My Experience with Quora’s Collapse Detectives

… there were several revealing “analyses” to the “problem” with my answer trotted out on Collapse Detectives.  I have chosen two conversations to post below. The first one is typical of rhetorical tactics/pseudo-logic we often note among Israel apologists (notice the condescending and also accusatory tone Graeme Shimmin uses, even as he is invoking Quora’s “civility” policy as guidance for me). The second exchange with Altuğ Gür I believe stems from sincere confusion about anti-Semitism, Israel as a Jewish State, and the nature of political Zionism.

See what you think…

A few days ago, an answer I wrote to a question (How does Israel justify being a democracy when it blocks websites? ) asked by Radi Annab on Quora was “collapsed” by Quora Moderation.  That means it becomes invisible to the community.

Answers on Quora are collapsed when they are reported as breaking Quora “Be Nice, Be Polite” policy or any other policy.  There is a strong perception among many readers that Quora’s Zionist members aggressively and maliciously report and collapse answers criticizing Israel and Zionism (often on the basis of “anti-Semitism”), and engage in familiar hasbara dirty tricks like causing questions to be deleted and erasing relevant topics (in order to limit circulation) or merging one question with another by way of hiding certain answers they don’t like.  If a writer is found to be in repeated violation of Quora policies, he or she is banned, as I was recently and then reinstated.

After I was reinstated on Quora and my answer to Radi Annab’s question was collapsed, I received constructive feedback from another writer on Quora, René Alix, who believed that Quora Moderation is not biased in its practices against Palestinian Arabs or anyone; that much of the activity there is automated and mechanical.  He explained how, for example, one could train the bot to “revert” relevant topics associated with a question it does not recognize as relevant (the bot does not seem to understand that a question about Israel more often than not is also about Palestine and Zionism and cannot be answered properly without reference to these two topics).

Because Quora Moderation does not explain why it collapses answers beyond a general reference to “a policy violation”,  René Alix recommended that I check with a Quora blog called Collapse Detectives, where one might be able to get informed analyses and guesses from other Quora members regarding the collapse of an answer.  In the past, several of my collapsed answers were uncollapsed by the moderators with an apology that the collapse was “a mistake”.  I never quite understood how these “mistakes” occurred in the first place, and so my suspicion of biased activity on the part of the moderators had simply intensified.

This time, taking René Alix’s excellent advice, I submitted a question to Collapse Detectives regarding my latest collapsed answer to: How does Israel justify being a democracy when it blocks websites?

I got two useful tips there – one was that Quora had a policy against posting images with text.  I had posted a cartoon by the Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff  that included the words “No Criticism Allowed”; and the other suggested I focus my answer, so that it is directly responsive to the question.  I went ahead and deleted the cartoon and added the following brief introduction to the answer to help focus it:  “Israel can no more justify being a democracy by blocking websites than China or Saudi Arabia can. It justifies its action in different ways as described below.”  Quora Moderation responded to my appeal positively after I made those changes and uncollapsed the answer.

However, there were several revealing “analyses” to the “problem” with my answer trotted out on Collapse Detectives.  I have chosen two conversations to post below. The first one is typical of rhetorical tactics/pseudo-logic we often note among Israel apologists (notice the condescending and also accusatory tone Graeme Shimmin uses, even as he is invoking Quora’s “civility” policy as guidance for me).  The second exchange with Altuğ Gür I believe stems from sincere confusion on his part about anti-Semitism, Israel as a Jewish State, and the nature of political Zionism.  The reason I write on Quora, in the first place, is to clarify these issues for the reader.

See what you think:

Rima Najjar

Rima Najjar

Thanks, Kieran. What is confusing to me about this policy is exactly that. I am commenting on the practices of the Israeli government and their effect on Palestinians. Can you take a look at my answer and give me an example of a phrasing that breaks the BNBR policy and explain why?

Graeme Shimmin

Graeme Shimmin

Here’s a few: “misinformation”, “criminal”, “typical Zionist tactic”, “hate-mongering”, “Apartheid regime”, “spew hatred”, “illigitimacy”, “brainwashing”, “dogma”, “Zionist myths”.

Note that it doesn’t matter if those descriptions are correct – the BNBR policy is not about whether things are correct, it’s about talking to people in polite language.

Here’s a trick: imagine you are discussing the question in a university with a group of professors. Write as you would talk to them, not as if you are addressing a political meeting.

The people telling you that the answer doesn’t answer the question are right BTW. The question is “How does the Israeli government justify…” As far as I can see this answer don’t answer that question.

You can listen to the people here who are trying to help you or not, but if you don’t you answers will continue to be collapsed and eventually you’ll be banned.

Rima Najjar

Rima Najjar

Sounds like you have not read my answer. There is a difference between using strong language gratuitously and using it to reflect a substantiated reality when the situation warrants it, and Quora is far from an academic forum; in fact it encourages a personal point of view.

There is also a difference between being rude to people and the use of “civility” to chill speech on Israel and its unconscionable practices toward the Palestinian people.

But I take your point about “not answering the question”. I understood it as rhetorical, in that Israel’s action disproves its claim to democracy. I have added the following introductory sentence to the answer: “Israel can no more justify being a democracy by blocking websites than China or Saudi Arabia can. It justifies its action in different ways as described below.”

Graeme Shimmin

Graeme Shimmin

Try and listen to what the people who are trying to help you are saying. There is literally no point in arguing with me. I don’t make the rules or have any influence on them whatsoever.

You can complain all you like that the rules shouldn’t be what they are, but again you are wasting your time doing so. The rules have been what they are ever since Quora started and they are not going to change. If you don’t like that then your only option is to stop using Quora.

