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Facebook has been granted patent on shadow banning (uspto.gov)
650 points by smsm42 12 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 243 comments
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I looked at the USPTO's Public PAIR system (https://portal.uspto.gov/pair/PublicPair) and this patent was rejected multiple times before finally being accepted. (Non-final rejection 6/7/2016, final rejection 2/21/2017, non-final rejection 1/3/2018, final rejection 1/7/2019, patent issued 7/16/2019.) Seriously patent office? You should have paid attention to your 4 previous rejections instead of giving in to Facebook's lawyers and persistence.

If you see a patent in the application pipeline that you know is bogus (obvious or prior art), you can do a preissuance submission: https://www.uspto.gov/patent/initiatives/third-party-preissu...

I challenged a patent application and it was rejected. Now, I can't say if the patent examiner already knew that the patent was both obvious and had prior art, or if my application informed him of that, but it was rejected.


To quote the legendary Judge Learned Hand from nearly a century ago (on a different but analogous subject): "Courts have descanted upon the abuse again and again, but the antlike persistency of [patent] solicitors has overcome, and I suppose will continue to overcome, the patience of [Patent Office] examiners, and there is apparently always but one outcome."

Lyon v. Boh, 1 F. 2d 48, 50 (S.D.N.Y. 1926), https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=969659756696519...


descant: to discuss at length

Prolix

Garrulify

Enucleate

Perorate

Expatiate


Such a wasteful existence. To create brief and unremarkable identities and experience rejection of expression.

Performance art?

Learned Hand writes epic prose.

He's definitely somebody who's done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, but his output dropped dramatically years ago and frankly it's been a while since he's had anything useful to say.

I was going for a double meaning. Literally a learned person's hand writes epic prose. But also the person named "Learned Hand" writes epic prose.

Not such a bad thing. Each rejection results in a narrowing of the scope and claims of the patent. The resulting claims that are granted will be far narrower than scope of the original specification.

You're talking about a non-final rejection (where some, but not all, claims are rejected), which is helpful, yes.

In Facebook's case, though—see above—there were two final rejections. A final rejection happens when all the claims are invalidated, so your submission is now vacuous.


No. A rejection on any claim can be made final after it’s gone through two “rounds,” i.e., the attorney has argued it twice (more or less). Most non-final rejections also address all the claims. There isn’t really a difference in degree or “finality” between a “non-final” and “final” rejection, despite the name! Just pay a fee for a continuation and you can argue your final rejection again.

Seems like the USPTO could use a patent for implementing exponential backoff and double the fee every time it comes back.

The fee would have to increase exponentially, and that still probably wouldn't work.

You know double is exponential right?

Ugh no need to downvote him, just wanted to make sure his mental model was in check. Exponential growth is a life skill a lot of the population lacks.

Like parking fines in some cities?

Thank you for citing the rules. Most of the comments here are based on assumptions.

Why can't a lawsuit be made immediately by owners of prior art (and I'm guessing HN, Reddit both have prior art around this..)

> Why can't a lawsuit be made immediately by owners of prior art (and I'm guessing HN, Reddit both have prior art around this..)

It's called an IPR, an inter partes review [0] in the USPTO. Most potential challengers, though, are likely to save their ammunition for if and when they get sued on the patent. (And they might quietly let Facebook know they have prior art, so as to discourage FB from getting aggressive — FB might want its patent to remain officially valid, so as to be able to continue to rattle its saber at others, instead of having invalidity officially confirmed.)

[0] https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Inter_partes_review

It's called an IPR


Overcoming a "final" rejection can be as simple as moving a sentence from one of your dependent claims into an independent one. It doesn't necessarily mean every single claim is utterly un-patentable.

Obligatory warning: I'm not a patent lawyer but I've responded to both final and non-final office actions, eventually getting a patent


it's actually worth looking at the claims just as an exercise. they are incredibly narrow, there must have been many objections here.

Hint: Just read the claims. Skip right to them, and ignore everything else. The claims are effectively the legal part, the pretty pictures and verbiage that usually precede them are essentially useless (and sometimes have little to do with what is being claimed).

> 1. A method comprising: receiving a comment from a posting user of a social networking system, the comment posted on a page within the social networking system; determining, by a processor, that the comment includes proscribed content; and responsive to the determination: identifying users of the social networking system who are connected to the posting user in the social networking system with a specified connection type, wherein the specified connection type is a one-to-one friend connection; determining, by the processor, a social networking system audience for the comment without input from the posting user, the processor determining the social networking system audience before providing the comment for display; and displaying the comment to the audience by: formatting the page including the comment to the posting user, and formatting the page not including the comment to users of the social networking system accessing the page who are not connected to the posting user with the specified connection type.

This sounds like it's not exactly shadow banning; your direct friends can still see your comment. I'm vaguely aware that they have special comment sections on "public" pages, articles, etc, that filter the giant thread down to stuff your friends actually wrote. I'm guessing that at some point, if you were banned from the page/etc, then your friends also couldn't see what you wrote. If that's true, then this is a little nicer to the banned user than a shadowban.


> * I'm guessing that at some point, if you were banned from the page/etc, then your friends also couldn't see what you wrote. If that's true, then this is a little nicer to the banned user than a shadowban.*

More importantly, it's more effective because it's less likely to be detected.

It still shouldn't be patentable because there's prior art involving a bunch of systems with various forms of audience selection such that how to implement this specific set of audience selection rules is obvious to most software developers. Patents cover how, not what, and they do not cover inventions whose implementation is obvious to most experts in the field.


> and they do not cover inventions whose implementation is obvious to most experts in the field

This is (ahem) patently not true; there are plenty of patents whose implementation is incredibly obvious. Insultingly obvious. As in, "Did that company try to patent string comparison?"

Look up the "standard network byte order" patent, for instance. It's now expired and was never enforced. The friend-of-a-friend who got that patent was heard to exclaim "I can't believe they gave that patent to me!", which should tell you a lot about the quality of the patent industry then -- IMHO it hasn't changed for the better.


To be clear, I'm talking about what the law specifies, not what actually happens. I know a great many patents are issued for things that are obvious, for which there is prior art, or that do not adequately describe a how.

They should not be, and somebody should probably be lobbying congress to address the patent office not being sufficiently strict.


"A patent for a claimed invention may not be obtained [...] if the differences between the claimed invention and the prior art are such that the claimed invention as a whole would have been obvious before the effective filing date of the claimed invention to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which the claimed invention pertains."

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/35/103


Oh, I agree with you. It's just not how the patent industry actually works.

I'm not entirely sure why, but there appear to be perverse or at least badly aligned incentives for patent examiners, and it would appear they only look for prior art in specific locations, and these aren't the ones that the industry uses.

So you get situations like someone getting a patent for putting structures on multiple lists at a time (e.g., a lookup list, and an LRU replacement list, and maybe a list for keeping track of locks) and this is something that people have been doing since rocks were young, but some nincompoop at OraGooSoftBook got a patent on it because these structures appear in OS textbooks or maybe Knuth and not anything the examiner encountered in law school, or any legal publications. And now FaceGooSoft has a legal lock on code you wrote (hey, you did diligently read all the patents relevant to your industry before you wrote a single line, just like everybody else does right?).


