A war on information now?

As I mentioned, Richard Dawkins has an informative post about the UCL debate yesterday at RDF. Very good. I tried to add to the information Richard provided by linking to the information I had provided on Friday, but a moderator removed the link to my post almost instantly.


I took a look at the Terms & Conditions, and I can’t find anything that forbids links to blog posts. I’m not surprised not to find such a thing, because that would be an incredibly stupid policy for a website to have. Blog posts can be informative, so it would be ludicrous to make a general policy against links to blogs.

So then why?

I have no idea. The Friday post is relevant because it documents that the organizers were on the record as having agreed to Krauss’s insistence that there be no gender segregation. It documents that this was public information on Friday.

Why on earth remove that?

I did another comment explaining the (obvious) relevance and asking for the link to be left, but that whole comment was deleted.

What is wrong with them? If they have an ironclad rule against posting blog links, why isn’t it visible somewhere? And if they do, why do they, when it would be such a stupid rule?

Then I wrote the post that quoted Chris Moos’s new letter to UCL, and commented at RDF to say I had new information and posted that link – and it was instantly removed.

What is wrong with them?


  1. hjhornbeck says

    Weird. At least anyone interested can Google to find your posts, so it isn’t silencing but merely making the information a bit tougher to find.

  2. says

    Yes, and so they’ve just told me, but what a stupid thing to do. Hello, internet! Where the goal is not to make information a bit tougher to find.

    We’re all used to being able to click a link right then and there, so it’s irritating when we can’t, and most of us don’t bother to make the extra effort, because internet.

    So RDF has a brilliant policy of making information just that little bit harder to get. Good thinking! Especially on a pressing issue that it should be promoting instead of obstructing!

  3. moleatthecounter says

    Sorry, just mis-timed that comment!

    I agree – People have very short attention pans, in terms of being patient when not have all available information at the first click, so to speak. So RDF should be making it as easy as possible, in my view.

    RDF aren’t always overly communicative either. Ho and indeed hum.

  4. Bjarte Foshaug says

    The last time I visited the Richard Dawkins website (shortly after Paula Kriby wrote her awful “Sisterhood of oppression” piece if my memory serves me right) there was a lot of talk about #FTBullies and “echo chambers” and “hive minds” and “attacking one of ‘our own'” going on (which, ironically, everybody seemed to accept blindly without actually having read what any of you were saying). That may have something to do with it…

  5. says

    Hi Al

    Hmm. That page seems to be about submitting posts, not about commenting. And then, including in a comment a link to a blog post that expands on information in the main post is not generally considered a form of advertising – on the contrary, it’s standard practice.

    However judging by the email the mods just sent me, they have elected to consider all links to blogs as a form of advertising, and also to make no exceptions because if they do make exceptions they will have to deal with people complaining about the exceptions.

    Like you, I’m not in agreement with this policy. I think it’s imbecilic.

  6. Wordling says

    From the RDF Terms and conditions….

    6. No spam. That includes commercial advertising, anything posted multiple times on one or more threads, and the habitual posting of material that has simply been lifted from other sites in order to make a point.

    You were in violation of their set terms. Their house, their rules. Sorry Ophelia, you’re going to have to dig deeper for something to be offended about.

  7. says

    Al @ 4 – quite. I told them that, too! They won’t pay any attention, of course.

    But honestly. Who doesn’t know that if there’s no link we just don’t bother?! I certainly don’t. I’m as lazy as the next person, or lazier, so no, I don’t rush off to google for what the stupid commenter should have just provided.

  8. says

    Bjarte – well one wag on Twitter suggested that perhaps Paula is a moderator! That of course would explain it.

    But it would also make it worse. What really? Obstructing the flow of information just for spite? Dear oh dear…

  9. says

    “Wordling” – where’s the bit where you apologize for lying about my blog post being a copy of one by Dawkins that he hadn’t written yet?

    And you’re wrong. Linking to a blog post is not “commercial advertising.”

    Nice tell there. I wasn’t “digging” – I was attempting to share relevant information.

  10. Dave Ricks says

    Could a commenter from B&W go there and post a link to B&W? Although not me, because I don’t remember how to post there.

  11. rnilsson says

    Absent actual information, I offer the following more or less loose ponderings:
    * RDF appears to have a bit of a snit for certain entities or groupings; based probably on previous mistakes made.
    * RDF has, unless I misremember, a bit of a recent history of slightly lacking oversight of the site, its day to day running and its actual revenue. Someone was even fired for fraud, as I recall it. Whether prosecuted, I cannot say.
    * However, Dr Dawkins is reported to have been involved in multiple communications regarding this debate before it was to occur, and to have expressed opinions in that regard.

    Conclusions? I dunno, do I? Selective information filtering? The MACHINE?
    That movie is well worth watching for its ironic values. “Dick to the Dawk” appears in it. Five years ago, he was vigorously
    opposed to the mendacity behind that propaganda hack.

    Sorry about the bad html hackery here. It looks crazy in preview.

  12. skepticalskepticskepticsskeptic says


    I too am wondering about their silly moderating in this case but I don’t think I’m “offended”; I guess playing the “don’t be so emotional” card might work for some people but it’s quite lazy, in my opinion. A link of that kind isn’t “spam” in any way #6 defines it, either, but that has been covered already.

  13. unbound says

    Could just be the moderator sees it as something it isn’t…and by pointing out the moderator’s flaw, they are just doubling down.

