Are Some Central America Forums Less Impartial Than Meets The Eye?

peterchristopher's picture

I claim that many Central America forums that to be appear legitimate community efforts with open participation are in fact closely monitored and highly censored.

Let me provide some background.

One challenge in human society is balancing privacy with free speech, stability and economic progress. Many cultures, independently and collectively, have developed guidelines to help deal with this challenge. For instance, it is generally legal in modern societies to publish information, whether that is in book form, street preaching, internet blog, book, etc. There isn’t per se an obligation on the part of a publisher to present an unbiased view. It’s his prerogative to bias what he publishes if he chooses (whether he is the writer or just the publisher), as he built the audience and pays for the publication. However, on the other hand, there are limits to what information can be published. For instance, lies that damage the reputation of another person are not legal to publish. It is called defamation. Any publisher who publishes defamatory material that is subsequently challenged and found untrue is then liable for an estimate of damages. But what about advertisements? When American Express puts an advertisement on television, do they need to state, “The transaction represented in this advertisement was a fictionalization for demonstrative purposes only. The shopper is not a real shopper but an actor.” Apparently not. Some intelligence is presumed on the part of the viewer/consumer.

One relatively recent development are chatrooms / email groups. These forums are generally controlled by one person or entity, who may have little role in writing, but, like a traditional publisher, has the right and responsibility to select appropriate content according to a combination of his own criteria and law. Some might argue that while one person may have administratively “created” the chatroom / group, nevertheless, that over time as others contribute to it as writers and readers, that they then have some legitimate claim to its fate and administration. I personally do not agree with this, unless it was explicitly agreed-upon as a condition of that participation.

Does the owner of such a group have any responsibility to explicitly state a set of guidelines for what is allowable in his forum? I don’t see why, unless that is part of an agreement he has with a hosting provider or his users. Does the owner of such a group have any responsibility to consistently follow any set of guidelines, published or unpublished? I think he does have the responsibility to obey the law, for instance in matters of defamation, but that beyond that, he does not need to even have or follow any consistent pattern in his habit of moderation.

But what about an author or publisher with a financial interest in given material? We can look at what has happened in the last fifty years in stock market commentary. Now, any writer who publishes about a given security who has a financial interest in it, must state their financial position. This was the resolution of a history of abuses in which individuals used the news media to popularize given securities in order to then sell them at a profit. And yet, does Fox News or the New York Times or Google or the Wall Street Journal or NBC or The Nation or AFT state a similar position about their prospective profit potential under various presidential candidates, while they are editorializing them explicitly and implicitly? If every publisher and author had to spend all his time itemizing financial and personal interests, it might end up being the larger part of every article/story. While that might be a tempting solution for lawyers, on the other hand it is not a realistic possibility to follow when such a small percentage of ultimate consumers of information currently want that extensive background.

I write all this not to teach a lesson on disclosure, but because I believe the context for my main point, which I shall now state once again.

Some of the most popular and impartial-seeming website forums in Central America are in fact closely monitored and censored by the moderators according to unpublished criteria. Those criteria, when recognized by its users, might be as disgusting to the participants and observers in the forums, as the practice of “pumping” a stock in order to sell it at a quick profit. (And of course posts concerning the criteria and partiality of the censors are censored.) I invite any person whose legal and civil posts are rejected on another Central America forum to repost those writings here on, with or without additional commentary.

Peter Christopher


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censorship in nicaragua forum nicaliving

In (deleted comments from this link) the owner of a Nicaragua-related forum censored posts by the user "gueguense" then banned the "gueguense" user.  This was an email I received from "gueguense" after the banning: gueguense banned.

Of course you can read any historical comments from "gueguense" by using the track or search feature at nicaliving to make your own determinations.  "gueguense" also wrote me saying, "Just FYI, fydel claims he only disabled my password. but that is not the case."


Further Context and Curiousity

Following are observations of events of the past 14 days, starting with Nov 3 to present.  I am making no judgement of the events, only stating facts & asking questions regarding the Yahoo user group CostaRicaLiving's reaction to the following event.
On Nov 3, A.M. Costa Rica's front page headline was "New immigration draft would require more income".  This resulted in 33 posts, most of which were from panicked residents & potential residents, but the concensus of opinion was that the new law would not effect existing residents.

(a) Post 81772  "First laws here are not past retroactively so it won't apply, I'm assuming to existing residents.  Second, if anyone is concerned about their status it is unwise to listen to news reports . . . talk to a lawyer skilled in immigration.  I assume we will have some comment from Ryan/ARCR on his view?"

