Bullies, Oligarchies and Online Forums (CNET Asia)
Bullies, oligarchies and online forums
Dec 5, 2007 11:40
When the Internet became mainstream, innocents hailed it as the Equalizer. Where everybody would have a voice, where the meek could shine, where everybody ruled and nobody would be unduly silenced. The Democratizing Force.
Well, a decade or so down the road, all these claims seem so naive to me. We have online forums where people are harassed. People with online access have a much greater advantage over people with limited or no access. Oligarchies have formed--small groups who have power over others--in forums. And giant sites like Wikipedia and Digg have had serious scandals rock them because of the oligarchy phenomenon.
Take a very, very close look at this article from The Register--Secret mailing list rocks Wikipedia. Here, a summary which you can skip if you bother to read the two pages in The Register:
Bang Bang is a Wiki editor, a long-time contributor whom some other editors consider a positive Force in the Wiki, and wonderfully productive, too! One day, Bang Bang got banned by a super Administrator, Durova. The grounds: That Bang Bang was a troll, troublemaker, shit stirrer, gloats, nasty, abusive, and had the prime motive to destroy the Wiki.
Several other editors did not agree that Bang Bang should be banned, demanding Durova to explain. Durova insisted that the review of her ban should be handled by a closed door Arbitration Committee to protect the confidentiality of some "deep research techniques" used to investigate the matter. She asked readers to "keep faith" that her banning action was correct, without providing any evidence.
Someone couldn't take it anymore. So a user Giano posted a private email from Durova and revealed the names in a secret mailing list. This email revealed that Bang Bang was, indeed, wonderfully productive, but Durova said this was a pretend act so Bang Bang could gain sufficient reputation within the Wiki community to destroy the Wiki from within.
After the email was released, Durova unbanned Bang Bang (false positive), relinquished her admin powers, and the Arbitration Committee merely slapped her hand instructing her to exercise more care when banning users.
Trouble is that there are claims that 90 percent of the bans are false positives, complaints that any large edits done on the Wiki not done by an editor of repute are considered vandalism and the editor is smacked with a ban, and organized tyranny in general.