The Challenge In Content Moderation And Politics: How Do You Deal With Bad Faith Actors?

from the don't-treat-bad-faith-actors-like-they're-good-faith-actors dept

We talk a lot about the various challenges of content moderation all the time here on Techdirt, but there’s one aspect that really comes up all the time and is rarely addressed: how do you deal with bad faith actors? So much of the debate around content moderation tends to be based on the idea that there is merely a legitimate difference of opinion on what is and what is not appropriate — or what is and what is not “misinformation.” And there are important debates to be had about all that.

However, one of the biggest challenges regarding content moderation is that things that might make sense when dealing with those acting in good faith make no sense at all when dealing with those acting in bad faith. An example of this is the question of requiring (or even just demanding) that any website give a clear explanation of what rule was violated and how. This feels perfectly sensible. And when your content is taken down for reasons you legitimately feel were mistaken, the inability to know why is genuinely frustrating (ask me how I know).

But, turn that around and apply it to someone who is purposefully pushing the boundaries and gaming the system, whether trolling for lols or grifting gullible suckers, and suddenly you realize how such a request creates even more problems. Because the bad faith actor doesn’t care. They don’t actually want to learn what they did wrong to be better. They want to (1) cause problems for the site and (2) collect information so that next time, they can exploit that knowledge to engage in further bad acts without getting caught.

I was thinking about this after reading a great Daily Beast article by Wajahat Ali, acknowledging a similar issue in politics. So many of the norms of politics (and political journalism) are based on the idea that — even if you’re disagreeing with people — they’re acting in good faith and there’s simply a disagreement of assumptions or how you interpret those assumptions. But, as Ali has pointed out, all too frequently, that’s not true any more in the political sphere, and treating bad faith jackasses as if they’re acting in good faith cannot lead to any good outcome.

What will it take for the American majority to stop being hijacked by the bad-faith politics of an increasingly radicalized GOP that will stop at nothing to promote death and achieve minority rule?

Most of us in this country, who have chosen life during a pandemic, are asked to coddle the unhinged temper tantrums and violent extremism of a conservative base that continues supporting the Jan. 6 violent insurrection and attacking our voting rights, and is willing to sacrifice our children as canaries in the COVID coalmine to fuel their endless culture war during a pandemic that has killed over 600,000 Americans.

Yet their elected leaders and mouthpieces, like Rep. Steve Scalise, are still treated as credible sources and normalized by being invited on news channels and by papers of record to criticize President Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a cartoonishly hardcore Trump loyalist, and ridiculous pseudo-intellectual Ben Shapiro, whom The New York Times once referred to as “the cool kid’s philosopher” and whose Daily Wire is hugely influential in pushing vaccine misinformation on Facebook, still get coveted platforms in Politico.

This is also true in the content moderation debates. Many of those pushing for new rules or changes to Section 230 are not making good faith arguments about how things should work. They’re bad faith actors, simply seeking any advantage by changing the rules in their own favor. They are trying to scam the system by pretending to have serious concerns, when their only concern is “how can I keep being a deceitful jackass online.”

Now, as with anything in content moderation (and perhaps in politics), it is often difficult to judge who is a good faith actor who might just be massively ignorant or confused, and who is just a bad faith actor looking to abuse the system. And that is a real concern — and there can be problems when legitimately ignorant people who mean well are dismissed or judged as bad faith trolls. And, of course, there is a legitimate concern about what happens when good faith individuals are dismissed as being in bad faith without considering what they say. But at some point people need to recognize that you can’t seriously bother debating with those acting in bad faith. They’re not there to be convinced. They’re not there to consider actual points.

They’re just trying to be attention-getting assholes and they win just by the very process of engaging with them as if they have something worth saying.

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Comments on “The Challenge In Content Moderation And Politics: How Do You Deal With Bad Faith Actors?”

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104 Comments
Christensonsays:

Needs smallness

It seems to me that the issue with politics, as with content moderation, is a failure to scale well. AI simply can’t do context when a few words around a quotation totally change its appropriateness.

To scale moderation, some sense of smallness needs to be preserved to allow people to own and curate areas that aren’t overwhelmingly large, and to prevent half the world from converging on single points. This is the crux of why Techdirt moderation is pretty effective.

We need something similar for reporting and politics; the world is not what it used to be and the old model of advertisers paying for reporting as long as it wasn’t too extreme and valuing accuracy is gone.

Thadsays:

Re: Re: Needs smallness

To scale moderation, some sense of smallness needs to be preserved to allow people to own and curate areas that aren’t overwhelmingly large, and to prevent half the world from converging on single points. This is the crux of why Techdirt moderation is pretty effective.

YMMV. If your metric is

They’re just trying to be attention-getting assholes and they win just by the very process of engaging with them as if they have something worth saying.

then the trolls on this site do a lot of winning.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Needs smallness

Smallness scaling well is an illusion really – they have less scrutiny and it is less connected and representative. Now there are lovely small communities out there but if we were to somehow arbitrarily chunk up communities on the internet we wouldn’t just get more lovely ones or maintain the baseline. What we would see is more epistemological closure and "small town style insanity".

