Thoughts On Agreements and Sanctions 

To ensure adherence to agreements for the public planning discourse platform

This is an exploration of a ‘platform management issue’: the question of needed participation agreements on a public planning discourse support platform. The idea of preventive sanctions automatically triggered by the very attempt of non-adherence via a merit point ‘currency’. Authority vs community control,  


Like all social internet platforms, a ‘global’ public planning discourse support platform, as well as its experimental ‘pilot’ version, will encounter management issues regarding inappropriate, or distasteful or disruptive participant actions: ‘trolling’, ’hacking’, or just filling the threads with useless, meaningless and annoying blather. Most of the available forms of control or containment of such behavior for platform ‘administrators’ or ‘moderators’ can also become the reason for criticism: perceived ‘partisan’, biased’, or oppressive abuse of their ‘power’. 

This issue is a miniature version of general governance problems in any community: of ensuring that agreements, laws, and rules aimed at guaranteeing a peaceful functioning  of that society are actually adhered to. The terms describing the manner in which this is usually done — ‘enforcement’ — indicate the sources of conflicts and problems: governance  entities endowed empowered to use coercion and force to prevent and punish violations of the rules.

This element of power is problematic within ‘community’ or governance domains, because there will always be parties feeling that rules are ‘unfair’ or arbitrary and will try to resist them: at the extreme with violent force against enforcement agents. The battle against crime inevitably leads to escalation of the enforcement and opposition tools. 

The same syndrome becomes even more critical when played out in ‘global’, international relations and conflicts. If conflicts arising from perceived unjust and unfair violations of agreed-upon treaties or assumed rules of proper interactions have to be ‘resolved’ by the threat or application of violent force, the call for some ‘global’ enforcement entity will arise — a ’world govenment’ — an entity with unquestionably superior force. We see several nations now competing for becoming this superior ruler or ‘world policeman’. The specter of such an  entity is as abhorrent to many as the prospect of the battle for dominance  even between current contenders: with the ‘enforcement’ and opposition weaponry, a war to resolve that contest is predicted to be too destructive for humanity as a whole to survive. 

History also teaches that the supreme power of such an entity will become an irresistible temptation to abuse that power — to itself violate the rules and agreements it is supposed to ensure. Power is addictive and tends to destroy the mental sanity of rulers. This means that the search for different means of guaranteeing that rules and agreements will be adhered to should be an urgent priority for humanity. 

The very nature and aim of a ‘discourse’ about conflicts and plans is antithetical to the use of coercion and force. It is the very manifestation of hope and conviction that resolution of differences of opinion and interest, as well as development of plans to deal with natural disasters, can be achieved with tools of mutual explanation, argument, negotiation: discourse. To the extent agreements on rules will be needed for peaceful and constructive planning discourse, the discussion agenda for design of its platform and process must address the issue of alternatives to ‘enforcement’ of adherence to its own agreements.

Examples of non-coercive tools for this purpose already exist, even current technologies potentially facilitating different approaches. Also, elements of the proposed platform — such as the idea of measurements of discourse contribution merit — could be adapted to becoming tools for dealing with this problem of violations of agreements. They aim less at finding penalizing ‘sanctions’ than at provisions to prevent them, triggered by the very attempt (intentional or inadvertent) to commit a violation. 

These considerations suggest some more thorough examination both of the kinds of agreements a constructive planning discourse platform would need, and an attempt to provide innovative tools for ensuring their adherence, for discussion and encouragement for developing more and better ideas. 

Needed agreements :

‘Rules’ for a constructive planning discourse.

The planning discourse platform will need tools to contain the same kinds of disruptive behavior that plagues current social  media, such as: 

 – ‘Off-topic’ contributions;

–  Insulting, disrespectful comments and  language;

–  ‘Ad hominem’ attacks as means of evading the topic;

–  Intentionally untrue or incomplete, selective information;

–  Reckless repetition of unsupported ‘rumors’ . 

