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This morning, user @antt was banned with reason “No really, you do not ‘gotta hand it to the nazis’”. It looks like he was banned for comment mjxerc, which was deleted with the reason “No really, you do not ‘gotta hand it to the nazis’”. A couple months back @derek-jones was banned for the same reason, and one of his comments was deleted with the same reason too. I have two concerns about this:

  1. Deleting the comment removes transparency about why they were banned, and whether the ban was “just”. Were they actually praising Nazis, drawing an analogy, making a joke in poor taste, what?
  2. Ban reasons shouldn’t be using references you need to be Extremely Online to get. Banning is a serious step and we should make the reasons as clear as possible.
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    Time for a throwback: inject USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST on the final straw posts. Bonus points if you can do it in red.

    (I am being both facetious, but also serious.)

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      Is that what Something Awful does? It’s been a while …

      1. 2

        I’m thinking you’re thinking of imageboards.

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          No, somethingawful did this originally iirc, I think imageboards adopted it as they (the U.S. boards) were formed from the culture there. Facepunch also had a similar all caps red ban message too, I think.

          1. 2

            Ahh, that figures. I didn’t enjoy SA forums at all when I found that side of the internet and didn’t find it worth spending money on…

      2. 5

        Still waiting for @pushcx to implement search and/or put through my archives upgrade. :P

        1. 7

          Well, that could certainly be the next April Fools’ joke…

          As much as some content really should be deleted, it would be in the interest of transparency (unless it’s spam/illegal) to have it available to review, even if it should be some inconvenience (at least showdead level) to avoid leaving the poop in the punch bowl of a thread.

          (The rest of this post requires a Lobsters Gold account to view.)

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            Perhaps it should be removed from the normal trees of replies, but be left in the modlog? Then seeing it requires an extra step, and you know you’re going to be seeing something bad.

            1. 2

              Yeah, in retrospect I don’t want it to be something people try to “high score” with.

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        derek-jones claimed that experiments on unwitting participants were acceptable because Nazis gained valuable data in murderous experiments. antt literally wrote “Gotta hand it to them” for killing fewer people in the Holocaust than big tobacco, whose critics were denounced as Nazi-like. Neither permitted a sarcastic, satirical, or other reading.

        I’m sorry I wrote flippant ban messages, you’re entirely right that they’re not useful. I was shocked and horrified by the comments and I reach for black humor as stress relief in shitty situations. But me throwing up my hands at the awful absurdity of someone publicly going to bat for Nazis isn’t useful for setting site norms or conveying the seriousness of the situation.

        I’m not OK with continuing to publish these comments praising Nazi atrocities or downplaying the Holocaust. They’re so repugnant that there’s no potential learning value like there could be when a comment crosses a line like “language Foo is bad” to “you, fan of language Foo are bad”.

        As to leaving up other final messages before bans, I think only sockpuppet voting rings and the guy who posted about how bitcoin is like a handjob have gone from totally off my radar to banned in a single post. The overwhelming majority of bans, it’s someone who’s been getting heavily flagged over a period of time and had multiple DM conversations with a mod about what’s not acceptable. The last message before a ban isn’t special, it’s the last straw of a pattern of abuse that I try to explain in the ban message. I often revise these in IRC between me, @Irene, and the two chat mods, @355e3b and @aleph for clarity, but the final wording is always my responsibility. I haven’t gotten many questions asking for further explanation so it seems like this is going OK.

        1. 6

          I think it’s important to note that there wasn’t exactly a pattern in comments by that user, that I saw–and frankly with you saying “Neither permitted a sarcastic, satirical, or other reading.” after trashing the source material none of us will ever know.

          I can think of several ways of stating some similar sentiment about that odious medical research, ranging from “Dr. Josef did nothing wrong” at one extreme all the way to “There is perhaps the tiniest comfort that the unjust and inhumane suffering inflicted on uninformed and unwilling participants was not completely in vain: post-war reactions to this experimentation started a massive shift in ethics for medical research and norms.” Without the source comment, there’s no way for us to know.

          Locking subthreads (or even just a “We’re not here to litigate the Holocaust, this is off-topic, stop or get banned.”) would probably be a better way of handling it in the future.

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            Maybe I’m weird, but I’m of the opinion that we shouldn’t be waiting for someone to demonstrate they are a repeat offender in playing-down-the-holocaust for them to receive a ban.

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              The question is all about intent IMO: did they intend to downplay the Holocaust, or did they phrase a point in a bad way? There’s even room for accidents: I’ve sometimes made posts where I accidentally omitted a word like “not” which means what I wrote was the exact opposite of what I wanted to say. My original reading of derek-jones’ comment was that they said Nazi experiments were unethical, although reading it again carefully they may have actually said it’s a good thing. Is that what they intended to say? I don’t know…

              In principle I agree with your point. I’ve kicked up fuss in the past about this sort of thing (I spent a lot of time trying to change that site, both publicly and less publicly, I ended up just deleting my account as it had no effect, literally worst site in SE network ever). In that case there was 0 doubt, but sometimes it’s not so clear what exactly was intended.

              That’s the problem I have from operating on a single data point. Perhaps it’s naïve to a degree, but I’d rather be a tad naïve than see a Nazi every time someone says something stupid. On the other hand, I’d also rather have the occasional overzealous ban that ever deal with anything even close of that fucking cesspool of Politics SE again where literal Nazis and other outright assholes were given 90 chances before getting a short ban after which the cycle all started over again.

