Statement on Politics of Lemmy.ml
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Recently there have been some discussions about the political stances of the Lemmy developers and site admins. To clear up some misconceptions: Lemmy is run by a team of people with different ideologies, including anti-capitalist, communist, anarchist, and others. While @dessalines and I are communists, we take decisions collectively, and don’t demand that anyone adopt our views or convert to our ideologies. We wouldn’t devote so much time to building a federated site otherwise.

What’s important to us is that you follow the site rules and Code of Conduct. Meaning primarily, no-bigotry, and being respectful towards others. As long as that is the case, we can get along perfectly fine.

In general we are open for constructive feedback, so please contact any member of the admin team if you have an idea how to improve Lemmy.

Slur Filter

We also noticed a consistent criticism of the built-in slur filter in Lemmy. Not so much on lemmy.ml itself, but whenever Lemmy is recommended elsewhere, a few usual suspects keep bringing it up. To these people we say the following: we are using the slur filter as a tool to keep a friendly atmosphere, and prevent racists, sexists and other bigots from using Lemmy. Its existence alone has lead many of them to not make an account, or run an instance: a clear net positive.

You can see for yourself the words which are blocked (content warning, link here). Note that it doesn’t include any simple swear words, but only slurs which are used to insult and attack other people. If you want to use any of these words, then please stay on one of the many platforms that permit them. Lemmy is not for you, and we don’t want you here.

We are fully aware that the slur filter is not perfect. It is made for American English, and can give false positives in other languages or dialects. We are totally willing to fix such problems on a case by case basis, simply open an issue in our repo with a description of the problem.

@threethan
41M

I agree with the policy in concept, and I think it has generally done good. As a new user to the platform I am impressed by how friendly and non-vitriolic it seems to be.

Having the filter hard-coded and public is a great way to keep things transparent and free from abuse.

However, I do have some issues with the actual content of the list.

I’m not going to even allude to them for obvious reasons, but there are many slurs that really should be included and are not.

There’s also the case of reclaimed slurs. While some of the slurs on the list are pretty much purely used by racists, a few are frequently used in a reclaimed context, and excluding them may harm or exclude the targeted group - possibly more so than to allow them.

I understand the perspective of slurs being used in a reclaimed context. However I used to be an admin for a relatively large multiplayer MILSIM game and I can tell you right now that perspective falls apart the moment trashy people get their hands on it. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard the excuse “but I am black” or “but I am gay” in an attempt to defend what is clearly a statement meant to harm a specific minority group.

This isn’t to say I don’t understand where you are coming from because I do but I don’t think that the internet is really a place that can be a safe space for people to anonymously use reclaimed words no matter the context. You would be surprised how many people may infiltrate a space just to get a pass to say slurs.

@Tomat0
4
edit-2
1M

Isn’t instance-blocking alone sufficient for being able to prevent the environment from being overrun? I understand the hesitancy to platform reactionaries, but as it stands the network effect is easily the biggest hurdle the Fediverse is going to face. Right-libertarians and actual reactionaries might be a net negative on the main instance, but as far as the software itself goes, numbers are numbers, and could end up making a world of difference.

Let them form their own circlejerks away from everyone else and have slur-blocking be on a per-instance basis, after all that’s why the federated design works so well.

@nutomic
admin
creator
11M

There are more important things than making numbers go up. Just the existance of the slur filter makes right-wingers upset, and stops them from even considering to use Lemmy. That makes our job much easier because we dont have to deal with them.

m-p{3}
121d

Can’t they just remove the slur filter, recompile and join the federated network with their instance?

@Tomat0
4
edit-2
1M

I disagree just due to the aforementioned network effect. Numbers with social media have a snowball effect, where people make their decision on whether or not to participate based on existing levels of activity. What sets Lemmy apart from stuff like Lobste.rs and HackerNews IMO is that it’s integration of federation gives it potential to break out as a serious alternative to the platforms rather than catering a specific niche, so I’d say the snowballing is important also since it has the potential to help bring up the rest of the Fediverse.

Given Lemmy’s reputation as being a platform run by communists, the fact that such a hardcoded filter even existed to begin with, and also per-instance blocking/slur filtering, I’d think that should be enough to keep them away and stop them from polluting the communities associated with the flagship instances, then again I’m not an admin so I can’t say for sure. It’d also help the issue you mentioned regarding ambiguity of what slurs to include, since each community can decide that for themselves.

