Spreading rumors is bad news December 9, 2013 2:21 PM   Subscribe

When someone posts an inflammatory article with an inflammatory pull quote that turns out to be completely false and bad information, I really think the mods should add a quick note to that effect at the end of the post. Many people don't read all the comments and might skim the first few comments, but never see the correction. A simple note at the start of the post is a reasonable way to handle issues like this. We've had this discussion in the past, and I know the mods disagree, but I really feel like it's a bad decision on their part. Not correcting posts like this is encouraging this kind of bad behavior.
posted by aspo to Etiquette/Policy at 2:21 PM (159 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

Yep, I was just reading that thread. People also need to read the thread. I think it's a great argument for not using inflammatory pull-quotes and/or posting outragefilter posts in the first place, but yeah we don't edit posts.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:23 PM on December 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


What she said. That's the kind of post I'd personally not make in the first place, but our bar for adding a note after the fact to a post is really high and "inflammatory stunt is actually shitty in a different way than original thought" isn't really reaching that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:25 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's kind of why you should try and read the thread comments before you post your comment. I know in high volume threads this can be difficult, but I find GraphFi really useful for keeping abreast of responses.
posted by arcticseal at 2:33 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


That post really needs a biking angle.
posted by planetesimal at 2:33 PM on December 9, 2013 [12 favorites]


If anyone is wondering, the third link in this MeTa explains what the second link is about.
posted by biffa at 2:39 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Some comments before the correction are so terrible, it's hard to read in that far.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 3:27 PM on December 9, 2013


Yup, deleted that. Consider using the flag feature.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:32 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I understand the need for a bright line about not editing posts, but I think there's a case to be made that the post as it stands is a such a poor reflection of the reality of the situation as to be delete-worthy.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 3:33 PM on December 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


Why not delete the post?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:33 PM on December 9, 2013


It's somewhat funny that, despite the fact that the thread is about a demonstrated fake incident, it keeps on churning out vitriol about the current situation. Everyone loves a straw man, apparently.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:34 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a fake incident connected with a real situation, that, shock of shocks, some people are actually interested in discussing and other people are interested in threadshitting over.
posted by kagredon at 3:36 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


What is it about Bay Area posts that encourages non-residents to drop their ill-conceived opinions so freely? I realize that happens across all subjects, but there does seem to be more of it in SF threads.
posted by planetesimal at 3:40 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


San Francisco isn't in Iowa, is it?
posted by LionIndex at 3:44 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


God I love Iowa. Have you seen their rest stops?
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:47 PM on December 9, 2013 [20 favorites]


Now I want to become obscenely wealthy so I can snap up a bunch of real estate in SF, raze it all, then plant acres of corn.
posted by planetesimal at 3:48 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Flagged as "other." It's misleading and I think it should be deleted. The OP can always repost it with a different angle tomorrow,
posted by zarq at 3:49 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Maizification.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:50 PM on December 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's a thread with over 200 comments and very very few flags. I appreciate that people aren't happy about the reveal that the pullquote turned out to be manufactured for effect but that information is in the thread and people are just arguing about entirely other stuff anyhow.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:50 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's too cool here for corn. I can't even grow tomatoes and I live in the Mission. Maybe consider persimmons or something instead? Those trees seem happy here. And we did once have success with artichokes in our veggie box in the yard.
posted by rtha at 3:55 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Too cool for corn? Nah, you just need Monsanto's Gentrification-Ready Seed. It's so cool your corn will grow tight jeans for husks.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:59 PM on December 9, 2013 [22 favorites]


I appreciate that people aren't happy about the reveal that the pullquote turned out to be manufactured for effect but that information is in the thread and people are just arguing about entirely other stuff anyhow.

Yeah, nobody has really been talking about the fakeyness of the whole thing for quite some time other than occasional updates on how fakey it is. There is a discussion going about private use of public facilities without compensation and the life and death of American cities, which are quite real issues affecting many areas, San Francisco included.
posted by LionIndex at 3:59 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


People also need to read the thread.

I don't understand this. Why do members here need to read it? It would be a different universe if members' priority was on doing things that would make the mods job easier...but thats about as realistic as herding cats. I don't think you can rely on that to make this place run.

What she said. That's the kind of post I'd personally not make in the first place, but our bar for adding a note after the fact to a post is really high and "inflammatory stunt is actually shitty in a different way than original thought" isn't really reaching that.

I understand that point. But I also happen to know that the bar for deletion is not that high.

It's somewhat funny that, despite the fact that the thread is about a demonstrated fake incident, it keeps on churning out vitriol about the current situation. Everyone loves a straw man, apparently.

True that. So how abouts that deletion?

To be honest, the horse I have in this race is this shitty story. I feel kinda robbed that I was all invested in it, and even supported the waittress...and then found out that she staged it. What the fuck, devildog?

Is there a possibility of deleting the thread and linking it to a new post that says something along the lines of:

"hey mefites...remember how we got all up in arms about this? Well this is the real story!

Also...if this doesn't appeal to the modagement, then what do you suggest as to how to deal with this? One can't do another fpp as the old one is still open. I just don't think the attitude of "well this wouldn't be a problem if people read the article AND all the comments with links" is realistic...because people don't.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:09 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Okay, after some work-doing and walk-taking, threadshit was a bad word choice. Every thread has people who pick up on different aspects of it, and I've definitely been the person who keeps dropping in jokey asides into relative seriousness, and these things are both equally legitimate approaches to take a thread. Sorry, Artw.

As for the deletion thing, I don't really see it? The first link in the thread has already been updated, and the second link is a more general look at the topic the FPP has turned into being about. As long as people are reading either the comments or the links or both (i.e. not just skimming the FPP), they'll know what happened.
posted by kagredon at 4:13 PM on December 9, 2013


If someone posted made an obit post, and the death turned out to be a rumor, would you keep the post up?
posted by neroli at 4:13 PM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Death hoax seems like a more appropriate analogy than rumor. Hoaxes are interesting.
posted by kagredon at 4:18 PM on December 9, 2013


It was a very low-value post with more heat than light. When I last checked there was almost no local insights into the situation. I wonder if Bay-area MeFites have decided to stay from such an obnoxious thread.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:23 PM on December 9, 2013


Sure, yeah, death hoax is a better comparison. I guess an obit post about a death hoax could potentially be edited by the OP and go on talking about the hoax.

Have mods tried to reach out to the OP to ask for an edit? It seems like it wouldn't be too hard to add "In a bit of agitprop theater..." and put scare quote around "Google employee."

It just seems weird to me to leave the original post up uncorrected.
posted by neroli at 4:23 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


what do you suggest as to how to deal with this? One can't do another fpp as the old one is still open. I just don't think the attitude of "well this wouldn't be a problem if people read the article AND all the comments with links" is realistic...because people don't.

At some level, however, we have expectations about how the site should run and those expectations are communicated via moderation decisions and things that we talk about here and in the threads themselves. The downside to people posting "This shitty thing just happened!" posts (including the waitress tip one which was fascinating to read as it unfolded) is that the facts as we understand them may change.

Deleting a thread that has an active non-problematic discussion is not something we're going to do. It basically punishes people for making the best of a badly-made post and sets a weird non-bright-line standard for how to deal with future posts. The bright lines that we have are

1. We don't edit posts
2. If a post is going to be deleted it's usually before serious discussion has gotten underway and we make few, if any, exceptions if the thread isn't a train wreck

As kagredon points out, people either have to read the thread or, if they're coming to the thread late and it's just too long, the links have the correct information in them.

To be honest, the horse I have in this race is this shitty story.

Yep, I totally hear you. That was another one of those glurg-y "Hey, a shitty thing happened and someone made a better thing out of it!" viral internet things. They tend to make ungreat posts because this type of thing happens. And yet the original post here, as written, was seen as okay and non-flaggable by basically everyone even though it was just a newsfilter "look at this asshole" post. So, I'm not sure what to tell you. This post wasn't created to spread a rumor. It was created to tell people about this outrage! thing that happened. Which, it turns out, didn't really happen. And people shrugged and had a different conversation about public transit and the Google bus and some other stuff which is just fine.

