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Linking as approval?
December 4, 2012 4:44 AM   Subscribe

Is linking to a site endorsement of a site?

If somone links to a site, does that constitute approval or endorsement of a site?

Obviously, a post is approval, in a "look at this" sort of way. But are supporting/followup links construed as advocating a certain worldview?
posted by the man of twists and turns to Etiquette/Policy at 4:44 AM (97 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Heavens, no.
posted by Greg Nog at 4:50 AM on December 4, 2012 [28 favorites]


Nope, context plays a big part. You can link to something without necessarily supporting it's views.
posted by arcticseal at 4:59 AM on December 4, 2012


I feel compelled to add that RTs are not endorsements.
posted by grobstein at 5:00 AM on December 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


Because Metafilter proper (the Blue) is about linking to interesting things on the web, I would imagine that some posters will support at least some of the sites they link to: simply because they produced or hosted the awesome thing that is the subject of the post, or maybe because they have a general tendency to be awesome. It is also true that because the mere sentiment of "look at this terrible awfulness" is generally not a good basis for a post, you will see fewer links to sites a lot of users may not like: we generally don't look too kindly on "Here's what the Daily Mail is spewing forth today" posts, for instance. As moderators and as a community, I would hope.

But I don't think it logically follows that a link is necessarily an endorsement. I think it's perfectly possible, for example, to craft an otherwise perfectly acceptable post that happens to link to a site you're otherwise indifferent about. Or one that you don't generally like but that happens to host the bit of content you wanted to share.

As for the worldview angle, excessive editorializing is against the guidelines, and I think in that respect it's probably best to take a given post's content at face value.

My question would be: why do you ask? Do you have a specific example in mind with this question?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 5:06 AM on December 4, 2012


Sometimes yes, sometimes no, sometimes maybe.

Endorsement is complicated. You can:

- endorse the viewpoint or fact presented on the site (this shows group x are loons) and you can
- endorse the credibility of the site (I may not agree with this fact, but here is an interesting viewpoint).

However, the internet is a big place and what I endorse today may not be what I believe next year. Also, we are not infinitely wise about the credibility of the sites we link to - i.e. "informed endorsement."

In context some links very clearly, and explicitly, are endorsement. Some are not.

In aggregate, I suspect the balance of linkage tips strongly towards implied endorsement. I'm not going to link to Stormfront because I don't agree with their views and even if I wanted to use them as an example of WRONG I don't want to give them the oxygen of PageRankedness. By the same token, the links people supply are typically more indicative of their viewpoint than not in that one tends not to make a habit of arguing against one's interests or opinions consistently.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:09 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


You can link to something without necessarily supporting it's views.

Stormfront?

It seems to me that a link on the FPP confers some imprimatur of legitimacy - or at least an intention to send eyes to it - that is not always well-received here even if the person posting it doesn't support its views.

But are supporting/followup links construed as advocating a certain worldview?

Obviously not, but the choice of what you put up can be construed in all sorts of ways.
posted by three blind mice at 5:11 AM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


My question would be: why do you ask? Do you have a specific example in mind with this question?

It's just been on my mind, and kicked up from this post, this post, and this post, where some of the commenters are questioning the post as if it was an explicit endorsement of the views inside.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:20 AM on December 4, 2012


this post, this post, and this post,

Israel, slavery, and something about liberal privilege are three Lead Zeppelin subjects on this site and not really good examples of anything good that happens here. On the other hand, you could post something odd about Led Zeppelin even if you didn't personally like the band and maybe get away with it not being seen as an endorsement of them.
posted by three blind mice at 5:42 AM on December 4, 2012


You can link to something without necessarily supporting it's views.

Stormfront?


Maybe it's too early here, but...sure? I'm pretty sure I remember that in the last crop of election posts (if not this year's presidential, then the last time we did this in the U.S.) Stormfront came up, and even if it wasn't linked to directly, it was referenced/quoted for examples of the crazy racism, and I don't think anyone here was endorsing that racism.
posted by rtha at 5:48 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's just been on my mind, and kicked up from this post, this post, and this post, where some of the commenters are questioning the post as if it was an explicit endorsement of the views inside.

Ah, I see, thanks. Then I guess it's important to make the distinction MuffinMan suggests, between endorsing a site and endorsing the views expressed on that site.

In the latter case at least, it's perfectly possible to construe a post with links that express opposing viewpoints: a balanced presentation is probably a good idea anyway if it's a controversial topic.

I also agree with MuffinMan about the implied endorsement aspect, I do think the fact that we don't give a site like Stormfront a lot of traffic says something in a general sense about how people on Metafilter tend to think about the views expressed on that site. But again, I don't think the corollary necessarily follows that the views expressed on sites we do link to are in any way endorsed by the poster, or by the community at large. It might be so in any given case, sure. But I don't think it's a prerequisite.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 5:55 AM on December 4, 2012


What about this post? I doubt many mefites were big Dole supporters back in '96.
posted by that's how you get ants at 6:21 AM on December 4, 2012


I endorse Led Zeppelin.
posted by Egg Shen at 6:27 AM on December 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


Is linking to a site endorsement of a site?

It's an endorsement of people clicking on the link and looking at the site. Sometimes, like in the storm front example, the downsides may outweigh the upsides.
posted by Artw at 6:58 AM on December 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


I do think the fact that we don't give a site like Stormfront a lot of traffic says something in a general sense about how people on Metafilter tend to think about the views expressed on that site.

Yeah I think there are a few different aspects of this topic.

