Funny, I thought HN's prevailing attitude in the case of the recent ban of 8chan was, hell yeah, good riddance to those reprehensible twats. (Which, personally, annoyed me, because I believe that even the deplored should have a space for communication.)
If you instead think of a forum thread as an airing of opinions - a chance to find out what is the range of perspectives on the topic that exist in the community, and be exposed to nuances you wouldn’t have thought of on your own, the exercise takes on a different tone. People who came to that thread thinking that it’s obviously a good thing are exposed to arguments that disagree, and vice versa; maybe some people are persuaded to shift their viewpoint, or maybe not, but everybody learns that a topic that they might have assumed was uncontroversial is actually one on which reasonable people might disagree.
It can be jarring for the nerd-inclined to accept that just because they have arrived at their opinions through, obviously, clear rational analysis of facts, that does not mean that everybody else, when presented with the same facts, will necessarily reach the same opinion. The illusion that you can read an HN thread and say ‘well, the pro arguments seemed more coherent and got more upvotes than the anti ones, so presumably the community consensus is pro’ ignores the fact that the anti arguments were also made by members of the HN community, and we’re not bound by collective decision making. You are allowed to read the thread and adjust your own priors and come to your own conclusions, having hopefully been exposed to some perspectives you might otherwise have missed.
My assessment of that thread is the same as it always is when a thread gets a huge number of comments: sentiment fits a roughly normal distribution, with the mean position being something approximating "this is a really difficult question and either course of action has significant risks and pitfalls", and every step away from the mean point of view placing increasing importance on one particular aspect and decreasing importance on the other aspects.
If that weren't the case, there wouldn't be a huge number of comments, as we would quickly find consensus and move on to the next topic.
If you look at the top three root comments on this thread:
- The first one  points out that different standards are applied between 8chan vs Facebook/Twitter/etc, and disagrees with Cloudlfare's decision on free speech grounds. But then many people disagree and debate this position.
- The second one  asks a neutral question about Cloudflare's exposure to legal liability for content on its platform if it is making decisions about what content is allowable or not. Then people discuss that question.
- The third one  acknowledges the complexity of the topic, devoting each of the first two paragraphs to what the writer considers to be almost-equally meritorious but opposing points of view, then concludes that on balance the Cloudflare decision is right. But then many people disagree and debate that position.
To properly answer your challenge, one would have to examine all 1400+ comments and classify them by their level of support for/against the Cloudflare decision, which is somewhere between impractical and impossible.
But from my scanning through the comments, I don't see any "prevailing" or "overwhelming" position emerge, and I see many of the commenters wrestling with the inherently vexed nature of the issue.
For what it's worth, I think we're taking this discussion a bit too seriously, as the person you were initially replying to was being at least a little humorous and self-deprecating.
The parent comment they replied to made an assertion of the form HN's prevailing view on blah is X, and they replied to the effect of that's funny, my perception was that the prevailing view was opposite-of-X, which is a neat example of the hostile-media effect, and I think the commenter was aware of that.
It's interesting though, that it was the counter-point that you saw the need to challenge, not the original assertion :)
Do you assert that the prevailing or overwhelming opinion was in favour of one particular position? Can you provide evidence for that?
I'm very conscious that we could go around in circles on this :)
I think like he's arguing exactly the opposite, as he's implied multiple times:
> The challenge is the low bar of whether or not a topic has an overwhelming majority of opinion.
> But I'm asking why the person posting believes that the HN community overwhelmingly believes X and their evidence for that.
>> But I'm asking why the person posting believes that the HN community overwhelmingly believes X and their evidence for that.
My read on it is that the person wasn't making an assertion of fact on this, they were making a wry observation that their perception of a prevailing view was the opposite of their parent commenter's perception of a prevailing view, thus demonstrating the hostile media effect in action.
So I doubt if reading the top comments is a very objective method for evaluating controversial discussion (it has a strong correlation, but maybe not the best). Often, I see very heated discussion and competing comments moving up and down until nobody is interested in spending more energy in the debate.
P.S: Invasive profiling and tracking can be a very effective (and possibly, the only) method to uncover insights on the dynamics of online forums like Hacker News. If we track users' every move, it could make great contribution to sociology and psychology researches, and may even help answering unsolved questions in order to building a better community for everyone. Unfortunately, it's too dangerous and unethical to use, I won't support it, but I'm always curious to know the results.
Karma doesn't affect ranking on HN. This comes up often enough that I wonder where the idea came from. Do other forums work this way?
Interestingly, I originally believed HN is pure-upvote based, then I learned it from other HN comments that says karma affects ranking and I believed it.
