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When I was younger I thought I was a few speech absolutist. Then I went to where was free speech was absolute and saw what was discussed. Now I favor moderation.



> Then I went to where was free speech was absolute and saw what was discussed.

That suffers from a selection effect. Since not many sites prioritize free speech and only allow things within some narrower region of the overton window to be discussed it follows that the more extreme positions get pushed to sites that allow more.

If, hypothetically, every site were tolerant then you wouldn't have that association.

Also note that even 8chan is still moderated, each sub-board has its own rules and there also are global rules. What it really enables is a diversity of rules, set by each sub-community. What people seem to want is for sub-communities not to be allowed to exist even though they're not illegal. And that seems pretty dangerous.


I disagree: Free speech absolutism will still involve community sorting.

In the long-term, without moderation and community standards, the bad drives out the good. If you work in a place with an absolute asshole, and nothing is being done to deal with this person, you're more likely to quietly leave for greener pastures. Meanwhile other assholes might find a kindred spirit, and join up. Repeat these interactions for a while, and you're left with a community of assholes and a toxic culture.


What you describe is just communities forming. And that's exactly what the board or subreddit model already does.


These sub-communities that people want to censor, do they have any redeeming value?

Or are you just making a slippery-slope argument that this might be a precedent for some hypothetical future censorship of something worthwhile?


> These sub-communities that people want to censor, do they have any redeeming value?

The usual example would be cartoon child pornography. Some want to see it wiped off the face of earth, others argue it provides an outlet for pedophiles.

> Or are you just making a slippery-slope argument that this might be a precedent for some hypothetical future censorship of something worthwhile?

Maybe that too, but it's more about that they are not illegal, which means the judicial system has not found that they shouldn't exist and no attempt has been made to bring about such a decision. If its not the judicial system, who should be the arbiter of communities that are allowed to exist? Do we want facebook, google and cloudflare to be community-shepherds?


> the judicial system has not found that they shouldn't exist and no attempt has been made to bring about such a decision.

I would argue this isn't necessarily true. "I know it when I see it" -- the famous quote in a SCOTUS decision on pornography/indecency is interpreted to give local communities the ability to determine what is decent/legal. In other words, there is no one court/legal standard; it varies based on regional local standards.


They can host their own if it's legal, can't they? So sure, kick them off if they're disruptive and hateful. They don't deserve a megaphone.


Not when internet infrastructure refuses to host them. Yeah, you could build your own servers, ISP, DNS provider, CDN, and DDoS protection... but that's way beyond the capability of most groups.


If, hypothetically, every site were tolerant then you wouldn't have that association.

Sure, you'd just have extreme content widely distributed, but it would still cluster within sites. Birds of a feather flock together, as the saying goes.


>When I was younger I thought I was a few speech absolutist. Then I went to where was free speech was absolute and saw what was discussed. Now I favor moderation.

How do you determine what speech is "good" and what speech is "bad"? I feel like there is no absolute way to determine this. (I am being genuine in asking, I want to know what caused this change and how you see "free speech")

All speech is good in my opinion. Some actions are bad. 8chan is supporting these actions, they've crossed the line.


> How do you determine what speech is "good" and what speech is "bad"?

Ultimately the courts determine which speech is "good" or "bad" by interpreting the law, but all property owners can determine what speech is permitted on their property (like what cloudflare is doing).

I accept some limits on free speech. I think you shouldn't be able to start a panic without cause (yelling fire in a crowded theater). I think conspiracy is a crime. I think threats are a crime. I support the idea of copyright laws even if I think our current system is bad.

From an internet freedom standpoint I think this signals we have an over dependence on cloudflare, not that we have a free speech problem.


> I think this signals we have an over dependence on cloudflare, not that we have a free speech problem.

I agree. I dislike the idea of large systems. Being able to throw their weight around is a symptom of the problem.


> I think you shouldn't be able to start a panic without cause (yelling fire in a crowded theater)

I would argue this isn't speech any more than saying a phrase to Alexa that causes an API to be called which then detonates a bomb is speech.

I define speech as expression of ideas. Basically, say I maintain a blog. Should there be limits on which ideas I'm allowed to express on that blog? Should I be thrown in jail if I express a "bad" idea?


>Basically, say I maintain a blog. Should there be limits on which ideas I'm allowed to express on that blog? Should I be thrown in jail if I express a "bad" idea?

