About Moderation, privacy, free speech, and shadow Bans

Hi I wanted to share some thoughts on a topic that appeared a short while back on this instance about free speech and moderation. So it has been a few times now that I tried to have a few contributions on the subject of tech and privacy on both subreddits /r/privacy and /r/privacytoolsio . and my posts didn’t even get past the mods to allow them to appear in the subreddit.

nothing contreversial, nothing disrespectful or hateful or even uninformed. all I did was trying to bring discussions about topics that matters to the community, maybe not popular POVs, but nothing I would have expected to be not allowed for.

so that has got me thinking about the true extent of censorship and moderation. I have the feeling that it doesn’t need to be a big corporation to assert unnecessary power on your users. every individual or group will end up using their bias to censor opposite opinions.

I have high hopes for the fediverse and lemmy. but at the same time I can’t help it but feel like the same models of governance will find their way to the fediverse. even if by wanting to make these spaces safe and clean of hate and bigotry. a lot of healthy unpopular opinions will be banned.

Another thing I wish won’t come to the fediverse are shadow bans, so if the devs are reading don’t implement this, For me personally I would rather be told that I was banned somewhere, than be shadow banned. I truly find it cowardice.

@nutomic
admin
254M

The Fediverse works very differently from corporate social media like Reddit or GAFAM. Those make money from each user, and want to keep them at any cost. But with Lemmy we dont get any money from the average user. This economic difference results in a fundamentally different governance model. Corporations want as many users as possible at any price, but we dont care at all if people decide not to use lemmy.ml or Lemmy. We do run this instance for our own community (which is basically defined by the site rules), but we cant stop anyone from starting their own instance.

So in short, the more Lemmy instances exist, the less likely are those problems you mention. Sure a user might be banned, but they can always find a new instance with a community that matches better with them. Sure some instances might not federate with each other because they disagree on rules, but social media like Twitter or Reddit dont federate at all.

@dragonX
creator
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I am completely in favor of federation and understand the differences very well.

By the way "one of my posts that didn’t make it past moderation in reddit, is about how reddit itself has changed its treatment of anonymous users, and why it is about time to adopt lemmy ". How does this break /r/privacy rules, I don’t get it.

What I wanted to add to the previous conversation is that I have the feeling that moderation could become the same whether on reddit or on any lemmy instance, especially if they attract enough users. because of the network effect there will emerge only few big instances or communities around certain interests, and if exercising what is to a moderator a righteous ban, on topics or opinions that are not that contagious. what is done is banning an opinion from joining that forum.
and by that being discussed in any forum of the same interest, as there will be not that many with substantial user base.

@nutomic
admin
54M

If you look at Mastodon, there are hundreds or even thousands of instances, and with Lemmy it could be similar after some time.

@roastpotatothief
2
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You gave me an idea.

if a single lemmy instance becomes popular - maybe it gets a lot of celebrities and political figures on it - it could stop federating with the other instances. Now everyone has to join that instance to get access to their content, and the other instances shrivel.

One private business could capture Lemmy and turn it into something else, with different rules.

This is just like common anti-competitive practices in business.

@lorabe
24M

That sound actually possible, but I expect an uproar from the mastodon community.

Having that said, although the fediverse is relatively big, it’s still niche, some personalities won’t fit with the code of conduct of many current instances, do they probably would be on a more twitterrish version of an instance rather than the current ones.

@roastpotatothief
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Did you consider running two “flagship” instances - one just like lemmy.ml and one with no rules and no moderation? It would be interesting to see what happens, what different types of culture develop. You can always kill the other one if it becomes toxic. But maybe the quality of the discourse is even better without the rules and moderation.

On second thoughts I wouldn’t want to slow down your real work on finishing lemmy.ml. And from our previous discussions I think I can already guess why you haven’t.

@nutomic
admin
114M

Someone can definitely do that, but its not gonna be us.