              1. 1

                I appreciate your thoughts. I think we basically have a moral disagreement.

                The question is all about intent IMO

                Whereas I feel pretty strongly that it’s only a little bit about intent. A culture that assumes good faith in people that say borderline nazi stuff seems, at best, naive enough to unwittingly shift the Overton window in a direction that makes more room for it, and the annoying trolls that stuff it into tired faux-rational multi paragraph comments. I’m not interested in hanging out in that kind of space. It’s immature, good people leave, and it gets more trolly, childish, and reactionary over time.

                Perhaps it’s naïve to a degree, but I’d rather be a tad naïve than see a Nazi every time someone says something stupid.

                I know what’s you’re getting at. This reads as handwavy to me, so let’s be precise because it’s important not to distort what has actually taken place in favor of what’s happening in hypotheticalland. What actually occurred, if we’re talking about yesterday’s ban, was someone saying something to the effect of ‘gotta hand it to the nazis’ because they didn’t kill as many as the smoking industry.

                So the comment wasn’t only “something stupid”, but specifically invoked nazis being ‘not as bad as’ something else. Even if they’re true in some narrow sense of number of deaths or injuries, do they have to be a literal card carrying nazi to be a malignant asshole that invokes nazis-as-less-harmful-than and ought to leave?

                1. 6

                  Or just a bad way of phrasing and not what they actually intended to say? Or maybe it wasn’t and they’ll be at a KKK rally this evening. It’s likely we’ll never know for certain. Either way, I’m not going to come to any sort of conclusion based on a single data point. I always find it a bit disturbing how casual these things are flung around. At this point anything is “hypotheticalland” because all we have is a short statement that, on the face of it, of course aren’t good, but not everything is always what it appears at first sight.

                  (I apologize for the length of this post by the way; it’s really as short as I can make it while still accurately and clearly explain my views, at least, I hope it’s clear. It’s not something I can explain in three or four paragraphs; perhaps if I was a better writer, but unfortunately I am not.)

                  In my experience it’s actually really easy to find these sort of things out: just talk to them. The innocent will reply with “oh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t intend it like that!” and all is fine and we can continue as we were. The actual Nazis will almost always double down. I’ve also had this happen with a friendly mod messages I sent years ago: “hey, I deleted that because it came off as insensitive and vaguely racist because [reasons], I appreciate that wasn’t your intention but please be a bit more careful in how you phrase it in the future, cheerio!” And I got a reply saying it absolutely was their intention followed by some long rambling racist screed trying to convince me that The Jew is actually running the show and that a Goyim like me shouldn’t be fooled, or … something. I didn’t bother to read it but thanks for clearing that up; hold on while I revisit my earlier decision to just send a warning and never speak to you again. That’s also what happened in that SE thread I linked, where the Nazi ass started referring to the Holocaust as an “alleged historical event” right in the public thread calling out his anti-Semitism and calling for him to be banned, which finally netted him his long-deserved ban.

                  Crackpots in general just love to talk about their crackpottery to anyone who shows vague interest in it (of even to those that don’t); Nazis are rarely an exception.

                  And to be clear: we absolutely shouldn’t tolerate these posts or people that consistently make them. They should be deleted and the users sent a message this wasn’t appropriate. No disagreement on that. A second similar offence after the warning can just result in a ban because at that point we’re past the point of “maybe it was just a stupid moment” and a pattern has been established (tangentially related previous post](https://lobste.rs/s/zp4ofg/lobster_burntsushi_has_left_site#c_xodjgg)). I don’t think there’s much risk of shifting the Overton window, and I also don’t think we have that much of a moral disagreement as I am absolutely not in favour in making Lobsters a space where Nazis are somehow tolerated; I have argued before we should ban known Nazis even if their on-site behaviour on Lobsters is unobjectionable. I also wouldn’t want to hang out in this kind of space, like you, and would leave as I did on the Politics SE site in spite of being one of the top users in the years I participated (a somewhat sad affair, as I really like the premise of the site, which is fairly unique AFAIK, and spent a lot of time trying to make it work).

                  Do I have patience or “tolerance” for Nazis or anything vaguely in that direction? No, absolutely not, and I will spend active effort to address any such issues, as demonstrated. But at the same time I’m also hesitant to jump to conclusions; I don’t think any of that is “handwavy”, I’m careful with this exactly because I take it very serious. The more serious an allegation, the more careful I am. And “Nazi” is pretty darn serious as far as I’m concerned.

                  Also, as an additional point, not everyone lives in the same context and culture; and not everyone has the same sensitivities.

                  I lived in Cork, Ireland for a while. One of the houses in my street had a confederate battle-flag in their window. I thought this was just the oddest thing, why would anyone in Ireland have such a stupid thing? Are you so racist that you’re now fighting for the “states rights” to keep slaves of a country you don’t even live in?