@nutomic
admin
creator
21M

Lemmy is growing quite well, one year ago we only had 800 users, now we are already at 13.000. Sure the slur filter might limit growth a bit, but we are not a silicon valley company whose goal is growth at any cost.

@hitler_left_nut
banned
01M

The question is where you draw your line. Yes you have written rules, but rules are never clear enough not be overstepped or interpreted to the liking of the admins. Most abused rule would be “hateful, hurtful, oppressive remarks”. These are the same rules that made reddit a liberal safe space. If that is your goal, then I deem lemmy redundant.

I ask you concretely what is your stance on reddits ban of:

r/the_donald r/gendercritical r/braincels r/pizzagate r/darknetmarkets

Your answer I have to take as a starting point of where things will be in 1, 2, 3 years, because a development towards abuse of power is almost inevitable.

@nutomic
admin
creator
11M

I can tell you one thing, your username is not acceptable.

@hitlers_left_nut
banned
-21M

Because it has “hitler” in it? because that automatically makes me a fan of him? If that’s all you can answer to my post that’s incredibly sad. Go on living in your little bubble, go on living a life where the main purpose is to identify people to look down on from your little ivory tower of virtue. Congratulations, you’ve created a completely useless project. Bet you think you’re a man of great thought. What makes a man great is going beyond his ego, having original thought and the integrity to stand by it. So literally the opposite of you. Bye.

Seeing the pile of comments on here, I just wanna go out of my way to say I think the slur filter is a great idea. Fascists will appropriate any leeway they’re given regardless of the ideological motivations under which said leeway is provided

It is but hardcoding it isn’t. First of all the server admin should be able to change the regex (preferably without editing the source code) to fit the community’s need.

@SloppilyFloss
33
edit-2
2M

And developed by people who hate the fact that you’re alive!

A comment about Lemmy I saw on Reddit. The slur filter really pulls its weight and keeps the bigots out, it was a great idea.

Dessalines
mod
admin
34
edit-2
2M

Every time we get recommendations to remove the filter I think of this. These bigots end up staying on reddit, or moving to other bigoted platforms, and avoid lemmy, making our lives a LOT easier :smiling face: . I could care less about “growth” if that growth means an influx of disgusting racists. I’d much rather have a smaller, positive community that defends members of targeted communities.

@AgreeableLandscape
admin
22
edit-2
2M

I keep saying this: the very existence of the slur filter, even though it’s actually trivial to remove or modify, acts like an alt-right/MAGA/bigot/freeze-peach repellent even though it’s trivial to remove or modify. Just look at the types of people on /r/RedditAlternatives who say they’ll never go to Lemmy because of this, and what their priorities on platforms they’re actually interested in are. To me, that’s half the battle.

@Kroktann
182M

I could care less about “growth” if that growth means an influx of disgusting racists. I’d much rather have a smaller, positive community that defends members of targeted communities.

You have no idea how good it is to see this attitude from the central developers of the platform. How much better wouldn’t the world be if more people were thinking like this? Kudos to you all!

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this stance!

I think the slur filter is a brilliant idea, especially given the type of person it seems to bother most, and this site feels a lot less toxic than other online communities, probably as a direct result.

Dessalines
mod
admin
72M

Thanks! :)

@xe8
72M

Federated social media platforms may always be smaller than the for-profit platforms which use all kinds of tricks to turn people into commodities: tracking users, using targeted advertising, having psychologists on the development team to “gamify” everything, incentivizing people to turn themselves into “content creators” and “influencers”, create and exploit addictive behaviour by having infinite scrolling pages and adjusting content based on “engagement” data.

So Lemmy won’t make you rich - but I think you’re ok with that.

Question: is it hardcoded or just active on lemmy.ml? Can it be disabled (by an instance admin)?

From my understanding it is hardcoded into the source code. Not sure how hard it would be to remove if you ran the site yourself.

I guess should not be hard to just change the regex to ^$ so it only matches an empty string… then there is also Lenny

@Deadnaut
92M

I’m a fan of the current approach, especially if it allows the devs to focus their resources elsewhere. Can always be revisited later.

