This article was collaboratively written by Twelve and Tank. It highlights a series of disagreements between a subset of users and Gaia's moderating staff over the definition of 'trolling', 'off-topic' content, harassment and critical commentary. While Gaians are free to disagree with one other over how moderators best enforce Gaia's subjective terms off-site, we feel that it is important to note that this critical discussion has often been barred from Gaia. Elements of this particular discussion have resulted in portions of the user base deciding to take excessive, illegal off-site action to intimidate vocal critics of Gaia's admin team. Gaia's administration has felt compelled to lock threads and send warnings to users who engage in this discussion. Despite that, Gaians United's team moved forward in making an editorial decision to publish this series of exchanges between Gaia users and staff and leave our readers to draw their own conclusions. The usernames of those involved in these discussions have been omitted unless otherwise requested to be featured.

On June 2nd, 2017, Gaia user 'Whitneys Miltank' and a regular in Site Feedback participated in the following exchange:

Whitneys Miltank:

"I also find it comical how the mod and staff team moderates "inappropriate content" and/or "sexually explicit material" yet is very hypocritical on how they handle it, especially in regards to avatars. It's unbelievable how some mods have the audacity to talk down to users who are justifiably angry at them for how they got sanctioned due to some avatar or post they made that was considered "inappropriate" or "sexual", when the mod themselves is cosplaying a sexualized character from a show or another medium.

Laughable that a mod's avatar can me nude or almost nude, but what a user posted or the avatar they created was just too much. None of this makes sense at all and their priorities are completely backwards--but let's just hypothetically say for a moment that it did make sense. Well the mod in the first place wouldn't be equipped with a heavily sexualized avatar nor was the major infraction, temporary ban or perma ban placed on the user warranted"

One of the few things that got me in trouble was one PM that I sent to a friend that was considered "inappropriate", but I argue that it was possibly an honest mistake... and it was meant to be taken that way in the context of the few PMs my friend and I traded".

SF User

"You can't redefine 'transparency'/'clarity' just because you don't like what they are offering. The rules extend to PMs, which you have been told. Avatar nudity is a completely different vein than having a smut conversation with another member".

Whitneys Miltank

"I'm not redefining anything. I'm simply stating it's the mod and staff teams who go out of their way to outright ignore transparency and clarity from the accused in order to justify their actions. Those of us who have been affected by their ambiguous and overbearing moderation don't like what they offer because, instead of actually acknowledging the transparency and clarity in our appeals or defense, they talk down to us and vilify us, treating us like we're Patient Zero, instead of seeing us as human beings who may have bad days or may make mistakes, can empathize with us, can educate rather than regulate, and see that we aren't deserving of such harsh moderation tactics. That is true customer service, and that is something this mod team sorely lacks.

I am comparing my situation with avatar nudity because it only further adds to the narrative of the mod team's inconsistent and backward approach to their moderation. I have also seen users on this forum who have gotten in trouble for 'sexualized avatars' and the like, all the while being chastised by some mod who's cosplaying a 'sexualized' character".

SF User

"I do not believe you read what I said... I told you that the avatar is not the same as your smut conversation, which is why the two are not comparable. You sent smut to someone, you got caught. Having a Barbie-doll avatar is nothing compared to smut that doesn't belong on Gaia.

Further, mods are not customer service representatives. People tend to forget that. They are here to clean up after you, not offer you a smiling service. I think you should try offering someone service with a smile while you're trying to uphold the rules and the person who broke them tries everything they can to wiggle out of it. It's not easy.

Either way, the narrative you are trying to pose is not appropriate to the situation, and not anything of value to the first post that has to do with the avatars. Please go speak to the Administration instead of derailing threads".

Whitneys Miltank

"I'm using my experience and situation to further emphasize the mod and staff team's lack of CONTEXT AWARENESS into how they handle this situation and many others in regards to their ToS, something you too seem to be displaying since what I'm saying is flying over YOUR head, not the other way around.

It's funny you say "mods are not customer service representatives" when Zero himself has called the team he heads as the "customer support team". They also love to reference their broken and slug-paced Help Center, which basically implies customer support.

As to your whole point of "cleaning up after us", "uphold the rules" and "those trying to wiggle their way out", like the moderators, you don't seem to get the full picture.

As my friend had told a moderator once: "Members, especially veteran users, need to be broadly trusted."

"Banned users' concerns for their account by providing favorable defense of themselves and their situation should NOT be seen as 'truth avoidance' or 'lies'," or as you called it, "trying to wiggle their way out". "Rather, it should be seen as something deeply understandable as they are trying to regain an identity of their virtual existence. To brush that off, in favor of 'the full picture', is to ignore human nature."

