A Predator of Information

Our songs will all be silenced, but what of it? Go on singing.

Discourse Norms

18 August 2019 8:02 PM (communications)

I've been thinking of starting a Pleroma instance that combines a reasonably strict moderation policy and an open federation policy. One may wish to be part of a safe and friendly community, while still being able to speak to and follow people throughout the Fediverse. As such, the rules I've been considering are something along these lines.

Federation Policy

For me, the main good of the Fediverse is that two people can communicate without having to go through a large corporation or seek the approval of a third party. Therefore, when I defederate from an instance, I am doing my users concrete harm. That harm may be justified in some cases, but defederation as a demonstration of condemnation is unjustified. As such:

  1. We may defederate any instance that is a source of spam and seems unwilling or unable to prevent it.
  2. We may defederate any instance whose administration encourages or has a lax stance toward harassment.
  3. We may, in coalition with others, defederate from any instance that announces a policy of defederating from instances that don't defederate some other instance.
  4. We may remove media from instances that habitually post media illegal in the United States.

If there is simply one problematic account, we will block that account. However, I am not interested in playing whack-a-mole with a server that supports ban evasion. As to the penultimate point, defederating with an instance because they won't defederate from another is nothing but follow policing on a grand scale. “The only people who get to decide whether I'm friends with someone are them and me.” is a good norm worth fighting for and I plan to fight for it, even if the threatening instance demands that we block another instance that we already block.

You may ask. “What about hate?” We'll certainly silence instances that contain a lot of it. Our policy on silencing is as free as our policy on defederation is restrained. However, an instance allowing the kind of speech that I won't is not a sufficient reason to defederate from it. To tell you, the users, that you can't communicate with someone because I don't like the company they keep would be to enact the kind of authoritarianism that I'm opposed to. Most truly dedicated hate sites qualify as sources of harassment, as well.

Local Policy

The proposed local policy is more intensive than the federation policy. While I have no interest in restricting who you can communicate with, I have every interest in shaping the kind of community we are. The basic goals are to foster kindness, remove the fear of ostracism, and discourage behaviors that are corrosive to communities generally.

First violations for a user in good standing will generally be met with some combination of warning, temporary suspension, and probation. Further activity may lead to a ban.