                  Then I realized it may actually be something entirely different. Cork is the “rebel city”, referring to a rebellion against the English in medieval times. It’s a common nickname and there’s loads of references to “rebel” in Cork. Maybe … it was just a matter of “Rebel city? Rebel flag!” and they didn’t really understand the full context? I think it’s likely. I used to watch the Dukes of Hazards on TV as a kid, and for a long time I thought that the confederate battle flag was just the logo for the “General Lee”, which seemed like a really odd name for a car, but whatever. Only much later sometime in my 20s did I realize that actually, this was the Confederate battle-flag, and that “General Lee” referred to General Robert E. Lee. Do’h! And after that it took me some more years to really understand the history of the US and the civil war and that the Confederacy was actually really bad. I absolutely could have said something insensitive, perhaps even “borderline nazi stuff” at this point, simply because I didn’t really know what I was talking about back then on account of not being from the US.

                  I watched The Death of Stalin with my Indonesian girlfriend some time ago, which parodies the death of Stalin and ensuing rat race for the leadership. At some point mid-film she asked me “Stalin was the leader of Russia for a while right?” and “did he really kill that many people? Did that really happen?” She’s not stupid, far from it, but those kind of things are mostly just not a thing here. Similarly, I’ve talked to plenty of people (including her) who don’t really know all that much about Nazi Germany or Hitler. Hell, I know someone who named their son “Adolf”. I chocked in my drink at first, but then she explained that he’s named after her Dutch grandfather (Adolf was a common-ish name before that failed Austrian painter ruined the name together with an otherwise perfectly serviceable style of moustache). “Oh yeah, Adolf Hitler, he was this leader in Europe right?”

                  Indonesia was occupied by the Dutch and Japanese, not the Germans. That’s what they learn about in history lessons. I didn’t get any history lessons about the Japanese in WW2 either, because for my country it wasn’t really a thing (other than leading to Indonesian independence, on which I did get quite a lot of on account of being Dutch and the colonial history).

                  Every culture has their own sensitive topics. For a lot of us, it’s almost inconceivable that someone doesn’t know about the atrocious Nazi history and doesn’t consider them to be pretty much the epitome of evil. But if you go beyond the “western cultural bubble” then it quickly becomes a lot more murky. I’m not trying to make some cultural relativism point or say that we need to respect all sensitivities equally because then we would also have to ban anything “blasphemous” or in favour of gay rights, and of course we shouldn’t allow offensive stuff just because someone is from, say, Indonesia. I’m just saying that “borderline nazi stuff” and such may not always be what you think it means at face value.

                  Whether any of this is applicable here: who knows. But this is another reason I tend to be careful.

                  1. 3

                    Whereas I feel pretty strongly that it’s only a little bit about intent.

                    I don’t think this makes sense if one thinks about it for more than a second. Ignoring intent tends to make it easier to hurt people who make honest mistakes or borderline cases, and makes it harder to deal with clever bad actors who follow house rules…and that’s before we even get into deeper philosophical questions.

                    A culture that assumes good faith in people that say borderline nazi stuff seems, at best, naive enough to unwittingly shift the Overton window in a direction that makes more room for it, and the annoying trolls that stuff it into tired faux-rational multi paragraph comments. I’m not interested in hanging out in that kind of space. It’s immature, good people leave, and it gets more trolly, childish, and reactionary over time.

                    This exact same case can (and is) made for the takeover of spaces by “SJWs”, communists, and other radicals. It’s a valid critique that cuts both ways–and opening the Overton window is essential to have a functioning marketplace of ideas.

                    What actually occurred, if we’re talking about yesterday’s ban, was someone saying something to the effect of ‘gotta hand it to the nazis’ because they didn’t kill as many as the smoking industry.

                    You’ve done a bit of a bait-and-switch here…I was referring specifically to the @derek-jones case (even linking to their profile). You seem to be referring to the @antt case, which even a casual reading of the comments suggests was trending towards some weird off-topic behavior even if it they weren’t going to go all nazi (and who knows, the comment pattern suggested that might have been the case). I’ll also note that, with the WHO reporting 8 million deaths a year, @antt wasn’t factually incorrect–but the comment history signals intent, which under your professed view we must discount.

                    Even if they’re true in some narrow sense of number of deaths or injuries, do they have to be a literal card carrying nazi to be a malignant asshole that invokes nazis-as-less-harmful-than and ought to leave

                    It’s not some narrow sense–if you believe the WHO’s numbers and you believe the Holocaust numbers then yes, the cigarette industry is literally 10x worse than the Nazis. They’re probably even worse than that, given the number of Nazis-per-death versus the tobacco-executive-per-death–unless you want to make the argument, as some have and some will, that even a single life of the chosen people (here Jews, but others can and have made the argument for Muslims, Christians, Blacks, gays, , etc.) is unforgivable; that all deaths are equally incalculable losses; that deaths due to consumer choices are not the same as deaths due to murder; or whatever else.

                    That’s prima facie a valid discussion to have–if you have even a slight philosophical bent–but it sucks the air out of the room and the normative ethics of taking human life isn’t something that Lobsters as a community either has space for or the tools to do without kicking up a lot of dust.

                    Why work this example? @antt was correct in their observations, but again the inferred intent (based on multiple posts, at least one of which is still available to read) was being a nazi shithead, and we judge them on that.

                    @derek-jones had one post which we can’t even refer to anymore, and didn’t seem to have any history of this behavior.

                    I for one would prefer a community where we at least try to understand intent–going by surface-level signalling is woefully insufficient and unjust.

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                      That’s prima facie a valid discussion to have

                      Maybe, but not on this site.

