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[ NNSquad ] Urgent Call for Improved Google+ Moderation Mechanisms

           Urgent Call for Improved Google+ Moderation Mechanisms


I've been happily using the still relatively very new Google+ system
since the first day it was made available to external users.  It is a
fantastic communications tool, and one of its great strengths is
Google's willingness to make changes to improve the system.  This is a
continuing process, not a point in time fait accompli.

There are some controversies of course.  Notable among these has been
the question of real names vs. pseudonyms, which I've discussed
previously ( http://j.mp/ny8XFd [Lauren's Blog] ).  I believe that
Google will ultimately address this matter in a practical manner, even
if likely solutions may not completely satisfy everyone with concerns
on the various sides of the issue.

But with Google+ moving from "invite only" to "everyone can
participate" status, a serious new problem has emerged that I hope
will be addressed very quickly.

In brief, Google+ is being inundated with comment spam, and by
"trolls" whose only purpose is using comments to disrupt
communications, not to further real discussion on any associated

"After the fact" of such comment postings, a quick inspection of the
associated users' profiles and posting histories is typically
sufficient to verify their dishonorable intentions.

Unfortunately, Google+'s existing "post-moderation" tools (for use
after comments are publicly visible) for deleting comments and
blocking users are not only inadequate to deal with such situations,
but also exhibit certain anomalous behaviors that further reduce their
effectiveness ( http://j.mp/pjR4nE [Google+] ).

Given the massive increase in spam and trolling that is now taking
place on Google+, post-moderation has the serious disadvantages of
allowing such comments to not only appear publicly for significant
periods of time (especially if posted during the night when the thread
author is unlikely to be monitoring), but even permitting such
comments to be permanently available if thread authors are unable to
watch all of their old threads for new comment offenses -- a problem
that only gets worse over time.

Google+ needs to provide thread authors with the option of using
pre-moderation tools that present submitted comments for approval (or
dismissal/flagging as abuse) prior to their being publicly viewable.
This would be entirely consistent with the sorts of moderation tools
typically available on blogging platforms and even on Google's own

Some observers feel that pre-moderation unnecessarily restricts the
open flow of information.  True, in a perfect world where spam and
trolls were not a fact of life, pre-moderation might not be necessary.
But in the real world, not being able to filter out such garbage prior
to public availability actually has the effect of suppressing
information flow on a far larger scale, by discouraging users from
creating threads on controversial topics likely to be subjected to
such directed attacks.

This is not a merely theoretical matter.  I've seen convincing
evidence of organized, politically motivated efforts now in place to
purposely disrupt threads and render them useless for reasoned

I hope that Google will address these Google+ concerns, both involving
the behavior of existing post-moderation tools, and the urgent need
for optional pre-moderation mechanisms, as soon as possible.


Lauren Weinstein (lauren@vortex.com): http://www.vortex.com/lauren 
Co-Founder: People For Internet Responsibility: http://www.pfir.org 
 - Network Neutrality Squad: http://www.nnsquad.org 
 - Global Coalition for Transparent Internet Performance: http://www.gctip.org
 - PRIVACY Forum: http://www.vortex.com 
Member: ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Blog: http://lauren.vortex.com 
Google+: http://vortex.com/g+lauren 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenweinstein 
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800 / Skype: vortex.com