And to the "What if the same thing happened but different?" question: we don't know. It would depend on how it was reported, who it was about, whether the hoax became part of the story, etc.

As pointed out above: anyone reading the main links to this story in the post will know the context for the quote. Anyone reading the thread will also know that.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:25 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Personally, I'd like to see an "[MOD UPDATE: This was fake]" kind of addition when a newsy FPP contains something that turns out to be blatantly false, especially when that fact is known within hours of posting. Ideally, this can be done with the OP's cooperation and permission, but I'd be ok with it happening solely by moderator decree. To knowingly do otherwise is to help further propagate the error, as certainly many readers may not dive into all the comments or even click through to the links.

While I like and appreciate the general reluctance for mods to mess with posts, I think it's worth having some exceptions. I don't think this power is something that would need to be used very often. I realize that "true" and "fake" are fuzzy terms in almost all messy real-world situations, but a bright-line case like this one where the original source has retracted and updated its news story seems more clear. I just would like to see a middle ground between deleting the post and letting it stand uncorrected where the mods suggest that there's some additional key information that readers should be aware of.
posted by zachlipton at 4:34 PM on December 9, 2013 [23 favorites]


Someone could memail FuturisticDragon to find out what eir opinion is...
posted by Going To Maine at 4:37 PM on December 9, 2013


Yeah, honestly, adding a "[FAKE]" warning doesn't seem much more interventionist than adding "[NSFW]."
posted by neroli at 4:42 PM on December 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


Or, if not "[FAKE]", then just "[UPDATE]".
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:44 PM on December 9, 2013


"Update" is pretty vague.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:47 PM on December 9, 2013


It's illegal to impersonate a Googler without executive sign-off anyway.
posted by planetesimal at 4:49 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, honestly, adding a "[FAKE]" warning doesn't seem much more interventionist than adding "[NSFW]."

It's unlikely that someone will get fired because they failed to follow a thread and discover that it was a hoax. A mefite did actually get fired because a NSFW post was not labeled NSFW. I'm OK with this being the only exception.
posted by muddgirl at 4:51 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


It doesn't make sense to delete an errant post for the same reason you don't delete the original article that was linked from the internet because it happens to be wrong. Good discussion leaves a record of the historical interaction of the discussion without feeling the need to scrub the internet of its errors. Also, what do you do when the reveal ends up being inaccurate in some way when a fifth witness shows up or something? You can't really be in the business of deciding NO NOW REALLY we know exactly what's going on and which pieces are wrong, etc. Leave it all there and let the truth emerge from the warts and everything.

Edits should exist, but they should exist in the historical record as part of the discussion, not by changing or deleting the original without a means of understanding the development.
posted by SpacemanStix at 5:04 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, honestly, adding a "[FAKE]" warning doesn't seem much more interventionist than adding "[NSFW]."

I think that would set kind of a weird precedent. Part of what can be interesting in comment threads is to have fake/staged/etc things sussed out. It's not altogether uncommon. Lest we forget Balloon Boy or the eagle that ate the baby. If the OP posted it in good faith, I think having mods add [UPDATE] whenever something breaks about the story would give it a weird AP thing that isn't really necessary. I don't think it's an undue burden to ask people to read a thread before chiming in. In fact, I think encouraging that sort of thing regardless of the veracity of the post content would be a general boon.
posted by Lutoslawski at 5:05 PM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Hi. OP here. I read the 2nd NYT link over the weekend and thought it was thought provoking enough (and clearly a topic of national interest given the large number of high-word-count comments) to possibly share, but perhaps not sufficient on its own. When I saw the protest story break (I got the news from ValleyWag) I decided that the combination of these two things was worth an FPP. I honestly had no idea it was a fake, it was a shock for me to see it unfold during the course of the thread. I respect MetaFilter for its editorial integrity, so if the mods decide a delete / modification is in order, so be it. Personally, I think the subject matter clearly struck a nerve of some sort and the fact that the fake was captured during it is something worth preserving. Just my two cents.
posted by FuturisticDragon at 5:21 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's not as bad as getting fired, but there are a lot of threads that I don't look past the initial skim on the front page. If it's that inflammatory and the bits that turn out to say that it was all a hoax require more reading, I might not get there and I might have an entirely different idea of what happened. I'm not sure that really matters very much in this case, but it seems at the same time a little uncomfortable to me to let known factually false information stand on the front page without some sort of disclaimer.
posted by Sequence at 5:24 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Personally, I think the subject matter clearly struck a nerve of some sort and the fact that the fake was captured during it is something worth preserving.

I think "it struck a nerve" is just about the worst possible reason for paying attention to this kind of bullshit because it only encourages the behavior. James O'Keefe struck a lot of nerves too.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 5:28 PM on December 9, 2013 [12 favorites]


Yeah, the existing thread leaves a bad taste in my mouth, as does the insistence that it's up to users to read far into the comment thread to find out that it was all staged. It's like telling someone that slander isn't really that bad, because anyone that cares could always do their own research to find out the truth. I get it that there are expectations how the site should run, and I thought one of them was that the site doesn't provide a platform to underhanded practices. We don't link to hate groups, we don't promote hoaxes and conspiracies, that sort of thing.
posted by Nomyte at 5:39 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


it's up to users to read far into the comment thread to find out that it was all staged.

People coming late to the thread can either

1. read the comments
2. read the main link which has, itself, been updated to include the new information

Realistically, yes, we expect people to do one or the other. The post was made in good faith with information that was thought to be correct at the time (you're fine FuturisticDragon) and the story has evolved. This sometimes happens.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:42 PM on December 9, 2013 [16 favorites]


Preacher Johnson says story evolution is lie propogated by C'thulu less liberals.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:56 PM on December 9, 2013


It seems completely unrealistic to ask the mods to be fact checkers in addition to their other duties.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:20 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wait, who got fired for want of a NSFW?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:27 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


If I posted a thread about how Some Important Liberal Thinks That All People Should Be Forced Into Public Housing or some stupid thing, and it was quickly proven to be a fake, that post would be taken down in an instant, 200 comments or no.
posted by aspo at 6:30 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]




Oh, and that one actually was marked NSFW. I thought I remembered it differently, but that was 10 years ago before I even had an account.
posted by Roger Dodger at 6:37 PM on December 9, 2013


it was quickly proven to be a fake, that post would be taken down in an instant, 200 comments or no.

I'm not even sure I understand what you are alleging. In the case of this thread there were some people protesting the Google bus. Someone who was on the Google bus, who later turned out to be one of the protestors, came off the bus and said some shitty things pretending to be a snobby tech employee. Those thing that got said were published and then, upon further research, properly contextualized ("the person we all jumped to the conclusion and thought was a Google employee turned out to be in league with the protestors, our bad") by the linked article in the FPP. That weirdness, that the protestors staged this to be even more stunt-t than it already is, became part of the story.

So I'm not sure who you are implying we are "protecting" with this. And I'm not sure whose reputation is being so besmirched by that quote (an unnamed random bus-taking Google employee?) that we should be so concerned about.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:38 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm not asking the mods to be fact checkers, and I think anything but the very latest FPPs and the most clear of situations ought to be left alone. But when something is hours old and has been demonstrated to be majorly, majorly factually wrong, especially with the original source issuing a full correction, it deserves a callout in the post. Making some effort to pass along major factual connections to the stories is part of the responsibility that comes with being an ethical aggregator of news and information.

It doesn't need to, and shouldn't, be so value judgy as a big [FAKE] tag, but it would be really helpful to a lot of people to have something like: [Mod Update: The New York Times has retracted this story, saying "Russia has not been outlawed and no bombs were dropped." More updates at [link]]
posted by zachlipton at 6:38 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, and that one actually was marked NSFW. I thought I remembered it differently, but that was 10 years ago before I even had an account.