It's good that Europe and most of the world, except USA, does not support software patents. No need to spend countless hours in defending against frivolous patents. It's like Amazon's single click buy patent, hopefully will be struck down in future like the former.

"Software patents" are not allowed in Europe, but in practise you just have to call them "computer implemented inventions", and write them in legalese nonsense that is even less readable than a pure software patent would be, avoiding mentioning any keyword known in the fields of computer science or software engineering.

More detail: https://fsfe.org/campaigns/swpat/swpat.en.html

The law should be something like just manipulating the electronic state on an otherwise non-infringing machine is never an infringement. You have to actually connect it to new hardware.


Isn't that patent expired as of recently?

Yes it did but it lost earlier. But still wasted a lot of resources which could have gone in something of real value to nature or humanity.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/220290418_Amazon's_...


  But still wasted a lot of resources which could have gone in something of real value to nature or humanity
That's arguably 90% of law in hindsight. The problem is that humans aren't psychic, and without the legal system we have a hard time getting along.

I'm genuinely unconvinced that we would be worse off with a reduction or removal of patents' scope over much of modern monopolising in many industries. Sure, it's difficult to know with any certainty that changing the law wouldn't have bad knock-on effects, but what is clear to see is that the implimentation as it currently stands allows for some flagrant abuses.

The fact that there were several rejections before allowance is entirely, 100% mundane and normal. This is how patent prosecution works.

Yes this happens on essentially every patent a you start absurdly broad and winnow the scope in response to the rejections.

Was there a 101 "abstract idea" rejection? EDIT: Evidently not, judging by a quick glance at the Office actions rejecting the claims.

Look in Public Pair for the Office Actions. The 101 will usually be the first objection raised if it applied. There are many ways to overcome these, even in a Final Rejection, by narrowing the claims or revising the specification (however, the latter resets the priority date).

Oh but this is "on a computer"...

Why don't they just charge a $1,000,000 filing fee for a patent? Anything worth less seems hardly worth the trouble to society.

That would put patents solely into the hands of already-established corporations and the already-wealthy, making them inaccessible to anyone else.

Yeah but there are so many patents needed for the most mundane aspects of products. Plus it's prohibitively expensive for individual people who invent

Patents aren't needed for people to invent things.

No. But they allow the little guy to take on the big guy for stealing their invention.

Look at Robert Kearns[0]. He invented the intermittent windshield wiper and demoed it to the “Big Three.” They then took his idea and implemented it themselves. So he sued them and won.

Maybe removing patents would spur innovation, but what then do you do when you’re the little guy?

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Kearns


Without patents, the little guy can actually do innovative stuff with all the technology we're surrounded with. Patents are primarily used by the big players to maintain their power.

Inequities in wealth and power are serious problems. Patents are a horrible method to deal with them though. If you set out to have a goal of supporting little-guy innovators, we'd do best to institute things like UBI and universal health care.

That whole windshield wiper story isn't too far from patent-trolling situations. Big companies get sued all the time by "inventors" who got patents on things that the companies would have come up with on their own anyway. The overall net effect of patents is harm for the public interest.


I also want to abolish patents. (And I do not patent things myself, since, that would make it difficult to use. And, I am the "little guy".)

This is ridiculous. We had shadow banning on reddit in 2007, four years before this was ever filed. In fact, we met with Facebook and told them about it before 2011, and they hadn't considered it before that. I'm pretty sure reddit is where they got the idea...

To be fair, there was no public record of it until 2012 or so.


> To be fair, there was no public record of it until 2012 or so

I'm not sure if reddit publicly acknowledged it before then, but it was certainly known that you were doing it. (It was also pretty damned obvious that you guys were fucking with vote counts -- e.g. "66% like it" on every post -- among other questionable anti-spam tactics...)

The earliest record I can find of the idea being discussed on reddit -- there might be earlier ones, this was just the earliest I've been able to dig up so far -- was in a suggestion by user ltbarcly back in June 2007:

> A better idea is a silent ban. Let him post comments, and show him those comments, but just leave them out for everyone else.

Source, as preserved by archive.org: https://web.archive.org/web/20070604141333/http://reddit.com...

There are also blog posts complaining about it from well before 2012 -- e.g. here's one from 2010: http://www.stochasticgeometry.ie/2010/03/09/silently-banned-...

The comments on it even use the term "shadowbanned".


Fwiw the 66% like it was legit. When a post got popular it attracted downvotes from other submitters who thought downvoting everything else would boost their submission. If you looked at posts in niche subreddits they regularly had 90%+.

I would have to do more research than I care to to prove it, but I'm pretty sure from my personal recollection that the 66% phenomenon ended after this change: https://www.reddit.com/r/announcements/comments/5gvd6b/score... -- assuming my memory is correct, that suggests it was an artifact of the anti-cheat techniques being used. (Not an intended one though, obviously, if you guys believed 66% was legit before the recalc.)

Shadowbanning didn't originate at Reddit either, it's been a feature of online forums since at least the 90s.

No of course it didn't. I'm just saying I think Facebook implemented it after we told them about it on reddit. It wasn't something they had thought of before that. We did it on reddit without knowledge of the other cases too. It's a pretty obvious solution honestly.

That seems unlikely, shadow banning has been around for a long long time.

I think he's saying that as far as Facebook goes, they for sure knew in 2012, so they can't plead ignorance or convergent evolution.

Well he said he knew that they took the idea from Reddit, that's the part that seems unlikely.

> and they hadn't considered it before that. I'm pretty sure reddit is where they got the idea...

pretty sure implies he has a hunch that they did, not 100% certainty. They may've said they hadn't considered such a thing before in a "forum" that the OP was able to overhear this either directly or indirectly and it wouldn't be a stretch to consider that in Facebook's history of borrowing from others, they then borrowed it from reddit.

It doesn't discount that it existed prior to reddit, just that they may have been the source for Facebook.

Microsoft was selling Office 365 subscriptions for a while and I never bought one. Eventually, I bought one from Amazon. So it is both true that I got it from Amazon, but that Microsoft had them prior.


This! We were shadowbanning people on IRC in like 2001. Unreal IRCd had a shadowban plugin that literally did exactly what modern shadowban features do.

I remember /shun.

I don't suppose the term "Asgard" means anything of significance to you, does it?

Greybeard BB Golden Rule: If Techy doesn't play nice, Techy goes to Coventry

I remember it from the old bulletin boards on Freenet since at least '94.

vBulletin (a forum package like phpBB, but not open source and you had to pay for it) had a shadowban feature they called "Tachy Goes to Coventry" and there are references to it as far back as 2003.

https://forum.vbulletin.com/forum/general/chit-chat/75468-ta...


In its most basic understood form, dating well back to before the term was coined, this functionality existed in BBS software in the 1980s...it sure as hell predated anything Facebook ever developed.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_banning


Based on comments in this thread (and my own experience on BBSes), it predates Zuckerberg being born. Just for some perspective of how ridiculous this patent is.

The original article was posted in December, 2011

https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Shadow_banning&ol...

There it was originally called "Hellbanning"

Patents are a joke.


Yeah, and it's a sick practice. My 8 year old account was shadowbanned for criticizing an advertiser in a sponsored link.

