In an attempt for greater disclosure and transparency, this article will be aimed at discussing the method used in quantitatively determining if a comment, seed, or article is racially intolerant. Usually, content of this nature is managed by either the community (nation admins or Newsvine moderators) but I am already tracking several cases that have apparently gone undetected. There is an argument that staff can only manage so much and when the nation administrators are unengaged or actually the entity responsible for such content that is where this nation steps in. Articles will be published monthly with comments turned off. Anyone needing clarification regarding a posting or to request removal can do so by contacting me via the "Contact Author" function.
This process is broken down into several elements, which I will describe below:
Step 1. Finding Troubled Articles
The most arduous component of this research is actually finding a problem. Users at Newsvine are generally a very tempered collection of writers. While material can get emotionally charged, most members only engage in ad homeniem acts when frustrated (which could be considered unintentional, given the context - this does not make the act allowable, by the way) or when intentionally trying to win an argument fallaciously. The latter is usually harder to detect.
The method used to find troubled articles is done by a variety of searches: scanning the political/ideological extremes of Newsvine, reviewing Nations that are highly permissive of their users comment quality, and by using both of those to "leapfrog" as items of interest appear.
What qualifies as an item of interest? Well, first is a look at the dictionary definition of what racism (the polar opposite of racial tolerance) is:
the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races. -Websters Online Dictionary
This is not to be conflated or confused with known genetic markers that differentiate one race from another. During the article and subsequent discussion running up to this point, a Viner mentioned Sickle Cell; this could be categorized as such, for example.
The following qualify as items of interest (but not limited to):
- Sweeping generalities about a race, essentially stereotyping
- Any comment that is racially focused and derogatory in nature
- Use of racial slurs
- Noticeable and repeated targeting of an individual or group (Newsvine member or otherwise) that has clear racial motivations
When an item of interest is found, we move to step two...
Step 2. Determine Intent
Once an article, seed, or comment contains any of the elements listed above, the next step is to determine intent. This is the most time consuming step as it requires a thorough review of the article or seed, as well as all comments leading up to and following the item of interest. Many times it also requires reviewing members' comment history on other topics to determine if the item was poorly worded sarcasm or some other unintended statement. Basically, in all cases an item of interest is given the best possible light (innocent until proven otherwise) until that position is proven false by context or direct usage.
Intent is derived by the following factors:
- User history regarding the topic
- Events leading up to the item of interest - a.k.a., peer pressure, escalation, etc.
- The item itself; how was it structured, possible interpretations, word selection/usage
If it is determined that an item of interest was crafted with no reasonable doubt as to how it would be received, then the item still needs to pass one final gate - Peer review.
Step 3. Peer Review
The final step involves me enlisting the help of a polling group from a community college near where I live. As ethnic, economic, and cultural diversity is high in my area, I feel positive that this would be fairly representative of the user base here at Newsvine. It also removes the items from review here, as I do not feel the needed impartiality could be provided in this setting. The items of interest will be presented in two ways: Without context, and with context. If the review group believes the item to be racially intolerant, insensitive, or slanderous in both cases, it is flagged for inclusion in the article. If the group only finds it offensive in one case, it is not included.
The article will be posted until superseded by the following article. All items discovered will be turned over to Newsvine staff along with all supporting documentation at the time the article is published.
After a discussion with Newsvine staff and review of how the community would receive a project like this I made the decision to not move forward. As a note, I did find several cases that would have been published in the monthly letter but feel that the nature of some participants here is such that they would not see this for what it is; a call for them to improve how they debate and argue.