On actually re-reading that thread, I am definitely conflating that situation with some other Metatalk thread about NSFW tags, but I still think my original point stands.
posted by muddgirl at 6:44 PM on December 9, 2013




Making some effort to pass along major factual connections to the stories is part of the responsibility that comes with being an ethical aggregator of news and information.

This is sort of begging the question, though, in that Metafilter is not in any sense intended to be a news source. That people post news-y stuff here sometimes has, itself, been a constant source of tension across the site's life; we're not really in a place, then or now, where we want to encourage that "this is a news site" conception of Metafilter by modifying site policy in service of same.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:48 PM on December 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


I feel like this is one of those non-ideal situations that doesn't have any non-ideal solutions to it. No matter whether the post is allowed to stand as-is, is modified, or is deleted, there are downsides. The historical moderation philosophy around here, it seems to me, has always been to err on the side of making the least-disruptive decision (the one that involves the least amount of change) whenever there's an ambiguous moderation situation. I feel like their position on this issue is in keeping with that – since there's not an unambiguously best way to handle this thread, and since it's not actually causing any major problems outside of pissing off a handful of users (deleting or modifying it would probably just piss off a different handful) the best course of action is probably just to do nothing.
posted by Scientist at 6:49 PM on December 9, 2013


I'm not even sure I understand what you are alleging.

I can't speak for aspo, but after 3.5 years on MeFi I think it's very likely that a dubious conservative muck-raking FPP ("Journalist James O'Keefe reports…") would be flagged to hell and deleted unceremoniously before it could accumulate many comments, while this FPP got few or no flags and accumulated plenty of knee-jerky comments, making it less likely to be deleted. I don't think either FPP belongs on MeFi.
posted by Nomyte at 6:51 PM on December 9, 2013


Not that I think posts about O'Keefe's various outings into bullshittery were really great post material in the first place, but ten different posts that mention him by name somewhat undercuts that perception.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:55 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


And all ten are either debunking or ridiculing things James O'Keefe has done or been involved with.
posted by Nomyte at 6:59 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Downing Street memo called it...

Though really the point the point thelonius makes still stands as well.
posted by Artw at 7:08 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think either FPP belongs on MeFi.

But what if the public misunderstanding about an event (and its initial reporting) actually becomes part of a news story? I find the mistake and correction and subsequent discussion to be really relevant and worthy of discussion, and I bristle a bit at the instictive reaction to sanitize it all.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:18 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Instead of viewing this as a problem, consider it an easy way to weed out people who haven't read the fucking article.
posted by klangklangston at 7:28 PM on December 9, 2013


Metafilter: people are just arguing about entirely other stuff anyhow
posted by Sara C. at 7:31 PM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


There have been other FPPs that turned out to be fake, right? One where some lady claimed TSA kidnapped her baby and it turned out they had footage and she had lied?
posted by discopolo at 7:31 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's a great argument for not using inflammatory pull-quotes and/or posting outragefilter posts

jessamyn, when you dream, you dream BIG.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:32 PM on December 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


God I love Iowa. Have you seen their rest stops?
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:47 PM on December 9 [11 favorites +] [!]


And the opera! Have you heard of Simpson College?
posted by 4ster at 7:47 PM on December 9, 2013 [13 favorites]

I don't think either FPP belongs on MeFi.
So your position is that the mods should delete FPPs more aggressively, using unspecified guidelines that diverge sharply from customary site policy and are less driven by the community as a whole and more driven by the mods' personal, subjective interpretation of whether an FPP violates these new guidelines.

You can feel free to occupy that position, but don't be surprised when not too many people join you there.
posted by kavasa at 7:52 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


There have been other FPPs that turned out to be fake, right? One where some lady claimed TSA kidnapped her baby

No, that was the KKK, and it was a song, not an FPP.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:56 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


There have been other FPPs that turned out to be fake, right?

There's at least a couple a week. Most of them outrage posts. The mods often quickly delete them if they're poorly-sourced or otherwise obviously flawed, so we often don't see them.

If the post stands, it turns into people rushing in to add their version of "this is a horrible practice."

This is eventually followed by one or two foolhardy people documenting why the presented narrative doesn't add up.

In turn, some people take offense to this, and use this perceived slight to demonstrate how infuriated they are by the Horrible Practice, and suggest that anyone who would question it is more offensive than a Nazi with rancid farts.

Eventually, an at least semi-reputable source will debunk, and a comment with a link to that will be wedged in. It goes mostly unnoticed, because it's between long screeds demanding that the original doubters be executed for heresy and objections to Horrible Practice that are now so tangental that they might as well be soup recipes. A few folks do see this without willfully ignoring it, and there's not much left to say at that point, so they abandon the thread. This leaves the angry mob free to start smearing their feces on the metaphorical walls.

A while after that, someone will remind readers that the original story's been debunked and we're basically getting outraged over the plights of fictional characters. The few remaining people who were actually reading it, instead of yelling into it, leave.

End result: Lord of the Flies. Someone grabs the conch and declares themselves Supreme Outraged Leader, and smiles inside until the thread automatically closes.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:59 PM on December 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


In which MC goes on a trip to fantasyland to troll for favorites.

animated eyeroll gif goes here

good night!
posted by kavasa at 8:03 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


"the person we all jumped to the conclusion and thought was a Google employee turned out to be in league with the protestors..."

At least one protestor has been quoted saying she had no idea the "Google employee" stunt was going to happen. It's unclear who, if anyone, knew about his plan in advance.
posted by mediareport at 8:14 PM on December 9, 2013


I think it's too cool here for corn.

You (non-)shucking hipsters.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:22 PM on December 9, 2013


"There have been other FPPs that turned out to be fake, right? One where some lady claimed TSA kidnapped her baby and it turned out they had footage and she had lied?"

it wasn't a hoax balloon boy just ascended to a higher plane then reappeared in the garage at home have some faith in our wafting savior
posted by klangklangston at 8:29 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


the person we all jumped to the conclusion and thought was a Google employee

I love how that phrasing puts the blame on "we". Silly us, jumping to conclusions.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:45 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some days, jumping to conclusions is the only exercise I get.
posted by arcticseal at 8:56 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I jump to conclusions and land with my knees bent and my weight slightly forward with as much situational awareness as possible so that I can jump to a better conclusion as quickly as possible when and if one becomes available.

But that's just me. Other people like to sit still and laugh at people who are going places.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:26 PM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's somewhat funny that, despite the fact that the thread is about a demonstrated fake incident, it keeps on churning out vitriol about the current situation. Everyone loves a straw man, apparently.

I'm glad we came together as a community to nip that Mike Daisey situation in the bud!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:47 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a meta-filter, I think this site worked as it was designed. Prevent manipulated FPP's? No! query the hive spidey sense and call out the bullshit with precision.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:05 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


So did that thread about Tila Tequila being mentally unwell disappear?
posted by Artw at 10:50 PM on December 9, 2013


It was deleted, yes.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:51 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh god another thread being ruined by the Iowa cabal...
posted by medusa at 3:32 AM on December 10, 2013


I'm fine with it as long as it doesn't get too corny.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 4:05 AM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm fine with it as long as everybody remembers their Slipknot masks.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:42 AM on December 10, 2013


#7 is my favorite
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:29 AM on December 10, 2013


I'm now picturing a Slipknot-specific version of Tiger Beat magazine.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:39 AM on December 10, 2013


Since the OP came in and said it was cool if the mods thought it should be modified, maybe it could be? Yeah, people should read the article, but if people take their ideas about things from a false statement, it's a problem.
posted by corb at 6:39 AM on December 10, 2013


Instead of viewing this as a problem, consider it an easy way to weed out people who haven't read the fucking article

What sort of asshole wouldn't read an article about fucking?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:51 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sorry to be blunt, but basically my colleagues already said we weren't going to edit the post. As Rock Steady hints at, as mods we're not fact checkers. The truth and untruth of the matter happens to be pretty cut-and-dried in this instance, but it's easy to imagine muddier subjective examples IMO and personally I feel if we headed down that road we'd end up inviting a lot more confusion and/or friction over subjective "truths" we'd find ourselves the unwilling arbiters of, and I don't think that's a place I'd be happy as a mod.

