Today we have a guest post from YrBigBro!*
"As one of the 20% of Americans who are under-employed, I am lucky to have a $12/hr job moderating corporate websites. I am the guy who sits for hours on end waiting for someone to click on the 'report abuse' or 'flag this post' button in website comment forums. I'm also the one who looks at your travel pictures and decides if they are fit for public consumption. I am the power behind the screen, and I have been doing this for nearly a year now.
This role has given me a unique insight into the psyche of the citizenry, and unfortunately, as Fran Leibowitz has said, "The common good isn't very." The process is both surprisingly complex and ridiculously simple. I have 10 or 12 sites on my screen, and every so often I look at them to see if there are any 'red lights;' then I go back to watching the news, reading a book, taking a nap, or mowing the lawn. We promise that any abuse will be dealt with within an hour, so as long as I glance at my monitor every 59 minutes, I'm cool.
That's the simple part. The complexity comes from the convoluted rules and guidelines that we use to determine which posts really are ok, and which ones we delete. Obviously, spam, obscenity, porn, and personal info get zapped. But deciding what constitutes a personal attack, libel, hate speech, or violations of each site's unique ToS (terms of service) requires some judgment and consideration.
Easy rules: Hate speech is speech targeted against a protected group. Therefore 'libtard', one of the most frequent insults we see, is hate speech, because the disabled are a protected group. But 'looney liberal' is not, because birds (loons) aren't.
Some of our clients have millions of users, but the most troublesome ones are the 80+ small town newspapers' online channels, comments on which are often vicious, personal, and specifically targeted to local officials or neighbors. A sad lesson I have learned is that racism is far more prevalent than I realized, and is an evolving genre. Obviously the 'N' word is anathema, but now the word 'thug' has become synonymous, and is also banned on sight. Right now, the hot issue is lying. Lies themselves are not violations, but accusing another of telling lies is a violation, as a personal attack.
This is all very frustrating, especially to the millions of retired persons whose site I manage. These users are all grumpy, totally convinced of their correctness, and most importantly, seem to have nothing else to do but spend 8-10 hours a day arguing with each other and with me and the other moderators.
The online-community phenomenon may be the single most transformative shift of our lifetimes. But at a granular level, it is really a mess of confusion, misinformation, and interpersonal conflict. Where these disputes used to involve a handful of neighbors in a coffee shop, they now spread across the globe, and more and more seem to be dominated by the extreme tail ends of the curve. Or maybe I am just yet another grumpy old man..."
*Actually MyBigBro, but you probably knew that.