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Needs smallness

To scale moderation, some sense of smallness needs to be preserved to allow people to own and curate areas that aren’t overwhelmingly large,

Not possible, because the real problem is how many people are required to moderate the a large part of the human race. When you can figure out how to moderate the bullies and trolls in real world spaces, including the work space, come back and tell us how.

Note that the moderation most people use in general is to avoid the places where a troll is, if at all possible. Let too many of them onto any social media site, and a large part of the user base will evaporate.

Christensonsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Needs smallness

By reading comments and sometimes flagging them as spam or rating them as insightful or funny, Techdirt has made you into a volunteer moderator, and the collective effort of the commentariat this way greatly increases the amount of moderation effort available. As to real-world virtual spaces that people like, they all have something like that.

Second, Thad, Techdirt moderation isn’t perfect, but by simply hiding Kobe’s garbage after a few people recognize it as such means at least some of us aren’t inconvenienced by him. I’m curious as to what you think Techdirt could or should test to see if it improves the feedback area.

Third, I left off some paragraphs on my original post:
Friction is also a necessary part of moderation — those moderated out need to have imposed some degree of difficulty to post additional inappropriate content; this should probably happen at the point of account signup or first post, since its not difficult to change one’s online identity completely, and there are definitely important use cases for online anonymity.

Some kind of ownership is also important to moderation. Mike Masnick certainly thinks curating his comment section is important, and it appears that the majority of techdirt’s commentariat agrees. Reddit is the same with subreddits. Facebook’s problem to some degree is they got too big before the issue became important and they really want to do it without people actually weighing the evidence.

Christensonsays:

Needs smallness

It seems to me that the issue with politics, as with content moderation, is a failure to scale well. AI simply can’t do context when a few words around a quotation totally change its appropriateness.

To scale moderation, some sense of smallness needs to be preserved to allow people to own and curate areas that aren’t overwhelmingly large, and to prevent half the world from converging on single points. This is the crux of why Techdirt moderation is pretty effective.

We need something similar for reporting and politics; the world is not what it used to be and the old model of advertisers paying for reporting as long as it wasn’t too extreme and valuing accuracy is gone.

Kobysays:

Bad Faith Works Both Ways

This reminds the tradeoffs made with regard to the U.S. legal system. A cop might genuinely believe that a crook ran into a residence. Or the cop may just be fishing for evidence. How do you stop the abuse? Get a warrant. A defense lawyer might genuinely know that his client is guilty, because the defendant told him what actually happened, and now the lawyer is going to try his best to defend the client. How do you prevent prosecutors from exploiting self incrimination? Attorney client privilege rules.

It’s an adversarial system, it seems inefficient, and it opens itself to possible exploitation. But it beats all the alternatives. The tradeoff for the better system is the whole "eternal vigilance" thing. A better system might not be an easier system.

Kobysays:

Bad Faith Works Both Ways

This reminds the tradeoffs made with regard to the U.S. legal system. A cop might genuinely believe that a crook ran into a residence. Or the cop may just be fishing for evidence. How do you stop the abuse? Get a warrant. A defense lawyer might genuinely know that his client is guilty, because the defendant told him what actually happened, and now the lawyer is going to try his best to defend the client. How do you prevent prosecutors from exploiting self incrimination? Attorney client privilege rules.

It’s an adversarial system, it seems inefficient, and it opens itself to possible exploitation. But it beats all the alternatives. The tradeoff for the better system is the whole "eternal vigilance" thing. A better system might not be an easier system.

That Anonymous Cowardsays:

The problem is that they kept giving coverage to the crazy & allowing them to be crazy in trying to make sure we cover both sides.

If you don’t let them spew their crazy, they’ve already programmed the faithful to claim the platforms are biased against them and don’t want the truth to be told.

600K people are dead and some of their faithful still believe its a false flag operation to just microchip them. The "leaders" keeping these people riled up know its a real disease killing people needlessly but they have to stay the course because Trump might say something bad about them & cost their their position. They are vaccinated but refuse to admit they are trying to pretend they are as committed as the faithful.

There are plenty of only partially crazy GQP people you could give the media slots to, perhaps it is time to let them take the slots (and if they go stupid crazy move to the next one). Being a darling of the GQP or having a leadership title should really work like mother nature putting bright colors on poisonous animals warning people away from touching them. Be prepared to listen to screams of silencing them but some asshole who can’t admit its a pandemic & people who can be vaccinated should be don’t have any reason to get media coverage.

ECAsays:

Re: Re:

Would be interesting, but there is a slice you may not have seen from the past.
Had a book that shows that the past, from Nixon on, has had more repubs in offices(state, fed, and just about every office). Upto the supreme court.
But along the way things changed in the group.
And how this war started, is kinda hidden in the past. Most of those Iv noticed that are upset, tend to be more Short term memory. Until someone Tells them and shows them What happened, they wont get How this happened. And the 1980’s and 90’s werent that long ago.

