Fitzroyalty is sometimes deliberately confrontational and does not shy away from direct and uncompromising discussions about topical local issues. This inevitably causes conflict, and Fitzroyalty is a site that allows a significant degree of disagreement in the comments.
Some people are surprised how many nasty comments I allow to be published. My philosophy is that relevant comments that contribute to a debate are allowed, even if they are critical of Fitroyalty or of me personally.
Like many professional publishers, I do not allow unmoderated comments to go live. I do not want spam to fill the comments of my site, and for this reason alone I do not allow comments to automatically go live. Furthermore, some comments are so banal and stupid that they do not contribute anything to the discussion, and these are not worthy of being published.
As the publisher of the site I decide what to publish, what to delete and what to mark as spam. Some commenters are stupid, and don’t realise that their IP numbers are logged by my CMS when they comment. They think that if they post with fake names and fake emails they will get away with it. For suspect comments, I check the IP of the commenter against the history of comments submitted to the site. I catch many astroturfers that way.
Like many other professional publications, Fitzroyalty is not a democracy. Fitzroyalty is privately owned and it is managed as I choose to manage it. Letters to the editor are not all automatically published in newspapers. The editors choose what to publish. Likewise, I choose which comments to publish.
Fitzroyalty does not have an obligation to provide unlimited free speech. Readers and commenters do not have a right to have their comments published. They have no reasonable expectation of seeing their comments published. Consequently, their occasional complaints about censorship are hilarious. It’s completely inane and irrelevant.
Sometimes commenters go too far. They make moronic repetitive comments that do not advance the debate and that focus entirely on personal criticism. I feel no obligation to publish any of this rubbish. The worst of these morons become increasingly agitated as they post comment after comment that they eventually realise are not going live.
Their petty fury is so amusing. I have little time for the pathetic ramblings and incoherent arguments of some of these commenters. Sometimes they are hilarious and think that insulting me more may entice me to publish their dribble. How wrong they are.
Debate about the merits of tagging and its place in the culture of Fitzroy has continued on this post since March, with contributions spiking and dying away a few times as more people have discovered it.
One commenter, who signs their comments as ‘S’, has gone well beyond too far. After I refused to publish several of his/her dumb comments, s/he posted a comment yesterday saying ‘resorting to censorship. do you know what ddos is?’ DDoS (denial of service) is a type of cyber attack whereby multiple hits are made to a web server in an attempt to overwhelm and disable it, effectively cutting access to sites hosted on it.
Undertaking a DDoS is a criminal offense. Threatening to engage in criminal behaviour is also a criminal offense. In the morning I will be contacting CERT (Australia’s Computer Emergency Response Team). CERT is a government initiative that ‘works to ensure that all Australians and Australian businesses have access to information on how to better protect their information technology environment from cyber based threats and vulnerabilities’.
I will be informing them of the threat made against Fitzroyalty and asking them if they would like more information or whether I should report the incident to the police.
Unless s/he is masking their IP, my cowardly anonymous commenter is commenting from Richmond in Melbourne via an Optus internet account.
Around the same time that this comment was posted, I received a phone call to my landline. The man who called asked if I was Brian Ward, the publisher of Fitzroyalty. I refused to identify myself until he did. He refused to identify himself. I hung up.
This is standard procedure for me with telemarketers. They’re not used to being questioned in return and don’t know how to respond. I enjoy interrupting their routine, but this time it was different. This was not a marketer. This was a stalker.
Due to the timing, I think it likely that these two situations are linked. It may be possible for the police to trace this call. Perhaps this call came from a home or office in Richmond. This man is not as anonymous as he probably think he is and, as he reads this, he may be feeling increasingly nervous as he imagines the Federal Police knocking on his door…
Update: on CERT’s advice I have reported this threat to the Federal Police.