> I've struggled to understand why so many people have piled on to these absurd accusations without facts.
I watched a similar situation play out in real time. A friend had to fire an employee who wasn't submitting work or even responding to communications. The employe retaliated by using their moderately large social media presence to disparage my friend and her company.
Strangely enough, other people with zero experience in the matter were piling on to support the claims. It seemed they felt obligated to amplify and lend credence to the allegations of one of their social media friends.
The experience was extremely stressful for my friend, but ultimately the former employee cooled off and deleted many of the posts. It's hard to tell how much damage was done in the process, but I was stunned at how someone with zero evidence and an obvious axe to grind could rally such disdain for someone else with little more than a few unsubstantiated social media posts.
I feel that this is due to the weird place victimization occupies in our culture combined with how anti-social social media is.
It's extremely easy to issue accusations and threats and have them be read by literally millions of people. You would never dare vocalize these same threats and and accusations publically - and even if you did, in the pre-internet days, it would reach far far fewer people.
At some point we to start thinking about strengthening our libel laws to act as a deterrent to this type of online behaviors. It's depressing to consider MORE litigation as the solution here, but I don't think we can depend on the good nature of people and rationality to ultimately prevail.
This nearly always advantages businesses and the wealthy, especially in false or ambiguous situations, and whistleblowers of all kinds. Litigation is incredibly expensive and slow. Do people really want to spend a house worth and several years on this kind of fight?
(This is why the US felt it necessary to pass laws against UK libel judgements being enforced, it was infringing on US standards of free speech)
And if you can't prove what you're saying is true, then why are you saying it?
This is not true. The unfortunate reality is that facts _don't_ matter in the realm of public opinion. They never have.
BUT, you're going to say, "I'm talking about libel, which is litigated in the court of law, not public opinion."
If that is indeed your response, I would suggest you might better familiarize yourself with the actual happenings in civil court cases. They can absolutely be just as insane, and they can absolutely act with the same lack of justice we see in other places.
I really wish most people had the type of integrity you're describing, but the uncomfortable reality is that they do not. People are going to believe the thing that makes them feel better, not the thing that is true.
I couldn’t imagine convincing a jury of any of these. If you make saying they happened a criminal exposure for me, I can’t warn others of the danger those people put me in, or even process my pain and grief, without fear of losing a court battle I have no chance of winning.
I’m sensitive to the damage false claims can do, but I think it’s unreasonable to say that people should be liable in a court of law to prove things that are private and unprovable. And it has a chilling effect, where people who’ve experienced similar trauma will be discouraged from sharing their experience because the risk is too high.
It’s already dangerous to accuse anyone with any kind of public presence of anything, people will defend them to the point of harassment, stalking and violence, out of pure loyalty.
Adding legal repercussions for stating that a thing happened where no one could produce conclusive evidence to confirm or deny it just means more people suffer privately without even the recourse of telling anyone what happened.
What is the alternative that you would like to see? Should we be able to destroy any person we want simply by making an accusation without evidence? Should we throw out presumption of innocence and fair trials and just chuck people in jail the moment someone accuses someone of a crime?
If someone is making a public accusation with the intent of destroying someone's livelihood and reputation, I don't think it is too much to ask that we have some way of verifying that the accusation is true.
The suggestion was to “strengthen libel laws”, presumably to reverse this.
> What is the alternative that you would like to see? Should we be able to destroy any person we want simply by making an accusation without evidence? Should we throw out presumption of innocence and fair trials and just chuck people in jail the moment someone accuses someone of a crime?
I’m actually more or less comfortable with the existing US laws. Accusing someone publicly of harming them in an unprovable way is relatively protected speech. I’m opposed to changing that to penalize people who were hurt by someone, want to disclose the fact that it happened, and couldn’t possibly survive a trial they never initiated.
> If someone is making a public accusation with the intent of destroying someone's livelihood and reputation, I don't think it is too much to ask that we have some way of verifying that the accusation is true.
The question is what level of consequence are you saying we should inflict on people before some kind of evidence beyond an accusation is required?
If it's "I tell my friends about what happened, and then they turn down opportunities to work with that person". I don't think anyone would or could sue for libel about that. I am not proposing that they be able to. I apologize if I gave the impression that that is what I was proposing.
If it's "I make an accusation, and that person should then be unemployed and destitute and indelibly branded a sexual predator for the rest of their life" then maybe somewhere in between those two extremes, there is a point where some evidence is required, and the level of harm being done to the accused requires some stronger justification. Maybe current libel laws do not accurately delineate that point because of the advent of the Internet and the possibility for a person to experience widespread harassment based on a few claims going viral. Is that reasonable?
It’s not like this concept of “mob ruined my life” is some new concept, it’s something victims of abuse experience or withhold their stories to avoid, and have forever.
Remember when this claim was made about a now sitting SCOTUS justice? His life had been ruined? Not at all. But at least one of his accusers was so afraid for her life that she went into hiding. Imagine how much more dangerous it would be for her if she were legally penalized for “ruining his life”, which she didn’t do, but absolutely became a part of the anti-cancel-culture script. Imagine how that could be abused by someone in such a high place of power.
People who’ve been hurt by others don’t need to be legally scrutinized for saying so. If it’s in the court of public opinion, the truth comes out. We know this because the few cases where people lie are always repeated by people motivated to penalize truth telling.
I’m afraid to name people who’ve hurt me here, people no one on HN knows, because I fear retribution. Adding the possibility that I might be tangled up in years of legal battles I can’t afford simply for saying what happened is utterly terrifying to me. And that’s coming from a place of relative privilege where I don’t expect half the danger other accusers might expect.
No. There should not be legal penalties for describing abuse without legal proof.
This also means, by definition, that there are no legal penalties for lying about abuse without legal proof.
If you piss off the wrong person, they can now stalk you on the Internet “warning people” about how you’re a sexual predator.
No evidence, no way to get them to stop. Better hope you don’t anger someone with a lot of followers. What a shitty world.
> People who’ve been hurt by others don’t need to be legally scrutinized for saying so.
The point is that not every person who makes an accusation is someone who has been hurt by others. If there is no scrutiny allowed, how are we supposed to tell which is which? You're looking at this from the perspective of the person making the accusation, where you can know with certainty that is true. Someone on the outside doesn't have that ability.
