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    Well, this is somewhat ironic. Advocate of free speech and anonymity joins the largest company in the world whose primary business is deanonymizing you for profit.

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      and from the other point of view, shanley kane feels that hiring the founder of 4chan goes against google’s commitment to anti-harassment. i don’t entirely agree with her, but she makes some good points, especially this:

      Indeed, Moot’s hiring is somewhat reminiscent of Twitter recently appointing a white man as its head of diversity — less in any similarities between the hires, and more in the blatant “we just don’t give a fuck” hubris underlying these decisions. It’s even more depressing to watch the tech press handle the news with kitten gloves, framing 4chan as “the birthplace for a number of popular memes”; at its strongest “infamous” or even “controversial”. Like Moot’s hiring itself, the tech media is complicit in covering up the truth about 4chan and online harassment overall.

      [the reason i do’t fully agree is that, in the absence of a basic income, we cannot afford to go down the route of “companies shouldn’t hire assholes”. that has historically led to some very ugly online mobbery, and little else. if poole were hired into some position with more visibility and power i might have agreed more, but for cog-in-the-machine roles, the need to distinguish between at-work and not-at-work behaviour is very necessary]

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        I don’t really know too much about Poole, other than he’s extremely interested in communities and cares about freedom of speech (as evidenced by his Ted Talk, and the fact that he ran and built 4chan for so long). I don’t think I understand the anti-harrassment argument though (but, I didn’t read the link, so maybe it’s clearer). My right to free speech is no less important than your right to free speech. Should Poole, or anyone else be allowed to take a stance that my speech is less important than yours, even if that speech is disliked (edit: not just disliked, but targetted at others who don’t like it) by others? That’s a philosophical question I don’t have an answer for.

        The argument you quoted is interesting, though. Appointing a white man as head of diversity does seem a little off, but if I can play Devil’s Advocate for a second. What if this particular white man:

        a) Had a track record for hiring extremely diverse workforces b) Had a track record for advocating fair and equal pay to those extremely diverse workforces c) Spoke out for human rights, donated time, and money to groups that encourage diversity, and fight for the rights of minorities, etc?

        Would it be such a bad appointment then?

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          i think there is a fundamental problem with saying that harassment (which harms people) cannot be regulated simply because the mechanism you use to do it is speech.

          as for the head of diversity thing - however qualified a white man is for the role, surely there are people who are both qualified and actually affected by the issues. to insist that a white man is the best person twitter could find for the role veers uncomfortably close to the saviour narrative.

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            I’m probably totally out of the loop, but I thought 4chan did ban stuff that became a source of harassment? At least, I’m gathering that from the apparent existence of a whole cottage industry of alternative forums that bill themselves as supporting free speech, and attack evil censor moot for not doing so. Those also seem to be where the people with harassment-oriented goals congregate (e.g. 8chan). Or is that only a recent development? I should read some kind of history of 4chan (is there a reliable one?).

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              That is a more recent development. Gamergate got out of hand, and Poole finally started cracking down. 4chan griped a lot, and said his girlfriend had hoodwinked him into becoming a Social Justice Warrior or something.

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                A history of 4chan would be interesting to read–maybe somebody could bother to compile it sometime. “Back When /B/ Was Good: a Brief History of 4Chan”.

                Anyways, 8chan is just the most recent in a long line of chan clones, often created to allow discussion of things like invasions, drug culture, more extreme forms of pornography, and so forth. The existence of those other boards basically serves to give further credence to the idea that there is some form of rules of conduct imposed on users of 4chan; were there not, there wouldn’t be a demand for such things.

                moot cracked down on Gamergate probably because it had successfully summoned the ire and focus of mainstream media (which would in turn probably damage the resale value of the site). If you want to read some speculation about it, check out the ED article on moot’s departure, but make sure to do so on a disposable VM and behind 7 proxies. Also, the content is exceptionally vulgar and not very nice. If still interested, link is here. tl,dr; allegedly, moot was pressured via backchannels and decided to sell site to avoid shutdown.

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                i think there is a fundamental problem with saying that harassment (which harms people) cannot be regulated simply because the mechanism you use to do it is speech.

                This is a very important point.

                But, how should we define “harms people”? And, really, who should define “harms people”? We could maybe regulate by putting it in the hands of moderators or some other appointee, create policies, codes of conduct, etc. Or something to that affect. Anyone who feels like they were the subject of harassment could come forward. There could be zero tolerance for such things, etc.

                But, could my follow up questions and comments be construed as harassment? If you are irritated that I keep responding, probably! Yet, my intention is to explore the topic and learn, not to harass you (and if for some reason you feel this way, I’m sorry!).

                however qualified a white man is for the role, surely there are people who are both qualified and actually affected by the issues.

                I don’t disagree with your core point here, but I do disagree with the notion that a white man can’t ever be an appropriate fit for a position as important as “head of diversity.” Ironically, it’s discrimination.

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                  okay, i need to preface this with the disclaimer that i’m not attacking you personally, but this topic inevitably gets heated…

                  so, first off, that sort of “where do you draw the line?” argument is very characteristic of people who have never had to deal with actual harassment. so the worst possible outcome you can think of is that your freedom of speech will somehow be infringed upon, and that free speech is so sacred and inviolable a principle that it’s worth putting up with a bit of nastiness for. people who have actually been harassed (which i hasten to add i’m not making any claims to either) see it very differently.

                  likewise being able to engage in dispassionate argument about something that is a serious matter that directly affects people’s lives is a privilege that people often don’t realise they are bringing to a debate (this is particularly bad in america, where false balance is a culturally pervasive problem; people genuinely think, with no intent towards malice, that all sides of the argument need to be given a fair hearing). honestly, if this was reddit or hn i’d have stopped reading your comment the minute i saw the phrase “devil’s advocate” (a practice that serves me very well in general). i’m more likely to give people the benefit of the doubt in here, but i’d very strongly urge you to reconsider doing that (see here for a good write up of why). also sealioning is a useful concept to have in your mental toolbox.

                  which is all to say that the internet is a very different landscape for marginalised people, and arguments that might seem reasonable to you are really not, based on context that you haven’t experienced.