We also noticed a consistent criticism of the built-in slur filter in Lemmy.

  • The funniest and most ironic thing about this is that the same people who criticize the filter are the first to insult you… These people already have a home. That home is called Reddit. And even if they’re more fascist, they’d better use Gab. But no, this social network better not be corrupted. Lemmy is a very healthy social network. People are friendly, curious and intelligent. It sounds a bit cliché, but it’s the truth. I like to make comments and posts here. I feel more free to express myself, unlike in Reddit. I just hope the core developers continue to moderate as well as ever, without giving in to pressure from those troublesome users. Keep it up 💪🏽💖

You have obnoxious people on all sides of the debate, including people who avoid listening to foreign ideas by labeling the other sides.

To be honest, nobody knows how the culture would be different under a different sweet of rules, especially the people who act most confident about it.

@levity
12d

Social games, that is, sets of rules, are studied under many different disciplines. Things have been tried. Experiments have occurred, papers written. We know some stuff about how different kinds of rulesets work. Sorry if you dont like the fact that others have studied and tested things, but that does not mean you get to deny their knowledge.

nBee
252M

Lemmy is run by a team of people with different ideologies, including anti-capitalist, communist, anarchist, and others.

❤️❤️❤️

Looks like we got a team of based badasses developing this platform

I didn’t even notice there was a slur filter. It seems to me that if you’re not an asshole, it doesn’t affect you one way or the other.

@xarvos
82M

It does: there are languages other than English, as suggested in the original post itself.

@someone
222M

I find it quite sad that people are bothered by the political views of others enough to ignore the good things they do for the community. Even if the misconceptions about the political stance of Lemmy devs were to be true I wouldn’t care as Lemmy as a piece of software is good, and admins are quite polite on general discussions. I don’t remember even one political post made by any of them.

@PP44
12
edit-2
2M

I agree with you for the most part but like to discuss detail, no need to answer me if you don’t want to i’m being picky !

If I have to be honest, political view of the devs do matter to me. I’m glad I’m close to their ideas, because I clearly would not want to use something not only made by fascists, but at a stage where their control a flagship instance as important as this one is. I would be afraid of direct censorship of course, but also of the general spirit driving the project. So I think it is in fact an important question. I just happen to be cool with the situation here because I think I will agree with the vast majority of the important decision.

(edit : typo)

@linkert
192M

No need for slurs in discussions. There are better ways to express anger , disgust or other “hot” emotions.

@glennsl
9
edit-2
2M

deleted by creator

skull
192M

I’m brand new to Lemmy but overall so far I think you all are doing great. I appreciate the diversity in the political views of the team too. I find Lemmy much more usable than other sites too in how it’s not as overfilled with garbage like a lot of digital media has become. Overall great app, no complaints from me and thank you for running Lemmy.

RoAe
172M

Although I’m more right-leaning than left, I personally think it’s great that the people leading lemmy are communists, anarchists, etc. I think it helps provide a counter-balance to the more right leaning groups trying to avoid mainstream social media.

I like the idea of a slur filter as a moderation tool for any instance I am a part of, but I feel like it goes against the whole purpose of federated social media. Isn’t the point of federated stuff that you are free of centralized control, with the freedom to pick an instance which suits your desires? It seems wrong to impose any moderation, no matter how justified, on an entire federated platform.

Generally though, I love this platform! Thanks so much for all your hard work!

@marmulak
202M

I think it helps provide a counter-balance to the more right leaning groups trying to avoid mainstream social media.

I think this point is important regardless of political spectrum. Lots of really nasty people have migrated to alternative platforms so that they can be nasty, but I’m glad Lemmy makes it clear enough that it’s not one of their nasty spaces.

Ideological freedom encourages nasty people. And restrictions encourage thoughtless people.

You can go on notabug and ignore the crazy psychos and chat with the creative people.

You can go on reddit and find endless people with no independent thought, repeating things and not listening to reach other.

Lemmy is in the middle. But IMO that’s not an objective good thing, it’s a preference.

@marmulak
62M

False dilemma, no?

How so?

You have to assume that the devs’ rules do restrict the types if discourse which happen. But other than that, it all follows.