It always matters whether an accusation is true. Penalizing accusers doesn’t produce fewer false accusations. It discourages true accusations.
> You're looking at this from the perspective of the person making the accusation, where you can know with certainty that is true. Someone on the outside doesn't have that ability.
You’ve completely misunderstood my perspective. I’m looking at it from the perspective of the person afraid to make an accusation.
I'm not sure what we gain by encouraging people to make unprovable accusations. From the outside perspective, people will be predisposed to believe one way or another, and in the absence of any evidence they'll just go to their predispositions and a lot of irrelevant argument will take place back and forth with no possible resolution, because there is no real evidence. Why is this helpful or desirable?
Why would the rate of true accusations go down while the rate of false accusations remain the same? My intuition is that they'd both go down, with false accusations decreasing more than true accusations.
The parent's last paragraph seems to set up a strawman, an extreme that seems to me to covered by current libel laws. (Is it not? Explain if I'm wrong.)
It is _possible_ that current libel laws don't "accurately delineate that point", but I am looking for a stronger argument in favor of change.
Based on the posts here, I think that the role and power of "viral"-ity is not well understood. In uncertain situations I would like to seek a clearer understanding instead of simply turning to legislative solutions - surely the question that will come up is "where is the line" and if we can't say we're not ready for a law.
@eyelidlessness Thank you for a very measured set of responses; they are beyond my skill or patience.
I think there is a distinction between "say" and "publish". NAL but libel deals with published falsehoods, these are not private conversations or communications. Communicating a message to millions on twitter or saying it on TV is different from talking to friends and family.
> what I can say about people who’ve sexually assaulted me
Remember you can still relatively freely say/publish your opinion; tell a million people they are a monster, creep, treated you poorly etc. But publicly accusing someone of a specific crime or sexual-impropriety is a serious allegation, and to me it seems ok that the accused has a way to legally challenge it and require proof.
Can you not see how harmful that is?
"To prove prima facie defamation, a plaintiff must show four things:
1) a false statement purporting to be fact;
2) publication or communication of that statement to a third person;
3) fault amounting to at least negligence;
4) damages, or some harm caused to the person or entity who is the subject of the statement." https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/defamation
Maybe the real problem is firing someone from their job due to non credible accusations
Yes, Bill Cosby was sued this way. He was accused publicly, he denied the accusations & they sued him for defamation. Everything depends though, it can be harder to show a denial caused damages or is not an opinion ie; I disagree with the characterization of events.
> Maybe the real problem is firing someone from their job due to non credible accusations
Shouldn't an accusation have real potential consequences, like employment termination? In that case sue the accuser for libel.
I think we need to move away from the American Rule for litigation fees to the English Rule. So we incentive people for telling the truth when pursuing legal action.
How are you going to pay to back this up in court? Evidencing these things is tricky. As you've spotted, it doesn't matter whether what you say is true, only whether you can back it up. Oh, and you may need to lodge a bond with court in case you lose. Best re-mortgage your house.
The UK has extremely strong libel law and yet people libel each other all the time, because cases cost in excess of £100,000.
Oh, and declaring private eyewitness testimony to be worthless makes it entirely impossible to criminally prosecute rape and sexual assault.
"I received an anonymous harassing email" - true statement, not libel
"I received an anonymous harassing email and it was definitely from this guy" - if you can't prove it, could be libel.
See the difference?
Any attorney will tell you - if you are going to blow the whistle on some entity that is powerful, you will lose your job, your home, your ability to work in your field, and your life will be in legal hell for decades.
I am unconvinced that there is anything that could be done to strengthen libel laws that would have this effect short of also shutting down essential freedom of expression, given that Western regimes with stronger libel laws are not free of it, and our libel laws tend to go pretty much right up to the limit federal courts have found the First Amendment to impose on them.
Because powerful people have strong lawyers, the tools that the falsely accused can use to clear their name can be used, to more effect, by the guilty.
There are no easy solutions here. The past looked calm only because people often had no recourse unless a newspaper took up their cause.
It would reach far less people, yes, but we used to burn witches, too, so it seems that internet mobs are just a modern manifestation of that.
least not with the current common education.
The quote works because it sounds like a large number of similar, genuine ones.
The article itself sums it up as: "Believe victims. Don’t let this story plant doubt in your mind when it’s possible that unconscious bias already lives there."
You must not apply critical thought to accusations, because, of course, you are racist/sexist/whatever and cannot be trusted to think critically.
>who haven’t been
It's clearly a parody
It’s often clear they’re just taking a birdshit on something that looks like it can earn them internet kudos.
Dynamically it doesn’t seem far removed from a lynchmob.
I'm sure it reflects their interaction in some cases, but it's so common with these witch hunts (including the one in question here), there may be more to it. Motivated reasoning or something?
Some of the more specific ones could be ex-post re-rationalizing. Like when someone discovers their neighbor was a crook, suddenly his or her demeanor in retrospect was suspicious, or had wide eyes or had eyes close together, said hi but said it fast, or never said hi, or something whatever it is that sets them apart from non crooks.
The same thing happened with RMS. All they could get against him were anonymous blog posts and someone vandalizing the door of his office.
And Twitter/Facebook/YouTube just grin, raking in the advertising dollars from "engagement." The more people "engaged" in the activity, the better!
I don't think the concept of social media is fundamentally evil. It's dangerous, certainly, but I don't think the core concept must be evil.
Public "social media companies," driven to improve revenue from injecting advertising into streams consisting of repackaging other people's content? Those seem to reliably turn evil.
"Cancel culture" is primarily enforcing things that (a) have not reached the same political consensus as codified law, like laws against theft or murder, and (b) are enforced by impulse, hearsay, and mob mentality.
It's human nature to spread rumors and make snap judgements, so I'm not sure how much this can be stopped. But it scares me to see people straight up trying to morally justify it.
Also I will clarify I am speaking from a US-centric perspective. Are you not in the US?
I have seen multiple academic circles seriously come to the consensus that innocent until proven guilty is not good as a general principle. This sort of thing IME occurs on mailing lists or in department meetings, and it has also ramped up considerably in just the last few years. I've never looked for literature on the topic, perhaps the institutions I am affiliated with just suck. But given the many others reporting similar sentiments I suspect there will be some literature on it as a broader phenomenon, at least in the US, down the road.
