Open survey about censorship on lemmy

This seems to be becoming the hot topic, the elephant in the chatroom - the balance between censorship / freedom of speech on lemmy. There are solid arguments for both ways, and good compromises too.

IMO the FAQ makes it quite clear what the devs have built here, and why. But recent discussions, arguments, make it clear that a lot of the most vocal users object to it.

I’m very curious. Many active users feel this way? Please vote using the up arrows in the comments.

Dessalines
admin
354M

I’d like to add that many projects besides ours have codes of conduct, and anti-bigotry rules. For the bigots, its not just the enforcement of those rules, but the mere existence of them that turns them into whiny babies. They get kicked out of nearly every space and are begging to have a platform to spread their bigoted views.

We will never give them one, and will do everything in our power to keep them marginalized and isolated.

Well said!

@SloppilyFloss
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For the bigots, its not just the enforcement of those rules, but the mere existence of them that turns them into whiny babies.

Case in point: /r/freebsd thread

@ufrafecy
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deleted by creator

@abbenm
64M

For the bigots, its not just the enforcement of those rules, but the mere existence of them that turns them into whiny babies.

I’ve said this several times before, but one of the reasons I joined lemmy, and want to keep it active, is because I appreciate the values being brought to the project. It’s not just activitypub, but the kinds of people who are involved in the best projects, that are the among the reasons why I want to be on platforms like this.

Dessalines
admin
14M

Glad to have you on here :)

@xe8
234M

At first I wasn’t sure about the slur filter, because I thought it could be a bit of clumsy implementation as it could catch a lot of false positives.

But in practice I haven’t noticed it once. I don’t need to punch down on disadvantaged minority groups and call people slurs, so it’s not a problem. If it did catch me, it could be for some slur I had been using without thinking, in which case I would think about it and stop using that word. If it did catch me for a regular word I’m sure I could easily work around it.

Now I think it’s actually a great piece of social hacking, and I fully support it. It seems to annoy and keep away the right kinds of people.

As @realcaseyrollins@lemmy.ml said in this thread: “I’m not active here, but I would be if there wasn’t hard-coded censorship on the software”. To me that shows that it’s working.

We don’t need another reddit full of “centrist” free speech warriors. And we certainly don’t need another 4chan, 8chan, gab, voat, or parler.

It’s nice to have at least one place where as a minority you don’t have to wade through a bunch of slurs and insults and be constantly gaslit by the same circular arguments of people trying to convince you they’re fighting for some noble cause.

If a community is to have autonomy it needs some consensus on rules and standards of behavior. If we don’t want to have an authority ruling over us, we need to have responsibility, hold each other accountable, and create an environment where the most vulnerable in our community feel protected and like people are actually going to fight for them.

Look. The entire reason people started working on Federation and in general decentralized communication platforms, is that people did not want censorship. If you start censoring people, you defeated the entire point of going federated.

That point is that each community can decide what’s acceptable for themselves, and nobody decides in their name. The slur filter managed to defeat this. Congrats, you made a piece of software that’s just more complex to understand but not actually useful

@robb
54M

That’s actually a really good point overall. My issue is with hard coding from a technical point of view. The words to be auto filtered should be in a list with full CRUD capacities managed by who ever put up the server. Or at least a separate confing file. The current implementation is just kind of bad from a technical point of view, raising issues with other languages, since the banned words are not in a clear place.

@abbenm
24M

I think it’s probably important to emphasize at this point that what’s being discussed is essentially a decision about whether or not to put something in a config file. Which is a very different conversation than the grandiose free speech debates some want to have.

If anything, my main issue here is that people can point to this issue and use it as a jumping off point to make “free speech” arguments. It would be good to nip that in the bud.

@51524262fTw
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Actually the part of insults will depend on the moderation. Nothing on the software will impede the user to say “go eat ducks” for example.

@abbenm
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We don’t need another reddit full of “centrist” free speech warriors.

Exactly this. One problem I’ve noticed - there have been several times where people started threads like these, wanting to have long, fisky, point-by-point debates about everything.

I think it would be extremely helpful to say something to the effect of “this is not a place for The Free Speech Argument.” Even if it’s only applicable to this instance of Lemmy.

As @realcaseyrollins@lemmy.ml said in this thread: “I’m not active here, but I would be if there wasn’t hard-coded censorship on the software”. To me that shows that it’s working.

