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posted by NCommander on Monday May 12 2014, @08:00PM   Printer-friendly
from the #define-soylentnews dept.

You know, this is probably one of the hardest things I've had to write since we went live. My first few attempts just lead to writer's block and frustration, so I tried to take a different tack with this and do it the way I usually do my write-ups for anything; by the seat of my pants. The staff have poked and prodded my early attempts, and I think we're ready to open this up to everyone to add their two cents in as we work towards a final version.

Since we've gone live almost three months ago (yeash, time flies), we've already had our fair share of debates, strife, and conflict, yet at the end of the day we remain operational with an involved community that keeps growing day after day. As I continue my relocation to NH, we're getting scary close to the point we're going to need to start drafting the bylaws and operating principles for this site. One of the pressing questions that have been asked time and time again is, "What will we be?" I'm ready to give you that answer.

Without further ado, let me present the current draft copy of the site manifesto. I'll read through and debate feedback below, and keep refining this until it becomes the defining statement for what SN will be.

SoylentNews Manifesto: Version 0.1

Preamble:

In recent years, many alarming trends have surfaced regarding the free interchange of news and ideas on the internet. The practice of selling users' information for profit, without their approval or even knowledge, has become rampant. People are being prosecuted simply for expressing their opinions. A "Big Brother is Watching" mentality from both state and commercial actors, with universal surveillance now becoming common, has created a chilling effect, preventing people from exercising their rights or speaking up.

Unpopular or unusual views are being actively suppressed, diversity of opinion is too often deemed a problem, and actively restricted, at the whim of corporate and political power.

Too often, the focus upon profit has led to owners forgetting that sites exist for the benefit of their community, and the leadership and staff live to serve that community.

Too often, useful help and input from a site's community is ignored by staff and management who are so out of touch with the very people they serve that they will destroy the support of the community they built, and eventually the business itself.

Statement of Purpose

Our aim is to stand in stalwart opposition to these trends. We will be the best site for independent, not-for-profit journalism on the internet, where ideas can be presented and free discussion can take place without external needs overshadowing the community.

Our Principles

Right to Privacy

We will limit the amount of data collection we do whenever and however we can.

Our user database, and the information in it, is not, and never will be for sale.

Any data collection we do will be done with the consent of the community, and destroyed once we are finished with it.

Any information we collect for legal purposes (i.e., DCMA safe harbor protections) will be destroyed as soon as legally possible.

We will continuously look at ways to shore up users' privacy, including, but not limited to, the tor proxy presently available to our users.

Right of Opinion

Diversity will be respected and encouraged as an important aspect of our community, as groupthink can easily prevent people from seeing other, perhaps better, ideas.

Except as required by law, no one will be banned or have their comments deleted due to stating a fact or opinion, no matter how unpopular or repugnant it is. We will not ban or silence a user for merely stating an opinion.

Freedom of Access

Access to information needs to be available to all members.

We will, to the extent possible, attempt to accommodate members of this site with disabilities, such as those dependent on screen readers.

Content produced by this site shall be available in a format that does not require proprietary or patented software. Non-free methods of access in addition may also be provided for sake of convenience (i.e., a YouTube video)

Freedom from Financial Backers/Handling Advertising

Media can be influenced by those who fund it; to prevent us from becoming slaves to a new overlord, the LibreNews Foundation shall be funded independently by the member sites (such as SoylentNews) which comprise it.

Should fundraising efforts prove insufficient, at the discretion of the staff, we may run advertising on this site in an attempt to supplement income.

No attempt to block access to this site shall be made by those who use ad-blocking software, though we urge such users to subscribe.

Permissions granted by the user to this site shall not extend to other sites (i.e., if you give us permission to email you, we're not going to give anyone else permission to do so).

Third-party media hosted on this on this site shall be limited to a form which is non-distracting, and non-disrupting.

Freedom of Topic

We recognize that the free flow of ideas can only take place in an environment free of taboo subjects.

No topic will be deemed unsuitable for our community to discuss.

Right to Criticize/Right of Reversion

A true community can only exist when communication can flow in both directions.

The right of our community to criticize, make suggestions, and help us improve our site will be respected. No staff or leader will ever be above criticism.

We recognize that mistakes will be made, as we are all human. It is both the right and privilege of others to correct us when needed.

If serious errors are made, we promise to revert them and fix the problems.

 
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The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by skullz on Monday May 12 2014, @08:18PM

    by skullz (2532) on Monday May 12 2014, @08:18PM (#42304)

    If I want to remove my content (all stories / posts / messages sent) from the site by deleting my account, will that be covered? So a delete delete, not a Facebook delete.

