Why was Kevin Meyerson banned from Quora?

A copy of this online exchange was captured in case Kevin Meyerson succeeded in purging it from Quora public record. Which Kevin Meyerson did in April of 2012.

Kevin’s past behavior on Quora had been replicated on Twitter, TED Talks message forum, and YouTube.

He has misrepresented people interested in seeing thorium utilized as an energy resource as paid astorturfers. When asked for evidence he repeats the claim.

Don’t feed the troll.

--- Exchange once documented on Quora is as follows ---

https://www.quora.com/Kevin-Meye... (thanks to Russell Stadler)

All Changes • 1056 Total Edits

User status changed by Quora Admin.

A Quora admin banned Kevin Meyerson from Quora

Comment: A previous suspension for failing to collaborate with others and purposefully making edits against consensus view has effected no positive change in behavior.

You are not acting in good faith to foster discourse, by making personal attacks against other users; by making blanket inflammatory statements; by reverting edits intended to bring a neutral tone to leading questions; by blocking other users to prevent them from replying to your contributions on the site; among other things. Additionally, we have detected sock puppet accounts that you have set up, in violation of Quora site policy.

Because of this, the admins are placing a ban on your account.

#1121676 • Dec 07, 2010 06:37 PM

Kaiser Kuo, Life sentence in Beijing

21 votes by Jae Won Joh, Shannon Larson, Seb Paquet, (more)

I suppose that since I was involved in this kerfuffle I should weigh in here. My objection was initially only with his use of clearly pejorative or otherwise value-laden terminology in questions that he posted to Quora, most conspicuously his insistent use of the "Communist China" instead of simply "China" in questions. I would have reacted in the same way if, say, someone had insisted on using "Amerikkka" instead of America or the United States, or referring to France as say "the land of cheese-eating surrender monkeys," or if someone had insisted on tacking the epithet "Glorious" to China. I believe that his use of "Communist China" prejudiced answers unnecessarily, and all I ever did was to edit the word out of questions, never answers, where I feel strongly that people should feel free to express opinion unless it veers off into ad hominem attack or just vandalism. I made this all very clear to him. He escalated by insisting that I was engaging in censorship, and assumed (completely erroneously) that I was making those edits on orders from Beijing somehow. I maintained a very reasonable voice throughout, even when he attacked me quite personally on his blog (to be sure, he redacted my name in a screenshot he posted of back-and-forth edits, but left it plain in the URL, as you can see here: http://chinacensorshipwatch.org/...

Quora was very fair to him. Admins set up a question to debate what the Quora convention should be for references in questions to mainland China, and the overwhelmingly clear consensus was that simply saying "China" didn't create the confusion that, as Kevin would have it, would ensue were the word "communist" to be left off it. He then stepped up, blocking me and just about anyone else who expressed disagreement. He began posting questions intended to discredit my employer (Baidu), who I've always been completely clear about disclosing, and attacking me on a long list of comment threads to China-related questions. Around this time Quora admins suspended his editing rights for a week. This only seems to have incensed him. He started using sock puppet accounts whose only activities were to vote up his own answers and mark as "not helpful" or voting down answers of others. And he widened the personal attacks.

In places where Kevin answered reasonably, for example answering his own question about Charter 08, a document written by advocates of human rights in China that circulated on the Internet and was signed by some 10,000 individuals, I upvoted him. And at times, before the personal attacks began, he even upvoted my answers--answers about Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and the prominent artist-cum-dissident Ai Weiwei, which hardly seem to me to be things a paid propagandist for the Chinese Communist Party would have written.

Kevin made sweeping allegations that everyone who disagreed with any of his positions (including that it is CCP-directed censorship when we refer to "China" rather than "Communist China" on Quora) is a paid propagandist of the Chinese government. He published these allegations on his website, as well as all over Quora, and was particularly relentless in attacking Kaiser Kuo.

All attempts to reason with him were met with hostility.

Paul Denlinger, Have lived in China, Taiwan or Hong K...

7 votes by Russell Stadler, Kaiser Kuo, John Clover,  (more)Russell Stadler, Kaiser Kuo, John Clover, Jonathan Aaron Alpart, Shannon Larson, Liz Pullen, and Charles Frith

I was involved with the debate with Kevin and know something about the process which led to his being banned. FYI, I am not allied with the Chinese government, nor am I paid by them. If you ask people like Bill Bishop, Kaiser Kuo, Sage Brennan, Christine Lu, among others, (all of

whom are present on Quora), you will find that I am frequently critical of certain aspects of Chinese government and party policy. While I don't claim to know everything about China and Chinese policy, I think that they will tell you that I have a fairly good acquaintance and understanding with how things work in China, at least far more than the average Joe.