I agree, and this is well said. I haven’t found a need to slurs, and I feel that meaningful conversations that play out across paragraphs have more going on than just using slurs, so in practical terms (setting aside slippery slope arguments for a moment), I wonder what sense of values a person is coming from where they feel like that kind of filter is preventing them from expressing their values.

voat.co

Ah! the other day I was thinking I made an account in some reddit alternative years ago but couldn’t remember the name of it. Made like 2 posts until I realized it was just the same kind of politics everywhere.

You have ironically stated my reason for not by default holding all Lemmy users to the word blacklist in this comment:

If a community is to have autonomy it needs some consensus on rules and standards of behavior. If we don’t want to have an authority ruling over us, we need to have responsibility, hold each other accountable, and create an environment where the most vulnerable in our community feel protected and like people are actually going to fight for them.

@xe8
104M

I don’t think I’m saying what you think I’m saying.

What do you think I think you’re saying?

@someone
194M

I wouldn’t consider a hardcoded slur blacklist censorship. I would prefer if it wasn’t hardcoded and rather a text file sysadmins would create, but it’s not censorship.

Anyone who complains about not being able to use slurs is basically outing themselves as assholes as far as I’m concerned.

@AgreeableLandscape
admin
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Exactly. Swear words like shit and fuck aren’t “censored”. The only words in the slur filter are actual slurs, words pretty much specifically meant to insult people, often an already marginalized group. The filter is not perfect and can be problematic with non-English instances, but in those cases, admins can just edit the source code to eliminate the false positives.

The problem is that people are inserting their own political opinions into software, and it simply put doesn’t belong their.

Regarding code of conducts too, my opinion is simply “we do not care about your political opinion, please don’t share it with us”. Software should not be a political tool

@sia
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deleted by creator

@Whom
24M

Ran into it being pretty silly with applying to removedute and other silly cases.

But that’s imperfect implementation, not a censorship issue lol.

@ufrafecy
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deleted by creator

@AgreeableLandscape
admin
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Agreed on the list and also it should be be easily admin controllable.

Except it is. Just not from the frontend. It’s actually extremely easy to search for the slur filter in the source code and edit it (we instructed a Danish instance to do this because some benign words in Danish look like slurs in English). It actually doesn’t take much effort to edit the filter and recompile for a specific instance, and I think if you’re going to be administering a public facing server, you should be able to do that.

However, most of the freeze peach crowd that actively want to drop slurs (note, not just swear words like shit and fuck, those aren’t “censored”, but slurs, words pretty much specifically meant to insult people, often an already marginalized group) are turned off by the very existence of the slur filter, which I imagine stops a lot of them from coming over. To me, that means the slur filter is mostly effective.

Hmm…well if it’s so easily configurable that’s not too bad. It would be nice if you could configure it in the FE tho, but making it easily editable is a HUGE step in the right direction. Good to know that this is the case, ty

@ufrafecy
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deleted by creator

@roastpotatothief
creator
184M

There’s the right amount of censorship

@adrianmalacoda
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I voted for this option but I would like to provide background for my opinion.

Regarding the slur filter, like others have said in this thread, the slur filter by itself doesn’t really constitute “censorship” in the sense of suppression of objectionable ideas, because it does no such thing (and wasn’t really designed to). It only removes words known to be derogatory. As these derogatory words are not necessary for expressing any ideas, the slur filter does not reduce the variety of ideas that may be expressed. In other words, it’s not anywhere close to something like Orwell’s newspeak, which actually constricted the field of ideas that may be expressed.

As I see it, the slur filter actually serves a different - yet probably even more important - role, in that it signals the values of the Lemmy project, as being friendly to marginalized people at the expense of free-speech absolutists. Probably in an ideal world we would not need such a distinction, but we do not live in that world. You can cater to people who think it should be their right to use whatever language they want, and feel that anyone who is hurt needs to “grow a thicker skin” or “deal with it” - or you can work to provide a more welcoming space to marginalized people. You will end up alienating some group, you have to pick and choose which audience to work towards. I would rather have an atmosphere of acceptance and empathy than “fuck you, deal with it.” I am not disadvantaged because I cannot use slurs on this website.

Some people take objection to the fact that the slur filter is hard-coded (and, as far as I can tell, might be deliberately made difficult to modify?). There is a misconception that software absolutely should not be “political” - this is not the case. Software, like any human creation, reflects the values of its creators. The free (libre) software movement, as an example, has always had as a political goal the advancement of computer user freedom. The decision to hard-code the slur filter into Lemmy is a reflection of the Lemmy project’s political goals.

Regarding moderation on this instance most of what is moderated is spam, with maybe a handful of exceptions, none of which I object to. It is possible the existence of the built-in slur filter reduced the work that human moderators have to do, by keeping bad actors away from this instance (and to some extent away from Lemmy as a project).