Truth be told, in this case I'm personally annoyed by the falsehood in the post. So it's not with any pleasure that I take this position. But I do honestly believe that it's the lesser of two evils.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 7:08 AM on December 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't understand why downing street memo's most recent comment in that thread was deleted while this diatribe from Vibrassae stands.
posted by Aizkolari at 7:26 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hope I was clear enough in my most recent note in the thread? I have to draw a line somewhere. I'm not going to discuss deleted comments by a third party in detail here. Sorry to be a grouch about this, but this MeTa is about the false claim in the FPP - your question is probably better suited for the contact form.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 7:39 AM on December 10, 2013


Yeah, I kind of wish you could delete older posts but I think you put a pretty clear line down.
posted by corb at 7:41 AM on December 10, 2013


Noted, sorry for posting the question here.
posted by Aizkolari at 7:41 AM on December 10, 2013


No problem. Goes without saying but you can always post a MeTa of your own if you feel strongly that it's an issue the community needs to discuss. But yeah, more often than not a quick note to the contact form tends to clear this kind of thing up.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 7:45 AM on December 10, 2013


Since the OP came in and said it was cool if the mods thought it should be modified, maybe it could be?

To be clear, the poster being okay with an edit to a post is a necessary condition in the rare cases where an edit would even happen to a post for some reason, but that permission is not itself a mandate that we do make an edit, and the poster being a good sport about a non-mod's request is not the same thing as a mod making a request of that poster.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:47 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Since the OP came in and said it was cool if the mods thought it should be modified, maybe it could be?

We don't think it should be modified, for reasons that we've explained multiple times in this thread. If the OP had come to us 15 minutes after the thread went up and emailed to say "Oh man I just learned that the guy on the bus was in league with the protestors, could you make this specific change?" we would oblige them. Other people who are agitated about a nebulous falsehood in someone else's post that is not affecting the current discussion do not really have standing to make us edit a post.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:00 AM on December 10, 2013


I don't really understand the pro-deletion stance unless it's just sour grapes over not getting the first choice of an edit. There's worthwhile discussion and linkage going on in there and deletion would make that all disappear.

Do most people get most of their metafilter value from the original post? Personally it's the moderated discussion that follows it that I come here for. That's what makes me pretty comfortable with the lack of an edit/tag - I don't think it's a real harm to put it there but I don't see a huge difference between lacking an update about part of the post being predicated on a stunt vs a post that generates counterpoint or contradictory evidence in the comments.
posted by phearlez at 9:00 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Do most people get most of their metafilter value from the original post? Personally it's the moderated discussion that follows it that I come here for. That's what makes me pretty comfortable with the lack of an edit/tag - I don't think it's a real harm to put it there but I don't see a huge difference between lacking an update about part of the post being predicated on a stunt vs a post that generates counterpoint or contradictory evidence in the comments.

Well, the most visible part of the post, and perhaps the only one many people will bother to read, continues to spread misinformation for anyone who reads it but doesn't bother to click through and read down the thread. And let's face it, most people probably aren't going to read down the thread unless they're planning to comment. Perhaps they'll read the post. Maybe they'll read a few comments in. The likelihood that they'll click through to the articles is probably not all that high. Heck, a lot of folks don't even bother to click through and read the links even when they do comment.

Is it the end of the world? Nope. But still.
posted by zarq at 9:18 AM on December 10, 2013


People who don't click the links or read the comments are basically using MeFi in an off-label manner which is something that is totally allowable but won't be catered to.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:20 AM on December 10, 2013 [13 favorites]


The truth and untruth of the matter happens to be pretty cut-and-dried in this instance, but it's easy to imagine muddier subjective examples IMO and personally I feel if we headed down that road we'd end up inviting a lot more confusion and/or friction over subjective "truths" we'd find ourselves the unwilling arbiters of,

Sure, but as always, one example is not like all others. In this case, where people are (angrily) talking about the pull-quote and the pull quote turns out to be as true as a James O'Keefe expose, adding a tag, a note, or something seems like the only responsible choice. Otherwise Metafilter is going to be a playground for hoaxers, who know that as long as they can post any bullshit that meets people's prejudices, and it'll stay at the top while the correction is buried at the bottom.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:23 AM on December 10, 2013


ThatFuzzyBastard: they can post any bullshit

So who decides what is bullshit and what is not? Honest question.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:29 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


using MeFi in an off-label manner
So, we're supposed to read ALL the links and comments for every FPP now? Actually I just read the front page and click on links that seem interesting and then read comments if I'm still interested. I didn't realize I've been using MeFi wrong all these years (and how misinformed I must be on some topics because I didn't have time to read 300+ comment threads)
posted by FreezBoy at 10:32 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, the most visible part of the post, and perhaps the only one many people will bother to read, continues to spread misinformation for anyone who reads it but doesn't bother to click through and read down the thread.

Strangely enough, I'm okay with this, as I think there is a greater moral duty on people to appropriately filter and vet information that they receive for truth value (which includes surveying the social discussion the emerges from a particular source) than there is for us to anticipate people having poor research skills and trying to sculpt the website to that lower denominator.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:33 AM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


So who decides what is bullshit and what is not?

The users via flagging and the mods via their modly judgement, pretty much. There are a thousand old MeTa threads you can read to learn how the deletion process works.
posted by Aizkolari at 10:42 AM on December 10, 2013


Otherwise Metafilter is going to be a playground for hoaxers,

Why would this suddenly be a problem now, when it has not been a problem over the last almost-14 years? The opportunity has always been there, I suppose, so why would it only now become a problem?
posted by rtha at 10:56 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I did not doubt the authenticity of the reported event until one of the comments raised the issue, and that's a valuable thing to realize about myself.
posted by jamjam at 11:17 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Similarly, this book should come with a warning sticker, otherwise people may begin to kill and eat Irish children.
posted by languagehat at 11:20 AM on December 10, 2013


Aizkolari: The users via flagging and the mods via their modly judgement, pretty much. There are a thousand old MeTa threads you can read to learn how the deletion process works.

Thanks for the awesome snark, but I know how deletion works. You are asking the mods to add a whole new (and complicated) metric to their judgement: truth. That is asking too much, in my opinion.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:21 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why would this suddenly be a problem now, when it has not been a problem over the last almost-14 years?

Because now people are starting to do it, and more or less get away with it. Norms work until people realize how easy they are to violate, and then you need rules.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:29 AM on December 10, 2013


Similarly, this book should come with a warning sticker, otherwise people may begin to kill and eat Irish children.

I guess one man's ratfucking douchebag is another man's timeless satire.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 11:38 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Otherwise Metafilter is going to be a playground for hoaxers

No, this is silly catastrophizing. You are putting forth an implausibly stark one-or-the-other scenario based on a shaky premise that fails to account for the human systems that actually make this place go.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:42 AM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Because now people are starting to do it, and more or less get away with it.

Not saying you're wrong, but I'm curious, do you have links to other recent examples of these hoaxes?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:43 AM on December 10, 2013


Because now people are starting to do it, and more or less get away with it.

Who is starting to do it, exactly, and where? When the OP of the fpp posted it, the linked story did not indicate (because it was not known) that the "google guy" was actually a protester. The linked story was updated when that was discovered. The OP of the fpp was not trying to pull one over and get away with anything. The framing could have been better. If you have evidence that the OP knew it was a hoax when they posted it and is gloating over having fooled us, please provide it.
posted by rtha at 11:45 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well I was thinking specifically of the waitress got a homophobic message instead of a tip and was soliciting contributions in consolation. All of which turned out to be false. Obviously, Metafilter was not the only (or the biggest) site to contribute to her scam, but we were certainly among 'em.

