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Banned from theciviccommons.com

Due process is needed on theciviccommons.com website in order for it to be a true community-oriented forum.

The following article was removed from theciviccommons.com and my user account was disabled. Why?

Disabling Accounts: Should There Be Due Process?

Due Process is one of the basic principles of justice that the U.S. legal system got right (at least in word) and, surprisingly, most grassroots community organizations and efforts get very wrong in every sense.

"Due Process of law implies the right of the person affected thereby to be present before the tribunal which pronounces judgement upon the question of life, liberty, or property, in its most comprehensive sense; to be heard, by testimony or otherwise, and to have the right of controverting, by proof, every material fact which bears on the question of right in the matter involved. If any question of fact or liability be conclusively presumed against him, this is not due process of law." (1)

An example of the failure of The Civic Commons to ensure due process is the recent situation where Garry Kanter's (2) account was "disabled" (3). Since there is no procedure/feature on theciviccommons.com to ensure due process, Dan Moulthrop (4) appears to have made the decision unilaterally (5).

This brings up a few issues:

- Should there be a procedure to ensure due process for alleged violations of The Civic Commons user agreement and terms of service?

- Should public information be stored in proprietary systems like theciviccommons.com knowing that this information is controlled by special interests instead of the public as a whole? (6)

- Why was Garry Kanter's account disabled? I think the specifics of the situation should be made public so that others may share their thoughts and so that we can hold folks accountable for their opinions.

Finally, one very practical way this affects people on theciviccommons.com is that when one searches for "Dan Moulthrop," the top result is a link to his user page. However, if one searches for "Garry Kanter," Garry's user page is not listed. In the worst case, Dan could silence people he disagrees with or doesn't like by disabling their accounts and theciviccommons.com system will essentially hide the fact that the user exists. Without a solid procedure for due process, this scenario is likely to take place again.

Is The Civic Commons a true commons where everyone is equal, coming together to solve the problems we face?

I'm not seeing it, at least, not without a procedure for due process.


Footnotes:
----------
1) Black's Law Dictionary, 6th Edition, page 500

2) http://theciviccommons.com/conversations/ch-uh-school-facilities#node-12659 and http://theciviccommons.com/blog/why-we-sometimes-suspend-accounts

3) http://theciviccommons.com/user/garry-kanter

4) http://theciviccommons.com/user/dan-moulthrop

5) From The Civic Commons terms of service (http://theciviccommons.com/pages/terms): "Civic Commons reserves the unilateral discretion to interpret and apply these Rules of Engagement. Your registration for the community functions as an acknowledgement of reading and understanding these expectations"

6) There are many Free Software alternatives - http://directory.fsf.org/wiki/Main_Page

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Andrew Polcyn April 23, 2013 at 12:06 AM
This happens on other sites as well. I'm not going to give the name of the website I was banned from (well, I was legally banned, I did violate the TOS), but while I was a moderator on that site, there were some people that other moderators and the System Administrator (at the time) felt should be "silenced" whilst not being banned. As these posters had said some stuff the brass didn't like, but you couldn't really ban them because you didn't like what they were saying and they weren't violating the TOS either. Basically, taking the passive-aggressive route to get a person to leave. So the Systems Admin enabled a feature in the message board software that allowed the user to post, and all posts by that user showed up on the boards...to them. To the staff members (Admin, moderators, editors) we would have an option to view the post if we wanted to, as if the user was on our ignore list. And as far as a common user, I don't recall if the post was visible or not. What got me banned was breaking TOS from when I signed on as a Moderator and was expected to keep when I resigned my position. I thought what was going on was cyber bullying, which seems like is going on in this case, but I admit, I have not seen what the "other side of the story is" according to The Civic Commons. And I could be totally wrong in my assumption.
Garry Kanter April 23, 2013 at 12:24 AM
Well, this all started because I was deactivated for violating the "Optimism Principle" without due process. On a Board of Education sponsored forum.
Phil Florian April 23, 2013 at 11:09 AM
I think people are missing the point of the Civic Common concerns. I read some of the thread he is discussing and there were many attempts by the brass there to try to pull the conversation in the direction of solutions and action and not just complaints. Then after multiple warnings it seems he was banned. The concern I am gathering is that Cindy Hannover does not exist outside of appearing to come to the defense of of Garry on the Commons and multiple Patch sites. The "chilling" part of it was that they were not sure how to respond, legally or otherwise, to someone creating a fake person to act on behalf of himself on a site from which he had been banned. Whether his points were good or not the question is does creating a fictional character in the day and age of the internet sound like a rational way to deal with a concern? Sure, Ben Franklin created characters for his newspaper but it was his newspaper to do that with. Cindy, if you are real, sorry for the insult but when I read that they couldn't confirm the reality of a person I had to do a cursory check and I came back with the same lack of information. There are plenty of sites that can be used to verify the existance of a person without having to delve too deeply. Pipl.com is a quick and easy one. The internet is a vast and blind environment but people leave tracks or real ones do, anyway. But not Cindy Hannover, bless her. :-)
Garry Kanter April 23, 2013 at 11:24 AM
There is *nothing* out of line about any of my conduct on The Civic Commons. I have no misunderstanding of their role. They are practicing improper censorship.
Garry Kanter April 23, 2013 at 11:28 AM
Your play-play is fiction. Dan Moulthrop's posting came out of nowhere.

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