Unlike Kevin, I read, write and speak Mandarin Chinese fluently.

First of all, while referring to China as Communist China dates someone and reveals much about their political agenda, by itself, it is no reason to ban someone from Quora.

But Kevin did more than that. He insisted that Quora was siding with Chinese terms of censorship on Quora, which are patently false. He can say Communist China all he wants, but by saying that the default used when referring to China should be "Communist China", and that by refusing to use this standard, Quora is then somehow enforcing Chinese government censorship is patent nonsense.

By making broad charges that people like myself and Kaiser Kuo were propagandists for the Chinese government, he unnecessarily made enemies for his own cause. Kevin tried to start flame wars to gain visibility, which he then cross-posted to his own blog, undoubtedly to raise his visibility among Chinese human rights critics.

Kevin was not interested in fruitful debate and discussion, he just wanted to make a big fuss. During his infrequent episodes of lucidity, there were  things which Kevin said about China and the Chinese government which I agreed with. Unfortunately, these periods were short, and he would soon fall back  into his dumb black/white, you are with us or against us

modes.

For repeatedly doing this, making false charges and ad hominem attacks, I believe that he eventually got banned.

I am not a Quora employee or admin, so if you want the details, I suggest you talk with them.

John Clover

I am not sure where the right place to say this is, but I also want to point out that most of Kevin's complaints and angst landed on people of Chinese ethnicity.

I have frequently spoken against Kevin's blind opposition to being open minded about China, yet I was never blocked by him and was rarely responded to.

I find this somewhat telling of his motives and beliefs.

Jonathan Aaron Alpart, BA in Mandarin,works for China Radio ...

5 votes by John Clover, Mike Miu, Jae Won Joh,  (more)John Clover, Mike Miu, Jae Won Joh, Shannon Larson, and Lance Crayon

If I recall, my first interaction with him on Quora was him totally misconstruing my answer about whether or not China is "Communist" by writing a comment asking me to clarify my reasoning about China being "fascist."  I told him that that was not what my answer stated and what followed was a relatively fair and civilized debate about it, albeit he did not seem to get the message after I told him clearly and repeatedly that I did not consider China to be a fascist state as he continued to tell me that I did while showing me numerous sources that confirmed his (my?) opinion [about China being fascist].

After a few times back and forth of this I got frustrated and changed the subject regarding something that was peeving me - his constant usage of the term "Communist China" in everything he wrote about China.  This seemed to light the powder keg.

He quickly morphed into the strangest troll I have ever encountered.  The whole situation about him is a enigma to me.  I think it is kind of sad that he was banned, rather, sad that he continued his behavior leading to his banishment.  To this day I still don't know if he is just a griefer or just really paranoid and misguided.

He blocked my account and also dissed me on his blog.  I tried to post a comment on his blog but instead he just posted my comment as an actual blog post complete with him insulting and deconstructing the hidden conspiracy* within my words.

*irony

Edit: Here is the thread I am describing: What does it exactly mean to say that China is a communist country?

Anon User

8 votes by Anon User, Yishan Wong, Andrew Brown,  (more)Anon User, Yishan Wong, Andrew Brown, Ryan Lackey, June Lin, Peter Clark, Anon User, and Anon User

I work in human rights. I know Kevin. He told me about Quora and suggested I look into it. Regarding banning someone like this:

It's pretty obvious from the log that Kevin was banned from Quora for asking, answering, and commenting about China's atrocious human rights record. Although someone might say he is offensive, his record is not more offensive than Yishan Wong, Paul Denlinger, Lynn Tao, or some other Quora users who made repeated personal attacks against Kevin for his views, especially over the past few days.

Kaiser Kuo, I read through your dialogs with Kevin. Your actions were not as reasonable as you described in your answer.  Also your position at Baidu,  a company that proactively censors and shares personal information with the Chinese government, makes your motivation for pushing this agenda suspect. You are highly conflicted, after all.

Shannon Larson, I looked through the interactions and cannot find the attempts to reason with Kevin that you describe. The only interactions I can find are of a few people arguing, not reasoning. 

Regarding the allegedly offensive term "Communist China", as Gary Stein pointed out in his comment to Russell Stadler above, no one has shown why it is a bad term. Kevin provided abundant evidence showing the term is accepted in normal use.

The real irony is censorship occurs on a site like Quora. 'Nuff said.