1. things that we don't link to, period - I can only think of Stormfront (white pride site, racist and hateful) falling into this category though Fred Phelps' antics may be here also. Sometimes people link to this stuff not because they endorse their views but to make some sort of "Look at these assholes" statement, though sometimes they just legitimately don't know. This is usually clear from context, sometimes not. We have made an executive decision to not give these people any traffic from MetaFilter, even in a "look at these assholes" way.
2. Stuff that people link to that is specifically because the site lacks credibility and there's some sort of interesting juxtaposition of the lack of credibility and what the site says that someone might find interesting, or they actually don't know the site lacks credibility (this can range from not knowing the NY Post is a bit of a tabloid rag, to thinking the tree octopus is real to someone's one-sided personal account of a thing)
3. Stuff that people link to that they think has credibility which more learned folks may realize is at least questionable (Salon's journalism falls into this category sometimes, Gawker stuff sometimes, HuffPo sometimes) and then debating the credibility of the piece is part of the discussion in the thread
4. Stuff that very few people seem to think lacks credibility (Nature magazine, other scientific papers) but some people will still pick at because people are nitpickers here

There are so many different reasons that people decide to link to stuff, I would not say that there's an implied endorsement but with some topics that are thick with meaning and nuance (Israel and slavery are two of those) understanding why the OP decided to pick the sources they did is usually part of discussing something complicated. However everyone has a different background in sources and evaluating them and so usually this is something that needs to be sussed out in the thread and can't just be known in any other broad brush way.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:59 AM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


The implication with posting a link is that it's going to lead you to something interesting, whether you agree with it or not. I don't really see that happening with Stormfront ever, TBH.
posted by Artw at 7:26 AM on December 4, 2012


(Who knows, maybe they have some really neat Brony stuff.)
posted by Artw at 7:27 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like to know if a link points to anything related to Murdoch -- fox, wsj, etc -- because I don't want to give them any page views; I know that one click off my computer doesn't weigh much in the overall scheme, but if something gets on the front page here it's way more than one page view. Maybe pb could set it up that anything that links to fox et all would have an image of a steaming dog turd next to the link, to alert us.
posted by dancestoblue at 7:40 AM on December 4, 2012


It's just been on my mind, and kicked up from this post, this post, and this post, where some of the commenters are questioning the post as if it was an explicit endorsement of the views inside.

I think the question in this MeTa, as posed, is a bit leading. Because the real answer is that it depends, and it depends not just on the context of the post in question, but in the context of the conversation as a whole and the poster's other posts and comments. This post almost seems like it's seeking a "ruling," but without context any such ruling would be specious and inapplicable to specific cases. This is most particularly true with ticklish subjects, the only ones that matter vis a vis the question here.
posted by OmieWise at 7:42 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, be thankfull for it being in Meta, because it's boring as fuck as an in thread derail.
posted by Artw at 7:47 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


the man of twists and turns: "Is linking to a site endorsement of a site?

If somone links to a site, does that constitute approval or endorsement of a site?


Not necessarily. As others have said, it depends on the context.

I can't speak for everyone else, but I imagine my reasons for posting are similar to a lot of other people's: we see something we found interesting online and wanted to share it with the community. That might be a piece of news, an essay, a resource of some kind, something that someone is doing or had done, or a video. Etc.

Posts say, "Check out this thing." A "What do you think?" is probably implied, too. They require no deeper motivation on the part of the poster.

Obviously, a post is approval, in a "look at this" sort of way. But are supporting/followup links construed as advocating a certain worldview? "

As always, the best way to know if someone takes a side on a particular issue is to ask them. There's no need to guess.

Also, for some topics, a few of us may have complex views. I know my views on I/P aren't so easily quantified based on the metrics / assumptions of one side or the other.

There are people here (myself included) who make repeated posts on the same topics because they interest us. Artw likes comics and Doctor Who. Rhaomi posts about politics. Brandon Blatcher likes astronomy and the space program. flapjax at midnight is a musician. flex seems to like culture and behavior. I like history, science and other stuff. Those aren't the only things we post about, but if you take each of our posting histories as a whole, you'll see several FPPs on those topics.

You might be able to extrapolate specific worldviews from that. But being interested enough in a topic to post about isn't necessarily an endorsement.
posted by zarq at 8:00 AM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


The implication with posting a link is that it's going to lead you to something interesting, whether you agree with it or not. I don't really see that happening with Stormfront ever, TBH.
(Who knows, maybe they have some really neat Brony stuff.)


THEY DO THEY DO

I remember someone linking to some White Pride forum on twitter where people were talking about whether the Ponies are good role models for their Master Race daughters or not. I really want to find it again, but hesitate to do much searching for White Pride Friendship Is Magic and such.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:12 AM on December 4, 2012 [8 favorites]


HITLER IS MAGIC.
posted by Artw at 8:13 AM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would imagine that some posters will support at least some of the sites they link to: simply because they produced or hosted the awesome thing that is the subject of the post

I must be misreading this, because it sounds like you're taking about people posting links to their own work on the blue, which is verboten. Can you clarify what you meant by this?
posted by Deathalicious at 8:15 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I actually find this discussion helpful for talking about this thread. A lot of people liked the very first link and thanked flex for linking it. I personally hated that particular link, but appreciated many of the other, contrasting viewpoints which were written in response to it.

I don't know what flex feels about the first link, but in this case, where many, many contrasting viewpoints are presented in a single post, it is obvious that the poster cannot be endorsing all of the viewpoints because some of them are in very strong disagreement. It seems more like an endorsement of the topic of discussion and saying "these are a whole lot of interesting things people have said on this topic." We have many threads of this nature, and I don't know that they fit particularly well into any of the categories people have discussed here so far.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:16 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can you clarify what you meant by this?

