Concern around CoC's "oppressive"

I am thinking about creating an outpost in Lemmy for Reddit’s r/moderatepolitics subreddit. Briefly, the goal of the subreddit is to bring together a variety of viewpoints with rules that are mostly limited to not attacking other users and some operational rules (e.g. no editorialized headlines). These loose rules have allowed us to bring together voices from across the political spectrum for discussions that usually get stuck in echo chambers.

When I was looking through the Code of Conduct for the lemmy.ml instance, I noticed that it bans “oppressive” speech. That raised an immediate red flag for me. That term is so vague and broad as to leave an immense amount of discretionary power to an admin making a moderation decision. I know several of the admins on this instance are very left wing. Nothing wrong with that, but many on the left hold a rather expansive view of what oppressive speech is that includes even moderate or center-right discourse, never mind further right.

Is there any room to build this type of community on lemmy.ml? Or will we be forced to choose between our own instance or living with the threat of intervention that labels some elements of community discourse as oppressive?

@AgreeableLandscape
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it bans “oppressive” speech

As in slurs, hate speech, bigotry, personal attacks, stuff like that. Any discussion worth listening to should be able to make their points without any of these.

@roastpotatothief
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I agree “oppressive speech” doesn’t make sense, at least not to a lot of people. You could change it to

“insulting speech”

“speech directed against an individual”

“slurs, hate speech, bigotry, personal attacks”

Normally the tools of oppression are guns, fences, censorship. Speech is the major weapon against oppression. The term “oppressive speech” sounds like a euphamism. A lot of good people will be justifiably suspicious.

@zagebo
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what dessalines said about the power dynamic is important, people should be able to insult and target those keeping them down

@roastpotatothief
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It sounds like the word “insult” means something different for us both.

For me, insulting is what we’re talking about here, useless counterproductive attacks against one of the other people in the debate. Something that might make him feel miserable, alone, even oppressed. It seems to perfectly describe what we are trying to proscribe here.

In the pub, sure, insulting people is part of the social dynamic, but not on a safe-space type internet forum like lemmy.

@tronk
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I replied elsewhere, and I would’ve liked to reply the same here. But I didn’t wanna spam, so here’s the link: https://lemmy.ml/post/68696/comment/58928

@roastpotatothief
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“recognizes that power imbalance” is a red flag IMO. The rules have to be the same for everyone. The traditionally powerful group has to have the same rights as the traditionally weak group. To apply different rules to people based on which group you percieve them to belong to - that’s the problem we are trying to fight! I can say more, I could give a full explanation, with examples from where misguided jurisdictions have attempted that and it’s backfired, but it just seems so obvious!

“hate speech” might have a particular legal meaning in your jurisdiction, but the internet is bigger than that. “hateful speech” is a concept everyone should understand and AFAIK doesn’t have a special legal definition anywhere.

You can define a new expression, you could call it alienating speech, assaulting speech, slurring speech, or you can invent any new expression that’s not already in use by a legal system. But the best thing is to use language that is already clear, describe what you really mean to say.

@pingveno
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I’m still concerned about the bigotry portion of that. We have banned the worst hate speech (e.g. Nazis, full throated racism), but generally left it to the community to downvote and give rebuttals otherwise. So something like posting about Portland being a nightmarish hellscape due to rioting and homelessness, would often be countered with the more realistic experience of a resident. I know that’s not really bigotry, but I’m demonstrating how the back and forth usually goes.

@AgreeableLandscape
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So something like posting about Portland being a nightmarish hellscape due to rioting and homelessness, would often be countered with the more realistic experience of a resident.

I’ve personally never really considered that to be bigotry specifically. It would be if it got more extreme than your example though, like if someone were saying that Portlanders should die or something.

@pingveno
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Yeah, that wasn’t the best example to give, even with the added note about it not being bigotry. A better example would be someone saying that transgirls shouldn’t participate in girls’ sports, and someone else giving a reality check on how small of an impact that has in practice, especially if they are under treatment early on. If an admin deletes the first comment, the second comment never gets a chance to be said.

I keep going back to trans-related topics because they are the newest front on the push for LGBTQ+ civil rights, so the window for what is acceptable conduct in the greater society still includes hurtful, bigoted statements. Also, I’m gay so I feel I owe a debt of solidarity to my trans kin.

Dessalines
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Oppressive speech is malicious speech that upholds the current power dynamic, and targets those in a weaker position. Its similar to bigoted speech ( IE speech that targets someone’s belonging to a racial, cultural, or sexual grouping as inferior ), but recognizes that power imbalance.

For your purposes here, just think of them as the same, and this becomes a non issue.

soronixa
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isn’t it easier to call it hate speech? I mean it’s often called that and maybe that’s why op is confused.

@tronk
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I see how calling it “hate speech” is more intuitive for lots of people. It totally makes sense. However, “hate speech” is narrower than “oppressive speech” because it is limited to legally protected categories. This expands upon the phrase “the law is not necessarily moral”, adding “the law may ignore some categories and systems of oppression”.

For example, take the United States. Its supreme court has ruled that statistical evidence cannot be used in the court system to show that there are racial disparities, no matter how overwhelming that evidence is.

This only covers racial disparities, but you can expand that to see that many other categories of discrimination —no matter how overwhelming the evidence of their existence is— become invisible by not being considered or protected by the law and therefore not being considered hate speech.

This shows that “hate speech” covers certain categories, but it’s much narrower than “oppressive speech”.