So I'd say it's just an unsubstantiated rumor/misinformation getting circulated in the comment section from time to time, combined with the impression of HN having a "magic algorithm", so many believed it without any fact-checking. Also, the quick-moving nature of HN comments somehow created a confirmation bias that makes the idea appeared to be true.
I learnt of the news about 8chan from this thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20616055 — which was on the HN’s first page before it was replaced by the slightly longer thread you linked to. The top comment in that thread is decidedly against the chans.
There’s also been a lot of mentioning of Popper and his paradox of intolerance in these threads. A post  in the thread you referred to (it also was among the top ones when that thread appeared on the front page), for example, began by saying that "Popper taught us that we can't be tolerant towards intolerants" ("taught us" implying that this statement has grown to become general wisdom).
If HN’s prevailing sentiment has since turned in favor of 8chan, I am very happy to hear that.
1 - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20611816
This is likely for any of the following (non-exhaustive) reasons:
-Different prevailing opinions of people in different parts of the country/world combines with common participation times.
-How likely the title is to attract a specific ideology (or both).
-How long or dense the article is combined with when it hits the front page, as it may get passed around some subgroups informally prior to that point.
-The lag time between early comments and quick agreements and the group of comments that come later in response to those comments with deeper thinking of the topic and/or substantive facts or anecdotes that crystalize opinions on the subject.
Just think, how many times have you read comments about how "all the comments here seem negative, but..." only to count only 3-4 negative comments out of almost a hundred by the time you're reading them? That's because the nature of the discussion changed over time or as people decided it was worth posting that positive comment they hadn't thought worthwhile. It's fairly common.
Adding my voice to the "good riddance" side of the aisle: thanks to what freedom of speech, association, etc. actually mean in the legal / constitutional context, said twats are guaranteed a space for communication - the real world! They can stand on a corner or picket their local City Hall and spout all the hateful nonsense they want.
(They can't, however, verbally assault bus drivers / police officers, or yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater, or directly incite violence, or disturb the peace at all hours of the night, or needlessly interrupt judicial / civil proceedings, or...point being: even in the US, the exercise of free speech comes with limits and responsibilities.)
Like publicans of yore banning rowdy drunks from the premises (which itself came with political / legal overtones; see https://www.amazon.ca/America-Walks-into-Bar-Speakeasies/dp/...), many owners of online spaces are deciding - as is well within their rights as owners of a private space - to ban users and groups who disproportionately degrade the experience for all others.
(This is my general surface-level opinion, without getting into discussions like https://gimletmedia.com/shows/reply-all/rnhzlo around the amplification of extreme voices by short-sighted metrics optimization, or debates on whether providing space for hateful voices effectively denies free speech to the targets of their hate, or explorations of the tradeoffs different open, democratic societies have made around hate speech.)
There's also potentially an assumption here that free speech is overall reduced through restrictions on it. As a thought experiment: suppose that, within a society of _n_ people, some small _k_ of them are "louditarians": they believe that part of the right to free speech is the inalienable right to speak as "loudly" as possible (for whatever value of "loud" matters over various media) so that no one else can effectively speak. This raises a few difficult questions:
1) To what degree the free speech rights of louditarians and non-louditarians mutually exclusive?
2) If you were a non-louditarian in this society, what would you do?
3) If you had control over this society, would you let the louditarians speak? Would you limit their speaking rights?
My general position here:
1) Almost entirely: when louditarians speak, they prevent the effective exercise of free speech rights by non-louditarians; non-louditarians can only meaningfully have free speech if louditarians are carefully managed.
2) As a non-louditarian, I'd advocate for limits on louditarianism (as best I'm able; this may first require the creation of non-louditarian-only spaces where I can be heard). In the absence of those limits, I'd probably feel like I was being effectively silenced by louditarians.
3) This is the difficult one, and I lean towards "yes - reluctantly, warily, and with limitations". Some examples: maybe louditarians can only speak at certain times (see: nighttime "disturbing the peace"). Maybe the practice of louditarianism is banned from certain spaces, like offices and legislative chambers (see: contempt of court, noise bylaws). My reasoning is utilitarian: I'd rather _n - k_ non-louditarians be able to speak, even if that means curtailing the rights of _k_ louditarians.
In other words: I strongly believe that, by imposing limitations on louditarians, I'm increasing the overall freedom of speech in this hypothetical society. (Not to mention the quality of life, mental health, and vitality of public discourse.)
My secondary reasoning is that louditarians seem to think that speech is a right without responsibilities - in effect, they believe that their right to free speech is more important than that of non-louditarians. IMHO, this violates the social contract of functioning modern societies, and for what? So an obnoxious fringe group can be really, really loud?
Generally freedom of speech issues arise largely for written word, than the spoken word.
