for a moment I thought this page was removed.

( ・-・)

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It is! :-D

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Apr 25, 2023·edited Apr 25, 2023Liked by Robert Hawkins

Thank you for this. I have been digging a little on my own and what I see on Reddit rings similar to the methods of totalitarianism as portrayed in George Orwell's 1984, and how censorship was performed behind the curtains where nobody knew if they were being watched or who knows what they might have said- or thought. Just like in actual Stalinist societies like DDR/East Germany.

I'm an old computer techie and can remember BBS flame wars. Joined Reddit in 2009, and have had innumerable accounts there (back when such a thing wasn't frowned upon and strictly monitored). I even created a handful of successful subs that are old Reddit staples (if minor). Definitely nothing to brag about, but I just wanted to provide context that I've seen how electronic speech has evolved and morphed over four decades in a myriad of forms.

Over the past few years I have seen such a hard handed implementation of regulations and redtape on Reddit (and on a wide range of electronic fora) that I find not only a serious hinder to creative expression (creating good content is the easy part, finding the right sub to post it in without breaking any rules is a nightmare), but also have some sinister undertones that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

You put it very well when you say that letting people know that you have been silenced is a way for them to correct their behavior. I know internet space isn't "real", in the national state sense of the word, but if how we govern our electronic communications and their platforms is a reflection of our societies, I fear for our societies.

Thank you for your post, I subscribed and hope for more.

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Thanks anarchy_79, I always enjoy hearing from people with experience in content moderation.

You are right to suggest that the way we manage the internet (or TV, radio, printing press etc.) impacts how we interact in the real world, or vice versa. I don't know that it's good or bad, it just is.

Perhaps we are destined to relive these moments. The second we forget the harms of censorship is right when it comes roaring back (with a new disguise). I want to say we're already on the other side of this one because there have been some victories for the types of transparency I want to see, but I think there are still some hills to climb. Let's see how we do.

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Sep 8, 2023·edited Sep 8, 2023

Keep in mind that highly skilled people are busy make 6-7 figures a year, doing hard work, while balancing being married and having kids. The people who choose to pump hours into moderating on Reddit are usually low-skilled workers without much mental talent. I've had very many permanent bans from subreddits (and shadow bans and removed comments) from moderators who, and I hate to be blunt, are not smart enough to understand what I said. They don't mean harm. They legitimately think I'm breaking a rule. They are just conflating what I'm saying with something some hated person might say who is cruel to others.

As a concrete example, this person posted a statistic about how transgender people have x% chance more violence in their lives. They didn't leave the statistic without interpretation: They randomly claimed it was from bigots looking to hurt transgendered people. Now, I'm sure some of that violence comes from hatred by some bad people, but all I said was that we cannot assume just how much is coming from correlations in that population that also are all correlated heavily with an increase in violence and how much comes from bigots, tracking down transgender people and hurting them.

Some failure in life read that and gave me a permanent subreddit ban. And that was for comprehending that correlation doesn't equal causation. In their silly minds, anything that is written that enhances the idea that transgendered people are being discriminated against is perfect to write (even if it's filled with lies and misunderstandings) while anyone who corrects such a post is immediately transphobic. So to get my point across, imagine if someone said, "Transgender people are beaten up, because people hate them and the sky is blue." If I were to ask what the sky being blue has to do with it, I have a decent chance of getting a permanent ban in cases where the moderator is unintelligent enough to think with intuition that the sky color actually does enter into the equation.

I mean, who cares if transgender people have population statistics like way more poverty, way more drug use, living in way poorer areas with higher crime rates, have way less education, etc. which are all correlated with extra violence for reasons that do not deal with the identity of someone. This is an important thing to realize as a scientist conducting a study like that if their aim is to measure how much victimization is going on -- they need to apply high quality techniques to normalize against these and other factors that co-correlate with additional violence in someone's life.