My read was that "they" modifies "the sites they link to" and not "the posters" so something like "People will support stuff they link to because those sites are the ones that made the (awesome) stuff that is the subject of the post"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:21 AM on December 4, 2012


Maybe pb could set it up that anything that links to fox et all would have an image of a steaming dog turd next to the link, to alert us.
posted by dancestoblue


An alternative is to drop the hostname of the sites you don't want to support in your 'hosts' file and redirect them to 127.0.0.1
posted by Lanark at 8:30 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lead Zepplin takes on a new, awesome rock power via homonymnic magic. I can't help but endorse it.
posted by klarck at 9:14 AM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


A kiss is not a contract.
posted by maryr at 9:14 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just in case it's not clear, I would like to publicly deny any endorsement of the music of Rick Astley.

But I confess I may have linked to it once or twice.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:23 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, just in case, I'm voting for Led Zepplin, too. Otherwise, never mind.
posted by mule98J at 9:27 AM on December 4, 2012


I approve this comment.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:30 AM on December 4, 2012


I totally endorse NASA.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:30 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, yeah! I endorse NASA so hard, they need ceramic heat tiles just to read my endorsement!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:32 AM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


I endorse Blatcher/Henderson 2016.
posted by elizardbits at 9:33 AM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


If nomnomnominated, I will not run; if delected, I will not swerve. If served, I will be delicious.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:37 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


No chance, you're undelectable.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:41 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


How dare you question my taste!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:43 AM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sorry...are we still buds?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:53 AM on December 4, 2012


but some people will still pick at because people are nitpickers here

Ahem. I believe you mean that *some* people are nitpickers.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:56 AM on December 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


A kiss is not a contract.

Although it may lead to contracting in several senses of the word.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:57 AM on December 4, 2012


Sorry...are we still buds?

Oh, hell yes!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:03 AM on December 4, 2012


A link indicates that you think something is worth glancing at. That doesn't mean you agree with it, but it does indicate that you think it's fair practice to let the people you disagree with speak in their own words, or that you think they are so disturbingly wrong that we need to keep an eye on them, or that what they have to say is so far out there that it's entertaining, etc.

Some things are not worth looking at, not even with contempt. These should not be linked.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:06 AM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes
posted by Flunkie at 10:07 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


the man of twists and turns: "Obviously, a post is approval"

Only the obituary threads, actually.
posted by radwolf76 at 10:10 AM on December 4, 2012


Wait, no! I mean no.
posted by Flunkie at 10:11 AM on December 4, 2012


I believe that we, as a nation, need to Get the Led Out more often.
posted by slogger at 10:23 AM on December 4, 2012


Your link to good old innocuous Timecube, which any of us would endorse I think, redirects to some other junky page! Bleah.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:42 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I endorse Zepp.

Except for that fucking awful "Going to California" song.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:42 AM on December 4, 2012


[Actually we seriously don't link to Stormfront here, feel free to have people email you if they want to know what a worthwhile Stormfront thread is, we don't even want to give them the referrer traffic.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:11 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


If somone links to a site, does that constitute approval or endorsement of a site?

Ah, this is interesting, and one of the attributes which differentiates MetaFilter from more formalised/structured human Internet resource cataloging systems e.g. the excellent Scout Report.

{Has a splendid pot of tea and looks and thinks about his FPPs of late}

Perhaps the answer is - not always, and it depends on the context? It's easier to work out the context if the poster has put surrounding text, and multiple links, in the FPP. Over time, I've come to appreciate the multiple link FPP as something which adds loads of context and removes ambiguity about what the poster is thinking e.g. whether they approve of the site(s) linked to, or not.

Four FPPs I've done of late:

1. Disney purchases LucasFilms. A single link FPP, tho' with a neutral news story link to add more detail. But it's a poor and lazy 'breaking news' FPP with zero context or additional comment (the mods arguably should have deleted it). Did I, the poster, endorse the story, or was I mocking some element of Disney, Star Wars or both? Can't tell. Can't even remember myself, now.

2. Typewriter production in the UK. Some more links, content and context. It should be a lot clearer that the poster endorsed the story - in the context of typewriters being interesting publishing devices, as is their history - or at the very least finds it interesting and hopes others do too.

3. Related to the point by goodnewsfortheinsane - "...we generally don't look too kindly on "Here's what the Daily Mail is spewing forth today" posts..." one on fish stocks in which I nearly linked to the Daily Mail story as an example of journalism failure, but at the last minute linked to the BBC news one as it was more 'meta' and linked to several failures, including the DM one. Here, I hope it's clear I'm endorsing the BBC news item as it calls out bad practice, whereas if I'd linked to the Daily Mail one, I'd be anti-endorsing(?) it.

4. Everything is fleeting. Here, the FPP is not endorsing what Mr Haughey is saying - and the 100+ comments show that people have a whole range of FB and Twitter experiences, with no consensus - but I am saying "This is interesting, made more interesting because it's the mindset of the founder of MetaFilter, so perhaps you will find it interesting too." Hmmm; unsure if that comes over.

So I guess your "Obviously, a post is approval, in a "look at this" sort of way." is right. It may help sometime, but am not sure it matters whether the OP endorses the linked site or not. More important, perhaps, that it's contextualized and framed in such a way that it catches the interest of readers on here?

Questions around how and why we synthesize and summarize net-based resources - especially for a purely optional service with no monetary or career-advancement incentive - are interesting. Thanks for raising it.
posted by Wordshore at 11:17 AM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


you can block murdoch sites with an addon (i believe chrome has one too).
posted by nadawi at 1:28 PM on December 4, 2012


You can't MAKE me use a typewriter, you monster!
posted by Artw at 1:54 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Questions around how and why we synthesize and summarize net-based resources - especially for a purely optional service with no monetary or career-advancement incentive - are interesting.