Aren't Al Quaeda and ISIS websites shutdown all the time? If ISIS was using 8chan to spread Jihadi propaganda that ended up leading to killing on US soil, they'd be shut down quick. But since the extremists belong to a political side, it's called free speech. When Twitter/FB/YT/Reddit remove such speech, it's spun as political bias.


> Aren't Al Quaeda and ISIS websites shutdown all the time

Ironically for your argument, Cloudflare hasn't really shutdown any alleged ISIS sites. This was even noted in their first blog when shutting down the Daily Stormer.


> Should I be thrown in jail if I express a "bad" idea?

If, say, you're aware that your readers have a tendency towards "exuberance" when it comes to dogpiling / harassing / doxing / etc. people you call out on your blog and your "bad" idea expresses a wish that someone has a very bad time of things, yeah, you should definitely be looking at consequences (perhaps not jail-level, mind) for that idea.

(cf people like Gervais on Twitter who have a consequence-free dogpile mob ready to relentlessly harass anyone criticising them. Or POTUS, in the current instance.)


>From an internet freedom standpoint I think this signals we have an over dependence on cloudflare, not that we have a free speech problem.

Both can be true.


I think you shouldn't be able to start a panic without cause[.] I think threats are a crime.

Does that extend to US presidential candidates? The Democrats and Republicans both have quite a history of that. (And I am certain that if I bothered I could dig up hundreds of other examples)

Free speech curtailment never works out well no matter the motivations. It is just another control used by the powerful to advance their own interests.

Yes Cloudflare has the right as a private company to do what they want etc, etc. The argument is not narrowly about staying within legal bounds, but what _ought_ to be.

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=902894...


>How do you determine what speech is "good" and what speech is "bad"?

Speech becomes bad when it infringes on the rights of another group or individual. Where that specific line is drawn does vary, but the underlying principle is the same and one that seemingly everyone agrees with. The US happens to be near the absolute extreme to where this line is drawn.

Whether you think hate speech infringes on the rights of the targeted group is up for debate. People don't have an inherent right to not be offended (which is why I am against the few western countries that still have blasphemy laws). However, hate speech on sites like 8chan does often lead to speech that incites violence. There can be no debate that people have a right to safety. Speech that incites violence infringes on that right.


> However, hate speech on sites like 8chan does often lead to speech that incites violence.

Citation needed.


> All speech is good in my opinion. Some actions are bad. 8chan is supporting these actions, they've crossed the line.

It looks like you've just made a determination of what you consider is bad speech.


Hah. I had to re-read your post + delete my original reply rejecting that.

You got me. ;) I guess I am not as absolutionist as I thought.


I was also more of a free speech absolutist when I was younger. Now I’m more on the fence and I struggle to objectively define what is "good" and "bad" speech.


A good definition for good I've come across is:

"Anything which should be done, if done as it should, to the extent to which it should, in the place where it should, at the time when it should, and in view of the end for which it should, is called good."

Kind of explains why the distinction between good and bad remains a grey area for some.


But the idea of 'good' is there smuggled in and already present inside that word 'should', it seems to me.

p.s. Defining 'good' has been a problem for philosophy, see e.g. discussion of Moore's naturalistic fallacy[0]---a problem in trying to define good in terms of something else. Sam Harris' The Moral Landscape has been the most useful book for me on understanding ethics and what good means.

[0] https://www.britannica.com/topic/naturalistic-fallacy Not sure if that's the best link for the topic, but it's a start.


I also feel that there is no absolute way to determine what is good speech and what is bad speech, yet I also realize that the distinction exists.

Sometimes, there are clear markers. Supporting or promoting acts of violence is a poor fit for civil societies. The same can be said for other forms of harm. Yet I also view the use of speech to suppress speech as being a danger to civil societies since the intent is to discourage discourse.

Other cases are more ambiguous, mostly because I would like to live in a fairy tale world where facts and reason will win the day. This is land where others can say things that I find reprehensible and vice versa so that we can eventually arrive upon the truth. The freedom of speech is necessary in this case because we all have our preconceived notions, some of which will ultimately prove to be wrong. If the preconceived notions of individuals and societies are not challenged, it will be nearly impossible to arrive upon the truth.