    Starting Score:    1  point
    Moderation   +2  
       Interesting=2, Total=2
    Extra 'Interesting' Modifier   0  
    Karma-Bonus Modifier   +1  

    Total Score:   4  
  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by mattie_p on Monday May 12 2014, @08:47PM

    by mattie_p (13) on Monday May 12 2014, @08:47PM (#42328) Journal

    This is an interesting topic, and there is no easy answer here.

    On the one hand, we state that "The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way." If I own something, I can do what I want with it, to include copyright it, sell it, or trash it.

    On the other hand, other sites running slashcode have not implemented any similar features. I can't answer why or why not at this point. Perhaps it is due to threaded nature of comments, possibly with direct quotes of your words. Also note that any comments posted publicly should be considered available in perpetuity due to search engines, caching, etc.

    We will have to tread carefully as we proceed with regards to this. This has not been a feature request to date, if you desire something like this I'd suggest you open an issue on our github repository [github.com].

    We (so far as I can tell) have not yet established terms of service or a EULA for this site. We will certainly engage the community at large in implementing these in accordance with the principles set out in this manifesto.

    • (Score: 1) by hellcat on Tuesday May 13 2014, @12:56PM

      by hellcat (2832) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday May 13 2014, @12:56PM (#42680) Homepage

      Terms like "ownership" have multiple meanings - and it can get confusing.

      Rather than worrying about that, let's follow the spirit you're creating here and think about what the site aspires to become:

      A neighborhood of intellect, courageous enough to tackle any topic, courteous enough to respect conflicting opinions, and cautious enough to protect themselves and others from those we do not trust.

      I would like to suggest that correcting past entries is not a sign of ownership, but courtesy. I like good comments that are written in proper English. Muddling through lots of silly comments is a waste of time.

      Knowing I have a neighborhood resource that covers many subjects with incredibly insightful comments means it's a place I can return time after time.

      Finally, my caution requires that I would prefer a site that refuses access to search engines and bots, encourages encryption for all its users, and works to keep too many prying eyes away from all of us.

      You're on the right track. Keep it up! By the way - if some of us with a few extra bitcoin want to help out financially, where do we send it?

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Open4D on Monday May 12 2014, @08:56PM

    by Open4D (371) on Monday May 12 2014, @08:56PM (#42332) Journal

    Good point. It's something that probably should be covered somewhere (not necessarily in the above document), one way or the other.

    I think my vote would be "you can request partial deletion of your account, which will cause us to forget your email address and password hash, so that the account can never be used again. Prior to doing this, you may wish to consider deleting any journal entries you have. Comments on stories can never be deleted. If you are concerned about comments being associated back to you, you may wish to use an arbitrary username, or post anonymously, and take counter-measures to avoid stylometric identification [33bits.org]."

    • (Score: 2) by skullz on Monday May 12 2014, @09:09PM

      by skullz (2532) on Monday May 12 2014, @09:09PM (#42340)

      That sounds reasonable. As mentioned it wouldn't really do to delete threaded comments and replies but you could replace the username and uid with "Null User" similar to the anonymous coward "account". That would give someone who was considering a scorched earth solution some level of confidence that while their content would still be there, linking it to a specific username after a delete would rely on screenshots and living memory.

      • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Monday May 12 2014, @10:09PM

        by maxwell demon (1608) on Monday May 12 2014, @10:09PM (#42367) Journal

        What about "dangling user", in analogy to the dangling pointer you get when you delete an object you still have pointers to?

        --
        The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
        • (Score: 1) by paulej72 on Monday May 12 2014, @10:47PM

          by paulej72 (58) on Monday May 12 2014, @10:47PM (#42386) Journal

          If we take the user's account and delete the journal, user info and then move the comments to point to a new user account Null User (99999999999999999), then there will be not dangling user problem, unless someone linked to that person's journal in a comment or journal.

          I think this method could be accomplished if necessary.

          --
          Team Leader for SN Development
          • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Monday May 12 2014, @11:40PM

            by maxwell demon (1608) on Monday May 12 2014, @11:40PM (#42412) Journal

            I meant as displayed user name, of course.

            --
            The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
          • (Score: 1) by J053 on Tuesday May 13 2014, @01:04AM

            by J053 (3532) <dakineNO@SPAMshangri-la.cx> on Tuesday May 13 2014, @01:04AM (#42453) Homepage
            This sounds like a good solution. If a user wants to remove hir account, all comments would remain, but tagged as "Deleted (or Dangling - I like that) User". The conversations would remain readable, and I suppose by deep-mining archive.org or something one could reconstruct who the previous user might have been, but I think that's OK - you really do need to realize that anything you post to the Interwebs is going to be there forever.
          • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Tuesday May 13 2014, @02:24AM

            by Reziac (2489) on Tuesday May 13 2014, @02:24AM (#42494) Homepage

            I think that would work fine from a discussion standpoint, but would also encourage disposable troll accounts.