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                    I appreciate the links, and your candor.

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                        The issue here is that, for those who’ve been on the receiving end of these issues, conversing dispassionately is a great deal more work compared to those for whom it’s a theoretical exercise. I feel that zem has been more than reasonable in calmly explaining this and disengaging. I don’t think it would be reasonable to demand that anyone put aside their personal history in order to converse as if this were an entirely abstract topic; to the extent that that’s possible at all, it’s extremely stressful.

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                        so, first off, that sort of “where do you draw the line?” argument is very characteristic of people who have never had to deal with actual harassment. so the worst possible outcome you can think of is that your freedom of speech will somehow be infringed upon, and that free speech is so sacred and inviolable a principle that it’s worth putting up with a bit of nastiness for. people who have actually been harassed (which i hasten to add i’m not making any claims to either) see it very differently.

                        Sure - but isn’t that how we make all our important social decisions? Compare lawmaking or court cases - everyone is supposed to advocate for their own interests, and then we work it out. The danger of strangling free speech may be less immediate than that of allowing harassment but it is real and social networks do need to address it.

                        likewise being able to engage in dispassionate argument about something that is a serious matter that directly affects people’s lives is a privilege that people often don’t realise they are bringing to a debate

                        Sure. At the same time, so is the ability to navigate a fuzzily defined harassment policy, or compose one’s thoughts in a socially acceptable way - a lot of people learn this at university or similar institutions and many lower-class people simply don’t have that. Many people don’t have the social skills or liberal arts education that makes it easy to make one’s case before a committee.

                        More generally organisations devoted to fighting particular forms of discrimination have very bad track records when it comes to other forms. Anti-racist groups are bad at gender issues. Feminism has a poor record on sexuality. Gay rights groups have not been great for trans and poly people. And all of these groups have a tendency to attack the white working class. Many of the worst attacks on marginalised groups are perpetrated by other marginalised groups, and it’s all too easy for those who fight bullies to become bullies themselves. So we absolutely need to hold anti-harassment mechanisms to the highest standards, lest we end up causing more harassment further down the line.

                        also sealioning is a useful concept to have in your mental toolbox.

                        It’s a misleading one when applied to twitter. The cartoon only works because the people are having a private conversation in a restaurant - if they were giving a speech on a soapbox the sealion would be entirely in the right. Twitter is a new thing and its norms are still evolving, but it’s closer to soapbox than restaurant table most of the time.

                        which is all to say that the internet is a very different landscape for marginalised people, and arguments that might seem reasonable to you are really not, based on context that you haven’t experienced

                        Marginalisation comes in many forms. 4chan’s clearly defined policies have made it a great space for many extremely marginalised people. While there has been harassment 4chan has a better record on that front than most (particularly in comparison to twitter or tumblr). Going by 4chan I trust Poole to be a better judge of policy than most in that space.

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                          I realise there’s a wider conversation going on here (which I’m not currently in a position to engage with), but:

                          Twitter is a new thing and its norms are still evolving, but it’s closer to soapbox than restaurant table most of the time.

                          This varies very heavily on your circles and privileges. Maybe for the Milo Yiannopouloses out there it’s a soapbox, but particularly for minorities, Twitter is a lot closer to a restaurant table — or perhaps a bunch of tables in a restaurant where you overhear a lot from the other tables and sometimes wander over to say hi, but for the most part are engaging with those around you.

                          Sealioning is so bad because it’s someone barging into the restaurant to ask you to prove the truth of whatever you were talking about in conversation with the people at your table. They didn’t sit down and listen thoughtfully, and contribute their viewpoint; they might as well have jumped in through the window. They’re not engaging, and they don’t deserve anyone’s time.

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                            Just so. Twitter is a sidewalk, in the sense so cogently explicated by Jane Jabobs (wiki link about her relevant book). It’s a place where nobody needs an excuse for being there, because it serves a great many purposes and is common infrastructure.

                            Although there are, indeed, people who barge into conversations happening on city streets, they are certainly violating a social taboo by doing so. Twitter should be the same way.

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                              Maybe it’s different in the US, but over here the norm is that you don’t talk politics on the pavements if you can be overheard, and when people have made comments on the lines of “the gays/immigrants are destroying this country” I have seen them be interrupted, in contrast to people on a different restaurant table where you’d let that pass.

                              It’s very easy to have a semiprivate space on the Internet, e.g. subreddits work much more like restaurant tables (and the non-participation link rule ensures this). So I can’t help thinking the choice to use Twitter represents a deliberate decision to use a more public space.

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                                But if nobody can see my semiprivate conversations, how will they know what I’m saying?

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                              Something exacerbating the problem is that Twitter very easily switches between those modes, which is difficult to clearly analogize to the restaurant case. A tweet can start as a restaurant conversation, but, if it resonates with people, end up as a more soapbox-type situation when it gets retweeted 1000 times. Someone broadcasting a pithy soundbite to tens of thousands of people is closer to yelling through a megaphone than a restaurant conversation, but they didn’t always know that the megaphone was on at the time they wrote it (some do, some don’t… carefully crafting tweets that are intended to at least have the possibility of “going viral” is common, and so is it happening unplanned).

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                                Definitely. Even at a small scale, I’ve seen interactions, even among mutuals who know each other, along the lines of:

                                <A> Rhetorical question in the form of a subtle joke.
                                <B> @A That's particularly amusing, because same subtle joke, not having realized it was intended.
                                <C> @A That's awesome. Did you realize that it's a subtle joke?
                                <D> @A Answer to the original question, not realizing it was rhetorical.
                                <E> @A You might try answering that question by this strategy.
                                <A> @E It was rhetorical.
                                <F> @A Interesting elaboration on joke, which in this context falls flat because it's already been repeated too many times.
                                <A> OMG people please stop telling me, I know.
                                

