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IEET’s “Buddhist Right Speech” Policy - 100 Day Anniversay

Posted: Sep 24, 2012

Comment sections on many websites are filled with venomous invective, aggressive one-upmanship, cruel insults, and disrespectful toxicity. Bucking this trend, IEET offers - exclusively - Non-Violent Dialogue. “Buddhist Right Speech” is our ethical guideline. Today - September 25, marks the 100th day since this policy has been instated.

What is Buddhist Right Speech?  According to, Right Speech [abbreviated] is:

…the first principle of ethical conduct in the Noble Eightfold Path…. Buddha explained Right Speech as follows:
    1. to abstain from false speech, especially not to tell deliberate lies and not to speak deceitfully
    2. to abstain from slanderous speech and not to use words maliciously against others
    3. to abstain from harsh words that offend or hurt others
    4. to abstain from idle chatter that lacks purpose or depth.

IEET arrived at the necessity for Right Speech after a two-month battle between religious and irreligious commenters. Both sides have agreed that the 2,500 year old dictum by Siddhartha Gautama sublimely serves our futuristic organization.

Other belief systems mirror the position of Buddhist Right Speech.

Ephesians 4:29: “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”

The Atheist Commandments, #6, says: “Thou shalt live in peace with thy fellow man.”

Implementation of the new policy will be handled by three moderators: Alex McGilvery, aka “Pastor Alex”, Peter Wicks - our site’s most frequent commenter in the last two months, and Hank Pellissier - IEET Managing Director. The triumvirate represents a roughly equivalent cross-section of IEET readers: Alex is a Canadian Christian, Peter Wicks is European agnostic, Hank is a USA atheist. James Hughes, IEET’s Executive Director, is a former Buddhist monk.

Here’s the Right Speech rules: new members are advised to follow the four directives listed above. Initially, they will be moderated. After they’ve posted twenty comments, they can ask the three moderators for “Immediate Posting Privileges” by simultaneously emailing,, and, with their request.

If members - enraged in the heat of discussion - slip into false, slanderous, harsh, idle, etc. speech, the following steps will - unfortunately - be taken:
1st time: warning sent to the registration email, with the comment(s) removed
2nd time: comment(s) removed and reinstatement of moderated posting
3rd time: commenter banned from posting on IEET site.

Questions about moderation may be directed to either Peter or Alex. The moderators job is not to manage the conversation but to watch for comments that go over the line, and become unethical. You are welcome to ask about how to avoid moderation, but there will be no arguing with the moderators decisions. 

IEET values the importance of “Free Speech” and we welcome all opinions, but we believe that all opinions can be communicated with an intention of kindness. We understand that this will be a difficult transition for many commenters, who are used to the rabid snarling in the average chat-box, but we believe, as a think tank that promotes ethics, that it is imperative to utilize ethics in our conversations with each other.

Additional information on Right Speech is available HERE

How, where and when do I currently lie?
What forms do the habits of falsification take in my external speech?
How and when do I speak badly about others?
How do I needlessly pour out negative speech, especially in key relationships?
How do I unload my negativity onto others and the spaces I inhabit through being unnecessarily harsh and critical? 
Do I use sarcasm or cynicism as a form of suspicion to create distance?
How do I waste time, my vitality, and integrity by engaging in nonsense chatter?

An additional rule for commenters is that posting should be no more than 300 words in length.


IEET’s mission is to be a center for voices arguing for a responsible, constructive, ethical approach to the most powerful emerging technologies.

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Congratulations to Hank, James and the new co-moderators Alex and Peter for this brilliant idea.

I will do my best to follow the Buddhist Right Speech rules here, and I am sure others will do the same and show that believers and atheists, libertarian and liberals, radical transhumanists and more cautious moderates, can discuss hot issues politely and respectfully.

Now we are getting somewhere. Bruised, supersized male egos can and do benefit from Right Speech, and meditation. A relaxing meal before typing helps too. A Hare Krshna devotee told me:

“I feel very spiritual today—I got all the rice.”

Indeed.. let us dispense with this battle of egos, and apply/practice some real “mindfulness” and thought provoking discussion.


Let’s see how it goes in practice. I really get tired of being insulted for having different opinions than some more “mainstream” posters.  Wish R.U. would adopt this over at Acceler8or. I am so effing tired of my trolls.

Thanks for these comments everyone.

@Valkyrie Ice
If we can make this work and then it catches on at other sites then indeed I would see this as a very positive development.

This is wonderful news!  It reflects a phrase I’ve heard used in bioethics, which is “reasonable people can disagree” —Bravo, Hank, Jay, et al…!

I, too, think this is a wonderful idea. I usually don’t comment on websites, but IEET’s intention to hold to right speech makes it feel more comfortable for me to write.  I am a long-time reader and I am hopeful that this new policy may encourage others to add more comments as well.

I do have a question about this.

I have encountered situations, in the past, where there have been things said with no intent of malice, backed up by citation, where some people have tended to take considerable exception to those things.

This is similar to the current right playing victim, where they claim offense at every instance of disagreement.