But if cortex thinks there's no need for any identification of false information posted on the blue beyond commenters pointing them out downthread, well, it's his site, and it's worked so far. Just a reminder that before one gets too upset about any news item posted, one should check all quotes.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:58 AM on December 10, 2013


it's his site, and it's worked so far

You know it's not actually his site, right?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:05 PM on December 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


So, it's not mefites hoaxing us on purpose that you're concerned about - it's stories they link to that may be inaccurate or completely false, but which they post in good faith. This has been a "danger" since metafilter began, and before, and there's a limited amount that mods can or should be expected to do about it. Stuff gets posted all the time that's arguably inaccurate or false, depending on your political perspective (for instance), and it shouldn't be up to mods to decide that no, yellowcake was or was not actually bought by Saddam Hussein. Don't believe everything you read is a much more workable system.
posted by rtha at 12:07 PM on December 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


jamjam: "I did not doubt the authenticity of the reported event until one of the comments raised the issue, and that's a valuable thing to realize about myself."

Well, I'm sorta with you there but I don't know if it's a huge problem. MetaFilter is more or less a trusted community for me, so my bullshit filters are somewhat relaxed when I'm on this site. I tend to assume that my fellow community members are making a good-faith effort to only post things that they believe to be true, and that they're doing at least some cursory fact-checking when preparing FPPs. It almost always works – there's a lot less BS posted to this site than you see in most places on the web, including "professional" news organizations.

Things occasionally slip through though, and that's to be expected. It's sort of inevitable. In this particular case, I personally wasn't reading very closely (because it was clearly OutrageFilter, and I was only reading it at all because I was bored) and it seemed like the sort of thing that was plausible enough. There are doubtless many people in San Francisco who have high-paying jobs and hold the ugly opinion that anyone who can't afford to live there should either get a better job or leave, though it would be a bit shocking to hear someone voice that so blatantly on camera (hence the outrage). Real or not, it was highlighting the extreme end of a genuine disconnect between different types of San Francisco residents.

When it turned out to be a staged encounter it made me lose a lot of respect for the organization that staged it and the people who made it a news item, though not for the OP here who seems to have just fallen prey, as we all do from time to time, to the trap of believing what he read just because it seemed plausible. It undermines the anti-gentrification cause in SF, and shifts the focus of the outrage somewhat, but the outrage itself was never the interesting issue here. The underlying issue of gentrification and rising cost of living in San Francisco is the more worthy topic of discussion, and the community did not disappoint there – by and large, that seems to be what the topic of discussion in the FPP is revolving around.

So no real harm done, in the end (at least to me). OutrageFilter is OutrageFilter, and is only a tiny bit more interesting than normal when it turns out not to be what it seems on the surface. The meta-issue of gentrification is a fascinating and thorny one though, and this community is one of the best places I know of to see it discussed in an informed and nuanced way. That seems to be more or less what we got, so in my mind the system (relaxed bullshit filters included) is working.
posted by Scientist at 12:09 PM on December 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


The real danger is in mods hoaxing us on purpose. In fact, how do you know they aren't?
posted by corb at 12:09 PM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


well, it's his site

Well, it's a site that I'm one of the folks running; we're a team of mods, Metafilter is ultimately Matt's creation and baby, and there's a lot of community involvement in what this place is even at an ethos and practice level before we even talk about the actual link-and-discussion content that fills the place. This isn't so much a "because I say so" thing as a "because this is how this place collectively works". Your sky-is-falling proposition above bumps into a whole lot more than just my personal disagreement.

Just a reminder that before one gets too upset about any news item posted, one should check all quotes.

Approaching stuff critically and with a degree of skepticism when it's a report of an inflammatory or unlikely event is generally a pretty good idea, yes. This isn't really a new idea, and this ties right back to the thing we've said a ton of times about mefi not being a news source.

If we have a problem that actually emerges at some point with people actively and regularly trying to use mefi specifically as a vehicle for hoax propagation, or with a user or users making a habit specifically of using mefi as a broadcast point for wholly uncritical rumor-mongering or whatever, we'll deal with it then, like we deal with most things, by looking close at the actual situation as it occurs. It does not seem likely to occur. In the mean time, the occasional odd wrinkle is going to occur in the course of normal posting. World's a weird and complicated place.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:12 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: Trust, but verify.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:13 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was no way to determine the waitress story's falsehood except through later updates. Fraudsters gonna fraud.

I understand the mod team's refusal to open the door to adding a "[FAKE]" edit. There is a slippery slope, especially with regard to user expectations. This particular post would be fairly uncontroversial to edit, but think about how annoying it would be with future posts.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:14 PM on December 10, 2013


Hoaxes on this site go back at least as far as Kaycee Nicole. That two have swept the internet so close to one another seems like a statistical artifact more than anything.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 12:15 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Strangely enough, I'm okay with this, as I think there is a greater moral duty on people to appropriately filter and vet information that they receive for truth value (which includes surveying the social discussion the emerges from a particular source) than there is for us to anticipate people having poor research skills and trying to sculpt the website to that lower denominator.

Well, in all seriousness, I think that's how we get 17 percent of Americans, including 30% of Republicans thinking President Barack Obama is a Muslim. How Michelle Bachman and Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin and the rest of the batshitinsane crowd can lie outright about (and demonize) their political opponents and whole American demographic groups, and get people to agree with them. People often take in and accept what they want to believe without questioning further.

This is one post out of many, and I'm certainly not trying to draw a line in the sand over it. I asked that the post be deleted, was told "no" and that's the way it is. No problem. C'est la vie.

But yes if there is any sort of "moral duty" here, I believe it should be in disseminating truth, not allowing lies, hoaxes or misinformation to perpetuate.
posted by zarq at 12:22 PM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


> MetaFilter: Trust, but verify.

People should believe 71% of what they read on metafilter.
posted by jfuller at 12:23 PM on December 10, 2013


Trust, but verify.

Great. Now we've been hoaxed about Ronald Reagan's death.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:26 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Zombie Ronald Reagan knows you said that.
posted by corb at 12:30 PM on December 10, 2013


Just a thought:

When there's a transcript available of a podcast, there's an indication on the podcasts main page that's also visible when you view the discussion about a particular podcast.

Would it make sense to have a similar indication when there's a MeTa for a post on the blue? In this case, the indication wouldn't tell people that the post had been debunked, but it would make it obvious that there's a discussion about the post going on.
posted by rjs at 12:34 PM on December 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


rjs: Would it make sense to have a similar indication when there's a MeTa for a post on the blue?

There has been talk of that in the past. I think it was suggested that there be a banner at the top of MeFi threads (similar to the one currently at the top of the main page). It's not a bad idea, but I'm not sure it's strictly necessary.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:52 PM on December 10, 2013


Yeah, it's an idea that's come up on occasion. I don't think we ever had any real violent opposition to it but never felt like it gelled as a slam-dunk thing to implement either.

Partly, it's complicated by the fact that a metatalk's relationship to a post isn't always cleanly one-to-one, isn't always something where the metatalk is really about the post even if it's spawned in part by it, the metatalk thread isn't exactly guaranteed to stay on that topic even if it starts there, the metatalk may be sort of an angry/GRAR thing that the post doesn't generally deserve to get dragged down by, etc.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:58 PM on December 10, 2013


Would it make sense to have a similar indication when there's a MeTa for a post on the blue?

As a general idea I'm not opposed to it, but I think it's orthogonal to the issue at hand. We have this MetaTalk thread, not as an announcement that the originally reported event has been debunked, but as a community discussion of how posts about events which are later debunked should be handled. And it's fine for the community discussion aspect.

But it wouldn't work for a simple announcement that the events as initially reported were incorrect, because that's not what MetaTalk is for—the likely response to such a post in MeTa which is a mere correction of a MeFi post would be to close the MeTa with a "post this update as a comment in the thread, not here" mod note.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:21 PM on December 10, 2013


MetaFilter: Trust, but verify.

TRUST NO ONE
posted by entropicamericana at 3:28 PM on December 10, 2013


We don't edit posts

Well, you do edit posts, in at least four ways:

1) You delete posts.
2) You correct links when informed about them.
3) As you point out above, if the OP emails you with a change soon after the post is live.
4) In at least one case when there is huge community turmoil generated by use of a potentially offensive phrase*.

