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Life after an internet mob attack (pasquale.cool)
532 points by jseliger 18 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 445 comments



From the linked Notion "Receipts" page:

> 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 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.


> strengthening our libel laws

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)


Truth is always an absolute defense to libel. If you can back up what you’re saying, libel isn’t a concern.

And if you can't prove what you're saying is true, then why are you saying it?


>If you can back up what you’re saying, libel isn’t a concern.

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.


There are several people who have severely traumatized me by actions they took to harm my body, violate my sexual consent, and/or manipulate my life so that I was under their power in ways I didn’t agree to.

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.


NAL, but I don't think talking to your friends and acquaintances privately rises to the level of libel or slander, or at least it would be very difficult to prove if it did.

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.


> NAL, but I don't think talking to your friends and acquaintances privately rises to the level of libel or slander, or at least it would be very difficult to prove if it did.

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.

That exists.


Ok, I did not interpret strengthen libel laws to mean extending them to private conversations. Instead, I was thinking of something to deter Internet pile-ons like the article discussed.


Where is that line? I keep most of my Internet life relatively private. But this means I’m already hesitant to use the platforms I do have to describe things people did to harm me. I’m the one who’d be piled on if it got an audience. Adding the potential for expensive lawsuits just means I’ll be more hesitant to warn anyone that someone did something harmful, to me or to anyone else I believe. Why do I have to keep these conversations private?


We have laws because there are dishonest people. You might as well ask why do we have laws against stealing? I'm an honest person and if I go take something from someone's house without asking, I'll just bring it right back with no harm done. Some people aren't honest, though.


I... don’t understand what you’re trying to convince me of here? Are you trying to morally equate me hypothetically naming people who’ve abused me to stealing from them, if I couldn’t defend a non-legal claim of what happened in court? I sincerely do not understand what you’re saying should change.


I understand that you are telling the truth. Do you understand that sometimes people do not tell the truth?

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?


No, I don’t think that’s reasonable. In the spirit of “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”, I don’t think adding more legal liability serves anyone. Moreover, it serves even less people who already have few resources to redress wrongs.

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.


> 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.


So is there any point at which you would say it matters whether an accusation is true or not? Is it only if there’s a criminal investigation?

> 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.


> So is there any point at which you would say it matters whether an accusation is true or not? Is it only if there’s a criminal investigation?

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.


Nobody is saying we should penalize people for making accusations. Being asked to substantiate your claims is not a penalty. It should be understood that people will ask that when you make a public claim, especially if you are asking for something to happen as a result of that claim.

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?


> Penalizing accusers doesn’t produce fewer false accusations. It discourages true accusations.

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.


> Remember when this claim was made about a now sitting SCOTUS justice?

Remember, indeed?

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27299548


This is absurd. The “mob” that “ruined” his life did no such thing. Multiple accusers had credible accounts, media did scrutinize their accounts and determined that one wasn’t credible while others were. He wasn’t “cancelled”, he has a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the most powerful country in all human history. This “mob” theory is ridiculous. Yet one of his accusers was so afraid for her life she went into hiding. This is exactly why I’m opposed to penalizing accusers.


> Multiple accusers had credible accounts, media did scrutinize their accounts and determined that one wasn’t credible while others were.

Like?


This is a very challenging interaction. I will try to keep a very even tone in this message.

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.


Thank you for this. I think you’ve expressed a lot of what I didn’t have emotional space to say, with at least as much skill and patience. I appreciate you joining in


[flagged]


> what I can say about people

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.


So if I were to name the people who have sexually assaulted me, here in a comment—which I’ve already said I’m terrified to do even though they don’t have an audience here to my knowledge—but if I did so, just said so to an audience, I should be legally liable to prove it? Because I didn’t keep it private?

Can you not see how harmful that is?


I think the accused should have the right to legally challenge a public defamatory statement. In this case... it probably wouldn't be a very strong case, just from a quick google search, my guess is they would struggle with 1 & 4 below. For 1) In civil, this is probably preponderance of evidence (>50% true) vs beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal. For 4) Theoretically this has no impact, you are just screaming into the void and they don't even know about it. But it could cause real damage, this is a highly trafficked site, maybe they loose their job or their spouse sees this and divorces them etc.

"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


If you can't prove it didn't happen, denying the accusation is libel. Fair is fair.

Maybe the real problem is firing someone from their job due to non credible accusations


> If you can't prove it didn't happen, denying the accusation is libel. Fair is fair.

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 do appreciate that I had a response when this posted.



Truth is not an absolute defense for other legal cases in the US. The legal system is statistically successful at getting innocent people to take plea deals and legally does not require the penalties for a losing party.

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.


Even if you say the truth, you still need to pay for a lawyer's swimming pool.


> If you can back up what you’re saying, libel isn’t a concern

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.