Does this fact invalidate Facebook's patent, from legal point of view? (Imho it should)

I am pretty sure at my school in the 90s we were shadowbaning on IRC. No one thought it was anything else than a trivial idea.

I agree , I have seen this before on Reddit. It's normal procedure nowadays but FB getting a patent officially on it...? That's just plain wrong.

Why do you think that Facebook decided to patent it now?

Large tech companies try to patent anything they can do they can have a large portfolio to offer for cross licensing when they get sued.

Also they filed in 2012, it just took seven years to grant.


Employees often get paid a small bonus for each patent issued with them as authors.

They filed for this in 2011.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_banning there is precedent from the 1980s, and Fogbugz had this feature in 2006. I don't know when Reddit implemented it, but by 2012 it was widely known that they did, so they may have implemented it first as well.

How was this patent granted?


Prior art may go back further than the 1980s. I seem to recall that on some old MUDs, you could be “toaded,” or maybe “frogged,” which would make you look to others like a toad/frog, and anything you said would display as “ribbit” or something.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MUD and https://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=kt367n...


From Wikipedia:

[MUD1] became the first Internet multiplayer online role-playing game in 1980, when the university connected its internal network to ARPANet.

Which dates that particular piece of prior art to 1980 or later.

[MUD1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/MUD


Yeah, you knew you were toaded. (Source: I still remember my original TinyMUD ID number, way back in the day. #17086.)

Do you remember a "Mirror" Sionnain?

She was made into an object if you investigated her. She was a "mirror".


Wow, thanks for the trip down memory lane. I can’t remember if the effected user would know it was happening on their end?

Usually they would know but there was a couple of MUDs that hid it. Of course you found out pretty quickly because everyone would find the hyperactive toad hilarious.

I don't either. That's why I hedged with the word 'may'.

Something Awful was "hellbanning" people ages ago.

Some discussion here: https://blog.codinghorror.com/suspension-ban-or-hellban/

Links to Metafilter discussion here: https://ask.metafilter.com/117775/What-was-the-first-website...

> On the Citadel BBSes I frequented in the late '80s, it was referred to as the "twit bit", and the disliked user would sometimes be said to have been "twitted".


That gives whole new perspective on Twitter. :)

> I don't know when Reddit implemented it

We implemented it sometime in 2007.


Wouldn't irc's ignore feature count as a version of shadowbanning too? Channel admins can silence a user channel wide or users can ignore individual users. In both cases, as far as i know, the ignored or silenced user receives no notification of this.

I also seem to rember msn messenger also had a silent blocking feature. Your activity would be invisible to the blocked user and you'd appear as offline.


IRC doesn't provide any feedback on messaging. Messages are sent silently. However if you're quiet banned (mode #chan +b ~q:), you can still receive messages, such as the notification that the channel mode/ban has been applied, and you can still use channel commands, such as viewing the list of bans.

Ignoring a user is entirely client-side. You might be able to test it with a ctcp, depending how the client is designed and configured, and depending on their umodes (if ctcps are blocked) as ctcps are standard messages with a prefix.

Silencing is unlike Reddit shadow bans; firstly, it only applies to private messages, not to channels. Secondly, it has to be configured by the individual users, not by admins.


Reddit originally didn't have a non-shadow ban. All account-level bans were shadowbans

Lots of entities do it. It's usually a feature in the software that runs the admin interface. FB should not be granted this patent. This is crazy!

https://gizmodo.com/facebook-patents-shadowbanning-183641134...


This is obviously a dumb patent that should have been rejected, but it is at least limited by the clause "wherein the specified connection type is a one-to-one friend connection". Always ignore the abstract and description in a patent and only look at the claims. Another extremely specific claim: "wherein the proscribed content is stored as a trie data structure wherein each letter of a proscribed word is a key."

But forums like vBulletin, XenForo, Microcosm and many others have the concept of following someone, and of ignoring someone.

When ignored, it really is no different from a shadow ban.


And those implementations are probably not covered by the patent, so it's fine.

> And those implementations are probably not covered by the patent, so it's fine.

I think what the grandparent is saying is that those implementations count as prior art and this application should have been rejected. It is ridiculous to even insinuate that the it is possible that thing that I cannot continue doing the thing I have been doing for decades because someone patented it a decade or two after I started doing it.


Did someone say they couldn't keep doing it? I don't see why they would count as prior art, either. The implementations are different from what was patented.

From my understanding, prior art doesn't haven't to be exactly the same as the invention. The invention just has to be obvious in light of the prior art. In this case, the point is that Facebook's use is obvious, given all the other similar ideas used far before.

Lots and lots of software patents wouldn't pass a reasonable non-obviousness test. Until the patent rules get changed, every big tech company will patent everything under the sun.

> ‘...every big tech company will patent everything under the sun.’

And when litigation, right or wrong, is won by the deepest pockets (settlement), I imagine this is just one arrow in the quiver of evil FB. WTF else is in there?


Apollo basically did it to Cassandra in ancient Greek myth.

Can the Iliad be considered prior art?


You probably mean Aeschylus’ Orestia but I like the idea of being cursed to utter prophesies that no one would listen to as shadow banning.

Let us bust the patent then! EDIT: Prior art for this seems straightforward to demonstrate.

https://www.eff.org/patent-busting


"I'm not shadowbanning, I'm just not showing all posts in everybody's feed."

HN itself and showdead was actually the first time I learned about shadowbanning.

Patents are defined by the claims. Go read through every word of every line of the claims, and that is what the patent is directed to. It’s not just a title.

I think it’s important to recognize, at least, that all forms of shadow banning are not broadly covered by this patent.

I’m not a patent lawyer, but looking at the claims, the way that forums like HN, Reddit, IRC implement shadow banning do not appear to infringe on this patent.

It seems likely to me that by the time the claims were done being narrowed after the multiple rounds of rejections, they have managed to patent something narrow enough that only they are actually doing it.

Specifically, any kind of shadow banning that occurs at the level of a “channel” wide audience, and not a one-to-one connection, appears to not be covered.

The way to read the claims, as I understand it, is everything within a single claim is a logical AND in order to infringe the claim, and dependent claims require everything in the parent claim as well as everything in the subsequent one to hold true. If any one part of a single claim does not apply to your system, then you do not infringe that particular claim.

Should Facebook be able to take a hyper-specialized application of a common feature and patent that particular application? It comes down to whether their implementation is unique and distinctive enough to be novel and non-obvious.

I do think in this case it’s totally dicey to say that shadow banning on a friend-based feed versus a channel-based feed is really a novel and non-obvious application of shadow banning. But at least it is a fairly narrow application that they are claiming.

If you want to show prior art against this patent, I assume it would have to be on a friend-based feed and not a channel-based feed.

The first thing I would do if taking this to court would be to read “green eggs and ham” to the jury. Facebook is trying to patent a particular place where you can eat green eggs and ham. It’s nonsense and should be thrown out, and they should be embarrassed to have pursued this. But it’s also not really that worrisome.


>Should Facebook be able to take a hyper-specialized application of a common feature and patent that particular application? It comes down to whether their implementation is unique and distinctive enough to be novel and non-obvious.

No, because in the context of current state of communication software it was totally obvious to translate the idea of shadow banning to a “friend-based feed”.