So since that door is in fact open, and if there is community consensus (or as near as it ever gets), shouldn't there at least be dialogue about it and not summary nixing?

(Note that previous sentence does not claim there is community consensus in the specific case that spawned this meta.)
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:33 PM on December 10, 2013


We're talking about editing as in editing the post content in a semantically meaningful way from the original presentation, not editing it as in changing its status from not-deleted to delete nor fixing a busted link or a typo when the posters intent was unambiguously and inadvertently stymied by a mechanical error. So points 1 and 2 don't come into the discussion.

Point 3's done rarely and at our discretion and depending on the situation we may likely say "no"; it depends entirely on the details, so generalizing it isn't really workable. And point 4 is vanishingly rare as something that actually happens.

I don't think anybody is out of line for thinking about or wanting a different policy than what we have, but I feel like I need to emphasize that changing policy in service of rare cases on the strength of those cases being merely rare instead of non-existent isn't really how we're going to approach this. The door being open in the strict sense of there being any applicable cases at all isn't the same thing as that being a door we have any interest in swinging wide and walking through.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:43 PM on December 10, 2013


1) You delete posts.

Deleting is not editing.

2) You correct links when informed about them.

This is outlined in the FAQ and we only do it by OP request. Editing by OP request is something that we do.

3) As you point out above, if the OP emails you with a change soon after the post is live.

See above. We would have done that in this case, had it happened that way.

4) In at least one case when there is huge community turmoil generated by use of a potentially offensive phrase*.

OP request, again. And yeah we pinged him about it because people were hassling us to, but if he had said no we might not have changed the post.

Without the OP specifically asking us to make edits (except for typos and broken stuff) we don't edit. We are having a dialogue about it here, but absent a significantly compelling reason to start changing a longtime and generally sound policy of not editing, we are not going to start. The first "Oh hey maybe that guy wasn't a Google employee" comment was twenty minutes in to the thread we're talking about. It didn't even turn into a central topic of the ensuing thread discussion.

We're really hardline about not editing because we think it's really important that FPPs don't have some touch of "The mod didn't edit this so it must be okay as is" to them. So, we just don't edit ANYTHING. This is actually sort of important to us, not just an "Oh I didn't think about it that way before..." type of thing.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:47 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was no way to determine the waitress story's falsehood except through later updates. Fraudsters gonna fraud.

I guess what i'd like to see would be less flaming, streamrolling and vitriol towards people who go "Um, guys, maybe this is fake". Less "OH YEA, NICE ONE, LIKE PEOPLE DON'T SAY THAT ANY TIME AN XYZ PERSON COMES FORWARD ALWAYS EVERYTIME" +75 favorites and then a huge fucking pile-on.

That waitress story wasn't the first one i'd seen on here that turned out to be confirmed as bullshit that stunk to high heaven to me, but i was afraid to ring the bell because i felt like i'd be ruthlessly attacked and piled-on for being the one to actually say it.

While i think this diorama of what happens above is a bit exaggerated, it does make a good point WRT how hard you get slammed for even suggesting a lot of this kind of thing is fake. Fuck, i remember even during the balloon boy thing even the mods came out and said "don't go there".

It's especially infuriating when it's something like this SF google story where it's just so perfectly designed and poised in a timely manner to hit all the MeFi erogenous zones and really get people worked up.

Because, after all, the perfect hoax sounds just plausible enough that you can buy it if you don't squint too hard. Or even better, that you sound like an asshole for calling it a hoax. And sometimes we, as a group, can really help build that wall of shaming people who "dare" to point out that shit sounds iffy.

Oh, and ignoring the fact that it was a hoax at all... what a shit thread, jesus christ. I know a bunch of comments got deleted, but there's still some shitbutt(can we supersize pls?), or tiresome, stuffing words in mouths, "no ones saying this" loading bullshit, and more. Shoutout to all the snark, of which there is so much that i'm not even going to bother to pick and choose.

Bonus points for the weird "begging the question" and resulting circlejerk about how it's somehow "unfair" that the google buses are nicer than the city buses, and google should like, buy the city new buses so everyone can have cool shiny buses with wifi maaaaaan.

it's full of biley shit like this which reminds me of various other posters similar rants about food. I don't know, the entire tone and phrasing of a lot of the posts in there just bristles me. We aren't talking about fucking child molesters here or something, but we get an $18 hamburger circlejerk. Christing fuck.
posted by emptythought at 3:52 PM on December 10, 2013


Fuck, i remember even during the balloon boy thing even the mods came out and said "don't go there".

Can you be more specific? I remember spending a lot of time watching the Balloon Boy thread both before and after the big debunk on Falcon being on that thing and probably telling people to cool it a bit about some of the "man those parents are probably total fuckers" type stuff that was brewing just because that's kind of a shitty direction for a conversation to go in a speculative vacuum, but I don't recall us taking any sort of "no discussing the idea that this might be bullshit!" stance on the thing and can't imagine why we would have.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:03 PM on December 10, 2013


Can you be more specific?

And by being more specific, a link would be helpful. It's possible that something like this happened but I have no recollection of us telling folks to not speculate on whether something was true/plausible or not.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:06 PM on December 10, 2013


So, we just don't edit ANYTHING.

Could you rephrase this for me? Depending on how I read it, it can mean two separate things. Sorry, late afternoon.
posted by Celsius1414 at 4:13 PM on December 10, 2013


They don't just edit any old shit.
posted by planetesimal at 4:22 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, yeah, that "any" idiom is pretty problematic innit?
posted by planetesimal at 4:23 PM on December 10, 2013


Cortext and Jess, i think you may be correct and i may have mis-spoke and remembered one of the other posters outraged responses as a mod response.

This is the post i was remembering vaguely, and i can't find any mod response addressing it.

I swear i've seen it happen early on in a thread where someone doesn't just go "lol this sounds like bullshit" but lays out the events and says "doesn't this seem a little... off?" and gets reemed by other posters and told to chill by the mods.

I'll let it drop though, since i can't find a cite. Kinda annoyed with myself rn.
posted by emptythought at 4:25 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Could you rephrase this for me?

We don't edit. Except in cases that we've outlines here and on the FAQ. As a matter of policy. A policy that has evolved over the past decade or so and that we don't plan to revisit unless there is some compelling reason. This post does not seem to us to be a compelling reason.

I get it, the internet changes around us and things that made sense here five years ago may not make so much sense anymore. And people are used to news sites doing that UPDATE or even people posting ETA sort of things. It's not really how things work here, but it may have been expectations people have from being interactive on the rest of the internet. So I think we can both understand where people are coming from but also hope that they understand that we're pretty much like "I hear you, but no"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:42 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Could you rephrase this for me?

"We do not unilaterally edit (for semantic content, vs. to repair mechanical error) posts, as a rule."

Rather than having it be a policy that we consider waiving every time someone feels like it should be waived, it's a policy we maintain as consistently as possible. Instead of constantly dithering about which things to edit for content, we basically don't edit anything in the capacity that's been proposed here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:43 PM on December 10, 2013


> That waitress story wasn't the first one i'd seen on here that turned out to be confirmed as bullshit that stunk to high heaven to me, but i was afraid to ring the bell because i felt like i'd be ruthlessly attacked and piled-on for being the one to actually say it.

And this is a problem because? What is lost, your opportunity to dance around afterwards saying "I told you so"? You didn't know the story was bullshit, you guessed it was bullshit, and just because it turned out to be doesn't mean you had a right to shit in the thread from the get-go. Nobody cares about your far-sighted skepticism except you.
posted by languagehat at 5:03 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


> it's full of biley shit like this which reminds me of various other posters similar rants about food. I don't know, the entire tone and phrasing of a lot of the posts in there just bristles me. We aren't talking about fucking child molesters here or something, but we get an $18 hamburger circlejerk. Christing fuck.

Speaking of biley shit.
posted by planetesimal at 5:06 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


And this is a problem because?