That’s why “oppressive speech”, as a phrase, is necessary, but it doesn’t define it. The explanation given by @dessalines@lemmy.ml seems good!

@nutomic
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I think your community will not fit well on lemmy.ml, but not necessarily because of the code if conduct. The thing is that this site is still relatively small, and every thread shows up on the frontpage at one time or another. Because this community is quite leftist, you can expect comments from these people, and probably some kind of conflict.

Luckily there is a solution for that. Lemmy uses federation, which means that anyone can start their own instance, with their own rules. Users on different instances can communicate with each other very easily. You could consider putting your on one of the existing instances, but /r/moderatepolitics is quote big, so you probably want your own instance sooner or later. Hosting an instance is relatively easy, and I’m sure you can find someone in your community who can do that.

Info about existing instances and hosting a new one

@pingveno
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Yeah, that’s a good point. Fortunately I have the technical know how to get an instance up and running. Unfortunately, I am not so familiar with community management when it comes to server-wide rules. I’ve only been a subreddit-level moderator, which is much narrower in scope. But hey, it’ll just be an adventure.

Frog of War
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The stance we’ve taken on what we’ve called “oppressive speech” is anything that can or has been used to oppress other groups shouldn’t be allowed.

It’s much better to take away the voices of hateful people, than it is to let lemmy become a cesspool. We’d much rather have a community that upholds the mental well being of oppressed peoples, than one that tolerates hatespeech because someone not within the oppressed group doesn’t think the term is that bad.

So, no slurs, no offensive language, and absolutely no hatespeech.

If you don’t think this is how we should run the site, then lemmy might not be for you. Because the admins aren’t gonna budge on this.

@roastpotatothief
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There are differing and legitimate ways to look at it. And I understand your perspective. But saying “if you think this then lemmy isn’t right for you” - that is really toxic.

“You don’t agree with me, so go home back to where you belong”

This is exactly the kind of site we are trying to avoid lemmy becoming.

Frog of War
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No, not allowing people to be racists, or sexist, etc is what Lemmy has always been about. Which is why I say, if you don’t agree with our decision to limit hatespeech, then Lemmy was never meant for you.

People who come in and say “well, people should be able to say these hateful words” set up the exact culture that turned every other site into cesspools. There’s no need to “see both sides”, as all that does is give the Rightwing a voice where they don’t deserve it. Lemmy isn’t a site for the Rightwing, plain and simple.

Maybe adding some examples?

It’s pretty clear to me, though, any kind of bigotry.

@pingveno
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The easiest one to point to is not acknowledging trans people’s gender identity. That doesn’t come up that often in practice, but it happens. More likely would be a discussion over, say, trans people in sports. Any discussion that includes voices from across the political spectrum would likely include statements that admins on this instance could deem oppressive.

Even on Reddit, we have had trouble. Currently we decided to put a moratorium on the entire trans topic because of intervention by Reddit admins. We felt that it was unfair for one side of a discussion to be walking on egg shells the whole time. It’s again a problem of the Reddit rules in the area being too vague.

Dessalines
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We wouldn’t allow a transdebate community of course, as that would inevitably lead to “debates” over whether trans ppl should exist or not, like on the bigoted reddit alts.

But I could see maybe an asktrans community, where you could ask their opinions and how they feel about certain things like gendered sports, etc.

So basically people in the right started to not acknowledge trans people’s gender and your solution was to ban the discussion regarding trans people because otherwise people in the left would be mad that people in the right are being bigots? I don’t know, I think I would prefer to just not let the bigots talk, to be honest…

@roastpotatothief
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It’s an interesting example. There is no easy solution and no single right answer. It’s quite a hot topic at the moment so people should be able to discuss it. I would say “make a subreddit/topic just for this discussion. People who are genuinly confused / in disagreement can go into their box to go figure it out, and people who are offended can easily avoid it”.

Banning discussion of a whole subject is so dangerous. It’s maybe the worst thing you can do as a mod.

@pingveno
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We would rather have let the discussion go forward. It’s a worthy discussion that needs discourse across political boundaries. There are so many misunderstandings by cis people, especially more conservative people. However, making it difficult for a lot of people to express their opinion was not going to lead to a true discussion with a wide variety of viewpoints. Also, those misunderstandings need to be posted to get rebuttals.

@roastpotatothief
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What’s the solution then? What I suggested or something different?

@pingveno
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The solution you suggested wouldn’t work if admins (not community-level moderators) were constantly dipping in and censoring conservatives. Otherwise, we’d just let the conversation go ahead.

@roastpotatothief
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Is there any better solution though?

TBH I imagine the mod of c/transDebate would need to be more tolerant of conservative and other opinions. So would the users. But that’s the nature of debate. If you find it “oppressive” you leave that community/topic and never think about the subject again. Or else you can create a c/transDebateButNoConservativeOpinionsPlease.

@pingveno
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Right, I’m thinking about issues with the instance-level admins, since the potential conflict is with the instance-level code of conduct.

@roastpotatothief
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Got it. like on reddit r/twoxchromosones reputedly has very specific and strict restrictions on speech. so does (probably) r/askhistorians and others. The mods (and users) want only certain kinds of discussions in certain subreddits / communities. Sounds completely reasonable.

Katie Ampersand
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I think it’s absolutely clear

@pingveno
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It may be clear to you, but it is not even nearing an objective standard. Two different observers of the same content could come to very different conclusions.

@soferman
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