>But it’s also not really that worrisome.

A huge company shrinking the space of available programming techniques for no good reason by abusing laws that were supposed to boost innovation is pretty worrisome.


> The way to read the claims, as I understand it, is everything within a single claim is a logical AND in order to infringe the claim, and dependent claims require everything in the parent claim as well as everything in the subsequent one to hold true.

This is how it's supposed to be, but with today's courts/lawyers does it actually hold up? I remember reading that in the Apple v. Samsung lawsuit that the jury ruled Samsung violating certain claims of specific Apple patents, but not all the claims of each, in their final judgement. I think an infringing judgement was even made on some dependent claims when the independent claim wasn't deemed as infringed upon.


Agreed I would argue that this patent probably wouldn't go through today now that the USPTO is more adjusted to Alice V CLS.

I think that anyone hit with this could argue for dismissal under Alice.


Out of interest. Would it be copyright infringement to read 'Green Eggs & Ham' to a court?

If not, what would be the status of the court transcript???


I am almost done with my "addslashes" patent. Given a string, my algorithm will put a backslash in front of all quotes. It's been rejected 4 times and cost $32k, but, this next time my lawyer informed me it's going in.

Prior art exists. This is already invalid. Just needs to go to court first.

Prior art that nobody with nearly as much clout is claiming. No antagonist? no compromise

Twitter and youtube like doing that.

That's so messed up. Just because lady liberty doesn't have a wallet-full of cash, we're going to ignore our better nature. Patents are meant to protect the small-time inventor, not the giants who are already eating fat.

There ought to be a fine of 1/10 of 1% of annual profit for seeking and granting a patent later deemed obvious.

The money from said fine ought to be granted to the party that brings evidence to court that the patent has been granted in error.

Further the examiner who approved it ought to be terminated. Ample reason for both parties to do a better job.

I hereby suggest that we petition the government to fire the individual who granted this. Is the most appropriate venue for this farcical quest change.org?

Alternatively we can just admit that the entire patent system is better off scrapped.


No one will believe me, but I had this feature on a BBS I wrote back in about 1986 or 1987. I cannot prove it because the code no longer exists. I had a problem user that kept posting junk to the forum. I deleted things for a while and then thought of this as a solution. It seemed to work. The user never knew that no one else could see those posts.

I believe you.

As a BBS user in the 80s I believe you. It was a common feature, usually referred to as the twit bit.

Since it is such an obvious idea which was common much later on bulletin boards, I think that your claim is believable.

Someone else essentially patented data lineage, processing a dataset and tracking which records passed/failed a set of validations and storing a code for each validation that failed. Thanks Obama and your first to file change.

My favorite patent so far came out of Apple.

They received a patent on receiving data, recognizing it was a certain type of data, and performing an action on it.

And what was this used for? A user clicks a phone number and it brings up the phone app.


Google started using recaptcha to shadowban me from posting on any site using it yesterday. This evil must stop. I'm being censored for completely non-violent beneficial posts that simply expose wrong doing by the otherwise unaccountable "intelligence" "services".

Lol, I've implemented shadow banning on a municipal website in 2009. We called it the Mao-filter and that was a direct ripoff from a political party that had that on their website. It was about as innovative as, I dunno, having comments in the first place?

This i made on my website in 1999. In my case it was an online poll, but the principle was the same.

When people attempted to vote multiple times, the count would only increase locally in the spammers browser. Only the first vote was saved in the database. The spamming votes we stored in a cookie on client and added them to the results before rendering the result so he believed he submitted multiple votes.

We had some server side logging as well. Was funny to see in the logs, the number of people that tried to submit multiple votes and to see a few user submitting a lot before realizing the votes didn't get added to the db.

Was very effective and reduced the worst of the spamming significantly.


so i assume this means FB could demand $$ or cease and desist?

also :

>>thereby providing fewer incentives to the commenting user to spam the page or attempt to circumvent the social networking system filters. <<

I would think its just the opposite and would encourage whack-a-mole antics, as in many sockpuppets. just how many shadowban posts would a blog socmedia etcetera see as acceptable overhead to further the illusion of transmitted posts during a shadowban. i would think its a problem to carry a bunch of content, to show to only one person. putting the grey hat on, it could make a beautiful online scratch pad, or even a dead drop so a number of people could use the shadow banned account to communicate exclusively with each other.


"Quick! show me the top secret schematics of your new engine under the hood so I can make sure you're not infringing on my patents"

The primary reason Facebook acquires so many patents is because every engineer is incentivized by a $5,000 cash bonus to file for one, and so they shepherd it through.

Failure/corruption of the patent office. There is so much prior art.

Companies may patent something so they’re not later sued for it.

And also sometimes they sue, like with Amazon's 1 Click Checkout.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1-Click#Barnes_&_Noble


The notion that clicking a button to buy something using the pre-entered billing information on the account was able to be patented is absurd. It's not an invention, it's just a feature of that particular website. Patenting the notion of clicking once to do something so that competitors have to require users to click 2 or more times... it's difficult for me to even describe how ridiculous it is.

Imagine if other companies started patenting other numbers of clicks. Like B&N patenting 2 click checkouts. Apple patenting 3 click checkouts... this is clearly what patents were intended to be used for.


Remember one-click is a patent which expired in 2017. So back in 1997, the technology was actually transformational at that time, and now it’s free for anyone to use forever more.

You can argue the exclusivity period is too long, but Amazon absolutely trail-blazed checkout technology, and the trade-off of the patent system is now their exclusivity is over, and the technology is free for all.

At least one thing we don’t have to worry about in tech is “ever-greening”.


> So back in 1997, the technology was actually transformational at that time

I was there. No it wasn't.

E.g., here's a slashdot article from 1999 with a bunch of comments complaining about it: https://slashdot.org/story/99/10/12/1826242/amazoncom-receiv.... And Japan rejected the patent as obvious in 2001.

US Software patents are pathological because the only novel part of most interesting software is the mathematics. So the only things that are patentable are dumb and obvious systems built on top of the actual contribution. Crypto is the epitome of this pattern because all of the Turing-award-level mathematics was not patentable but "that meth but with blockchain" or "that math but with more bytes" is patentable. It's dumb and the opposite of innovation.

Dijkstra's algorithm is another good example of the main innovation never being patented but a bunch of obvious stuff built on top of it receiving patent protection.


The whole point of offering patents is to encourage innovation. It’s extremely doubtful that the offer of patent exclusivity played any part in their push to develop this technology which makes this an obvious failure of the patent system, this would still have been invented in a world without the ability to patent it. Less money would have been burned through the legal system and instead could have been put to more productive use. While we accept some amount of failure in order to benefit from the theoretical upsides of the patent system, it’s also important to call things as they are so we can improve the average results for our economy.

I don’t think that you can look at a specific patent in isolation and 30 years later hand waive that it wasn’t worth it.

The existence and availability of obtaining patents on new publicly disclosed inventions heavily incentivizes R&D efforts overall. The disclosure and exclusivity properties encourages constant innovation and novel discoveries in order to compete. There is unquestionably a constant arms race to patent new ways to provide features which amaze users. I assume Amazon was then and continues to be now absolutely laser focused on developing patentable user-facing features which increase conversion.

