'Policing benefit bashing in the forum: valid debate or hate crime?' blog discussion



  • I'm going to quote some of Martin's blog here as people seem to be missing some of the points from it.

    What to do if you disagree with posts? There are of course many views posted too from people who defend the system and benefits claimants. If you disagree with someone’s view, polite & measured debate is a great response. But becoming argumentative will never solve the problem, and only make the forums an unpleasant place to be.
    We always consider personal aggression and abuse a more serious issue on the forums. If someone posts a view you find offensive, and you reply being personally abusive to them, rather than rebutting their points, there is a chance you’ll be the one who loses their privilege to post.
    Recently my forum team have been subject to some disgustingly viscious attacks, one poster writing almost threatening language because the team hadn’t responded to a post twenty minutes earlier on a Saturday night. That’s not acceptable, remember I’m actually an employer and need to protect my staff from such outrageous attacks.
    Ours is a free forum without ads, we will always respond within two working days, and usually much much quicker, but some patience needs to be adopted. It’s not easy, and we don’t always get it perfectly right, yet this is an important subject of national debate, and I don’t particularly want to curtail it. However it must stay in the discussion board only, and never be personally directed at individuals posting on the site.
    If that’s what some believe is being complicit in hate crime, then I’m upset, but I won’t change a thing. But if you spot a post you believe is abusive, then please don’t just complain, or attack, often it’s ‘trolling’ to get a response. Just report it and let us deal with it.

    Four people so far have just thanked someone for calling other users scum, not acceptable in my view no matter which board its posted on. The post will probably be removed as it has been reported.

    Abusive and aggressive posts should/must be reported but it is not up to us as users as to which posts are removed and certainly not as to which users are banned. Martin has already explained many times just how difficult this task is for his team.
  • AnxiousMumAnxiousMum Forumite
    2.7K Posts
    Part of the Furniture Combo Breaker
    It's all good and well to say that people coming and looking for advice will sometimes find it 'unwelcoming' or that people 'gang up on them' etc. However.......MAJORITY of GENUINE posters, who are truly looking for advice, will firstly give accurate information so as to get the proper advice that they have come seeking. If further information is required in order to assist them, they will generally give the info, realising that you can't advise them what they are entitled to without knowing age, number of children etc. Many a poster however, has jumped down the throats of those trying to help - by ranting about being invasive, getting too personal etc. etc., and many more, will become abusive themselves when they don't get the answer they want! If you're not prepared to accept advice, then don't ask for it! (Martin, can we please have a shruggy shoulders smiley!)
    I will however, NEVER encourage, or advise anybody on how to scam the system - and there does seem to be an awful lot of 'we're having a baby together, see each other every day and do things as a family but don't want to live together because we'll lose benefits' threads lately! Something in the air? Where the board is definitely here to give advice and support, it is NOT to be a guide to committing benefit fraud - a very very big difference :)
  • tcr_3tcr_3 Forumite
    580 Posts
    What are you meant to say on the Benefits Board when someone comes in pleading poverty ... yet you see them elsewhere on this board telling folk about the holiday they've just booked, the grabbit they've just bought ?

    Passively explain to people the rules & regs about budget & crisis loans ? Or say ... hold on a minute here ... had you not bought that item you wouldn't be needing a loan in the first place ?

    And as someone who's worked in social security, who knows how it works, the procedures involved ... you can spot a story teller a mile off. This assumption that an OP is always telling the truth is totally risible. Course we're not allowed to say that now, are we ... Martin just wants us to act as an extension of the civil service, to deliver advice with no comment of any kind whatever.

    Some of the regulars are voting with their feet, I certainly am and have been since I largely abandoned the benefits board last year with my other profile.

    NASA, you got nothing to worry about. Your advice is invariably bang on, even if people don't take kindly to it.

    Ticket Number 4 to Counter C please !
    I no longer contribute to the Benefits & Tax Credits forum.
  • The vast majority have to bear the cross - the benefit seekers who feel scrutinised unfairly and the tax payers who feel the pinch so it is everyone's business; it is a social issue. The team has made the distinction between advice and discussion of what's a social issue; when there's a porblem, it becomes a topic to look out for solutions; and they have got it right in that opinions cannot be moderated - they can only make sure we follow the rules of engagement :D If the benefits sought out are within the law, then it's not to be judged. But by the same token, people don't subscribe to being a liberal to blindly accept what's throw their way to make up for other peoples inadequacies - I suspect they would want to make a distinction between a client (who genuinely needs) and a visitor (testing how far they can manipulate the system). This one would be up for discussion until people have faith in the system and clever and well trained people to run it efficiently, so, imo, yes it is a valid debate.
  • MSE_MartinMSE_Martin MoneySaving Expert
    8.3K Posts
    Reading the above highlights the point.

