Being a Censor

Being a Censor

Anarchists hate censors.  Who should have the authority to prevent someone from expressing their right to free speech?  Certainly not the state which has it’s own oppressive agenda.  Yet these days, somewhat reluctantly and distressingly, I am donning the hat of a censor.  There is, of course, a story.

Twin Oaks has a number of ways it presents itself to the world.  There is large, complex website which gives information about the community, how to join the visitor program or participate in our 3 hour Saturday tour, media coverage about the community and more.  There are distinct business websites for Hammocks, Tofu, the Women’s Gathering in August and the Communities Conference over Labor Day.  There are also numerous presences of Facebook, including one for ex-members and long time followers of the commune called “Friends of Twin Oaks”. There is a new collective blog called “Running in ZK” and soon there will be an official blog.

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Valerie and I manage outreach and recruiting for the community.  There are a number of different tasks which fall under this managership. Valerie corresponds with prospective visitors and guests, answering their questions and scheduling their visits.  She also responds to media requests for interviews and information.  I work with people who are considering the community and have obstacles to membership (typically debts or pets or complicated family or legal situations).  Also part of this area is the TOAST program, Twin Oaks Academic Speaking tour, which presents about the community at colleges and universities.  We coordinate the articles written about the community for the progressive and mainstream press as well as reviewing posts for some of the various blogs.

you will never know

you will never know

And now, we are the ones who resolve disputes about what is posted on the various official community facebook pages.  I don’t really want to go into the content of the recent controversy, which has consumed a bunch of time and frustrated a number of people.  However our internal process as how and what to delete from these facebook pages is worth of note.

Several ex-members started complaining about the posts of one person and asking us as administrators to take them down.  This was novel, we had not had this experience before.  They pointed out that besides being insulting and disrespectful to them, it was damaging to the reputation of the community.  This presented us with problem of how do we decide to pull someone’s writings off the Facebook page?  Is there are free speech right on what is basically an archival and promotional site for the community?

Indeed, don't block exit

Indeed, don’t block exit

In the end we decided on a very simple, and perhaps dangerous method. If someone asks for a post to be removed, we remove it.  My guess is that this wont happen very often.  And my feeling is that for most people who are looking at our various internet presences, this feels like a big request and thus wont happen frivolously.

I have been in touch with the author of the offending posts and he has gracefully agreed to stay off the site for a month and let things cool down.