The same patent system which gave us 1-click also gives us technology like Apple Pay, which is a delight to use along with impressively secure. In 30 years I assume people will be lamenting how obvious that was too.


Indeed, the only "benefit" we received is that everyone ordering merchandise online had to use multiple clicks for 20 years, and Amazon probably received a nice settlement from their competitor. The implementation is fairly obvious and shouldn't have been patentable.

So obvious that ~30 years after the first IP packets were sent, they were still the first to ever do it.

Do you remember what the Amazon website looked like in 1997? Wayback Machine doesn’t even have a snapshot that old.

And the collection of patents that Amazon has been issued, which affords them protection of their published IP, are part of what enables them to spend those Billions every year developing all the new technologies they continue to create and publish today.


No, Amazon weren't the first to have one-button buy. Filed in 1994 (the year of the first WWW):

> the client computer will know which item is currently being offered for sale. In such a case, the viewer will be able to order it by Simply pressing one button on the TV remote

https://patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/0a/99/bd/431ac01...

They were the first do this "with a shopping cart", and needed a patent examiner tell them how to get the patent claims approved. Genius(!)

> The Patent Owner is also advised that claims 1 and 11 would be considered to be patentable if they were amended to recite providing a shopping cart model

http://homepages.uc.edu/~armstrty/AmazonReExam-20071009.pdf

This is what is wrong with the US PTO: old inventions are patentable for new applications as long as it is novel, without consideration for inventiveness. Is it the "Guinness World Records" of invention, where you can be awarded for using a saw "in a musical ensemble".


From that first patent from 1994 that you reference;

> "It is also possible that permanent information about the viewer (i.e. the name, address, method of payment and credit card number) may be preentered once by the viewer, so it is not necessary to solicit that information each time an order is placed. The information is stored in permanent memory in the client computer. In such a case, when an order is placed, that information is retrieved from the permanent memory, appended to the item number and transmitted to the central computer."

Aha, but you see of course this isn’t at all how the Amazon 1-click system works.

The most important thing about patents is you cannot patent the overall concept. You can only patent a specific implementation, and only that specific implementation technique is covered by the patent.

Likewise, if we didn’t let people patent distinctly different implementations of the same overall concept—if Amazon’s unique implementation of a one-click online purchase was not novel or non-obvious—that would imply that this earlier patent somehow covered what Amazon was trying to do! So now you’ve made the problem exponentially worse by making patents absurdly broad, patenting the overall concept of buying an item with 1 click, versus a specific method and apparatus for achieving the functionality.

The abstract notion of making purchases through a computer as simple and take as few steps as possible is “obvious” but it’s also not patentable. But it you invent a new way to make that feature possible you can patent that.

I go back to the Apple Pay example, which is the result of massive R&D effort to find new ways to essentially make 1-click possible, but; orchestrated in a very particular way between machines at the merchant, Apple, card processor, and client in order to achieve better scale, across many merchants, with a consistent UI that is manifestly simple to access and configure, and with a heightened level of security.


> The abstract notion of making purchases through a computer as simple and take as few steps as possible is “obvious” but it’s also not patentable.

The point was that the invention of 1-click buy is patentable as applied to "a shopping cart".

> After all, what did it take B&N; to work around the 1-click patent? They had to add a second click for the user to confirm the order.

https://web.archive.org/web/20071218184903/http://www.oreill...


In a web browser, identifying the user through a session cookie, associating a session with a login, to which is attached a plurality of addresses and credit cards, of which one has been selected as a default to be used with one-click, then presenting a separate button next to the “Add to Cart” button which allows a one click purchase, which upon clicking will...

That specific implementation, in 1997, was patentable. And now anyone can freely do the same, if they went to, although we now know that isn’t really the best way to do it.


I refuse to believe that "one click buy" was "transformational". It's overwhelmingly obvious. One click buy is not more impressive an invention than 2, or n click buy. It's a better system because it's fewer clicks, and that's the obvious part.

1 click purchasing to me seems like N+1 razor blade systems. Just as it is 'obviously' better to add more blades for a closer shave, so it is obviously better to take steps out the purchasing experience.

It shouldn't be patentable any more than the Gillette Cloud 9 or the Wilkinson Sword Legs 11.


I'm not sure about the sword legs part, that doesn't seem terribly useful. But if you could patent a cloud-based razor with no local presence, that certainly sounds worth patenting to me

I'd be fine with it if the companies they sue stop using shadow banning because I don't like it. But of course it is messed up that they were granted a patent for it.

is there a way for people to write a letter of reconsideration on this patent to USPTO by general public or may be a petition backed by a group?

Under the America Invents Act there are 3 ways to challenge patent validity. By partes review (2nd option), with prior art, you must show it's either not inventive, or not novel (violating sections 102 or 103 of 35 U.S.C.)

Reddit hardest hit.

hackernews shadow bans as well, and I'm sure many other sites do. Next they will patent commenting on an online web page.

Sort of? I browse with "showdead" on, so I can see these shadow-banned comments. But maybe there is a second level?

Yes, you can. But the whole idea of the shadowbanning is that the one who is shadowbanned does not. So you get this effect where someone is talking to himself or the walls and they don't even know it, sometimes this goes on for years.

Thank god I know I'm shadow-banned.

Not related to showdead, but one can also get shadow banned from being able to up- and downvote here.

There's no second level I know of unless we consider automatically collapsed comments to be a second level.

You only have the "show dead" option on your profile when you have a certain amount of karma IIRC

No, you have it always.

Next year there will be an a startup school interview with Zuckerberg about why it made sense to sue YC over shadow banning patent infringement

Reddit is prior art

We had shadow banning in the Topix forums in 2005.

Good! Maybe Hacker News will stop shadow banning me!

Our company, which has a number of "software" patents, also implements shadow banning in a communications application, and we never even thought to patent that. Despite the fact that we review all new features for patentability before they're released.


I find shadow banning disgusting. Makes me angry to have legitimate thoughts silenced through some simple switch just because of some temporary "undesired" behavior caused by my nature of having a plethora of emotions that varies depending on many factors.

I do not like it either but the main use for it in forums I have been involved in was to protect the forum from being destroyed by mentally ill users and the people responding to their incoherent rants. Banning them never worked.

> I find shadow banning disgusting.

Then you are too young to remember Mentifex


Hasn't Reddit been issuing shadow bans for the last decade? I think shadow banning people is really shitty.

In Reddit's case, they shadowbanned me immediately after I bought Reddit gold, and an unpaid, unaffiliated subreddit moderator let me know that my account was snowbanned.

Getting Reddit to reverse the ban took sending a message to an admin and waiting a few weeks.

This shadow ban, the continuing degredation of old.reddit.com (its showing incorrect URLs now), and people getting pissed off at me when I suggest breaking up their wall of text into paragraphs (replying "this is just Facebook!" or similar) have pushed me away.

I'm not on Facebook, and I don't want to interact with people who can't be bothered to put in a modicum of effort to comply with subreddit stanfards and rules. Sadly, Reddit has chosen to tailor itself to adopt this demographic over the last few years :c


Only administrators or automatic spam detection tools can shadowban. Regular moderators cannot.

Reddit gold is not a subscription to Reddit. This is a donation function that displays a badge. You didn't have a premium account and you weren't above the rules.