This points toward something else I've been thinking about, which is tied into the main question. That is: how do we choose sources? "Best of the web" and the FAQ/new member/posting guide are good resources and guidelines, but the decisions of what to include, what to leave out, and what sources to trust or highlight are all pretty important. And then: where do we get our ideas for posts?

When I create posts, I like to get as close to the source as possible - follow the links, find the original article. I hate clicking on a link in an FPP and seeing a summary of a tumblr or a post on a link aggregator. But there's also a great deal of utility in overviews and summaries, especially when dealing with complex topics, so those multiple layers of interpretation can add context and information.

At Metafilter, the act of creating an FPP inherently means something is worth sharing - why else do it? And when faced with multiple sources for an event or analysis, how do we choose? I'm of the 'more is better' school of thought, but this is not always the case. I was working on a post today (since abandoned) when I realized all the articles I found were just rephrases of the same basic AP newswire story, and there was very little context or analysis except what the various authors had supplied, unsourced.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:54 PM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


And when faced with multiple sources for an event or analysis, how do we choose? I'm of the 'more is better' school of thought, but this is not always the case. I was working on a post today (since abandoned) when I realized all the articles I found were just rephrases of the same basic AP newswire story, and there was very little context or analysis except what the various authors had supplied, unsourced.

Personally, I try to determine if each link adds something unique to the post. If they simply rehash something already linked, my feeling is they shouldn't be included.

So for example: there are four articles linked in this post about Jerry DeWitt. Each attacks the story from a slightly different perspective, and each gives enough information that if a person only clicks and reads one link in the post, they'll understand who he is. The videos / podcast interviews are extras, and each also give unique information about him and his personal, spiritual journey. I kept them below the fold on purpose -- if someone wants to find out more about him they can. But they aren't strictly necessary to the post.

I did the same thing here. The most important links are above the fold. The rest may contain some duplicate information but each presents a unique enough perspective that I felt they were worth including. A few links didn't make the cut, because they didn't add anything helpful to the post.

As posters, I think it's our role to also filter out noise as much as possible. (I know there's a school of though that says all multilink posts are pure noise, and I agree that in some cases there are diminishing returns.)
posted by zarq at 3:20 PM on December 4, 2012


there's a school of though that says all multilink posts are pure noise

I would disagree wholeheartedly.

For example, in this post, if I were to highlight the link I found first, it would have been Coates' blog. But the articles developed sequentially, as each one reacted to what came before, and are best understood in chronological order. I used a similar structure in this post.

In this post, I personally think the nakedcapitalism and National Journal links are the core, but there are so many different views, interpretations, sources and analysis I attempted to give a picture of what was happening.

In this post, one link, a dash of context, and an immediate undermining of the premise in the first comment. Putting the CT link in the post read very, very strange to me - I don't know if it would have to anyone else. But it felt necessary, to temper the main link.

In this post, the top link is only a hook, and the main link was halfway down, in the last blockquote. But Cracked knows their hooks - it is their main function.

Making FPPs is an art and a skill, and much of it relies on source evaluation.

I am still looking for the perfect single-link. Perhaps someday I'll find it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:41 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I create posts, I like to get as close to the source as possible

Most of the time I'm inspired to make a post by something I am reading in a book, so there's no such thing as "the source" except that I often via link the book in case other people want to read it also. So then you have to figure out what's relevant to the topic, what's a good summary of the topic, what's good for additional resources for people who want to dig in, what's legible, what's reputable and what's available to be linked to. I usually click around and look for a bunch of different perspectives and try to put them into a coherent few-sentence narrative. Then because I am a research nerd, I go looking for stuff that superfans might be interested in.

These activities aren't simple. If they were, more librarians would be out of a job. It's why I am not worried about job security just because more stuff is on the internet. There's a huge chasm between "available" and "accessible" and access is our stock in trade. I like to think that MeFi is good at coalescing some good mini-bibliographies on topics (both with the original post but also with the comments people leave) which are then made available to the web. I like that.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:22 PM on December 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Next you'll say a favorite is an endorsement!
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:56 PM on December 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is linking to a site endorsement of a site?

I'd hope not.

Stormfront has been linked here. There was a thread on Industrial bands there, and it popped up in a Neo-Nazi Industrial band showdown (was kickstarter fraud involved?) here by two bands I hated. I may have even have been the one to link to it.

I had no idea it was verboten. Does the same hold true for the BNF? Is there a list of banned sites?
posted by Mezentian at 9:51 PM on December 4, 2012


There isn't a list of banned sites, but then we don't really have a membership that is generally eager to link to and/or promote white supremacist sites (for example) – so in terms of problems in search of codified solutions, this is one that rarely comes up, and it's pretty low on the list of Needs Urgent Consideration.

As usual around here, I think the general feeling is that general guidelines and dealing with specific situations specifically is a better way to go. Creating a list of "banned" sites suggests that every other site is fine, which might not always be the case, and flatly stating that never, ever under any circumstances may site X ever, ever, ever be linked is also not the sort of "rule of law" that is a good fit here.
posted by taz (staff) at 1:45 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks. If I did link to Stormfront et al, I always make sure to mention what it is, because they aren't everyone's cup of tea, and I come from the forewarned is forearmed school of thought.

