Appeal to censorship
| Someone is wrong on|
Appeal to censorship occurs when dissenting ideas are removed or silenced in order to make a statement appear unanswered, and thus more probably true. The idea comes down to "I'm correct because nobody else disagrees
(because I removed all dissent)".
Whether or not this is an acceptable practice depends entirely on the mission of the website in question and the way in which the comments are presented. The deletion of constructive and on-topic comments is particularly disingenuous when the website in question claims to value freedom of speech.
Deletion of dissenting views may give the original article a false sense of validity, in that to the casual user it appears that no-one has been able to offer valid criticism. It's a bit like a Congress voting on a bill, and locking the doors to prevent dissenters from voting against it; or Pride's Purge in English history, in which dissidents were arrested by soldiers if they attempted to enter the House of Commons.
- I made statement P!
P is wrong because it's an appeal to authority.
- Nobody has disagreed!
Hey! Stop deleting my posts!
- P is true!
Wikis provide paper trails (also known as "histories", or here on RationalWiki, the "fossil record") through which edits and deletions are recorded and visible to users, with the possibility of restoring previously deleted content. Most wiki packages allow a comment to be written to explain the reasoning behind a deletion, but use of this is governed by policies decided on a site-by-site basis. Techniques can be used to make users and their comments vanish from the history of the wiki. This practice is known as deep burning. This revisionism is particularly useful when the simple deletion of a comment would leave behind the impression that a comment was deleted for being inconveniently correct.
Forums and blogs
Forums and blogs do not normally provide the detailed history visible in wikis and there are too many software packages to describe them all. Blogs and forums are governed by a mixture of technical features and site-by-site policy. In most cases, editing of user-posted comments would be flagged as having been modified by an administrator, the original content being hidden from view. Blog/forum software packages tend to allow for the deletion of entire posts, with some leaving behind a note stating that the post was removed by an administrator. In some blogs, the posting of comments must be vetted by an administrator before being allowed to appear on the site, the refusal of which may effectively be disagreement by deletion. In other cases a blog owner may simply block comments from being made, either by default, or if they feel that their views are going to be challenged. This is not inherently dishonest, since the blog owner may not wish to discuss their work, and atheism-oriented sites could forbid proselytizing and arguments consisting entirely of random quotes from scripture.
- A deletion on RationalWiki This is an example of a RationalWiki deletion in which comments were provided to explain the action. Note as well that a historical record is preserved, and the deletion reversed.
- RationalWiki has an Etiquette article in which editors are instructed to follow specific guidelines when removing edits. Well-intentioned edits are afforded more protection than obvious vandalism, the former requiring editors to explain their actions in greater detail.
- Ray Comfort's blog In Comfort's blog, previously rather oddly named Atheist Central, he states that the following will lead to deletion: "Cuss words (mild or abbrev.), blasphemy, URL’s, incivility, or failure to give the name 'God' or 'Jesus' capitals, will be deleted."
- Quotes from scripture carry little weight among those who place holy books in the same category as Lord of The Rings, unless of course the discussion is centered on those books and associated religious positions.