Another part of this, is the small groups of the past trying to get a foot in the door to get Some representation. They got the idea to join 1 of the major 2 groups. And this has made both parties abit strange, and even Those 2 groups have separations Internally. And a few of them played the game to get on top and now we have a very large mess.(Im sorry texas, you get to be the experiment. How long are you going to let this happen)

That Anonymous Cowardsays:

The problem is that they kept giving coverage to the crazy & allowing them to be crazy in trying to make sure we cover both sides.

If you don’t let them spew their crazy, they’ve already programmed the faithful to claim the platforms are biased against them and don’t want the truth to be told.

600K people are dead and some of their faithful still believe its a false flag operation to just microchip them. The "leaders" keeping these people riled up know its a real disease killing people needlessly but they have to stay the course because Trump might say something bad about them & cost their their position. They are vaccinated but refuse to admit they are trying to pretend they are as committed as the faithful.

There are plenty of only partially crazy GQP people you could give the media slots to, perhaps it is time to let them take the slots (and if they go stupid crazy move to the next one). Being a darling of the GQP or having a leadership title should really work like mother nature putting bright colors on poisonous animals warning people away from touching them. Be prepared to listen to screams of silencing them but some asshole who can’t admit its a pandemic & people who can be vaccinated should be don’t have any reason to get media coverage.

Anonymoussays:

The fundamental problem here is that you are dealing with manners rather than morals. Most people are willing, eager, to be unnecessarily offensive to some class of "other" people–whether by vulgarism, profanity, personal slurs, or ethnic/racist pejoratives. From the perspective of manners, ALL OF THESE ARE EQUALLY OFFENSIVE, because all of these are used with deliberate intent to offend. And from the perspective of law in a free-speech jurisdiction, they are all equally legal.

And by using one class of offensive words, you give up the high moral ground for criticizing people who use another class. You have shown that you don’t care about offending people, you just care which people you ostentatiously offend.

Ninjasays:

Re: Re:

Being offensive is rather different from being racist for instance. You can be very offensive without touching any racial slur. I will be very offensive if I don’t like you and I will not use any racial, homophobic or whatever slur unless I’m not aware it is offensive to a minority. And this moral high ground is ‘valid’ when you are talking with people that have basic values. White supremacists, racists, homophobic ppl, nazists etc are despicable and I have no problem treating them as the trash they are.

Stephen T. Stonesays:

Re:

by using one class of offensive words, you give up the high moral ground for criticizing people who use another class

The word ?fuck? lacks the same level of offensiveness than the N-word, even when discussing the two in a context such as this. You seeming to genuinely believe they?re in the same ?class? of offensiveness makes you sound like a delusional jackass.

Anonymoussays:

The fundamental problem here is that you are dealing with manners rather than morals. Most people are willing, eager, to be unnecessarily offensive to some class of "other" people–whether by vulgarism, profanity, personal slurs, or ethnic/racist pejoratives. From the perspective of manners, ALL OF THESE ARE EQUALLY OFFENSIVE, because all of these are used with deliberate intent to offend. And from the perspective of law in a free-speech jurisdiction, they are all equally legal.

And by using one class of offensive words, you give up the high moral ground for criticizing people who use another class. You have shown that you don’t care about offending people, you just care which people you ostentatiously offend.

Ninjasays:

I’m fairly sure not all bad faith actors can be rooted out without huge collateral damage. However I do think we aren’t doing the bare minimum. Let’s take flat Earth believers as an example. The whole thing is pure dumbassery that can be very easily dismissed with knowledge dating a few centuries now. Nobody serious invites flat earthers to a discussion because it’s proven knowledge by far.
When you think about it there are other areas with clear consensus where you can relate. Vaccines: proven and studied for more than a century now (Edward Jenner, 1798). There’s no "other side", other point of view by now and media outfits promoting such idiocy should be punished. Hard. Politicians spewing such idiocy should lose their seats based on clear "you are putting hundreds of thousands of lives at risk" argument.
Climate change: there’s broad agrement among scientists that it is a thing, there’s plenty of data for more than a century showing that temperatures are going nuts and we have broken record after record in extreme events both in frequency and intensity. There’s no space for denialists anymore.
White supremacy/nazism: do I really need to comment on those?
I can probably dig more examples, those are pretty high profile, but I do think it’s not too hard to root out the most egregious bad faith actors with little collateral damage. Science.
Doesn’t solve the problem the article presents but certainly helps contain it.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re:

The whole thing is pure dumbassery that can be very easily dismissed with knowledge dating a few centuries now

More like a few millennia, (Eratosthenes’ Calculation of Earth’s Circumference)https://www.windows2universe.org/citizen_science/myw/w2u_eratosthenes_calc_earth_size.html was carried out in 240 B.C. which indicate the idea of a spherical Earth is even older, else he would not have been considering how to measure the Circumference.

