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Sex censorship killed the internet we love (engadget.com)
627 points by coding123 on Feb 2, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 493 comments

What happened was we failed to consider the consequences of centralization:

- Google with its search

- Tumblr (or Medium) with its blogging platform

- Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram with their connection to friends, family, and news

- Starbucks with its roaming internet access

- Youtube with its ubiquitous video distribution

- PayPal with its payment network

- Apple with its walled garden App Store

It's no accident that these are all American companies. When American companies control the internet's major centralization points, American cultural norms will rule. Like most cultural norms, they are inconsistent and downright ridiculous if examined closely enough. But that's beside the point.

AI and Mechanical Turk workflows enabled these companies to scrub content that violated norms at massive scale.

The article hints at, but fails to go for the jugular on a far more important point. Porn and sexuality are classifications. To an AI or Mechanical Turk, classifications are pretty much interchangeable.

Entire areas of human knowledge have become easy to censor by decree. Vast swaths of scientific research, political discourse, and news coverage can now be branded as "fake," "offensive," "privileged," or "deplorable," and censored at the drop of a hat.

Sexual censorship is just the tip of a monstrous iceberg.

It's not just American sensibilities that are in play. When you allow people to upload pornographic material you have to deal with the risk that they'll upload illegal material (shit that's illegal in Europe too, it should be pointed out. And we could dive into a tangent to discuss the topic of ISP-level content blocking in America and the UK if you wish..)

If you're unable to effectively filter that stuff out the next pragmatic option is often to ban all pornographic content categorically. That's what happened to tumblr. For years they were an American company that allowed pornography, but they were unable to deal with the burden imposed by their users uploading illegal pornography.

If I had to guess, reddit is probably next. Does reddit check the ID of every user who decides to upload a nude of themselves? I doubt it. It's probably only a matter of time before reddit finds themselves in hot water too and decides to axe all their NSFW subreddits.

> It's not just American sensibilities that are in play. When you allow people to upload pornographic material you have to deal with the risk that they'll upload illegal material (shit that's illegal in Europe too (...))

Umm, disagree. If you allow people to upload beautiful, tasty delicious regular porn, they're not going to automatically upload ugly scary bad disgusting child porn, too. It's not like porn is a "gateway drug" (another American term, btw) to child porn.

Similarly, if you allow violent action movies with strong language like Die Hard, you're not automatically going to get snuff clips of beheadings like ISIS.

The point that you're trying to make is about moderation of uploaded material in general.

It's still American sensibilities if you're somehow going to treat "not nude" and "showing a female nipple" differently.

You've misunderstood me severely. I'll try to reframe my point; it has absolutely nothing to do with "gateway drug" arguments.

Suppose your country makes it illegal to distribute videos of people dying, and suppose you operate a video sharing website. A user uploads a video to your website that shows a bad traffic accident. You're not sure who the people involved in the accident are. The accident looks severe, people got hurt badly, but you aren't sure whether anybody died.

If you cannot confirm whether the traffic accident victims survived or died, do you delete the video or not? Do you ban traffic accident videos categorically so that your moderators are no longer forced to deal with this ambiguity? Do you ban the general genre of "people getting hurt" videos because your moderators struggle to differentiate people getting hurt from people dying? That's analogous to what tumblr did.

It's certainly not a question of whether or not videos of lethal traffic accidents will turn people into bad drivers. And neither is it a question of whether lethal traffic accident videos should be legal or illegal. It's a question of how moderation policies deal with legally ambiguous content.

Forget sex and violence; consider how youtube handles copyright infringement. People get 'copystriked' all the time in situations youtube's ContentID situation considers ambiguous, in situations that should be covered by fair use or in situations where no copyrighted material was used at all. Youtube has overzealous copyright moderation because they've decided that's the 'safest' way to stay out of courtrooms even though it pisses off and rips off their content creators.

Consider the premise of pornography's capacity to motivate violence.

This is an often neglected concept. But we see it readily emerging as a cognitive awareness of real denial and promoter of outsider self image, and depersonalization.

So, individuals suddenly notice that they have no access to real sexual gratification, they are only permitted participation as distant observer. They live isolated from the inside of the fishbowl where everyone else has sex, and on the outside of the aquarium glass, desolation.

In frustration, they lash out, violently. Those invited to the party are treated fairly and receive sexual favors as rewards for status, and they are not. Due to ugliness, poverty, or some other outsider status.

This is made plain to those who only consume internet pornography, but shall never realize absurd and unattainable sexual fantasies that internet pornography might provoke.




I reject that this is porns fault. The man was young and disturbed. There’s a lot of things about present day society that drive people’s insecurities. Porn can be one. Porn addiction can definitely be a problem. It sounded more like this guy needed a real friend or therapist to talk to.

This guy could have spent 5000 dollars on having sex with a very attractive escort, rather then guns and shooting up a place. Maybe society shouldn’t make paying for sex a humiliating and degrading thing. Sex workers can be good people and people that pay for sex don’t have to be weak or sad people. The man was convinced sex and women would be forever alien to him and that didn’t have to be the case.

But still porn is only a small subcategory of the content the article was discussing, and probably most content being rejected as "adult" or "nudity" or "explicit" is very much not porn. It may be informational content about sex, or fine art with nudity, or lyrics using sexual words for shock value, or...

I think many platforms actually are uncomfortable with hosting porn not just for legal reasons, and that the problem you're describing of identifying what is what and drawing lines is rather between porn and not-porn-but-sexual than between illegal and legal porn.

Not sure about the Tumblr one.

WordPress apparently powers 1/3 of websites. But I also know that a lot of webhosts powering those WP sites forbid any adult content. Why? For two reasons — the difficulty in policing it, just as Tumblr had. But more importantly, the web host industry is built on people paying for resources that remain unused (massive overselling).

Adult sites actually use the resources; bandwidth being the primary (which is a lot cheaper than it used to be), but now that video porn is ubiquitous, the processing needed to transcode and deliver video is immense.

Which is likely why almost all porn is centralized now at a few top sites, that fund their operations through deals with porn creators or some kind of upper tier subscription.

Sadly, this massive wave of future censorship is being driven by the very people who would have fought for the right to free speech and expression in the past. We are so frightened of fake news, micro-aggressions, and things which may trigger our mostly white, middle class sensitivities that we are essentially forcing governments around the world to enact censorship for us.

I wouldn't try to racialize this. I'm also not convinced our (whose? I'm guessing you mean USA's) mostly white middle class are the ones frightened of and complaining about fake news, microaggressions or being triggered. Those seem more like Bay Area sensibilities and concerns than Middle America's.

You forget that almost everyone in America considers themselves middle class.

Why do we always ignore/forget LinkedIn?

Sometimes I wonder how (un-)realistic it is to fill a complain with the EU of google misusing it's quasi monopoly on search to actively discriminate against:

- People with open opinions about sex (e.g. down ranking there blog posts etc.).

- People which had been victims of sexual violence (and similar) by making it harder for them to inform them self/get help.

- Sex workers.

- etc.

(note that this is a unordered list!)

Same goes for other platforms e.g. PayPal.

Sure there might be a difference if you use a platform to display pornographic content to people without appropriate age checks. But non of this applies for Google (search) or PayPal (payment).

Lastly people might argue that they are just following US law (e.g. for PayPal) but if they operate in the EU then they will have to follow EU law and discrimination against people for _any_ reason is illegal, this includes excluding a blog from search results because it openly speaks about porn or people _legal_ earning money with videos of their naked body.

Well but then I'm not a lawyer and didn't really think this through either ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

> if they operate in the EU then they will have to follow EU law and discrimination against people for _any_ reason is illegal

This is totally incoherent. Lack of discrimination is the problem that Google solves. Search results can't all be first; that would be the same thing as not having a search engine at all.

i don't agree. Google ranks, but shouldn't be allowed to treat one group unfairly. For example, google shouldn't be allowed to downrank one ethnicity and prefer another. Similiar, google shouldn't be allowed to "forcefully" downrank one's blog, just because it doesn't like some thoughts about sexuality (I don't know if it does though).

It's not that google has the total freedom to adjust the search-ranking like it sees fit.

I don't know how the law is implemented, but I bet they have a good definition what illegal discrimination actually is. For example, I don't think google would be allowed to rank results (or, as you say it, discriminate) based on gender.

The comment I responded to explicitly states that "discrimination for _any_ reason is illegal".

That doesn't work and can't work; it's not even meaningful. By that standard, the existence of Google is, in itself, criminal.

No, it isn't. You're just using the wrong meaning of an overloaded word.

Definition of discrimination

1a : prejudiced or prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment racial discrimination b : the act, practice, or an instance of discriminating categorically rather than individually

2 : the quality or power of finely distinguishing the film viewed by those with discrimination

3a : the act of making or perceiving a difference : the act of discriminating a bloodhound's scent discrimination b psychology : the process by which two stimuli differing in some aspect are responded to differently


ah ok, then I've misunderstood your comment :)

For google it's not that bad.

I have a niche french blog about Python and porn. Had it for years. Google still brought 10 millions views to us since it started. We are ranked pretty well in the french version of the search engine.

Now It's true I have now way of knowing how well we would rank without the porn, but funnily, it's 10% of the content, but 60% of the traffic.

Regarding your first three points: open opinions about sex; victims of sexual assault; sex workers.

Have you tested any of these on google.com recently?

I have and I do regularly. There is definitely no shortage of results when looking for information / blogs about any of these three.

I'm in Australia, but the results appear to cover the Anglosphere in general.

The search term blogs about earning money with porn appears to be an industry in and of itself, and well represented on Google search results.