If you feel like my feedback has nothing to do with this topic then feel free to ignore it, because you obviously don't care in engaging in a discussion that I and many others feel can and possibly do pertain to this subject--especially because you claim my feedback is "not anything of value". Not only have moderators have had a nonsensical approach to this and have displayed ambiguous and hypocritical logic, but they have also displayed such behavior in almost every other way in how they've biblically and militaristically enforced a poorly worded and subjective ToS.

SF User

"Yeah, no. You're so hell bent on getting people to sway to your side that you continue to derail threads. That's why no one can trust you or your "friend"- and we all know who that is. The people you are talking down to now are not dumb, you know. You are a bummed-out Benny because you were caught. There is nothing new that you can bring to the discussion, and your own actions continue to support why you can't be trusted as a "veteran" user.

Take it somewhere else. This is not the place for you to whine about your ban. Go make your own thread so it can get locked again. What you're going on about has nothing to do with what THIS thread is for".

Whitneys Miltank (post deleted by Gaia Admin):

"FYI, it's called thread drifting, and it can happen. What exactly is disruptive about discussion of tangentially related topics? I could point out plenty of threads in this forum in which the thread veered off-topic or evolved as discussion continued. Rather than being disruptive, these tangential excursions proved to enrich the discussion with points of view from other areas of focus than the original topic had addressed.

By the way, if you actually read my posts defending myself from stuff that I posted that led to my original ban, you can clearly see that I actually don't deny anything. I don't lie and say "OH, I never posted that!" or "That was someone else using my account and posting that stuff as me!" I own the stuff I posted. The problem I have is the moral ambiguity, the moderation overreach, the lack of context awareness that the mod and staff team has continually displayed not only towards me but towards others who felt that their bans or infractions were overly harsh and/or unfair and didn't warrant such actions".


The following exchanges occurred on June 2nd, 2017 in private conversations between an undisclosed Gaia admin and Whitneys Miltank:

Gaia Admin

"Hello. I hope this reaches you and you are well ^^

This is a small tap on the shoulder due to some recent activity with your account. Please refrain from making posts that intentionally veer a thread off-topic. It's recommended to keep in mind that it is not appropriate to do so as this is not what Site Feedback is for. Please keep your feedback to relevant threads.

Further, if you wish to appeal your ban, please do so, but intentionally derailing threads is not conducive to the goal you wish to reach. You are welcome to make your own thread, however, please keep in mind that we have to consider the health of the forum that you are posting in.

Thank you for keeping our community in mind"

Whitneys Miltank

"Hello.

Yes this post has reached me and thank you for the reminder, instead of opting for a more strict route that unfortunately you felt like you repeatedly had to take on my main account. I felt like that was completely unnecessary.

I'd first like to address the matter of topic derailment because I don't think that what I was doing was derailing topics, and if I was doing anything against the health of the community it wasn't intentional or elicit negative or overly emotional responses. I'd argue that what occurred was thread drifting, not derailment, where the latter usually carries a negative connotation.

My aim was to discuss similar or tangentially related subjects that the topics I posted in failed to address in their OP. If other people did not like the feedback I had to offer, then, in my blunt opinion, it is on them. I have said that they should ignore it or can put me on ignore if my feedback really does bother them that much, when I'm trying to work toward my goal of highlighting unfair or overbearing bans that any players have been affected by but are too scared to speak out on.

Also, I'd rather post in existing threads rather than make a split discussion in a completely new thread, only to be told that my information should've been kept in the thread it was meant for in the first place.

The biggest reason for me not starting new threads though is I avoid clogging up the forum for each similar or tangential topic, and especially avoid unnecessary backlash from a possible vocal minority. [This would lead] to all my work and progress wasted since it would just be locked in the end anyways, as like what happened in the last thread I made.

Lastly, I only wish that these types of messages reached the inbox of my main account that got banned rather than the few repeated warnings or infractions for most stuff that I considered to be gray area or was intended to be take in a completely humorous manner. It's a shame that my account was banned when I think I didn't deserve such a heavy hand, especially with all of the context and transparency I've laid out, only for it to be ignored.

Regards".

Gaia Admin

If you would like to offer suggestions then Site Feedback is the place to put them. However, intentionally deferring topics to other subjects is not acceptable at all. you have the ability to make your own thread, so going off into a tangent in threads that do not share the same subject matter is not allowed. It's spamming at the least, trolling at the worst since you are aware that it bothers those in the forum when you make these actions.

