Okay, so I’m a little stretched when it comes to social media. I have an account with Goodreads, BookLikes, Leafmarks, WordPress, Twitter and Facebook. I really don’t need to add to that list. But I’d seen LitRate mentioned a few times so I checked it out.
Reading through the guest posts on a number of blogs, I thought the site would be promising. Everything was looking good until I came to How we’ll balance “free speech” with moderation:
On LitRate, we’ll have a few priorities:
- Only take action against the worst possible offenses (such as hate speech).
- Never delete content. Even if something needs to be removed from view, it won’t be deleted or inaccessible to the creator.
- Let the community decide what should be removed.
Oh, that sounds ominous.
I read on for an explanation.
For everything else that doesn’t qualify as “horrendously hateful and inappropriate”, we want to let the community decide what should be visible or not. In order to do this, we’re going to implement a “vote up/down” system. Instead of “liking” a review, you can vote it up. Or, if you think a review is inappropriate, unhelpful, or just bashing the author, you can vote it down. Once a review reaches a certain amount of “down” votes, it will be hidden by default. However, you would still have the option of “click to unhide” the review if you choose to see it. Think like YouTube or Reddit comments.
We want to give our community as much freedom as possible, without turning it into a breeding ground for harassment and insults.
Anyone familiar with the Amazon review and forum system is going to dread the “vote up/down” aspect. It’s easily gamed. I’m surprised there’s no mention of how authors have time and time again called on their fans to harass certain reviewers and to vote positive reviews up and negative ones down. Or if they don’t have the fans, they’ll do it themselves via sockpuppet accounts.
YouTube and Reddit aren’t exactly friendly and polite communities on which to base a commenting system. Racism, sexism, homophobia and harassment are just some of the problematic and pervasive issues one sees on these sites, YouTube especially. Even on seemingly benign subjects. I wouldn’t feel welcome there as a woman of colour who supports gay marriage.
There’s much to like about LitRate’s intended policies with private reviews, saving reviews as drafts, the ability to customise the dashboard and site experience, and limited marketing opportunities for authors – among many other positive features. But I’d feel exposed and worried about potential abuse with a community moderated model in force when I already occasionally receive abuse on Goodreads over a few of my reviews. They’d most likely be voted down into oblivion on LitRate in an effort to silence my opinion, which is just as valid as everyone else’s, so why should I supply it when it could be hidden from other users?
At the moment LitRate’s just a concept and since it failed to successfully fund the costs for access to a book database via Kickstarter in August, I’m unsure if it will ever make it out of the planning stages. If it does, I won’t be joining.