So, in response to your initial question, I'm going to go with: exceedingly unrealistic.

Since I heard about Tumblrs new policy a week before it was implemented, I've been hard at work building Libr (https://librapp.com) to replace it.

A large amount of art that isn't porn, but that qualifies as "adult content" under the new policy has been all but purged from the internet.

It's impossible to ban adult content in a cost effective way without also banning a large amount of legitimate art.

Libr is about two thirds of the way there (source is on GitHub) and I have posting, content search, blog feeds and content authoring of video/images and text posts done. Following, liking and the main feed are next.

This will be a Progresive web app - No app store needed, meaning no app store bans.

Are you going to federate with other content-sharing app via ActivityPub? Several other Tumblr alternatives have popped up as Fediverse instances and you might want them to interoperate with your project.

Make it easy to report child porn, clearly illegal content. Tumblr actually made that tedious - multiple clicks, copy and paste after searching for the report page.

I'm going to try to get access to the free Google API for child porn detection, removal and reporting: https://www.blog.google/around-the-globe/google-europe/using...

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/photodna/cloudservice is also worth looking at, but you've probably already seen it.

What's considered art vs adult content is a very big gray area that's open to interpretation from multiple perspectives. From a platform's point of view, it's safer to ban anything remotely that might considered adult content to avoid false negatives that could land them in trouble.

I had the same idea :)

But to make it sustainable, it needs to generate money. Advertisers don't like seeing their brands next to pr0n, so they won't come to your site. Unless, of course, you open it to adverts from people selling sexeh stuff, who can't get an ad to appear anywhere normally.

Of course, you could charge for it... but people have been trained to expect internet services for free. Hopefully that's changing, because it needs to.

I have a plan for this. I know of an ad network that will let me run ads on Libr that supports both SFW and NSFW ads.

When you sign up for Libr you have to say if your blog is NSFW or not. Then Libr flags all content you post as NSFW or SFW depending on what you choose.

I can detect what content is on a page, then run SFW ads around SFW content and relevant NSFW ads around NSFW content. Google used to do the same thing if you turned off safe search with their AdWords ads.

I'd run the SFW ads near NSFW if it were possible, but it's not.

> I know of an ad network that will let me run ads on Libr

Be careful of depending on a single company for your income

good plan, worth a try :) good luck with it

mastodon already does this? how are you going to differentiate? also all these types of sites are typically flooded with porn if they become in any way popular...

> This will be a Progresive web app - No app store needed, meaning no app store bans.

Why do you call it an app instead of a website?

The word 'app' to me strongly implies that whatever the service does can only be meaningfully accessed via an app on Android or IOS, and that the publisher has reasons (often for monetization purposes) to keep the software client proprietary and exclusive.

This usage of “app” I believe denoted the category of websites that would have been desktop applications ten years ago. For instance, Google Docs is a web app.

Given that the content is only available with Javascript enabled (ie. code served by Libr gets run on my computer), it's closer to an application than a website.

> The word 'app' to me strongly implies that whatever the service does can only be meaningfully accessed via an app on Android or IOS

I don't think this opinion is generally held. App just means application, which can describe any software.

> It's impossible to ban adult content in a cost effective way without also banning a large amount of legitimate art.

Are you saying that adult content is not legitimate art?

If so, I think you may be part of the problem, not the solution. English is not my first language, so please correct me if I am wrong.

By adult content, most of us think "porn". But as has been said, there's also violence and other things that some culture do not want their children exposed to.

There's no way to ban nudity or other things one may dislike without having to put some kind of filters in place. And once those filters are in place, they are abused to filter legitimate content. Every. Single. Time.

We have to rely on education, the best filter is in our brains. That's the cost to real freedom of speech.

>Are you saying that adult content is not legitimate art?

No, the commentator seems to imply the exact opposite: that a large amount of 'legitimate' art is also adult in nature, which lead to its illegitimate removal during the purge.

This doesnt make sense to me. Core internet community experiences to me have always been about smaller sites, message boards, mailing lists, chatrooms, voice chat groups, etc.

Seeing large corporation websites like tumblr, reddit, facebook crack down on content doesn't stop any of that. it just means you need to get out of your internet bubble.

The problem is that platforms and web hosting services are engaging in censorship too.

The article gives Cloudflare as example. Hosting porn content, even if it is art, can get very expensive because most services have an explicit no porn policy.

Also without Google Search and without presence on a big social network, you’re essentially invisible.

The situation for mobile apps is even worse, as Apple doesn’t allow porn content in its App Store and Google started banning such content as well.

Also the article mentions the by-law censorship of articles in which sex workers are interviewed due to FOSTA-SESTA.

So the smaller websites you’re talking about are being pushed off the web ;-)

I think you bring up some very good points and frankly, it's quite depressing. A decade or two from now the internet will be exactly like cable TV.

It's always like that. TV and radio were quirky in the early days too, but as soon as you go mass market it changes. It's not the medium, it's the people on it. Time to keep moving and get away from the mainstream.

Is it really "people on it", or is it just the ad-based business model? Sure, mass market means lowest common denominator, but people generally don't mind weirdness as long as it doesn't force itself on them. I feel most cases of censorship or self-censorship of weirdness on the media has always something to do with some advertiser not wanting their ads associated with weirdness.

TV was heavily regulated. So it is not just market, but also politics and governing.

problem always is that moving away from the mainstream is non trivial and only for people with oodles of money. for eg if i want to use ipfs i should have 1.a computer capable of handling these connections 2.an internet connection capable of handling the connections with no caps forcing me offline

we need solutions that allow any weirdo to easily get online and say what they want to say

One would say HN is pretty mainstream nowadays. Any suggestions for alternative communities? I feel like there is an extreme lack of what HN used to be. How do I get away from the people on it?

Cloudflare is by far not the best example I think. They proxy thepiratebay.org after all.

There are some portals listed on this similar recent hn thread, in which I added to a similar comment, ( https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19040384 ) - basically that for many people the internet is google, and for many, especially in other countries from what I have read, 'the internet' is facebook.

It appears many people do not know how to use urls or ask people about other portals.

If facebook censors it, they may never know it every existed on the internet. For others if Google doesn't show it on the first page of results - it does not exist.

I should of seen this coming years ago I noticed when I would tell people to go to whatever-site-url.com - they would open a browser and put that into the search box.

Heck people put google.com into the box and search for it rather then enter a url and hit ctrl-enter.

Now many phones and tablets are also defaulting search boxes, browsers, and voice searches to be using these censoring services - not showing ways to escape these bubbles, solidifying the walls of the garden.

> Heck people put google.com into the box and search for it rather then enter a url and hit ctrl-enter.

Not even that. They google directly from the address bar. Once you could google without going to google.com, anecdotally I started to notice most people would google everything, including URLs they obviously knew

Once jerks started domain name spamming this became recommended behavior unless I’m 100% certain of my url.

remembering urls is not a trivial task. it's the reason why we have bookmarks and history functions in browsers. a good search engine like google abstracts that away. i couldn't remember the name stack overflow for quite some time(i always associated stack with hay in my mind)

just typing in "hay code questions" would get me to stackoverflow in google. not so in bing/yahoo search(at the time)

Indeed there are likely many good reasons for making the url bar become a search bar under certain circumstances (I would bet the money google pays mozilla for these kinds defaults was actually touted as 'make things better for the users' )

and it certainly can make things better in some ways, and likely for a majority of people.

I for one however was appalled the first time I found not typing my url properly sent that data to google to find a suitable alternative.

(also disturbed when I see cell phone carrier give me a "you may be looking this-and-that list of links when a 404 or similar is detected - helpful maybe, doing it for the monetization? probably. Stealing privacy at the same time? Maybe.

Providing a curated version of available resources? Yes. That is often censoring more and more these days. Google does not provide the internet options to end users that it did 7 years ago.

I have seen people go to the url bar type "google" and hit enter - which on many browsers default searches google for google.

Whatever the reasoning for these issues, the result seems to be that most people think they need to use google to get to parts of the internet and don't know any other way.

Yeah but many of the small communities get smaller and smaller until they die away.

For example in the pre-Facebook time there used to be a great amount of online chats to get to know people or just for chit-chatting. Then Facebook came, of course everybody was excited and many of the small websites closed down. Those that are left are usually packed with weirdos and fakes, it's a real pity. Although it was all pseudonymous I think back in the days there were less fakes than on Facebook. Not to talk about IRC or Newsgroups, which have become more niche then ever.

Well or HN... There used to be high quality content elsewhere, for instance Dr Dobbs was really nice. Now all that stuff is extremely centralized.

I don't really see this trend reversing at the moment. Despite people talking about decentralization since 3 years or so.

Probably it's Google's fault ;)

I was about to write an whole comment about how Violet Blue's perspective wasn't matched with reality. But you hit the main point dead on.

I feel that her perspective is not very sympathetic to the average couple nor is it relatable with the average corporation. It hasn't been in the past and it isn't now. The closest that she can get to what she's asking for is Fetlife.

there is no such thing as the "average couple" when it comes to bedroom stuff. not even in the US.

of course the new direction is worrying, but in the end porn always wins, it has won in the past after all. james joyce, larry flint, this list goes on...

Porn does not reflect the actual behaviors of people. Porn is bascially the candy of sex. Taboo-ness, and fantasy is a big part of what that caters.

When I say average I mean the biggest general cluster of sexual behavior.

One bubble you will find very hard to get out of is the search bubble, defined by the big 2-3 search engines, predominantly Google. And that bubble pretty much defines the Internet itself for most people.

I partly agree, but another half of it is people with interesting stuff yet very poor technical skills.