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                        Agreed, as evidenced by the rest of the sentence. :)

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                          True, I misread the rest of the sentence. Sorry!

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              Thank you. I believe that this is the kind of moderation we need.

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                I’m sorry, the ban message wasn’t bad per se. My criticism to it was because without the context of the comment, I thought it was a generic pre-written reason

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                  In my eyes your reasoning and reactions were good. I imagine it’s tough continuously having to assess potentially bad contributions. Well done.

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                  The reason IMO for deleting flamebait comments is to prevent the discussion thread from being hijacked by people responding to the flamebait. Maybe deleted comments should be exposed in the moderation log, since your concern is transparency of moderation, but it makes sense to remove them from public view in the threads where we are trying to discuss the topic.

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                    So perhaps disable replies to those comments.

                    1. 4

                      If I see a comment I want to reply to but that comment cannot be replied to I will just get angrier and reply to it in the top level using a quote.

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                        …and get banned for continuing a flamewar that got the other users banned and caused the thread to be unrepliable in the first place.

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                          That sounds like very unhealthy behavior and maybe you need to consider why this is your reaction

                          1. 1

                            I was actually commenting on what some people might do but I used ‘I’ in place of ‘some people’.

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                        How about we quarantine it so by default it says “USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST. VIEW?” And if you click “yes” it displays the comment.

                        It doesn’t immediately display the comment, gives a reason not to engage, and requires an extra click to view. This nudges people who don’t care to keep scrolling.

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                          It still doesn’t prevent either search engine scraping, or bad faith screenshotting purporting to show that lobste.rs condones content that’s actually removed.

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                            Anyone who cherry-picks like that in order to discredit this community is probably not above doctoring screenshots… This threat model is iffy at best.

                            1. 2

                              Not ever keeping comments that are removed defeats the threat model in its entirety.

                        2. 3

                          Just locking the thread would be enough to avoid this.

                          1. 1

                            So, why not delete the comment in the thread but save the comment content in the banned user’s profile with the explanation that this got the user banned?

                          2. 19

                            I agree with the position that deleting the comments goes against the transparency that is at the core of Lobsters.

                            I see why @pushcx might want to weed that stuff out now and again, but it is nonetheless troubling and can make actions look capricious.

                            1. 9

                              I’ve written many long comments trying to argue in good faith in some hellthread, only for the entire thread to be pruned as off-topic flamebait. C’est la vie.

                            2. 10

                              This was the second time in about a week that the banned user used a weird analogy where tobacco companies called critics of smoking Nazis:


                              The deleted comment repeated that, and implied that the “fat acceptance movement” caused deaths, linking them to Nazis somehow?

                              The banning of the user and the deletion of the comment were related but separate.

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                                Not only that, they specifically compared the deaths caused by nazis to the number of deaths caused by big tobacco in what I can only imagine was either a brazen defense of one of the worst human rights violations in history let alone recent memory, or more likely shameless flame baiting, since they decided to mention nazis, tobacco, and “fatness” all together, while denouncing the “culture war” in the same breath. If that’s not textbook trolling, I’m not really sure what is.

                                Anyways I’d consider keeping the comments around, but in a place that requires just enough digging so that people don’t accidentally run into particularly toxic content.

                                On second thought I think I’d prefer keeping the comments removed, but with a more precise summary / context on what line it crossed. It’s a bit weird to allow for a trolls crowning achievement to live on in perpetuity, but we also want to have enough info to have confidence in a ban being appropriate.

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                                  This famous historian of science named his book on the tobacco industry “Golden Holocaust”, sounds like Stanford should ban him for making a comparison https://history.stanford.edu/publications/golden-holocaust-origins-cigarette-catastrophe-and-case-abolition

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                                    Arguably insensitive, but offset somewhat by the fact that it’s a serious work of scholarship? The author’s intent is clear.

                                    It does not sound like this poster’s comment was a serious work of scholarship.

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                                      If all comments should be possible to back up with a serious work of scholarship, we should all be banned.

                                    2. 7

                                      There is a serious legitimate point to be made here; the Nazis were anti-smoking, although not always for the right reasons (”The Jew uses cigarettes to destroy us!”), and this connection has been abused to deflect criticism.

                                      But the location and way it was done was … less than ideal. In particular the Genocide Olympics of “kill[ed] more people than the holocaust” just comes off as weird and dismissive of the Holocaust. The comment for which they got banned was even worse with “Gotta hand it to them [the Nazis], they killed fewer people with the Holocaust than big tobacco did”. It’s one thing to say “this is horrible, it killed even more people than the Holocaust!” and quite another to say “gotta hand it to them, at least they didn’t kill as many people as […]!” I didn’t read that book, but I’d wager it used the “this is horrible, it killed even more people”-kind of rhetoric.

                                      All of that being said, on the face of it I’d personally take a more good faith interpretation of being misguided and foolish rather than support of Nazis, but I don’t know if there’s any context/history with this user.

                                      1. 3

                                        Judging by Proctor’s Wikipedia page he’s long been interested in the anti-smoking campaigns of Nazi Germany, so no doubt the title is an allusion to that.

                                        Edit this letter especially is an interesting read.