This phrase out of context is so good.

navordar
124M

I don’t like any kind of automatic moderation. You can see how it ended on Facebook and YouTube — people are notoriously getting banned because of algorithm’s mistakes. For instance, in Polish, the word “pedał” normally means “pedal”, but it’s also used as a highly offensive word for homosexuals. The result? People getting banned for posting about bicycles and cars.

I think that instead of slur filter, mods could be automatically notified that someone used a certain word. Then the mods could manually check for context and ban if one really meant it.

Other than that, I think that the balance is right and haven’t had any issue so far.

In French too, as used for the same term “pédale”. I agree entirely with you. Still leave the final point to an human.

I kinda hate how every social media platform (save for the giant ones like Twitter or Reddit) either becomes a right wing or left wing circlejerk. No inbetween. None.

@vivivox
31M

Eh, better than this whole platform being a centrist cesspool.

I wouldn’t necessarily any option is better. Diversity of views would be better.

@roastpotatothief
creator
23M

Can you think of some way to improve that?

This is a post about a technical way to encourage better discussions, so that would fit in here.

Sadly I think that would mean we need to do away with the entire up/downvote system, since that allows the majority to silence the (right now) minority. And because people see no one who agrees with them, they leave, so the original majority always remains that.

People who complain about “censorship” and “authoritarianism” while espouting the benefits of “freedom of speech” are exactly the type of people you don’t want around.

If there’s been discussion on lemmy.ml about this topic, I haven’t gotten around to seeing it. But from what I’ve noticed from witnessing this type of discussion all over the web is that these calls always come from either the most reactionary users or enablers i.e. those that would rather sit on the sidelines and either let it happen or put up a weak front because they have a right to “free speech.”

Unfortunately, this libertation-esque ethos runs deep in so many online spaces, where they’d rather have vague notions of freedom that obviously benefit them at the expense of others. Spaces like lemmy are not for them, and while there’s nothing lemmy can do about it, going against the grain and purging that type of vitriol is the best way to keep it from turning into the shitholes ranging from Reddit’s “enlightened centrism” to outright fascist spaces like *chans or gab.

You put it perfectly. The kind of people that are obsessed with getting that last little bit of “freedom” to drop slurs are not the people you want on the site.

@abbenm
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People who complain about “censorship” and “authoritarianism” while espouting the benefits of “freedom of speech” are exactly the type of people you don’t want around.

Completely agree. Too often you see pledges to celebrate free speech from right wing spaces that are interested misconstruing valid criticism as suppression of speech. One of the most insane things I remember seeing were threads across reddit related to Charlottesville, where tons of commenters defending violence in Charlottesville by talking about free speech.

And then these same people pull back and act like they are talking about these ideas in the abstract, sanitized of any need to engage with the practical problems that motivate efforts to protect online spaces from violent incitement. I have never, never never never ever, seen people making these free speech arguments engage with this problem in a serious way at all. I have never seem someone stop and say “hey, I really care about free speech BUT I also realize that right wing mobs that spread violence use that argument as a cover, and I want to make sure I’m not inadvertently supporting their growth!”

I have never seen these people talk about how the modern internet, starting with gamergate in 2014-2015 and then spiraling out from there, created new, unprecedented problems related to swarming, massive bad faith engagement, etc. that poisoned and took over online spaces if left unchecked. I’ve never seen them look at that and say “I agree that those are problems, and I don’t want to gloss over them when I talk about free speech so my solution is _____” and they fill in the blank with something that isn’t completely crazy.

They never talk about laws passed to prevent BDS, a major free speech issue. They never talk about how to raise funds for the ACLU. Or supporting local media either through online or offline platforms. They never talk about legal funds supporting reporters who are caught up in court for their reporting.

Generally, all they ever talk about is online message boards. If you ask them to engage with any of this, either the mask falls completely off, or you realize they have never thought about any of it at all, and the responses you get are them reacting in real time to information that’s completely brand new to them.

There’s a saying I’ve recently encountered, that I’ve found helpful. It’s the notion of being in the wrong room with the wrong person. If you are talking to someone about free speech, who wants to frame it in a way that erases every problem that moderation has been fighting, that’s not a person prepared to have the conversation they are trying to have, and, in short, you’re in the wrong room with the wrong person.

poVoq
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It’s a bit more nuanced than that. There seem to be quite a few people (often also with mental health issues) that completely swallowed the memified argument that you describe, without really realizing with whom they bed themselves (or delude themselves that those are the lesser evil).