The entire point of justice was to be less tribal. Social justice now is the opposite.
It's who has the biggest tribal cannon they can point at someone they disagree with. Not whether the facts support the claim.
Democracy is not for individual cases. Jury selection throws out 95% of people because there are so many biases that make democracy terrible for this kind of analysis.
No letting a pool of people decide guilt based on literally no evidence. That’s insane.
- Utility-like services should not be allowed to refuse service to individuals without clear reason.
#2 is already true in some cases, but as usual, the real answer is something like "it depends."
Alleging that someone has done something that happens to be a crime aren't a problem, the problem is wilfully alleging crimes outside the court system. The overwhelming majority of the posts that cause these problems either explicitly claim that someone has committed a crime, or explicitly claim that someone has committed an act that is well known to be a crime.
> #2 is already true in some cases
Not really in the US AFAICS? Certain narrowly defined groups are protected against being denied service by private businesses, but there's no broad general protection.
“There is freedom of speech, but I cannot guarantee freedom after speech.” —Idi Amin
1. They believe that "wage slavery" exists. That is, an employee may freely agree to employment conditions under a capitalist view, but under the liberal view, they have not freely agreed since various coercive forces exist that force them agree to the employment conditions. So if a liberal believes a "freely" agreed to job is actually not free due to coercive conditions, then a liberal should also believe that free speech is not free when coercive conditions exist that control speech.
2. The idea that any consequence of free speech is acceptable is easily countered: the consequence of you calling an insane person stupid is they kill you. Obviously no normal person would think that is acceptable. So every normal person, including those liberals with internal inconsistency in this argument, know that the argument should actually be about what consequences are warranted in response to speech.
"[John] Solomon is hiding because he is a coward who enjoys belittling other people from behind a safe veil of invisibility. His is like many sites on the internet, who mock and insult while lacking any courage to own their own words. In public, these cowards would not dare to say the same things, because they know full well that someone just might come after them, knock their yapping blocks off, or in a worst case scenario, go to their house one night and kill them." --Jennifer Diane Reitz, on someone who gave her webcomic a bad review.
Now don't get fooled by what you've been told. Internet Mobs and liberals are unrelated groups, but there are politically inclined groups who are pushing an agenda to discredit liberals by association, this is a fallacy, if you want to learn more about that here's the wikipedia entry: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Association_fallacy
> the argument attacks a person because of the similarity between the views of someone making an argument and other proponents of the argument
So please, don't fall for this, there is no way to know what political values the people refered too in the article that were part of the mob had, lots of internet mobs are conservative, libertarian, communist, socialist, etc. just as well.
One of the liberals I respect most, Noam Chomsky, agrees: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zwojLDxOWGA
> No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
This is a liberal value. False accusations go against this, so would most of the US politcal tactics employed to smear and discriminate other parties. It's rampant in today's society, in fact you did just that, by trying to compare people who disagree with you as "idiots". You took attack on their reputation.
> Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection
Wage slavery is a catchy attention seeking way of saying that this right is being breached by a lot of employers.
> Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
This is where it gets tricky. It is your right to be allowed to tell others on social media about any information or ideas you hold. So it seem to make sense that one could tell people that their ex was abusive and a scumbag. And in turn it is fine for others to tell the ex they believe what they think of it.
But what if your ideas are an attack on someone's else honor or reputation? Are you still free to express them? Would it not then breach the other right to not have honor and reputation attacked?
Well yes, this is a dilemma. One where different people lean more on one right or the other. In the US, people lean more on the right to speech, so it tends to be free game to say whatever you want and thus internet mobs are okay.
Now what I think is that there is no real contradiction. You have the right to express yourself freely, but not to hurt someone else's reputation. So expressing lies and falsehoods to attack someone goes against that person's rights, and your right to express yourself freely is for things you believe to be truthful, or things which don't attack someone's reputation only.
That said, and I won't quote them here, other liberal values say everyone is innocent before proven guilty and have the right to a fair trial. So it would be to the person whose reputation they feel attacked to prove that the other person did in fact express lies and falsehoods to attack their reputation, and that person would need a fair trial and be treated innocent until guilty. Similarly no penal offence can be taken against someone just because there is somebody claiming they are abusive and were harassed by them, a fair trial must be held.
That leaves us with how things are exactly right now. Everyone is free to say what they want to anyone else, and everyone is free to any idea they hold of others. And for the government to interfere in any way, there'd need to be a fair trial that proves that one person's speech was a real attack on someone's reputation, and not just sharing their truths.
Part of liberalism is accepting your own flaws and failures. Go and get another job.
There are of course more complexities where speech should result in consequences, but in general, if someone says something than another otherwise unrelated person simply disagrees with, the speaker should not have their relationship with their friends, family, employer, customers, businesses they use, etc harmed. This should be enforced sometimes by law, and sometimes by culture, depending on the rights in play in the particular situation, as you outlined above.
So you do agree that freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom from consequences after all.
This is exactly what people who say that also believe. They're not supporting harassment, slander or the suppression of non-harmful political speech, nor are they claiming all consequences for speech are equally valid. Rather, simply stating that there are "complexities where speech should result in consequences."
Where the two sides actually differ (when one strips away the strawmen, trolling and bad faith arguments every iteration of this conversation generates) is what speech should be considered "purely disagreeable" (which is a purely subjective term) and what consequences are valid, which can only be determined on a case by case basis, in context.
I personally believe hateful speech should have consequences, even when it isn't explicitly and immediately threatening harm on a specific individual. An employer has the right not to associate with an employee who publicly makes bigoted statements on social media which the public has associated with the company. The public has the right to oppose such speech where it exists, and to try to convince employers to take action.
An actor or public figure whose politics I disagree with can and should be publicly criticized, and their suffering some financial harm due to the public boycotting their work is a legitimate consequence of their views.
A politician, even a sitting President of the United States, who spreads lies and misinformation can be criticized, fact-checked or even banned from social media. And yes, social media platforms should have the right to determine what can and cannot appear on their platforms, and to moderate that content beyond strict legality.
All of that is clearly within the long-established and generally agreed upon boundaries of free speech and freedom of association. None of it is a carte blanche endorsement of harassment.