                                This can happen within a minute or so total, or it can happen over a longer period, up to about an hour. More, if the thread gets RTed, but this is just the simple case.

                                The social rule that hopefully most Twitter users have learned by now is to click through and view other responses before adding their own!

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                                  I’m reminded of this blog post on Fan-In.

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                                    Finally got around to reading that post. Yes! Good explanation. Love how it starts from a technical lens; it highlights what a new phenomenon this is.

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                            Some observations, two about zem’s post, and others about related topics.

                            First, bringing in the background of the people we claim use the “where do you draw the line” argument is a great way of distracting from the question itself: it’s pretty hard to actually reason through that issue, whereas it is quite easy to say “Aha, they haven’t ever suffered actual harassment!”. It’s a wonderful derail via ad hominem and no-true-scotsman.

                            Second, discrediting the notion of “devil’s advocate” is rhetorically convenient, because it allows us to categorically blacklist via regex other views that we might not agree with. Indeed, the linked article helps us further, because it shows that we don’t have to defend our beliefs with reason, if we have to defend them at all–this saves us a lot of time, and let’s us focus on the real task: pushing our agenda.

                            Third, labels like “sealioning” and “gaslighting” really do put one at a disadvantage when having discourse if overused. In some cases, we do deal with trolls that are dedicated to civilly derailing useful discussion. But, in the majority of cases we see today, these labels are used to halt discussion and justify rhetorical laziness. A cry of “sealioning and blocked!” will summon accolades from followers and will further annoy any else on the center or opposite side of your position. We have to do better than that.

                            Fourth, there is a lot of double-speak in terms of dismissing things resembling “devil’s advocacy”. There is a popular notion that things like men’s rights (whatever the hell that means), the GG supporters (again, whoever that is), and so forth are just vocal minorities and that their viewpoints categorically should be ignored. This is typically done inside the same documents (if not paragraphs!) extolling the virtues of traditionally underrepresented groups, such as aneurotypical folks, minority sexuality groups, and minority races. It is exceptionally self-contradicting to refuse to acknowledge that the methods (if not the reasoning) are identical, and as such that there is no moral highground in calling for the out-of-hand dismissal of those problematic viewpoints without rational engagement.

                            Fifth, it must be admitted that the spread of modern notions of progress in terms of race and sexuality owe greatly to the same notions of freedom of speech that are currently under attack. The same networks that are being decried for their harassment potential today are the ones that, yesterday, helped spread ideas and hope to isolated “deviants” and showed them that they are not alone.

                            We should all think carefully and thoroughly about this sort of thing, lest we replace one tyranny with another.

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                              tl;dr: what are the negative externalities of untrammeled free speech, and who ends up bearing their cost?

                              1. i can see why you would consider that an ad hominem attack, but i think it closer to saying that if someone has experience in a field, their opinions are worth more than those of someone who does not. correct me if i’m wrong, but “where do you draw the line?” is an appeal to the slippery slope argument, and carries the implicit suggestion that it is better to do nothing than to do something, lest we go too far and label everything we dislike “harassment”. but my claim is that even without a sharp dividing line between “annoying” and “abusive”, people who have been harassed are well aware of the difference, and know that it goes far beyond the trivial counterexamples people bring up to say “do you want to ban this too?”. i am actually challenging the legitimacy of the question itself, in that it implies a concrete objective line you can point to; harassment is by its very nature a complex issue that includes contextual factors. the sad thing is that actual harassers know very well what they are doing, and hide behind people who think that every side has a right to be represented in every argument. as heinlein once said, “your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins”; one of the pressing problems of the social internet is to figure out how to apply this to speech. and the most deep-seated barrier to this is people who believe, as a theoretical principle, that “speech cannot be curtailed in any way”

                              2. if someone wants to argue sincerely, and from knowledge or experience, for an opposing point of view, i am happy to listen. i have no time for people who want to take a contrary position on complex, emotional topics from a detached, theoretical viewpoint, as some sort of logic game. if my agenda is to see that people aren’t afraid to participate in online communities for fear of being attacked by cruel people, or hate groups, i will absolutely push that agenda. i think you have committed a couple of fallacies here. one is the assumption that “defending your beliefs with reason” is always the right and proper thing to do, and that the person calling for it has the moral high ground over the person who refuses to engage in such a debate. the other is that saying “this is abhorrent to my sense of humanity and justice” is not a reasonable argument. but for a lot of social justice issues, both those contribute to letting the abuser set the terms of the engagement. e.g if you’re arguing for slavery, and your opponent has to come up with a reasonable argument to defend the belief that black people should be equal to white people, you have already won the right to establish a playing field where that question is even considered reasonable to discuss, rather than being dismissed out of hand as harming people even by being part of the conversation. but from a formal, “pure reason” point of view, you cannot really distinguish “should white people have the right to enslave black people?” from “should the government subsidise solar power?” - they have the same theoretical ability to divide people into “yes” and “no” camps, and have the matter decided by each camp putting forward its best arguments. but for a lot of people the slavery question carries the added burden of “my human rights are seen as a matter for debate”, which in and of itself harms them even before anything has been said on either side.

                              the problem with devil’s advocacy is that it is easy to think up an endless stream of theoretical arguments for or against any given position, but we commit a great injustice when we bring those arguments into the discussion on the same footing as arguments from actual, real-world data.