Something to keep in the back of my mind for the next time it happens.
posted by Mezentian at 2:06 AM on December 5, 2012


I've never heard of Stormfront. Did a quick uk site search, and was briefly as confused as heck. I know hipsters are sometimes mocked on here, but...
posted by Wordshore at 3:38 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mezentian, in addition to people personally just not wanting to click through to a hate site, there's also the the fact that links from a site like Mefi can contribute to making a site more visible in search indexing and that more page views will contribute to advertising income, thereby supporting a hate site, which is why most people will not link.
posted by taz (staff) at 4:39 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Taz, jessamyn deleted a stormfront link upthread and said "we seriously do not link to stormfront here." I understand completely that you don't want to officially codify a ban, but it would appear mefi has one, even if it's not written down.
posted by zarq at 5:19 AM on December 5, 2012


And just to be clear, I'm grateful that there's generally zero tolerance shown here to links to that cesspool, or Jew Watch, or other hate sites.
posted by zarq at 5:32 AM on December 5, 2012


I was responding to a question about whether we have a list of banned sites. We do not have a list, and the reason we don't have a list is because of the considerations I mentioned.
posted by taz (staff) at 5:46 AM on December 5, 2012


there's a school of though that says all multilink posts are pure noise

Really?? Sometimes I think I'd rather see one multilink post than several posts that are all SLYT. Sorry, I know this is a derail, but I was just surprised to read this.
posted by scratch at 7:07 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I understand completely that you don't want to officially codify a ban, but it would appear mefi has one, even if it's not written down.

We do not have a list and we treat every linkage to hate sites on a case by case basis. That's pretty much it. A not-at-all-necessary link in a thread where we're discussing that this isn't the sort of thing we do was deleted. We usually but not always delete links to hate sites and that's as specific as we're going to get.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:26 AM on December 5, 2012


I am really sad that something called Jew Watch isn't a sassy fashion blog of dapper seniors.
posted by elizardbits at 8:03 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mezentian, in addition to people personally just not wanting to click through to a hate site, there's also the the fact that links from a site like Mefi can contribute to making a site more visible in search indexing and that more page views will contribute to advertising income, thereby supporting a hate site, which is why most people will not link.

So linking is some kind of endorsement/aiding and abetting, is the moderator position?

I've never visited the Stormfront page, but based on their name and phrases like "hate site" in your comment, they sound like they might be completely vile. Does your comment entail that one should not go and find out for oneself what Stormfront (or whatever other random, possibly loathsome Internet thing) is, lest one materially support loathsome people by viewing their page?

Or is there some threshold of "acceptable support of hate sites", so that it's okay to visit the site (and learn, I guess, about the existence of more loathsome, hateful folks), but it's not okay to give it the high profile (and potential large number of page views) that putting it in an FPP would give?

In either case, who determines loathsomeness? The community? In this case, it sounds like lots of MeFites have already aided and abetted a hate group by visiting their site, because it sounds like lots of people know what Stormfront is well enough to know that it is loathsome and vile, and that well-informed community standards about what sites are unlinkably vile can only be built on information gleaned by lots of those community members visiting those sites. (Which they should be doing, anyway, if they have a need for information, like for the purposes of being an informed member of a community that makes decisions about what sort of content is unacceptably vile. I sort of trust that most MeFites can look at hateful content, if they have some reason to, without becoming raving fascist lunatics or whatever.)

I don't have a problem with outright bans on links to particular sites on MeFi, but I think the page-views-and-ad-income rationale for asking people not to link to stuff like Stormfront is problematic.

(It's a pretty fascinating ethical quandary, though, for a person who is both of the "information-wants-to-be-free-and-I-want-to-see-all-of-it" school and of the "This-is-not-ethical-I'm-taking-my-business-elsewhere" school, the latter of which is sympathetic to the idea that one shouldn't even Google vile fascist types by name.)
posted by kengraham at 8:06 AM on December 5, 2012


I've never heard of Stormfront. Did a quick uk site search, and was briefly as confused as heck. I know hipsters are sometimes mocked on here, but...

Heh. I wonder if they know?
posted by Artw at 8:07 AM on December 5, 2012


So linking is some kind of endorsement/aiding and abetting, is the moderator position?

It's more that as moderators/caretakers of this site and people with strong opinions about what makes the web a better or worse place, we're keenly aware that linking is a functional endorsement in the eyes of Google's inherently amoral PageRank model. It requires no intent by the linker to make a semantic endorsement for Google's search logic to consider a link a mechanical endorsement, and while very little rises to the level of problematic that we'd consider the latter as much as the former it's still something we think about.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:11 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


So linking is some kind of endorsement/aiding and abetting, is the moderator position?

That's one consideration but not, to me, the main one. There are two basic problems as I see it.

1. People on hate sites seeing referrer traffic from sites like MetaFilter could possibly come on over here and join the conversation about their noxious beliefs. We prefer to not have that happen because it would bring conversation to a dead stop. We have, in the past, seen this happen (not with hate sites I don't think but with other blogs) and it's problematic.
2. We're totally not against people talking about hate sites at all, people can Google it themselves and click over and go read about stuff. It's sort of the same way we prefer that people not copy/paste hateful comments from other sites on to MetaFilter so that people can discuss them here. Those sites are what they are, our site is what it is and there are better and worse ways of keeping those distinctions more clear both to our users and to the internet at large.

