2010

    I do not think Dan as addressed the problem with verifying whether or not people are using their real names and are who they say they are. Unless you do this I am not sure how someone using their real name (or what they claim is a real name) is more worth listening to than someone who consistantly using the same nickname. It seems it would just reward people who choose to pick names that seem like proper names.

  36. #36 Dedj
    August 1, 2010

    “It’s borderline disgusting and juvenile.”

    It’s accepted practice in the medium, and has been for a good while, so it’s safe to say your opinion only stretches to you.

    If you want people to register a real world identity before replying, then you can do so. I really doubt you’ll get many people signing up.

    “Why should your risk take precedence?”

    Because it’s my risk to take. It’s not equivilant to the essayist, as the essayist has recourse to expose and publicise any negative behaviour against them. A named individual with no institution or network to back them up is left without defence to the effects of risk.

    “If a discussion is about science, why isn’t it useful and just to know who is talking? It’s a problem.”

    Why is it useful? Even if you did know who they were, it might not give you any pertinent information. I know who you are, yet I knew nothing of your existence before tonight, and your various bio’s are useless without further context, which can only be gained by reading what you write.

    Knowing exactly who you are adds nothing to your arguement, although it does allow me the benefit of assuming a higher than typical level of science knowledge in you. As we are not discussing science, but the ethics and pragmatics of online identity, this benefit is very minimal, assuming I’ll ever get a chance to make use of it at all.

    If someone was switching identities between every posts or discussions, then you may have a point. But there aren’t many people who would see the same screen name and discussion style come up again and again and assume they are two or more people.

    By not refering to thier meat-space identities, people are potentially blocking off an entire avenue of prestige and power. For those of us that don’t have the prestige and power of a well-respected, well-educated essayist with a support network and a established – if small – support staff, revealing our real world identities serves no purpose in any discussion. Indeed, as already laid out, displaying an identity might not even sufficiently prove an identity. Even identifying the exact individual may not serve any purpose beyond confirming identity.

    I could tell you explicitly and directly who I am, and it would benefit neither of us. You would have no more idea whether the Joe Doe Esq. posting here is the same one posting elsewhere than you would if I stuck to ‘Dedj’.

  37. #37 Dan Agin
    August 1, 2010

    science mom @ 33 I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t know why this place has to be more vicious than other places. I have written blogs against anti-vaccinationism, against alternative medicine, a whole book against junk science, but aside from people calling me stupid, crazy, etc., no one has ever threatened to kill me, etc. I started writing for HuffPo several years ago because they invited me. For a long time, I never “moderated” anything. Then I saw people being misinformed by commentors with an agenda, and I tried arguing with them as just another commentor. It doesn’t work. There are apparently too many wing nuts on the loose. I think if they had to identify themselves and risk consequences many of them would go away. But maybe they wouldn’t. I don’t know. Maybe it’s hopeless and we’re stuck with chaotic interchange.

  38. #38 Dedj
    August 1, 2010

    An additional problem is that some peoples’ real names sound faked.

    Also, commentators generally do not get paid, whilst contributors can be, or can add their contribution to their CV or CPD portfolio. Providing your meat-space identity is up to the individual, but most of the tangible benefits lay with the contributors.

    Only through registration that requires a real-world check, can you be assured of an online identity. Even then, illicit account access, hacking, shared computers, shared log-ins and leaving the machine without logging out can make this system a bit shaky.

  39. #39 Harry Eagar
    August 1, 2010

    Welcome points. Now try making the same ones at RealClimate.

    Betcha they don’t welcome them any more than Huffpo.

    So does that mean Hansen and his pals aren’t in the game of real science?

    Q.E.D.

  40. #40 Dedj
    August 2, 2010

    “science mom @ 33 I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t know why this place has to be more vicious than other places.”

    It doesn’t ‘have to be’, indeed, it’s massively safer than some places. There are websites that revolve around deliberate online harrassment or embarrassment of individuals or other websites.

    The reason why this place, and associated websites, isn’t as safe as they should be is because the general content is very emotive, and there is an underlying belief in some of the detractors that any person who does not believe vaccines cause autism is either morally corrupt, knowingly agreeing with harming children, or is being paid off.