In the Google story, the problem is simply slander. Maybe not slander in an exact legal sense — I am not a lawyer — but this individual intentionally tried to tarnish the reputation of a company and its workers, and MeFi gave this story a platform. Slander is a problem regardless of how much some Mefites hate Googlers' collective guts. "Sticks and stones" is not a solution to slander, nor is telling users to read a long ways into a vitriolic and grossly unpleasant comment thread.
posted by Nomyte at 5:18 PM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]




Oh for fuck's sake. It's not slander, in a legal or any other sense. The fact that some dude pulled a dumb stunt to bring extra attention to this protest does not constitute "tarnish[ing] the reputation of a company and its workers". Honestly? Even if it had been a for-true Google employee that had shouted the thing, I really doubt that would've made people think less of Google as a company. It's pretty obvious that the guy who is getting into it with people on the street is not doing so in his capacity as an employee of his company, and employing douchebags isn't a crime. In fact, people pointed out in-thread (prior to the big reveal) that everyone else on the bus was keeping it together, and this guy was just clearly kind of an ass.
posted by kagredon at 8:49 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


He didn't make the news because he was playing J. Random Nobody freaking out at the protestors though, did he? And if he hadn't been outed you know full well people would be using him as an example of the evils of tech workers and Google in particular.
posted by Artw at 9:06 PM on December 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


He didn't make the news because he was playing J. Random Nobody freaking out at the protestors though, did he?

Uh...no? Because that's not who he was playing? I don't know how you expect me to argue about a counterfactual.

And if he hadn't been outed you know full well people would be using him as an example of the evils of tech workers and Google in particular.

Yeah that's totally what was happening except no it wasn't.
posted by kagredon at 10:06 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think that cortex and jessamyn explained it pretty well, but I really do agree with them and the current policy that editing for truth sounds like a slam-dunk when we think about it in this case, but actually opens a huge can of worms generally.

I guess a counterargument is that catastrophism and the slippery-slope argument are fallacies and making the decision in this case doesn't preclude not altering the general policy. And MeFi otherwise prefers judgment and ambiguity over hard rules and complete consistency.

So maybe that argument alone isn't persuasive. However, when you combine it with the fact that the post was up for a long time with hundreds of comments before the falsehood was revealed, and with the fact that this appears in the corrected linked pieces, it seems to me that taken altogether there's a quite strong argument for not editing the post.

Incidentally, I wasn't putting words in anyone's mouths in my comment in that thread, as alleged above, the quotes I used were scare quotes, not attributional, and my paraphrase of an argument involving public and private education wasn't quoted or attributed to anyone, and was intended to mirror the argument about private mass transportation — I thought the parallel would be clear to everyone and would be an implicit argument in support of what I wrote afterward, which is that when the well-off move from public services to their own, segregated private services, the public services suffer for this and so the worse-off who don't have the option of paying for private service bear a burden for the opting-out of the well-off. I thought this was well-understood with regard to public schools versus private schools and would implicitly answer the argument that no harm is done by private mass transportation.

I didn't answer any follow-up questions aimed my way after my comment, or post any more, because like others here, but for very different reasons, I found that thread to actively suck away my will to live. I removed it from my recent activity today, as a matter of fact.

I recognize that it's not kosher to bring that argument over into this thread, but I don't exactly think it's kosher that emptythought links directly to several comments in that thread he doesn't like, which really has fuck-all to do with the issue of whether the post should have been edited.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:44 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


And this is a problem because? What is lost, your opportunity to dance around afterwards saying "I told you so"? You didn't know the story was bullshit, you guessed it was bullshit, and just because it turned out to be doesn't mean you had a right to shit in the thread from the get-go. Nobody cares about your far-sighted skepticism except you.

I'm not talking about posting some one line reply like "meh, sounds like a made up story to me". I'm talking about writing a decent, well thought out post going "This doesn't add up, and here are a few reasons why:" and getting completely body slammed for it.

You can go back and find cases of this for EVER. It happened repeatedly in the balloon boy thread for instance.

This isn't about going "haha, tolja so!" afterwards. This is about calling something in to question at all without getting a bunch of "Oh yea, nice one, as if people don't say that all the time when someone like this brings up something shitty" type of replies and getting utterly piled on for being a Shitty Person and not just buying the story at face value.

I don't think going "Hey, this seems sketchy" is automatically threadshitting. You can disagree if you like, and hell, i'd probably get where you're coming from. There are absolutely cases in which it's really hard for it not to be, but a lot of times it really feels like the deck is stacked pretty strongly against anyone with a dissenting opinion of the narrative. And you can double or triple that feeling when it's something that really plays in to the confirmation bias of what the average Mefite wants to hear or believe.

Maybe no one does care except for me, or the greater "me" of people who post replies like that(or think it, but avoid it not wanting to get slammed). But the vitriol directed at skepticism bugs the crap out of me.
posted by emptythought at 2:06 AM on December 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


"But the vitriol directed at skepticism bugs the crap out of me."

I can't speak for anyone else, but I understand the vitriol because, well, I don't know how to say this, really. There is a personality type that is reflexively cynical. Thoughtlessly, habitually, cynical. And if it were just some idiosyncratic thing, the way that we all have idiosyncratic personality tendencies, that'd be fine. But the other bit that is found in this personality type is that this habitual cynicism is coupled with a superior attitude, that the people who aren't reflexively cynical are fools.

Obviously it's not the case that every example of someone being skeptical about something is one of these kinds of people. But those kinds of people, being habitual and being that they are motivated to publicly express their cynicism because it's part of their identity of being people who aren't fools, they are very disproportionately represented. If they are only 0.5% of a community, you can still count of them speaking up. It just gets old.

I also think you'll find that the way in which one raises the issue in a discussion has a big influence on how it's responded to. If you say, "Meh, it's obvious that this is a hoax", that's very likely to be responded to as if you were one of those annoying habitual cynics, because that's how they participate. If you say, "This seems fishy to me because this guy is almost a caricature of an entitled tech-worker; doesn't it seem weird that he was willing to behave this way on camera?" That an observation that is more likely to be taken seriously and not responded to with vitriol.

But it's true that some people are going to confuse the second kind of comment with the first kind of comment, simply because they're highly sensitized to that annoying personality type. So I'll agree with you that, in general, skeptical comments of this type get more criticism than they deserve. But a lot of them do, in fact, deserve it. Some or many don't.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:28 AM on December 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


the post was up for a long time with hundreds of comments before the falsehood was revealed

Not disagreeing with your general point, but noting that the first indication that the "google guy" may not have been who he said he was (or who people presumed he was) came 20 minutes and 30+ comments into the thread. As we said, if we had heard form the OP we would have edited it if they had asked.

getting completely body slammed for it.

Sometimes I think people may feel that the response they are getting is more universally positive or universally negative than it actually objectively is. You alleged that the mods were doing this and we're pretty sure we weren't. You've said that you can find cases of this "for EVER" and yet you haven't linked to a single case. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, or that it may not feel shitty to have someone you respect tell you that you're wrong or threadshitting, but people sort of need to have their own internal compasses about things like this and decide when's an appropriate time to step in with a "Hey this seems sketch" comment, keeping in mind that cries of "FAKE!" (whether supported or not) are basically one of the ways that internet people communicate their detachment and so it's sort of important to make sure that whatever you are doing is distinguished from that sort of knee-jerkish non-useful behavior.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:14 AM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


If they are only 0.5% of a community, you can still count of them speaking up. It just gets old.

If I am reading this correctly, this is just the "poisoning the well" argument. I dislike the speculative cynic as much as anyone, but there are very few things that can't be said in poor faith. The only well that is immune to this argument is posting "a-goo-goo-ga-ga" in an FPP about Kitten and Puppy being best pals.
posted by Nomyte at 10:38 AM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, I can validate that skepticism is jumped all over in hot-button threads, if that helps.

When people are caught up in a feeling of righteous indignation, anyone coming in to suggest that perhaps the indignation is a bit over the top and/or the righteousness is questionable will definitely get piled on. Sometimes, this is, as jessamyn points out, because the point is made by basically yelling, "FAKE!"