When this happens across a large and popular enough cross-section of media, though, it could easily start to have a noticeable effect on readers.
Something that bothers me about this whole trend of "deplatform everyone whose opinion I don't like" - once some person or group is near-universally deplatformed, they become sort of a boogeyman. You can attribute any position you want to them, and they have no way to confirm or deny that they believe that. You can accuse anybody of secretly agreeing with them or being one of them, and there's no good way to refute it. You can claim that they're secretly everywhere and all-present, and there's no data to confirm or deny that. It feels kind of like a 1984 2-minutes-hate thing where you're expected to scream outrage at something that you can't prove even exists in a meaningful way.
If we expand this thought, we get that even the most outrageously extreme opinions should be allowed to exist and operate openly. If only so that there is a real source that anybody can go to in order to see what they really do and do not believe, in their own words. So they can have an authoritative way to be for or against a person or thing or policy. So anybody can create a estimate of how big and influential they really are, based on objective data.
Going further, certain people in power like to have a voiceless boogeyman that they can use to scare everybody with. What better way to get everyone running around in fear, and getting them to get off of their butts and pull that voting lever for your side, or else those scary boogeymen might get them?
Note that this could apply equally well to a number of different things that have been treated this way over the years, including communism, nazi-ism, Islamic terrorism, white supremacy, etc.
Do I seriously believe this and want to go with it? I'm not completely sure right now. I'd like to let it churn around some more and see if anything else comes out.
Except that hasn't happened, and doesn't happen. No person or group which has been deplatformed is incapable of communicating publicly, and most, if not all, have simply moved to the dark web.
>You can claim that they're secretly everywhere and all-present, and there's no data to confirm or deny that.
Plenty of data exists. Deplatforming doesn't remove all data about a person or group from the entire web in perpetuity, that's not how the web works. Remember "once it's on the web, it's there forever?"
Hell, 8chan is already back online.
> It feels kind of like a 1984 2-minutes-hate thing where you're expected to scream outrage at something that you can't prove even exists in a meaningful way.
You're ascribing an all-consuming and existential power to deplatforming that it doesn't have.
>What better way to get everyone running around in fear, and getting them to get off of their butts and pull that voting lever for your side, or else those scary boogeymen might get them?
But isn't this argument trying to get everyone running around in fear of platforms that remove extremist content, or else the slippery slope of censorship will eventually get them? Why is it that we're not supposed to fear the unchecked spread of hate speech or the ability of extremist groups to organize online, but we're only supposed to fear anyone who wants to stand in their way?
Consider the ulterior motive when the false dichotomy we're presented with in these discussions is always "let the nazis say whatever they like, on all platforms, without restriction, in perpetuity throughout the universe, or else suffer the boot of Orwellian fascism stomping on your heads forever."
Where do you see this? I checked their Twitter and normal URL, and they sure seem to be currently down, and no indication that they've been up since the last set of deplatformings.
Regarding the rest of your post, I get the feeling that you're being intentionally obtuse in order to avoid the point. No thanks on debating with that.
>Regarding the rest of your post, I get the feeling that you're being intentionally obtuse in order to avoid the point.
And I get the feeling you were being intentionally hyperbolic in order to make a weak and poorly supported point seem stronger than it was, by appealing to fear and cynicism rather than data.
You're probably right that further discussion wouldn't be productive, though.
People are subject to various sampling biases, recentism, and other such biases and give can give them a non-representative sample of any forum. I will admit that HN has become more political since 2013 or 2014 when I joined, but still, compared to any other subreddit or forum it is still mostly better.
Those threads wouldn't have passed the thousand comment mark if HN had anything close to a prevailing attitude on the matter. As with many contentious issues, people tend to believe HN is unilaterally biased against them, sometimes to the point of that bias being enforced by the moderators.
>Which, personally, annoyed me, because I believe that even the deplored should have a space for communication.
8Chan and its contingent of neo-nazis were free to communicate as they wished until the site started to become a cultural nexus for racially motivated mass shootings in the US. I don't think deplatforming them was unwarranted. They have the right to their views, but not the right to force any establishment to host those views, even when people start dying over them.
Also, there are still plenty of places on the internet for such people to congregate and communicate. They can start a private Discord server and post manifestos from the race war there if they want.
It's easy to second-guess or criticize such actions from the outside, but sometimes you just have to be pragmatic.
>Why a new account?
Because I wanted the username.
Well, it's certainly going to cause many people to discount your opinion because they presume you have an racist agenda. It looks like a username consciously chosen to create offense while being plausibly deniable. Please be cautious of causing harm to a community for sake of social commentary. Needlessly creating offense is a negative, but maybe you can figure out how to use the dissonance to turn it into a net positive.