How does IEET intend to deal with this sort of situation?

Also, how does one judge “False Speech?”

There are a great many things that are demonstrably false that others will cling to as truths.

And I am not talking about just theistic v non-theistic beliefs/discussions (well, at least not “theistic” in the sense that the things of which I am thinking are not part of an established first-world religion - specifically not the Abrahamic Faiths).

Such as things like the Venus Project, or the Zeitgeist Movement.

While these things are based upon fairly righteous ideals, the foundations of their beliefs are essentially false (such as the various claims they make about the Abrahamic faiths, 9/11, and their ideas of Fiat Currency).

And I have seen those who hold these beliefs claim some fairly outrageous things when the problems of these beliefs are pointed out (usually fairly plainly).

How exactly are discussions over the nature of “Truth” to be decided, exactly?

And, I am very pleased to see this adopted.

Hey Mathew,

Just a quick comment.

You mentioned “such as the various claims they make about the Abrahamic faiths, 9/11, and their ideas of Fiat Currency”

That is a reference from a movie/ doco called “Zeitgeist”. It has nothing to do with what the Zeitgeist Movement is based on. It was just made by the same guy (Peter Jospeh) who founded the Zeitgeist Movement.

The Zeitgeist Movement advocates a Resourse Based Economy (RBE). The RBE is not a concept founded by Peter Joseph.

Please check out the link below for info in the RBE. I think you’ll enjoy it.


This resembles socrates’ 3 sifters:
Before you say something, make sure it passes through these 3 sifters:
1) Truth: Is what you’re saying true? Are you sure, or just heard from someone else?
2) Useful: Is what you’re saying useful to someone other than yourself?
3) Good: Is what you’re saying going to do good to other people/ the world?

Bravo! I completely agree and consent. Dr. B

Hi Matthew,

You ask some excellent questions here.

This is just a personal view at this stage, but I think the taboo against “false speech” has to refer to deliberate falsehood, that is to say dishonesty, rather than delusional but sincerely-held beliefs. I believe that this is most consistent with the original concept. Similarly, for speech to be “offensive” in the sense of Right Speech there has either to have been a deliberate intention to offend, or at least it should have been obvious to the speaker that his or her comments would offend, and this offence could have been avoided without brushing any important and relevant truth under the carpet. Some things can be said in a less offensive way; other things simply did not need to be said.

However, it is clear that there will always be an element of subjectivity in judging what constitutes “false speech”. Speaking as one of the “co-moderators”, I can only really say that I am trying (i) to meticulously ensure that I don’t overstep the mark myself, since that would be embarassing, even if there is some uncertainty about where the “mark” is, and (ii) I am monitoring other comments to check for any clear violations.

Furthermore, the “three strikes and you’re out” enforcement policy provides ample opportunity for someone judged to have overstepped to appeal (preferably by e-mail to me and Alex) if they think the judgement is unfair. In the end, however, as with any other site’s “house rules” the power of decision resides with the editor. The policy will fail if the moderation is seen to be arbitrary, but on the other hand we need to avoid endless discussions about this or that decision.

Great move, J.  I haven’t seen any commentary on the fourth of these that would extend it to “without depth,” but it’s a great of way of extending this (in my tradition) “virtuous action.”  It is not only the nasty spirit of online forums that pushes away the intelligent; it’s the near-pervasive practice of declaring whatever one wishes with no evidence or logical argument.

Socrates… I KNEW that this sounded familiar… The 3 points Socrates makes about dialog/discourse.

Right Speech does, naturally, mean civility, even if at times that civility is a glacial civility. However we want to avoid pablum as well. Most days the religious talk a great deal of spaghetti-monster nonsense about all sorts of things: concerning the Devil, Joseph Smith’s gold plates in upstate New York, and how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, etc; etc. I want no part of it any more.

that is to say I will be rude to those in real time who try to push bad religion and bad politics. But at IEET? no.

Good to see, next we need a Transhumanist community to live in that follows rules like these - devoted to a lifestyle against suffering yet also forward thinking and non dogmatic.

Rudeness seldom, if ever, converts anyone, especially those fanatically attached to their irrationalities. In fact it is counterproductive as it validates their fundamental fear that drives the attachment!. Dr. Robert

My hands are trembling and I am on the verge of a brain aneurysm from all the pent-up vitriol this policy has led to. IEET better have a competent legal team…

Doesn’t this beg the question of whether anything true, good, or useful could result from axe-grinding?  I think axe-grinding is valuable, and consciencious persons will be embarrassed by their vitriol sooner or later.  Why police them into it?  That is not truth, but submission, like Islam.


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You wrote: «participative democracy is possible, but no one has yet built the right tool to do it». In a book titled «Réinventer la démocratie: pour une démocratie participative sans partis politiques et sans élections» (Septentrion 2011), I propose a system to implement participative democracy. Unfortunately, the book has not been translated in English yet.

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The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States.

East Coast Contact: Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
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West Coast Contact: Managing Director, Hank Pellissier
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Email: hank @