                                  2. 14

                                    Meta: I’m shocked at the number of trolls in this thread. Lots of folks are contributing thoughtfully and in good faith, but a bunch of other people just want to stir the pot. I’m resisting the temptation to reply to them, so I’m commenting here to express my frustration.

                                    Anyone else kinda shocked to see such bleh behavior on such a [usually] kind site?

                                    1. 11


                                      1. 1

                                        Could you maybe expound a bit?

                                    2. 4

                                      The question is, do we really want those comments to continue to be publicly visible in those threads? Would the site still allow replies? Or would the site put the comment in “stasis” where it wouldn’t be seen unless a particular link was used, and it could not be replied to, upvoted, or flagged? I strongly doubt any good could come out of users replying to the comment by @derek-jones if it wasn’t removed after he was banned. I feel like the best solution is, as @moderan noted, to attach the content of the post or comment to the ban entry, or to the user profile as a This post was the final straw line.

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                                        Adding in a (USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST) communicates quite clearly to anyone scrolling through that said behavior is not tolerated. I can, however, see why it’d also be a good idea to just delete the post: maybe the post text could be attached to the ban reason?

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                                          So, some troll comes in and adds a comment which is basically the N-word repeated 53 times in all caps. The comment is deleted, but if we follow your suggestion, that crap is supposed to be immortalized in the modlog?

                                          1. 2

                                            maybe the moderator could use their discretion and say “user posted a slur 53 times”? regardless, I don’t think my idea is super great: bans are usually for sustained behavior, not for a one off message. singling out a single message as the straw the broke the camel’s back isn’t really helpful.

                                            1. 2

                                              Removing a comment effectively says “this content has no place here”, enshrining it in the modlog defeats that.

                                              In this case, using the exact same message for the user ban and the comment removal was unfortunate, in my opinion.

                                              If people feel an obsessive need to track shitty comments, each story page has a .json variant with all the comments in a nice machine-readable format. Just scan the front page, download and stuff each comment in a db, then check for diffs or deletions.

                                              1. 4

                                                Removing a comment effectively says “this content has no place here”, enshrining it in the modlog defeats that.

                                                A modlog entry stating that a comment was deleted, along with the associated content, makes it crystal clear that the content isn’t welcome. The modlog entry can literally say “this is not welcome” - and even if it doesn’t, it’s really obvious that comments are deleted by mods because they’re not appropriate for the site. There’s no “defeat” - nobody using their brain is going to look at a modlog entry where it states that a comment was deleted and think that that entry condones that content - it’s literally the other way around.

                                        2. 13

                                          Yes we want those comments to be publicly visible but I would suggest that they only stay around in the moderation log. Not on the thread itself.

                                          1. 11

                                            Yes, this is the way to do it. If you just label it as “USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST” you’re going to attract more people to read it (rubbernecking). And leaving the content out in public will encourage certain people to go out with a bang, i.e. “I know this post will get me banned but…”

                                            Retaining the message in the moderation log maintains transparency without allowing trolls to pollute the space.

                                          2. 1

                                            Perhaps the message can be detached, and a message copied in its place. And then the detached message can be linked in full in the moderation log?

                                            That would preserve the justification why, and remove any offending terrible stuff out of public view. Nobody wants that kind of “content” in clear view on public sites.

                                            Would that work @pushcx ?

                                          3. 4

                                            Perhaps implementing something like a link from the mod page – content shows as removed in the actual thread, is no longer able to be voted/replied/etc, but can be found via a direct link from the Moderation page. That way it’s removed from public eye but the exact content can be found if you really want to see it.

                                            1. 4

                                              I agree, there was a thread pruned the other day that was transphobic (I think?) where a few people got banned, some of which I was surprised to see banned as I thought they were pretty thoughtful participants in lobsters (afaict).

                                              In such cases I think being able to access the comments by digging a bit would be good.

                                              However it also means more surface to bicker with admins over minutiae - something which I feel is already too common with these meta topics popping up asking for tags for example.

                                              Maybe we can do like the orange site and allow people with high karma to see dead comments. Then again, wasn’t the whole point of lobsters to have more transparent moderation than that place?

                                              Tbh I think the issue is that we are trying to form consensus on too many things. This model of discussion (centralized link aggregation) is just not good enough to handle the expectations placed in it.

                                              1. 2

                                                Maybe we can do like the orange site and allow people with high karma to see dead comments. Then again, wasn’t the whole point of lobsters to have more transparent moderation than that place?

                                                I have a few concerns with this:

                                                1. The first is one of privacy; do we really want comments from people who get embroiled in a heated discussion and say some stupid or offensive nonsense remain visible forever, even if only accessible by a limited set of people? I have definitely been guilty of this, mostly when I was younger (17 is not a good time to be on the internet…) Never anything so egregious that it’s ban-worthy (from what I recall), but definitely delete-worthy. Lobster’s invite system mostly weeds out the quick-to-anger 17-year olds, but it’s not a perfect filter, and people get drunk, or stay up until 4am, or are in a bad mood because their spouse left them, etc.

                                                2. Similarly, I think we should also allow people to redeem themselves, having old stupid comments remain visible isn’t conducive to that. At some point you need to forgive and forget. There’s also a reason Lobsters allows you to disown old comments.

