In Defense of “Fascist” Email List Moderators

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Jameel complained about the rejection of a public service message by moderators of the Modiin community email list. The message was from parents looking for other religious parents of autistic children interested in a residential program. The sender received the following email:

Your request to the Modiin mailing list

Posting of your message titled “religious hostel for autistic children” has been rejected by the list moderator. The moderator gave the following reason for rejecting your request:

“While a worthy cause, the Modiin list is not the proper forum for this posting. The Modiin list is only for postings that specifically have to do with life in Modiin. Thank you for your cooperation.”

Jameel wrote:

What a blessed town Modi’in must be, that there are no autistic children living there, and they are not part of “life in Modi’in.”

Are there handicapped parking spaces in Modi’in? We wouldn’t want to interfere with the idyllic life of Modi’in, by wasting parking spaces on handicapped people, would we?

As moderator a similar list, I’m going to side with the Modiin moderators. List owners get loads of requests.  But if you let people post whatever they want, whenever they want, the list will get crowded and spammy. And that won’t do anybody any good. (For the record, I did post the message on our list.)

Jameel argues, correctly, that the message is relevant for Modiin parents. But it’s equally relevant for every part of the country. It’s not a Modiin issue and I understand why the moderators rejected it, according to their guidelines.

Whether paid or volunteer, moderators take on the headache responsibility of maintaining the list. This gives them the right to make the decisions. If they let this member put his message through, they will have to explain to a hundred more why their important and relevant messages were rejected.

List moderators provide a public service and it’s in their interest to post a variety of useful announcements. But frankly, moderators don’t owe anybody anything. They aren’t required to post every important message. It’s not censorship—there are a lot of email lists in the sea. There are also blogs, newspapers, forums, and bulletin boards. But if you feel your moderators are getting “a little fascist,” as one commenter wrote, you are free to start your own list.

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  1. Right on, Hannah! Yet another issue where we agree totally. A mailing list IS a dictatorship. Someone doesn’t like it, they’re free to leave and start their own. Too bad we weren’t able to keep that list for moderators active.

  2. Debbie, thanks for reminding me to post it there.

  3. Generally, I tend to agree. Forums/lists are not a democracy. I own and manage forums with tens of thousands of members and if only I had a nickel (ok, a dollar) for every time someone cried foul over “censorship”, I’d be able to, ummm, I don’t know, maybe go out for a nice meal 😉

    Seriously, like Debbie said, if you don’t like it, leave it.

    So yes, a mod will have the final call on this, based on parameters such as the amount of spam hitting the list, previous decisions, level of activity and trust for that specific message sender. That said, without more information, I have to say I the decision does look a bit strange. If the sender is a resident of Modiin and looking to connect with parents of autistic children in the area, it would make sense to post there, right? If he’s not, what’s he doing on that list anyway?

  4. IsraeliMom, I think a Modiin resident posted it to help the parents out. Presumably the parents don’t live in Modiin.

  5. I generally agree, HOWEVER, when it comes to issues related to chesed, I think the rules ought to be relaxed sometimes.

  6. What list for moderators?

    I am often torn about this issue.

    I moderate several lists, including our neighborhood list. My tendency is to be a militant moderator and only allow items that are directly relevant to our neighborhood or posted by members of our community.

    But I have two co-moderators and they are far more liberal than I. They aprove many posts that I would reject.

    I am not still not convinced about which approach is preferable.

  7. I often get rejected from our local list. Once I sent out a notice. Got rejected. Someone else sent exact same notice. They accepted him.

    Does bring up those childhood rejection feelings for me. (I’m smiling as I type this).

    And I would never be a moderator for one of those groups; they are way too BORING. I don’t read them much either, as a result (in our community it’s mostly people asking for rides).

  8. I think the problem arises when moderators get caught up in their own rules and forget the original purpose of the list: to provide information to readers. The list format is relatively low tech and unwieldy as compared to a formal website, where info can be catalogued and accessed according to reader taste.

    I think it’s better to err on the side of providing more info rather than less, and let readers edit for themselves.

  9. Abbi, sure that can happen. Moderators can get burnt out. But every useful list needs to have some kind of guidelines and you will end up making some people unhappy.
    Leora, large lists usually have more than one moderator, explaining why identical messages were treated differently. Or once they saw the interest, they decided to be more flexible.