Secondary concerns are things like not wanting to give them traffic and the slightly more esoteric page rank effect. One of the things that goes into other sites' page ranks is whether they are linked to from other sites with good reputations/rankings. No matter how you feel about this particular mechanism, it's true. So I don't see linking as endorsing at all, however to a weird extent Google does and we-as-mods know and understand this. So while this is really one of those things that goes into effect with a vanishingly small number of hate sites [i.e. it doesn't even slop over into "people whose opinions we disagree with" because that's impossible and we feel it would be a bad thing for us to do] it's still a consideration we have.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:14 AM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


One of the things that goes into other sites' page ranks is whether they are linked to from other sites with good reputations/rankings

Would it be possible to have a set of domains for which links to those domains get rel="nofollow" to make it possible to link to a site without giving that site pagerank?
posted by Jpfed at 8:56 AM on December 5, 2012


In either case, who determines loathsomeness? The community? In this case, it sounds like lots of MeFites have already aided and abetted a hate group by visiting their site, because it sounds like lots of people know what Stormfront is well enough to know that it is loathsome and vile, and that well-informed community standards about what sites are unlinkably vile can only be built on information gleaned by lots of those community members visiting those sites.

Yes to your first question. That is how community standards are formed around here.

To your second part about how people have gone and googled the site and therefore they have already "aided and abetted" the site: I'm not sure what you're suggesting. It seems like you're saying that individual community members googling (and maybe visiting) something is the same as wanting to have that thing linked to from Metafilter. Is that right? That doesn't logically follow, so your argument doesn't hold together. Maybe you could say more about why that would be true. I have no doubt, for instance, that lots of MeFi users look at porn, but, since I recognize that there is a time and a place for porn, I don't think it's either hypocritical or wrong-headed to not link to porn on the front page.
posted by OmieWise at 9:46 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jessamyn: We do not have a list and we treat every linkage to hate sites on a case by case basis. That's pretty much it. A not-at-all-necessary link in a thread where we're discussing that this isn't the sort of thing we do was deleted. We usually but not always delete links to hate sites and that's as specific as we're going to get.

That was my general understanding. That's fine, and I don't have a problem with any of it.

scratch: Really?? Sometimes I think I'd rather see one multilink post than several posts that are all SLYT. Sorry, I know this is a derail, but I was just surprised to read this.

I prefer in-depth, multilink posts. Would venture to guess that most of my own FPPs have been multilink.

If you browse back through old metatalk posts on the subject, you'll find there are people here who hate single link posts and others who hate multilink posts. And then folks who fall all over the rest of the spectrum. The argument against the singles is usually that they're "thin and glib" or something similar. (This especially pops up with single link youtube posts.) The argument raised against multilinks is usually that they too often "bury the lede," or that too many links (especially above the fold) make a post less readable.

elizardbits: I am really sad that something called Jew Watch isn't a sassy fashion blog of dapper seniors.

The fashionable bubbes are all wearing Waffen regalia, liebchen.
posted by zarq at 9:49 AM on December 5, 2012


In either case, who determines loathsomeness? The community? In this case, it sounds like lots of MeFites have already aided and abetted a hate group by visiting their site, because it sounds like lots of people know what Stormfront is well enough to know that it is loathsome and vile

A) Most of us do not live in a tree. Stormfront is well-known in the US.

B) Stormfront's hatefulness is widely covered in other non-white supremacist media.

C) It's a fucking white supremacist website. I am just fine with the mods having the philosophy that MetaFilter doesn't send traffic to, or invite traffic from, white supremacist websites.

D) I am perfectly comfortable saying that I believe white supremacism is loathsome.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:53 AM on December 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


I am just fine with the mods deleting links to Stirmfrint on a case by case basis, with "because it's fucking Stormfront" as a rational. Let's face it, the chances of a not stunty Stormfront link are precisely zero.
posted by Artw at 10:20 AM on December 5, 2012


Which actually brings up the one part I forgot. The majority of Stormfront-or-similar links this site sees lately [over the past few years that I can remember] are either accidental or stunty. People are horrified when they find they've accidentally linked to a hate site and the stunty people are thwarted. This is also okay with us. This basically only leaves "look at these assholes" reasons for linking to them and those sorts of posts [i.e. "Let's look at the shit directly instead of reading second hand reports of the shit"] are often ungreat for other reasons. Anyone who feels that they need to really interact with Stormfront and other hate sites in order to fully understand the awfulness that is white supremacist/anti-semitic/hateful stuff is totally welcome to go look at it and even talk about it here, but direct linking is problematic for a number of reasons.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:19 AM on December 5, 2012


It seems like you're saying that individual community members googling (and maybe visiting) something is the same as wanting to have that thing linked to from Metafilter. Is that right?

No. There were two interpretations of taz's comment that I could see, and I wanted to know which was the important one.

I didn't intend to criticize anything about how MeFi deals with such links. I was just trying to clarify taz's suggestion that linking to fucked up shit supports fucked up shit.

If it's problematic because visiting fucked up sites inherently supports fucked up sites (which it simply does, to some extent), then yes, community standards based on MeFites' knowledge of those sites (obtained by "not living in trees", rather than from MeFi necessarily) are predicated on supporting those things, to some extent. It's similar in kind to saying, say, "based on reports from the large proportion of the population who inhale paint fumes, we're banning the distribution of paint-fume-inhalers so as not to support further paint-fume-inhalation (even though we've all inhaled paint fumes already)". I don't think this is necessarily a bad position to take, but it's somewhat strange.

The other option is that it's problematic because, while simply visiting a site doesn't support it enough to constitute serious support of fucked-up stuff, giving it a great deal of publicity does. I agree with this position, but I wonder where the line is drawn. E.g. does the present discussion about Stormfront constitute publicizing Stormfront too much? It's generated at least one search that wouldn't otherwise have happened...


D) I am perfectly comfortable saying that I believe white supremacism is loathsome.


