Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Moderator is the Problem

A major update  for Write it Moderate it at Huffington-Post

This is a strange story. The moderation on a blog entry on homeopathy is a stark change from that for months and months. Kwombles thought that Dana Ullman was to blame.  He wasn't.  I thought that Dr. Larry Malerba was to blame. He wasn't.  The moderation by Huffington-Post has changed.  Whether or not that change is in accordance with Huffington-Post policy is a matter of opinion.

There are a number of regular who comment on homeopathy at Huffington-Post in response to blog entries by Dana Ullman. For the last few months, there haven't been problems with moderation.  Even better, comments accusing those who disagree with Dana Ullman of being shills for Big Pharma don't appear, although Dana snuck one through by spelling shill  as schill.

But with the blog entry by Dr. Larry Malerba, February 8, 2011  Homeopathy College: Now You Can Get a Doctorate in Homeopathic Medicine that's changed drastically. A lot of the regulars have complained.  Comments complaining about the moderation either never appeared or were removed.

Let me emphasize: The problem arose with this blog entry and this set of comments and at least six regulars have written complaining comments.

Kwombles wrote in her own blog  Ullman Calls Me a Conspiracy Nut  There are screen prints and an exchange with Dana Ullman where he proclaims (accurately) his innocence.

When I learned that authors were allowed to moderate their blog entries, I wrote comments blaming the change in moderation on Doctor Malerba.  The rules allow one to be as rude and insulting as one likes to homeopathy --- but prohibits insults directed against Dr. Malerba.  I assumed that Dr. Malerba was equating some comments regarding homeopathy as if they were comments against him. After all, the level of moderation had stayed the same for months --- all that changed was Doctor Malerba.

I had an email exchange with Huffington-Post. It turns out that Doctor Malerba had done some moderating, but it was pretty minor and I accept that it was appropriate.  So it wasn't Dr. Malerba.

The moderation/censorship had been done by a Huffington-Post staff moderator.

With an email, the Huffington-Post staffer suggested that I apologize to Dr. Malerba.  I wrote a comment and posted it.  It did not appear.  But I really didn't have anything to apologize for, as my comments regarding Dr. Malerba's  moderation did not appear.

In our email exchange, the Huffington-Post staffer suggested that I let others know, so they could submit details to Huffington-Post.  I wrote a comment.  But it did not appear.

At that point, I gave up.   But, surprisingly, there were two comments that appeared complaining of the moderation.  I thought that I would now be permitted to explain the issues with moderation for this blog entry.   I thought to include the full email from Huffington-Post explaining their findings --- including the suggestion that I apologize to Dr. Malerba.  When I went to post the comment, it was rejected because I was replying to a deleted comment.

This is just bizarre. As I read the rules, polite and honest discussion of moderation issues is allowed when it forces itself into comments for a specific blog entry.

I think everyone would just like the level of moderation to return to what is has been before this last blog on homeopathy.   You know, Dana Ullman writes a blog entry and preemptively insults those he knows are going to disagree with him. And Dana will make additional comments that certainly are ad hominem by Huffington-Post standards.  And he gets criticized for them.

There are few insult or ad hominem comments directed at Dana or other homeopathic supporters.  One reason, is that we are afraid of having them not appear.  A second reason is that there is just no reason to insult Dana to make the argument.  Homeopathy is ridiculous enough on its own.


  1. It took my own email complaint to get the one comment on the Ullman piece on. I've been having the problem with getting comments on certain authors is not new. It's longstanding. My Ullman comments don't get on, no matter what they say. My Lanza comments don't get on, no matter what. And they haven't for months. Whether that's a moderator decision or ban put on my comments in certain areas, I don't know.

    And my comment on the PhD in homeopathy didn't get on even though all it said was that it was a waste of time and money.

    And while I got the form letter about the investigation that you did, no one's responded to my email in reply, except to let the one comment on Ullman's blog on. I did tweet to Ullman that I acknowledged he had nothing to do with it.

    I'll continue to screen capture. And I'll continue to write about it.

  2. I obviously don't follow this as closely as you do, Sheldon, but I did see that a great many comments on the Malerba article vaporized and I wondered what had happened.

    I'm just dropping in here, but I wanted to tell you that I think you're a real public-health hero for the work you do challenging the quackery on HuffPo and elsewhere. It's impossible to measure, but I'll bet you've saved lives. Cheers - palindrom.

  3. I do have to give HuffPo some credit though. Now comments just don't simply disappear into the void, assuming they get through the initial moderator anyway.

    The number of deleted comments on this particular post, though, was the most I've ever seen on an HP post. Something is clearly screwy with moderators on the New Age-type subjects.

    -DakkonA from HuffPost

  4. Tip: when perusing articles on HP like this one, mark as "favorite" any post you think might get deleted. Mark every such post as you read through. If a moderator is deleting posts that many others have marked as "favorite", this will affect their ability to moderate in the future. (posted by kozmo9)


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