A lot of people today have expressed their anger at a blog post published on HuffPost Books, written by the creators of a website called Stop the GR Bullies.
I invited them to submit their post. Here's some background on what happened, and here's what I think we got wrong.
First, some context. We have two kinds of articles on The Huffington Post: news reports and features written by staff members or content partners, and blog posts contributed on a voluntary basis by third parties.
Blog posts are checked for grammar, offensive language and obvious factual errors. Otherwise they are not edited the way our news articles are.
I reached out to Stop the GR Bullies nearly two weeks ago, soon after the site had launched, because I thought they were making an interesting point regarding respect and the books community.
Goodreads is an excellent website, but some have expressed concern over its policing of user reviews. I wanted to give the people behind Stop the GR Bullies an opportunity to explain their methods and what they were trying to achieve.
We aim to be a platform for reasonable discussion and debate. I thought this was a good opportunity to host a discussion on this issue.
Soon after I posted the piece on our site, many members of our community, who seem to be very informed about this particular issue, expressed strong disappointment and anger at our decision to publish it. Others accused us, both collectively and personally, of some highly unpleasant things.
That's obviously not the reaction we were looking for. We care deeply about our community, and what you say.
Critics of Stop the Goodreads Bullies seem to have two principal issues with the site. First, they feel that the site itself is engaging in the very activity it condemns, fighting what it perceives as bullying with still more bullying. Second, and more seriously, they accuse the site of endangering women.
The most-repeated tale about the site is from a woman who says she was afraid for her safety after the site posted certain personal details, and was subsequently threatened on the telephone. Several people have referenced this claim in their responses to us.
The accusations are serious, but we have been unable to corroborate them. In an email to me, one of the people who runs the site categorically denied stalking, threatening or telephoning any of the people who have been featured on Stop the GR Bullies.
One thing is certain, however: the website's behavior has upset many people, and its methods may be misguided. John Scalzi has some particularly smart things to say on the topic; so does Foz Meadows. (UPDATE: AnimeJune has posted some compelling evidence suggesting that the site recently changed its content, without acknowledgement, to remove some of its worst offenses.)
Many members of our community, including several whose opinions and thoughts we highly respect, were upset that we had given a platform to the creators of the site and, in so doing, appeared to endorse their behavior.
To those who feel that we let them down, I can only apologize. We should have provided more context and presented the debate over the site -- and the broader issue of online bullying in the books world -- in a more balanced fashion.
I'm not going to take down the blog post itself -- the piece itself abides by our code of conduct, and its authors are certainly entitled to their say. But we do intend to publish additional blog posts written by those who take issue with the site and its tactics, starting with this one by Foz Meadows. Update: Ray Garton has also written a blogpost in response.
We also encourage you, our readers, to continue the conversation by leaving a comment or, if you prefer, emailing me directly.
Andrew Losowsky HuffPost Books Editor