                                                3. Some content really ought to be deleted IMHO. For example, when I announced a “show” project some time ago, someone posted a very one-sided take of a previous GitHub interaction on a completely unrelated project which ended with me blocking this person, the only user I have ever blocked or even plan to block if I can help it. They deleted some of their own comments in that issue which definitely made me look a lot worse than I actually was. I was happy this was promptly removed and not visible, aside that responding to these kind of things is a lose-lose for me (you will look bad unless you spend a lot of time carefully refuting the allegations), deleting it but having it remain visible for a significant set of users also means I won’t even be able to respond to it. I don’t think everyone (or even a lot of people) will take such a thing at face value, but it does spread FUD and I wouldn’t be happy with it.

                                                “Transparent moderation” is one of those things that I feel few people could really disagree with in principle, but if you get to the actual specifics and details it quickly get rather thorny.

                                                I think expansion of the moderation team is the best long-term solution (which is being worked on). “This one person made a bad decision” is believable, even if you trust that person as everyone makes mistakes. “These five trusted people discussed it and decided the ban was kosher” less so. That was also the problem with HN back in the day as I understand it, where Paul Graham was basically the only mod and he got involved in a personal fight with jcs.

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                                                  I agree, there was a thread pruned the other day that was transphobic (I think?) where a few people got banned, some of which I was surprised to see banned as I thought they were pretty thoughtful participants in lobsters (afaict).

                                                  This is exactly why moderation transparency is important.

                                                  Admins are fallible human beings too. They don’t necessarily get everything right all the time. Moderation transparency allows us, the users, to hold the mods accountable if they deviate from what is right and just; it also gives the mods an opportunity to learn from the feedback. The end result is a healthier community.

                                                  https://www.reddit.com/r/TheMotte is a stellar example of this in action.

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                                                    Sometimes moderation isn’t sufficient to establish a healthy community. Critique is also needed. One shouldn’t go to the Motte without also visiting Sneer Club, for example, or else one might actually believe Motte headlines.

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                                                      Sure, critique & heterodox views are always good thing - however, given human nature to seek consensus and enable groupthink, those views rarely survive in any large community with non-transparent moderation.

                                                      What makes communities like TheMotte shine is their transparent moderation, which in turn encourages the most sensible behaviour in moderators (and thus users). The same cannot be said for other places like SneerClub,

                                                      It’s probably worth mentioning [SneerClub] is pretty consistent with banning people who get in the way of their circlejerk. There is no pretense of trying to provide an accurate, fair, or representative perspective.

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                                                    I think it was Alex G’s release of his Pleroma Fork (SoapBox; also the name of his Pleroma UI/frontend) where someone started screaming about one of Alex’s political views. IIRC the user attacking Alex didn’t get banned. It’s impossible to really know what transpired because: https://imgur.com/a/SUL7cpq

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                                                      Would having those comments visible help? We would just re-argue the thread over and over again.

                                                      For the record, I’m the person who stated that Alex Gleason is a TERF, and that we should not support his projects because any community that welcomes TERFs is not welcoming to trans people.

                                                      I do not agree that this is a “political view”, any more than opposing interracial marriage would be mere politics to someone whose parents are of different ethnic backgrounds (like mine). It is an attack on your right to exist in general, and in particular to exist in the space where that “debate” is happening. It is a fundamental problem for any community online or in the real world, and in the end each community will have to choose which group they welcome. I wonder how Lobsters will turn out?

                                                      I don’t think it’s accurate to characterize my statements as screaming, either.

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                                                        This is a political view. Capitol punishment is a political view. Believing someone should or shouldn’t have their hands cut off for stealing is a political view. Whether slavery should be allowable in society or not, is a political view. Just because you believe something in a fundamental human right, doesn’t make it so. Rights are just as much a social construction as race or anything else.

                                                        The ontologist will retort, “If everything is political, nothing is political. If nothing is political, everything is political.” Touché? Maybe, maybe not. What is the line then? Fact? Up until a few thousands years ago, it was a fact that the Earth was in the center and the sun revolved around it. It was once a fact that Vioxx was a safe medication, and DDT was a safe insecticide.

                                                        TERF is a label. I honestly don’t care about your or Alex’s political views (and yes, they certain are political/religious. If they were not, they would not be bannable offenses, and they would not exist only in the metaphysical). Alex is a good person. I’ve talked with him, I’ve read his work. I do not agree with everything he believes, but I believe he is a kind and decent human being. That is a truth I will stand behind. Now if Alex goes and murders a bunch of people, obviously my views would change (he wouldn’t, he’s Vegan), but you are literally defining the entirety of a man through one label about one belief.

                                                        Stanley Milgram wanted to know why millions of god-fearing, moralGermans would defy all logical, sense and standards of morality. In his experiments, he learned ~60% of all human beings would murder another human beings if the right barriers were put in place and the right authority/men-in-lab-coats was portrayed.

                                                        Let me ask you something, if you were the subject in a Milgram study, how confident are you that you wouldn’t keep pushing the buttons until you got to 300 volts?

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                                                          You’re both wrong. It’s a political view, but there’s nothing wrong with having political views. What matters is which pragmatic effects those views inflict upon the world.

                                                          There’s no such thing as a good person. As Pirsig covered to death, “good” is a noun, not an adjective. (Content warning: Hateful fuckwittery.) Gleason is not taking care of their good; they lack good. Your points about facts in the past are irrelevant, given that facts in the present contradict Gleason’s claims.