What's the implication, here? That people with different (or simply just undeveloped) positions on issues that have more to do with rationales for avoiding linking to certain things than with hate sites per se somehow automatically don't find white supremacism sufficiently loathsome?
posted by kengraham at 11:34 AM on December 5, 2012


we're keenly aware that linking is a functional endorsement in the eyes of Google's inherently amoral PageRank model.

This is the thing that I found interesting: it seems like the community is being forced to take a position with some arguably negative consequences (limitations on what can be linked to*) because of someone else's amoral behaviour over which they have no control. There's precedence for sort of artificially excluding facts that are probably relevant to a decision from the decision-making process, and there are sometimes good reasons (predicated on pretty abstract principles about justice and power imbalances and stuff) for doing this (e.g. the whole inadmissible evidence in court thing). It seems like the PageRank issue is of that type, when deciding how links to loathsome shit will be dealt with. I'm sure there's a good argument in favour of not ignoring the PageRank issue (and I probably wouldn't even dispute it, since I know way less about this decision than the folks who actually had to make it); I just thought it was interesting, and I wasn't sure if the explanation taz mentioned actually includes that argument, about why MeFi mods and community members are responsible for the consequences of Google's amoral methods.

*No, Sidhedevil, I don't think that not being able to link to hate sites is particularly negative, but there are reasonable arguments made by reasonable, non-white-supremacist people that even community-imposed restrictions on speech are categorically bad. That's sufficient to introduce arguably negative consequences, in my view, and therefore to make this interesting.
posted by kengraham at 11:49 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Possibly a better discussion would b the position on aggressive SEO molesters like HuffPo and the Daily Mail, rather than the inherently unlinkable Stormfront.
posted by Artw at 11:55 AM on December 5, 2012


The majority of Stormfront-or-similar links this site sees lately [over the past few years that I can remember] are either accidental or stunty. People are horrified when they find they've accidentally linked to a hate site and the stunty people are thwarted. This is also okay with us. This basically only leaves "look at these assholes" reasons for linking to them and those sorts of posts [i.e. "Let's look at the shit directly instead of reading second hand reports of the shit"] are often ungreat for other reasons.

This seems like a much more parsimonious and convincing explanation of why it's not okay to link to hate sites than the PageRank thing.

(Not that I have any interest in linking to hate sites. I just think any statements of the form "it is not okay to say..." warrant some discussion, and I appreciate that multiple mods have chimed in with explanations.)
posted by kengraham at 11:55 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


there are reasonable arguments made by reasonable, non-white-supremacist people that even community-imposed restrictions on speech are categorically bad.

Absolutely, and that's one of the fundamental questions that underlies many if not most of our moderation decisions here: how much is too much? At the same time, unlike some other larger and popular sites, we-as-mods have come down more often on the "We are okay with restricting some particularly noxious speech here under the rationale of trying to make this site inclusive and welcoming to a larger number of people. We are not the government and we are okay with this decision." What has been determined to be particularly noxious is somewhat fluid, but not very.

This is not a decision that is going to be popular with everyone, and it's certainly open to discussion, but it's one of the sort of moderation values that is worth understanding about this place. There is no way to absolutely know with certainty which philosophical approach will result in what desired outcomes, but after over a decade of trial and error we're mostly okay with this.

So, as a result while there is no absolute ban on what you can link to or what you can say, there are types of things and links to types of sites that will likely result in some sort of mod response. It's open to discussion but at the same time the "I need to be able to have complete freedom of speech on this particular website" pleading, if that is your approach, is likely to not be that effective here. Again, we're happy to talk about this, but "Why can't I have free speech on MetaFilter?" is a topic that has been discussed at great length in MetaTalk over the entire life of the site. We have made some choices, as mods and as a community, that have resulted in some abridging of your rights to say absolutely anything you want.

Possibly a better discussion would b the position on aggressive SEO molesters like HuffPo and the Daily Mail

I wish people would link to them significantly less frequently than they do, personally.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:09 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


HuffPo, Daily Mail: "I wish people would link to them significantly less frequently than they do, personally." - Jessamyn

I wish people would link to them significantly less frequently than they do, personally.

Jessamyn on sites with SEO.

Tags: SEO, HuffPo, DailyMail, Jessamyn.
posted by Artw at 12:20 PM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Possibly a better discussion would b the position on aggressive SEO molesters like HuffPo and the Daily Mail,

So what other sites are filled with linkbait? Because I see this sort of behavior from other sources - epitomized in GawkerMedia, but present at Slate, Salon, and increasingly The Atlantic. But it not the well-known "NYTimes Lifestyle Trend" piece also in the same mold? BuzzFeed is probably the most aggressive of the content rehosters, but their model spreads. Sometimes these sites are the first to run with stories, or provide the best jumping-off point for a larger story, since they are the most web-savvy. Are there similar sites that don't engage in the SEO practices, like the ScoutReport that Wordshore linked? I'd say I have a few lined up, that regularly provide FPP material.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:36 PM on December 5, 2012


kengraham, I am implying nothing but that I am fine with saying that Stormfront is loathsome because it's a white supremacist site.

But what I was feeling was annoyance at what read to me, in your post, as a combo platter of rules lawyering and devil's advocacy.

I really think it's okay for the mods to go with their own instincts about what works for the community.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:01 PM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


So what other sites are filled with linkbait? Because I see this sort of behavior from other sources - epitomized in GawkerMedia, but present at Slate, Salon, and increasingly The Atlantic.