After this, if there is repeated behavior, repeated infractions may result in the ban of your account. The biggest difference is that spamming is a lot more of a forgivable violation. Your account was banned due to the severity of the violation that occurred, and the fact that you were told more than once that it was not appropriate to do so on Gaia.

Outside of this there is not much to discuss. If you want to appeal your ban then do so without disrupting the community.

I hope that you have a good day".

Whitneys Miltank

"You say I am welcome to post in Site Feedback to offer suggestions, yet, by sending me this pseudo-warning, it's obvious that you agree with the statements people have made accusing me of "thread derailment" and/or "off-topic behavior".

Here are examples of users accusing me of thread derailment and being off-topic...

< images >

USER A accuses me of thread deraailment and being off-topic, AND goes further to say I have nothing of value to add

USER B continues accusing me of thread derailment and being off topic, making passive swipes toward me.

Additionally, not only are you agreeing to their accusations and condoning their backseat moderating/contentious behavior toward me, but you are taking this a step further by taking action through this psuedo-warning that ties you to the rhetoric coming from the users who disagree with me.

Your explicit bias to the rhetoric of my detractors is further displayed in deleting a post I made to one of them, yet they didn't have their posts removed or recieve oversight.

Not only is their rhetoric and tone divisive and demeaning, but also, at times, malicious and scornful.

Now this takes me to the Terms of Service, in which its Trolling clause specifically states "intentionally interfering with a member's enjoyment of the site". Do you feel it morally upstanding to overtly protect the enjoyment of a user who agrees with administration but does so in broadly malicious ways? What about my enjoyment? My enjoyment was certainly interfered with by those users who responded to me with posts I disagreed with, and in a cruel manner that I disagreed with as well.

Lastly, 2 weeks ago, Lanzer reiterated a point he's been making since his return to Gaia stating, "Previous management banned accounts for negative feedback. That was a shame and wouldn't happen here anymore".

However, how is that more than just words to make me feel better? It is clear, by your threats, the pattern of behavior of previous administration has not changed. I've forwarded this discussion to Lanzer.

Please take your time in reviewing and responding to this".

Gaia Admin

"Again, you are in threads bringing up your personal discontent over management involving the enforcement of the Terms of Service in threads that are not meant for that discussion. Threads rely on the first post to carry the topic, which does not allow for broad discussion of random feedback outside what the first post has brought up.

We want Site Feedback to contain structured discussion, not tangents. Venting and off-topic rants are best for your journal or the Chatterbox. We do not want to see Site Feedback devolve into "tangential discussion" as that is not what that forum is for. Your posts will get lost in other threads since the first post is what catches attention; if not, your posts may disrupt other members who participate with the expected forum etiquette and follow the rules.

I apologize that you feel that our enforcement of the rules is not to your desired interpretation. However, they are there for the entire community and are enforced globally. This may not be the response you are looking for, but continue to be a disruption in Site Feedback will result in penalties.

Since this is more of a personal grievance there is not much more to explain. From here, I recommend sending an email to usertalk@gaiaonline.com to discuss your personal situation further if you would rather not discuss this specific topic in your own thread in Site Feedback.

I hope that you have a good day".

Whitneys Miltank

"So by your actions, you are defending the behavior such as when USER A said "i can't take any feedback you say seriously because you are one of the biggest, bitterest babies that I've ever seen, and I advise everyone else to do the same". I'm so glad that "tangential" discussion now poses a greater threat to our community than admins supporting doxxers and truly malcious behavior that disrupts people's daily lives. Sorry for the disruption to the new moral clarity being leveraged by this administration".

Gaia Admin

"Actually, we just would prefer people not to spam in Site Feedback.

I'm sorry that I can't help you, but there isn't anything else I can do.

Good day".

Whitneys Miltank

"To me, bumping is spam. To you, anything you disagree with is spam.

I'm sorry you refuse to help fulfill what Lanzer envisions for our community".

Gaia Admin

"Please follow the instructions given to file your grievance.

This is the last message you will receive about the situation".

The Gaia Admin placed Whitneys Miltank on an ignore list following this PM conversation.


Rather than providing commentary, we would like to invite the community to discuss these interactions. Do you believe that tangentially related discussion should be allowed in threads? Do you think the admin did everything in their power to rectify the situation? What would you do differently if you could take their place?

We're open to your feedback so let us know in the comment section below or tweet us @gaiansunited.