Groklaw and Censorship?

I think I may be on to something here.  I’ve come across an increasingly controversial example similar to what I’ve been posting about in this category.  I’ve posted about censorship in Linux forums and open source supportive websites, systematic categorization of Linux, as well as infiltrating open source and Linux with political and social views.  I’m an avid open source enthusiast…but I’m beginning to become ashamed of being associated with the groups I posted about.  I recently read a webpage that chronicles the traded messages of a person that posted comments on Groklaw.net and who believes that they were censored from public view.

Some of you may be familiar with Groklaw…and some of you might not.  For those of you that aren’t, Groklaw is a site started up to chronicle SCO vs. TheWorld but it has morphed into a little bit more by adding MS into the mix along with some other companies.  The site has some great information for those seeking it and it is powered by Geeklog which makes the format nice on the eyes, easy to navigate, and open source powered.

While Groklaw isn’t a direct open source project…according to the Second article on their Mission Statement, open source principles are applied.  This makes a powerful ally to FOSS, Linux, and the OSI. Or does it?  Is Groklaw actually speaking out the corners of its proverbial mouth?  At least this one user thinks so.

Al Petrofsky is the owner/operator of scofacts.org which is a site dedicated to the systematic documentation of all information on the SCO case.  I had a chance to trade a few emails with Mr. Petrofsky in order to get his take on why he feels his comments at Groklaw were censored from public view.  He believes that the main argument that Groklaw had against his comments was over copyright issues of recordings (audio/visual) that he posted.  He also argues that these copyright issues were bogus because he provides written authorization and release notices for each of his sources.  As Mr. Petrofsky found, his posts were made viewable to only himself and erased from public view as opposed to outright deletion.  It also seems that Mr. Petrofsky wasn’t the only one that reported this phenomenon either.  Al attempted to contact both Pamela Jones and Mathfox, two POC’s for groklaw.  He did receive responses that you can view in his email traffic with PJ at Groklaw, which he vouches for; “The six emails on that page were really sent or received by me, and the eight groklaw pages were really retrieved from groklaw. (I think the fact that I’m publishing that page at a website registered to me already constitutes a representation, no less official than this one, that the evidence there is not manufactured.)”

Mr. Petrofsky isn’t irritated about the fact that a site admin or owner had a problem with his post.  What gets his proverbial goat is that he discovered Groklaw was making comments (of which their comments page states, “Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments”) posted by users visible only to the users themselves.  Everyone else at the site isn’t able to see the posts.

Is this a case of deception versus rejection?  Would an outright rejection or deletion of the comment be a better way to go?  It seems that this would be a valid avenue to go even if you were unsure about the content of the comment.  If you delete the comment in question, then inform the submitting party that their comment was deleted for X reason, the person could provide validity, reasons, license, and sources for their comment(s).

Would a ‘self-moderated comment’ style of submission OR outright deletion of the comments in question be a better avenue instead of deception?  It is my opinion that it would. Mr. Petrofsky shares this opinion, “I have no problem with a newspaper editor or blog writer accepting submissions from letter writers or web visitors and choosing to publish some and discard others”…”However, groklaw has attempted to prevent that last part [rejecting submissions/content] from happening by deceiving the one person who would normally notice a stupid post-rejection decision and might tell other people about it. I find that outrageous, especially from a site that states its goal is “devotion to the truth.”

Besides Al Petrofsky, there are at least 2 other verified groklaw members who have experienced the same “post is invisible to all but me” phenomenon (note: Geeklog also has a setting for this in its latest version) I have also contacted a group of about 5 others that have first hand knowledge and experience with both Mr. Petrofsky’s situation as well as others in which these cases apply.  The question that begs to be asked is, what is going on at Groklaw?  Wouldn’t outright deletion be a better avenue to go?  While I have not officially contacted Pamela Jones from Groklaw, rest assured that it will be done within the next few days. (Editors note: Still no word back from PJ as of 8 Feb 05).

