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The outcome of collaborative, democratic writing of a new rule takes its final step today. This will be a "vote" by the Daily Kos community. To say "Nay" to the proposed rule, you should recommend this diary. To say "Aye," you should go to this diary and recommend it. Only the vote/recommendations of Kossacks registered before October 21 will be counted. Voting will continue until the recommendation period expires in 24 hours.

You can read diaries about how this proposal came about here, here, here, here and, most recently, here.

Out of the process has emerged the Final Version of a proposed stalking rule.

The proposal is not part of any plan to add tons of new rules. Daily Kos has always been governed by the idea that the fewer rules the better. Too many rules get in the way of hearty debate. Large numbers of users have, however, expressed a need to clarify some existing rules - including some long-standing "unwritten rules" - and provide a few new rules dealing with out-of-control behavior they believe has lowered civility and driven some users off the site.

You can read the proposed rule, some rationale for it, and some commentary on its use (if approved) after the fold.

As you can see in the work room generously set up for us by David Stern of MixedInk several versions competed with each other, and there are four runners-up in a process that included 70 active participants and more than 800 visitors. (To do this, click on the link and then on the browsing button.) Although the process was collaborative, the Final Version you're reading here (and voting for or against) was written by Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse.

Stalking is defined as having 3 requirements:

(1) On multiple occasions, one or more commenters follow a community member into diary threads; and,

(2) The commenter(s) engage in the conduct of posting comments that consists of false information, personal attacks, lies, rumors, or implied/express disclosure of private information; and

(3) The commenter(s) engages in this conduct with the intent to harass, harm, humiliate, frighten or intimidate another poster. This intent may be inferred from the number of times that the commenter follows a community member on the boards and/or the nature of the comments posted.

Stalking does not include the mere expression of disagreement, seeking out diaries or comments of favorite diarists or simply frequent interaction on the boards.

Before calling someone a stalker or tossing HRs at a person you think is a stalker, community members should post a comment explaining what conduct and/or statements constitutes the stalking with a link to relevant evidence so that admins and the community have a record to review.

Posters should not recommend a comment calling someone a stalker or HR'd for stalking simply because of friendships but should review the evidence provided in the comment to reach their own independent conclusions.

PDNC also explained some background:


When this process of drafting a rule started, I did not support adding a written rule on stalking. A couple things changed my mind:

(1) Many times when someone claims stalking, my review of the comments shows that it really was a case of spamming or thread hijacking or other conduct for which we already have rules. But then I realized that some are HR'ing on the grounds of stalking (even though we do not have an official rule on stalking) and; more importantly, some people are being tagged a stalker unjustly, and there are negative perceptions associated with being a stalker.

(2) While we do not have an official stalking rule, we already have a de facto rule of stalking. Community members are now claiming in comments that someone is stalking them. Sometimes people then toss an HR at the person who is called a stalker. Oftentimes, there are no reasons offered as to why the person is a stalker, or there may be general reasons provided, but people do not always provide links to substantiate the claim of stalking.

I think stalking is a serious allegation. Even if no administrative action is taken, persons who are called stalkers have been HR'd and there is the more serious impact of the perception in our community that a person is a stalker.

I think that a de facto rule can lead to arbitrary treatment. So, if we are going to continue to HR alleged stalkers or call members stalkers, then I think there should be some guidelines rather than HR'ing or tagging based on individual standards that may vary from one person to another.

This is what I think my proposed rule would accomplish:

(1) While spamming or thread hijacking can be a tool used to accomplish stalking, this rule would separate out real stalking cases from cases that are just spamming, thread hijacking or some other existing rule violation. The benefit is that the more negative label of stalking would not be tossed at persons who are only spamming, etc.

(2) The likely pool of real stalkers for which this rule could be used is probably very small, and that is good because real stalking is a serious charge. I think many cases where stalking is now alleged would have to be addressed on the real grounds, which are spamming, thread hijacking, and other existing rule violations.

(3) It will provide transparency and equality of application to the use of stalking as now the standard is arbitrary and the grounds and evidence are not always provided on the boards.

If the rule is approved, it will be added to the FAQ. It will not apply retroactively and evidence of behavior that may have violated the rule in the past will not be admissible as grounds for administrative action. As with all rules, enforcement will be primarily by community moderation. In some cases, this can lead to autobanning, that is, a violator may receive enough Hide Ratings to ban her or him from the site permanently.

As with other rules, administrative moderation will be incremental. Rule violators will first be warned in comment threads. If violations continue, the offender will be given a red-flag warning in her or his user file, followed, if necessary, by a temporary suspension of posting privileges, and, ultimately, if the violations do not cease, a ban. Repeatedly making unfounded allegations of stalking will be dealt with in the same manner.

REMEMBER: If you recommend this diary, you are casting a "Nay" vote for the proposed rule. The vote of anyone who recommends both the "Aye" and "Nay" diaries will not be counted.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Sun Oct 25, 2009 at 11:58 AM PDT.

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