We may disagree about the details, or be in violent agreement, but everyone is drawing a line in the sand somewhere.
So you think it's perfectly acceptable to attack an individuals livelihood because you disagree with them? The political climate in the US is split pretty evenly at the moment, so in your view we would have no actors or public figures expressing a political opinion. No matter what the opinion is there would be individuals, like yourself, who disagree with it and therefore the speaker should be cancelled. If everyone felt that way then nobody would be allowed to say anything because all expression would lead to cancellation.
This goes completely against freedom of the individual as well as freedom of speech. It is a direct slide into authoritarianism and is diametrically opposed to liberalism.
OP is correct you are not a liberal you are an authoritarian.
1. Someone loses popularity and thus their business suffers from it.
This is totally fine. I'm free not to purchase your books, music, products, services, etc. even if simply because I disagree with you on some things.
2. Someone is fired because people disagree with their ideas or thoughts.
Now this can be wrong and it can also be alright:
2.1 Someone expressed an opinion which respected other people's rights, but where a lot of people disagreed with. E.g.: I think we should invest heavily in the military to defend our borders.
In this case, this is not acceptable grounds to fire them. People have the right to hold and express their ideas freely without repercussions.
2.2 Someone expressed an opinion aimed at the destruction of other people's rights. E.g.: Black people should not be given equal treatment under the law. Women are not fit to work. White people deserve to rule over others.
In this case it is acceptable to fire them, because they attacked other people's rights, and that deserves consequences. BUT not without a fair trial. You still owe a fair trial to prove that they indeed engaged in activities aimed at the destruction of other people's rights. So in this case the person being fired should choose to sue if this happens.
> I personally believe hateful speech should have consequences, even when it isn't explicitly and immediately threatening harm on a specific individual
My problem with that is it makes large swaths of modern left politics uncriticizable, since any criticism of those politics will be construed as hate. Right wing politics were also once uncriticizable, in the "war on christmas" days, but that has since faded.
Except it doesn't, because people criticize the modern left all the time, to the point that "the left" (or now the "woke left") has become a pejorative on its own. On Hacker News dunking on the left is practically a sport. And as far as hate goes, everything "the left" says, does and believes gets construed as hate as well.
But that's not a free speech issue, that's just a speech issue. Criticizing politics is criticizing people and their identity and worldview. People will inevitably take such criticism personally.
If you agree with the ideas of liberalism, by definition that would make you a liberal, but from the way you talked about "liberals", it sounded like you excluded yourself from that group, which would mean you disagree at least partly with the ideas of liberalism.
Sorry if I was wrong, you consider yourself a liberal then?
> they should believe purely disagreeable speech should not have consequences
You have the right to be disagreeable, but others have the right to hold ideas and opinions of you and tell others about them too, unless as a direct attempt to discredit you. I think the confusion here is because the word "consequence" is too vague.
If you're a disagreeable person, and no one wants to hangout with you or be your friend anymore as a result of finding you obnoxious. Well ya that's in everyone's rights, nobody is obligated to like you.
But you have rights too, the right to dignity, a livable wage, to your reputation, etc. And so this is where there can't be consequences that would breach your own rights, which are universal to all, even obnoxious disagreeable people have them, so do gays, trans, women, blacks, asian, muslims, etc.
So what you have to do is show that your rights have been violated, and now you have a case.
If you get fired for something you are accused of which is false, I'm pretty sure you do have a case and can go to court, prove it was false and thus slender, and you'll get your job back, and penal offence can be taken to the lier.
> This should be enforced sometimes by law, and sometimes by culture, depending on the rights in play in the particular situation, as you outlined above.
Now I think you're bringing another dimension. If people don't like Joe, and they get fired on ground that he's obnoxious, despicable, repulsive, make others feel unsafe, etc. Does that go against Joe's rights?
This is a tricky one. The first issue is what do we mean by disagreeable? Because that could mean that Joe is breaching other people's rights.
Article 30 > Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein
See, Joe doesn't have the right to engage in activities aimed at the destruction of any of the other rights. And this supersedes his rights as well. So he has the right to speech, but to not speak against other people's rights.
So now if by "disagreeable", we mean that Joe is actively taking part in propagating the idea that women are not fit to work and should instead be housewives. Well based on Article 30, Joe doesn't have the right to say that and he's infringing on women's rights, and so consequences can very well apply, even losing his job.
Now if by disagreeable we mean that Joe is simply someone who is always the devil advocate, or who is ackward socially, etc. Well ya then it be a pretty big violation to fire Joe purely on those grounds.
Now also, Joe doesn't have the right to "keep his job no matter what", but he has the right "to protection against unemployment", and to "economic indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality".
So in theory, it's fine to fire Joe just because he's an asshole, but he should still be given protection against unemployment and provided with ways to have economic prosperity required to keep his dignity and develop his full personality.
So you see, you cannot discriminate against other people's rights, because others have rights that protects against discrimination, but you are allowed to discriminate against someone who is actively engaging in discrimination. This is perfectly consistent. But dont get me wrong, there should still be a fair trial, you're innocent until proven guilty, and until it's been shown that you were discriminating yourself, you shouldn't be discriminated against.
But most courts have failed to look into such issues and to hold trials and all that related to these issues. So it has entered the social sphere instead, unfortunately, and now everyone is trying to pretend like they are being discriminated against left and right in order to justify their own discrimination of others. It's a shame really.
Every generation thinks they discovered sex. Kids rebel against the hierarchy. Elders complain about "kids these days."
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Literally everything is a consequence of something else. If you cut someone off in traffic, they might hunt you down and shoot you. That is a possible consequence. It doesn't mean it's a just or appropriate consequence or that we as a society should allow it.
To put it another way: If, in your opinion, twitter users are not subject to accountability based on the chaotic randomness of public opinion, then who are they being held accountable to? Who even determines what a "consequence" is in that scenario, or what the threshold for that bloodthirsty behavior is? Honest questions here, I really don't know what the solution is.
As usual with legal stuff, the answer really seems to depends on the nature of was posted, and the employment contract that is in place.
