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> HN's prevailing attitude (e.g. cloudflare-shouldnt-ban-<x>).

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.)

Could you clarify why you thought this? What evidence do you have that supports this? The big thread shows that the top comment agrees that 8chan should be left alone. [0] and the comment chain shows that there seems to be something like a significant minority against 8chan, but it doesn’t appear to be a prevailing majority.

0. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20610395

It’s a persistent Misreading of Internet forums as a mode of discourse, both in how people consume them and how people participate in them, that we tend to regard their discussion threads as a mechanism for determining group consensus on a topic. Cloudflare is dropping 8chan? Let’s get together and decide whether we collectively think that is a good thing or a bad thing. Once we’ve established that fact, we can move on and refer back to that decision in future discussions, like a mathematical lemma.

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.

Yes, I agree with what you're saying. But I'm asking why the person posting believes that the HN community overwhelmingly believes X and their evidence for that. I presume they do have evidence and conclusions and I'd like to know about it.

I think that people tend to perceive HN as overwhelmingly believing whatever the opposite of their opinion is any time there is a significant debate on something. Unless there is overwhelming support for our own position, we feel that we are in a hostile environment.

It's interesting how one or two dissenting views amongst a majority neutral or even supportive results in "This place is <insert bias> now!" I wonder why absolute agreement is required for some people to not feel attacked or marginalized.

Part of helping to work against this is to challenge and ask for genuine evidence with an open heart. I don't want to assume that that is what the poster is believing, but it also clashes with my understanding of reality.

I'll have a go at addressing this...

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 [1] 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 [2] 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 [3] 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.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20610548

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20610552

[3] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20610453

Sorry, I’m not challenging that requires a thorough breakdown. The challenge is the low bar of whether or not a topic has an overwhelming majority of opinion. Which you agree the evidence doesn’t support on a fairly casual glance and analysis of top voted comments and their responses.

To be clear, my contention is that we should expect there to be no overwhelming or prevailing opinion, and that a quick look at the top-voted root comments and their subthreads seems to support this expectation.

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 :)

> Do you assert that the prevailing or overwhelming opinion was in favour of one particular position? Can you provide evidence for that?

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.

If they are of the view that there was no clearly prevailing position on that topic, then we're in consensus and we're all done with the discussion :)

>> 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.

Is it reasonable to say that it is a hostile environment? I don't it takes too many vocally hostile people to create an environment that is hostile.

Perhaps the most insightful comment I have read here in weeks.

The current top comment. IIRC it was fluctuating wildly while it was on the front page. After it's gone, comments can get reshuffled, because some people might keep replying/reading/up&downvoting (arguably those with more of a "vested interest" - likely those that disagree with the original article)

The ordering is also not just by score. Newer comments get some time at the top as well and then decay to what I assume is their scored position.

Doesn't that provide more evidence that it is not the prevailing majority, then?

Also, does it suggest that the most engaged HN readers (who come early to topic discussions) have a starkly different opinion to late comers?

I'd approach it from a different point of view (Cloudflare can choose with whom it does business), but still got the same general idea. Interestingly enough, some of the highest-voted posts aren't always the "prevailing opinion" - some times. Lots of comments get ranked highly because others recognize they are cogent and support them. They may disagree, and so comment, but might still vote in favor if the argument is well-reasoned. I do this personally, when I can.

Hacker News doesn't simply arrange comments by the number of upvotes they receive, it also considers the karma of the commenters and the freshness of the comments. Also, when submissions aged and comments settled, the current top comment would always get a lot of upvotes due to its position, and lock them "in place" by the strong positive feedback.

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.

> it also considers the karma of the commenters

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?

Thanks for the official statement ;-)

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 would have believed you, since I feel often the same names are highly upvoted. Though this can have natural causes. Like them writing better comments. Or just popularity based on name recognition. Such feedback loops naturally existing without being explicitly implemented by HN sounds highly plausible.


