Indymedia started in 1999 as an organizing tool for groups involved in the anti-globalization protests that found Seattle to be a battleground to expose the World Trade Organization. Protest groups were experienced enough to know that no matter what happened, the corporate media would sensationalize and limit focus to provide a very narrow and unrepresentative view of what was occurring. The reasons for the protest and any substantial analysis or criticism of the WTO would be neglected. The IMC created the open publishing Newswire so that people could exchange information quickly from anywhere in the city, and so that people across the world could immediately hear personal accounts of what was happening. The St. Louis IMC was born from the October 8th Coalition, which organized large protests to the presidential “debates” at Washington University in 2000.
The open publishing concept seemed radical and new. Dialogues could occur in this new type of public forum. Anonymity was key, because police harassment was sure to seek a way to break this mode of communication between revolutionary activists. The IMC also wanted to make sure that when they got subpoenaed, no information about individuals would be available for the courts to use.
The IMC movement is intended to highlight the stories and actions of underrepresented groups resisting oppression, and it seeks to expose the spin and hype that mainstream media puts on information. By giving everyone the tools to publish their own stories, the movement is a challenge to the ownership by a few people and corporations of “the news,” an institution that shapes so many peoples' daily conversations and perceptions of the world.
Sadly, people opposed to this happily exploited this empowerment to do the opposite. Instead of seeking dialogue, they sought dominance. Instead of seeking solutions to fostering coexistence, diversity and communication, disruptors used hate speech and cynicism to make open discussion impossible on the Newswire. Police and government agencies published their own COINTELPRO-type slander and misinformation that discredited the forum.
For a long time, this was tolerated as the price one paid for free speech. We encouraged rebuttals to point out the racism and sexism (among other ‘ism’s), and we felt there was some value to hate speech being visible, along with deconstructions of it. Let there be debates!
Nevertheless, we have recently adopted a new policy that we will be testing in the next several weeks. The new policy is not yet set in stone, but we feel it will be successful in adequately shaping the Newswire into a more desirable medium for this site's purposes. While this decision has been hard to come to, we feel it will best resolve a recurring dilemma. Many people were alienated by some of the extremely offensive content present on the Newswire, and instead of acting as a safe space for the oppressed and minorities, the Newswire became quite the opposite. Numerous people with no interest in social justice and equality used the Newswire in a way contrary to our mission. In response, instead of letting the loudest voice, the most persistent poster, and the most offensive asshole dominate the Newswire, we will now be moderating some of the destructive material off. There are no easy or perfect solutions to moderating an open Newswire, rich with a healthy democracy of views.
We have agreed on the following guidelines to help us decide what postings are appropriate and what are not. We believe that these guidelines will help to make the moderating process a clearer one for IMC volunteers, and for anyone who self-publishes. We also believe these guidelines will maintain an unencumbered, useful and open Newswire for readers worldwide.
We especially encourage individuals to publish:
An “open publishing” system is founded, fundamentally, on trust. The editors of and participants in this project trust that other participants will use the Newswire to publish news, or, at the least, intelligent and insightful commentary. However, as StL IMC's popularity has grown, so has the abuse of our open publishing system. Some of the abuse seems to be juvenile in nature; some amounts to a deliberate attempt to destroy the project. Sadly, our own determination to keep online everything posted to the Newswire, no matter how offensive, ended up doing little to protect the Newswire's integrity.
The StL IMC editorial collective, in order to maintain the integrity of the Newswire and the media commons it creates for our community of participants, may "hide" posts to the Newswire when the content disregards the guidelines that have been put in place (see below).
We'd like to remind everyone that hidden articles are not deleted from the site. All content posted to the Newswire can be accessed through the administrative interface, and hidden posts are still kept online.
While we try to avoid hiding posts as much as possible, the following types of items will merit close scrutiny and may be hidden at our discretion:
On top of these criteria, we also reserve the option to delete posts if their continued presence directly impedes our ability to keep the Newswire online as a public and open forum. To preserve transparency in these editorial decisions, a list of deleted posts (minus the content) is available here.
Within the above guidelines, we welcome posts that disagree with the opinions held by the editors of this website. We also encourage visitors to the StL IMC to use the Newswire's rating function to express agreement or disagreement with specific posts.
Every six months, the StL IMC collective will review this policy, as well as a sampling of posts hidden during the previous six months. We would also like to emphasize that if any collective member disagrees with the hiding of any post, he or she may contact the editorial listserve or request to discuss the matter at an IMC Meeting.
Drop us a line and let us know what you think, or if there is something that we’ve missed:.
An inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war.