Not really. Per your link, employees are protected in a very narrow subset of cases - where what they are doing on social media is 100% protected labour activity. But firing employees arbitrarily for social media posts (outside of those narrow protections) is completely fine. That's completely backwards from how it works in most of the developed world, where the burden of proof is on the employer who must show that the firing was for a permitted cause, rather than the employee having to show that they were fired for a non-permitted cause.
"The test is whether the employer’s actions, and how the employer acted, were what a fair and reasonable employer could have done in all the circumstances at the time the dismissal or action occurred."
How's that for specific and consistent! Yet it still provides protection against capricious firing.
Better that you stay employable so you can lend a financial hand if they aren't and protect your psychological health so you can be there for them in other ways.
So sure, pray for the courage to throw yourself physically in front of an unstoppable train... but also pray for the wisdom to know better. :)
However, that fails to take into account any context of the particular “cancellation”.
eg, A situation with damning screenshots of lewd DMs are pretty ‘smoking gun’, and the barometer of “good friends would publicly support me” feels like an insane expectation when (in this hypothetical instance) the person did a bad thing.
Perhaps being cancelled isn’t the solution (because we’re all flawed) but the automatic expectation of character references come a scandal isn’t fair on one’s friends.
My point is that nobody did a bad thing until someone actually did a bad thing, and I think that's most people's gripe with 'cancellation'.
With the exception of some particularly abhorrent things, I'm not sure I'd consider myself a friend to someone if I'm not willing to support them even if they're in the wrong. That doesn't mean lying for them or trying to pretend it wasn't bad, but I would expect myself to push back on mischaracterizations of them (positive or negative!) and help them navigate the consequences.
The thing is, what tell you it's actually mischaracterizations. You can believe me, I'm not the same in front of my parents, versus in front of my boss or in front of my friends. I'm not saying I'm doing anything bad, but there's trait that I'll show more or less depending on the involved party.
It can also pretty easily change between public and private settings, I don't have much situation for which it happens for me, except obviously my SO, but I have known people that does adapt to my more relax personality when they are alone with me. Nothing nefarious in my case, but a good example on how in private someone may act differently based on the other party.
So sure I agree that you may support them, tell your own story about that person, but you still need to understands that it's only your story, that has nothing to do with anyone else story.
That is, I am not going to defend somebody who won’t even be honest and open about their wrongdoing.
However (in my hypothetical scenario which was meant to challenge the utility of blanket statements of support), a message of support does effectively act as a counterweight to an accusation, and unless one possesses all of the facts it may have the effect of laundering the reputation of somebody who deserves criticism (though I’d argue that in most instances, cancellation is very very over the top as a penalty).
Sadly, the idea that a friend can be a loyal one, while insisting on good behavior, seems alien today.
This sounds very Catholic
If defending a person, in the face of prima facie evidence, has the result of preserving their reputation and status (and keeping the reputation and status of the accuser in their original state) then it doesn’t feel useful or good.
And I take the opportunity to nudge them and ask, "They did a bad thing. Does that mean they're always bad? Can they make things better? Should we forgive them? How do we know when to forgive them?" (not in a single tirade; these are just questions I drop over time.)
Because, in anticipation of the fact that they're definitely going to fuck up along the way, I want them to learn that mistakes and failures and even doing bad things don't make them irrevocably bad - that ultimately, the most important thing is making amends / trying again / etc. That your worst decision is not the sum total of who you are.
I don't see why I should try so hard to teach that to my kid, and then "disavow" friends who may have fucked up.
1. helping a friend hide the body
2. telling your friend they are in the wrong and you will help them through the consequences IE likely charges, court, gaol time, life rebuilding etc.
Not really. Fake screenshots of such things are trivial to create.
For example: https://streamable.com/zcgqie
I was effectively trying to say “Imagine a scenario where the wrongdoing was basically certain”, for the purposes of focusing on the ‘backing up friends with a public statement’ part of the situation.
I know that in reality this (probability of guilt) can’t readily be uncoupled from the result (the statement) but I asked people to imagine a situation of certain ‘guilt’.
>It seems to me that you only pardon the sins that you don’t really think sinful. You only forgive criminals when they commit what you don’t regard as crimes, but rather as conventions. You forgive a conventional duel just as you forgive a conventional divorce. You forgive because there isn’t anything to be forgiven.
And as Scott continues:
>Actual forgiveness, the kind the priest needs to cultivate to forgive evildoers, is really really hard. The fake forgiveness the townspeople use to forgive the people they like is really easy, so they get to boast not only of their forgiving nature, but of how much nicer they are than those mean old priests who find forgiveness difficult and want penance along with it.
I think about this a lot when I see the perennial discourse on canceling. Scott talks about this argument in terms of people being canceled by leftists, but I think it applies almost as well to people on the opposite side handwringing about cancellation. There are lots of great points to be made about the corrosive effects of cancellation mob rule, but I sometimes wonder if most of the left-right difference on this issue comes down to how strongly they feel about the infraction in question, rather than any level-headed consideration of what policy would lead to the best society.
I would say this is pretty clearly the case. Most of the time the question seems to be "is this cancel-worthy": the difference in your reaction to the "cancellation" of, say, J.K. Rowling vs. Nikole Hannah-Jones probably depends more on your feeling about what they've done than on your stance on "cancellation" itself.
2) never capitulate, never apologize unless you genuinely did something wrong. This can be hard, but there's no other option. Also, never explain yourself. I've done nothing for which I owe anyone an explanation, least of all random people on the internet.
3) don't use main line social media. Nothing good comes from having an account on twitter or Facebook.
4) anyone who says they care about you that decides they don't even know who you are because some random stranger on the internet accuses you of something doesn't care about you really. At the very least they'd ask you if it is true before passing judgment. I know it can be hard even knowing this, the people you can trust are never exactly who you expect or want them to be.
5) the mob is only as powerful as you let them be.
6) sue. If someone slanders or libels you, sue them into poverty. The only thing keeping people from transgressing you is fear of reprisal. Make an example out of them. If it actually negatively affected your life and you have evidence that what they said isn't true, you may be entitled to compensation.
In the age of the internet, you have to have a thick skin. It is required. I understand that some people take it hard and some even hurt themselves from the pressure, and I feel bad for those people, but the failure is that they let noise from the ether affect their emotional well being. You cannot do that. The internet is a resource of information and a communications channel. Nothing more.