Some people just like to create stuff all day and have a ton to show, but only ever learned enough computer skills to do their hobby and go to forums.

For these kind of people, creating a new place in one click is a boon, and getting moderation and management tools out of box is also an incentive to keep it going.

Sure these people can start learning how to build places and use hosting services, but that’s a non teivial barrier to entry, and we must be losing so much in the deal.

Tangentially related: Holvi [1], a digital banking service, just froze the account of a Finnish BDSM association without warning, referring to a clause in their terms of use that forbids "items that are considered obscene, or sexually oriented materials or services". The phrasing, especially the word "obscene" makes me suspect that the policy is dictated by big payment service providers (that is, credit card companies and PayPal) and Holvi is just covering its bases here; I doubt the company itself cares very much at all.

[1] https://about.holvi.com/

The real "original sin" of the free internet is the curation of the experience of using neutral information systems to drive engagement and skew users decisions away from their own interest towards the commercial interest of the web sites. Routine deception and manipulation mean that there are no clear lines or defensible moats of freedom. There is no rule of law or communal standard of fairness on the internet. This article fogs that truth.

When ever I turn off the filters on my search engines explicit content is served instantly. I think that the censorship that the author is referring to is either self imposed, imposed by commercial decisions (tumblr) or due to legal constraints (child porn, rape, worse things than that).

Consensual sex work is mentioned, my perception is that the vast majority of sex workers are not doing it because of free choice, but rather because of exploitation and pressure. Drug and alcohol addiction as well as a history of abuse are often cited as drivers, and I hear of no stories where people have found happy and fulfilled lives as prostitutes. The "women speaking truth" can only every have authentic voices if they are speaking from positions of power and security; I do not believe that this is the case for prostitutes anywhere. The illegality of prostitution is not because people are prudes, it is because prostitutes are routinely destroyed by their work.

> I hear of no stories where people have found happy and fulfilled lives as prostitutes

Here's one: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/the-majority-of.... "In fact, when you ask sex workers about their job satisfaction and working conditions – as a study led by Leeds University just has – the majority of them are happy. When asked to describe their work, respondents typically selected positive or neutral words. 91 per cent of sex workers described their work as ‘flexible’, 66 per cent described it as ‘fun’ and over half find their job ‘rewarding’.".

That aside, have you heard many stories where people have found happy and fulfilled lives as coal miners? As Amazon warehouse workers? Lots of jobs suck, but we don't ban them.

>it is because prostitutes are routinely destroyed by their work.

https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/159/8/778/91471 found a standardised mortality rate of 1.9 for American prostitutes (almost twice that of the average member of the population), similar to what https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/pdf/10.2105/AJPH.54.5.... found for coal miners, but we don't ban coal mining. For prostitution, violence was one of the "predominant causes of death", a situation that would be significantly improved were prostitution legal, as prostitutes could then rely on police protection without fear of being arrested for their work.

Sex work is legal in Germany. I don’t know where to look for the equivalent statistics in Germany, but that would settle the question of if legalisation would solve the problem of violence.

https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/jo... conducted a meta-analysis of studies looking at the effect of legalisation and found "Together, the qualitative and quantitative evidence demonstrate the extensive harms associated with criminalisation of sex work, including laws and enforcement targeting the sale and purchase of sex, and activities relating to sex work organisation."

I have read several stories about happy coal miners, actually. There seems to be something about the companionship among coal miners that makes it great (for them).

In general - if somebody does a job, presumably the alternatives would be worse. That applies to prostitution as well.

You might want to change that to “we haven’t yet banned coal mining”

> my perception is that the vast majority of sex workers are not doing it because of free choice, but rather because of exploitation and pressure.

Your perception would be wrong. The vast majority of sex workers are doing it for the money, same as any job.

> The illegality of prostitution

Prostitution is not illegal in many parts of the world, and even decriminalised is some parts.

> I hear of no stories where people have found happy and fulfilled lives as prostitutes.

That's because you aren't listening. There's plenty of sex workers who blog or who are on twitter that you can ask. Just follow some and see.

> prostitutes are routinely destroyed by their work.

The biggest risk to sex workers in parts of the world where it is illegal is rape and murder by law enforcement.

What proportion of people do their day jobs because of exploitation and pressure?

There's possibly a lower proportion on HN than elsewhere, but suggesting that most of the population works voluntarily, and not to avoid starvation and homelessness, is going to be a bit of a stretch.

Sex work just makes the dynamic more obvious. There will be some who do it because it's a talent and a calling, but the majority do it because they need to put food on the table.

And some of those will be posting how awesome it is on TW etc because it's free advertising.

> Sex work just makes the dynamic more obvious.

I don't see how it's any more obvious. Our culture is replete with examples of people complaining about their jobs, their bosses, their stress, TGIF, hump Wednesday, hate Mondays, etc. There are far more of these than examples of exploitation in prostitution.

If all work is exploitation and pressure, then sex work is still just like any other job.

> Prostitution is not illegal in many parts of the world, and even decriminalised is some parts.

Nitpick: decriminalization means that something is still illegal, but it's not a crime.

No. In terms of sex work, decriminalisation means it is not a criminal offence, i.e. not a crime. Legalisation mean also not a crime, but subject to restrictions and regulations.

In NSW (Aus) and New Zealand (both decriminalised), there are no laws restricting sex work. Local councils may have zoning laws restricting where brothels may operate, but sex work itself is fully legal.

What's the difference?

Crimes go through a criminal justice track, and outcomes may include jail time.

Illegal actions go through a civil justice track, and typically result in fines and/or some sort of civil restitution for victims.

If you ignore building codes you're acting illegally. If you ignore building codes and people die you're a criminal.

Which is fine as far as it goes. But criminality is often defined politically, not empirically in terms of outcomes.

Sex work is complicated precisely because it's on the edge of consensus morality. It has so much moral and political baggage, and for those who care it's so difficult to manage in ways that minimise harm for all involved, that it's almost the definition of a political football.

It doesn't help that authoritarians are invariably utterly hypocritical about it. Sex workers know that business is going to boom whenever a convention of self-styled moral hawks hits town.

So there's always political pressure to keep that hypocrisy hidden, which makes the criminal/civil line even more of a hot-button issue than it would be anyway.

Decriminalisation means relaxing the penalties so you get a civil fine, not a criminal charge. Jaywalking may get you a ticket, but it doesn't make you a criminal. Many people advocate for the decriminalisation of many drugs, including hard drugs; the idea is that even if we don't think heroine use is okay, locking someone up for using heroine isn't solving the problem.

Legalisation means making it actually legal, as many US states have now made marijuana, or as NZ has made sex work. It can still be regulated or taxed, but in general its fine.

>Your perception would be wrong. The vast majority of sex workers are doing it for the money, same as any job.

So, precisely exploitation and pressure, same as any other job.

> Consensual sex work is mentioned, my perception is

I would be more interested in data than one person's subjecting perception.

> I hear of no stories where people have found happy and fulfilled lives as prostitutes

One of the major points of the article is that the voices of sex workers have been driven off the internet. You can't justify censorship by saying that none of the now-censored voices are complaining.

> The "women speaking truth" can only every have authentic voices if they are speaking from positions of power and security; I do not believe that this is the case for prostitutes anywhere.

That is either completely false, OR by your logic nobody can ever speak about what it's like to work a retail job. Some jobs suck; sometimes the people working them don't have a lot of power and security. So either your arguing that we shouldn't listen to anyone who isn't a millionaire, or you're not aware of the voices that exist.

> The illegality of prostitution is not because people are prudes, it is because prostitutes are routinely destroyed by their work.

Funny how that seems to only happen in places prostitution is illegal.

The problem with legalizing prostitution is that it opens up a sanctioned venue which human traffickers can use to slip under the radar. You can have the best regulation in the world and you'll still fail to have only the entirely above-board, willing sex work that the sex workers themselves would like.

It's the same reason why e.g. we ban all new elephant ivory, period-- even ivory that supposedly does not come from poachers killing an endangered, wild elephant. Because if you try to allow "good, fair-trade ivory", the poachers will try their best to get their stuff in there. And when it comes to the balance between costs and benefits, it doesn't take many bad apples to spoil the whole barrel.

Good theory. That totally could be an issue. Maybe sex work is like ivory, and not like, I dunno, all the other jobs human beings do! Or maybe not.

Luckily, we can check NZ, since they legalised sex work, and research has since been done to see what the answer was: http://www.gaatw.org/publications/SWorganising/NewZealand-we...

And actually, none of that is true! Actually it turns out that what really enables trafficking and the abuse of sex workers is situations where they can't go to the police, or where brothels have to hide their existence from the authorities entirely. Once you're legal and regulated, it's really easy for the immigration officials to show up and start checking paperwork.

> you'll still fail to have only the entirely above-board, willing sex work that the sex workers themselves would like.

Funny you should say that; again in the linked report it was noted that NZ does have an issue with that, but not from trafficked women, but rather from migrants. Due to anti-trafficking sentiment, the original law legalising prostitution banned people on temporary visas from working in the industry, which means people on temporary visas are the only sex workers in the country who can find themselves subjected to abusive work conditions while being unable to report it to the authorities.

It makes sense, of course; everywhere you ban sex work you create a shadow that victimisation can take place in.

NZ is one of the countries in the world with the highest level of broad-based economic development, and is literally in the middle of nowhere-- you couldn't find a less representative example. It's nice that they have managed to successfully regulate sex work, but this tells us practically nothing about how the same policy choice would work in a highly-diverse place like the average US state (and you might bring up Nevada here, which does have some limited form of legal prostitution - but guess what, that too is in the middle of nowhere, and basically not representative! Especially if you exclude Vegas and the other areas where prostitution is not legal) or European country, or anywhere else in the Western world for that matter.


