Here is a representative example of what Open Oxford falsely thinks of itself:
... no one is made to feel unwelcome for their opinions, and every viewpoint, no matter how controversial, can be expressed freely and without fear ... value the free exchange of ideas, and not to restrict on the basis of the opinions ... to create and nurture a culture of open debate and pluralism.1)
... If all ideas cannot be debated, without fear ... how is our society supposed to be organised by reason and understanding rather than groupthink and prejudice?
Admin_1 deleted 5 posts which he claims were "spam". They were not in the category of things everyone agrees is spam, like links posted by a bot advertising viagra, online poker, etc.
Rather, what Admin_1 deleted was a different style of discussion than he's accustomed to and prefers. He reinterpreted a disagreement of ideas (about how to discuss, writing styles, etc) as something else other than a disagreement of ideas (in this case "spam". In other cases various other things considered illegitimate are used like "trolling" or "harassment".)
A major tactic against free speech is portray it as something else. E.g., reinterpreting speech as trolling, spam, hate, obscenity or profanity, as an excuse to censor it. In the same way that unwanted/dislike (by the parent) behavior of children must be seen as disagreement (not misbehavior, sin, willful troublemaking, etc), so too must unwanted/disliked speech be seen as disagreement (not misbehavior, sin, willful troublemaking, etc)
Admin_2 and Admin_3 don't understand free speech either, see (7) and (8) below.
A poster was doxed and consequently left (preventing his free speech, because Open Oxford is not a safe space).
Doxing like seen at Open Oxford is initiation of force. The standard purpose of doxing is:
A) IRL violence, harassment, intimidation or other force
B) Threat of (A), making people feel unsafe or threatened
C) Incitement or aid for others to do (A) or (B)
Doxing can also violate property rights over the information in question.
Force like this is or should be a serious crime. It is incompatible with a free society and free speech. Initiation of force – via intimidation tactics involving harassment or threat of harassment – must not be allowed in a discussion.
There is no outcry, nothing is being done to prevent it from reoccurring and make people feel safe from force at Open Oxford. The doxer wasn't banned, and rules about doxing were not clarified. In fact, the doxing was openly supported by many posters, including an admin. Open Oxford has a dangerous mob atmosphere which is actively suppressing discussion.
(FYI, the dox comment was deleted.)
Admin_2 admitted he deleted a comment because he didn't like it ("For the record, I deleted that comment because it was borderline abusive."). Here is the comment:
Context, discussing dating ideas: "Eww, fuck this shit."
Reply that Admin_2 deleted: "You sound cute, what's your number?"
That is speech. That is a discussion style – responding to hostility with a joke. It's super mild, but it shouldn't really even matter what it is. Shouldn't Admin_2 be the one explaining himself? Why hasn't he posted full written documentation of all his moderator activity – including his reasoning – like some other Facebook groups do?
Flaming someone's comment as abusive is low quality discussion, not justification of censorship.
But Open Oxford doesn't even have clear and accurate written documentation of what the moderator policies are in the first place. The result is as expected: arbitrary rule of man, rather than predictable rule of law. That isn't free speech or open discussion, it's unpredictable and unaccountable censorship.
To make matters much worse, the comment Admin_2 deleted was the very same comment the doxer had targeted. So Admin_2 sided with a thug and censored the exact thing the thug didn't like, giving the thug what he wanted.
Admin_2 threatens to ban people from the discussion merely for posting ideas Admin_2 doesn't like. Admin_2 feels no need to give clear reasons for his threats, or clear criteria for what would constitute adequate obedience not to be censored.
Demands like to stop being "needlessly obnoxious" or stop making "offensive personal remarks" are hopelessly vague. That's arbitrary power.
Open Oxford lacks intellectual leadership. No one is setting a good example and leading the way. No one is teaching new members how to participate more productively. No one is making essays or videos explaining how to have a productive intellectual discussion. Without teaching, demonstrations or leadership, how will the community improve and grow?
And Open Oxford's goals are vague. Is there any intention of creating new knowledge? Is this about objective truth-seeking? Is anyone expecting to actually resolve any issues? Or is it just joking around and feeling better about ourselves because we're associated with something that partially pretends to be intellectual?
