Interesting article in the Times on a number of atheists criticising Richard Dawkins for changes to moderation on his website:

The split occurred after he announced that a discussion section on his website, considered one of the busiest online atheist forums, would in future be tightly moderated and “irrelevant postings and frivolous gossip” would no longer be allowed.  The change was scheduled for next month but such was the torrent of abuse after the announcement that the forum had to be locked down, deepening the rift between Professor Dawkins and his 85,000 online fans.

Writing on yesterday, in a posting entitled “Outrage”, he said that there was “something rotten” in internet culture and pledged to rid his website of its abusive element:

“Imagine seeing your face described by an anonymous poster, as ‘a slack-jawed turd-in-the-mouth mug’,” he wrote. “Surely there has to be something wrong with people who can resort to such over-the-top language, overreacting so spectacularly to something so trivial. Even some of those with more temperate language are responding to the proposed changes in a way that is little short of hysterical.”

The cloak of anonymity under which many people contributed to discussions had led to a culture of extreme language that would not be possible if people wrote under their name.

Unwilling to be silenced, however, the members of the website and the 15 moderators, some of whom worked unpaid, vented their own outrage elsewhere.

“A lot of people have lost respect for Dawkins after this, although I do still support the work that he does,” said Peter Harrison, a former moderator.  “Thousands of loyal, intelligent, rational forum members have been misrepresented as a bunch of foul-mouthed, vitriolic thugs by the man who so inspired them.”

In one sense it all seems a bit like a non-story: someone owns a website and wants to stop some of the abusive language that has been happening on it.  In another way though it does seem to limit the ethos of free speech that he holds so strongly to.


Married to the amazing Sarah and raising Jakey, Daniel, Amelia, Josh & Jonah in our blended family. Passionate for Jesus, social work & sport.

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