                              3. and 4. are both non-issues as soon as you allow that the playing field is markedly non-level, and that there is nothing wrong with identical methods (especially the “method” of simply deciding your opponent has nothing worth listening to, and you do not need to hear from them on the topic) being judged differently depending on who uses them. it’s the same reason a women-only tech organisation can be a good thing (it helps reduce the tilt in the playing field) whereas a men-only one cannot (because it only serves to reinforce existing inequalities). the whole reason people seem to be extolling the “virtues” of traditionally underrepresented groups is that those groups are seen by the mainstream as inherently bad, hence e.g. “gay pride”. people are not proud of being gay because they see it as superior to being straight, they are proud of being gay because they are pushing back against the masses who regard it as worse than being straight. the fact that court battles have to be fought to get same-sex marriage on the same footing as opposite-sex marriage is simply a searing indictment of status quo bias, and expecting people not to dismiss “gay marriage is bad” out of hand without rational argument stems from that same bias.

                              also note that the claim is not that people like MRAs should be categorically ignored because they are vocal minorities, it is that they should be categorically ignored because they deny the existence of systemically disadvantaged groups, and cherry-pick examples to try to prove that minorities are just claiming to be disadvantaged in order to win points for their side. i am 100% comfortable with instantly assuming that anyone who denies systemic biases has nothing worth saying on the topic; it is akin to not wasting any time or energy on climate change deniers or perpetual motion machine cranks.

                              5. this is the crux of my argument. the virtue here isn’t simply free speech, it is protecting the speech of those who are using it to fight against systemic power imbalances. there is no real virtue in protecting the speech of people who are fighting to maintain those power imbalances; they have the power on their side anyway. consider gamergate, which from your “whoever that is” comment i assume you aren’t really familiar with the real facts of. some people love to spin it (either out of ignorance or bad faith) as a fight between free speech and political correctness, or an attempt to ferret out corruption in video game journalism. but if you look at what actually happened, it was a mob of people harassing some women in the game industry until they were literally afraid to speak in public. and yet, because the mechanism they used to drive these women underground was “speech”, lots of people would side with them, and cry “censorship!” if twitter tried to ban them en masse.

                              more and more, i see parallels between the free speech uber alles crowd, and the way that libertarian capitalism has degenerated into property worship regardless of its societal costs. in both cases, there is a strong negative externality in the form of a rich-get-richer and poor-get-poorer effect, and both laws and societal norms should be striving to apply countermeasures to this trend, rather than supporting the people profiting from it simply because people have a poor grasp of interrelationships.

                              and finally, wrt replacing one tyranny with another - what tyranny do you see arising due to this? on the one hand, it is seen as an acceptable curtailment of free speech if a member of a powerless group is literally afraid to speak up in public, and therefore goes silent, but an unacceptable one if the people who are making them afraid to speak up are denied the ability to participate on a particular platform like twitter (never mind banning; people even complain about blocking! all the freedom of speech in the world gives you no right to have people listen to what you want to say to them), or are themselves made uncomfortable by the perceived social consequences of saying what they want to say (i deliberately use the word “uncomfortable” rather than “afraid” because if you’re part of the group in power, there is a lot less real harm in not being able to say what you want to say to or about the group not in power).

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                                i think it closer to saying that if someone has experience in a field, their opinions are worth more than those of someone who does not

                                People who have been harassed are not the only people who have experience with the effects of harassment policies.

                                carries the implicit suggestion that it is better to do nothing than to do something, lest we go too far and label everything we dislike “harassment”

                                My direct experience is that this is sometimes the case. That an ambiguously worded anti-harassment policy genuinely can do more harm than doing nothing at all.

                                i am actually challenging the legitimacy of the question itself, in that it implies a concrete objective line you can point to; harassment is by its very nature a complex issue that includes contextual factors. the sad thing is that actual harassers know very well what they are doing, and hide behind people who think that every side has a right to be represented in every argument.

                                If you’re advocating for a subjective harassment policy then say so. The concern about “where do you draw the line” is often really a concern about selective enforcement for political reasons - which can very easily become its own form of harassment. I’ve seen claims that this is already happening on Twitter, with different moderation standards being applied to people from one side or the other.

                                one is the assumption that “defending your beliefs with reason” is always the right and proper thing to do, and that the person calling for it has the moral high ground over the person who refuses to engage in such a debate. the other is that saying “this is abhorrent to my sense of humanity and justice” is not a reasonable argument.

                                I would stand by that. Moral progress depends on people being willing to trust reason over their personal feelings. It’s no coincidence that Bentham was privately advocating for tolerance of homosexuality centuries ahead of others. For many people today who happen to have been born or raised in particular cultures, treating transsexuals or homosexuals or even mixed-race couples well is a constant triumph of reason about something that they privately find abhorrent.

                                I think a space based on a moderator’s personal feelings of humanity and justice - even a wise and kind moderator with better moral judgement than my own, even a committee of them - will necessarily end up a place of oppression. Again, we see this in the civil rights spaces, the feminist spaces, the gay spaces.

                                Maybe you think that’s an acceptable trade-off, that the immediate issues are so important that we need to deal with them now and worry about who we’re oppressing by doing so later. I think the meta-principle of making moral decisions based on reason is absolutely vital. And I’m terrified of widespread restrictions on free speech because they inherently make it very hard to roll them back. For a trivial example look at Thailand’s lese-majeste law, which everyone involved with at every level wants to repeal, but it’s very hard to oppose a law against saying x without violating that same law. We in the west have had this strong free speech norm since the Enlightenment, and I don’t think it’s coincidence that we’ve enjoyed great civilisational success over the same period.

                                for a lot of people the slavery question carries the added burden of “my human rights are seen as a matter for debate”

                                Everyone regards the things they want as fundamental rights and the things other people want as nice-to-haves. If we want to have a norm that will allow productive discussion between people who disagree then that norm has to be objective and symmetric. If we want to say certain things are off the table… well, we probably should make some things off the table! But that line lies a long way away from “anything that moderator X disagrees with”, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask that those lines are defined objectively and unambiguously.