In some places, it's not merely a theory.

Why the discrepancy? Maybe it's geographic as the other commenters suggests. The Netherlands is in the middle of somewhere while New Zealand is in the middle of nowhere. That sounds plausible to me. I think it might also be cultural. The Netherlands is known around the world for their sex industry, New Zealand is not. This makes the Netherlands a more rational destination for profit seeking predators.

One could also argue that prostitutes are routinely destroyed by the legal system. Prostitution always has and always will exist in one form or another regardless of law. Making it illegal only forces it underground, causing more harm and creating more opportunity for organized crime.

There is a very easy test to check if anti-prostitution laws are prudes or about labor rights. You rewrite them into labor rights so to make prostitution illegal without including the word sex.

I have not heard a single country that have managed to do this. For rather obvious reasons, it is not practical to make employment illegal where the employee is in need of money.

There are countries however that do treat the problems with prostitution as a labor rights issue and resolve it similarly. For example when people think of human trafficking they think of prostitution, but human trafficking in constructions is actually several times larger. Exploitation in construction is thus a very large problem and the common solution is to impose stricter regulations so the government can catch and punish those that earn money on human suffering.

you should meet some real life sex workers

"Because it is women, people of color, LGBTQ communities, writers and artists who compose the majority population of sex communities"

While it seems her concerns are warranted, that kind of writing just puts me off. It seems also unlikely that women are more concerned with sex than men. And it is not nazis and incels taking over the internet and censoring sexual content, but presumably US puritanism. And also, presumably, liberals who worry that porn is exploitation of women. Google and Facebook are dominated by SJWs, not by nazis (unless you admit those amount to the same thing).

Maybe Puritanism simply won - their work ethic resulted in creating Silicon Valley, so now they get to establish their puritan rules in the global digital network.

Agree with this; I'm a straight guy that actively supports LGBTQ+ rights (actually being an active, paying member of my country's organization and participating in the Pride festival every year).

I strongly support sex positivity and oppose censorship, but this routine of calling out small and troubled minorities, or even the male gender or masculinity in general as the bogeyman, really needs to stop. It excludes close to half of everyone who would otherwise enthusiastically support the cause.

When I was a kid there were very few black people on television, and no major black characters (I'm from the US). Likewise there was no sex; Laura and Rob Petrie slept in separate beds, etc. There were three majors-- CBS, NBC, and ABC-- and people with names like Pastor Bob from Decent Society Now! would get their folks to pressure network departments, and these departments found it easiest for business to just not run this stuff. All very comfortable but all very wrong.

Google, etc., seem a lot like the majors of our time. Sure they are private businesses acting according to the business environment they find themselves in, but the outcome may be, in the long run, bad for all of us.

Google been a defacto monopoly for a long-time. I always just assumed it was to keep regulation from some states backwards religious senators/congresspeople at bay.

Aside from the privacy, google has been the best company of my life.

But I'm one of those, dont care about privacy people with mild porn habits and I'm starting a non-profit. I don't have much to hide, especially given the good I've accomplished with Google's support.

(Also I get 200+ website visitors from google daily)

Privacy is about the least of google, et al. evils.

It is the legion of researchers and engineers that leverage personal information to build dark patterns and Digital Skinner boxes is where the danger and harm comes from.

The sex-bad-violence-good meme confused me at least since I became aware of its existence aged about 14.

I was 16 when I got a letter published in a UK national newspaper on this topic, pointing out the absurdity that deliberate murder could be shown in a cartoon aimed specifically at young kids (i.e. BBFC rating Uc), but people “my own age”[1] couldn’t see pictures of uncensored sex even though we could legally[1] perform those acts.

I’m now in Berlin, where “Dildo King” is advertised on rotating billboards in the City Centre next to adverts for kid’s dentists and nobody bats an eyelid.

In the other direction, I also remember being shocked when I first visited the USA and seeing “to my dad” and “to my daughter” Valentine’s Day cards in the supermarket.

[1] My own age at the time being the age of consent in the UK: 16

> The sex-bad-violence-good meme confused me at least since I became aware of its existence aged about 14.

It's even more confusing because hypersexualization is totally fine, as long as the areola et al. remain invisible and you don't use plain language to refer to sex.

Ah yes, the good old “Dildo King” ads always put a smile on my face and remind me that Germans (and Berliners even more) are not yet 100% sucked up into the US / SV stance on morality and censorship.

I noticed in Berlin startups that this is sorta changing. Seems the exported “culture of being offended” is slowly taking hold of, surprisingly, mostly younger people.

I think American attitudes are prevailing in a lot of things, hence comments about cultural imperialism. Not surprising really, nor Americans not really noticing it - it's hard to notice the idiosyncrasies of the place that inculcated you. It takes an American or other outsider to notice the strange habits or ideas that shaped me in Britain, and vice versa.

Just by seeing those mostly US views everywhere online my kids and their friends have a more American view, whether that's in social mores or simply not being aware that EU or UK have better consumer protections or other differences. It's rather sad to see everywhere slowly homogenising.

Surprisingly? I'd expect any cultural shift to take place among young people. Older people already have their culture.

I guess you’re right, just weird to see young people turn to a form of conservatism.

This seems to be the nature of things, we rebel against or parents, and mature and change, our children rebel against us, ...

Rebelling against the rebels?

How apt. :-)

I think it's normal. We now live in a world were liberalism is being shoved down our throats at all levels (mass media, education, ...). Young people are rebels by nature, so now, young people are moving to the right, especially in Europe.

What I mean to say is that this is not the result of US puritanism moving to Europe. Instead, I think it's a natural, homegrown trend, unrelated to religious sentiments.

Left/right is a seating arrangement, literally as well as metaphorically.

Free-market/command-economy is different axis to dynamic/conservative is a different axis to populist/evidence-based is a different axis to moralist/libertarian.

If you just tried to transplant the UK’s Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, SNP or Green parties to the USA, they not only would be unelectable “socialists” for supporting the NHS, but also all support policies the USA considers unconstitutional (variously: ‘guns are bad’, ‘censor more’, ‘the Queen should disolve the government every so often’).

Likewise, the UK’s Labour Party is currently wobbling on the left side of the UK’s Overton Window, despite being a moderate centerist by the standards of several EU nations.

I think sex is just different from violence. Violence is something quite pulic. Sex is not. It's intimate. Also ~violence, not day to day drive to harm or kill people, just ability to attack for defense, is almost a desired skill. If you don't do that you'll be stepped on. If not physically, emotionally. So displays of violence is almost pedagogical. Reminds me that, as a kid, Japanese animated show were censored heavily because it was fights with blood.. but the warriors were always defending (fist of the north star, saint seiya,...). There was no psychopathic desire for aggression there.

that's the most frustrating thing about being an european in a internet dominated by American "puritan" tech giants...

Linguistic and cultural imperialism are a thing. I don't know how to fight back. Those companies have a lot of money.

It's even harder for old-school Japanese norms. What used to pass as mildly titillating in Japan is XXX porn in the US. And some of what's shocking there is easily child porn in the US. That's even so for some German naturalist stuff, and that was never even intended to be shocking.

For example, one of my favorite Miike films ("Visitor Q") begins with sex between a guy and his teenage daughter, who has been working as a prostitute to earn pocket money. And there's some necrophilia too. But it's all in good fun, you know.

Is this the same Japan that blurs out genitals in porn films? Even in puritan America that doesn't happen.

I heard the genitalia censorship is a western influence, but I haven't found a really solid source. This is from a Cracked article:

>Despite what the censored porn might imply, nudity has never been taboo in Japanese culture. Not only were women used to walking around topless, but what we call porn was just another common genre of books, like cooking or travel. Japanese porn, or shunga, was a traditional form of visual media that had no stigma attached to it. Most artists created it without violating any type of social code. They were just making pictures of people fuckin'.

>It was only in the 19th century, when Western morality came to Japan, that the Japanese government decided to crack down on such traditional practices as public nudity, in order to make the case to the West that Japan was totally a civilized country. By the time World War II rolled around, Japanese porn had gone from an everyday part of Japanese culture to a demonized art form that, as the Pulitzer-winning expert John W. Dower noted, now inexplicably valued idealized Western versions of beauty, like long legs and big tits.


That was my understanding. Censorship got seriously going during the Meiji Restoration in 1868. And it got strengthened after Japan's surrender in WWII.

And it wasn't just sex that got censored. It became illegal to criticize the occupation government, object to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, complain about Japan's loss of the war, etc, etc.

As I understand it, that's what the 50s monster movies were about. The monsters were metaphors for the nuclear and firestorm attacks on civilian populations.

Those laws no longer exist. And so Miike gets into those issues in a few films. "Izo", for example, begins with an extended fast-motion contemplation of WWII, ending with the nuclear attacks. But "Izo" is more generally about the absurdity of nationalism, and how it's used by the powerful to control the masses. Indeed, it takes on all forms of authoritarianism, including religion.

Yep, it is.

So there's less censorship involving age or species, but pixilated genitalia. Go figure.

For example, in Miike's "Fudoh: The New Generation", there's a ~preteen assassin who uses a blow gun that's hidden in her vagina. There's one sequence where she's performing in a strip club, popping balloons (and hitting her target with a poisoned dart). And yes, the actress was 22 when the film was shot, but she looks a lot younger.

But not all genitalia. For example, there's the Kanamara Matsuri ("Festival of the Steel Phallus").[0] And some anime includes extremely detailed genitalia.

0) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanamara_Matsuri

I just read a plot summary of Visitor Q… seems completely and utterly ridiculous. Who even comes up with such grotesque stuff?

>Who even comes up with such grotesque stuff?

An internationally-renowned and highly influential director.

Takashi Miike reminds me a lot (in various ways) of Luis Buñuel, David Cronenberg, Jean-Luc Godard, David Lynch, Sam Peckinpah, and Quentin Tarantino. And (yes) Akira Kurosawa.

His 2010 "13 Assassins" is a true classic of the samurai genre. Clearly "Seven Samurai" level.

My understanding is thst no one's actually saying 'sex bad', it's just that sex is a private endevour while violence is more universal.

In America maybe? I don't live in a violent society, you can spend decades not getting involved in violence but every spring there is sex in the air.

I live in Britain actually.

The Church is definitely saying sex is bad, sex is a sin, must only be used for making children, not for pleasure, even in married couples.

It's insane.

If you mean the Catholic Church, that is incorrect. That teaching is that sex is good, sex is not a sin by itself, but must happen in the correct context of a mutually consenting married couple and must be ‘open to conception’ (i.e. no artificial changes to the procreative ‘mechanisms’, such as condoms or birth control.) They even teach ‘Natural Family Planning’, which is basically how to enjoy sex in rhythm with woman’s fertility cycle so as to ‘naturally’ avoid conception.

Not practicing Catholic anymore but that’s what I was taught from the Catechism et al several years ago as a convert.

Sex clearly isn't a sin unto itself because it's needed for making children, so it's not that. If this was it why wouldn't pornography of married couples be a-ok?

You missed the "not for pleasure" part.

No I didn't, by your logic breeding pornography of married couples should be ok.

Come on, that's ignorant. Nobody is saying that.

I went to a Catholic secondary school. Some people definitely were saying that.

I did, too, and never heard it. Maybe you're confusing the idea that you shouldn't have sex not for procreation (ie the stance against birth control) with the idea that sex is only for procreation? IOW the Catholic teaching is that procreation is a necessary but not sufficient reason for sex.

Plausible. It was about 20 years ago now.

I think a lot of it's for the kids. Kids are naturally violent but shouldn't be having sex.

Kids shouldn’t really be violent, both in their childhood and throughout the rest of their lives.

Yeah but leave them alone and one will hit the other. You need adult supervision to stop it all going Lord of the Flies.

If you leave kids alone they also “play doctor”. What’s natural is a poor indicator for what’s a good idea (that said, it’s generally agreed that kids playing doctor is generally a healthy activity — the same is decidedly not true for hitting each other, or other forms of violence).

What's interesting to me is how Americans don't bat an eye on all the violence exposed in movies, music and games, but then become prudish when it comes to sex. And these are the traits of the exported American culture.

In my European country it is perfectly normal to have pictures of your children naked. It's also OK for them to see a nude body now and then, like at the beach (and yes I am aware that I'm not talking about all of Europe, some countries ban nudity in public). But do that in the US and you risk being labeled as a pedophile.

I love how freedom of speech is protected by the US constitution, certainly a model to follow for the rest of us, however banning adult content while allowing violence, white nationalism and xenophobia is a huge double standard that gets exported to the rest of the world too.

So as a citizen of an EU country that's not prudish about sex, why do I have to suffer from the censorship of US companies?

And honestly, do you like it when you see actors like Tom Cruise not kissing the girl in his movies, possibly because it needs to be played in China?

Another thing I saw in US is that they can't make the distinction between hardcore porn, soft porn, erotica, nudity and showing some cleavage.

I used to work at a European game company that made erotic games for PocketPC. Our biggest market was US, and most negativity also came from US. Video striptease is labeled as "porn".

What they preach is very different from how they act. You cannot say fuck or shit on tv or internet, but in real life everyone does it.

When Janet Jackson show a nipple on TV, it's a huge fuzz. But having a colleagues gathering in a striptease bar is normal.

I'm pretty sure the prudish public behavior enforces the excessive private behavior.

Video striptease sounds to me like porn and I am not American. What else would it be, seriously?

Is it really normal to colleagues gathering in a striptease bar? Cause I did not encountered it, through I heard people complain about some teams and companies doing that. But that is it - complains+anger not acceptance as norm.

In Europe we label portraying sexy nude women as erotica. Playboy is not porn to us, it's erotica. Porno is something completely different, and explicitly shows having intercouse. Having only 1 general name for everything probably doesn't make it easier to make a distinction.

I know US colleagues who regulary go to striptease bars. It seems more normal in US than in EU.

Is a striptease bar a strip club? If so, I don’t think it’s that uncommon. Me and my coworkers would sometimes go to strip-clubs after work. Including female colleagues.

Not as often as regular clubs or bars, but not a rare event.

> You cannot say fuck or shit on tv

What TV shows are you talking about? Kids shows? American television in general is full of profanity. Some shows have way higher profanity content than what’s observed in real life, they always makes me wonder if certain demographics really fucking talk like that all the time.

Beeping away words is something you will never see/hear in European productions. "What the beep are you talking about you son of a beep". Jerry Springer comes to mind.

European movies also have no trouble showing fully nude males, something you will never see in Hollywood.

The sensoring in texts like f*ck is also seen a lot online.

You’re right, some cable networks do the beep thing, others don’t. Guess I’ve been self-selected to be biased towards the latter category; I haven’t heard a beep for quite a while.

All over the air networks don't have profanity (ABC, NBC, CBS, CW--you know, the big ones) because of FCC rules. Cable is not covered by FCC laws and their shows can freely swear (though I was surprised by the most recent seasons of Happy and Mr. Robot not bleeping their F-words on cable as it used to be verboten just a couple years ago).

>American television, in general, is full of profanity.

(FTFY) Are you confusing "private airwaves" (e.g.: subscriptions) with "public airwaves"? If so, see the FCC's position here[0].

[0] - https://www.fcc.gov/general/obscenity-indecency-and-profanit...

Yes. It can be pretty common. It’s been a while since I was in the oil business but there were plenty of people who had trouble getting a few sentences out without a fuck or a shit.

I do know a few tech people who cuss quite a bit but it’s certainly not super-common abd, increasingly, there’s also a greater sensitivity to language etc. that someone will take offense to even if in your mind it’s perfectly ok.

Born in Europe but domesticated in USA, where I live for last 17 years. Its funny how your mindset change because of all the signals we constantly receive through media and just living around.

A story from last summer. I went to Italy to visit some friends. We pulled over at the gas station. Regular spot with regular stuff that any station sells. And with huge newspaper stand. I took first colorful magazine, turn second page and there I see an old man dressed in all jeans, with big beard smiling, holding what could be maximum 2-months old baby... all naked wearing only shoes. Baby's penis is sticking out and the way the man holds him or her is that his hand is under it, basically holding newborn's ballsack. All in color, bright and proud, second page, a newspaper about clothes that you can buy in every single newspaper store across Italy. It was commercial for supposedly oldest shoe company in Italy and the idea is that after you are born, first thing your parents put on your are shoes. I did not know whether to be shocked or what. I showed it to my Italian friends and they looked at me "what?". And then I was dumb enough to take a photo of it. I don't know... I guess wanted to show folks in USA how ads in Europe look like. Of course totally forgot about it later on.

Until a cold sweat showered me when all of sudden, when a Board Patrol agent asked me a random question: any suspicious photography you took on your European trip that I should know about ... on your laptop or your phone? No idea where he got it from... perhaps he was a mind reader or something. I barely could say "nope", but God only knows how much trouble I would have been had I told him the truth...

Sometimes you have to be super careful when you travel across the big pond... Not all laws rules and regulations are all the same everywhere, boys and girls :)

An eye-opening moment for me was when the game 'Bulletstorm' released in 2011. It was heavily criticized when it launched (and even before) but for vastly different reasons.

Germany had a HUGE problem with the violence (even the 18+ version has blood and dismemberment removed), US criticized the sexuality (two achievements were called 'topless' and 'gang bang'), and in Japan it was about the promotion of drugs (you could get drunk to perform extra skill shots) and to a lesser extent about the violence.

So every cultural region has its own ideas of what their children need to be shielded from (and what to blame social misconduct on). But they all fail to realize that the children of the others, who get exposed to the 'bad stuff', still turn out fine by some miracle.

Fail to be convinced, rather?

The United States is quite a violent place and it is reflected in its media. With multiple wars on going and a huge weapons industry people have become to accept it as normal. Prison rape is accepted as something that just happens and police across the nation are armed like military.

>The United States is quite a violent place...

This does not address the OP's question in any way.

The US is also quite a sexy place, with a lot of sex happening. Last time I heard, everyone's parents had sex at least once, and most people had it multiple times over the course of their lives!

Why then we censor this, by every definition, commonplace activity?

All of these things (violence guns, police, censorship, etc) are about controlling people and restricting freedom. "Land of the free" is an advertising slogan; America is one of the least free countries there is.

It reminds me of the story about the TV show Hannibal. There was an episode where a couple was murdered and flayed but because they were naked and their butt cracks were visible, the network wanted to censor the scene. The solution? Fill it with blood. The network's happy and they get to keep their TV-14 rating.

> So as a citizen of an EU country that's not prudish about sex, why do I have to suffer from the censorship of US companies?

Conversely, I found out after travelling a lot in Europe, making foreigner friends and moving to another state it's not about being prudish about sex but about nudity.

From my (admittedly limited) experience Americans are much less prudish about sex than Europeans (especially Western EU countries) but leagues more prudish about nudity.

I actually find it more reasonable coming from Poland. We should keep nudity private and at the same time be able to let ourself go and be free when interacting intimately with another human.

