Image credit: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, book cover
Online moderators often get a bad rap.
The “censor” label is often applied to us – sometimes in jest, and sometimes in all sincerity – but the fact remains that moderators protect the public from hateful speech and violence that can extend to sexual violence.
So, why not, then, see us as agents of protection for our clients? That’s what we are.
Granted, online moderation of content is one of those occupations that needs explaining. It’s an invisible service, and if done right, people are unaware of what we do; left undone, people are shocked and outraged.
Here’s what good moderators do:
Moderators don’t filter out opinions based on their own religious or political views. They do not change history or alter facts.
Public reaction to moderation as censorship does give me pause to think. After all, I earn a living from online moderation, but I am clear that the underlying purpose of moderation services is to protect the public – my clients’ audiences – from fringe voices that lash out in anger or even misguided humor.
Deleting hateful images like a swastika or removing a thread of cyber-bullying comments is a good thing to do. Vicious comments can be hurtful and, if left online, can sour one on humanity.
Heck, I don’t want my rights trampled on, but I think people are unnecessarily worried that their right to Free Speech is being taken away by moderators.
In George Orwell’s 1984, Winston Smith worked for The Ministry of Truth with Big Brother watching over him at all times. Now, he was a censor. He deleted details and “corrected” news articles to rewrite history and change facts. In his job for the Ministry, Winston even altered photographs and documents to fit the party line.
Moderators today don’t share Winston’s Smith’s motivations. We are defending clients’ rights. The right to freedom of speech is subject to limitations, as with libel, slander, obscenity and incitement to commit a crime. When using a business or organization’s website, one enters into an agreement to follow the guidelines of their web hosts.
This doesn’t negate their right to free speech, but it does offer standards on where that free speech is allowed. The guidelines give site owners some control over what will be published on their website.
The good news for clients – and for those who will defend their right to hateful speech – is that anyone can have a website.
Have something hateful to say?
Get your own site. We will be busy protecting the others.