Think back on Kavanaugh: what real evidence was there? No place. No day. No time. No witness to the crime aside from the accuser, some decades later. Cited witnesses did not corroberate.
I understand the witness's account was believable to many people. (EDIT: if I knew her, I'd believe her and have empathy for her suffering). But if you step back and look objectively, there wasn't a lot there. And the media pile on was incredible. It was a clear signal to other politicians that the media is willing to not just unleash a mob, but to be a mob. That surely has a chilling effect.
I think she has some form of false memory syndrome, which would explain why she believes so strongly that this event happened, but she has absolutely not even a single atom of proof.
It's funny that a letter signed by 65 (SIXTY FIVE) women all stating that he was a gentleman was completely ignored by the media. The media hones in on a single woman who claims sexual assault with no evidence, meanwhile there are 65 women willing to testify on his behalf. It's incredible to me. If he were a predator, wouldn't you think there would be a single woman in the 40 years since this alleged assault would have come out?
What makes more sense? Some dude has been creepy and only showed the positive side in his defense, or three random unrelated women -- who he claims only ever had lovely, adoring exchanges with him -- decided to destroy his life for no apparent reason.
I mean, the former case has a precedent for happening almost habitually in the past, you'd have to be willfully ignorant to ignore the context of the last several decades. EDIT: Not saying he's guilty, but I'm also not pretending we don't live in a world where institutions perpetuate and erase abuse.
But the latter case deserves a response by the accusers. Unfortunately, if some guy walks up to a woman at an event and acts creepy, this demands that a woman record every moment of her life in case she has to defend herself if she calls him out...
EDIT: Watching the points on this comment swing from negative to positive in the span of minutes is telling.
Please follow the site guidelines. You broke the second-last one: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html.
(Btw, it's not "telling" of anything but that the topic is divisive, which we all know already.)
I think this post covers a lot of what is happening - https://savingjournalism.substack.com/p/vcbrags-pasquale-mit...
It's to be predicted that nearly everyone commenting will take a side based on their pre-existing view on the pre-existing issue. I say "nearly" for form's sake, but actually I'm not sure there is a single exception.
From an HN moderation point of view the question is whether the general phenomenon is interesting (there the answer is clearly yes, even if no one knows what to make of it) and whether the specific post can support a substantive discussion. On the latter point I'd say it's borderline.
If this is the bar for unacceptable discourse between men and women, without being a mind-reader, I'm not really sure how one is ever supposed to win.
Is that really 100% of the interactions they've had?
You seem to be pretty confident there's only his side of the story.
Also, not proud of this, but I used to have a weird troll dating account. I sent weird messages to women that I didn't know, but nothing offensive (to me). I googled my username once and found that someone had thought it was her ex. She posted it on Reddit in an alcoholism subreddit, and anyone in the thread questioning her was then also accused by her of being her ex under an alt. It was insane.
But random people are free to make whatever conclusions about him that they want, with as little or as much evidence as they personally require to render their judgement. You don’t get to tell other people how they should form their opinions.
It isn’t fair, but there is no other way for the world to work. Everyone has their own criteria for judging people... we can put legal requirements on some things (like what criteria you can use to determine if you hire someone, or rent them an apartment, or let them into your store), but people are free to dislike someone for whatever reason they want.
Maybe one analogy would be the way that gossip and rumour in a very small town could harm a person, such as by affecting their livelihood, their family, and so on. Now that we have the global village, the "small town" is basically everybody. I see the current debates about "cancel culture" or whatever as a messy attempt to work out norms for this new space. We're probably still in the early stage of those getting worked out.
Beyond that though, when our opinions have consequences, we have an obligation to form them carefully when they affect others. Not being able to force someone to behave well doesn't mean there aren't reasonable criteria available for them.
Now, if I (or someone else) harass the guy over the accusation, then that is a problem (and there should be consequences), but belief is personal.
You're free to believe whatever you want, but if you are wrong and they didn't do it, someone was just publicly executed for the wrong reasons.
You're also free to not care about any of that, but some people want to be cautious not to pile on without evidence.
Are you really arguing it's fine if I accused you of something and convinced everyone of that, without ever providing any evidence? And when you said "no, I didn't do that, here's some evidence," people should shrug it off because why does if matter what side they believe? After all, they are free to judge you based on anything they want, as long as they're not threatening your life or firing you, right?
No one was arguing you can't judge people based on any arbitrary thing you can come up with. It becomes an issue when you use that belief to actively destroy their life, possibly for no reason at all.
If an opinion being held doesn't have any practical ramifications for others, it's not really a big deal to have opinions formed on a questionable basis, except that good judgment tends to be a habitual process, so doing it with bad criteria with low stakes could affect how we form them when the stakes are higher.
For me to believe their accusations. It's not just something that exists in the courts, it's a principle that many (most?) people adhere to in their lives. If you have one co-worker who accuses the other of stealing their phone, would you punish the accused without first asking how they know they stole it or looking at camera footage of the time of the alleged theft?
It's not illegal for you to believe unsubstantiated accusations (not just unsubstantiated, but unsubstantiated in the face of exculpatory evidence). It's not illegal for a boss to fire an employee over an unsubstantiated accusation. Legal, but still harmful to society.
But you are free to believe whatever you want.
Personally, I don’t hold a belief either way about this person. I neither believe or disbelieve them.
As it stands, he's provided receipts and the other side hasn't, so for me any reasonable person believes the person with the receipts.
And sure, we can't force people to form opinions in one way or another, but we absolutely can (and arguably should) criticize people who form their opinions in a way that is best modeled after a lynch mob, in the exact same way I would react to a... real life lynch mob.
We're throwing away "innocent until proven guilty" with this. I'm sure you agree how dangerous that can be.
Though, as you point out, recording every moment is not feasibly or desirable. Do you have any ideas on how we could solve this problem?
Making it easier and cheaper to file defamation suits wouldn't help as in this case there was no evidence.
And me, as an outsider on the internet, has no business trying to pick a side or work out who should be punished. That's the job of the legal system.
Assuming a two-party interaction, for every person that makes a true accusation of abuse, there is one malicious actor (the abuser). For every person who makes a false accusation, there is one malicious actor (the accuser).
Regardless of the ratio of true to false accusations, the number of malicious people in the world remains unchanged.