Again, from my experience, Germany (my new country of residence) is extremely open about nudity while at the same time being similarly repressed about sexuality. This actually made me understand why Slavic people consider Germanic people to be "cold" or "passionless" (no offence intended).

> Again, from my experience, Germany (my new country of residence) is extremely open about nudity while at the same time being similarly repressed about sexuality.

It's notable that younger people have a way more repressed sexuality than folks which are in the 35..40 to 60ish age bracket currently.

Ok that's actually very interesting. I noticed a similar pattern but didn't want to put too much to it.

A large contributing factor is probably that younger people have a lot less sex and start to have sex much later than e.g. their parents.

What causes that?

The older generations were the first freed by birth control to have more sex, and their rebellion against the established sexual norms (and their parents) is part of what defined them.

Today’s young Germans are growing up in a culture that accepts non-marital sexual relations, there is nothing to rebel against so it is not such a defining dimension of their culture.

Furthermore, you could also posit that some of the young people see how the “swinging” lifestyle affected their families. Might have worked out great for a lot of people but probably really hurt some others.

I have one swinging uncle who happily swapped wives in the 1980s, but other members of my family just ended up bitter and alone over similar circumstances.

Then you look at your grandparents or great grandparents who were miserable, but at least they were miserable together and always had each other :-)

> So as a citizen of an EU country [...] why do I have to suffer from the censorship of US companies?

Technically, because you volunteer to. If the internet companies on your continent are not relieving your suffering, it's either the fault of them or an extremely unfortunate side effect of applying the lowest common denominator of laws on a global medium. Considering the latter, one might similarly question why other countries have to suffer the internet censorship laws of EU countries/companies.

Speaking of double standards, I do find it amusing that depending upon the article one might either despise or cheer country-specific rules affecting the global internet. We should be mindful that others may not share our morals when we impose our will on a global medium. Instead we should apply our morals to ourselves and try to encourage what we want instead of punitively trying to get our way.

Blocking "controversial" things is cheaper for social media companies than keeping them up (most of the times); they're not in the business of making a fair and enjoyable platform. They're in the business of selling you: useless subscriptions, paid propaganda, items you once searched but have no interest in or have already bought recently, questionable financial/legal services and of course everything else that would make them even slightly more money.

It's not like Facebook actively wants to choose the things that should be banned, they really do not care. It's just that their analysis shows that they could make more money blocking a few nipples because advertisers will pay more on average, and given the choice a company will chose profit over the wellbeing of their product.

I actually like the EU clamping down on internet companies (although it's far from perfect, to say the least). Companies shouldn't have so much power over society they should be controlled by society or they will just spiral towards money like a paperclip factory AI spiralling towards paperclips.

Why should it be fair that a newspaper is responsible for the public letters and ads they publish, but Facebook should not be responsible for the public's messages and ads they publish just because they don't print on paper but use the internet? If a company makes money off public content, the company should be liable for it. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

Finally, it's not about people "volunteering" to abide by rules of a social media company. If it would be about the user, they would just make a setting and let the users choose for themselves what they do and do not want to see. It is in fact about advertisers dictating rules and internet companies seeing nothing in their way from screwing over their users in order to make more money.

We've seen this before, companies screwing people over to make money when there are no/weak regulations. The internet should be free, but companies generating revenue from it should be regulated.

America's attitude towards sex is more nuianced than just being prudish. On some fronts it's also hyper sexual: Music videos, advetisments, going-out fashion, tons of the world's porn is made in the US, etc.

My theory is that these two attitudes, the surface level prudishness and the hyper sexuality are actually a reaction to each other, pushing them both to become more extreme as time goes by.

This. What is wrong with nudity? What is wrong if a child sees a dick or a titty? Why are ashamed? Why is nudity such an awful thing?

It’s a religion thing primarily.

It is not. China, India, and most of Asia have similar or more restrictive attitudes toward nudity as the US and there is no God decreeing that you can’t have sex or be sexual.

The lack of real analysis demonstrated in this topic, the western centric thinking (US vs. Europe), and broad generalizations are just disappointing for a forum full of supposedly smart people.

Thanks for the implication that I’m not smart - I’m sorry to have disappointed you.

More nuanced version of my post - cultural memory is frequently anti sex in many situations almost anywhere you go. Confucianism has tons of taboos around sex. Hindis have fewer but Indian society still has a lot of leftover laws from when the Protestant UK was determining social policy.

The places you see sex positivity and a lack of taboos over nudity are much more secular on measure.

People use this explanation as a copout, have you considered why a religion would have such an attitude?

It's superstitious nonsense. Presumably it's historical and a means to control people.

Lets assume so, why specifically would these these rules be useful in controlling people?

I don't know if you're trying some Socratic method thing here. Mind just telling me what your favoured hypothesis is, if that's the case?

It's obvious that religious beliefs have poor epistemological backing and (to me) idiotic to hold. But I'm curious if you've got some novel hypothesis for their existence.

I'm religious, but speaking within the materialist framework I'd say that the uncovering of oneself is part of a mating ritual, and that by giving such a signal one without the need one is in some way being dishonest, abusive (i.e: to harass or take advantage of) or even enroaching on the relationship of another. If a person were to be exposed in front of a child it would point towards that person having certain desires for that child.

As for why uncovering oneself is a reasonable mating ritual, I believe it is similar to how in the same way that if you have a gun and are going to shoot someone you would indicate as such to ward them off by pulling your gun out of its holster.

I see. Thank you for sharing your ideas with me.

No worries, good discussion.

Could you expand?

I honestly don't understand why people compare the two.

We process fake violence and sexual content very differently. When we see someone get their head blown off in a movie it's over the top and ridiculous. Often times it's used to tell us that something major has happened while being very different from reality.

I've seen videos on liveleak that are absolutely horrific. And yet I've seen much more gruesome scenes in movies that don't make me bat an eye.

Whereas with sexual content there's no difference between naked bodies. I am sure that scenes from shows on hbo will illicit the same reaction as pornographic material.

Also, violence is easy to explain, sexuality and complex hormonal feelings are not. That's why you can have outlandish violence because a kid knows what getting hit is like and what real life physics are like whereas stuff related to sexuality opens up such a large can of worms - what's too sexually liberal, what kind of a message it sends about self worth, social norms with something kids aren't familiar with, etc.

And before someone nitpicks my response, yes the culture and systems around ratings when it comes to nudity aren't always logical or consistent, but my main point is that I don't see why these two things are compared when they're completely different things.

You’re showing the exact cultural bias that the GP is talking about.

It's actually even weirder. If Janet Jackson shows a bit of a tit on US television, it's a national scandal for a week (same in the UK). In France or in Italy, you regularly have full frontal nudity of both sex in movies or even in some commercials!

But go to a gym. In the US or the UK, people will happily wander around naked and shower together without thinking anything about it. In France and Italy, there are cabins everywhere to enforce the most strict prudery.

I think the sex is just so powerful for people that they need others to be regulated so that they themselves may be regulated. I find it striking when people campaign vigorously against sex education or contraception -- instruments of sexual liberty.

I agree, but your last paragraph highlights the problem. Whose moral standards do we have to follow? It seems like everyones (or at least a subset of nations with enough spending power).

Everything ends up lowest common denominator. Probably why I don't watch Tom Cruise films anymore.

> What's interesting to me is how Americans don't bat an eye on all the violence exposed in movies, music and games, but then become prudish when it comes to sex.

I think one reason is that violence is much easier to fake than sex.

Is it? European movies have more sex in them and often have smaller budgets.

> I think one reason is that violence is much easier to fake than sex.

If this was Reddit this line would spawn a comment thread longer than MAX_INT.

What you say about those baby pictures is quite true. My American in-laws thought it was strange my family took those of me when I was a baby.

One of the first times I traveled to the USA, I was watching TV in my hotel room and caught some sort of documentary about art. They were showing a painting by Gustav Klimt and the nipples were blurred out. I couldn't believe it! I knew about American prudishness over nudity and sex, but I didn't know it went that deep. It made me want to learn more about the phenomenon.

Some common explanations:

- The USA is just way more religious overall;

- Pilgrims were the most radical protestant Christians, they were kicked out of Europe and then spread their social norms in the USA, in a very early moment of the development of American culture. Also, according to Max Weber, and to simplify things a lot :), Protestantism = Capitalism;

- Colonization is risky business, enormous territories were available and increasing the population was urgent. This could explain both acceptance of guns/violence and the need to regulate sexual behavior.

I think there is at least some truth to all of the above, but I always feel unsatisfied. There are so many confounding factors. For example, in Europe the catholic south is more sexually repressive than the protestant north, perhaps with the exception of the UK. But the north is also more atheistic overall. Anglo culture overall seems to me to have some specific flavor of sexual repression that I don't feel from other European cultures. Maybe I'm just more used to the catholic flavor.

I have this cynical suspicion that, for a large scale society such as a country to be possible, and for people to accept collaborating with the project somehow, some tabu must be created. At least one dimension of personal fulfillment must be out of the control of the individual. This is very simplistic but, in modern USA the tabu is sex, in modern Europe it is money. I think it is common for revolutions to destroy one tabu and create another. For example, left-wing revolutions tend to point at sexual tabus as "bourgeois values". But communists can also be super socially conservative.

Yet another detail: the differences in attitude towards sex and nudity in USA vs Europe also apply to alcohol. I feel that alcohol is both way more regulated and seen as more "naughty" in the USA than in Europe.

Perhaps someone here can point me in other interesting directions. Sorry for all the rambling :)

> The USA is just way more religious overall; - Pilgrims were the most radical protestant Christians, they were kicked out of Europe and then spread their social norms in the USA, in a very early moment of the development of American culture.