Interestingly enough, if you go over to Groklaw’s search page and enter al_petrofsky (Mr. Petrofsky’s username) and you won’t find him. I believe that Mr. Petrofsky’s account has been deleted but I have not officially confirmed this information.  A quick look to his userID at groklaw (1098 ) redirects us back to the front page so it seems as though the account has been deleted. Both uid 1099 and 1097 are valid…but 1098 is gone.  Whether this was Mr. Petrofsky’s doing or from Groklaw action has yet to be seen.

To show what Mr. Petrofsky “perceived as” deception and misdirection, look at the following saved threads from Groklaw (saved threads that had comments viewable only to Mr. Petrofsky…taken from groklaw immediately when he noticed his posts weren’t visible) mirrored at scofacts.org:

It is apparent that something happened with Mr. Petrofsky’s posts.  There are far too many plagiarized comments visible from “anonymous” immediately following his posts that received responses on them.  One is curious as to why comments were received on those plagiarized posts and not on Mr. Petrofsky’s.  As he stated earlier, the debate isn’t about the deletion of the aforementioned posts, but rather, the way in which Mr. Petrofsky’s posts were addressed.  Making the posts visible to only himself and site administrators/moderators can be seen as a direct form of deception.  While not outside of the limitations of a site administrator or moderator’s power, it does bring up a question of morals.  Is it ok to deceive your supporters and readers/site visitors?  I say no.  In my opinion, any form of deception discredits your reputation to yourself and your site visitors.

Some may ask, why I posted this at all. Good question.  I think it is because I’ve started documenting in the category “GreatDivide” examples of definite or possible injustice and outright nastiness that happens to people/groups/individuals that are active in or supportive of free and open source software (FOSS).  It’s also a platform for injustices that are done with intent to harm FOSS.  I found it fitting that I post this article in that category and on this blog.  Even though Groklaw is not an open source project, it does support open source…refer back to #2 on the mission statement and you can see why this was posted here.  While not all of you may agree with what is claimed above, rest assured that there will be future developments and clarifications on the way.

Currently, I am contacting PJ of groklaw.net to verify her side in things (one has to be fair). More to come on this.

This content is published under the Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

About

devnet has been a project manager for a Fortune 500 company, a Unix administrator, a Technical Writer, and a System Analyst during his 10 years working with Technology.

  • br3n

    you did a good job as far as that story goes.
    jabriel from yahoo scox stock board has an even better story.

    i was a moderator on groklaw also.no longer part of the site.

    question tho.
    how do coders feel about groklaw helping with licensing decisions now such as she participated in the SUN CDDL licensing?
    if they are ok with that when will she be added to the list of people to decide whose code gets accepted.
    and remember no foul language or even short cuts of letter substituetes allowed on groklaw. will that be another issue?
    br3n

  • Terrence W. Zellers

    Abandon all hope ye who partake of Grokwar. I’m afraid it’s demons will haunt those of us who have been part of it unto the seventh generation.

    http://www.ip-wars.net/story/2004/11/5/63016/7695

    — TWZ (aka ColonelZen)

  • Anonymous

    I think she has garnered far too much of a reputation as a ‘journalist’ and that it is much undeserved. I’d be a journalist too if I had 5000 or so geeks posting story ideas everyday.

  • br3n

    i dont want to belittle her writing skills.she is excellent with words but after my experience with her i have a very jaunbdiced view of what she says as opposed to what i believed she was saying.
    now whether that is my own fault is something that i am still discovering but there are questions and they deserve honest discussion.

  • http://linux-blog.org/index.php?/archives/62-Disagreements-+-Groklaw-Deletion.html Yet Another Linux Blog

    Open source software. When one builds their site upon open source and with supportive intentions toward open source, they are declaring that this site will have its innards laid bare and have an open policy toward all walks of life, all opinions for good

  • Joe

    Having attempted to post a comment on lxer that questioned the validity of what tadelste was stating (He stated that MSFT had placed an ad on a webpage when in fact it was a rotating ad and he just timed it right) and he promptly removed my critique and stated it violated their TOS.

    This is what the OSS movement is beginning to move towards, the same FUD that they accuse MSFT of, sad.

  • roman

    I’ve had this censorship experience myself, and recently, as in within the last two days. I’ve posted a disagreement with PJ and today discovered that I can only see the comment when signed in. The comments aren’t viewable to the general public.

    Gotta love it.

    -roman