Quora gives veto power to those targeted by comments

Question-and-answer site changes policy in effort to promote civility

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So you don't like what someone wrote or asked about you on Quora? Fret not, my delicate friend, because now you may simply ask that the offending comment or question be deleted ... and your wish will Quora's command.

Such seems to be the bottom line of a policy change announced late last week by the trendy question-and-answer site that has built a reputation for attracting movers and shakers who are willing to share their expertise.

From a post authored by Quora's Marc Bodnick:

For all Quora users, if there is a question about you on the site, then you have control over that question. This means that with regard to that question, you can privately ask Quora moderation to delete the question or individual answers or comments that you don't like. And you can have final say over the contents of the answer summary wiki.

Our revised policy makes it clear that these protections apply to all Quora users, regardless of whether or not they are public figures. We believe that this approach is fair and consistent and provides equal protection to people regardless of who they are. ...

We understand that this policy change has certain inherent risks. One risk is that high-profile users may decide to remove questions that other users would be interested in learning about. We believe that this risk is worth taking in return for the benefits we achieve. While the protection is broad, we believe that the policy will continue to be invoked sparingly -- primarily in cases involving embarrassing and personal content.

Of course, most criticism can be construed as embarrassing and personal is often in the eye of the beholder.

Blogger Louis Gray writes about the change and makes his skepticism clear with this headline: "Quora makes it harder to hurt people's feelings."

And reaction in the Quora community has been decidedly mixed, at least based upon a reading of the comments left on the post announcing the new policy.

Writes Adam Mordecai:

While I see a need to protect private individuals from evasive questions, what happens when a candidate, CEO, actor, director, criminal or politician asks for all negative criticism be removed from the system?

This severely limits the ability to have discussion and analysis happen about people in the public eye who merit scrutiny.

Tom Whinah adds:

Maybe Quora will refine this policy, but as it's stated, it seems like it gives anyone carte-blanche license to squelch scrutiny of their actions or decisions. It seems the criteria is almost always defined by the individual's own feelings.

Elizabeth Baum sees more upside than risk:

While I agree that wording of the policy is vague in areas, sites do tend to degrade significantly when they just become full of flame throwing and gossip, and once that occurs (see yahoo answers) the people who are capable of providing quality content just leave, never to return.

And Larry Pieniazek also approves:

I applaud this policy. The "wiki standard" is badly broken (IMHO) and has often allowed Wikipedia biographies of living persons to deteriorate into attack pieces (or hagiographies, depending on who "owns" the given article and what their point of view is) ... I hope this policy stays in place.

When it comes to managing comments and user-generated content, in general, I'm all in favor of experimentation, so I'm reluctant to dismiss this one out of hand.

Best-case scenario: 99% of those named in Quora questions and comments will roll with 99% of the punches, leaving precious little on the cutting-room floor. And 99% of what does get erased won't be missed. (Of course, we'll have no way of knowing).

Worst case: Quora becomes Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, and not in a good way.

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