But often it isn't. Even carefully reasoned comments will get nitpicked. Words taken out of context and dissected, rather than an argument debated as a whole. Hyperbolic extrapolations, deliberate or obtuse misinterpretations, that all happens. But there isn't that much the mods can do about that, except delete personal attacks against members (no matter how popular or unpopular their stance), and that's already official Mefi policy.

That nitpicking is why, I think, we DO end up with the punning and the recipes and the other lighthearted, escapist threads. People need an outlet. Walking on eggshells all the time gets old. Having to defend every word choice or cite every source gets tiring, especially when your audience doesn't really want to hear what you have to say. Let's face it, no one wants to hear, for example, that they are being taken in by a fraud on the internet.

But I disagree with IF that skepticism is a by-product of cynicism or superiority. I think that is a defensive mechanism people tell themselves, to avoid facing uncomfortable truths. They just Want to Believe.

Skepticism is borne out of experience, that's all. Someone who has been on the internet for ten, twenty, thirty years is more likely to pick up on it when something online smells fishy, because they've seen so many (phony illnesses, fake suicides and scammy get-rich schemes) come and go.

Just because I ask myself, "Is this true good to be true?" or "Does this seem trustworthy?" doesn't mean I have stopped giving to charities or funding kickstarters. It just means I have become more discerning of which ones are the dodgy ones.

It's okay to Want to Believe, it really is. Not everything we say or do has to be 100% rational. Jumping on people who point out it isn't rational is not the answer, though. Skepticism is often a positive thing! When Scott Adams passes himself off as a fan of his own comic and gets outed, isn't that beneficial? When a photographer for a major publication is manipulating images and passing them off as the real thing and a member here exposes him, I'm glad.

I think pointing that stuff out is less about self-aggrandizement and more of a public service.
posted by misha at 10:54 AM on December 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Being skeptical of the events in a link is not the same thing as telling people their outrage is misplaced.
posted by rtha at 11:02 AM on December 11, 2013


> There is a personality type that is reflexively cynical. Thoughtlessly, habitually, cynical. And if it were just some idiosyncratic thing, the way that we all have idiosyncratic personality tendencies, that'd be fine. But the other bit that is found in this personality type is that this habitual cynicism is coupled with a superior attitude, that the people who aren't reflexively cynical are fools.

Obviously it's not the case that every example of someone being skeptical about something is one of these kinds of people. But those kinds of people, being habitual and being that they are motivated to publicly express their cynicism because it's part of their identity of being people who aren't fools, they are very disproportionately represented. If they are only 0.5% of a community, you can still count of them speaking up. It just gets old.


Very well said, and it's precisely the fact that they are disproportionately represented here on MeFi that is a big part of the reason I often dislike reading MeFi threads these days. The vast growth in population means the professional cynics are more visible than ever, and it just gets tiring to read.

That said, I understand emptythought's point and I shouldn't have been so dismissive earlier. Not every doubter is a professional cynic, obviously.
posted by languagehat at 11:38 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's one of the more gently worded displays of that superior attitude I was talking about that I've seen, Misha. Congratulation, I guess.

Some of us who have been on the Internet for decades are skeptical but not cynical, and are skeptical but don't feel the need to make a point of of demonstrating that we're not one of those foolish I Want To Believe folk that you mention.

More to the point, my observation is that claims that something is obviously a hoax are at least as wrong (and ignorant) as they are right and informed. So for every example of someone pointing out that you can't commit suicide with a modern car in a garage, there's an example of someone pointing out that a 911 call is fake because people in a crisis are never that calm sounding.

My experience is that being skeptical in the rigorous, intellectual sense is very different from taking a default position that anything that seems unlikely is probably untrue. People suck at intuitively determining what is and what isn't unlikely. Skepticism works as a deliberate exercise, it fails as intuition because intuition about what is likely to be true or not true is extremely fallible.

Basically, putting the whole self-image, social-identity thing about "I'm not a sucker like everyone else" aside, my observation is that a default posture of incredulity is for many people just the flip side of a default position of credulity; which is to say, they want a shortcut, they don't want to have to carefully think about stuff and learn more about things in order to decide what is true and what isn't. One kind of person is credulous because it's easy. Another kind of person is incredulous because it's easy. I find both kinds of people annoying.

But, again, that's not the same thing as being deliberately and carefully skeptical. Thinking about that protest and the faux-Google guy and saying here are several reasons why this is likely to be a hoax is a very different thing than saying that it's obvious to me that it's a hoax because I have a good intuition about this kind of thing. You know, because I'm smart and more experienced and not self-deluding like some other people.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:11 PM on December 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


Last comment, and I'll take my answer off the air. I think there are different kinds of skepticism. In real life, is it important whether a Googler really got off the Google shuttle to berate some protesters? I don't think it's outside the realm of the possible, but it's an incident that I find pretty meaningless in isolation. By the same token, one activist acting in a horribly unethical manner isn't terribly meaningful either. As a reader of news, it doesn't seem significant whether it's one or the other. It would be meaningful if the activist's entire organization then imploded, like ACORN did. That would be significant, systemic change that affects how I think.

The problem is when people think of "news" as just a stream of these small, outrageous incidents. Does the balloon boy thing matter in the long run in any way, as an isolated hoax? I don't think it does. Whether you are stridently skeptical or stridently supportive when you're talking about the balloon boy story, you're still talking about it for some reason. That's your prerogative. If MeFi turns into a daily dump of click-bait news of the weird and "citizen journalism" created by cranks and provocateurs, I can just leave the site.

For me, a much bigger problem is when FPPs about something I find genuinely substantial and interesting get comments from a different kind of skeptic. Posts about social science research might get comments calling it "social 'science' " and being skeptical of the whole endeavor, posts about literary criticism or theory might get "tl;dr" or "this made my eyes glaze over," posts about politics or finance will get "eat the rich" and "ready the guillotines," and so on.

I get that this kind of reflexive skepticism serves very similar social functions, namely, to demonstrate what a wise and clear thinker the skeptic is. But from my perspective as a MeFi reader, the effect is very different if you're knee-jerk skeptical whether Cher had a facelift or whether cosmogony is a valid area of study. I actually prefer idle skepticism to anti-intellectual skepticism.
posted by Nomyte at 1:02 PM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I actually prefer idle skepticism to anti-intellectual skepticism."

Yeah. Me, too. But can't I dislike both?

But I agree with your comment very strongly. It really is a problem and I've struggled with how to respond to it here. There's a whole bunch of topics in which your criticism applies and I think it absolutely is motivated by many of the same things I mentioned.

I'm no less skeptical than I was when I was 22. But I'm far, far less dismissive of all those kinds of things you're alluding to than I was then, and that's because in the case of a fair number of those topics, I've actually learned quite a bit about them and discovered that uninformed dismissive sniping from a distance looks really foolish when I actually learned something about them.

And because that's happened many times, these days I'm far, far less inclined to make those sorts of judgments about other things like those that people similarly think are self-evidently nonsense. It took me a a good long while to go from being a smug supporter of Sokal's hoax to a critic of it, but it had nothing to do with me having a vested interest in defending his target and everything to do with actually learning about stuff. I'm still more intellectually and temperamentally inclined to Sokal's camp than I am toward those who study Derrida.

I'm not a philosophical relativist, and I'm still inclined toward something closer to positivism (without actually being a positivist, mind), but that's distinct from learning that all sorts of things that seem like nonsense actually make a lot of sense and the people who believe those things have many good reasons to believe them, independent of whether I think all those things are true, or not. So I make a distinction between things I think are false and things I think are foolish, which is a distinction I didn't really understand when I was much younger.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:23 PM on December 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Another kind of person is incredulous because it's easy.... But, again, that's not the same thing as being deliberately and carefully skeptical.

Agreed, and here's one clue towards the difference (a clue only, not a definitive mark of it): when a followup story appears "debunking" the initial one, the lazy skeptic jumps on it and says, "See, I told you so!" The careful skeptic applies his skepticism to the alleged debunking as much as to the initial story.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:21 PM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


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