Comment censorship and comment policies VI: Distortive editing of comments
Today, I encountered what I had long feared: Distortive editing of comments to entirely misrepresent what the commenter (me) actually said. The perpetrator of this inexcusable act is one Emvie Martine. I note that several comments by others on the same page have been edited too, which is an indication that Emvie is a repeat offender; however, obviously, I cannot categorically rule out that these edits had a valid reason or that they were non-distortive.
Seeing that this was a Swedish blog (and the topic not close to my heart), I will not go into details about my statements. However, my first comment (for no discernible reason, including length, topic, or anything else discussed in previous entries as potential comment-policy pit-falls) saw half its contents cut away, part of the remainder distorted, and the rest filled with remarks by emvie that further distorted the message of the comment.
I wrote a second comment protesting this behaviour and addressing the one actual point that emvie actually seemed to make in her editing: Whether the German and Swedish Christian-Democrats should be considered the same. I agreed that there were similarities, and then continued to explain that there were also differences. This comment was reduced to a seven word version—containing only the part were I agreed to similarities…
(Later a thoroughly misleading moderator’s note was added, claiming that “silliness”/“trams” had been removed, and that I should be “factual”/“saklig”—despite the fact that I was.)
The first occurrence could have been explained simply by Emvie being highly incompetent or lacking in judgement (Hanlon’s Razor), including being unaware of the standard rules for quoting that are an obvious analogue; however, by so blatantly repeating her crime in direct response to a protest against that crime—that is not merely incompetence but actual and deliberate malice. Further, it is malice of a very childish and spiteful kind.
A third comment demanding the immediate re-instatement of the original version has lead only to the addition of the aforementioned moderator’s note on the previous comment. As a consequence, I am writing this post. In addition, I am filing a formal complaint with WordPress requesting a stern warning. (I sincerely doubt that they will consider this within their jurisdiction; however, there is no harm in asking, and there are behaviours that are simply so outrageously wrong that they must be brought to the attention of whomever could correct them.)
In the big picture, the obvious conclusion is that is impossible to trust what various persons appear to say in blog comments—something which is particularly important to bear in mind in situations like Sweden’s around Sverigedemokraterna or on many feminist blogs, where attempts to severely distort opinions are quite common: What better way for an intellectually dishonest blog owner than to simply edit the comments made? After all, if they already “know” that a certain commenter has a certain opinion, despite claiming something different, then a “clarifying” edit would be a good way to convince those who actually apply critical thinking, listen to what people themselves (not just their opponents) say, and so on.
It would be highly beneficial if there were technical aides to reduce the risks involved, e.g. an non-deletable indicator specifying how many characters of a comment were changed when by whom. In the second case above, for instance, other readers could then at least see that the original version was more than ten times as long and that the edited version was highly unlikely to correspond to my actual statements. Further, an extended notification system, where subscribers (or, at a minimum, the comment author) were notified about post-publishing edits, would be highly useful. This way, the author would at least know about misleading edits.