Ninjasays:

I’m fairly sure not all bad faith actors can be rooted out without huge collateral damage. However I do think we aren’t doing the bare minimum. Let’s take flat Earth believers as an example. The whole thing is pure dumbassery that can be very easily dismissed with knowledge dating a few centuries now. Nobody serious invites flat earthers to a discussion because it’s proven knowledge by far.
When you think about it there are other areas with clear consensus where you can relate. Vaccines: proven and studied for more than a century now (Edward Jenner, 1798). There’s no "other side", other point of view by now and media outfits promoting such idiocy should be punished. Hard. Politicians spewing such idiocy should lose their seats based on clear "you are putting hundreds of thousands of lives at risk" argument.
Climate change: there’s broad agrement among scientists that it is a thing, there’s plenty of data for more than a century showing that temperatures are going nuts and we have broken record after record in extreme events both in frequency and intensity. There’s no space for denialists anymore.
White supremacy/nazism: do I really need to comment on those?
I can probably dig more examples, those are pretty high profile, but I do think it’s not too hard to root out the most egregious bad faith actors with little collateral damage. Science.
Doesn’t solve the problem the article presents but certainly helps contain it.

Anonymoussays:

Depends on what the purpose of the rules is. If the goal is for everyone to follow them, then anything that helps people do so is good, pushing the boundaries or no. A law that stops working when people know about it is a bad law.

But if the goal is to trip people into crossing the line so you’ll have an excuse to punish them, then it’s undeniably useful to make the rules as vague and their interpretation as undocumented as possible.

Stephen T. Stonesays:

Re:

The rationale for making some rules vague lies in two words: ?rules lawyering?. Vague enough rules can help prevent this by providing a general rationale for moderation without giving the offending party a specific enough loophole through which they can jump and escape punishment unscathed??and without bogging down the rules in such specificity that people can find new loopholes.

Anonymoussays:

Depends on what the purpose of the rules is. If the goal is for everyone to follow them, then anything that helps people do so is good, pushing the boundaries or no. A law that stops working when people know about it is a bad law.

But if the goal is to trip people into crossing the line so you’ll have an excuse to punish them, then it’s undeniably useful to make the rules as vague and their interpretation as undocumented as possible.

Derek Kertonsays:

Wait...I'm the Bad Guy?

"But, turn that around and apply it to someone who is purposefully pushing the boundaries and gaming the system, whether trolling for lols or grifting gullible suckers, and suddenly you realize how such a request creates even more problems. Because the bad faith actor doesn’t care. They don’t actually want to learn what they did wrong to be better. They want to (1) cause problems for the site and (2) collect information so that next time, they can exploit that knowledge to engage in further bad acts without getting caught."

This is exactly what many of us on the left or the actual Free Speech defenders are doing on Gettr, Parler, etc, or even the Texas Abortion Snitch Hotline. Our "side" goes in there and tries to flood their site with shit, porn, and furries. The goal is to make a joke of their platform, and we’re just trying to play by the rules enough to be able to continue posting nonsense. In this way, we’re very much using the techniques you describe.

So, if we’re being dicks – on purpose – how can we be the good guys?

Well, in our defense: our motivation to push the boundaries on those sides is to reveal PRECISELY how those site’s raison d’etre is a pile of steaming bullshit. The sites claim they had to leave Twitter, FB, et al because their "free speech" was being limited, so they created this site where "free speech rules the day". So, attacking them with piles of garbage speech is a direct attack on their hypocrisy. They, in fact, do try to block the garbage. They never were about free speech where garbage should be allowed to exist right beside brilliant prose. They were about flooding the zone with their BS, and they didn’t like being told they couldn’t. They said they were against moderation, so we prove them wrong. We FORCED them to admit, through their actions, that they are actually FOR moderation. This, ultimately, helps the earlier social sites make their case that private site moderation is necessary and a useful part of enabling speech.

All they have to do to get us off their backs is admit they’re not about free speech, but rather about promoting a specific narrative. Then, we’d probably get bored and move on.

Derek Kertonsays:

Wait...I'm the Bad Guy?

"But, turn that around and apply it to someone who is purposefully pushing the boundaries and gaming the system, whether trolling for lols or grifting gullible suckers, and suddenly you realize how such a request creates even more problems. Because the bad faith actor doesn’t care. They don’t actually want to learn what they did wrong to be better. They want to (1) cause problems for the site and (2) collect information so that next time, they can exploit that knowledge to engage in further bad acts without getting caught."

This is exactly what many of us on the left or the actual Free Speech defenders are doing on Gettr, Parler, etc, or even the Texas Abortion Snitch Hotline. Our "side" goes in there and tries to flood their site with shit, porn, and furries. The goal is to make a joke of their platform, and we’re just trying to play by the rules enough to be able to continue posting nonsense. In this way, we’re very much using the techniques you describe.

So, if we’re being dicks – on purpose – how can we be the good guys?

Well, in our defense: our motivation to push the boundaries on those sides is to reveal PRECISELY how those site’s raison d’etre is a pile of steaming bullshit. The sites claim they had to leave Twitter, FB, et al because their "free speech" was being limited, so they created this site where "free speech rules the day". So, attacking them with piles of garbage speech is a direct attack on their hypocrisy. They, in fact, do try to block the garbage. They never were about free speech where garbage should be allowed to exist right beside brilliant prose. They were about flooding the zone with their BS, and they didn’t like being told they couldn’t. They said they were against moderation, so we prove them wrong. We FORCED them to admit, through their actions, that they are actually FOR moderation. This, ultimately, helps the earlier social sites make their case that private site moderation is necessary and a useful part of enabling speech.

