The only messages that I have deleted (as far as I can recall) have been duplicate ones that sometimes are accidentally posted. The only ones I’ve edited have been related to those or, in one case, a message of my own that got screwed up in terms of some web sites I was trying to post.
Whoops! Ok, I almost forgot a major one (that would’ve looked bad) when I edited C#3’s posts containing a copyrighted article.
Now, as to your questions:
There is no specific written policy. To be completely honest, when I encounter something that is questionable, I send it up the line. Now, as time goes on, we will all presumably feel more comfortable in what should and shouldn’t be allowed, but now I think a lot of it is “we know it when we see it.” For example, relating to the whole C#3 article thing (and hoping not to re-argue that point), the whole article was obviously a violation; when he reposted over 90% of it, it was obviously a violation. When he summarized and quoted FROM it, it was obviously not a violation and was left alone. So, no, we don’t have a written policy that says, “If somebody posts 52.45% of an article or more, delete it.” A similar topic is that of somebody referring to a “commercial” website. Well, what’s a commercial website? How would we define it in a written guideline? For now, “we know it when we see it.” We’re still working through some of these things, and if you have suggestions, please feel free to e-mail them to me (I won’t speak for any of the others, as I know some of them get TONS of e-mail as it is ).
This question, as stated, is not answerable. It’s like asking, “Is it ethical to kill another person?” There are too many variables. (For example, if somebody was about to murder your children, it might be considered ethical to kill them instead.) But back to your question. Would it be ethical to edit or delete messages in an attempt to gain some sort of an “edge”? Obviously not. But is it ethical to do so to enforce board rules? Yes. Take, again, the C#3 case (I hate to keep referring to that one, as it’s been hashed and rehashed, but it’s appropriate to this discussion). I was involved in that discussion. But his posts WERE copyright violations. I had to delete/edit them. I specifically told him that if he summarized it instead, it would stay up. He finally decided to do that, and it stayed. If I was trying to stop him from making his point, I wouldn’t have specifically told him how to post the same information without getting in trouble. But the fact of the matter was that I didn’t particularly care if he posted the information – I cared about how he posted it (within the law or not).
I hope that answers your questions.