                                there is no real virtue in protecting the speech of people who are fighting to maintain those power imbalances; they have the power on their side anyway. consider gamergate, which from your “whoever that is” comment i assume you aren’t really familiar with the real facts of. some people love to spin it (either out of ignorance or bad faith) as a fight between free speech and political correctness, or an attempt to ferret out corruption in video game journalism. but if you look at what actually happened, it was a mob of people harassing some women in the game industry until they were literally afraid to speak in public

                                That was the biggest aspect of it yes. But there were also mobs attacking some extremely unprivileged individuals in the name of feminism, compete with all the death threats, doxxing and all the rest of it.

                                If you say that it’s ok for women to use tactic x because women are less powerful than men then the inevitable result, as seen around gamergate, is powerful women using tactic x against weak men. The people sending dick pics and threats are not the powerful oppressors. They’re weak and angry and lashing out. Which is not for a moment to say that their behaviour is ok or that those on the receiving end aren’t suffering - their behaviour needs to change, and other people need to be protected from them until then. But if there’s a tactic you believe should only be used by the unprivileged against the privileged, the gamergaters are not an appropriate target for it. They are, in fact, a group that greatly needs free speech rights - for reasons that are not unrelated to how bad they are at exercising them.

                                I’m fine with a private space saying “this place is about helping women, there are more of them undergoing worse oppression at the moment” - though anywhere that believes in supporting minorities in general should be concerned about such logic. I’m not ok with a public space further marginalising already marginalised subgroups that have the misfortune to be part of a more privileged supergroup.

                                i deliberately use the word “uncomfortable” rather than “afraid” because if you’re part of the group in power, there is a lot less real harm in not being able to say what you want to say to or about the group not in power

                                All debates are bravery debates. If you think one side should be obliged to justify the validity of their feelings then please apply that same standard to all sides.

                                Personal time then: Coming from a working-class background, tech is one of very few routes up that are available to people like me. No-one from my street is ever going to be a doctor or a lawyer or an executive. The government program that let me attend a top university was cut the next year; I honestly think I could never have won my scholarship in a field that was anything less than 100% objective. Certainly when I was there the humanities majors were all the private school middle/upper class set. It was only in STEM that you got people like me. Even without a degree or connections, people get hired in tech just by raw talent.

                                So I look at the demonisation of gamers, the constant talk of a problem in STEM and in the technology industry. And the organisations I see being celebrated don’t seem to be doing much for those they purport to help, and the people who get destroyed don’t seem to be those who were actually treating others badly. They seem to be those who didn’t know the right way to phrase these things like the upper class do, who accidentally let slip a statement that, for someone with my experience, was just what you were told as a fact growing up.

                                So rightly or not, I’m terrified that I’ll say the wrong thing and lose my livelihood. I don’t have the upper class social skillset that would let me get out of that or convince a review board. And I don’t think anyone would have any sympathy. While I’d probably be fine art this point, I fear my one-time class will soon be excluded entirely. And I honestly think that many anti-harassment measures harm such people far more than they help women.

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                                  People who have been harassed are not the only people who have experience with the effects of harassment policies.

                                  yes, but they are the people most likely to know the actual harm done by harassers, because it is done to them. it’s like knowing when a word is a slur - if i call someone X, and they think it’s a slur, it doesn’t matter whether i knew it was one, or used it deliberately - they get to decide that the word X is offensive, because they’re the ones being hurt by it.

                                  If you’re advocating for a subjective harassment policy then say so. The concern about “where do you draw the line” is often really a concern about selective enforcement for political reasons - which can very easily become its own form of harassment. I’ve seen claims that this is already happening on Twitter, with different moderation standards being applied to people from one side or the other.

                                  selective enforcement is definitely a problem, and i am not for subjective policies where people get a pass because they are popular or smart or have done a lot for the community. but i am for subjective policies where a superficially identical action is interpreted differently depending on who does it, because context matters a lot. the main problem i think is that a lot of people use “objective” to mean “stripped of context”, and you really can’t do that and be truly just.

                                  That was the biggest aspect of it yes. But there were also mobs attacking some extremely unprivileged individuals in the name of feminism, compete with all the death threats, doxxing and all the rest of it.

                                  death threat and doxxing are definitely not okay, and i’ll condemn it no matter who does it.

                                  If you say that it’s ok for women to use tactic x because women are less powerful than men then the inevitable result, as seen around gamergate, is powerful women using tactic x against weak men. The people sending dick pics and threats are not the powerful oppressors. They’re weak and angry and lashing out.

                                  that, i believe, is a fallacy. they are precisely empowered by their status as part of the more powerful supergroup to do things like that in the first place. it’s practically become a cliche that “men fear women will laugh at them; women fear men will murder them”, but it’s a cliche for a reason.

                                  Which is not for a moment to say that their behaviour is ok or that those on the receiving end aren’t suffering - their behaviour needs to change, and other people need to be protected from them until then. But if there’s a tactic you believe should only be used by the unprivileged against the privileged, the gamergaters are not an appropriate target for it. They are, in fact, a group that greatly needs free speech rights - for reasons that are not unrelated to how bad they are at exercising them.

                                  you say that the gamergaters are “weak and angry and lashing out” - but what are they lashing out against? i have yet to see any evidence that any member of gamergate has actually been victimised or suffered any harm that would cause them to lash out. they are reacting to the fact that society is catering to women and minorities slightly more than it used to, and are deeply upset by that relative loss of status, but that does not make them victims in any way, shape or form.

                                  I’m fine with a private space saying “this place is about helping women, there are more of them undergoing worse oppression at the moment” - though anywhere that believes in supporting minorities in general should be concerned about such logic. I’m not ok with a public space further marginalising already marginalised subgroups that have the misfortune to be part of a more privileged supergroup.

                                  again, i do not believe gamergaters are marginalised. they just feel that being white and male and libertarian is less catered-to than it used to be, and are deeply convinced that something underhanded must have gone on to make that happen. you can see the exact same phenomenon playing out in the sad puppies debacle in the science fiction community.