The ironic part is that respecting the bad statistics of a disadvantaged group is done FOR that group. That's what affirmative action is: This group has way worse statistics, so we'll try to equalize things. So fundamentally, this person permanently banned me for expressing a situation that must exist before help is brought to transgender people. You can't have targeted anti-drug use campaigns or safety training while alone in a bad part of town or whatever else to reduce the overall violence unless you start with knowledge that the group has these kinds of disadvantages in the first place. I'm not saying stuff like affirmative action is correct. I'm pointing out that the moderator was so dumb that they basically have cognitive dissonance, believing in a contradiction at the same time, and their confusion led them to ban me permanently despite actually working in favor of a transgender person there.

Another time, there was a post in r/math asking people their opinion about what it means to become successful as a mathematician. I posted that some people define their success through their salary, and for whatever reason, I got permanently banned from there due to this comment. I asked them why I got banned, and the moderator responded with no reason. They just said, "I'm not going to remove your ban." This is the perfect example of how low quality people are the ones to donate huge amounts of time for free, because everyone else is busy doing important stuff in their life or relaxing. Not working for free. The person simply isn't fit to censor anyone, because they can't even comprehend it's fine for someone to have a different definition of success than they do. Likely, they aren't making that much money, so they just rage banned me.

Now, for the worse offense, I got banned from 4 different subreddits related to supplements on the same day, because one abusive moderator was moderator to all four subreddits. The problem here is I have a technical degree, understand how to read studies and group their results as low quality, OK quality, high quality, etc. I would actually read the papers people "title / abstract" researched since the claims were always so fantastical. Like, if these things being said are true, I want to be in on it too. Alas, it seems like modern doctors who went to school for 10 years to learn about the human body and treating its problems are all actually doing the best thing statistically for people. I guess I wrote that an SSRI reduces symptoms by 50% on average for someone depressed whereas something like ginseng reduces it by something like 5% one too many times. The bro-ologist using bro thinking to claim all of modern medicine is a scam and that random plants can treat any illness (this is dangerous and delusional thinking) just couldn't stomach me having a different understanding than them. Worse, my understandings were quite developed from years of reading research papers and from understanding different study methodologies and from me reading hundreds of medical papers in full whereas they, well, have a hunch that "big pharma" is totes a bad thing, because they all want MONEY! I will add one striking detail too: In these subreddits, due to speaking so concretely and accurately, I had most of my comment karma from them.

So they banned a person permanently without explaining why when I asked that had amassed something like 10,000 karma in a single one of their subreddits. Damn, that person must be crazy delusional. It's outrageous that charlatan (no that's a compliment indicating it's by design) -- that dumbo just can't handle the truth that all of modern medicine is not some great big scam. I'd argue these types of things by pointing out that medical research is conducted all over the world in different countries with people who were born with different amounts of wealth (perhaps some can... you know... fund their own research, and they'd fund it for sure if they knew a cure for cancer), different moral codes, different institutions, and so on. Basically, the idea that big pharma has a stranglehold on every single independent researcher is laughably schizophrenic. Not as an insult here... I mean literal schizophrenia with paranoid delusions. And THAT is the person moderating a subreddit based on advising people how to treat their ailments and what to put into their body daily for often US$100s a month.

When you say something a moderator doesn't agree with, you have a high chance of your post getting removed silently, and if you make too good a case of something they don't agree with, prepare for something like a 2% chance of getting permanently banned from a subreddit.

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Apr 27, 2023·edited Apr 27, 2023Author

Just testing to see how removed comments work on Substack. As of this writing, it looks like Substack does not do "shadow" removals. That's good! More on how it works:

When the logged-in author of a removed comment goes back to look for it, they will find it is either completely gone, or there will be a [Comment removed] tombstone.

The tombstone only appears for removed comments that have some unremoved replies. If the comment received no replies before being removed, or if all replies in a chain are removed, then no tombstones are shown.

This, in my opinion, is a sufficient way to run a trustworthy forum that accepts comments from users. The system does not lie to authors about the status of their removed content. Some may argue that other users should always be able to see the [removed] tombstones. I think as long as the system isn't deceiving authors, that is enough of a heads up. The real problems start to appear when users unknowingly get stuck in a forum where some of their views are secretly censored.

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