@k_o_t
mod
admin
6
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probably will be a mix of /b/, /pol/ and /s/

but hey, it’s an interesting idea

@lorabe
24M

It’s gonna be a lot of porn and spam, and controversial edgy people.

And good people.

A message board in Fediverse

Have a look at notabug.io. It’s exactly like this. It’s a place you can find strange and amazing information, people with weird ideas, and lots of spam of course.

It’s not the place for everyone, but it’s the only place for many oddball but worthwhile people.

@k_o_t
mod
admin
24M

well this is weird, for some reason i remember vividly notabug being a git hosting platform, even remember hosting my repos there 🤔

This one is notabug.org.

@ufrafecy
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deleted by creator

Everyone has biases. Those biases are in each sub’s rules. People are free to make their own subs and host their own servers if a sub or server isn’t to one’s liking

poVoq
144M

Yeah, go on and set up your own Lemmy instance and be your own moderator :) It will also teach you a good life lesson about why moderators often act like they do ;)

But in all seriousness, really go host your own. That’s one of the main points of federation.

@wabooti
54M

Disclaimer: I don’t know about the threads @dragonX@lemmy.ml posted about. Maybe they were really against the rules…

And of course it is possible to set up your own category or instance but i think it would maybe be worthwile to have a discussion about these topics, especially if someone makes the effort to do a post explaining their position. We shouldn’t just tell everyone who might have problems with the moderation of a sub to “just set up your own instance”.

@dragonX
creator
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I get that the benefit of federation is the ability to self host. but what about average Joe. should we not as open source and libre culture advocates do better than pushing away non-tech-savy people? or pushing those who can self host to create yet another echo bubble just because we don’t tolerate a slightly different opinion than ours!

my opinion is to bring together instead of divide, FOSS community is too much divided to be able to win any fight against tech giants!

poVoq
74M

If you are a guest in another’s persons house you better not offend your host.

In my experience most moderators are pretty tolerant of other opinions though. So if you constantly run into moderators that are offended by your “opinions” then all I can advise you is to do some introspection and think about why you seem to be so offensive to others that invite you into their houses.

@dragonX
creator
-4
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But that’s the problem, to my eyes those are advertised as public forums, to yours maybe private property ?!

and for > most moderators are pretty tolerant of other opinions though

I would better not generalize, because of our human nature we could be quite evil when we have no one to report to.

I like the roman saying: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

mfw someone believes in human nature

@SloppilyFloss
5
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“It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.” - Karl Marx

Human nature doesn’t exist, people’s consciousness is a result of their material and social conditions 😎

ghost laptop
2
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Human nature is not only contradicted by historical materialism but also by existentialism; existence precedes essence.

Also, thanks for giving me that quote, I’ve been looking it for some time.

I took the quote from Stalin’s Anarchism vs. Socialism where he very very nicely explains Marx’s dialectics and Marx’s theory of materialism.

Here’s a very good excerpt by Stalin on “human nature”:

If the economic conditions change first and the consciousness of men undergoes a corresponding change later, it is clear that we must seek the grounds for a given ideal not in the minds of men, not in their imaginations, but in the development of their economic conditions. Only that ideal is good and acceptable which is based on a study of economic conditions. All those ideals which ignore economic conditions and are not based upon their development are useless and unacceptable.

Such is the first practical conclusion to be drawn from the materialist theory.

If the consciousness of men, their habits and customs, are determined by external conditions, if the unsuitability of legal and political forms rests on an economic content, it is clear that we must help to bring about a radical change in economic relations in order, with this change, to bring about a radical change in the habits and customs of the people, and in their political system.

And Stalin quotes this excerpt by Marx:

No great acumen is required to perceive the necessary interconnection of materialism with . socialism. If man constructs all his knowledge, perceptions, etc., from the world of sense…then it follows that it is a question of so arranging the empirical world that he experiences the truly human in it, that he becomes accustomed experiencing himself as a human being… If man is unfree in the materialist sense-that is, is free not by reason of the negative force of being able to avoid this or that, but by reason of the positive power to assert his true individuality, then one should not punish individuals for crimes, but rather destroy the anti-social breeding places of crime. moulded circumstances, must be moulded humanly (see Ludwig Feuerbach, AppendixX: “Karl Marx on the History of French Materialism of the XVII Century”).

poVoq
84M

I am just speaking of personal experience. And yes all these forums are private property and always have been. I also don’t see how they were ever advertised as anything but private property.