Being picky, mean or downright unpleasant will get you banned you from certain places. Unless done in a polite and educational manner, calling out people for their lack of punctuation or grammatical errors is generally frowned upon and considered toxic behaviour since it does not contribute to the conversation.


You're wrong about multiple things here.

Regular moderators can effectively shadowban inside their subreddits by using AutoModerator and telling it to remove all posts made by certain users.

Reddit Gold has literally been renamed to Reddit Premium and is described officially as both a "premium membership" and a "subscription": https://www.reddit.com/premium


>Regular moderators can effectively shadowban inside their subreddits by using AutoModerator and telling it to remove all posts made by certain users.

While your comment makes it sound like AutoMod just removes comments, what I think you're meaning to point out is that AutoMod can selectively hide all of a user's comments to everyone except for the comment author, which is the exact same as shadowbanning, and isn't just a simple comment removal.

A lot of subreddits use this feature now, too. Some automatically shadowban any user that doesn't have above a certain amount of karma, while others auto shadowban everyone and then only maintain a whitelist of authorized posters. If you've ever posted on a subreddit and gotten zero replies/votes, it's worth going into incognito mode and trying to view your comment from there. Chances are, your account is shadowbanned in that subreddit.


Yeah, that's how all comment removals on reddit work though (which, you're right, many users don't realize).

Users can only know their comments are removed if they check from logged-out or another account, or if the moderators notify them by posting a reply or messaging (which some do, but not a lot of the time overall).


Ah, you're right. I imagine most users aren't aware of this because they assume that if their comment was removed, they would see the "[removed]" tag like they see for everyone else's removed comments.

And either many redditors have never had their comments removed, or more likely, shadowbanning is apparently a lot more effective than people realized.


Yeah, it's not uncommon at all to see things like, "Edit: Wow, this whole chain of comments was removed, except for mine!" because people don't realize that the site actively hides whether your posts are removed.

Pretty much all of reddit's moderation tools were created 10+ years ago for anti-spam purposes, and have hardly been changed since then. They don't work very well for how they're actually used now.


It is really sad to see Reddit stagnate on spam handling, but the dev resources at Reddit seem to be laser focused on making the new UI & features that ease the transition from Facebook to Reddit.

Most of the subreddits with active mods and communities have yet to stylize and reimplement their custom CSS, sidebar and links on the new UI (or can't due to limitations of the new UI), which means lots of people using the new UI miss out on key features that differentiate a subreddit from the rest of Reddit.


In fact, mods have no other option. If a mod deletes one of your comments, you won't know unless they tell you.

Using a bot to automatically delete content is not the same as an administrator making your submissions and comments invisible to everyone but you.

I give it to you, a Subreddit AutoModerator Ban and a Reddit Shadowban are similar in result but not the same thing and should not be referred as such. As far as I know, a regular moderator cannot use AutoModerator to ban a user across the entire website.

For the re-branded Reddit Premium, you seem to be right. But the point is moot, having a premium account is not a protection from getting banned. See paid games where users with accounts worth thousands of dollars are banned.

(Edit: Oh, just noticed who I am talking to. Hi Deimorz! Great work on all of this.)


>Using a bot to automatically delete content is not the same as an administrator making your submissions and comments invisible to everyone but you.

This is exactly what automod does.


One is a flag on the user's account, the other is adding a username to a bot's watch-list. They act the same but are not the same thing.

That would be like saying that paying an employee to watch someone's account and manually delete every comments and submissions is a shadow ban. It is not. AutoModerator is an amazing piece of work but it is just that, a robot moderator.

But that's not the point. The point is that "an unpaid, unaffiliated subreddit moderator" cannot blanked ban you from the website (and that being a premium user won't protect you from such bans either).


>the other is adding a username to a bot's watch-list

Which is exactly the same as adding a flag to a user's account.

This is some bizarre hair splitting going on here.

>That would be like saying that paying an employee to watch someone's account and manually delete every comments and submissions is a shadow ban. It is not. AutoModerator is an amazing piece of work but it is just that, a robot moderator

I don't know what you're trying to say here. What exactly, in your mind, is the difference between "a robot moderator", which is code that controls what is and isn't visible on a subreddit, and core reddit code, which is also just code that controls what is and isn't visible on reddit?

>The point is that "an unpaid, unaffiliated subreddit moderator" cannot blanked ban you from the website

Reddit is infamous for having multiple poweruser mods that are moderators over many of the most popular subreddits, and many of these subreddits share banlists (even ones outside the 'powermod cabal'). A ban from any one of these 'unpaid, unaffiliated subreddit moderator' will result in a shadowban from the majority of the website.

I hear you and agree that yes, a 'premium subscription' does not mean you're immune from bans, but you seem to also misunderstand the banning mechanisms on reddit. 'Shadowbanning' is much more widely used across reddit than I think you are aware of.


> A ban from any one of these 'unpaid, unaffiliated subreddit moderator' will result in a shadowban from the majority of the website.

Which sounds like a frightening and dangerous abuse of the moderator privilege to me. I'm astonished that Reddit has continued to allow this practice to continue. Also surprising are that you can comment in a subreddit and get banned from totally unrelated ones just because a mod decides it to be.


We have gone well beyond the message I wanted to convey. But for the sake of XKCD:386, let me dig a little further in this hole.

You have just described two different things, with different names and different logics. The results of running both is the same but the two are not the same thing.

Moderators sharing lists of usernames to ban versus the software itself banning users globally is not the same thing either. Again, the result is similar, but the process and logic are different.

It is important to make a clear distinction between similar processes.

But yes, you're right, the results are identical and most users will not see the difference.


That’s not shadow banning. That’s regular banning. To shadow ban, the suspect has to not know they are being affected. Automoderator is not subtle.

Apparently you've never (knowingly) been shadowbanned by AutoMod. Deimorz (the guy you're responding to) created AutoMod when he worked at Reddit, and I can assure you that AutoMod is more than capable of removing all of your comments without you knowing (and the only way for you to know is to try to view your profile in incognito mode, or have someone else tell you that they can't see any of your comments).

An "effective shadowban" using AM to remove comments is not the same thing as a global shadowban issued by site-wide admins, by any stretch.

I created AutoModerator and was an admin for 4 years. I understand the differences intimately, but they're very similar from the affected user's perspective.

Does Tildes enable admins/mods to use either shadow banning or shadow removal?

No - I'm the only one that can remove posts at this point, and it puts a brightly-colored bold "This comment has been removed and is not visible to other users".

Wow I had no idea. That makes Tildes much more appealing.

>Only administrators or automatic spam detection tools can shadowban. Regular moderators cannot.

Regular mods see shadowbanned posts in the modqueue. In my case, the admins confirmed the automated spam detection snowbanned my account shortly after I paid for Reddit Gold.

>You didn't have a premium account and you weren't above the rules.

I didn't break any rules or expect any special treatment, all I wanted was a silly badge...

>Being picky, mean or downright unpleasant will get you banned you from certain places.

I have never been warned or banned for any of this type of behavior on reddit.

It is critical to assume the other party is writing in good faith when interacting IMO.


>> Hasn't Reddit been issuing shadow bans for the last decade?

vBulletin has been doing it for well over 15 years too.