            If you're going to remove the username from the comment, I'd suggest that for accounts less than a certain age (say one year) the posts should also be automodded down by one point, to discourage hit-and-run trolls.

            --
            And there is no Alkibiades to come back and save us from ourselves.
        • (Score: 2) by mindriot on Monday May 12 2014, @11:45PM

          by mindriot (928) on Monday May 12 2014, @11:45PM (#42415)
          I do like this name. I was thinking along the same lines: If I want to completely delete my user as suggested, including deleting all comments made by that user, I will retroactively destroy conversations which involved replies to my comments. This would lead to confusion and possibly even abuse (troll the heck out of some people, write provocations, then delete user). So I think the comments must remain - but the user could be replaced with a "deleted account" user. And why not name it "Dangling User"? :-) It could even link to a page explaining what is going on.
          --
          soylent_uid=$(echo $slash_uid|cut -c1,3,5)
          • (Score: 2) by urza9814 on Wednesday May 21 2014, @06:48PM

            by urza9814 (3954) on Wednesday May 21 2014, @06:48PM (#46068) Journal

            But if the comments are owned by the individual users, as stated, they have every right to have those comments deleted if they so desire.

            The troll then delete thing is a Facebook meme; there's no reason that SN has to hold the same behavior. It's a problem on Facebook because there's no threads, so you can't tell what someone replied to. We have threads here. So just don't re-thread the comments when you delete one -- change the username to 'deleted user', and replace the comment body with something like "this comment has been deleted". Of course, when deleting their account, deleting the comments should be optional.

            The user should have the option to delete any content they themselves created. This includes comment text, this includes their username, this includes journal entries. But it doesn't include comment IDs, user ID numbers, links between this data, and other things of that nature.

            In fact, I'm not even sure we should delete user accounts. Just null out the username field, any personally identifiable information (contact info and such) and any additional information the user requested to delete. Have a couple extra checkboxes when someone deletes their account:

            [ ] Erase Comments
            [ ] Erase Journal Entries

                  [ Erase Account ]

    • (Score: 2) by BradTheGeek on Tuesday May 13 2014, @03:04AM

      by BradTheGeek (450) on Tuesday May 13 2014, @03:04AM (#42513)

      I see the possibility of delete functionality being enabling abuse - and technically difficult for the reasons stated.
      Perhaps it is better to say that SN does not own the content, but neither does the user. Anything posted publicly is in the public domain. Period. No copyright, no removal.

      Similarly to the fact you can go to any real physical venue and say what you like. You cannot unsay the fact that you told your family that your brother blows billy goats at the reunion. There is no delete for that.

      If you do not feel comfortable with speaking under those conditions, then perhaps this is not the place for you. Openness means being open to scrutiny, and deleting content can have a detrimental effect on recourse, and on record-keeping.

      Perhaps if it is felt to be absolutely necessary, then once can choose to have their name stricken from the record, but not their words. After a delete request, all your previous posts revert to AC status.

      • (Score: 2) by dmc on Tuesday May 13 2014, @03:21AM

        by dmc (188) on Tuesday May 13 2014, @03:21AM (#42519)

        I see the possibility of delete functionality being enabling abuse - and technically difficult for the reasons stated.
        Perhaps it is better to say that SN does not own the content, but neither does the user. Anything posted publicly is in the public domain. Period. No copyright, no removal.

        The problem with that approach is that public domain means unlimited rights to use for whatever reason. If I write a well thought out 4 paragraph comment on a subject, and my government doesn't like me, I don't want their agents to be able to repost the same 4 paragraphs, with 3 key words changed, under the username "ILoveToRapeChildren" in an attempt to discredit me. I say stick with the tried and true upstream approach. Users own the comments, and have decided to publish them in the comment thread of an article on the website. Other's may quote and use them at the discretion of the laws in their jurisdiction. I.e. a user living on AnarchIsland is free to use the words however they like, a user in China is only allowed to use the words in ways which don't draw attention to the events of 1989, and a user in the U.S. is allowed to copy the words subject to U.S. copyright and fair use laws.

        $0.02...

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 13 2014, @06:36AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 13 2014, @06:36AM (#42558)

          I don't want their agents to be able to repost the same 4 paragraphs, with 3 key words changed, under the username "ILoveToRapeChildren" in an attempt to discredit me.