                                  All debates are bravery debates. If you think one side should be obliged to justify the validity of their feelings then please apply that same standard to all sides.

                                  why? if group A feels that they deserve better treatment, and group B feels everyone should be treated equally, and group B’s treatment does not affect group A’s in any absolute sense (same sex marriage is an excellent example), i’d say that group B does not need to justify the validity of their feelings. to say they do is simply status quo bias.

                                  Personal time then: Coming from a working-class background, tech is one of very few routes up that are available to people like me. No-one from my street is ever going to be a doctor or a lawyer or an executive. The government program that let me attend a top university was cut the next year; I honestly think I could never have won my scholarship in a field that was anything less than 100% objective. Certainly when I was there the humanities majors were all the private school middle/upper class set. It was only in STEM that you got people like me. Even without a degree or connections, people get hired in tech just by raw talent.

                                  even tech, though, is prone to stereotype bias. with otherwise identical backgrounds, men get hired more and for higher salaries than women, and white people more than any other demographic. a lot of the pushback against the claims of “meritocracy” is not because people don’t believe there are white men who have got where they were by genuine talent, but because those same white men want desperately to believe that it is only talent that has led to their demographic being on top, and if ${random black woman} was smart and talented she would naturally bubble to the top too. even very well-meaning people think it’s all about “pipeline problems” and getting more women/minorities into STEM, without seeing how the industry is actively driving them out by letting toxic environments persist.

                                  So I look at the demonisation of gamers, the constant talk of a problem in STEM and in the technology industry. And the organisations I see being celebrated don’t seem to be doing much for those they purport to help, and the people who get destroyed don’t seem to be those who were actually treating others badly. They seem to be those who didn’t know the right way to phrase these things like the upper class do, who accidentally let slip a statement that, for someone with my experience, was just what you were told as a fact growing up.

                                  i do sympathise with people who get caught up in that, and i agree that that has led to some very ugly mob scenes on twitter, etc. but here’s an example - let’s say someone has grown up using casual racial slurs, or believing as a fact that gay people were going to hell, or trans people were simply mentally ill and needed therapy to accept their assigned gender. it is, as you say, not entirely their fault that they think that way - but at the same time, if they have to work with a gay person, or a mexican, they will create a very uncomfortable environment for them.

                                  So rightly or not, I’m terrified that I’ll say the wrong thing and lose my livelihood. I don’t have the upper class social skillset that would let me get out of that or convince a review board. And I don’t think anyone would have any sympathy. While I’d probably be fine art this point, I fear my one-time class will soon be excluded entirely. And I honestly think that many anti-harassment measures harm such people far more than they help women.

                                  again, i can sympathise with that while at the same time feeling that your “rightly or not” leans more towards “not”. also don’t forget that at some level, everyone has to pay attention to what they say or do lest someone else take offense; it was just that in the past it was only the underprivileged who had to tread carefully because if they ran afoul of the people in power they would bear the consequences. (heck, not just in the past - look up the current sexual harassment scandal in the astronomy community. lots of women had to simply be quiet and say nothing or they would have found themselves abruptly out of a career). the point of a lot of these antiharassment measures is that they have to move the needle of what is acceptable to say and do, and they have to move it against a lot of societal inertia. also don’t forget that while it is definitely hard to come from a working-class white background, it is way harder to come from a working class black one, for instance. when you say “american working class” people’s mental image is almost invariable of a poor white man in a blue-collar job; no one thinks black men, or women of any colour.

                                  one thing you have to keep in mind is that doing nothing is not the neutral choice - it is an active choice in favour of the people currently in power.

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                                    Thank you for replying. It’s the nature of these things to drop the parts where we agree (and I think we do have a lot of common ground) and pursue the parts where we disagree.

                                    I think the positive kind of “devil’s advocate” is a space where someone airs not positions that they are disinterested about, but positions that aren’t yet fully formed, without the fear of being taken to task for something that they said without having thought through all the implications. So let me say that everything I’m saying is sincere, but provisional - I am, ultimately, hoping you’ll change my mind.

                                    yes, but they are the people most likely to know the actual harm done by harassers, because it is done to them

                                    Agreed - but by the same token the people most likely to know the harm done by bad harassment policies are those who’ve been excluded by them. So we do need input from both - and since few people have experienced both, we need to hold the discussion at a level that doesn’t depend purely on personal experience, which in turn implies that even those who have directly experienced neither might have valuable contributions to make.

                                    they are precisely empowered by their status as part of the more powerful supergroup to do things like that in the first place. it’s practically become a cliche that “men fear women will laugh at them; women fear men will murder them”, but it’s a cliche for a reason.

                                    Most stereotypes are cliches for a reason. But we consider them harmful because of how they affect those who don’t conform to the stereotype, no?

                                    Presumably this laughter/murder contrast is because of the difference in physical strength? Supposing we’re moderating a heated in-person discussion between A and B that descended into threat-like statements and trying to decide whether they constituted harassment. I can see the logic to saying “A is stronger than B so we will hold A to higher standards”. But if B is in fact visibly stronger than A, it would be absurd on the face to say that we should hold A to a higher standard because A is male and B is female and males are stronger than female on average.

                                    you say that the gamergaters are “weak and angry and lashing out” - but what are they lashing out against? i have yet to see any evidence that any member of gamergate has actually been victimised or suffered any harm that would cause them to lash out

                                    I’m not claiming they’ve been harmed by anyone involved (other than the few who were specifically attacked, and possibly the very minor case of buying a not-very-good videogame after reading a biased review). I meant more generally, based on the demographics and spaces where it started, we’re talking about a large proportion of them being unemployed, socially isolated, and lower class. Some looking for any excuse to blame/attack someone. Others just happy to find a crowd that seems to like each other and accept them.