If you refuse to moderate your tone you will be banned. Again there is no point in arguing with me about this – it won’t be me who bans you, and I will have no say in it, I’m simply try to help you understand what the situation is.

Rima Najjar

Rima Najjar

Graeme, I have already been banned once and don’t wish to be banned again, which is why I am trying to understand the rules that malicious reporting by people who do not like what I have to say about Israel, Palestine and Zionism use to allow moderators to collapse my answer. I will not, however, compromise the integrity of the content of my answers. I go out of my way to substantiate what I say. You think, for example, that “Apartheid” is not appropriate language to use in connection with Israel (just to take one of the examples you cite above). I doubt Quora policy is meant for me to be polite toward Israel and to shy away from accurate and substantiated descriptions of its practices. If that were the case, then I myself would not wish to write for Quora.

Graeme Shimmin

Graeme Shimmin

You obviously don’t want to be helped to follow the rules, so there’s nothing more we can do.

Rima Najjar

Rima Najjar

Graeme Shimmin

Graeme Shimmin

 That answer will not be uncollapsed due to the changes you’ve made.

Rima Najjar

Rima Najjar

Graeme Shimmin

Graeme Shimmin

Try to read the sentence below very slowly and carefully so you finally understand:

It is not up to me which answers are collapsed or who is banned.

Okay? Do you get that now?

Rima Najjar

Rima Najjar

Yes, I get that, thank you, Graeme. What I am saying is that Quora policy is not designed to eliminate answers concerning Palestine, Israel, Zionism that do not tow the line in accordance with Israeli official hasbara. Do you know otherwise for sure?

Graeme Shimmin

Graeme Shimmin

I know for sure that it isn’t designed to make people ‘tow the line’ on Israel or any other topic. The policy is politically neutral. You can read it for yourself here: What is Quora’s “Be Nice, Be Respectful” policy?

Your arguments that BNBR policy is wrong or shouldn’t apply have been presented hundreds of times before and have failed hundreds of times. In fact they are so common that we play a game called “BNBR bingo” with them.

Have a look at the list I wrote here: What exceptions to the ‘Be Nice Be Respectful’ policy are there? Ask yourself if the arguments you are making about how you don’t have to follow the BNBR rule or it shouldn’t apply to you are on that list. If they are then they will not work.

Rima Najjar

Rima Najjar

Graeme, I am all for following BNBR rules, which is why I am trying to understand them.

I am not arguing that BRNB policy is wrong; I am arguing that your interpretation that I am breaking policy by using strong but well-substantiated language to describe Israel’s actions is wrong.

It looks like we both agree that BNBR policy is meant to be neutral even when it comes to Israel, Palestine and Zionism.
My experience of several collapsed answers “by mistake” that were uncollapsed goes to show that (I have written over a 100 answers on these topics).

The one answer that seemed to contradict this about the policy was a moderation decision that appeared to conflate anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism. This was ironic, because I was writing about that very issue in the world outside Quora, and discussing how a top barrister has slammed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the UK as lacking clarity in its references, rendering it useless as a legal tool.

I write “seemed” and “appeared” because I don’t know for sure, as no reason is usually given, hence my trying to gain insight from experienced Quora people o this forum.

Graeme Shimmin

Graeme Shimmin

Well, good luck with it. I don’t think there’s anything else I can do to help.

Rima Najjar

Rima Najjar

_____________________

Altuğ Gür

The way I see it, your answer contains disparaging statements against Jews. Most probably it is the reason it violates BNBR policy.

I’d recommend readjusting the tone of your answer (as well as shortening it a bit, as it goes all over the political landscape while trying to answer the question, in my opinion) so that it doesn’t discriminate against a person, race, members of a religion or nationality.

It is one thing to criticize Israeli government, which is perfectly fine, and something else to generalize an entire nationality.

For example, try “Israeli government’s colonialistic approach…” instead of “Jewish colonialism…” and then reread your statement. Does it sound like the truth? If not, simply remove it, as it does not reflect the objective truth but rather a statement of a personal belief.

Hope this helps.

Rima Najjar

Rima Najjar

Altuğ Gür, I just saw your comment (the answer has been uncollapsed based on two changes I made – removing the image and adding a short introductory statement to the answer to help focus it.) But thank you for your sincere observations.

Regarding your comments re: “disparaging statements against Jews”, allow me to share with you why, from a Palestinian point of view, references to Jews in a negative light do not stem from an animus against Jews (i.e.-anti-Semitism), but are rather a necessary part of the discourse imposed on us by the creation of the Jewish state in the heart of Palestine against the will of Palestinian Arabs (Muslims and Christian) – the vast majority inhabitants in Palestine, even after intensive Zionist Jewish colonization of and immigration to Palestine.

As I wrote (on Quora, later published here and several other places):
‘”The Jews are our misfortune” was the Nazi pronouncement emanating from virulent anti-Semitism that led to disastrous consequences, but the phrase is literally and objectively true in Palestine, where the Zionist Jewish entity is ensconced, actively practicing a brutal settler-colonial regime. Palestinian resistance against Israel is neither driven by anti-Semitism nor by “Islamic” terror.’

Israel’s Illegitimate Tactics Against Palestinian Armed Resistance vs. Legitimate Global Security Concerns

Author: mypalestinianscrapbook

I am an activist for justice in Palestine, researcher and retired professor of English literature at Al-Quds University in the occupied West Bank, Palestine.  My father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem and my mother's family is from the depopulated village of Ijzim, Haifa.  

2 thoughts on “My Experience with Quora’s Collapse Detectives”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s