    I had a similar experience a couple of years ago. A post was factually incorrect and inflammatory. When I attempted to point out the factual errors and how the inflammatory nature of the post would lead people to bad behavior (in this case, not install anti-virus and firewall software), my comment was quickly removed with an e-mail sent that they wouldn’t tolerate personal attacks (nothing in my comment could realistically be construed as a personal attack). When I attempted to engage with the moderator to explain that there were no personal attacks involved, I was shut down again and locked out of the site for 1 month. Perhaps just a moderator that liked his or her power.

    Best of luck getting your comments reinstated, but I have a feeling you’ve probably run into a bad moderator that simply won’t budge.

  14. Ulysses says

    I dropped RDF from my bookmarks several years ago after Josh Timonen played silly games with the forum commentariat. Since that time I’ve seen no reason to return.

  15. says

    Ok funny thing – I used the “feedback” button to object to the exclusion of the link two or three hours ago – and then after that I found the email from “The Moderators.” Now I’ve had a reply to my objection, and what it says is the opposite of what whoever signed itself “The Moderators” said. That’s interesting, isn’t it.

    The reply to the feedback button said

    You can use links in blog posts and comments. The only exception is when our system suspects spam. If you experience problems, please let me know where and what you wanted to post.

    So I did.

    And I wonder what that person who emailed me was thinking. Now it looks even more like some sort of spite or vendetta.

    Really, how pathetic.

  16. jmb says

    Whut. RDF is unfamiliar with the concept of trackbacks? That…is right up there with people complaining that someone is linking to/quoting from a public post. When will they move into 21st century blogging practice?

  17. Aratina Cage says

    What is wrong with them?

    The RDF does have something of a history of being unscrupulous about commenting. I know I haven’t been back except on rare occasions ever since the forum disaster. There is also a good chance they are simply being petty.

  18. Aratina Cage says

    Not that you hadn’t considered all of that, of course, but that’s my opinion of why they might have done that to you.

  19. karmacat says

    I often find in these situations that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. It could be just that some people are more rigid about rules and others are more flexible. It could also just be plain incompetence.

  20. says

    Gotta disagree with you here Ophelia.

    Their house, their rules… even if they are arbitrary and unequally applied and counterproductive, you’re not owed or entitled to a platform to post links to your blog on that or any site. They don’t even have to give you a reason, or they can give you seven contradictory reasons. Even if they end up costing themselves or their members easy access to useful information, even if they wind up running the site into irrelevance and eventual nonexistence.

    Just how I see it. I say the same thing to the ‘pitters when they whine pathetically about “censorship” and other dishonest misrepresentations about reality: people have a right to run their websites and their Twitter and FB accounts as they see fit. If RDF has a “delete links to B&W” rule, they are welcome to it, and there’s little reason for you to invest any time or energy complaining about it, or repeatedly attempting to violate/circumvent it.

  21. Pteryxx says

    however, it’s not attempting to violate/circumvent an invisible mystery rule that RDF’s moderators won’t cop to and aren’t applying to everyone across the board. It’d only be pushy to keep trying after an arbitrary not-you rule has become the most parsimonious explanation. (after going through the good-faith process of having checked the policies, explained, and appealed with a reasonable expectation of having met those policies.)

  22. garlic says

    Ophelia #16: did you tell them that the link was towards your own personal blog? Because some people define link to own blog as “spam”.

  23. says

    Well I said I’d written about it – or maybe I said I’d done a post about it. But anyway, if they do define a link to a blog post (included in an on-topic comment) as spam, they’re being stupid.

  24. jmb says

    In fact, WordPress and other blogging platforms have it built in so that someone linking to you will automatically show up as a link at the foot, so that readers of comments can see where the discussion is continuing elsewhere.

    It’s been a feature for years, maybe even a decade, even on some of the “minor” blogging programs like Livejournal, because it’s assumed that bloggers want the links and the additional publicity, it’s called “trackbacks.” For RDF to call it “spam” shows how isolated and out of touch with the wider internet they must be.

  25. chrislawson says

    Improbable Joe,

    “Their house, their rules” doesn’t mean a bad house rule should be exempt from critical commentary. I might agree with you if Ophelia had complained about them violating her First Amendment rights or if she had demanded an absolute right to have her comment published on their website. But she didn’t, so I don’t.

  26. Michael says

    I’ve been on RDnet for years and it’s been quite awhile now that they banned links to personal blogs. Good idea or bad idea it’s applied to everybody.


  27. Michael says

    If RDF has a “delete links to B&W” rule,

    They don’t. They have a delete links to personal blogs rule. Have done for sometime.


  28. deepak shetty says

    Then why did someone answer my feedback by saying the opposite?
    Likely the first message is an automated one where the message hasnt been updated. (devs are lazy – a lot of times on websites links and text refer to older features that have subsequently been changed but no one updates it).
    Stopped reading RDF awhile ago they had an our way or the highway approach to things – so highway it is.

  29. says

    It was signed with a name though. That doesn’t seem like an automated response.

    And the other message wasn’t a second response to my feedback question, by the way – it was an unsolicited response sent to a different email account. Quite a rude one, too.

    In short – I see about 8 people have said they’ve stopped reading RDF because of this kind of thing. I hardly ever do, but once in awhile when there’s something important…

    …but not any more.

  30. says

    Yeah, I also dropped rdf.net. I was there for a few years before the sudden melt down with Josh screwing the whole community. Its gone from being a vibrant activist center to being a stilted, censored platform with occasional interesting articles. Even the new comments software is stuffed and gets in the way of meaningful discourse. The lack of links in comments to “personal blogs” is just dumb and further reduces the site to a ghetto. Pity.

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