>the continuing degredation of old.reddit.com (its showing incorrect URLs now)

What do you mean by showing incorrect URLs? I use old.reddit.com all the time and haven't noticed anything wrong.


I've repeately seen links in subreddits that send me to an article, where if I viww the subreddit in the new UI, I see the post actually links me to a post in a different subreddit that eventually links to said article.

I reported a post which was then removed as a duplicate due to this bug recently, and OP ended up notifying myself and the mod of this bug (since only OP used the new UI).


allana, your comment has been voted into invisibility :]

Is what it is, I kinda expected that when going against the HN groupthink...

On the upside, if Facebook was the only company that could shadow ban, that would be a win for the rest of the internet, and a bit of an own goal for Facebook since the practice is pretty despicable.

The patent office actually received many challenges and claims of prior art for this, however the submitters in question were shadow banned so were not aware that their complaints were not received.

as an author of a small batch (~10, give or take some at various stages) software patents, my experience has been so far that the strictest filter is your company patent office - they usually pick the crappiest ideas dismissing the better ones with long-winded explanations (which almost always can be reduced to "too science-y") - and whatever crap they decide to throw on the USPTO wall seems to be sticking there just fine. I'm really curious about USPTO examiners brain inner workings :)

one thing I do after getting a 101 or 102 "not patentable" rejection is to fire up the PR engine and get articles posted about the innovation and similar patents or products released by companies with more clout

make sure to mention inventors names (link to them if you can)

sometimes the patent examiner magically does a 180, hope the PR is helping

another use of the PR is to find potential suitors and licensees of the patent

its always written as a "not advertisement". kind of like how a buzzfeed listicle isn't an advertisement, but little do you know that the 3rd thing in the list is the one that got the whole listicle written to begin with.


Isn't this good for privacy. Now only facebook should be avoided because legally no other company can claim end to end encryption and do shadow banning.

Doesn't Hacker News shadow ban too? When did that start?

Welp, this is going to get right the fuck challenged.

And my guess is that the people who challenge it are going to make sure it ends up in Judge Alsup’s court, if possible.


Is it possible that FB did this so they could block any potential patent trolls? Correct me if I'm wrong, but FB isn't really known as a patent troll.

How the hell does this possibly warrant a patent?

I am laughing myself silly over this. Now we have a 25 year moratorium on shadow banning in Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, etc...

If they care about making the whole Internet a safer place to all, why would they patent this?

We need a new internet bill of rights.

I feel like it's more ethical to just outright ban someone than to shadow ban. This is not only censorship but false advertising. When you interact on social media you expect a certain level of fairness and visibility of your content.

This masquerades as providing that fairness when in fact you are screaming in an empty room. Shady.


I managed a support forum in the late nineties/early aughts. It was a support forum for a particular mental health condition, so we expected a lot of not-always-perfect behavior and tolerated a lot of it. But with some people it was always hostile and over the top (e.g. somewhat credible death threats) . We always outright banned first (after fair warnings). It’s easiest. That worked for some, who emailed, apologized, and ended up being great community members.

Others not so much. When they came back repeatedly with a new account after multiple bans with no change in behavior they got shadowbanned. The couple of users that figured it out and came back again got the nuclear option. Imperfectly and without guarantee of no collateral damage, it linked IPs, accounts, etc of the user. They could register a new account but the shadow ban followed them unless they were very careful; in which case we just applied it manually.

The thing is, you have to make the system easier for you to control than it is for them to exploit. Otherwise they’ll just grind you down until they “win”.


Couldn’t you have IP banned them instead of shadow IP banning them and achieved the same thing?

We did something similar for a browser-based RPG game 15ish years ago.

Shadow banning is way more effective. IP bans don't work because even tech illiterate users can figure out what's going on and get a proxy working.

We ended up going with normal account-level banning after experimenting with IP-based shadow banning. The game was popular with kids, who would tell their siblings/school friends about it. So lots of IPs were associated, and at the time teasing apart different traffic streams from the same IP was sci-fi level stuff.

But, we did learn that normal banning was way less effective. If it weren't for the collateral damage, we would've kept shadow banning with IP account association.


No. A ban gave them instant feedback for testing ways around the ban. It also gave them instant gratification if they bypassed the ban.

The shadowban slowed them way down by denying the feedback. A user would have to respond to them for them to even know they did it. If they did, we’d manually shadowban that one too and they wouldn’t realize for awhile.

Lots of work for them. Little for us.


Why should a system provide fairness to a user who is banned? The purpose of not informing them that they are banned is to slow down their attempts to work around the ban. Shadow banning is what you do when you do not want to interact with that user ever again. They are no longer a member of your services.

This does not masquerade as providing fairness at all. It's nothing to do with fairness. It is removing that user in a way that makes it difficult for them to come back. That is all.


> Why should a system provide fairness to a user who is banned?

Firstly, not all shadow bannings are guaranteed to be fair and not due to some judgement error by moderators or moderation algorithms.

Secondly, I would argue that sites like Facebook are uniquely positioned to cause harm to users for whom its moderators or algorithms have failed. It has been commented and studied that heavy facebook use is correlated to depression. [1] It has also been commented that facebook feeds your dopamine response cycle. [2] A user who has been unfairly targeted by FB moderation may feel isolated from friends and family, may feel like they suddenly lost their dopamine fix, and may therefore experience psychological distress and isolation. It's not hard to imagine how a decision to shadow ban can have real consequences on the banned, who may in truth be decent human beings not deserving of such treatment.

Footnotes - Some random citations from google searches on this topic - by no means exhaustive:

[1] https://guilfordjournals.com/doi/abs/10.1521/jscp.2014.33.8....

[2] http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2018/dopamine-smartphones-...


While it's true that there are clear psychological effects to using social media habitually, I don't think just because someone may be dependent on something to be happy means the provider has any obligations to continue service.

There is a similar dopamine response cycle with gambling addicts, but a casino barring an addict for the safety of themselves and other customers is hardly seen as "unfair" or unethical regardless of how the banned person feels, because similar to with social media bans, it is generally seen as being for the benefit of the community and even the banned members themselves.

A banned FB addict might spiral into depression just like a barred gambling addict, but in both cases if anything the ban is helping the person face and overcome their addiction rather than continued service which would be enabling or perpetuating their addiction.


Fair points and a fair perspective. I would still say that Facebook's near monopoly status on 21st century social interaction (through it and its subsidiaries) does give it a unique position here, and you don't even need it to rise to the level of an addiction to see it.

Or: the gambling addict isn't typically nearly-forced into using a casino to keep in touch with loved ones.


It's gaslighting them. They have no feedback that the world is ignoring them. The crank on the public street corner saying the world is gonna end soon gets feedback when people walk right on by or put in their earbuds to ignore him.

I would question how well it works, too.

The idea is that the person being shadowbanned is either communicating in bad faith (trolling or trying to underhandedly manipulate others), or is a paranoid schizophrenic.

In practice, though, shadowbans are applied to people who are persistent annoyances, even if they're not intentionally so, and even if they're not delusional. The result is a shift of the forums' Overton Window. Gradually, other people become annoying outlyers on contentious topics, and they have to be shadowbanned as well to "keep the peace". On and on it goes.