    As an example, I was accused of taking back handers from pharma companies – and that my entire profession is unduly influenced by pharma monies – simply because I could not deny that my profession ‘has any connection’ with pharma companies.

    “There are apparently too many wing nuts on the loose. I think if they had to identify themselves and risk consequences many of them would go away.”

    Unfortunetly, it wouldn’t get rid of wing-nut observers, just wing-nut commentators. Of course, this doesn’t account for people who well and truly believe that it’s everyone else who is the wing-nut and that they are right and justified in doing what they are doing, and that they must be right and justified because otheriwse they wouldn;t have all these wing-nuts arguing against them.

    For example, the woman who informed Objective Productions of the nature of the Wakefield booking, was repeatedly ‘outed’ (as several different people who have no connection barring sharing the same name), was roundly criticised by several writers, was accused of having various mental disorders, and had various comments thrown at her including threats to have her locked up and any and all responsiblities and right taken away from her.

    I have no idea if any of the people she was confused for have received ‘interesting’ mails, but I would not doubt it.

    Generally speaking, it’s usually only words, but as Science Mom indicated, it turns into real world action.

  41. #41 Dedj
    August 2, 2010

    Of course, let us not forget how nasty the Amy Wallace episode became.

    Thankfully it didn’t get as far as it has for Dr Offit.

  42. #42 MadScientist
    August 2, 2010

    @Pablo #26: I agree; and there are numerous blogs out there that do just that. In those cases the bloggers just want their egos stroked and they happily use the pretense of moderation. But anyway – science on HuffPoo? Get real – the loons there want people to believe they’re scientific – no chance they’ll let real scientists hang around. It’s the typical behavior of cranks.

  43. #43 Lee
    August 2, 2010

    A bit off-topic, but still having to do with science blogging: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/01/magazine/01FOB-medium-t.html — she makes some interesting points.

  44. #44 Martin R
    August 2, 2010

    Typo: pseudSOcience –> pseudoscience

  45. #45 Scott
    August 2, 2010

    I have slowed down writing for HuffPo because the comments drive me up the wall–too many … nuts, imbeciles, and people who would be laughed out of any college class for saying what they say so easily on HuffPo.

    It struck me quite strongly how this is an incredibly accurate description of so many writers for HuffPo.

  46. #46 Vicki
    August 2, 2010

    Dan Agin–

    In some abstract universe, it might be nice if everyone posted under their real names. In the universe we actually live in, in which people are threatened for what they post online, there are good reasons for anonymity. We live in a world where there are men who are actively pro-rape, and harass women bloggers who post about rape.

    We live in a world where “use your real name” can easily become yet another way of dismissing or silencing people who state unpopular positions or talk about real experiences of oppression. It’s easy to use your real name to support the status quo: people aren’t going to lose their jobs for saying that their country or government is good, or praising the majority religion of their area, or for making dismissive comments about poor people.

    Something else: in that ideal universe of unlimited goodwill and no harassment, there would be no need to push for real names. Sure, J. Random Poster might want people to be able to connect their posts, but that would be for their benefit, to make friends. If there are no sockpuppets, no deliberate lies, no trolls, and so on, it doesn’t make any difference to the discussion whether your name is really Dan, whether mine is really Vicki, and whether our host is really a computer.

  47. #47 Dr. Mary Johnson
    August 2, 2010

    Ticker, I did the comment-thing for a long time. But I got real tired of “debating” bloggers like you – who are are NOT putting it all on the line by signing their names but feel free to crap on mine. Dan Agin’s points are well-taken.

    Being cyber-stalked late last year also put a REAL damper on things.

    I actually DO have regular/local readers – who are very friendly (and increasingly outraged by what they read on Housecalls). Most of them are, in fact, not inclined to comment because they’ve seen what I’ve been through in real life and (especially) on the blogs and they’re just not up for it – even under a pseudonym. If most of the readers who agree with me are going to just read/keep their low profiles, while I am left to battle only those who would bash & libel (anonymously)? Pray tell, should I re-open myself up for the abuse? And it IS abuse.