                                    you can see the exact same phenomenon playing out in the sad puppies debacle in the science fiction community

                                    Here I do disagree. The Hugo was a space that a group marginalised by conventional literary awards made for themselves. It has a long tradition of militarism, of focus on plot and artifice over prose and characterisation. The winners in recent years have felt very different from those of the past - Booker-nominated The Chimes would be right at home among them.

                                    Without accusing anyone of malice, it’s reasonable to hypothesise that either the Locus reading list or the works suggested by a self-organising circle of blogging authors may have acted as a de facto slate. Maybe the shift in recent Hugos reflects a real change in the community - or maybe it represents a combination of the lack of competition for Locus, the increased importance of mainstream connections in the age of the Internet, and a flawed nomination process, resulting in winners that reflected the tastes of an elite over those of the wider community.

                                    I’m looking forward to the voting reforms, and hoping the next winners will reflect the will of the whole community, whatever it will be.

                                    if group A feels that they deserve better treatment, and group B feels everyone should be treated equally, and group B’s treatment does not affect group A’s in any absolute sense (same sex marriage is an excellent example), i’d say that group B does not need to justify the validity of their feelings.

                                    You just did justify it, based on objective logic. I’m taking about cases like feeling threatened/safe, where we seem to say that we should respect some people’s feelings of being threatened but not others', and again that this should be based on group dynamics.

                                    To take an extreme example, suppose A is a wealthy, successful upper-class educated businesswoman, B is an unemployed lower-class white man, and C is a successful upper-class black businessman. And suppose A feels unsafe around men - perhaps due to previous experience or just upbringing - and that B similarly feels unsafe around black people.

                                    I think many people would say we should respect A’s feelings and should not respect B’s feelings. And they’d have those heuristics for a reason, especially when we’re talking about moderators who are facing trolling and more normal patterns of discrimination all the time (and it wouldn’t help that B has no hope of convincing a sophisticated, educated moderator of anything). But it would ultimately be an injustice, because although he’s part of more powerful groups B is actually the weakest and most marginalised of the three.

                                    I think having objective guidelines is the only way out here. I mean even as I write this I struggle to find it in me to care about B. But I do think it’s the right thing to do.

                                    also don’t forget that while it is definitely hard to come from a working-class white background, it is way harder to come from a working class black one, for instance

                                    Sure. But again I think many things done in the name of anti-racism don’t help, or even hurt, such people.

                                    You’re absolutely right that harassment happens in tech, that it’s very hard to accommodate some people without creating a hostile environment for others, and that doing nothing is a choice. I don’t think we should reflexively do nothing. But I don’t think we should reflexively adopt any anti-harassment policy, not even that proposed by the immediate victims of harassment. We do need to think these things through, and we should be extremely wary of treating even powerful groups differently, because even powerful groups contain marginalised people.

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                                      Dude, if there is one thing more annoying than your lack of capitalization, it is your use of excessively large brushes to paint pictures. Some examples:

                                      when you say “american working class” people’s mental image is almost invariable of a poor white man in a blue-collar job; no one thinks black men, or women of any colour.

                                      Counter-example: if the person lives in a place like Texas, they’re going to think of latinos in addition to whites.

                                      [in tech] white people more than any other demographic.

                                      Are you counting the huge number of IT workers in South and Southeast Asia?

                                      they just feel that being white and male and libertarian is less catered-to than it used to be, and are deeply convinced that something underhanded must have gone on to make that happen

                                      You ignore the female and nonwhite gamer-gaters here, and you just kind of writeoff what you think their motivation is.

                                      i have yet to see any evidence that any member of gamergate has actually been victimised or suffered any harm that would cause them to lash out

                                      Seriously? You aren’t counting numerous amounts of defamation or harassment on twitter? Or the organized purging/reporting of various tumblr blogs (even if they kinda asked for it, an argument we wouldn’t accept in the opposite direction)?

                                      it’s practically become a cliche that “men fear women will laugh at them; women fear men will murder them”, but it’s a cliche for a reason.

                                      The reason being its endless repetition by people that believe that women need to be treated as victims or victims-to-be. It’s hardly a physical law or fact, and just serves to create a false panic.

                                      ~

                                      The problem with long rambling posts like yours is that they tend to compound minor inaccuracies and myths and ultimately end up reinforcing the notions that tend to lead to greater problems down the line.

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                                        This post is clearly written with a lot of emotion, for good reason since it’s a divisive and important topic. I feel like it would have benefited from a calmer look before sending. It would take only minor changes to remove the personal remarks from it, and I’d encourage thinking about that next time.

                                        The overall thread has been astonishingly civil, which has been gratifying. Thank you for being as careful about it as you have been.

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                                Is there a term for people who try and set arbitrary rules for discussion? Because it is incredibly irritating.

                                I don’t know who apg is, but he comes off as someone genuinely interested in understanding your position. Nevertheless you write them off as probably someone who has “never had to deal with harassment” and warn him about demand[ing] for evidence and answers to questions? You expect us to either agree with you or else hold our tongues!?

                                Also you were able to write 3 paragraphs on how difficult it is to participate online. Why not instead just give your opinion on where to draw the line when it comes to regulating harassment?

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                                  i am not trying to set any sort of arbitrary rules; indeed i was careful to point out that i, personally, have never had to deal with harassment. and as far as i can see, i have genuinely tried to explain my position to him. but my position includes the fact that for people who have had to deal with harassment, it can be pretty exhausting to constantly have to satisfy people’s demands for evidence, which is why i linked to the sealioning post; i think it’s a useful thing to keep at the back of your mind when engaging in these discussions.

                                  as for writing apg off, i admit i was tempted when he brought the phrase “devil’s advocate” into the discussion (that is indeed a rule of mine that you can call arbitrary), but again, i did not do so, and instead found and linked to a post explaining why i dislike that sort of thing and why i feel he should avoid it. i did indeed jump to the conclusion that he had never had to deal with harassment himself, but again, i feel like i explained why i think so.

