Over the last few days there have been a lot of complaints in our forum about the moderation of comments. The general theme of the complaints is that we do not approve all comments or that we are selectively excluding certain comments.
We appreciate the feedback, but there are a number of things everyone needs to consider when it comes to our forum.
Our forum is intended to be a source of information, referrals, resources and support for registrants. We have a member code of conduct that governs every aspect of our organization, including our forum. The following is an excerpt from our member code of conduct, “Members are required to treat other FAC Members, politicians, police, probation officers, treatment providers, members of the media as well as all third parties with whom FAC interacts, with respect, dignity, honesty and fairness. Threatening, insubordinate, violent or obscene behavior by any Member will not be tolerated. Any conduct that encourages or permits an offensive or hostile environment will not be tolerated. Members are expected to communicate with candor, courtesy and respect. Members must realize that Registered Citizens are already perceived in an unfavorable light and for that reason we must conduct ourselves in a manner that reflects the highest ethical standards and most professional conduct in order to strengthen the public’s perception.”
If a comment falls outside the code of conduct, we will exclude it. If your comment was excluded, ask yourself whether it fell outside the Code of Conduct. Did you use an offensive term to refer to one of the categories of people mentioned above? Was your comment bashing a certain religion or political group? You have to keep in mind that our forum is not a closed community. Any member of the public can read these comments and even some who you might not think are reading it, are. You also have to keep in mind that even though we share the same goal (abolishing the registry), you can’t assume that makes us the same in every way. We certainly do not want to alienate or offend anybody because we want them to feel safe, comfortable and accepted.
Our forum is also intended to be a source of information. Some commenters spread blatant misinformation (even unintentionally). Occasionally we will post the comment with a correction, including a reference to the Florida Statute, if we know that the comment is wrong. Other times, if we’re unsure of the accuracy of the information or can’t find it in the statutes, we will ask the person who made the comment to provide a reference to the source/statute/ordinance. But pretty often the information is just blatantly wrong based on the clear language of the Statute or case law. Rather than debate the law (we are not a law firm so we’re not qualified to give legal opinions anyhow) or confuse our readers into relying on something that is not correct, we delete the comment.
That said, we absolutely DO want people to share new laws or other information on this forum. That’s what we are here for. However, as a general guideline, if you are going to do so, please cite to the source of information, whether it is a statute number or even a news article from which we can validate the information. If you announce that a new Bill was passed that requires XYZ and we know that Legislative Session isn’t for another few months, we’re not going to post it. We also recognize that we have members from other states. If you are going to share information that is only relevant to your State (or County), please make mention of that. For example, you can write, “I am from ABC State and spoke to my Sheriff’s office who said I don’t need to report if I stay in a hotel for 5 days”, but please make sure that you mention that critical fact or you might cause another of our members in Florida to unintentionally violate the law in reliance on what you wrote.
As far as posting comments from trolls or people who disagree with our position on registration, yes, we do occasionally allow their comments through. As we’ve said, people who you would not think read this forum and responding to their post is an opportunity to rebut their opinion or provide facts in opposition. We know that there are many who disagree with us out there, and we want them to be educated by the information on our site also. If we just use this forum to chat among ourselves, we are preaching to the choir. On the other hand, if someone comes in and posts one of the many myths about people on the registry, you can write the facts and cite the research and throw it back at them. When the daughter (and victim) of a murdered registrant found our site and commented, we actually engaged in productive dialogue and developed empathy for each other. It was a positive exchange.
Also, sometimes we need to remove comments that drive the conversation off topic. If the post is about homeless registrants being evicted and the topic gets diverted to travel restrictions, we might not allow a perfectly acceptable comment because it has nothing to do with the topic and we need to keep the discussion on track. If anyone has a topic they would like to discuss, please feel free to write up the post and submit it to [email protected]. We try to post as many Member Submissions as possible but the reality is we barely get any. If there is a topic you want covered, this is your formal invitation to write up a few paragraphs about that topic or opinion (related to the cause, naturally) and send it in to us.
Finally, everyone needs to keep in mind that the individuals who review the comments are volunteers, we are not professional moderators or umpires. Thankfully, over the years, this site has accumulated tens of thousands of comments. It’s a lot to read through and there are multiple people managing the site. Sometimes a comment that should have been filtered out makes it through or the moderator accidentally clicks the wrong button. The person moderating might have a different level of sensitivity to what was written or might not have read the prior posts to understand the full context of the discussion thread. For whatever reason, it happens. We are human. We’ve made mistakes even in stuff we wrote and posted ourselves. Recently, when Ruth Ginsburg died, we dedicated a weekly update to her (primarily because of her dissent in Smith v. Doe), but mentioned other landmark decisions we suggested were great. The following weekly update was dedicated to apologizing for the prior one, because not everyone agrees with Roe v. Wade and we clearly offended some of our readers.
The bottom line is we want to be able to include as much valuable content to our site as possible and make every reader feel at home. If we allowed a post you feel is offensive, trashed a post you feel is valid or otherwise missed the mark on anything related to our site or our organization, reach out and let us know.
We appreciate you reading and participating. We appreciate your support of our organization.