People who are justifiably shadowbanned — trolls and paranoids — probably check periodically to see if their main account has been shadowbanned. Otherwise they're poor trolls or not very paranoid paranoids. If a troll discovers this, they will be enraged and redouble their efforts if it's technically possible to get around the ban. If a paranoid discovers a shadowban, it will feed their paranoia. Either case is very bad for the forum, when the toxic user inevitably re-registers (assuming they're able; if they're not why couldn't they just be banned outright?), causing chaos until they're identified and shadowbanned again. The only person this really works on is the unintentionally annoying poster who discovers the shadowban and becomes depressed over being gaslighted, and might leave the forum on account of that.

Shadowbans seems like they're part of a war of attrition against justifiable targets, with quite a lot of collateral damage.


Letting certain people post uninhibited also hurts the community. There's no perfect solution.

> If a troll discovers this, they will be enraged and redouble their efforts if it's technically possible to get around the ban.

In my experience shadow-banning people on my forum, outright banning someone tends to enrage people much more since they basically realize they are banned in the heat of the moment that got them banned. One benefit of shadow-banning is that they may have cooled off by the time they realize, and frankly people tend to handle it better, even sometimes a "ah, touche" sort of mentality.

I've noticed my own posts on HN individually shadow-banned by looking at my comment history in incognito mode and I get it. "Yeah, I knew I shouldn't have worded that post so strongly."

Better mod processes help the issue. On my forum, people shadow-banned pop up in review queue at intervals. If they seemed to have cooled off, they can be unbanned. Mods can also vouch for certain posts like people can on HN with showdead on. There's a view in the mod panel that sorts people by vouch count and we can potentially unban people that way as well.

Nobody would need a shadow-banning mechanism if the moderators had unlimited resources. People forget that it's an effort to be on the right side of the trapdoor function.

Meanwhile I wager that people that don't think shadow-banning is ever just are coming from an idealism you tend to have before you actually try running a forum and realize the extent a single person can harm your community and waste everyone's finite time.


I don’t disagree with you. But as a thought experiment, consider you are being shadow banned right now, but are unaware? How does that affect your thoughts or argument? Especially if banned accidentally by an algorithm without intending to offend etc.

I think the next level of shadow banning (if not happening today) will be shadow supporting or shadow questions/responses. Where an entire thread keeps progressing to convince a banned user from investigating their true status by keeping the dopamine flowing.


People change over time. Sometimes they get worse, sometimes better. HN often un-bans people that have improved. Sometimes people go on comment rampages over a specific issue, or during a stressful time in their lives, but make valuable contributions on other issues. So there are multiple mechanisms to un-ban people or vouch for particular comments.

I think the world is much better when it gives people chances to improve.


you don't have a right not to be shadow banned. it's the best solution to many problems with trolls who will keep coming back on new accounts, with new IP addresses and so on. it's really hard to get shadow banned most places, you have to earn it.

also you don't have a right not to be censored by private companies.


>you don't have a right not to be shadow banned.

Not that I'm necessarily arguing for GP's point here, but the point of a bill of rights is to grant or in some way codify rights that people think they should have. They are not necessarily lists of natural rights that won't be violated.


when I say that it should be taken to mean "you don't (and are not entitled to)". there are a few bad actors who are persistent and tools like shadow banning are very helpful with that, saying that socialism is awful isn't going to get you shadow banned.

> you don't have a right not to be shadow banned

You kind of do. They can't claim they offer one experience and then knowingly provide another, lesser one.


Of course they can. They just can't sell you stuff based on false premises. E.g. selling an ad that won't display because you're shadow banned but you don't know that.

> This is not only censorship but false advertising

Proprietary platforms are under no obligation to host your content. Choosing to deny access or full use of their products to you isn't "censorship"


> "We need a new internet bill of rights."

And we'll never get one as long as everyone who wants one is not being the change they want to see in the world.


We need to eliminate software patents. And site owners should be able to do whatever they want within their site. Don't like it? Don't use it.

Erf. This gets a bit complicated when those services start turning into a public forum because they're (effectively) the only gig in town.

I'm thinking YouTube, Reddit, Facebook, Google when I'm talking about these sorts of things.

We've also got the fun game of "Platform or Publisher?" and responsibility about the content on the site itself.

Is it right for a CEO to get charged with a crime if someone on their website offers sexual services (SESTA / FOSTA)? Well, if it's an open forum, absolutely not. If the company is in complete control of their content? That's a different story. Now the question becomes "how much control over content can a CEO give up and still remain responsible for the content on the site?" and where we as a society decide we need to end up on that gradient is where we answer the question: "what should site owners be able to do on their site."

I agree with you about software patents, though. I think software patents across the board do more harm than good.


Not gonna happen. But so what? At least 51% of the internet is already shady.

Flip side argument: I have moderated forums and bulletin boards going back to around 2000. Every time we were "attacked" or "raided" the people would IMMEDIATELY create new accounts after being actively banned (telling the user they are banned, and publicly labeling their "rank" as BANNED). When we switched to shadow bans (I think it was termed "global ignore"), the attacks would immediately stop, because the [usual] script kiddie / troll just thinks he isn't getting any bites, and leaves. Of course a few figured out what was going on, but it was seriously one or two orders of magnitude better in terms of manageability, specifically dealing with trolls and spammers.

That said, I would never support something such as disallowing shadow banning in an internet bill of rights. That goes way overboard and just ties the hands of legitimate platform operators.


this is how legal sector makes money off of tech sector & locks everything up.

They cannot shadow ban you if you don't have an account!

Can a patent be invalidated after it's been granted?

Yes. Through the PTO (reexam, IPR, other PTAB proceedings) or through a federal court. Happens every day.

PTO invalidation happens every day but takes /years/ to process.

Until then, frivolous patent holders have free rein to coerce contracts that licence claims they know won't stand re-examination.

https://www.ipwatchdog.com/2017/02/17/federal-circuit-affirm...


I'm surprised no one has commented on this yet.

What if i can proof, we did that already in 2001?

What is this, a Software Patent?

I did this in 1999

Nowadays shadowbanning is so widespread that I wonder if it's useful at all.

It's the kind of thing that blows your mind the first time it happens to you, but then you learn to check for it everywhere.


Another gift from the State to a big corporation. Since basically only big corps get advantages from patents I think it's time to abolish it

Hear hear. This is a great time to experiment with reducing (or in some cases eliminating) the protection offered by the state under the guise of intellectual property.

If the US doesn't do it, others will, to their own distinct advantage.


I think this deserves a reminder that Facebook cancels all of your licenses to all of their software (which includes such things as React) if you are in any sort of patent dispute with them (whether they've filed it against you or you against them).

Not currently true, at least for React. https://github.com/facebook/react/blob/master/LICENSE

If I recall they removed that restriction from the react license.

(Further devolving into off-topic:) What I don't understand is why they moved from BSD+Patents to MIT, and not to pure BSD, by just removing the Patents file, which would be the obvious step?

I thought they cancelled your patent grants for a project if you came into a patent dispute with the project.

Also React was relicenced.


Before the relicensing it even covered things like you suing them for violating a non-software patent resulting in getting your react patent license pulled (can't remember if it was general react license pulled or just the patent grant, I think the latter).



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