The thing is that we don't live in that fairy tale world. The words of some people have more weight. That may be due to social status, connections, wealth, or other factors. Other people intentionally convey falsehoods in order to manipulate outcomes to reflect their motivations. People are also more likely to be swayed by emotion than reason, or to manipulate emotions to override reason.

Where does that leave us? I really don't know. Perhaps the freedom of speech should be regarded as an aspiration rather than as an absolute.


You're correct that there's no absolute way to determine what speech is good and bad. We can only muddle through, making value judgments. Some will be right, and some will be wrong, and hopefully we'll learn from the times we screw up.

I'd rather people have the courage to take a moral/ethical stance than to just not care about anything and ignore the negative impacts technology can have on society. If Cloudflare is wrong in this instance, or in any future instance, hopefully there will be enough backlash that they'll learn and walk it back. If they fail at learning, then we have to resort to government regulation, and hope that our governments are up to the task of doing the right thing.

At the end of the day, it's just people making decisions, all the way from the top, down to the bottom. We're all flawed and do the wrong thing sometimes, but my (perhaps naive) hope is that we're slowly converging on more right than wrong.


>8chan is supporting these actions

You don’t know anything about the chans if you think 8chan collectively supports shootings.


I don’t think they are referring to the people on it collectively. The site owners are implicitly supporting it by not moderating that type of content.


That seems like "if you're not with us you're against us" reasoning to me, it excludes the middle ground. Not banning something is not the same as endorsement.


Yes. Reasonable people "exclude the middle ground" on support for domestic terrorism.


You're in favour of censorship. Moderation is keeping discussion civil and on-topic, which interestingly enough mostly happens by itself in 'absolute free speech' spaces.

What you support is the selective suppression of ideas that you don't like. Don't call it moderation. Call it by its name. Censorship.

Cloudflare isn't 'moderating' 8chan. It's deplatforming it and enacting censorship.


"Absolute free speech" is like anarchism. I've yet to meet someone who fully practices them both yet they will preach it and condemn others with their self-righteous hypocrisy. Would you want me to come up to your kid and cuss him out for no reason? Your mom? I wouldn't even have to use foul language to bother them. Any number of reasons I could really annoy you or your loved ones with free speech and in some cases really make them fear for their life, legal or not, especially if I was famous and had an internet army to "play" with them.

Free speech is the equivalent of "utopia". It doesn't exist because even the most ardent endorsers have shown kinks in their armor where they don't want people to use it against them at certain times and certain ways. You argue against the selective suppression of ideas yet you may reply to me and tell me this idea needs suppressed. Most people already see the kinks of hypocrisy in it and have long realized it, like all other freedoms, are best used moderately so as not to infringe on the freedoms of others.


Free speech is a hard requirement for democracy, and a hard requirement of free speech is accepting the freedom of speech you find objectionable. Your nation was founded upon this principle as a cornerstone, and yet you have regressed back to ochlocracy. It wasn't even 100 years ago that any discussions of LGBT welfare were censored the same way by people with the same mindset.

> Would you want me to come up to your kid and cuss him out for no reason? Your mom?

We're talking about an online discussion group that discusses things that some, including myself, find objectionable. We're talking about whether such groups should be allowed to exist, and by extension whether those ideas should be allowed to exist. You're talking about harassment with an example that doesn't even intersect freedom of speech. Terrible strawman.

When I emigrated from the former Soviet Union, freedom of speech was one of the bigger changes in everyday life. It was also something that people were proud of and supported. They understood that it's what allows democracy to function, they understood that by definition it means supporting objectionable speech. Now I'm watching the tide turn and the same people actually supporting censorship in their own nations.

I always thought the censorship and thought-policing started with the oppressive government in the Soviet Union, I didn't believe that people initially welcomed it. But here we are, the cycle is repeating again.


We're not talking about a government shutting down 8chan. We're talking about one (of many) providers being unwilling to rebroadcast 8chan's content. (Rebroadcast, not host. Their hosting provider is still hosting them.)

I understand people's dislike for any kind of censorship, because it's immensely difficult (impossible, perhaps) to trust the people doing the censoring to be free of bias and to always do the right thing. And I agree with that!

But let's not pretend that all ideas are equal and great. That's just a flat-out falsehood. Some ideas don't deserve to see the light of day. And sure, it's difficult to trust any group to make that judgment. But doing nothing isn't a great option, either.

