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Open Oxford goes into meltdown

Controversy in the Open Oxford Facebook group after admins ban several members

Created as an online space for members of the University to discuss their views of sensitive or controversial issues, Open Oxford now faces difficulties as a series of bans have led to questions about the administrators’ rights to impose limits on the subjects evoked.

The group’s objective has been to “encourage vigorous but respectful discussion of any topic people are interested in.” Judging that a few of its members had strayed from this original line by posting what admins Jacob Williams, Alex McGann and Alex MQ called “in-jokes and frivolous humour” in their recent online explanation, several of its members were removed from the conversation.

This removal of members is not a one-off, with the admins making it clear that in the future they “reserve the right to remove posts and ban members for abusive and off-topic posts.

“Necessarily this will be somewhat arbitrary but so are all rules. We’ll try to warn people whenever possible before removing them, and we’re happy to readmit members who were removed if they agree to abide by these guidelines.”

Reactions to this have divided the active users of the group, some of which decided to create Open Rebellion in response to Open Oxford’s meltdown.

Sophia Nash explained this division, telling Cherwell, “The OOverlords have betrayed their loyal subjects. We have risen up in defiance of this dictatorship, to stand up for free speech in all its forms and because idk, we were bored.”

The word “purge” was rapidly adopted by members of the group to describe the series of bans. According to Eleanor Sharman, “The admins may yet see the error of their ways, but any revocations of their Purge will now be too little, too late. Original Open Oxford has fallen.”

Alex Doody, a third year German student currently on his year abroad also called for the admins of Open Oxford to resign. He told Cherwell, “Considering the entire raison d’être of Open Oxford as a group to facilitate Free speech, be that serious discussions, polls or even pure shitposting, an antidote to all these other proscriptive Facebook groups, I was initially shocked that a rogue admin would do this, and have become increasingly disgusted as it has become apparent that this may be a coordinated effort.

“I am angry at the way admins have handled this and acted in a way of which Stalin would be proud, and see this as an affront to the very Principles OO was founded to defend. The Admins should resign in shame,” he claimed.

Like the majority of members and former members of Open Oxford expressing their opinion on the meltdown of the group as a space for free discussion, Elrica Degirmen joined Doody in her statement to Cherwell. “This is an affront on the freedom of speech. Freedom of speech ensures that people are able to talk about topics that they want to discuss with others and there is no requirement to always debate “intellectual” subjects.

“Anyone could have banned individuals who make posts on things they do not want to be reading about and indeed no one is obliged to be in the group. It is a great shame that the administrators of Open Oxford thought they could just remove people for arbitrary reasons but it was pleasing to see other members taking a stand against them through continuing their discussions on other related groups.”

Some had a more positive attitude towards the removal of certain members, however, with Ed Mahoney telling Cherwell, “The removed people have a habit of ‘shitposting’ and spamming with unintellectual rubbish.” He added that they formed “a sort of clique which made it difficult for many to follow.”

More on this story: OO Admins apologise for “purge”.

Analysis: Politics and purges in cyberspace

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