Community guideline comments

Do you have thoughts regarding our community guidelines? Put them here.

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The following section of the community guidelines is, in my opinion, unnecessarily restrictive and tantamount to saying people shall not think about these questions:

**"Given the current severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Townsy Cafe staff feels a moral**

** and ethical obligation to intervene in conversations that:**

** dismiss or downplay the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.**
** question the efficacy of mask wearing and social distancing.**
** advocate for the disobedience public health measures and regulations.**
** undermine public confidence in the vaccine.**

** Topics and replies that do any of the above will be muted."**

Each of these four questions–severity of the pandemic, efficacy of wearing masks and social distancing, efficacy of compliance with public health measures, and safety and efficacy of the vaccines–are areas of active ongoing scientific research, and rightly so. It makes no sense that Townsy staff should decide, preemptively, that no serious discussion of these will be allowed.

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Hi Neil - You’ve put your finger on something I’m really struggling with – the difference between the responsibilities of journalism and the responsibilities of running a public forum. I wrote about it here right from the get go:

I’m happy to discuss it publicly–I think it would be good for the whole community to wrestle with this.

Interestingly, this very question was touched on numerous times during the “How Our Democracy Almost Died” conversation that Sonoma West hosted last night. You can see a recording of this here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7dUvKQM5Lf7bQYVyDJFHIQ

I’m also discussing this issue with my son Jameson, who’s moderating the bulletin board (and advises a lighter hand), and with Barry Chertov and my former boss, Rollie Atkinson of Sonoma West Publishers.

Truthfully, the thought of giving actual falsehoods (“COVID isn’t as bad as they say” or “Vaccines don’t work”) a public platform makes me ill. I think it’s injurious to the public good.

My thoughts are still evolving, however, and I agree that it’s a good discussion to have.

Laura

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I appreciate that this conversation is happening and my hope is that we can come up with some agreed-upon community values that can serve as a filter of sorts. We certainly all need to be respectful. Also, I think it would be a disservice to allow factually inaccurate information to remain posted because that could inadvertently imply to the reader that what they are seeing is true.

Maybe it would be useful to have a community discussion about the difference between facts and opinions. We cannot disagree with facts, while there are plenty of topics that can have a wide variety of differing opinions.

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So it would seem, but in the world of “alternative facts”, people disagree about facts all the time, and sometimes, for good reason. Turns out “facts” are squishy things. Unless you can put it in a scientific instrument and read an objective measurement (that isn’t affected by who paid for the study, etc.) deciding what’s true and what’s not is less than clear.

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My two cents (worth about a hay penny)

I draw the line at personal threats. Everything else I can live with on a forum. Pretty low bar but I participate in some forums that are pretty rough, everything except threats is water off a ducks back for me.

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good point!

my post must have at least 20 characters. :wink:

@Detritus - OK, looking back at our COVID section, I agree we went overboard. There is obviously a way to responsibly discuss each one of these bulleted topics. What I was trying to get at was ‘Don’t be a nutball in a way that undermines public health.’

I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on how to do this. (Probably avoiding the word “nutball” would be a good start. Sigh.)

But I will say it again: As a journalist, the thought of giving actual falsehoods (“COVID isn’t as bad as they say” or “Vaccines don’t work”) a public platform makes my skin crawl. I think it’s injurious to the public good.

What we saw at the Capitol earlier this month was an example of what happen when lies are spread and promoted and given room and oxygen to thrive.

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One persons nutball is another’s free thinker. Everyone on this or any other forum needs to use their own BS filter and keep it well tuned. The internet most often is not a place of truth. It’s a place of opinion. Even the wildest can be backed up by a hundred Internet articles. It’s a bit like a video game. You can chose any fantasy you want. Based on science or logic not required. Some on wacco chose some pretty far out fantasies.

It’s a real dilemma for a moderator to become the decider of what is true and want is not. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter are all struggling with this issue.

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I think the guidelines you have mapped out are perfect. If they have (finally) become good enough for facebook, twitter et al - I think they are easily ok here. This is a community forum that is being created by a group of people who are permitted to create whatever kind of forum they want. This is not a government run by a bill of rights. I feel like Wacco’s demise was largely due to the preponderence of a few voices taking up a huge amount of space with false and damaging disinformation at a time when lives are at stake. I certainly couldn’t tolerate going to Wacco anymore and seeing the deluge of that awful stuff. I personally would not want to participate if those guidelines aren’t in place. Do you want to discuss Qanon on this forum?

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I just want to emphasize, this is not about the freedom to air ideas - its really about lives literally being at stake. And thats when its time to step up, even if it makes you unpopular with some people.

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My feedback is that I would love for Townsy to eventually expand to include all of Sonoma County.
WACCO was initially defined as being for West County, but people from all over Sonoma County participated. I hope that happens on Townsy too.
I live in Santa Rosa but plan to participate here.
Thank you for creating this wonderful community service.
Love,
Emerald

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As a journalist, I live in a world of facts, and the fantasies of the internet, while of interest to me as subjects for stories, aren’t on an equal footing in my mind. The erosion of the whole notion of facts and truth is what got us where we are. Examples:

  1. Here is a fact: roughly 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. The fact that people can download hundreds of papers on the internet that purport to dispute this that doesn’t make the first fact (6 million dead Jews) any less true. But it does make those who doubt that fact either dangerous liars or deluded fools and, usually, anti-Semites. See the difference? One fact is true, one is not. (Note: I know you know this and I don’t mean to suggest in any way that you’re a believer in this particular internet fantasy.)

  2. As a reporter, I sometimes cover the city council. I record them so I get the quotes down correctly and I use those quotes in context. I try my damnedest to portray the proceedings accurately, with a minimum of commentary, so that people can see what their city council is up to. I do this because I believe that portraying what’s happening in the world accurately is essential to the running of civilized democracy – otherwise you end up with a bunch of people thinking that – oh, I don’t know – Democrats are a bunch of Satan-worshiping, cannibalistic pedophiles. Letting lies stand–and giving them a place to breed–is taking a wrecking ball to the foundations of modern civilization.

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I was pointing out you can confirm any bias on the internet, trying to make the point how the Q crowd and any other conspiracy believers self radicalize on the Internet. Not that it is a good thing, only how it happens. Most of us do this to some extent. If we are liberal we probably get our news from KPFA or MSNBC. Conservative Fox News and Right Wing Radio. We all believe our source is the accurate one. We like it when our views are confirmed. It’s comforting. It’s probably not the best way to understand others or find common ground however.

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Hi all, first post, great topic!

My quick thoughts: it’s been pointed out already that this is a Big Wrestle on social media and in the news media as well. I heartily recommend people (if you haven’t already) follow “On the Media” weekly show on NPR. They’ve had a couple of really great segments on the topic lately.

“Sunlight vs. Oxygen” is a real question.

Platforming lies is incredibly hazardous, not just at the level of whether the content is true or not, but also at the level of normalizing the use of lies, and the type of debate that can arise when lies are allowed to spread - EVEN if they are immediately countered with facts.

Re-listening to this segment right now, which has some good points:
[What The Press Have And Should Have Learned From The Trump Era | On the Media | WNYC Studios].
In particular about 14:50 minutes in, some very cogent comments.

But really the whole premise of this valuable show is media literacy - how to take in what’s being offered and question and critique it really deeply.

Thanks for the topic!

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Seems like we would discuss the validity of our sources.

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