(b) Post 81809  "Yes, once again it appears as if someone in the government hopes you will all spend more money here once again. I will of course be taking the ARCR once again to the legislature and the media to try to prevent these amounts, because
of course it will be the country that is hurt the most, not the Expats who can't move here.  I certainly hope we can again be effective in preventing these changes, and support of any kind is always welcome."

(c) Post 81927  "In short those already here have little to be concerned about normally. The greater effect is for those who are coming in the future, and we will be campaiging in the very near future to amend the proposal."
With this in mind, neither being for or against, only a question,  for those of us already legally here, IF this law were passed as is, would the effect be good or bad.  Would the price of housing go up or down;  would rents go up or down, food, medical care, water or electricity, etc? Would the streets be more or less crowded?
Next, starting Nov 4 thru present, an e-mail protest campaign was started & promoted by organizations who make a living from or partially from bringing new expats to Costa Rica.  As a matter of fact 110+ posts have been submitted under various subject lines concerning the issue of the new immigration draft. 

(d) Post 81886  Let's start an e-mail writing campaign. I'll only will take a couple of minutes.

(e) Post 82351 Many words have been written in this forum against the proposed hanges to CR's Ley de Migracion y Extranjeria. Here is your chance to do something positive about it.  The time is now to influence the legislators to
change the language as to the income requirements, while the bill is still in committee.  We are asking everyone to send the e-mail below to the members of the Comision Permanente de Gobierno y Administracion, where the bill is presently handled.  The e-mal addresses can be copied and pasted from this chain, the text of the emial follows the addresses.
 (f) Post 82436 I think sending Javier's suggested email is CRITICAL. He and I spoke about this idea last week, and he forwarded the draft to us as well. Understand that this law should NOT affect those that already live here with residency, nor those in process under the current law. However these amounts could affect the possibility of others arriving, and would affect the future of the economy negatively.  I am trying to call a Press Conference, and we will be going straight to the legislature to see what can be done. This is the SAME fight we had 4 years ago, and I still have the data we need to try and correct this, BUT WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT.
 (g) Ryan Piercy, the manager of ARCR (Association of Residents of Costa Rica) wrote on November 14th on the ARCR Forums, in response to mostly these same concerns which have been flying around:    "Understand that this law should NOT affect those that already live here with residency, nor those in process under the current law. However these amounts could affect the possibility of others arriving, and would affect the future of the economy negatively."  Several CRLers have pointed this out yet it seems to go unnoticed.
And today Mr. Piercy followed up on that up when he wrote:    "... the ARCR is already preparing a media campaign to first get the word out (once again) to the Costa Rican community, to be initiated with a press conference, then a press release to various organizations in Costa Rica, and finally direct-approach to the legislative members once we have a worthy news item."  And to certain persons who complained that some of the emailboxes for those members of the committee that we were
exhorted to write were full, Mr. Piercy wrote:    "The email idea is to start to get across to them the idea that this is an important topic...." 
My question is, if the feeling is that current, legal residents will not be affected, who will benefit from the e-mail campaign & what will the benefit be? Again, I'm not being for or against anything, just asking questions.
Further quotes; 
  (off board answers to my posts)
  "Since when would an association of clueless foreigners be ALLOWED to participate in any democracy?  Think of it the other way around . . .  as if ARCR was in the US representing illegal aliens on crime problems asking George Bush to reduce crime in Durango!  Ha!"
  "I am just opining on the way I see your posts which were once interesting and now have become some kind of campaign . . . this just doesn't work on THIS public message board IMHO . . . "
  "I am NOT talking about crime threads . . . I am talking about your single track campaign to somehow change the world through a medium that is not set up to do so and an association who can't . . . do you think the average get together of CRLers represents the future of Costa Rica is some way?  Perhaps it is me who is confused."

  ( my suggestion)  "Next, publish all findings, statistics & poll results etc. Then generate a petition available to the membership for signing & forward it to wherever it would do the most good."           (Answer to my suggestion)  
>>>signed by a bunch of foreigners?????  a bunch of drunks from the fishing towns???? a bunch of defrocked realtors from Florida???
   ">>>this is not an ARCR issue, it is a country/sovereign state issue"  (argument against ARCR's ability to bring the concern about crime to the attention of the proper people"
    (reason for moderating my post)  "We don't need a rule to stop repetitive crime thread posts.  When we reach a point, the moderators shut the thread down to give it a rest.  Once such threads -and that is not limited to crime topics-do become repetitive, as most invariably do, it no longer serves anyone's purpose to string out that thread ad nauseum when nothing new is being resented that would advance the thread.  If we leave such threads open they become basically just a long sequence of 'What's My Woe" postings."
   (reason for moderating my post) "This message should be directed to Tom and Frank off-group, seen as the subject and its content appear to be as such and also has been documented "ad nauseam" on CRL in the past."    Moderator
My next question would be why is the crime problem not given the amount of attention that this new law, which won't affect current residents & probably won't get passed anyway, is privledged to?  Surely, if our voices would be heard regarding immigration law our voices would be heard regarding our concern for the rising crime situation?
Is it possible that a public service, unmoderated group may have a bias?  Why after over 110 posts on the subject, which are getting repetitive, hasen't the thread been shut down?  Again, I have no opinion either way, I'm just curious.

some moderators must enjoy explaining rejections

I just copied this from another board where a member quotes some of his recent censored-message explanations.