Matthew Skyrm

Suggest Bio

1 vote by Anon User

Kevin is a friend and I have loosely followed most of the threads he was involved in as well as this one.

My answer to this question is:  "Because a small group of people took advantage of Quora's immature systems/policies for ensuring quality."

Quora admins are never going to be neutral and objective experts on all topics.  As such, they have to employ a generic approach of systems/policies to ensure quality.  Is it perfect?  Certainly not!  As evidenced by Kevin's banning -- Quora is still learning to wallk and is not anywhere close to running.

Do tools like "Not Helpful" buttons actually work to demote answers? (seemingly, but wait until a 4chan'ers decide to put it to the test)

Can a small group of people squash one person's voice? (clearly! In Kevin's case most of their names are listed in this thread and were effective in getting Kevin banned.  We don't even need 4chan'ers to test it)

Can people feel free to post with their real names without fear of retribution? (no! as evidenced in this thread by the rather articulate and reasonable "anon" who stated "I'm posting anonymously here simply because after seeing what happened to Kevin I too am concerned about any potential backlash that may come my way for defending the term.")

The argument that Kevin lacked suitable decorum is rather laughable given the lack of decorum in the answers I am reading here.  The practice employed here by Jonathan Alpart and others -- calling Kevin, who isn't present to defend himself, a "troll" is a good example of what Quora's systems/policies should be carefully looking out for.  To make matters worse, the amount of vagueness used by several here when describing Kevin's offenses (see Shannon Larson's answer) in order to position oneself or others as a victim of some kind is reprehensible.  If you or someone else is a victim, make your case with very specific examples.

On the topic of "Communist China" -- putting Kevin aside, enough articulate voices (and with good taste and propriety) here on Quora and elsewhere have made the case for its use and plenty of louder/hyperbolic voices have said otherwise.  Both should be allowed to enjoy the discourse freely.

I'm hopeful that Quora will eventually work out these issues.  People like Kevin, with strong opinions, should be able to remain active.  Individuals with an agenda to eradicate dialogue they don't like should be unable to do so.

I'm afraid to do Quora search for topics such as abortion, ataturk, existence of god, etc.  As evidenced here, a small group on either side could make some noise with the Quora admins and easily take advantage of Quora's immature admin systems/policies to squash opinionated but nonetheless worthy voices.

Paul Denlinger

I disagree. I was involved in the process, and debated with Kevin. He was not banned for his use of the term "Communist China"; that is his individual choice and no one blamed him for that. But by insisting that Quora use Communist China as the standard, and then saying that Quora was acting as an instrument of the Chinese govt for not following his standards in using Communist China as the default term to refer to that country, he was completely out of line. In a reply I made recently, I pointed out that Kevin needlessly and stupidly alienated those of us who agreed with some of his points by painting everything in black and white terms, with no room for discussion or dialogue. He wanted to force people to take sides, and in the end, everyone took a position against him. Kevin is his own worst enemy, not Quora or its members.

Comment downvoted • 20 Jan, 2011

Jonathan Aaron Alpart

Give me a break!  The only reprehensible thing is Kevin and his friends acting like Kevin was a victim and acting like Quora has some kind of culture of fear regarding taboo topics.  Please!  Get off it already!  Kevin has started a personal war against Quora because he is too proud apparently to admit that he acted like a schmuck.  Not to mention that his behavior on this website was complete hypocrisy considering he is so "anti-cenorship" (blocking users, editing questions against established consensus).

Sure, he has the right to block users, but there is a difference between blocking users who are harassing you and blocking them because you don't want them to retort on your propaganda.  As far as I know he was never harrased.  I actually sent him a personal message on Quora, to which he never responded.  Unless you count him BLOCKING ME as a response.  I will reproduce it here:

Nov 11, 2010:

"For the record, everything I say here about China is 100% my own opinion and has nothing to do with self-censorship or government pressure. If I sometimes come across biased towards the positive side, it is only because I feel that China receives too much unfair, hypocritical criticism from the West and I am trying to counter that negativity with my own experiences here in China as an expatriate, which just so happen to be very different than what the mainstream would have you believe.  Despite what you say to the contrary, I see such negativity in a lot of your comments, terminology and even questions and I want to counter that what I see as misinformed.

I can admit my bias so I hope you can stop with the rhetorical accusations of collusion because they are annoying and ridiculous to me.

Having said that, I also value open discussion with you, I only ask that you listen to what I say fairly and not discredit my words with paranoid insinuations."