                                                          Let me ask you something. I’m going to use words. If you were subjected to a Milgram-style experiment, but you did not know that it was an experiment, how would you use your genre savvy to smoothly extricate yourself from the situation? Would you be prepared to injure or kill your supervisor? Would you be willing to die so that the other person is not tortured? What pragmatic effects would you be willing to cause in the world in order to correct the injustice in that situation?

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                                                    I have a related request: remove the delete comments feature on account deactivation. Keep it internal so a mod can do it on request. Otherwise, just leave their comments there with a message in profile saying deactivated. I think it’s for the greater good (public benefit), keeps threads that remain more useful, and might be a good thing for individual later if deleting was a mistake made in anger.

                                                    If there’s a licensing issue, just put Create Commons Attribution in the Terms of Service or on signup page. That way they’re all legal, too.

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                                                      I see many problems with this.

                                                      Right now, disowning individual comments is an option if you’re a user. Why remove the ability to do it at scale if one wants to leave?

                                                      Leaving it as a mod action would mean that someone with a bad interaction with mod team would have to request a mass disavowal, which doesn’t feel like a good user experience to me.

                                                      Relicensing comments is a big deal too, imho. I personally would not agree to a CC license on my comments here.

                                                      And a removal of a mass disavowal option would just lead so scripts being developed that can disallow each comment individually.

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                                                        I’d also believe GDPR is another reason why disowning is a thing. Even on Lobsters, you have some privacy.

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                                                          I considered that. I don’t know that it applies to American servers that Europeans happen to be using. We are an international site, though, with many Europeans. It makes sense to respect their laws and values about web content where we can.

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                                                          I appreciate your feedback.

                                                          “Why remove the ability to do it at scale if one wants to leave?”

                                                          My question was more “Why have it on a platform that defaults on the opposite?”

                                                          Deleting people’s works in isolation makes sense. If in a discussion, their comments become part of it as a whole. Others’ comments are often defined by the context of the thread, esp who or what they replied to. Removing them out of established threads negatively impacts the conversation in a way that hurts current and future readers.

                                                          That’s on top of lost benefits from insightful comments that were originally published for, least partly, public benefit. We’ve lost nany great comments to deletions with all associated benefits they bring. Any others here who linked to and/or wrote about them might have to change their own content. I guess Im considering if this is like an exchange where publishing provides a personal and group benefit, publisher (Lobsters) gave them their chance to benefit, community receives insightful comments as their benefit, and now contributor asks to remove their part of the deal so others’ don’t benefit. Also, just the concept that volunteers should put their time into reducing benefit for 10,000 viewers since 1 person demanded it.

                                                          Summary. I start with the default position of published works on the Internet to stay published. Looking at conversation quality and using lens of utilitarianism, I felt the default of keeping old comments published made more since with most benefits to most people and least problems (if legally enforced) with site quality.

                                                          If a deletion option existed, it could still be automated, somewhere seperate, and not advertised so it would be used less. It’s still there, if needed, with push-button deployment to reduce burden on mods. I felt the people themselves, not one technical act, were already the majority of the burden there. What we’re discussing is tiny vs what mods will have intervened in already.

                                                          “Relicensing comments is a big deal too, imho.”

                                                          Well, since I’m now following Jesus Christ, I have to try to follow the law now, too. Lobsters was under US Copyright Law last I checked. We need permission to copy, share, or display to others published works. I’m not clear if it’s even legal to do with Lobsters comments the normal things many of us are doing.

                                                          The comments are all posted to a site to be viewed by the world under a specific alias, distributed, and even archived by a third-party preservationist. The Creative Commons license gives explicit legal authorization for what’s already being done. Less than that given comments are archived. So, the idea of CC was mainly to legally clear the status quo.

                                                          Another part was how having no licensing puts the site’s content and our mods at the whims of 3rd parties. They can for arbitrary reasons make a legal demand on the site or mods, who are unpaid volunteers. Making their permission explicit and irrevocable mostly eliminates that problem. At that point, responsibility moves entirely to the commenter for what they publish on the Internet.

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                                                            You know, all this time I was thinking about disowning, not outright deletion. I don’t even know if deleting comments = leaving giant holes - is even an option anymore when leaving the site.

                                                            I still feel strongly that disowning one’s comments is a good feature - your content, your rules.

                                                            Regarding CC: it’s possible that explicitly relicensing with a CC license (ideally, in my case, close to All Rights Reserved copyright) would clarify this site’s users’ legal protection across jurisdictions. IANAL however.

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                                                              “I still feel strongly that disowning one’s comments is a good feature - your content, your rules.”

                                                              The risk that came to my mind for disowns was that other comments might make less sense. The context is where people respond to a person’s comment in a way that takes into account their past comments, present stance, etc. Just the name tells onlookers why people are saying what they’re saying. Take the name out, then the other comments suddenly make less sense or even seem offensive.

                                                              We could warn about that where we describe the feature. Plus, tell people who misinterpret comments that a response might have been to something outside the thread. I’m not sure best route with this risk.

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                                                        The comment by @antt was something like “You gotta hand it to the nazis that they killed less people than Big Tobacco”.