'Your message has been declined because Costa Rica considers itself to
be a pacifist nation and many of our members would not appreciate your

"Your message has been declined because you are directing our members
to your external site, away from CRL. This is like coming into a
restaurant and suggesting that the diners there come across the street
to your new restaurant where the dinners are nicer."

"Also, when we send you a message your email is set to send back an
annoying automated message. We are not impressed."

"CRL is a privately owned group and if you cannot get along and abide
by our guidelines you should interact elsewhere ... if you want to
conform, then fine, you are welcome on CRL. If not, perhaps it is
time we part our ways."


I sometimes wonder - Do inconsistent standards of posting amount to censorship? 

an example from CostaRicaLiving

An example of censorship & the lame excuse for it. [This one from CostaRicaLiving] ... All my writing past and present in ITALICS and the plain text is the rejection notice from the administrator of CostaRicaLiving.

Here was my original message:

"The problem with humor on the internet is that some folks don't use the kinds of signals that communicate that it is indeed humor."

I've always thought of message boards, costaricaliving especially, as good examples of Platos "Allegory of the Cave" , a short story which basically demonstrates the path from ignorance to knowledge or from unenlightenment to enlightenment. I'm sure that most of you are familiar with the story, but I'll give you my very brief, very,very basic interpretation of the story of the cave.

A group of human beings are, from their youth, prisoners, living in a cave, chained in a position so that they are forced to look at the back of the cave wall, which is in effect a large movie screen. Outside the mouth of the cave is a sort of stage, like the old time puppet stage and even further back is a large light source, perhaps a fire. Beneath the stage are the puppet masters, using puppets and other objects that they manipulate so that the illumination causes shadows to appear on the back of the cave wall. These shadows, being the only thing that the prisoners can see, become their idea of what life and the world, (reality) is about. To them, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images. Eventually the prisoners are released to go out into the lighted world. Having spent their entire lives in the darkness of the cave, the light is at first an uncomfortable, painful experience. But those who preserver and are unafraid are eventually able to see the world (reality) as it really is. They are enlightened. I said at the beginning, very brief and very, very basic.

My point is this. A while back "eminitradingpro", chris, posted this, " I'm new to this group and thinking about moving to costa rica. I plan on investing time in reading the message boards but I figured this would be a good way to get some up to date info".

This type of post or question happens often. People trying to gather information so that they can make an informed life changing decision. I feel that costaricaliving, as a group, has a moral obligation to present these people with more than just shadows on the back of the cave wall.

In my opinion, some of the moderators of the group, in order to maintain the image of "paradise" tend to moderate and exclude posts which may conflict with this image, even though none of the posted guidelines are broken. Some tend to become especially over zealous when the subject concerns crime.

Following is an explanation for rejecting one of my posts.

We don't need a rule to stop repetitive crime thread posts. When we reach a point, the moderators shut the thread down to give it a rest. (the thread of my post had not been shut down AND more posts on the thread appeared after mine was rejected) Once such threads -and that is not limited to crime topics- do become repetitive, as most invariably do, it no longer serves anyone's purpose to string out that thread ad nauseum when nothing new is being presented that would advance the thread.

If we leave such threads open they become basically just a long sequence of 'What's My Woe" postings.

And for this reason 'crimeincr' was begun. There are no rules nor compunctions against discussing crime there. And now
that there is a sizable and growing membership there it is becoming a suitable sounding-board. That's why it was conceived and that is why we refer people's crime posts there. ( I can find nothing in the guidelines of CRL to substantiate this statement )

I've seen several attempts to slip posts back onto CRL after they have been rejected and subsequently posted over on
'crimeincr'. It is obvious that all those posters are looking for is an audience. Well, they have one now over there on
'crimeincr'. We hope they'll use it when we moderators see fit to curb a thread here.

BTW, if you want this to go to a CRL member privately you can go online and use the 'send email' icon in blue located
to the right of the message text for any post on the main message page.

If you have further questions about this action, please email me.

( I strongly feel that if this is CRL's intent (to use crimeincr for all crime posts) that this point of view should be incorporated into the posted, official guidelines of the group and not applied arbitrarily. If you are interested, I will send the entire rejection email. )


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