The following article was removed from theciviccommons.com and my user account was disabled. Why?
Disabling Accounts: Should There Be Due Process?
Due Process is one of the basic principles of justice that the U.S. legal system got right (at least in word) and, surprisingly, most grassroots community organizations and efforts get very wrong in every sense.
"Due Process of law implies the right of the person affected thereby to be present before the tribunal which pronounces judgement upon the question of life, liberty, or property, in its most comprehensive sense; to be heard, by testimony or otherwise, and to have the right of controverting, by proof, every material fact which bears on the question of right in the matter involved. If any question of fact or liability be conclusively presumed against him, this is not due process of law." (1)
An example of the failure of The Civic Commons to ensure due process is the recent situation where Garry Kanter's (2) account was "disabled" (3). Since there is no procedure/feature on theciviccommons.com to ensure due process, Dan Moulthrop (4) appears to have made the decision unilaterally (5).
This brings up a few issues:
- Should there be a procedure to ensure due process for alleged violations of The Civic Commons user agreement and terms of service?
- Should public information be stored in proprietary systems like theciviccommons.com knowing that this information is controlled by special interests instead of the public as a whole? (6)
- Why was Garry Kanter's account disabled? I think the specifics of the situation should be made public so that others may share their thoughts and so that we can hold folks accountable for their opinions.
Finally, one very practical way this affects people on theciviccommons.com is that when one searches for "Dan Moulthrop," the top result is a link to his user page. However, if one searches for "Garry Kanter," Garry's user page is not listed. In the worst case, Dan could silence people he disagrees with or doesn't like by disabling their accounts and theciviccommons.com system will essentially hide the fact that the user exists. Without a solid procedure for due process, this scenario is likely to take place again.
Is The Civic Commons a true commons where everyone is equal, coming together to solve the problems we face?
I'm not seeing it, at least, not without a procedure for due process.
1) Black's Law Dictionary, 6th Edition, page 500
2) http://theciviccommons.com/conversations/ch-uh-school-facilities#node-12659 and http://theciviccommons.com/blog/why-we-sometimes-suspend-accounts
5) From The Civic Commons terms of service (http://theciviccommons.com/pages/terms): "Civic Commons reserves the unilateral discretion to interpret and apply these Rules of Engagement. Your registration for the community functions as an acknowledgement of reading and understanding these expectations"
6) There are many Free Software alternatives - http://directory.fsf.org/wiki/Main_Page