Seriously host your own. It will be a good learning experience and life-lesson.

@dragonX
creator
24M

I might in the future! and comeback discuss my experience as a host and moderator !

@nutomic
admin
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deleted by creator

poVoq
44M

Well, it seems to be mostly about Reddit though, which is very much an privately owned corporation.

But even so, even an community managed Lemmy instance is in the broadest sense speaking their private property and thus as you say plays by their rules.

(I am using private property in a rather commonly understood sense here, not in the “property is theft” kind of sense ;) )

Then even the phone lines are private property, so the internet provider could start moderating your speech. I don’t think the *whose property" is relevant. The pub owner never tries to moderate your conversations - he technically (and maybe legally?) could but it would be wrong and unacceptable.

poVoq
34M

The pub owner would and very much does so when someone complains or you are yelling loud obscenities.

And telephone lines very much used to be exactly like that, look up the “bell system” if you don’t believe me. It took a long political struggle similar to net-neutrality to make the telephone lines something else. This would be similar to forcing Reddit to start federating with Lemmy for example.

@roastpotatothief
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Yelling is more equivalent to a DOS attack on the pub. When you’re stopping other people from using the pub/service in peace, yes, then you get barred/banned.

But if you’re talking at the bar, where the barman certainly hears everything, he could never interfere in your conversation, no matter what it’s about. It would not be illegal (i think) but would be a serious breach of etiquette.

poVoq
14M

haha, never. I have personally seen bar owners kicking out guests because he didn’t like what they were talking about. Usually results in a lot of drunken drama, but in the end the owner can do as he/she pleases.

@nutomic
admin
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deleted by creator

@dragonX
creator
24M

I was speaking about reddit, facebook groups and the like, fediverse is a new experience to me. that’s why I wanted to make this point. I might be wrong though. time will tell.

@nutomic
admin
24M

Sorry I read your posts and comments and keep thinking how it relates to Lemmy haha

to my eyes those are advertised as public forums

Tbh I think that is what the users decided to call internet forums in general, I don’t think I ever saw a company call their product a “public forum”.

@lorabe
24M

Well even public spaces have rules that you must follow.

@sia
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deleted by creator

@wabooti
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deleted by creator

@k_o_t
mod
admin
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could you provide some examples of opinions people expressed that you though were fair in your opinion yet got removed?

@dragonX
creator
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One of my posts that didn’t make it past moderation in reddit, is about how reddit itself has changed its treatment of anonymous users, and why it is about time to adopt lemmy ". How does this break /r/privacy rules, I don’t get it.

@AgreeableLandscape
admin
6
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Did you link to lemmy.ml? We’ve had issues with .ml domains being flagged as spam because it’s a free TLD, and people assume it’s just used by spammers.

@dengismceo
54M

free TLD

whoa whoa whoa. is that why .ml was used? i always assumed it was because of the immortal science

@AgreeableLandscape
admin
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There are several free TLDs. You can probably bet that “Marxism-Leninism” factored into it considering the head devs.

@dragonX
creator
44M

I don’t recall having linked lemmy.ml

poVoq
54M

Was probably seen as spam that is not directly related to the privacy topic.

They probably get a lot of posts advertising the next “best” Reddit alternative all the time.

@abbenm
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a lot of healthy unpopular opinions will be banned.

Are there people in the mod log you view as examples of that?