Open Oxford's missing moderation rules are replaced by the unpredictable oppression of vague social conventions and pressures. Where you don't have clear rules, people mostly do what feels right to them, rather than actually tolerating everything. Without clear distinctions about what crosses a line, you have everyone (including admins) making up their own lines about what is open discussion and what is somehow line-crossing. This has worked out, as should be expected, largely along conventional mob-mentality lines.
OO admin Admin_3 repeatedly demanded the dox victim be banned from the group, because he interprets speech he disagrees with as abuse. People writing ideas he doesn't like, he writes, "literally just abused the policy" – referring to OO's policy of free speech. He added that he felt people were being "needlessly stubborn" about the issue of whether to ban anyone who expressed an opinion he doesn't like.
Admin_2 posted, "if you make any more offensive personal remarks I'll remove you from the group. Even if you don't, you're causing people completely needless upset by arguing in this deliberately offensive way. It would also be nice if we could all try to engage with the actual ideas in this thread. Why don't you restate your argument in non personal, non emotive language?"
Let's go into detail on this. There are important misconceptions about free speech and reason here:
What's "needless" is a matter of ideas people can disagree about, not a fact.
Being deliberately offensive is a style choice that some people actually consider a moral duty. Again, there are ideas in dispute.
The demand for non-emotive language (also called "tone policing") is a requirement to write in Admin_2's style, or a range of styles that seem OK to Admin_2. But don't use other more different styles! This is a way of suppressing certain types of speech (emotive language) without realizing there is a disagreement of ideas involved, and that it's suppressing ideas. (When people write emotive language, they frequently believe that's good and right and proper – they have different ideas about how to think and discuss and communicate than Admin_2 does. Which is completely fine until someone starts demanding that other people conform to his discussion standards without understanding that he's suppressing ideas.)
Emotive language is important. In Cohen v. California, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of a man who had a jacket that said "Fuck the Draft". That's a good reminder of what free speech means – it includes emotive and offensive speech.
It's unclear what Admin_2 thinks constitutes a personal remark. But it is nevertheless clear, in general principle, that people may disagree about what remarks are personal, and that Admin_2 is threatening to ban people who have and follow certain ideas about that topic. Again the theme is Admin_2 does not seem to be aware that it's a topic where people have ideas which disagree with his. He doesn't seem to recognize many topics as potential areas for debate and open discussion.
It's unclear what Admin_2 considers offensive. Trying to disallow offensive speech is a particularly well known and egregious way of suppressing free speech. People routinely find the ideas of their debate opponents offensive. So what? If we can't post unpopular, offensive things here, then Open Oxford is a joke.
Admin_2's concept of how to engage with ideas in discussion is another view he's trying to impose on others, without seeming to recognize it's a controversial topic. When Admin_2 demands people "try to engage with the actual ideas", it's a demand they do it in such a way that Admin_2 would agree that's what they've done – he's demanding actions fitting his own ideas about discussions.
To sum up, Admin_2 has many ideas about how to have a discussion. That's fine. Rather than explain them and try to persuade others of why they are wise, Admin_2 takes them for granted as facts of reality, and threatens to remove people from the group if they think differently than he does.
Admin_2 is blind to many opportunities for critical discussion. That wouldn't be a big deal if this was a free speech zone, because then people could point it out. Everyone has flaws. But it becomes a big deal when Admin_2 is an admin with blindspots that lead to ban threats and deleting comments.
A free speech zone – like Open Oxford aspires to be – needs admins that understand the principles of free speech. It needs leadership that defends the expression of unpopular views, instead of joining the angry mob.
I hope people will find this criticism helpful and use it as an opportunity to improve.
[Disclosure: I wrote the "spam" comments and I was the dox victim. Also worth noting: I reported the dox to Facebook which found that it was harassment which violated Facebook rules. Facebook (redundantly) removed it.]
[Note: The 3 admins discussed were anonymized as a personal favor to a friend. Normally I would have included their names.]
[Note: The Open Oxford rule (that contradicts open discussion) not to repost text anywhere else did not exist at the time I had these discussions, it was created later and doesn't apply.]
Update: Open Oxford removed me from the group, no reason given.