Slashdot karma affects ranking? Good to know.

Is looking at what the top comment says a good way of gauging consensus? I read that thread and walked away with the impression that the majority view was that "deplatforming" 8chan was mostly OK. This because most of the on-topic comments seemed to hold that viewpoint.

> Could you clarify why you thought this?

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 [1] 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

Top comment in this big thread argues the opposite: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20616055

You'll probably find with some digging that the "prevailing" attitude depends on time of day, changes completely from similar submissions from one day to the next, and might start out one way in a story only to wildly shift after a certain amount of time or comments.

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.

2019 is the year when reality caught up with the Internet in a way that it hasn't since before social media. Internet culture was never really about unequivocally accepting things, but about thinking for yourself. The need to rationalize the Internet only happened once the Internet started to mean money. Which resulted in many holding opinions that are more the idea of an idea, rather than the idea itself. That will usually mean, at least perceived, "flip-flopping" once something is challenged. And that is to some extent what is happening now.

I've seen both opinions, and many more nuanced variants thereof, argued in a well-reasoned, persuasive manner here on HN.

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.)

Private entities can put restrictions on their private space, but doing so implies that they no longer provide the same freedom of speech guaranteed to citizens on public spaces, so they are indeed restricting the freedom of speech.

...and now we've touched on a fundamental philosophical question: is freedom of speech a natural right or a legal right?

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?

Yes may be for vocal speech, but for platforms build around written forms of speech like most online forums, how does that analogy hold since then the right of one to say a thing does not restrict another body's right to say a different thing at the same time.

Generally freedom of speech issues arise largely for written word, than the spoken word.

This metaphor might be saved if you consider amount of (limited) public attention to be analogy to amplitude of sound. You can softly type in your niche forum all you want, but nobody will hear you if there is somebody else screaming into the twitter megaphone nearby.

But readers have a real choice and freedom on what to read, in that situation, what benefit does restrictions on writers bring?

Ah - the goal is not necessarily the choice / freedom of readers, but that of other writers who might be drowned out, intimidated, or otherwise coerced into silence.

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.

Pardon me for stating a related opinion here - I tend to like to let my thoughts on these things churn around for a few days before expressing opinions rather than scream immediately about the obvious side.

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.

>(...) 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.

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."

> Hell, 8chan is already back online.

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.

There was an HN post only yesterday about the community moving to the dark web[0,1]. Being "back online" doesn't necessarily mean returning to the same URL and host.



>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.

That wasn't my attitude at all, it was that it was mixed for the most part. You had to just scroll down a bit, which I do admit takes time and a while.

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.

>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.

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.

Yes, and the reality is also that, if you run a company, you sometimes have to do what you have to do. If popular opinion turns on some policy or employee, you may have to make a tough decision whether or not it's something that you would necessarily do in the absence of potential business consequences.

It's easy to second-guess or criticize such actions from the outside, but sometimes you just have to be pragmatic.

Shouldn't they do a bit of research instead? Like, research whether the people attacking your company/employee/policy are actually customers who'd have an impact on your business if you ignored them? The problem with a lot of social media controversies is that no one actually asks whether the people complaining are actually representative of either the majority of the population or the userbase for the affected service or company. In a lot of cases, I suspect if they did ask that, they'd realise that a few people getting annoyed online can be safely ignored and that doing so may earn you more not less business. Or not change a thing.

Why do you think this? Almost every top comment was critical of cloudflare's response for a variety of reasons.

"whiteopinions", really?

What are you inquisitive about?

For starters, why did you choose this username? From your comments it seems like you've been here for a while. Why a new account?

Because I like the username. What's wrong with it?

>Why a new account?

Because I wanted the username.

> What's wrong with it?

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.


I chose it because it was first initial - last name, although I did have a tall German speaking friend who would always say "Nicht lang, aber ganz kurz" every time he'd see me. It took me a while to figure out what he meant. So depending on what you are into, maybe.

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