  1. There shall be no bigotry, discrimination, or denigration of people for matters lacking relevance, especially age, body size, disability, ethnicity, sex characteristics, gender identity and expression, level of experience, education, socio-economic status, nationality, personal appearance, race, religion, or sexual identity and orientation. In general, practice orthogonality. Characteristics not directly related to the matter at hand do not come into it.
    • There are no acceptable targets.
    • You may, of course, speak about experiences with individuals. It is also perfectly fine to note that some populations seem more prone to some behaviors and expound on why you think that is. Overgeneralization is, however, not a revolutionary act.
    • If someone is doing something legitimately bad, criticize them for being bad. To constantly denigrate someone who has done something bad for their accent, for example, communicates not only that you view their accent as on a par with their deeds, but that every other person with an accent stands under a temporarily suspended sentence of derision.
  2. Advocacy of certain ideologies is not welcome. This includes:
    • Advocacy of innate intellectual, moral or other inferiority for reasons including but not limited to race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or national origin.
    • Advocacy of the death, internment, or expulsion of any demographic cohort, including race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation, religion, other beliefs, class, or occupation.
    • Holocaust or Holodomor denial
    • Expressing admiration for the life and work of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Mussolini or their close associates.
    • Advocacy of violent expansion or isolationism.
    • Advocacy of the coercive enforcement of social roles.
    • Advocacy of the enforcement and policing of national or other community identity.
    • Accusing others of category treason.
    • Advocacy of the violent suppression of religion.
    • Advocacy of the suppression of ‘counterrevolutionary’ ideologies.
  3. Do not tell someone to kill themselves, or express an adversarial wish for the death either of an individual or some category of person. ('Adversarial' in that you are, of course, permitted to express the desire for a quick release from suffering for someone in the grip of an incurable disease.) I don't care how ‘bad’ they are.
  4. Do not engage in follow-policing or otherwise attempt to bring people to infamy and disrepute because of their associations. I do not care how ‘bad’ the person they're following is.
  5. No kink-shaming. You may respectfully ask people to CW their kinks.
  6. No slander.
    • It goes without saying that trying to bring someone to disrepute with an outright lie is forbidden.
    • Emotionally loaded terms like ‘Nazi’, ‘fascist’, and ‘tankie’ will be subject to narrow interpretation, even if you prepend the string ‘crypto-’. If you call someone such, be prepared to show that they actually hold the appropriate views. Someone refusing to participate in deplatforming, having a low opinion of supposedly ‘antifascist’ actions, supporting the forty-fifth President of the United States, or advocating for the expropriation of all property is not sufficient. If you're trying to convince people of something, it's more effective to point to the specific beliefs someone holds, rather than trying to shove them into a category of Supreme Badness.
    • Do not refer to hand-drawn ‘lolicon’ or any artistic depictions (no matter how much you might dislike the subject matter) as ‘abuse’ or otherwise use terms only appropriate to actual interactions between actual living people .
    • Do not make highly charged accusations because you ‘just know’.
  7. Harassment is prohibited. When someone wants you to leave them alone, leave them alone.
    • No ‘gotcha'’. I'm not going to punish someone because you told them to leave you alone six months ago, didn't block them, and now they happen to respond to something you said. Especially if you tagged them.
    • If you try to continue the conversation while telling them to leave you alone, this rather weakens your case. There's nothing quite as ridiculous as someone repeatedly trying to get the last word in while tacking on “I do not consent to continue this conversation!”
  8. No doxing. I don't care if they're ‘bad’. This includes trying to organize to get someone fired using publicly available information.
  9. Speaking of someone's misdeeds must be relevant, current, and serve a legitimate purpose.
    • Letting everyone know that they're ‘bad’ and need to be excluded is not a legitimate reason for a public callout.
    • Someone's past beliefs are not current. It doesn't matter whether they made a big point of renouncing them. If we require that people make a big point of renouncing their beliefs, we make changing their beliefs costly and less likely to occur.
    • Many of someone's current beliefs are simply not your business. Defaming someone with preferences that harm no one but are widely disliked is especially vile.
    • It is perfectly reasonable to warn others away from someone if they are known to engage in abusive and harmful behavior. That behavior must be current. Someone may have done something quite awful in the past, but if all evidence shows that they have put that behind them, then you are in the wrong for calling them out. Everyone has the right to not have their entire life be defined by the worst thing they've ever done.
    • It may be quite relevant to refer to a thing that happened, but if the identities of the people involved are not strongly relevant, leave them out.
    • You may speak to your friends about how you feel about something. This rule is specifically about drawing public attention to the faults of another user. It may be most appropriate to use a direct message.
  10. Do not post content illegal in the United States.
  11. Depictions or descriptions of sexual acts or pictures showing sexual organs should be marked sensitive/tagged. The same goes for content that is violent, gory, or showcases some horrific aspect of the human body. Please tag serious present-day politics as well.

Some people might claim that I'm “prioritizing the comfort of the oppressors.” This is false. (For a whole host of reasons, including the bogosity of the “oppressor-oppressed” dichotomy.) Most salient is the fact that the people most harmed by the behaviors I hope to restrict are the marginalized themselves: privileged people have lots of communities where they can express their identities freely and will go there. Many marginalized folk have told me that an environment of callouts, acceptable targets, and people wishing other people would die makes them feel anxious and unsafe. Also, it is an obvious corollary to the notion of intersectionality that even when someone experiences marginalization in several ways, they also have portions of their identity usually thought of as privileged; the obvious example being transmen who have to face a torrent of misandry from the communities notionally offering them safety.

I'm also not going to lie and say I don't value the well-being of the privileged. I'd have to be pretty crap to decide I don't care if someone is subject to denigration just because of the circumstances of their birth, and in this case there's no conflict between the privileged and the marginalized.

General advice

  1. Be aware that public posts are public. The Fediverse is growing and people from other parts of your life may join it and see some of your content. If this worries you, be particularly careful about posting information that would be recognizable to people from other parts of your life. Also, someone may post a quip you made to Reddit or other site with wider distribution.
  2. You may wish to make other means of communication available, including instant messengers, email, or public keys. If you post them in your profile, beware the above item. If you are serious about maintaining multiple identities, you may wish to have separate private accounts for each one. The administration is happy to try to help people expand and strengthen their networks.
  3. If you see unpleasant, nasty stuff in the federated timeline, let us know. We plan to keep our garden as it should be kept, with tooth and jump and spring and bite.

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