          Uhh, what? You mean feds stop and check the license to be sure they're not infringing copyright before breaking the law?

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 13 2014, @06:40AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 13 2014, @06:40AM (#42561)

            the more law they break, the more vulnerable they are to inconvenient public court cases, even if they find a way to get them dismissed due to reasons of national security.

          • (Score: 2) by BradTheGeek on Tuesday May 13 2014, @10:58AM

            by BradTheGeek (450) on Tuesday May 13 2014, @10:58AM (#42629)

            I wish I could mod this up. Any person or group with an interest in discrediting you is not going to care about the license. And the smart ones never change your words. The just take one sentence from paragraph 2 and put it with paragraph four, to make it seem like you are saying whatever they want to make you look bad.

            Public domain has no bearing on that.

        • (Score: 2) by Open4D on Tuesday May 13 2014, @10:10AM

          by Open4D (371) on Tuesday May 13 2014, @10:10AM (#42613) Journal

          Perhaps it is better to say that SN does not own the content, but neither does the user. Anything posted publicly is in the public domain. Period. No copyright, no removal.

          The problem with that approach is that public domain means unlimited rights to use for whatever reason.

          Well how about "By posting this comment you agree to license it under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License [creativecommons.org]." ... or one of the other licences [creativecommons.org]?

           
          And the "fine print" changes to "The following comments are owned by whoever posted them, and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License [creativecommons.org] . We are not responsible for them in any way."

    • (Score: 2) by crutchy on Tuesday May 13 2014, @08:13AM

      by crutchy (179) on Tuesday May 13 2014, @08:13AM (#42588) Homepage Journal

      what does the terms of use and privacy policy have to say about this?

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by NCommander on Monday May 12 2014, @11:30PM

    by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <michael@casadevall.pro> on Monday May 12 2014, @11:30PM (#42405) Homepage Journal

    Conceptually, I like the idea of being able to delete yourself from the site; allowing to be forgotten. My problem with this is that reddit allows this, and because of that, massive swatchs of conversations have been deleted and are unreadable because half (or more) of the content is deleted. We might allow for account abandonment, but I'm really on the fence allowing comments to be removed, even by those who posted them.

    This is likely a topic for a Q&A in the future.

    --
    Still always moving
    • (Score: 1) by nsa on Tuesday May 13 2014, @01:59AM

      by nsa (206) on Tuesday May 13 2014, @01:59AM (#42481)

      Conceptually, I like the idea of being able to delete yourself from the site; allowing to be forgotten. My problem with this is that reddit allows this, and because of that, massive swatchs of conversations have been deleted and are unreadable because half (or more) of the content is deleted. We might allow for account abandonment, but I'm really on the fence allowing comments to be removed, even by those who posted them.

      This is likely a topic for a Q&A in the future.

      I disagree. The "allowing to be forgotten" I think was a naive concept for the E.U. govt or whoever to push. I think it falls along the lines of 'illusions of security/privacy/etc'.

      Also, this talk of deleting usernames from comment threads bothers me because I think the intelligence agencies and other organized criminals have engaged in massive propoganda and trolling/discrediting campaigns using provocative usernames extensively. (seriously, dwell on what the hell the spooks could have been talking about on their 'magic techniques' page 24 of the snowden jtrig document).

      Thus if the spooks had established a nuanced psychological profile of a target they wanted to discredit including subtle religious and other beliefs, and crafted a comment, and a username to enhance the trolling/discrediting/provoking effect of that comment, and then you delete the username, the discrediting can become even more effective.

      $0.02...

    • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Tuesday May 13 2014, @02:20AM

      by Reziac (2489) on Tuesday May 13 2014, @02:20AM (#42490) Homepage

      I like Open4D's suggestion, above. "We forget you exist, but you can't take your words back."

      I think the ability to delete all one's posts might lead to even less "think before you type", because people will know they can kill that insanely-stupid/snarky post, if only they don't care enough to keep the username.

      [I've noticed significantly more snark lately, compared with SN's early days and its two cousins. We don't need anything contributing to more snark.]

      --
      And there is no Alkibiades to come back and save us from ourselves.
    • (Score: 2) by etherscythe on Monday May 19 2014, @04:22PM

      by etherscythe (937) on Monday May 19 2014, @04:22PM (#45275) Journal

      Easy answer: give an option to rename the "deleted" user to Anonymous Coward (with leaving the username intact as the alternative). Leave the UID visible on the comments if you want, it will come up as AC, making correlation at least relatively difficult, and the thread will remain intact.

      --
      "Fake News: anything reported outside of my own personally chosen echo chamber"