    Some people are criticising us for not being hard enough on those who come in and disrupt things saying people are overclaiming benefits

    Others are criticising saying the advice being given by some posters is encouraging fraud and should be stopped

    We are not omniscient, my team can't be expected to know everything about everything and police accordingly. Posters and recipients of info need to take some responsibility for themselves - that's the ethos of a forum. Those who aren't sure please stick to the MSE main site which is where all my team and my research and info is placed and for that we do take full responsibility.

    On the issue of people positing info others believe are incorrect and possibly fraudulent. The first thing to say is this is an open forum - as it says at the top of the page "IMPORTANT!
    This is an open forum - anyone can post." As for incorrect views, please see the forum rules section http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/site/forum-faqs#issues you'll see there's an area that deals with it specifically and what to do. We can't check every post is accurate, the only way would be to ban all posts but those from the MSE team - that wouldn't be a forum then.

    Ultimately the same information takes place on many boards including facebook, twitter and others. Where its pointed out to us if it is obviously criminal we remove things, but if things are in the minutae of benefits law then my abuse team are not experts and have to judge it as best they think fit. So if you see a post you think breaks the law then report it and we'll do our best.

    Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert.
    Please note, answers don't constitute financial advice, it is based on generalised journalistic research. Always ensure any decision is made with regards to your own individual circumstance.
    Don't miss out on urgent MoneySaving, get my weekly e-mail at www.moneysavingexpert.com/tips.
    Debt-Free Wannabee Official Nerd Club: (Honorary) Members number 000
  • JimmyTheWigJimmyTheWig Forumite
    12.2K Posts
    Part of the Furniture 10,000 Posts Name Dropper Combo Breaker
    Butti wrote: »
    It wasn't so much that we lost him as he was hounded out. The people sending him abusive PMs, sending other people abusive messages and PMs under a name very very very similar to his and publicly attacking him just got too much. Many of us believe that this group included those working for banks, debt collectors and other financial institutions, basically those organisations that DFWs need protecting from and need to be given clear advice about. We believe he was very effective in this and that is why he was hounded out.

    There seemed to be very little protection of him and for him.
    Do we as users not have an obligation to help here, though? I don't know the background to any of this having not seen it myself but I would have thought that there would have been more posters in favour of this decent regular than those against him. So where there were criticisms there should have been more messages of support.
  • JimmyTheWigJimmyTheWig Forumite
    12.2K Posts
    Part of the Furniture 10,000 Posts Name Dropper Combo Breaker
    MSE_Martin wrote: »
    We are not omniscient, my team can't be expected to know everything about everything and police accordingly.
    Just a thought... Given that this site makes a lot of money (I presume that that is still the case) would it be worth putting some extra resource into this area?
    if things are in the minutae of benefits law then my abuse team are not experts and have to judge it as best they think fit.
    I believe the problem comes when something is clearly against the spirit of the law but manages to fall just within the letter of the law. It's a tough one, as who are we (well, you) to determine the spirit of the law.
  • amy0611amy0611 Forumite
    37 Posts
    is fairly simple.

    Remove all information about benefits - both the information pages and the discussion/'slagging off' pages.

    The information people require is freely available from other places on the Internet and elsewhere. Anyone who needs help on how to defraud the system is ruining this wonderful resource we have and we shouldn't be supporting fraud anyway, and anyone who is genuine can go to the official places to get the help they need.

    No one should be hounded out of a public forum and people should hand their heads in shame. Martin - you probably will be affected by this bad state of affairs at some point so pull the plug now.

  • Eric_PischEric_Pisch Forumite
    8.7K Posts
    Part of the Furniture 1,000 Posts Combo Breaker
    you cant please all of the people..

    always going to be a bugbear this subject, to many strongly held opposing views
  • “We give too much money in social services in this country. People need to be encouraged to work, we should cut off ALL benefits let people fend for themselves, if they starve, they’ll soon get work.”

    Don't worry, folks. It's only someone from the Austrian School of Economics.
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