All they have to do to get us off their backs is admit they’re not about free speech, but rather about promoting a specific narrative. Then, we’d probably get bored and move on.

Derek Kertonsays:

Social Network Guerrilla Warfare

"Now, as with anything in content moderation (and perhaps in politics), it is often difficult to judge who is a good faith actor who might just be massively ignorant or confused, and who is just a bad faith actor looking to abuse the system. And that is a real concern — and there can be problems when legitimately ignorant people who mean well are dismissed or judged as bad faith trolls. And, of course, there is a legitimate concern about what happens when good faith individuals are dismissed as being in bad faith without considering what they say."

What you typed above is a lot like guerilla warfare that we learned in Vietnam, or in Afghanistan. When the VC were wildly outnumbered, and had inferior arms and resources as the Americans, they declined to fight a conventional war with a front and two armies facing off. Why would they, when that would mean certain defeat? Instead, they disappeared into the jungles or villages, blending in or hiding until they would strike, then disappear back into the cover. Same with the Taliban – and the same with bad faith actors online.

They will make their bad faith arguments, but not face-to-face in a fair debate of ideas, but rather as surprise raids, sabotage, and subterfuge. And they will use the cover of blending in with the other villagers when you make a strong case and bring receipts.

When 75% of people in the US don’t like the right wing extremist ideas, like banning abortions for rape victims, the 25% CANNOT win the debate in a democracy by fighting fair, or debating in good faith. So they don’t.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Social Network Guerrilla Warfare

Most of the people dont like the extremists on either side. It would be better to focus on presenting sane, common sense positions for the normies instead of wasting time trying to "win" arguments with extremists who won’t even listen to anything the wrong side says.

The first party to get this and stop pandering to their extremists will win big. Because in a two party system you don’t win at the fringes, but in the middle by the votes of the people who could go either way. The extremists are not going to vote for their opponent if their own candidate is too moderate, but normies will vote against a candidate they think is too extreme.

Derek Kertonsays:

Social Network Guerrilla Warfare

"Now, as with anything in content moderation (and perhaps in politics), it is often difficult to judge who is a good faith actor who might just be massively ignorant or confused, and who is just a bad faith actor looking to abuse the system. And that is a real concern — and there can be problems when legitimately ignorant people who mean well are dismissed or judged as bad faith trolls. And, of course, there is a legitimate concern about what happens when good faith individuals are dismissed as being in bad faith without considering what they say."

What you typed above is a lot like guerilla warfare that we learned in Vietnam, or in Afghanistan. When the VC were wildly outnumbered, and had inferior arms and resources as the Americans, they declined to fight a conventional war with a front and two armies facing off. Why would they, when that would mean certain defeat? Instead, they disappeared into the jungles or villages, blending in or hiding until they would strike, then disappear back into the cover. Same with the Taliban – and the same with bad faith actors online.

They will make their bad faith arguments, but not face-to-face in a fair debate of ideas, but rather as surprise raids, sabotage, and subterfuge. And they will use the cover of blending in with the other villagers when you make a strong case and bring receipts.

When 75% of people in the US don’t like the right wing extremist ideas, like banning abortions for rape victims, the 25% CANNOT win the debate in a democracy by fighting fair, or debating in good faith. So they don’t.

morganwicksays:

There’s a pathological refusal in elite circles to even consider the notion that a large enough chunk of the people of America to make an impact on politics are acting in bad faith. The government is supposed to represent all the people, and elites don’t want to be seen as making certain people second-class citizens – especially since they have a lot of guns and a determination to make the government listen to them if they have to. Elites also deeply internalized the notion that elected officials genuinely represented the people who elected them, under the assumption that the people wouldn’t have voted for them if they acted in bad faith, because even if it was always a fiction, it was a fiction necessary to keep the whole system running.

The problem with concerns about "free speech" is that they’re impossible to refute without undermining the whole premise behind free speech, or even democracy, itself. Yes, "free speech" can be undermined by bad faith actors, but the whole premise of free speech is that the truth can be identified and agreed upon through reasoned debate and investigation, so shouldn’t bad faith actors be identified and shamed and the truth identified anyway? I mean, if it were possible for bad faith actors to pollute the discourse without being filtered out, it would imply people are susceptible to demagoguery and aren’t actually that good at finding truth from lies, which could be construed to mean they can’t necessarily be trusted to determine their own destiny, and that’s an especially toxic notion to consider when a common rallying cry of the bad-faith actors is that elites "think they know better than ordinary Americans" and want to enslave people to a totalitarian state.

I do think democracy is the best system and free speech worthwhile, but at some point we’re going to have to seriously and publicly confront the flaws in the rationalist paradigm of human nature underlying our conception of it, and come up with a new vision of democracy that reckons with what human nature actually is.

morganwicksays:

There’s a pathological refusal in elite circles to even consider the notion that a large enough chunk of the people of America to make an impact on politics are acting in bad faith. The government is supposed to represent all the people, and elites don’t want to be seen as making certain people second-class citizens – especially since they have a lot of guns and a determination to make the government listen to them if they have to. Elites also deeply internalized the notion that elected officials genuinely represented the people who elected them, under the assumption that the people wouldn’t have voted for them if they acted in bad faith, because even if it was always a fiction, it was a fiction necessary to keep the whole system running.

