CPB Office of the Ombudsman

Code Switch Adjusts

Joel Kaplan

June 10, 2014

Following several complaints from users of the one-year old Code Switch blog and two reports from the Ombudsman, the managers of the blog have made adjustments that they hope will allow for an in-depth conversation on race, at the same time respecting those who want to have a civilized conversation.

Code Switch has been under fire from several users who say their posting privileges have been revoked and never reinstated despite what they say were innocuous comments. One of those commenters, attorney Chris Vandenberg, actually had to threaten a defamation lawsuit to have his comments adjusted. His posting privileges have now been reinstated.

Matt Thompson, the managing supervisor of Code Switch, says the past year has been a learning experience for the team.

"We knew from the get go that conversations on the Internet are dicey and there aren't many examples of good ones," he said. "We decided we were going to start out by paying a lot of attention and moderating and holding comments to a high standard."

Many of the complaints about Code Switch occurred last summer due to the weakness of the platform and the failure of its user management system to adjust for the types of comments, he said.

A new process was put in place early last month and all users have had their posting privileges restored.

Mr. Thompson explains the new process in a blog he posted last week:

I think it is important to pay particular attention to the part of the blog where he says that the "tools matter." In it, Mr. Thompson explains that when some comments get deleted it is not because of nefarious motives.

For his part, Mr. Vandenberg says he is happy that his privileges have been restored.

"Thanks again for your responsiveness to our complaints," he said. "I appreciate all of your efforts to remedy the Code Switch moderation issue. Your influence caused NPR to actually address the issue that they had refused to even consider prior to that point. The good news is that I and many other posters have had our Code Switch posting privileges reinstated. Unfortunately, the biased moderation of dissenting views continues unabated but at least we can have our opposing views posted as long as it takes for a moderator to delete us."

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