I've exhausted myself trying to explain this any further because it does not matter.  Kevin doesn't want to be right, he just doesn't want to be wrong.

Matthew, you are right that many of the answers on *this* thread lack decorum but if you look at the threads where debates actually happened with Kevin himself, you will find the opposite.

Comment downvoted • 21 Jan, 2011

Anon User

2 votes by Anon User and Anon User

I can say with 100% certainty that Chinese leaders and common people often refer to China as "Communist China" and often use catch phrases like "Under Communist principles/leadership/ideology..."

Yes, a great number of people use the phrase pejoratively but an even greater number use that phrase in a positive manner.

I think the china vs communist china debate would hold a lot more water if you guys referred to it correctly, The People's Republic of China but rather go with the more pr friendly China.  How can "communist china" be wrong and "china" not be wrong as well?  Where do we draw the line?

I apologize if I misinterpreted this situation but it looks like he correctly referred to China as communist china, a bunch of people don't like how that sounds and the ensuing argument spun out of control.  I think both sides are at fault here.

Not defending Kevin, he clearly looks like a troll but if quora is ever going to work it's going to have to find a way to deal with trolls other than by banning them.  They'll always exist and are often times instigated.

As quora states, "Quora relies on the good faith of everyone using it to make it a high quality resource."  I don't think referring to The People's Republic of China as Communist China is any more or less value laden as referring to it as China and think both sides are arguably acting as quora vigilantes, not improving the site but rather trying to make it reflect their own world view rather than continuing the debate.

I'm posting anonymously here simply because after seeing what happened to Kevin I too am concerned about any potential backlash that may come my way for defending the term Communist China.

Where do we draw the line, is it wrong to call Mike Tyson a boxer and a felon or Warren Buffet insanely rich because some people take issues with those descriptions and feel it unnecessarily creates bias towards black violent people and rich old white guys?

Kaiser, here's my response:

You are skirting the real issue here by nitipicking what you choose to pick.  While they do not say 共产中国 there is an inherent relationship with Communism is all the names from the PRC and PLA and onwards.  The Communist Party of China is the driving force behind most things here either governmental or non governmental and you know this.

Furthermore, there are in fact numerous blog entries that pop up where Chinese people use the term.  I already don't like the direction of where this is going because you clearly aren't being forthright and I'm beginning to see where Kevin's frustrations came from and even more pleased now that I chose to go anon.

I notice you don't disagree with my statement about common catch phrases given by officials where Communist X is the reason for improvement Y.  I dare you to take issue with that.  I've spent years translating government speeches into English Kaiser, it's pretty hard for them to speak too much without explicitly or subtly giving all the credit to Communist forces, be it the party, the principles, or the harmonious society that came about from Communist guidance.

Furthermore Kaiser, a search on Baidu of that term reveals more than 75 million results and over 300,000 on google, I wouldn't necessarily call that almost nothing.  I don't feel you fully addressed the question but were rather assuming I know nothing of what I talk about, nor that I would could read Chinese enough to verify your statement, which is highly misleading.

I'm done here, I feel my point was made.  Not defending Kevin but not defending you guys either.

And here is someone else's response:

"http://www.zhongnanhaiblog.com/?...

The People’s Republic of China can be called the PRC, Mainland China, the Chinese Mainland, and even Communist China, because that is factually what it is. That is not a debatable point.  The message meant to be conveyed through the use of the term, however, is subjective and personal, and the meaning of that message and its accuracy can be debated. Whether or not one prefers the use of “Communist China” is totally a matter of personal preference, but encouraging others not to use a descriptor that is factually correct is indeed, and ironically, a subtle way of injecting one’s own values and beliefs into the term."

There, that sums it up.  You are being just as bad as Kevin and aren't even aware of it.  The sad thing is you'll probably now say I'm a Kevin sock puppet but in reality we run in similar social circles and I'm just being anonymous so next time we are at the same event we can just ignore each other as usual instead of having an awkward confrontation.  I shouldn't even be doing this but I think you guys should be ashamed of yourselves for standing up for a belief that not even the people you are supposedly defending believe in.  Bring on one government official here to comment and say they consider "Communist China" a pejorative and I'll eat cardboard baozi.

John: I agree with you 100%, like I said earlier I don't know the full history but gleaned it seemed the issue spiraled out of control because both sides were being unreasonable by saying the other was wrong.