So it would be expected that almost every accused person would defend themselves when they would not lie if the sides were reversed.
Because effectively you are saying that this kind of bad behavior is more likely than the bad behavior where one person would lie about another. And it is not clear why you think one type of antisocial behavior is more common. People lie every day, oftentimes to their own detriment. Likewise people are creeps every day, again often to their detriment. I think it is far from clear at this point which behavior is more common.
In a pool of one hundred people, where one is an abuser and nine are false accusers, you'll have one false denial and nine real denials.
If it's nine abusers and one false accuser, you'll have the opposite ratio.
Without demonstrating which toy world applies, you can't know what's going on.
His story didn't quite add up to me - no explanation, even speculative, of why several people in his life, who he thought he was friends with, might suddenly decide to attack him - so I found this interesting: https://savingjournalism.substack.com/p/vcbrags-pasquale-mit...
I don't have a lot of sympathy for VCs who have access to actual capital but feel like an anonymous Twitter account making fun of them is "punching down", and it's not obvious that the non-OP people in this story are all behaving well, but we don't have to pick sides here, and it seems like there's plenty of reason to be cautious about fitting this into a narrative about online "mobs" "lynching" innocent victims.
They may be unrelated but the events here weren't independent. He was accused of anonymously harassing someone thru a meme twitter account (actually run by someone else). This caused him to be virtually dog-piled. None of us know what would have happened without the initial false accusation.
All we have here is judgement. There's no meaningful evidence except testimony from the people in conflict. You made one call, grandparent made another.
Why should only one be sexist?
I mean, maybe not. You disagree. But you disagree because you JUDGE the evidence differently, not because of any fundamental truth.
To wit: get off your high horse. You're doing the same thing you called another poster "sexist" for doing.
How is it sexist to believe that Person B is innocent? I think someone is being sexist or racist in this situation if their judgement changes depending on the race or gender of persons A and B. That's what the root comment wrote, or at least how plenty of people are interpreting it: it makes more sense to them that Person B is guilty and Person A is truthful by virtue of the fact that Person B is a man and Person A is a woman.
You are getting at it when you write this:
> But you disagree because you JUDGE the evidence differently,
Correct, but the deeper fundamental aspect is that they making their judgement based on the evidence. As opposed to making judgements based on the gender/race of the people involved.
Good grief. It's not! For exactly the same reason that it's not sexist to believe Person B is guilty, as exporectomy did above and as zozbot234 and you defended. Judgement calls aren't sexism.
But FWIW: by typical preponderance of evidence rules, multiple corroborating testimonies by unrelated witnesses sit way higher than "here's a screenshot of an unrelated event". I submit that the reason you're clinging so hard to that is that you really just don't WANT to believe this guy is a creep.
Which, fine. It's a judgement call, and you judged. Just don't tell the rest of us that you aren't.
Racism and sexism depend on power imbalance, and calling out centuries of existence of either when exploring if there is a power imbalance at play is not related.
Saying "This race is inferior" is vastly different than saying, "This race was and is still exploited by power structures." Do you understand difference?
"What makes more sense? Some black person has been violent and only showed the positive side in his defense, or three random unrelated white people -- who he claims only ever had lovely, adoring exchanges with him -- decided to destroy his life for no apparent reason."
Anti-black racists have the same mindset: "Hmmm... what do all those looters and criminals have in common?"
Of course, your mindset totally ignores the millions of people that don't fit your stereotypes.
Saying only long-held -isms somehow pass your bar is gatekeeping and not ok. Victims don't need your approval.
If he is only showing the positive side in his defense, wouldn't it be super easy for anyone who received his creepy side to show it? If he says "these are the only DMs we exchanged", and then someone can show more DMs that were exchanged, wouldn't that destroy his defense? Yes, clearly the messages can be photoshopped, but if none of the accusers are pushing back against the claims, which would be simple to do, one could assume they are true.
"Women are saying that a guy had an interaction with them"
So all our brain emergency signals flare up. That's because somebody who is not ourselves having interactions with women triggers an immediate response...that guy is, in fact, an enemy from a reproductive standpoint. Deeply rooted in our brains there is the idea that WE should be interacting with those women and that we must destroy that guy because he's ahead in the reproductive race
This happens subcounciously.
Even standup guys like Bill Gates aren't immune to it, if you want to hurt a guy reputation and you have nothing, absolutely nothing on him...well just say that he's a playboy and a philanderer.
If you claim those things you immediately ruin his reputation with women and with smart/family men. All he's left with the approval of less smart men who are no use for guys who have ambitious goals such as Bill Gates or even the Pasquale VC of the main article. They'd have lost so much "approval rating" among smart men, as well as men who are capable of reading the room and don't want to be associated with a guy who is under attack by the mob.
Seems he dated two of them? I guess we all know who ended the relationship now. (hint: not them!)
I’ve noticed that the blog post doesn’t really dive into “what could have possibly caused this to happen?” so we’re all left to speculate as to what circumstances (if any!) led to this.
It seems like quite a few comments are rather uncurious about that and have decided to focus on a phenomenon called “the mob” as if it were a monolith that manifests uniformly like the apparition of a bogeyman that’s entirely disconnected from cause and effect aside from going after the best and brightest.
He’s also expressed some pretty odd ideas. From the same link:
> Regular readers know that I used my background in hypnosis to accurately predict nine-out-nine political events in 2015, while most political professionals got zero right. That makes me the best political pundit of the year.
The podcast QAnon Anonymous (which reports on conspiracy theories; it’s not pro-conspiracy thinking) did an episode about him. It’s been a long time since I listened to it, so I won’t try to sum it up because I’d do so poorly. He came off as an unpleasant person who doesn’t seem admirable to me. I wouldn’t link to him in a post about character assassination.
See also: ad hominem, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/character-attack/
But I do remember what happened to Vanessa Guillén, and an entire military that tried to cover it up, and many, many others like her. (Should I enumerate GamerGate's victims and the way their real accusers said it was BS, when it wasn't?)
I don't think it's a new concept that 'calling someone out' should have something behind it: evidence, credibility, or at least plausibility. The problem is that regardless of the truth, evidence is not often likely to exist, who is credible on social media has become wildly subjective, and plausibility is easily back-filled with further innuendo.