                                                        I thought it could be intended to demonstrate how that reason for banning could be less bad than it may seem from the given ‘reason’, indirectly ask the question you’re also asking. It could also be interpreted as deliberately skirting the line, daring the mod to ban them (as I think I am not doing as I think it’s quite clear which side of the use/mention distinction I’m on here and nothing I say here endorses the quote in any way).

                                                        Edit: looking through some history of @antt, I now think it more likely he was basically daring the mod to ban them.

                                                        Edit2: And after thinking about it a bit more, I think the quote is a bad faith argument and I don’t really see a context in which it makes any sense to say such a thing as an argument that would advance the discussion

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                                                          The only reason for leaving the original comment in place would be allowing other users to walk right up to the ‘acceptable’ line without crossing it. That doesn’t seem like a good idea.

                                                          Also standards for what the mods allow may change, I’m sure they don’t want to get involved in arguments comparing different mod decisions made over time.

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                                                            The only reason for leaving the original comment in place would be allowing other users to walk right up to the ‘acceptable’ line without crossing it.

                                                            That’s not a valid reason - moderation doesn’t work that way, as there isn’t a line in the first place (language isn’t that simple). @pushcx (and/or any other mods) can just delete/ban when they think that someone is taunting them or being edgy.

                                                            Valid reasons for leaving the comment content up (not necessarily in place - could be only in the modlog) are (1) transparency, so normal users can see what the mods are doing and (2) to set concrete examples of what are and are not acceptable on the site.

                                                            Also standards for what the mods allow may change, I’m sure they don’t want to get involved in arguments comparing different mod decisions made over time.

                                                            Not just “arguments”, but also “discussions”. If the standards change, transparency allows for there to be actual discussions, which is good.

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                                                            Even after following the link I still don’t understand that reference, it sounds like is about not being a nazi apologist. In any case, I agree, is terrible wording for a reason.

                                                            Also, the term “nazi” has been thrown very freely in the USA in the later years so is not clear what is referred to, aside from Adolf followers. White supremacist? Any other supremacists framework based on race/religion/country/etc? Trump supporters? Harry Potter fans?

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                                                              Generally, when people get banned with that ban-reason, they say some shit like “Gotta hand it to the Nazis. They were pretty good at X”. There is really no good reason to bring them up in the conversations we have here, and it only makes you look like a nazi-apologist asshat. They are nearly always in bad taste and mostly flame bait.

                                                              The ban messages are not really a reference to that tweet as much as just a response to the shit the commenter said. There is nothing to analyze here. The user was just being an asshat.

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                                                                But the concern here is that we don’t necessarily know exactly what the comment said. You’re making an assumption about the comment that got the user banned, and although it’s a quite reasonable assumption (there are very few instances where bringing up Nazis on Lobsters is ever necessary or justifiable), there still should be a way to trace back the original text, even if for no other reason than to hold the mods accountable.

                                                                EDIT: This isn’t related to the comment that you were replying to, this is just about the full discussion here. I disagree with the comment you replied to, in that I don’t think it’s particularly relevant what “Nazi” referred to in the comment, nor do I think discussing it is relevant to this discussion. But that’s not a valid argument against more transparent moderation IMO.

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                                                                  Comments get removed all the time. Entire threads are pruned for being off topic and inciting flamewars. In those cases everyone’s comments are removed - “good” or “bad”.

                                                                  Again, no-one is banned for a single comment. They’re banned for being a net negative to the site.

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                                                                    Yep. I’ve had comments of mine removed for falling for off-topic-bait. It’s fine.

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                                                                Also, the term “nazi” has been thrown very freely in the USA in the later years so is not clear what is referred to, aside from Adolf followers. White supremacist? Any other supremacists framework based on race/religion/country/etc? Trump supporters? Harry Potter fans?

                                                                It’s come to mean, more or less, “someone we don’t like”. It’s a less sophisticated version of calling someone “divisive” or their behaviour “inappropriate”.

                                                                It also creates a very real problem, in that actual NAZIs are still a thing, and it makes it harder to call them out.

                                                                As Kirsten Dipietra (and many others) put it:

                                                                Referring to Trump as a Nazi not only undermines any legitimate argument against the president, but distracts from the actual concerns of neo-Nazis and their recent prominence.

                                                                I might be wrong but I suspect that the term neo-Nazi is only really useful if you’ve already burned out the term Nazi by applying it to all and sundry.

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                                                                  This is how I once got embroiled in a discussion about whether or not the literal leader of The American Nazi Party was a Nazi or not (question for context).

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                                                                  It’s a great system. Everybody calls everybody else nazis constantly, and then whoever is in power in the end can simply say “Dave over here compared car park attendants to nazis, which is now anti-semitic, hence making him a nazi, and banned”

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                                                                  I would support this if it meant the comments moved to the moderation log or to a link available from the moderation log and not from the thread.

                                                                  The comment in question was certainly weird and in poor taste. It also reduced nazis to a “culture war” item like “fat acceptance”. It did use the phrase that was quoted in the moderation log, with a reference to the poster who was banned for praising the nazis, in what I would assume, were I moderating, was an attempt to get banned.

                                                                  I agree that it would be nice to have a reference to the comment that got someone banned for the purposes of transparency, but I do feel strongly that they should be removed from the discussion in question. Unless we think a ban should be an instant thread-lock. Leaving the comment in the discussion lets it continue to derail, though, IMO.