    I post my e-mail address on my blog – so I do get feedback (not infrequently).

    Indeed, sometimes it’s “intel”.

    I came to the blogpshere for a reason (ergo I sign my name) … and I’ll likely be here until I see some evidence of real evidence-based “reform” (as opposed to the uber-expensive/agendda-ridden/entitlement-laced/filled-with-unintended-consequences-mismash we got).

    My “personal problems” actually reflect upon some of the things Orac has lately blogged about . . . like being SLAPP-sued (after getting fired for practicing evidence-based medicine/saving a life and reporting malpractice) . . . or having my livelihood threatened (in the form of bogus complaints to the North Carolina Medical Board – for the horrible sin of being “crazy” enough to blog/talk back to said Medical Board) . . . or even absorbing threats against my personal safety.

    Again, I live in North Carolina . . . the land of Rashid Battar:

    http://drjshousecalls.blogspot.com/2010/04/lesson-on-medical-oversight-in-north.html

    Moreover, very recent Court rulings in North Carolina make it virtually impossible to hold anons/fakes accountable for what they say or do on a blog.

    In short, I’m at the head of the line in terms of some of the CRAP that Orac is dealing with now. I’ve lost real skin.

    Jake, with regards to my post talking back to the AAP (about Board re-certification), I’m expressing an opinion (we can have those in America) that other physicians clearly share (based on what I’ve seen on the medical blogs) but are too afraid to vocalize.

    I jumped through all the ABP’s hoops once. They had a good re-cert system in place (I jumped through that too). But we had to change it as a knee-jerk reaction to some public polls? Physicians (particularly primary-care physicians) are innundated with enough crap – from all sides – as it is. But let’s pile on some more! Makes PERFECT sense to me.

    As background, I’ve not got a lot of use for the AAP or ABP (based in Chapel Hill) or NCPS or NCMS or AMA or JCAHO – largely because neither my board certification in Pediatrics nor the evidence-based treatment for meconium aspiration/PHTN/shock counted for a hill of beans in my North Carolina hometown . . . after I answered a phone call from some terrified nurses in the middle-of-the-night and took on a “most-favored” FP who fancied himself a “Neonatologist” just because he passed an NRP class.

    The evidence will show that NONE of those organizations – so concerned with patient safety or physician advocacy or good medicine – so much as lifted a finger to help (despite “the medical/other evidence” supporting me – and me PLEADING for it).

    Bottom line: As a former indentured servant in Hillary’s village, I have a situation that is twelve years old that North Carolina law enforcement has yet to even investigate. The state (run by Democrats) is bathed in corruption (lots of evidence to support that) yet until recently, our state newspapers have done little more than wink and nod. “Right people” and “good-ole boys” rule. The rest of us can rot.

    If my blog is the ONLY way I can get my story “out there” – and if I’ve chosen (after a very bumpy ride) not to be a punching bag in the process, so be it.

  48. #48 tütüne son
    August 2, 2010

    Of course, let us not forget how nasty the Amy Wallace episode became.

  49. #49 EM
    August 2, 2010

    The level of idiosyncratic censorship on HuffPo is astounding, in my experience. Polite and well-stated comments are banned, while primitive personal attacks get sent through.

    I have seen it repeatedly and with a growing dismay, especially since this is a purported liberal site (and I’d hoped “liberal” still meant what it was supposed to mean).

    Their New Age-y “Living” section in particular is populated with oversensitive(?) moderators who, for some strange (or not) reason, do not want to hear not only negative comments, but also those that may be supportive of their blog posts and their authors.

    Last weekend’s arbitrary censorship fest that took place under Dr. Lanza’s post on the non-existence of death (or something akin to it) really took my breath away. I participated in the discussion, only to see comment after comment — mine and others — removed with no apparent justification.

    The posters’ responses to others often register on the site even though they do not make it to the official comment list, so I could see many perfectly reasonable, polite and well-stated arguments (written in response to some of my own) that were not allowed. I wanted to respond to many of them, but couldn’t, since these comments were never posted on the thread.

    Yet primitive and abusive personal attacks get through. Go figure.