It’s just hard to wrap my head around this for a number of reasons. One, in practical terms, I just don’t see it happening. Two, it’s very slippery slopey. Three, the whole model of the fediverse is that you can go and find servers that have that if you want, so I would think you’re all set, but your post appears strangely unresponsive to that. It seems like you want the entire underlying structure of the fediverse changed. If we want to talk about “healthy” exchanges of opinions, to me a huge criteria is responsiveness.

For number four, I just find the analogy to big corporations to be strained. There’s a real sense in which Facebook, Google, and the like have had effects on the fabric of democracy, they’re some of the most valuable publicly traded companies in the world, they hold entire industries like print media in their hand. If a nascent link posting service with no money and a small user base is the same because it’s trying to stop harassment, to me that’s confused in so many ways I don’t even know where to start with unpacking it.

And fifth and perhaps most importantly, I find this just to be the wrong starting point for this kind of discussion. It’s been talked about a million times in a million different ways with a lot more nuance than here, and people have put a lot of effort into designing a fediverse system that takes issues of coordinated online harassment seriously. I think vague, meandering posts with open ended implications that are hard to pin down, aren’t putting in the necessary effort to engage with the reasoning that went into creating the system. So the whole thing is going to be a tedious slog.

I really think the best thing that can be done in threads like these going forward (they seem to be churned out near-daily basis now) is a one sentence response, basically saying “yeah, we’re not doing that here.” And a link maybe to the code of conduct.

@dragonX
creator
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First, I am sorry for not being too responsive as I have felt like my post has come a little bit abrasive and might have gone against the grain to the common opinion on this instance!

Secondly, I wanted to add an opinion to what has already been discussed especially that this is a project in the making, I didn’t want to make a stir! just bring up something that could have been overlooked.

Third, I respect the effort that is being put in the development of the Fediverse platforms. and for

It seems like you want the entire underlying structure of the fediverse changed

I would be too self righteous to demand or even ask for whole projects to change to my soothing, again am just a little man with a small opinion.

the only thing I have asked developers is not to add shadow banning, cause I believe it goes against the spirit of transparency and opensource software.

Bilb!
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the only thing I have asked developers is not to add shadow banning, cause I believe it goes against the spirit of transparency and opensource software.

I don’t understand this. I don’t think the use of open source software has any implications about how you run a community, you can be as transparent or as opaque as you like without any contradiction.

Shadow banning is a moderation tool like any other, in my experience used when an actor keeps creating new accounts when they are transparently banned. It’s not inherently cowardly, and I don’t think a chronically misbehaving user is owed a confrontation. I know it’s possible to use shadow bans to manipulate a community for other reasons, but this is something easily noticed and an instance ran by someone doing that could easily be abandoned.

That said, I’m not championing the creation of this feature, I’m just not especially worried about it. An instance admin already has the power to do anything with the users, posts, votes, etc. on their instance whether the software intentionally enables it or not, that’s just the reality.

@ufrafecy
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deleted by creator

Bilb!
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I think I might have misunderstood the scope of the conversation- if we’re talking about lemmy.ml vs. any given lemmy instance vs. any online community, I mean.

I think I have arguably documented it the best way possible on the internet. Worth a read.

https://teddit.net/r/privatelife/comments/gtv8ut/writeup_criticism_of_rprivacy_and_rprivacytoolsio/

@dragonX
creator
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Wow, that post sums up quite well what I was talking about, especially the two subreddits.

I can’t be a judge on what happened with you, I can only sympathize cause I witnessed the extent of narrative manipulation by those mods.

worth a read indeed.

@TheAnonymouseJoker
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I have been able to give voice to quite some people who were censored in r/privacy and r/PTIO, and the userbase is growing, so yeah there are people I can cater to as third alternative for privacy community. I understand the problems deep rooted into reddit system, and in general internet and forums quite well.

In the coming times, people are going to see my own blog (besides privatelife on Lemmy and Reddit). ;)

Oh by the way feel free to get a voice at my communities on Reddit or Lemmy, as long as respective platforms’ ToS or my simple rules are not broken.

@dragonX
creator
14M

will do! thanks

@sia
-2
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deleted by creator

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