Setting the scene

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I consider climate change to be a massive threat to life on Earth. I’ve said before that it’s difficult to overstate the seriousness of our current predicament. The following letter recently published in The Age newspaper summarises some key aspects of my position:[1]

“Adam Morton reports that only a modest deal, to be ‘built on over time’, is anticipated at the Paris climate summit. Unfortunately, the planet cannot wait. Part of the problem is the fact that negotiations are based on projections developed by the IPCC, an organisation described by Professor Tim Flannery as ‘painfully conservative’. Dire as they are, those projections do not allow for many critical climate feedback mechanisms that create a very real risk of runaway climate change. The climate crisis requires emergency action. During World War II, the governments of the US, UK, Germany, Japan and Australia were committing around 40-70 per cent of GDP to the war effort. Trillions of dollars were utilised in dealing with the global financial crisis. Where is the required monetary commitment to the greatest threat ever faced by the inhabitants of our magnificent planet? Feigned concern, platitudes and paper-thin treaties will achieve nothing.”

A major development at the Guardian

As you might imagine, I was delighted to find that the Guardian’s outgoing editor, Alan Rusbridger, had decided to feature the climate crisis “front and centre” in the lead up to his departure in the middle of the year. [2]

If you’re not familiar with the Guardian, it launched as the Manchester Guardian on 5 May 1821. Its website indicates it now has more than forty million readers worldwide, and is the third most-read English-language newspaper website in the world.

I posted the following comment beneath Rusbridger’s article, in which he had highlighted the key role that environmental campaigners and writers Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein would play in forthcoming articles:

“This is exactly where it needs to be – front and centre! Thanks for putting it there. However, you are far too conservative in accepting the notion of a carbon budget and implying that anything up to a 2C increase in temp would be acceptable. If we want a 10 percent chance of avoiding 2C, then there is effectively no carbon budget available. It’s also essential that you highlight animal agriculture’s massive impact and openly discuss the potential for nuclear power, a potent, carbon-free energy source, the dangers of which appear to be significantly overstated. Bill McKibben and his fellow 350.org board member, Naomi Klein, are certainly not the ideal people to be relying on for direction in relation to those two issues. Please see more at terrastendo.”

The comment replaced an identical one I had posted a few minutes earlier, with the exception that I had inadvertently duplicated some material in the first post. As a result, I used the “report” option and utilised the “other” category, meaning I was not reporting anything relating to “personal abuse”, “off topic”, “legal issue”, “trolling”, “hate speech”, “offensive/threatening language”, “copyright”, or “spam”. I explained that some material had been duplicated, and requested that the original post be deleted, as I did not appear to have the option of deleting it myself.

What happened next

When I checked a short time later, both my original post and the one that replaced it had been deleted. Fortunately, I had copied it, and was able to post it again as a new comment. However, the new post was also deleted soon after. This happened several times. On some occasions I introduced it with a sentence explaining that it was replacing an earlier comment that had been deleted, and asking the moderator to explain why.

As the comment did not re-appear, I sent the following emails to the moderator at cif.moderation@theguardian.com:

Email 1:

“I am insulted that the moderator has continually removed my comments in response to the above article without explanation. I feel that my comments were extremely relevant and reasonable.”

Email 2:

“Am I being deleted automatically after ‘reporting’ one of my own posts which contained a duplication, and requesting that you delete it? I had replaced it with a corrected version. If this is not an error on the Guardian’s part, then I am very concerned about your editorial stance.” 

At the time of writing this article, fourteen hours after the second email, no one at the Guardian has responded.

My comments appear to have easily complied with the Guardian’s community standards and participation guidelines. In one post, I deleted reference to my website, even though it was very relevant to the discussion and therefore seemed to be in order. In any event, that comment was also deleted.

I have a policy of always “playing with a straight bat” (a cricketing term) when online and elsewhere. I base my arguments on the facts as I see them, and refuse to be dragged into condescending or abusive discussions.


Apart from the insult of being censored and ignored, I am concerned that comments, which I believe to be relevant and important in the context of such a critical issue, are not available for those at the Guardian, and others, to consider (and object to if they wish).

I am wondering if organisations that challenge the traditional “establishment” (and the left-leaning Guardian has challenged much over the years) tend to eventually become part of it themselves, and unwilling to consider views that differ much from their own. But then again, I doubt that one of the Guardian’s celebrity columnists, George Monbiot, would have objected to my comments or my right to present them. (At least, that’s at the present time; Monbiot has changed his position occasionally on some major issues.)

I’ll scratch my head a little longer, and continue to seek a response from a publication that I once had a reasonable amount of respect for.


After contacting various people at the Guardian, my comment was reinstated on 9th March, 2015.

Out of courtesy to the Guardian, I will not post their explanatory email here. However, I believe my response satisfactorily alludes to the points they made, most of which I did not consider to be valid.


I am very surprised that you considered my original post to be “spam-like”, simply because I included a link to my website. As I have said elsewhere:

“My comments appear to have easily complied with the Guardian’s community standards and participation guidelines. In one post, I deleted reference to my website, even though it was very relevant to the discussion and therefore seemed to be in order. In any event, that comment was also deleted.”

Your community standards say (with reference to commercial entities and other organisations deleted because you’ve already noted that you understand my site is a personal blog):

“we actively discourage people . . . who frequently post propaganda or external links without adding substantively to the quality of the discussion on the Guardian website.”

So I was frequently posting external links without adding substantively to the quality of the discussion?

My first comment in relation to the article was deleted. Where’s the frequency prior to that? There was none.

Even if there had been, a quick check of my site would have shown that it was relevant to the discussion. The sub-title starts with the words “for animals and the planet”. Two of the four issues covered by the site (as shown on the home page) relate to climate change (and represent more than half the content).

You may say there was no time to check my site. However, I would like to think I was owed that courtesy, rather than being removed without explanation, particularly after submitting what I would like to think was a well-considered comment that added some value to the discussion.

You have said, “While occasional linking to a personal blog is fine in the context of the conversation, you had included a link with something along the lines of ‘read more here’ in almost every post you have made”.

The link was removed on my third attempt. I only kept it in after that because it didn’t seem to be the problem; the post that excluded it was (as you have acknowledged) also deleted. Apart from that aspect and the fact that I was asking why my posts were being deleted, the content of each post was identical.

I believe your words “in almost every post you made” would give most people the impression that I was submitting a series of posts with different content. That was not the case; I was simply trying to have what I consider to be a very reasonable comment published.

You have said you are a small team dealing with many users. Your organisation’s core function is communication. You should maintain a team of moderators that is large enough to enable them to engage with readers in a more considered fashion than occurred on this occasion.



Paul Mahony (also on Twitter, Scribd, Slideshare and Viva la Vegan)


[1] Mahony, P., The Age letters to the editor, 10th January, 2015,

[2] Rusbridger, A., “Climate change: why the Guardian is putting threat to Earth front and centre”, The Guardian, 6th March, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/06/climate-change-guardian-threat-to-earth-alan-rusbridger


The Guardian © GilbertC | Dreamstime.com