The truth is life is a fuckmess right now and there is no instantaneous black/white gratification. And if your success is predicated on a large social-media following, I'm afraid there's nothing you can do when it turns on you. At this point at least.
Not to digress, but holy hell: I mean look at the fuckmess social media has created, of disinformation and conspiracy theories. Flat earth? Pizzagate? Q? For real?
What? This makes no sense. There is no crime being alleged here. No one is trying to send this guy to jail, so what would there be to try in court?
Someone said this guy was creepy. Guy says he isn’t creepy and provides some evidence. Everyone is free to look at the situation and make their own judgement.
The idea that we are only allowed to believe things proven in court is asinine.
Except people who believed the accusers. Those people are an "internet mob" who must be condemned. You forgot that part. Only the guy who wrote the blog post is supposed to be believed.
It sounds like a joke, but there's a real "it's only bad to believe people without evidence when YOU do it" vibe to the posters here.
The only community I interact with candidly tends to be this one. I don't post on Twitter, Facebook, etc. because the vast majority of mainstream social media users (a) don't tend to have good-faith debates on any intellectually-interesting topics, and (b) will always find something to rip out of context and crucify you.
But this is easier said than done. Dopamine's a helluva' drug.
So participating "in the public sphere" was just not worth the risk. I had no idea what view I express today might in the future be deemed unacceptable. Even just being visible on there makes you more of a target–it's harder to have a pile-on on, say, someone's blog.
I miss twitter and facebook at times (quit facebook for different reasons), but overall it's a huge relief to not be contributing to those ecosystems.
perhaps sticking to purely technical posts may help, it is hard for me to say what drives engagement in these platforms.
It is fine line to walk
I think your "best solution" aligns well with what the OP appeared to be doing, and he still burned.
It's important to note that just because the mob forms on social media doesn't mean its consequences are limited to social media.
OP has a huge Twitter presence (600k+ followers), and I guess my point is when you have that kind of presence you open yourself up to being a "pseudo-public" person. Sometimes, you need to do this (if you're a politician, for example). But usually you don't.
People will get more riled up when the person they're crucifying is famous - clout-chasing is a real thing. Although you (sadly) sometimes have exceptions to this rule, so you're right that it's not a complete solution.
He has 16k followers https://twitter.com/pasql
16 thousand people follow him. That's way more than enough to be considered a 'public person'
To think that we now file it as “not that much” is something I can’t wrap my mind around.
A good easy contrast is the “phenom” of how flighty, not loyal, and weaker of a connection TikTok followers are. I believe it is very hard to go from being big on Tiktok to elsewhere. Contrasted by other social media.
Also. This is all coming from some one who has never had more than 200 of so followers on any social media.
It's important to remember that there are as many people following 10K people as are being followed by 10K people. They aren't really paying attention to 10K people's photos of their lunches or stray observations on Ohio sports.
This. Thank you. I have unconsciously wondered into such debates on social media cesspools, and approaching it like I do with HN, which is atleast more logical
Contrast that to pure engagement-focused social networks like Facebook or Twitter, which do the opposite: prioritize showing flamebait, because people are engaging with it and therefore it must necessarily be quality content!
Voting manages the day-to-day and gives them signal to work with, but ultimately open communities (i.e. that anyone can join) need active moderation to remain stable over the long term.
I think the best solution here is to speak up on behalf of those who are unfairly attacked, in spite of the negative fallout from getting involved. The worst thing that can happen in cases like this is when nobody supports the victim. That can be profoundly traumatizing.
For a more in-depth look at the impacts of internet mob attacks, I'd recommend this TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/jon_ronson_when_online_shaming_goe...
The reality is that there is no easy way forward, no simple answer:
You don't know the truth any better than the mindless mob. If someone is accused of sexual assault or harassment, do you want to risk defending them, only to find out later that you guessed wrong? When the video comes out showing the crime, do you want your name permanently associated with trying to protect them?
The witch hunt / lynching / mob attack is always the wrong act, regardless of what someone has done. Perhaps the best you can do is to point that out, but that is also difficult. People will not read the nuance and assume you are on the other side. And you only have so much social capital - when everyone blocks you after the first time you stand up, what do you do after that?
That's one of the reasons why people are so quick to join the fray and throw a punch. They want to be that one quick Tweet that goes viral, gets them thousands of followers and builds their brand.
There are a lot of benefits of being an influencer, but it has its downsides too.
(s/influencer/celebrity for a few decades ago...)
HN is one of the better places by far, and I think it takes active action by someone at the top to hold the line.
On here we also get extreme reactions still though - The only reason apple does X is because they are evil and want to spy on you etc.
One idea you see in nature and also developing countries is camouflage. You basically give your kids a very generic name so they blend in, harder to search etc. In developing countries people really operate with nicknames a lot more and sometimes have multiple "real" names.
I don't think politics in general as a topic should be banned, but there is exactly zero intellectual gratification in reading a thread where I can predict without reading what the opposing sides are going to say and the respective counter-arguments.
I just can't see how thread #32768 about affirmative action or thread #65537 about abortion can be more interesting than the previous one. You'll just be served defrosted opinions.
Same here. Even so, I make it a point to keep it positive, and about myself.
Interestingly, that gets people painting me as "stuck up," or a "goody two-shoes," and they attack me anyway.
The graph of meaningful human relationships is always going to be small and consist only of bidirectional edges. It's a road to accepting that and forging self-worth based on the people you know and care about, and who know and care about you, not the people who will never know you let alone care about you.
It takes active role models, introspection and life-long seeking of enlightened approaches, to break the mold. Few do, but when one do, many can follow.
I've thought about that, but your reputation is being destroyed. You'll offer no defense? You'll let everyone who you value get that impression of you? You'll allow it to become permanent, public record for anyone who ever looks you up with a search engine?
There is no defense against the barrage of a Twitter mob, doesn’t matter how hard you try. It also seems that the better the reputation you have, the more difficult it is to recover.
What if the people you know are reading it, and it affects your friendships, your job, your business partners, your reptuation?
But social media turns everything into live TV, potentially analysed with more rigor than any TV show ever witnessed, and with algorithms implicitly optimised to make the things most visible which generate the most powerful emotions. And it doesn't seem like the social media concept is going to disappear soon, it's just part of everyday life for many.