The problem with concerns about "free speech" is that they’re impossible to refute without undermining the whole premise behind free speech, or even democracy, itself. Yes, "free speech" can be undermined by bad faith actors, but the whole premise of free speech is that the truth can be identified and agreed upon through reasoned debate and investigation, so shouldn’t bad faith actors be identified and shamed and the truth identified anyway? I mean, if it were possible for bad faith actors to pollute the discourse without being filtered out, it would imply people are susceptible to demagoguery and aren’t actually that good at finding truth from lies, which could be construed to mean they can’t necessarily be trusted to determine their own destiny, and that’s an especially toxic notion to consider when a common rallying cry of the bad-faith actors is that elites "think they know better than ordinary Americans" and want to enslave people to a totalitarian state.

I do think democracy is the best system and free speech worthwhile, but at some point we’re going to have to seriously and publicly confront the flaws in the rationalist paradigm of human nature underlying our conception of it, and come up with a new vision of democracy that reckons with what human nature actually is.

Chozensays:

Thats Some Lack of Self Awarness

Wow you are a pice of work mike.

Reading that article where Wajahat Ali does nothing but exaggerate upon his previous exaggerations. I’m rather new here. I didnt realize you were that much off your rocker insane as to take something ass off the rails as that article as truth.

Sorry I have written some good articles and assumed you were a little more level headed. You are clearly insane. Algorithmic psychosis. You need to unplug for a bit and also get some therapy, like a lot of therapy.

Goodbye.

Chozensays:

Thats Some Lack of Self Awarness

Wow you are a pice of work mike.

Reading that article where Wajahat Ali does nothing but exaggerate upon his previous exaggerations. I’m rather new here. I didnt realize you were that much off your rocker insane as to take something ass off the rails as that article as truth.

Sorry I have written some good articles and assumed you were a little more level headed. You are clearly insane. Algorithmic psychosis. You need to unplug for a bit and also get some therapy, like a lot of therapy.

Goodbye.

mechtheistsays:

There’s a pretty simple and objective test for bad faith. Blatant contradiction. It’s astounding how common this has become. I mean, FFS, Trump could do it in a single paragraph. Anyone engaging in this should be considered not serious, not worth listening to. The default should be to laugh at them to their face and ask them if they really think anyone should give a fuck what they have to say.

mechtheistsays:

There’s a pretty simple and objective test for bad faith. Blatant contradiction. It’s astounding how common this has become. I mean, FFS, Trump could do it in a single paragraph. Anyone engaging in this should be considered not serious, not worth listening to. The default should be to laugh at them to their face and ask them if they really think anyone should give a fuck what they have to say.

LittleCupcakessays:

Daily Beast ?article? illustrates the point

I just watched a movie in which a sensationalist tabloid was considered news by a character. It was a funny bit, and i am reminded of it again right here.

That Beast thing isn?t an article in the sense of actual newsworthiness or fact-based analysis-that?s a pure opinion piece and given its tenor and diction is more accurately a screed, and written in as bad-faith a manner as any other piece one might read on the viler sections of the Internet.

That such a piece might be considered, unironically, as a piece of evidence in this Techdirt post to somehow prove that ?somebody else? is acting in bad faith is itself super duper bad faith.

LittleCupcakessays:

Daily Beast “article” illustrates the point

I just watched a movie in which a sensationalist tabloid was considered news by a character. It was a funny bit, and i am reminded of it again right here.

That Beast thing isn’t an article in the sense of actual newsworthiness or fact-based analysis-that’s a pure opinion piece and given its tenor and diction is more accurately a screed, and written in as bad-faith a manner as any other piece one might read on the viler sections of the Internet.

That such a piece might be considered, unironically, as a piece of evidence in this Techdirt post to somehow prove that “somebody else” is acting in bad faith is itself super duper bad faith.

Lostinlodossays:

Or?

There?s no denying I support full and complete explanation, I do such myself in moderation.

They want to (1) cause problems for the site and (2) collect information so that next time, they can exploit that knowledge to engage in further bad acts without getting caught.

That?s where moderation comes In.
If you can?t keep up hire more moderators.
Or stop moderation all together.
Or shut off commenting.

I wouldn?t even necessarily call them ?bad actors?. Look at them as researchers finding faults in your rules.
Adjust your rules accordingly.

Stephen T. Stonesays:

Re:

The problem there is that if you keep hyper-specifying your rules, trolls will keep finding ways of getting around those rules. Example: If you ban only specific anti-queer slurs, the trolls will find ways to disparage queer people without relying on those slurs. Then you?ll have to ban that language??and ban it in all contexts, lest the trolls cry foul that you banned the language for them but not for everyone else using a new anti-queer slur.

Contrast that approach with a more generalized ?no using anti-queer slurs such as [x]? rule: You can ban the troublemakers who skirt the rules with innocuous language without having to ban that language in all contexts.