                                  edit:

                                  in reply to your last point: the rules, such as they are, are not arbitrary; they’re from listening to people who have been harassed about what kind of discussions only wear them down further, and make them feel like they have to justify not wanting to be abused. the whole idea of “drawing the line” likewise supposes that there should be some clear and objective rules that you state up front, and then use as a benchmark to decide whether any particular interaction counts as harassment or not. but that’s not how harassment works! firstly, that sort of rule simply plays into the hands of the people for whom this is all a sadistic game - they delight in skirting the rules as closely as they can and saying “see! by your own criteria we are not harassing anyone”. and secondly, harassment is very often manifested as a pattern of interactions, any one of which can, in isolation, be argued to be innocuous (this is another game abusive people are very fond of playing). by speaking of objective rules and line-drawing, you are often just letting the abusive party frame the terms of the discussion, which never ends well.

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                                    Thank you for your contributions to this thread, zem! I’ve found them useful in clarifying some murky thoughts.

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                                      thanks :)

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                                    @overcyn: Please assume good faith. Everyone else in this discussion has.

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                                  But, how should we define “harms people”? And, really, who should define “harms people”? We could maybe regulate by putting it in the hands of moderators or some other appointee, create policies, codes of conduct, etc. Or something to that affect. Anyone who feels like they were the subject of harassment could come forward. There could be zero tolerance for such things, etc.

                                  Preliminary to all that is whether we should define “harms people” – and if we should, we just have to try our best at how and who, we can’t get out of it.

                                  Freedom of speech has never been interpreted to mean that you may literally say anything at anytime; nor has it been taken to mean that we may wash our hands of regulating other people’s conduct when it is speech. One may not lie in court as performance art – although this is a conceivable mode of expression. There is also the notion of “fighting words”: language which would be so offensive or intimidating as to incite violence is both not protected and in fact punishable.

                                  It is rare that we engage with “the public” or with other people in a manner that is free of expectation or obligation; and this is part of what leads to expectations about our speech. When you put food products on the market in the US, for example, you are participating in a market where there are prevailing notions about truth in labelling; and following these rules is something one accepts as part of engaging in commerce. Selling apples labelled “asian pears” might be a way of communicating that you think apples are just as crispy and bright as asian pears, but it would not be in keeping with truth in labelling.

                                  With regards to “public discourse”, which I suppose is the standard by which we should judge something like 4Chan, the present interpretation of freedom of speech seems aims to protect speech in the context of a free exchange of ideas. Harassing people is not about ideas! Now in conjunction with the presumption of innocence, we will tend to draw the circle a little large and include a few things that are not free exchange of ideas but frivolous goings-on; but when we invoke freedom of speech we should be clear about what it really protects.

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                                FWIW, legitimate threats and harassment aren’t considered free speech: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/875

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                                  Aren’t considered free speech within the scope of that particular law. The concept of free speech is a shared one and there is very little consensus on what constitutes harassment.

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                              Is it still de-anonymizing if everyone pretends you’re anonymous?

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                                I upvoted because it made me laugh. But, for clarification purposes…

                                What is anonymous at Google? My name isn’t associated with the hundreds of profile identifiers they’ve collected over the years? I don’t think for a second that Google doesn’t have a way to, within some small margin of error, accurately merge all of those hundreds of profiles into a single profile about me. My name may not be associated, technically, but as soon as I’m logged in somewhere and a cookie with a profile identifer drops, all my anonymity is forever lost.

                                1. 3

                                  It’s hard to say that with authority without knowing the internals. Not sure if I would think it for a second, but I can certainly imagine there being a separation between consumer models and PII. To go a little further, it seems clear that it ought to be a fireable offense to look at someone’s consumer model based on who they are in real life, or to merge or de-anonymize in any way pseudonymous profiles (if those ever launch) by PII, with proper review systems in place to prevent it.

                                  This might be wishful thinking (a bias to believe what ought to be true is true), but it just seems so obviously the ethical way to structure the sort of data that Google gathers.

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                                    Whether or not people at Google actually look is different than, can it be done by a machine, to generate more accurate results. I’m not sure I’d be willing to be my horse that they don’t, or haven’t tried in the past.

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                                      Given the kind of reasons people have for pseudonyms, it seems pretty stupid [1] to give ad or search results based directly on the actions of a pseudo-secret identity, and close-to-evil to model secret pseudonyms as part of a consumer profile. Google is better than that.

                                      I think the worry that some system (human-driven or automated) may be able to correlate a pseudonym with your public identity is not wholly unfounded, but I would be pretty surprised if any such a system falls within Google’s corp strategy or interests.

                                      1. https://consumerist.com/2012/02/17/target-figures-out-teen-girl-is-pregnant-before-her-father-does-sends-helpful-coupons/
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                                        but I would be pretty surprised if any such a system falls within Google’s corp strategy or interests.

                                        What do the potentially hundreds of thousands of employees do all day, then? :)

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                                          What do the potentially hundreds of thousands of employees do all day, then?

                                          Mainly I just curate emoji, can’t speak for the rest of the company though.

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                                    And more than that, a lot of my personal information is at Google (and Facebook) because they have scraped it from people I communicate with. Google does a lot of text parsing, that is kind of Their Thing, so they know where I live, what my phone number is, my political views, and intimate personal situations. I would very much prefer that they know none of those things but have no control. Looking up MX records and refusing to contact people using GMail would make email mostly useless and wouldn’t work because friends and family use GMail to ask each other about me anyways (nothing weird, just things like “hey, what’s Peter’s address for dinner this evening?”).

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                                      That reminds of makko hill post about his mail usage and how much Gmail has information about him. (he is a strong advocate of running your email service)

                                      I’ve debated this issue myself so many times, it’s like what’s more important to you: communicate with friends and family whatever service they use or take a stance and show them alternatives? Sometimes I just have to trust and stop being so paranoid ☺️