Don't get me wrong: I don't want to see a government making things like 8chan illegal. But I also don't want to see a government requiring that companies like Cloudflare rebroadcast 8chan's content against their will.


That's a separate discussion. How big does a corporation have to get before the government must intervene? Imagine there was only Cloudflare and nothing else. Should they still be allowed to arbitrarily de-platform ideas and individuals?

Should Visa and Mastercard be allowed to arbitrarily de-platform a business and therefore guarantee it can't operate?

Cloudflare et al are particularly heinous because they'll claim to be a dumb common carrier to protect themselves from legal action for re-hosting illegal material, and then turn around and cherry-pick exactly the kind of content they want to re-host. Can't have it both ways.


Most democracies have limits on freedom of speech. Do you think Germany is not a democracy for disallowing some references to Nazism? Do you think Finland is not a democracy since we can and have fined persons for "inciting against groups of people"? Let alone for slander and such.


We are talking about legal speech which is being de-platformed because it's unpopular. And not just a particular kind of speech, but the entire platform on which speech in general takes place.

If it were prohibited speech or if the platform was illegal, this article would not exist and neither would this discussion.

A pretty distinct contrast to the prohibited speech in your examples.


It's only legal in some countries. There are plenty of places where incitement to violence is a crime ...


Then I guess the president of the united states[1], the president of the philippines[2], the president of china[3], and all respective news corporations that broadcast their direct calls to violence should be de-platformed as well, if we're being impartial. Right?

And since we're being impartial, we should just ban entire television channels because they have broadcast these direct calls to violence. Just like 8chan is being de-platformed for a handful of posts that were submitted by users. Right?

[1] https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/donald-trump-incitement-vi...

[2] https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/04/19/philippines-duterte-inci...

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/01/hong-kong-prot...

Perhaps let's talk about the fact that the individual that precipitated this action also shared his views on twitter and facebook. And they were not removed until he became a figure of media attention. He also used facebook livestream. Time to de-platform those too, yes?


I'd be happy with the leaders of those countries being told to sit in a corner and shut up until they could stop encouraging violence.

That wasn't my point though, and I'm pretty sure you know that.


> Moderation is keeping discussion civil and on-topic, which interestingly enough mostly happens by itself in 'absolute free speech' spaces.

The entire topic of this post -- 8chan -- is a fine counterexample to your idea there.


Ever actually visited 8chan? Most of the boards there keep threads on-topic and at higher snr, than, say, reddit.

Moderation is the process of keeping a board functional and snr high.

Censorship is the process of suppressing certain types of content from the board. In this case legal content.

You can have high quality discussions on less-moderated boards, e.g. any of 4chan's interest boards. And you can have low-quality discussions on highly moderated boards, e.g. all of Reddit default subs.


You supported free speech until you came into contact with groups that freely spoke about things you disagreed with, and now you are against free speech? This line of thought is incongruent, you could be a democrat attending republican rallies, a white supremacist attending an LGBT conference, or a POC attending a KKK rally and this sentiment would apply anywhere.

And at the end of day that's fine, because that opinion is protected under free speech


Of course, the only bad speech is speech you personally dislike?


I feel that an easy rule to apply is that speech about hurting or even killing others is unambiguously bad speech

Everything else is up for debate. But this single exception I hope every human being can agree on.


Can every human being agree that military recruitment ads are unambiguously bad speech?


How about you go and campaign to ban major news networks from reporting on successful drone strikes and bombing raids in Iraq/Syria /other such places.


Reporting on harm is not the same as inciting harm


Except when it is.


Of course it will be true on its face that "bad speech" will be disliked by the people claiming it is bad.

This phrase suggests that ALL speech that non-absolutists dislike will be categorized as harmful enough to society to be disallowed. That is a view nobody I've ever met holds.

I am not a free speech absolutist. I believe 99.9999% of speech I dislike, even speech I dislike intensely and believe is harmful to society, should still be allowed by society. That I think 0.00001% crosses a line where its harm outweighs the benefit of an zero-tolerance, non-negotiable absolute freedom of speech.

Throwing off a facile "oh, you'll just ban speech you don't like" is just jingoism. It's no different than saying people who favour less immigration are Nazis, or people who favour universal health care are communists.

It avoids thinking by name-calling.


OK, so what is the "0.00001%" speech that justifies prison sentence ?

Ordering someone to shoot you? Aka "clear and imminent threat" ?




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