Kaiser Kuo

Anon, my question was entirely sincere, and the search results you cite if you look carefully are overwhelmingly for appearances of those four individual characters, not for all four appearing together as a phrase. And there are almost none for the four characters appearing together. I was only challenging the assertion that Chinese use the syntagm "Communist China." If there's an equivalent that you're translating as "Communist China" I just don't know what it is. Of course they use the word communist in a positive sense, no challenge from me there at all. I'm not nitpicking here at all: I was just honestly surprised to see the claim that Chinese people often refer to the country as "Communist China."

I think you're judging very unfairly here. Please go back and read everything I've ever written on this whole debate, and you'll find that nowhere do I ever go beyond the very, very narrow assertion that this particular monicker as used in common contemporary American English is a prejudicer, is therefore not appropriate in Quora questions (as opposed to answers) when a less prejudicial term should be employed.

This has never for me been a debate about whether Chinese embrace the word or the idea of communism, or whether China is in reality communist, or whether the word communist has any inherent pejorative quality. None of that matters a whit to me on the very specific topic that started all of this and from which I've never departed.

I fully agree that anyone should be able to use it all they want wherever they want, but that when (as in a Quora question) the idea is to elicit sensible, intelligent, informed answers it's an entirely reasonable policy to expect the use on non-leading, non-value laden terminology. As I've said before, I would never presume to make edits to anyone's use of the term in an answer to a question.

How is that being "just as bad as Kevin"? The circumstances of my objection to his use are very narrow. It's ONLY ever been for me about what name to use in posing questions. If you don't agree that different standards should apply for questions, that wording of questions should be subject to a different set of guidelines and expectations, that's a different matter that you could take up with the Quora administrators. I'm just going by their ruling.

Comment downvoted • 20 Jan, 2011

John Clover

I still think you miss the point Anon. Most people here agree that China is Communist and it is not unreasonable to refer to it as such.

However, it is a bit elementary to insist on referring to it ONLY as Communist China in every possible context.

Kevin was single minded, go look at the questions he asked. Not only was he single minded but he refused to interact once he laid his bait. I answered several of his questions without any response at all and it seemed to me that all he was doing was trolling.

By doing so, he actively worked against bringing any light to the argument against Chinese censorship.

Comment downvoted • 20 Jan, 2011

Jonathan Aaron Alpart

Anon, you are missing the point by nitpicking at the usage of "Communist China" of why Kevin was banned.

Look at his edits and his questions and even his answers.  Look at his blog, www.chinacensorshipwatch.org

It is obvious that he was not interested in learning from others, from having his own questions answered by people other than himself or those who agree with him, or entertaining any thoughts or ideas about China that were not like his: an extreme and one-sided view that China is some kind of embodiment of evil and unamericanism that is a threat to world-wide freedom and just about everything we Westerners hold dear.  I'm not exaggerating in the slightest.

This is my breakdown of classic, Kevin style "discourse."

1) Someone makes a comment about China based on experience, scholarship, hearsay, etc (China has market capitalism).

2) Kevin responds by "verifying" a totally misappropriated version of the previous comment (So you are saying China is fascist and will try to take over the world?).

3) User tries to correct Kevin and re-explain his true intentions of his message (Um, no, that's not what I said....actually....)

4) Kevin responds by cherry-picking some questionable "source" that backs up his "verification" of your message and asks you to defend yourself against...yourself (Yes, you said A and B, so therefore C, which is what I said.  So that's what you said.  See?  If you don't believe me, read this blog by some guy.)

5) User argues against said source and makes new argument which backs up original message, even providing sources/evidence of his own (No, C is not logically deduced from A and B.  And I'm pretty sure that blog was a lolcats website.  Try reading this credible source, instead.)

6) Kevin blatantly ignores new argument and then asks for sources/evidence even though some were JUST GIVEN (I disagree.  Do you have any evidence for that?)

7) Repeat Steps 5&6 until you give up.

(-This link explains everything I am saying.

-But do you have any evidence for that?

-Yes, I just...

-I don't understand the English language.)

His blog reads like a tabloid or a snotty fashion magazine and is not at all a serious critique about Chinese censorship.  It smacks of an egregious, incorrigible bias against China.  Bias isn't even the right word.  It's like China pushed him in the mud on the playground when he was in elementary school.

You can go on and on about why Communist China is an appropriate term but, the truth is, he was banned because he ignored all logic and all arguments from just about everyone and then acted like he was some kind of victim.  He then resorted to inappropriate tactics to promote his ideas and silence those of others, which led to a breakdown of discourse.

His usage of "Communist China," undoubtedly used in a negative way, is just the tip of the iceberg

Comment downvoted • 20 Jan, 2011