Exactly, and most Americans are quite unaware of the brutal history and behaviors of the Pilgrims. They celebrate Pilgrims at Thanksgiving and teach kids only about the ships they sailed on (the Mayflower, an iconic name), not about how Pilgrims burned each other alive if they did not satisfy the religious standards of the culture. America was built on this mentality, yet it is never taught and it seeps through the culture.

The salem witch-hunts are taught but agree on the back burner.

Not only on the back burner, but as some kind of weird, separate thing. No one is connecting the dots to the puritans.

History is taught like the news is reported, disconnected incidents. I am reminded of the children in Mad Max reciting how they crashed on their airplane.

>Not only on the back burner, but as some kind of weird, separate thing. No one is connecting the dots to the puritans.

True. It's why they repeated the very same prosecution complex trap during McCarthyism. Same finger-pointing scenario, it was just a different boogeyman to be afraid of - so it wasn't "the same".

Hate to break it to you, but witch hunts were a European thing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt#Early_Modern_Europe

The Salem affair is notable as "that one time we did the thing"; also, we hung our witches, we didn't burn them.

Sure these folks were Europeans, perhaps selected for nastiness.

Aren't these Victorian era leftovers? It would explain UK and USA to some extent. Also I'm not sure, but isn't Spain also more relaxed in case of nudity?

In general, superstitious behavior tends to win over non-superstitious behavior, even if it is a small minority.

For example, say there are two communities in a given town; one of the community has decided that black doors were evil, and won't go through them. The other community doesn't care.

Shops that have black doors lose the business of the superstitious community; even if that community is small, it simply makes no sense for a shop owner to keep a black door, whereas if the door is another color, it will cause no problem with anyone. And so, pretty soon there will be no black doors anywhere.

This may appear controversial, but the fact is you can't fight superstition with openness because openness accepts superstition and lets it grow and conquer everything. The only way to combat superstition is to actively fight it.

Taleb has a piece on this exact observation https://medium.com/incerto/the-most-intolerant-wins-the-dict...

How would it apply to slavery? I.e., a small but not insignificant portion of people thought that slavery was bad (namely the slaves themselves). Yet, slavery continued for quite a long time.

This wouldn't apply at all, because the majority needs to be indifferent, and there should be no other minority demanding the opposite.

One real-world example is Coca Cola [0].

While most of the consumers probably don't care, influence of a small but committed minority made Coca Cola kosher, halal, and vegan.

[0] https://www.sciencehistory.org/distillations/magazine/the-re...

I'm not sure veganism counts as a superstition.

I guess it depends on the point of view because there are several versions of veganism out there and not every single of them is as rational as the other.

If veganism is concerned about not "eating any kind of animal product", then it's clearly fictitious once you consider the fact that animals such as insects/mites leave residues wherever they go, and in stuff like pure fruit juices there is always a chance of % of insect content because of the nature of production methods and infestation.

Now, if it is defined it veganism as "reducing animal suffering", it makes more sense but then it makes less sense for them to be so strict from a dietary standpoint - for example they could allow themselves to eat eggs from free roaming chickens feeding themselves from herbs and insects they find if what matters most is the reduction of industrial exploitation of chickens in cages.

Let's just say conviction (in this case, it was also just a side effect).

There are many people who are vegans for religious reasons, just like other religious dietary restrictions.

By my calculation just about half (maybe just 1/3rd) of the world population doesn't eat pork for various reasons, and Coca Cola is an international brand, so be careful who you call a minority.

Of course I just added practitioners of religions that forbid the consumption of pork together and I'm aware some of those eat pork anyways (because they don't adhere to it too closely), but still: It will be a sizeable market.

A minority almost always refers to a group that comprises less than half of the population, so I think the label was apt.

Depends on the superstition, if it were "you should say 'black door' every time you see one [and you'll have good luck]" then it would make no difference. It would neither inhibit nor encourage those of the out-group.

Let's look at religion: if my religion says "give money to orphans" then you don't need to fight it, it doesn't harm you, if it says "make everyone who's not part of our group subservient or dead" then you must fight it.

Actively fighting a superstition that is not harmful would count as it's own superstition, it's not logically driven.

"give money to orphans" is harmful to you when the target is your 90 year old mother for her social security check that would otherwise allow her to be financially independant. Doubly harmful when a very small percent, if any, actually goes to helping orphans and instead supports the continuation of the predetory practice.

So you mean when it means something entirely different?

If it were "force others to give money to orphans" or "steal money that's set aside for orphans" then you'd perhaps have a point.

Unless, you're trying to say it's impossible to have someone hold a [superstitious] belief that doesn't impact others negatively?

The situation outlined in the article isn't the "live and let live" kind. Where you do something for yourself or for someone else and don't expect anything further (donate to your cause). It's the kind where you wish your preferences be imposed on everyone else for your benefit (force everybody to donate to your cause). It's hard to decide what "harmful" is as far as superstitions go, everybody will see it differently.

And human nature makes it so most people only push things they don't see as a direct or major inconvenience and ignore the rest. I don't like to see sex on the internet? Nobody should see it.

How many people claiming they do something to uphold some values actually uphold more than the values they find easy or effortless? Superstitions or people's interpretation of religion are the same. It's always "don't walk through the black door", never "when you see a broken door fix it for free". It's "homosexuality is a sin", never "lying is a sin". Everything is ok as long as it falls perfectly within the framework you operate under, the values you consider worthy of appreciation.

"give money to orphans" isn't superstition - it's charity, and is being done for an actual good (amelioration of poverty).

Superstition by definition is when the true utility is zero, and the imagined utility is >0.

> Let's look at religion: if my religion says "give money to orphans" then you don't need to fight it, it doesn't harm you, if it says "make everyone who's not part of our group subservient or dead" then you must fight it.

Go and tell the legislators.

Where does the fight start, and where does it end?

And what's the consequence of "we (the people who don't believe it) need to fight it"?

I ask you these questions because they are really issues we are facing as a society based on freedom of speech (and religion).

I would say that fighting the mindset that leads to superstitious notions would be the most logical. It isn’t necessary to be superstitious if one is educated about biases and logic

Exactly what is happening with planes. I'm still astonished every time I get into one and see the missing row 13. It's so ridiculous...

Especially if you are superstitious and sit in row 14, you must know that this is actually row 13 undercover!

Don't forget to also avoid row 12 just to be sure!

They could have counted the seats from zero, but labelled them from 1.

Most planes I’ve noticed start at like row 4

They should compensate by having two row 8s, row 8.8 and row 8.88 to keep the Chinese happy.

Some buildings don't have any floors labeled with a 4 because it is unlucky in China.


In the future we might have array libraries that provide arrays that don't have the 4th element.

That's preposterous, they should just throw an UnluckyIndexAccessException depending on the host's locale.

But only after the software is in production, at some random time.

Something more relevant to contemporary society is that it also works with prudishness, but through a different effect. Rather than a loss of business there will be a loss of support for non-prudish behavior.

As an example imagine video games that have characters in skimpy outfits. A tiny minority may complain about this. And it's often the case that this minority is not even actually a consumer of the products they're complaining about. But there will rarely be any meaningful voice against this minority going, "Wait.. no, I want my characters in skimpy outfits." Because to do so it makes you look like some sort of 'something' that's certainly undesirable. And so from the perspective a company that may not be particularly well attuned to its own userbase, it will see 100% of respondents on a given topic support censorship, 0% oppose it. That's not such a hard choice to make.

[1] - https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-01-25/video-gam...

Something similar happened recently with Subway in Singapore. They have stopped serving bacon to comes to terms with Halal certification in order to get more business from primarily Muslims.

I don't buy this argument. It works for things like "unlucky" numbers others mention, where there is basically no economic side effect (outside superstitious group no one cares about their seat number)

Shops that didn't sell black doors would be losing business from non-superstitious people looking to buy black doors, which might be a bigger factor if superstitious group is relatively small.

I think adult content is more similar to black doors than seat numbers.

>Shops that didn't sell black doors would be losing business from non-superstitious people looking to buy black doors, which might be a bigger factor if superstitious group is relatively small.

It's not about selling, is about having black doors of your store. If 10% of the people absolutely refused to go through a black door (because of some BS religious reason for example), stores would either paint their black doors some other color, or lose 10% of potential customers. Guess what most will chose. The 90% of the people who are indifferent to door color wont make any difference.

Here's a better version of the argument: https://medium.com/incerto/the-most-intolerant-wins-the-dict...

I think the OP was not speaking about selling black doors, but having black doors in their shop, e.g. the entrance.

They mean the entry door of the shop, not what the shop sells.

> This may appear controversial, but the fact is you can't fight superstition with openness because openness accepts superstition and lets it grow and conquer everything. The only way to combat superstition is to actively fight it.

You're assuming an awful lot of human cognition that doesn't seem justified. Firstly, that superstition "grows". In fact, empirically, the opposite seems to be the case: people have become naturally less superstitious over time. We have more atheists now than ever. This trend was well established long before the New Atheists, so don't try to attribute it to them.

Secondly, actively fighting any deeply held belief engenders feelings of oppression, causing in-group solidarity and out-group hostility to increase. When facts side with the out-group, then this lead to "alternative facts" and the erosion of social cohesion and compromise. Which is where we are now. "Fighting a culture war" with fellow citizens and leaving the population vulnerable to propaganda and destabilization efforts from foreign powers.

Now that's dangerous.

I respectfully disagree.

We are not less superstitious than our forebearers, at least not the ones we know something about, such as, for instance, members of the Enlightenment (including the Founding fathers of the US). When we say we are getting less and less superstitious we usually compare ourselves to some version of the "cavemen" we know absolutely nothing about, that we use as a straw-man.

