Comments that are negative and critical of groups as a whole should only be allowed if:
- They are held to a very high standard of relevance. It must be like any comment: actually genuinely clarifying for the topic at hand. Certainly if it's clear that the stated goal of making the comment is in order for an ideological viewpoint to be pushed, no way Jose. Comments, according to the code of conduct, have to be kind and friendly, and while it's ok to be a little bit lax with this in general, not in the case of these types of comments. If the comment is not kind or friendly, this should be a strong indicator that the comment is not relevant but is ideological in nature and it shouldn't take much more than this to decide to delete the comment.
- Kindness and friendliness are imperative as well in controversial issues so as to avoid inflaming the conversation.
- They are very well substantiated, which means that the claim is falsifiable, the substantiation has to come from a near universally acceptable authority or standard, such as the ruling of a Beis Din, or a publication of the group themselves, or a near-universally accepted researcher of the group. "One of their adherents told me" or "this gedol or that criticised them so therefore it's ok" or "everyone I know knows this" is 100% wrong. One exception to this would be if the controversy is indeed the subject or highly relevant to it, and therefore quoting notable opponents of the group, even if they are part of the controversy themselves. The only advice I'd add to the moderators on this point is that they should try to determine if this notable opponent is still relevant. E.g. If the opponent is claiming they are Sabbatean, but it's clear that that complaint is now 300 years out of date, then it should motivate the moderator to strongly consider deleting the comment. At the very least, the comment absolutely cannot be opinion based.
- It should pass clear tests to be not being lashon hara, rechilut or onaas devarim. I wouldn't deem it fair or appropriate for the moderator to have to decide that, so this rule is one of the more fuzzy ones. At the very least, comments like this should try to themselves explain why they think this negative comment is le'toeles, and the community will thus be able to flag the comment if they disagree.
- I've basically already said this, but for crystal clear emphasis, the criticism can't be a fallacy, such as being unfalsifiable, e.g. claiming to know the unstated motivations or secret practices of a group. All other fallacies such as straw manning, ad hominem and the like are of course included in this.
- Even if all of the above is adhered to, if the comment actually writes off the whole group completely and utterly; delegitimizes them as a whole, then what's the question? Why do we keep comments here like that about groups that are well accepted in general? Personally, I wouldn't do such a thing even to Jewish (and many non-Jewish) groups that are generally unaccepted here. As per the point of relevance, if the controversy is highly relevant to the discussion, then mentioning that certain people consider the group illegitimate can be allowed, but if there is even a hint that the comment itself is trying to delegitimize the group, this is a very low quality comment and should be deleted.
- I would also like to re-emphasis the words "suspicious" and "mistrust". If the comment unfairly raises these things about the group, then it is morally imperative to delete it and eventually ban the user who does this.
- Any comment that calls to invalidate the answer or question they are commenting on, e.g. "this answer is coming from bad group and therefore isn't authentic Torah and is incorrect" are also not acceptable.
Basically criticism about entire groups is a very elevated category of criticism in terms of the standards it should be held to. The comment must be considered important and necessary for the discussion at hand, and be completely fair, relevant, more highly substantiated than other claims, and should be unscrupulously well mannered and friendly.
Comments that breach this should be treated with zero tolerance. The moderator should always put themselves in the shoes of the group and say "if someone said this (or equivalent) about my group, or simply about all Jews, would I consider it ok?". They should be deleted, not shoved into a chat. The user should be warned and if they keep doing it, some action should be taken, with eventual banning if possible, or limiting to the greatest extent if not.
I would quote site policy, but it's a little too vague and I can interpret it to support me, I'm sure someone can interpret it to support inaction. The same would be true of trying to bring a halachic argument of onaas devarim or lashon hara, but an exhaustive discussion will of course ensue and the position of allowing the comments will likely be defended according to some argument.
There are two other options that would make logical sense, but wouldn't be ideal:
- Allow similar comments for all groups.
- Make it site policy that the group in question is not considered authentic Judaism and is therefore not on topic for the site.
This middle ground is causing harm to the conversation, to learning, and to real people who are psychologically damaged by the comments and the inaction of the moderators, and must be addressed one way or another.
As for chats, I do not expect the mods to be proactive but certainly if a comment is flagged, the above guidelines should be used.
Of course, this all applies to questions and answers, so long as they are not productive and relevant questions about the controversies themselves.