    Shame on HuffPo.

  50. #50 Dan Weber
    August 2, 2010

    On NPR’s Marketplace Monday evening, they were talking about comment moderation, and Huffington Post was held up as an example, because they bought a comment moderation service.

    So whatever is going on there, it’s deliberate.

  51. #51 a-non
    August 3, 2010

    One thing I needed to comment on…

    Try using your real name in arguments with anti-vaxers, and time how long it takes for someone to out, harass, or in some cases threaten you. Some people will stop at nothing to silence their critics.

    More power to you if you want to put yourself out there, but these folks aren’t going to give you any more or less credence if you sign your name to a post. It’s high risk, no reward.

    So no, I have no plans to start using my real name anytime soon, and if that means the truthers or the anti-vaxers or the deniers don’t take me seriously, then so be it.

  52. #52 Chris
    August 7, 2010

    I don’t know if I should wear this as a badge of honor or not, but 3 of my posts were just censored on HuffPo. I merely pointed out that Galland’s citation wasn’t just studying the incidence of adverse side effects from medication but also vaccines, over the counter meds, herbal medicines and dietary supplements. And that he cites the number of 7600 and 76000 that die or are hospitalized due to NSAIDs yearly, but failed to mention that 70 million are prescribed NSAIDS in the study he cited, making it about .001% who experience some form of adverse reaction from NSAIDS, as well as the fact that he equated chronic use of NSAIDs with intermittent use of NSAIDs for a headache. Those were the gist of my posts. Oh well… here’s a link to the page. He wants people to post things about their nightmare stories from medication and if their doctor responded by using alternative treatments. I don’t think my posts fell under those 2 categories.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leo-galland-md/why-medication-can-be-dan_b_643690.html

  53. #53 Expose the Truth
    August 24, 2010

    Many have been banned from Huffington Post and their profiles arbitrarily deleted without reason.

    TAKE ACTION TO FIGHT CENSORSHIP:

    1. A group has drafted a petition protesting the Huffington Post ‘s censorship, including “ongoing abuses of both HP policy and the principles of open democratic civil discourse.” The group plans to publish “incidents of arbitrary and ongoing censorship at the Huffington Post.”
    For more information see: http://www.thomhartmann.com/users/james-ballard/blog/2010/08/petition You can also email: oldworldgallery@hotmail.com

    2. Have you been banned from commenting and/or had your profile deleted by the Huffington Post? Please send your examples to: RedDog071@gmail.com for the blog, “Banned From Huffpo”: http://bannedfromhuffpo.blogspot.com/

  54. #54 Expose the Truth
    September 5, 2010

    Huffington Post arbitrarily deletes comments, bans those who post comments, and deletes profiles. The pattern of arbitrary censorship extends far beyond HP’s published moderation policies.

    Please sign the Petition to Stop Out of Control Censorship at the Huffington Post Censorship here: http://socialentrepreneurship.change.org/petitions/view/stop_the_out_of_control_censorship_on_the_huffington_post

    The petition text is a letter that gets sent automatically to the Huffington Post (community-support@huffingtonpost.com) every time someone signs. Note: you can edit or completely change the letter that gets sent when you sign so you can make it about any specific free speech issues that you like.

    PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD FAR AND WIDE! Share the link on all of your social networks—Facebook, Twitter, etc!

    Also, if you have been banned from commenting and/or had your profile deleted by the Huffington Post, please send your story to: RedDog071@gmail.com at the blog, “Banned From Huffpo”: http://bannedfromhuffpo.blogspot.com/

  55. #55 Bellinda
    November 12, 2010

    “If we had a well organized, well presented, and well traffic’d website which debunked literally every bad piece of health advice on HuffPo..”

    Why don’t we? Sign me in! It should be not just debunking of their health advise though. I would stay mostly away from politics, but the “living” section is all ruled by lunatic mobsters who are not that harmless as it seems. They do mislead, misinform, misinterpret, confuse and abuse, using their supposedly respected creds and unlimited support from huffpost. The whole setup is promoting cult mentality and enabling brainwashing. There are victims who get caught in this wasteful circle, so there should be a place to find out the truth.