None of them do the HuffPo thing of block quoting the meat of someone else's article, throwing in some perfunctory commentary and then SEOing the fuck out of it so it lists above the original though.
posted by Artw at 2:33 PM on December 5, 2012


Slate on that practice - of course, if we link to that we are not endorsing that behaviour, it's probably just the most convenient link on subject we had to hand, but it does aid them in their linkjacking ways.
posted by Artw at 2:38 PM on December 5, 2012


Let's face it, the chances of a not stunty SF link are precisely zero.

I disagree.
The time I linked there (IIRC -- I may not have done this, I really can't remember) was neither accidental or stunty. It was a quite odd tread there about which Industrial bands they supported/followed, and in same cases why.

Given it was within thread about one band (on stage) calling out another band for their racist lyrics, I think it was entirely germane to the topic at hand. Sure, similar circumstances might never happen again, but there you have it. And, it's weird reading people so amazingly focused on race politics talking about bands you know and their own views (plus, reading stuff into lyrics).

But there you go.

(Incidentally, I went to SF last night. It hasn't changed at all. They're still pretty much worried about the US president being a secret muslim and whatnot. It's a silly place. Let's not go there).
posted by Mezentian at 2:45 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Having castigated single link FPPs in an earlier derail in this thread, realized I've just ... oh ...

But seriously, I do feel a bit bad when someone has obviously put in lots and lots, possibly several or many hours, of research into creating, sculpting (which it's kinda close to), forming, editing a FPP, which generates a trickle of debate. And then someone else {cough} does a quick and speedy single link and kapow! comments and debate flood in. It's probably my "inner librarian" sighing.
posted by Wordshore at 3:15 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll take a quality kittybus link over a page long meandering post full of padding any day, TBH.
posted by Artw at 3:20 PM on December 5, 2012


CAAAAt-BUUUUS!

I like both times. Sometimes, mult-link posts are too daunting to follow up during the day, and get set aside. Or one needs time to digest the links.

Single posts I enjoy as much. Now, I must send Cat Bus to all my friends.
posted by Mezentian at 3:20 PM on December 5, 2012


Mezentian, you also linked to Stormfront's Wikipedia page earlier today which we didn't know wasn't a link to the Stormfront website until we followed the flags and clicked through. With the odd little aside about the mods, that comment looked stunty and that's the sort of thing we'd prefer people would ask us about and not make odd metacommentary in threads.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:21 PM on December 5, 2012


So, as a result while there is no absolute ban on what you can link to or what you can say, there are types of things and links to types of sites that will likely result in some sort of mod response. It's open to discussion but at the same time the "I need to be able to have complete freedom of speech on this particular website" pleading, if that is your approach, is likely to not be that effective here. Again, we're happy to talk about this, but "Why can't I have free speech on MetaFilter?" is a topic that has been discussed at great length in MetaTalk over the entire life of the site. We have made some choices, as mods and as a community, that have resulted in some abridging of your rights to say absolutely anything you want.

Totally on board with this. I don't mind a ban on Stormfront links, and I'm not actually a total free-speech absolutist, and even if I were, being a free speech absolutist in the context of MeFi membership, which is voluntary, would be silly.

I was interested in the specific rationale that taz gave for not wanting links to hate sites (rather than in disputing the idea that we're not supposed to link to hate sites), just because it was interesting.

I've seen some of the "Why can't I have free speech?" discussions, and what seems good about them to me is that the particular rationale offered in each case makes sense. In the present case, you're able to say, I think, "Empirically, this type of behaviour leads to these negative things happening in discussions, so don't do it," and I'm happy to defer to those with more experience, i.e. I'm convinced by explanations you gave based on stuff like how Stormfront links actually show up in MeFi-nature, how they've affected threads in the past, etc.

This is part of why I asked about the PageRank rationale; that seems much more questionable and fraught and less convincing than the arguments you mentioned afterward. My question was basically "We shouldn't link to Stormfront because we're officially boycotting them? That's the official explanation for this policy?" The other reason I responded to it was because it pits two ideas I generally buy -- "be really careful when restricting speech" and "try not to help people who are being vile to be vile" -- against each other in an interesting way.

In light of the other explanations, though, the PageRank Rationale is also redundant, so doesn't really have any bearing the no-Stormfront-links thing, so maybe my asking these kinds of questions was sort of masturbatory and out of place in a MeTa thread?

I don't see the rules-lawyering or devil's advocacy at all, though, Sidhedevil.
posted by kengraham at 3:51 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


... Google's inherently amoral PageRank model. It requires no intent by the linker to make a semantic endorsement for Google's search logic to consider a link a mechanical endorsement ...

Create a list of questionable sites, parse links as they're posted, and add a rel="nofollow" attribute on links to sites you don't want to endorse in this way.

I'm surprised to see a comment about the amorality of PageRank and endorsing sites mechanically by linking to them more than 7 years after Google began offering a solution. Nofollow has had some wrinkles to it over the years, but I think it has always covered this particular use case without harm to anyone using it, so the mechanics and morality of this issue have been under site owners' control for a long, long time.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 3:57 PM on December 5, 2012


With the odd little aside about the mods, that comment looked stunty and that's the sort of thing we'd prefer people would ask us about and not make odd metacommentary in threads.

Oh. I see what you mean about stunty then.
Sorry about that.
posted by Mezentian at 4:59 PM on December 5, 2012


so maybe my asking these kinds of questions was sort of masturbatory and out of place in a MeTa thread?

Sadly, asking masturbatory questions is definitely not out of place in a MeTa thread.

I did catch a whiff of rules-lawyery stuff off your comments, btw. I think it was because you seemed to be pursuing actual fixed rules, which Metafilter doesn't have many of. I've often thought that grey was a particularly apt choice for the Admin portion of the site.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:25 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


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