It’s one of those rogue memes that mess with some peoples’ reasoning capacity.

(And calling everyone you disagree with or don’t understand a fascist really doesn’t help).

I’m an active user and I think the policy is exactly in the goldilocks zone. It keeps the worst rightoids out but also isn’t ridiculous and does allow for dissent. The only items on the slur filter are items that are unquestionably slurs. IMHO it’s about as perfect as rules can be.

poVoq
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As @xe8@lemmy.ml said: it’s a neat social hack. I don’t think most people here are ideologically for such kind of “censorship”, but it is funny to see how certain people think it is the worst thing ever done ;)

IMO there’s no such thing as “on Lemmy” in general, unless you mean this specific instance of Lemmy. But anyway, this problem of balance seems to be an eternal philosophical question which may be never solved once for all. Each instance chooses its own combination of censorship and freedom.

@leanleft
74M

strict moderation dissuades fascists.
but sometimes strict moderation leads to sacrifices i guess…

@sia
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deleted by creator

@copacetic
64M

What FAQ? I cannot find any.

@Danrobi
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I like the mod voting mechanism in Aether

Never used Aether because it needs a client to work. It’s interesting that it works in p2p. How’s your experience?

@Danrobi
34M

It works fine. A bit heavy on cpu tho. Theres a big issue with Aether. The content gets flushed out every 6 months. Terrible idea.

I thought the excluded content was just on the main instance. Maybe the software could be forked.

Avery
54M

I guess I’m not active enough on this site to see people posting about censorship on Lemmy. But on other networks (especially on reddit and twitter), the people complaining about censorship are just mad that there are consequences for saying nasty stuff.

Reddit censorship is much worse than that. Buncha people get banned for absolutely no reason at all, like some entire subreddits (I’m not talking about r/SuperStraight) got banned because their users said they don’t want to date trans people etc.

Sad thing is “bigot” and “bigoted” are such broad terms that they can essentially be extended to mean anything.

But on other networks (especially on reddit and twitter), the people complaining about censorship are just mad that there are consequences for saying nasty stuff.

It’s pretty much the same here too. Most comments we remove are from bigots, and spam.

@yogthos
44M

I think it makes sense to look at this from the paradox of tolerance perspective.

This reminds of stupid folks on reddit talking about it on Lemmy and the people messing on the one open issue about it. Really, keep your butts in place.

@roastpotatothief
creator
04M

There is too much censorship

@abbenm
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I worry that the phrase “censorship” gets used as a thought-stopping cliche, especially given it’s repetition here.

You could ask the same question but with different words, e.g. “harassment, racism, and incitement to violence should be welcomed here.” And then ask people to vote up if they agree.

And you could post the polling options as different variants of that question: “There’s a right amount of harassment.” “There’s too much harassment” “there’s too little harassment.”

I mean… you could do it that way. And it would be equally as neutral as the questions you did ask. If you find that framing objectionable because only uses language that focuses on one side of an issue, well… yeah.

@mrmanman
-1
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jflmao @ this commie website

While this comment is pretty dumb… There is a little bit of a problem on Lemmy with the diversity of ideas. You can’t really have any meaningful discussion because it’s kind of a leftist circlejerk

I’m not active here, but I would be if there wasn’t hard-coded censorship on the software. It’s come a long way since I saw it last. The blacklist has even shrunk, which is a good sign.

But I believe that the ultimate power should be in the hands of admins. If an admin wants to ban naughty words, fine, but it shouldn’t be the default, just like whitelist mode isn’t the default on Fediverse instances, but it’s still an option.

For me, it is about principle. Platforms, especially FOSS ones, need to be ones where people can speak their mind freely. Most people leave Big Tech platforms precisely because of the censorship they perform, but others leave because they don’t censor enough. My view: create software that by default does not censor, but can be optimized through settings to censor to a far greater degree than Big Tech can/does. This allows both sides of the aisle to be served in different ways by the same software.

Also, I voted yes on both “there’s too much censorship” and “the current level is just right” because there is a need for moderated spaces, like this one, it’s just that unmoderated spaces aren’t possible in the current Lemay code.

@ihaphleas
-34M

As long as lemmy is actually a private company and not getting kickbacks, they can have whatever speech rules they want.

I like having places be free speech absolutist…but I wouldn’t allow all types of speech in my own business…why should a virtual space?

Wait, Lemmy is taking all our data to sell us iphones? OMG!

@roastpotatothief
creator
-24M

There is too little censorship

@sia
13
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deleted by creator

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If your post is

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