Maya
admin
152M

So as @PP44 is saying, it’s open source. The devs work to make sure that anyone can set it up straightforwardly to run with their own modifications, not just the main version – and that means modifying the slur filter is also supposed to be straightforward, even though it’s not encouraged. There isn’t actual moderation on the whole platform per se, since two instances can federate even if one has no slur filter. There are lots of “points” to federated stuff, though, so the existence of a slur filter works well to help keep Lemmy from attracting the cesspool-types while still enjoying those other benefits.

It should be in a config file IMO, so communities can add/remove things based on their needs. There might be a community consisting of black people, for example, who would want to jokingly use the n-word between themselves. Hardcoding it into the code makes it harder to change it for legitimate use-cases. Putting it into a separate file could also help people to customize Lemmy for their language (there are languages where offensive words in English are just ordinary words).

Not everyone is tech-savvy enough to find the regex in the code and patch it out, and that could make a lot of people’s life a lot harder

@PP44
82M

I’m clearly “left-leaning”, so I might be biased, but I don’t agree with your criticism toward the slur filter : the project is open source, and as such people wanting to use these slur can work they way to another version. The devs explain here a clear intention to make this change difficult enough to prevent at least partially the migration of some communities they don’t want to support and/or give a platform to. I think that’s an honest way to do things ?

It also open up the debate on free speech and how saying some things actively attacks fundamental rights of others. In those cases, defending free speech as a “right” becomes irrelevant since both sides of the debate can use this logic to defend opposing actions. Trying to be short here, hope you understand what I mean !

The devs explain here a clear intention to make this change difficult enough to prevent at least partially the migration of some communities they don’t want to support and/or give a platform to.

I’m happy it’s becoming harder for neonazis to find a home online, however i’m not happy that this makes lemmy english-centric, and i’m not happy that honest discussion about some topics (including thoughtful criticism) will be made harder.

Related example: on another message board a few weeks back i couldn’t post a message containing my criticism of “bitcoin” because bitcoin was part of the slur filter to filter out the crypto-capitalist clique… i understand and appreciate why it was put in place, but i felt really powerless as a user that a machine who lacks understanding of the context of me using this word, decided i had no right to post it. I appreciate strong moderation, but i don’t trust machine to police/judge our activities.

@PP44
72M

I quite agree with you that moderation is hardly a machine job, and not saying it is the perfect solution. It sure as it’s drawback. I am just arguing that the benefits outweigh them. I would prefer to be in a world where there are not needed, be as of the world today, I admit I prefer having this filter rather than not having it, mostly because of the systemic effects I explained.

I agree that the relevance of he content of the filter can be discussed too, and that banning some words can make it difficult to discuss certain topics. But I think some words are almost always meant to harm, and can be easily replace by more positive or neutral term.

As a direct example : I can talk in this post about homosexuality, and I can event paraphrase to talk about the way some f word is used as a slur for it and how I think allowing it here isn’t a good idea in my opinion. See, I can talk about it, be respectful about it. I just prevent to call you a [insert here whatever banned slur] pretending to use my free speech.

I prefer having this filter rather than not having it, mostly because of the systemic effects I explained.

That’s also the case for me, in case that was not clear :)

I think some words are almost always meant to harm, and can be easily replace by more positive or neutral term.

I don’t think it’s that easy, because of the context. Should all usage of the n***** word by black people be prevented? Should all usage of w****/b**** words by queer/femmes folks in a sex-positive context be prevented? etc… I agree with you using these words is most times inappropriate and we can find better words for that, however white male technologists have a long history of dictating how the software can be used (and who it’s for) and i believe there’s something wrong in that power dynamic in and of itself. It’s not uncommon that measures of control introduced “to protect the oppressed” turn into serious popular repression.

Still, like i said i like this filter in practice, and it’s part of the reason i’m here (no fascism policy). As a militant antifascist AFK, i need to reflect on this and ponder whether automatic censorship is ok in the name of antifascism: it seems pretty efficient so far, if only as a psychological barrier. And i strongly believe we should moderate speech and advertise why we consider certain words/concepts to be mental barriers, but i’m really bothered on an ethical level to just dismiss content without human interaction. Isn’t that precisely what we critique in Youtube/Facebook/etc? I’m not exactly placing these examples on the same level as a slur filter though ;)