Added suggestions imight nclude the habit of posting links to other sources without explaining the point the cited work is supported to support, or mere advertising items, 

To the extent the platform aims at developing decisions or recommendations, the community may decide to use some standardized formats or templates of comments  aiming at facilitating overview and aggregation of judgments into measures of overall merit of plan proposals, it may become necessary to find means of ensuring adherence to those agreements.  

Potential ‘platform management’ tools: 

Withdrawal of contribution or judgment rights.

It is a common practice on social media to attempt to prevent abuse by restricting ‘membership’, e.g.: Prospective participants selectively invited by people who are  already members, or have to ‘apply’ for admittance to a group. The  application is reviewed and decided upon by ‘administrators’ or group ‘owners’, perhaps with other members’ input or veto  power. This requires agreement about the criteria  to be used, which can become controversial. 

The approach is incompatible with the requirement of wide public participation.  Obviously, criteria used for public platforms should not be ‘discriminating’ against community members on the basis of gender, race, religion etc., but age, citizenship or residence in a governance domain are often considered. This becomes difficult precisely for the kinds of projects for which this new platform is needed: problems that affect people in different countries or regions. ‘Affectedness’  by a problem or plan can be difficult to judge, as can be the question of whether a participant is sufficiently well informed to weigh in on a complicated matter (expressed clumsily  e.g. in age limits). The common practice of defining ‘affected’ or ‘entitled groups with the tool of ‘licenses’ issue upon proof of knowledge of s discipline and its rules may have to be discussed, for specific types of projects.   

The criteria applied to accepted members relate more easily to the member’s explicit or implied agreement to comply with the current group ‘rules’. Consequences for violation of those rules can then be specified, and in the extreme, result in revoking the perpetrator’s membership and  participation rights.

Penalties in the form of ‘fines’ — in monetary or other ‘currencies’: Possible tools 

A tentative list of considerations include the following: 

A plausible form of responding to disruptive behavior would be  withdrawal or reduction of earned ‘merit’ points. Imposition of renewal or re-affirmation ‘voting rights’ evidence used for gaining the right of participation or entering decision judgments. Loss of ‘weight’ of decision-determining judgments;  Prevention of acceptance of entries that don’t match agreed-upon specifications (templates) or added evidence support.

This discussion can merely point out the necessity of reaching agreements  on these issues, and will focus only on the potential use of two of these options, as examples: the use of merit points, and the use of templates for selected entry items.

Merit points

One possibility is the use of merit points in contribuors’ accounts  as a currency for levying ‘penalties’ for any violation of the agreed-upon rules. In the eventual ‘real’  platform, this could probably be done by AI programs checking ‘verbatim’ entries and charging a ‘fee’ for any entry that needs to be ‘cleaned up’. In any ‘pilot’ version, it wold have to be done by administrators  or other participants, which would probably be too cumbersome. 


Another potential tool is that of the use of ‘templates’ in the phases of systematic analysis and evaluation of discourse contributions — such as the pro and con arguments about proposed plans. To be inserted into a spreadsheet for entry of merit judgments — plausibility and relative weight of importance,—  and calculation of overall results, they must be restated from any conversational version in the initial  ‘unstructured’ discussion into one of the provided argument templates. 

This would  become the condition for assigning merit points to those contributions. The templates will ‘automatically’ eliminate any ‘unacceptable’ additions — characterizations, ad hominem attacks etc. — from the arguments, and focus on their substantial content.  Also, the evaluation of premises (by other participants) on,  say, a +1 to -1 scale,  will result in positive merit point earned by the respecive author — but negative points for flawed, false and unsubstantiated claims.


The admittedly optimistic and arguable expectation is that these provisions can act to discourage flawed and disruptive information in the first place. The disadvantage is that these ‘corrections’ would be delayed until a ’special technique’ is used; by then, disruptive contributions could already have caused significant damage to a smooth process. 

These possibilities are offered as evidence that new ideas of means for dealing with the administrative challenges are possible, for discussion of details, and as  encouragement for developing other, more effective tools of non-coercive, nonviolent means for ensuring adherence to agreements— both at this diminutive level and at the level of important ‘global’ issues. 

Comments?  Wrong question?  

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