Again: Hyper-specifying the rules only invites trouble. And as for this bullshit?

If you can?t keep up hire more moderators.
Or stop moderation all together.
Or shut off commenting.

?not everyone can do the first option, few people want to do the second option, and the third option would kill any site that relies on third-party submissions. Your ?solutions? aren?t all that good, so maybe reconsider your hardline stance against generalized moderation rules (among other moderation decisions you think are stupid and dumb and make people censorious Nazi authoritarian genocidists or whatever).

Lostinlodossays:

Re: Re: Re:

no using anti-queer slurs [including]

Sounds specific enough to me.
Though ?such as? leaves too much open.

so maybe reconsider your hardline stance against generalized moderation rules

?You were banned for violating the tos?.
Is too general.

So is ?for hate speech?

However, ?your post, #12345, violated rule N subsection L,
A ban on Negativity commenting on sexual preferences.?
Is perfect.

Stephen T. Stonesays:

Re: Re: Re:

Though ?such as? leaves too much open.

Again: That?s the point.

Language evolves, and so does the language of both bigots and rules-lawyering trolls. When the bigots and trolls change their language to seem innocuous on the surface but still disparage queer people via subtext and coded messaging to other bigots/trolls, having the generalized ?no anti-queer speech? rule works better. It allows you the freedom to punish the assholes without letting them squirm their way out of that punishment by going ?but we didn?t say those exact slurs?. Hyper-specifying the rules will only let them argue??possibly successfully??that they didn?t break the rules, which leads to the war of attrition that I mentioned before.

However, ?your post, #12345, violated rule N subsection L, A ban on Negativ[el]y commenting on sexual preferences.? Is perfect.

No, it isn?t. It opens the door for someone to say ?but I didn?t comment on sexual preferences????especially if your rules don?t specifically outline what you mean by ?sexual preferences?. Rules-lawyering trolls love that kind of shit; they will outwonk you all day every day to get around it. Generalized rules against kinds of behaviors/language give you the freedom to adapt and punish trolls without punishing non-trolls by proxy.

Lostinlodossays:

Or?

There’s no denying I support full and complete explanation, I do such myself in moderation.

They want to (1) cause problems for the site and (2) collect information so that next time, they can exploit that knowledge to engage in further bad acts without getting caught.

That’s where moderation comes In.
If you can’t keep up hire more moderators.
Or stop moderation all together.
Or shut off commenting.

I wouldn’t even necessarily call them “bad actors”. Look at them as researchers finding faults in your rules.
Adjust your rules accordingly.

Thadsays:

Re: Needs smallness

To scale moderation, some sense of smallness needs to be preserved to allow people to own and curate areas that aren’t overwhelmingly large, and to prevent half the world from converging on single points. This is the crux of why Techdirt moderation is pretty effective.

YMMV. If your metric is

They’re just trying to be attention-getting assholes and they win just by the very process of engaging with them as if they have something worth saying.

then the trolls on this site do a lot of winning.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Needs smallness

Smallness scaling well is an illusion really – they have less scrutiny and it is less connected and representative. Now there are lovely small communities out there but if we were to somehow arbitrarily chunk up communities on the internet we wouldn’t just get more lovely ones or maintain the baseline. What we would see is more epistemological closure and "small town style insanity".

Anonymoussays:

Re: Needs smallness

To scale moderation, some sense of smallness needs to be preserved to allow people to own and curate areas that aren’t overwhelmingly large,

Not possible, because the real problem is how many people are required to moderate the a large part of the human race. When you can figure out how to moderate the bullies and trolls in real world spaces, including the work space, come back and tell us how.

Note that the moderation most people use in general is to avoid the places where a troll is, if at all possible. Let too many of them onto any social media site, and a large part of the user base will evaporate.

Ninjasays:

Re:

Being offensive is rather different from being racist for instance. You can be very offensive without touching any racial slur. I will be very offensive if I don’t like you and I will not use any racial, homophobic or whatever slur unless I’m not aware it is offensive to a minority. And this moral high ground is ‘valid’ when you are talking with people that have basic values. White supremacists, racists, homophobic ppl, nazists etc are despicable and I have no problem treating them as the trash they are.

Stephen T. Stonesays:

by using one class of offensive words, you give up the high moral ground for criticizing people who use another class

The word “fuck” lacks the same level of offensiveness than the N-word, even when discussing the two in a context such as this. You seeming to genuinely believe they’re in the same “class” of offensiveness makes you sound like a delusional jackass.

Anonymoussays:

Re:

The whole thing is pure dumbassery that can be very easily dismissed with knowledge dating a few centuries now

More like a few millennia, (Eratosthenes’ Calculation of Earth’s Circumference)https://www.windows2universe.org/citizen_science/myw/w2u_eratosthenes_calc_earth_size.html was carried out in 240 B.C. which indicate the idea of a spherical Earth is even older, else he would not have been considering how to measure the Circumference.