Secondly, "actively fighting deeply held beliefs" is probably the only way to go, because if we don't, then said beliefs simply win over. Black doors don't matter any which way, but there are things that matter. For example, anti-vax people should be convinced first, but if they can't be convinced, they need to be ostracized, because they threaten the existence of the group. They may resent it and be very upset about it, but that's a small price to pay for survival.

> Enlightenment (including the Founding fathers of the US). When we say we are getting less and less superstitious we usually compare ourselves to some version of the "cavemen" we know absolutely nothing about, that we use as a straw-man.

So you think 23% Enlightment-era peasants were religiously unaffiliated, like 23% of Americans are now? Some European countries are even majority atheist. You're also claiming that these countries had exactly these demographics even 200 hundred years ago?

> Secondly, "actively fighting deeply held beliefs" is probably the only way to go, because if we don't, then said beliefs simply win over.

That's speculation for one, and two, "actively fighting" can mean many things, some of which are constructive, some of which are not.

Yeah the logic checks out, but is fighting it any better? In this case there are basically 2 options. Create a competing superstition that says black doors are good, or make laws requiring doors to be painted black. So now you either have 2 superstitions or something a whole lot worse than a superstition. In this case it's probably better to just live with not having black doors.

> Create a competing superstition that says black doors are good, or make laws requiring doors to be painted black.

Or, you know, that the color of the door doesn't matter? I fail to see how that'll be a superstition.

It isn't. And the point of the initial comment is that it loses out to a superstition.

that's another example of Popper's paradox of tolerance.

> Popper's paradox of tolerance.

Except there's zero empirical data to support the existence of this alleged "paradox". In the meantime, it's used to justify all sorts of intolerance of its own. Paradox indeed.

It's not superstitious, it's a measure of caring. The superstitious in this case care very strongly about not having black doors, and they vote with their wallets. The other folks do not give a damn either way, and so shops stop painting doors black.

Imagine a small subgroup decides they really, really love black doors. They will pay double price for a black door because they are so hard to find. Shop owner will satisfy that demand or lose that market to a competitor who's willing to step over that line.

Capitalism is an elegant system for resource allocation, really. I wish more people understood it.

> Capitalism is an elegant system for resource allocation, really. I wish more people understood it.

It heavily depends on who you are and the type of capitalism in question. The present implementation in many places seems less than elegant.

For example CEO pay has been skyrocketing compared to worker wages precisely because as companies have more and more resources, they don't have a reasonable means to distribute them fairly, so they just dump the majority of the proceeds on the top management as a lazy hack.

I know it's not perfect, but that really misses the forest for the trees. I for one agree we need to find a way to redistribute that wealth, but what exactly generated all of that ridiculous wealth on the first place?

And people have access to more advanced goods and services than ever at unprecedentedly cheap prices. Again, I agree we need to lift up our lower class right now, but by many metrics, it's better to be impoverished today than to be middle class 50 years ago, and I think people forget that or don't want to admit it.

I am not saying capitalism as such is terrible, or that we should abolish it etc. What I do think we need is to have a more healthy mix of properly regulated capitalism, higher taxation of top earners, closing loopholes and corporations storing cash overseas and healthy social programs, infrastructure development etc.

As for " it's better to be impoverished today than to be middle class 50 years ago", there was certainly less access to all kinds of goods, but there was much more job security as well, (you could work for a single company all your career), there was also more opportunity to own a house at a younger age and move higher up the ladder with lower education and less debt.

What you also need to look at is things like student debt, 50 years ago, higher education was free at the point of use. Now, it puts you into dept at an enormously young age, before you even fully realize what it all means.

Well, if I understand correctly, you are arguing against the phrase, "Capitalism is an elegant system for resource allocation". But I still haven't parsed what your argument actually is, beyond, some people have gotten left behind, which is certainly true.

I also don't understand the mindset that it's somehow somebody else's fault when a person accumulates student debt. Like, I'm sorry you made a poor choice, but nobody physically twisted your arm and made you take this loan. Protecting people from their own bad decisions is not, in my mind, proper regulation of capitalism. It's the infantilization of grown adult citizens. Butt I'm open to having my mind changed.

> some people have gotten left behind, which is certainly true.

Yeah, which probably shouldn't happen in an 'elegant' system, you know?

> I also don't understand the mindset that it's somehow somebody else's fault when a person accumulates student debt. Like, I'm sorry you made a poor choice, but nobody physically twisted your arm and made you take this loan.

That's a grossly simplistic view of the matter. I am saying that if your parents did not have to take out a loan to get higher education, why should you? If capitalism is so elegant why? It should elegantly allocate resources so that it's not necessary.

As for nobody twisting your arm, you're of course right in the literal sense, but many higher paying jobs require candidates to have a higher education, so if you want to get on that economic ladder at all, in many cases you're forced into it by societal expectations. But even if it weren't so, what 'elegant' system makes progress by allowing the next generation to grow within it to obtain less free education than their parents? That doesn't seem like progress to me.

Moreover, student debt is a problem for the broader society as well, because if young people cannot participate in the economy to the same degree as their parents, be ready for some stagnation.

Oh, and as for student debt, maybe it's possible that a human economic system where nobody has to do grunt work, heavy lifting, manual labor, or exist lower on a hierarchy than anybody else is completely unsustainable. In fact, I question why anyone _would_ think that would be sustainable.

Except that's not what am advocating for. Predatory capitalism or sci-fi communism aren't the only two possibilities. Your comment is absolutely irrelevant.

Just because you don't see how something is relevant doesn't mean it actually is irrelevant.

What I'm saying is, we've built a culture and society where it's expected that everyone should have access to higher education, and so families go into debt to achieve it. In reality, our economy will get completely hollowed out if everybody is in debt for higher education, the jobs to support all that debt don't exist, and meanwhile plenty of jobs (trades, manual labor, service) go unfulfilled because nobody wants them. This isn't science fiction, it's what's happening now.

Did it ever occur to you that perhaps more and more people want to get into higher education, because the manual jobs don't pay what they used to?, (wages have not generally kept up with inflation and productivity rises). You know when the higher education option was also free to boot?

I know right?

Elegant: (of a scientific theory or solution to a problem) pleasingly ingenious and simple.

I'm not implying any of the characteristics you think I am. Capitalism is simple and effective, and IMO beautiful in the way it works at a systemic level.

That doesn't mean nobody gets left behind, not by a long shot. You know what else has been an elegant an unmatched algorithm/system for making life better? Evolution. In all of its brutal beauty, it leaves behind many in its path with premature mortality or failure to reproduce. And yet it's culminated in the human race. It wasn't mysteriously directed by some higher force, it just worked.

Hmm, I see what you're saying, but many would argue that evolution is not particularly elegant, in fact rather crude. However let's go with your assumption anyway. I still don't think present-day capitalism works elegantly, the quite regular boom-bust cyclest are a testament of that.

It "works" because it has to, when it doesn't we do bailouts and then it "works" again etc. in other words anything works if a society is organized in such a way that it doesn't know or contemplate anything else. If you only know one style of music, that music "works" for you, because it sort of has to.

My point is, capitalism as it is today is one that even The Wealth of Nations doesn't agree with.

Now that doesn't mean every aspect of capitalism is bad etc. No, in fact when it works as intended it can indeed be quite elegant. the problem is it often doesn't work as it was envisioned. We therefore need to look at other systems, pull some positive aspects from them, tweak the current capitalist system so that it works more like it was supposed to, that's all am saying.

Some would say it works in spite of our interjections, not because of them. If we didn't bail out bad actors, they'd likely go bankrupt and the system would work around them. I'm not saying there's no pain involved. In fact, there can be quite a bit for individuals. But at the system level, there's a reason capitalism had beaten out any other competing economic system, from the industrial to the information age.

True. But if you actively fight it, then your openness becomes the first casualty.

The author seems to equate facebook, google, twitter, etc with "the internet". I agree, those are some major heavy hitting players on the network, but it seems the author wants the internet of yore, where it was the wild wild west. That internet still exists, you just can not get there from facebook, google, twitter. So why do we continue to use those services?

Too be fair, these silos are the internet for a vast swathe of people. Google has always been a gateway to discovering new places on the internet and as she pointed out, they are actively suppressing search results they don't like. They don't know there are or can't find the places outside the silos.

Is that really true enough to be considered axiomatic, or is it just an expression of the tendency of technical people to assume the typical user is little smarter than a ham sandwich?

Using a small number of sites doesn't mean you don't know other sites exist. Consider the olden days of the web when discovery was, arguably, more difficult than today (the problem search engines emerged to solve.) Did people not comprehend that the web existed outside of Geocities or Yahoo? No, they still knew it was there. They may not have been able to find it, or cared to find it, but they still understood there was more "internet" out there.

Nowadays, meanwhile, almost every business has a website. Authors have websites. Political leaders, countries, movements and offices have websites. Celebrities have websites. Fandoms and communities have websites. Have you ever paid attention to just how many URLS you encounter outside of the silos, in real life, throughout the day? People are inundated with them. And, those silos tend to be content aggregators which let people post content from third party websites.

There may be some truth to the premise, but I suspect the extend is overstated in order to sell the narrative that the web is existentially under threat of corporate control and political censorship.

All student organizations at my (small) university have a website and an active public mailing list.

Yet, there is a constant push from their members for maintaining an account on Facebook. They know Facebook is evil, but "everyone is on Facebook and we have to be there to be visible".

And unfortunately they are right: announcing an event on Facebook makes it more popular.

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