ECAsays:

Re:

Would be interesting, but there is a slice you may not have seen from the past.
Had a book that shows that the past, from Nixon on, has had more repubs in offices(state, fed, and just about every office). Upto the supreme court.
But along the way things changed in the group.
And how this war started, is kinda hidden in the past. Most of those Iv noticed that are upset, tend to be more Short term memory. Until someone Tells them and shows them What happened, they wont get How this happened. And the 1980’s and 90’s werent that long ago.

Another part of this, is the small groups of the past trying to get a foot in the door to get Some representation. They got the idea to join 1 of the major 2 groups. And this has made both parties abit strange, and even Those 2 groups have separations Internally. And a few of them played the game to get on top and now we have a very large mess.(Im sorry texas, you get to be the experiment. How long are you going to let this happen)

Stephen T. Stonesays:

The rationale for making some rules vague lies in two words: “rules lawyering”. Vague enough rules can help prevent this by providing a general rationale for moderation without giving the offending party a specific enough loophole through which they can jump and escape punishment unscathed⁠—and without bogging down the rules in such specificity that people can find new loopholes.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Social Network Guerrilla Warfare

Most of the people dont like the extremists on either side. It would be better to focus on presenting sane, common sense positions for the normies instead of wasting time trying to "win" arguments with extremists who won’t even listen to anything the wrong side says.

The first party to get this and stop pandering to their extremists will win big. Because in a two party system you don’t win at the fringes, but in the middle by the votes of the people who could go either way. The extremists are not going to vote for their opponent if their own candidate is too moderate, but normies will vote against a candidate they think is too extreme.

Christensonsays:

Re: Re: Needs smallness

By reading comments and sometimes flagging them as spam or rating them as insightful or funny, Techdirt has made you into a volunteer moderator, and the collective effort of the commentariat this way greatly increases the amount of moderation effort available. As to real-world virtual spaces that people like, they all have something like that.

Second, Thad, Techdirt moderation isn’t perfect, but by simply hiding Kobe’s garbage after a few people recognize it as such means at least some of us aren’t inconvenienced by him. I’m curious as to what you think Techdirt could or should test to see if it improves the feedback area.

Third, I left off some paragraphs on my original post:
Friction is also a necessary part of moderation — those moderated out need to have imposed some degree of difficulty to post additional inappropriate content; this should probably happen at the point of account signup or first post, since its not difficult to change one’s online identity completely, and there are definitely important use cases for online anonymity.

Some kind of ownership is also important to moderation. Mike Masnick certainly thinks curating his comment section is important, and it appears that the majority of techdirt’s commentariat agrees. Reddit is the same with subreddits. Facebook’s problem to some degree is they got too big before the issue became important and they really want to do it without people actually weighing the evidence.

Stephen T. Stonesays:

The problem there is that if you keep hyper-specifying your rules, trolls will keep finding ways of getting around those rules. Example: If you ban only specific anti-queer slurs, the trolls will find ways to disparage queer people without relying on those slurs. Then you’ll have to ban that language⁠—and ban it in all contexts, lest the trolls cry foul that you banned the language for them but not for everyone else using a new anti-queer slur.

Contrast that approach with a more generalized “no using anti-queer slurs such as [x]” rule: You can ban the troublemakers who skirt the rules with innocuous language without having to ban that language in all contexts.

Again: Hyper-specifying the rules only invites trouble. And as for this bullshit…

If you can’t keep up hire more moderators.
Or stop moderation all together.
Or shut off commenting.

…not everyone can do the first option, few people want to do the second option, and the third option would kill any site that relies on third-party submissions. Your “solutions” aren’t all that good, so maybe reconsider your hardline stance against generalized moderation rules (among other moderation decisions you think are stupid and dumb and make people censorious Nazi authoritarian genocidists or whatever).

Lostinlodossays:

Re:

no using anti-queer slurs [including]

Sounds specific enough to me.
Though “such as” leaves too much open.

so maybe reconsider your hardline stance against generalized moderation rules

“You were banned for violating the tos”.
Is too general.

So is “for hate speech”

However, “your post, #12345, violated rule N subsection L,
A ban on Negativity commenting on sexual preferences.”
Is perfect.

Stephen T. Stonesays:

Though “such as” leaves too much open.

Again: That’s the point.

Language evolves, and so does the language of both bigots and rules-lawyering trolls. When the bigots and trolls change their language to seem innocuous on the surface but still disparage queer people via subtext and coded messaging to other bigots/trolls, having the generalized “no anti-queer speech” rule works better. It allows you the freedom to punish the assholes without letting them squirm their way out of that punishment by going “but we didn’t say those exact slurs”. Hyper-specifying the rules will only let them argue⁠—possibly successfully⁠—that they didn’t break the rules, which leads to the war of attrition that I mentioned before.

However, “your post, #12345, violated rule N subsection L, A ban on Negativ[el]y commenting on sexual preferences.” Is perfect.

No, it isn’t. It opens the door for someone to say “but I didn’t comment on sexual preferences”⁠⁠—especially if your rules don’t specifically outline what you mean by “sexual preferences”. Rules-lawyering trolls love that kind of shit; they will outwonk you all day every day to get around it. Generalized rules against kinds of behaviors/language give you the freedom to adapt and punish trolls without punishing non-trolls by proxy.

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