Except Libel isn't on the same criminal level as rape and sexual assault. Libel is a mostly civil affair and should be dealt with as a civil offense, not criminal, and since its mostly civil, it can have a higher requirement of proof, as weird as it sounds.

Really? You've never talked about something that happened to you without photographic evidence of the event? Really?


With the intent of siccing a mob of people on someone to harass them online? No, never. In the article, the problem is not that the women discussed the fact that they had received harassing emails, but that they attributed those emails to a particular person without any proof that that is true.

"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?


Whistleblowers have plenty of protections and can be exempted. Libel can be stated such that they only apply to private matters between individuals, where accusations that do not reach the felony level - which is exactly what is going on here. I have no doubt we could protect all interests, while limiting the power of the wealthy and powerful.


Whistleblowers have functionally no protections, I don't know how anyone could have knowledge of whistleblower cases and claim otherwise.

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.


> At some point we to start thinking about strengthening our libel laws to act as a deterrent to this type of online behaviors.

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.


Might want to talk to folks in Singapore, where the government infamously uses strict libel laws to bankrupt and jail its critics.


It's tricky because these accusations resonate because they remind us of things that really happen. (and in fact, lies can be formulated for maximum impact when truthtelling is usually more nuanced)

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.


> 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.

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.


> I don't think we can depend on the good nature of people and rationality to ultimately prevail.

least not with the current common education.


“It is absolutely essential that we believe Jussie Smollett. If we don’t, other people who haven’t been attacked might not have the courage to come forward.”

https://newcriterion.com/issues/2019/4/wokes-on-you


That’s a Titania McGrath quote. She’s fictional. A parody.


Clearly. Effective parody exaggerates reality, which she does.

The quote works because it sounds like a large number of similar, genuine ones.


"I'm passing this quote around, not attributing it to being satire, and then when that's pointed out saying it's exaggerated and it works because it accurately represents people's beliefs, even though I said it was exaggerated."


It's blatantly obvious that it's satire, and the link makes that clear.


And yet people in this thread are using it as evidence.


I see this so often with fake news. People spread it because they want to believe it because it confirms their worldview. So when you point out the story is fake, they insist that it might as well be true.


Can you provide proof on even just 1 similar, genuine statement?


Here's just one I found with a quick search:

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/believing-jussie-smollett-hat...

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.


>other people who haven’t been attacked

>who haven’t been

It's clearly a parody


The unfortunate tendency of people not in the know is to pile on righteous indignation for the sake of peer brownie points.

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.


There's a similar tendency I've noticed with these, where people who have met or interacted with the person pile on with vague statements. This is a popular one: "I met him once and knew something was off! He had a creepy vibe".

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?


I’m speaking about the more general pile on.

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.


People want those sweet, sweet internet points and will lie and whore themselves to the mob to get them. How else does one know their true worth?


Attention whores, all of them, doing it to feed their pathetic dopamine addiction and mask their own lack of accomplishment.


To be completely honest, the whole thing reads like high school drama completely blown out of proportion.

> I've struggled to understand why so many people have piled on to these absurd accusations without facts.

The same thing happened with RMS. All they could get against him were anonymous blog posts and someone vandalizing the door of his office.


Social media companies seem to optimize for virality. In such circumstances there are users who will learn to wield such capabilities to suit their goals


That's the thing, the "internet mobs" are literally the result of "engagement" they optimize for so they have no incentive to stop it and all the more incentive to facilitate and perpetuate it actually.


The only solution is to delete social media and not play the game. Be a ghost.


You may not be interested in culture war, but culture war is interested in you.


The most disturbing and insidious sentiment of online mobs is claiming that the targets are "just being held accountable". Or that such people are just experiencing "consequences". I really can't express just how cold and bloodthirsty such statements seem to be. It's the perfect combination of justifying vicious behavior while also absolving themselves of responsibility.


> It's the perfect combination of justifying vicious behavior while also absolving themselves of responsibility.

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.


Well said. And notice how the refrain changed. For years it was complete denial with "cancel culture doesn't exist". Now the response is, "it's just consequence culture".


Just to be clear, is it "cancel culture" or "consequence culture" when the legal system puts people in jail, or practices capital punishment? Or are those considered something different entirely? If so, why?


The idea of a justice system in a democracy is (a) the laws are agreed upon through the political process and (b) due process and impartial consideration are applied in casting a judgment.

"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.


Yeah the thing that concerns me most about "cancel culture" (of what I see) is people openly pushing back on the principle of innocent until proven guilty. It seems to be common to argue that there is nothing wrong with the court of public opinion putting the burden of proof on the accused. Usually this is combined with some comment about how horrible the accusation is versus how supposedly mild it is to be criticized across the internet.

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.


I mean, to me that sadly is nothing new. I've known my share of people who just assume by default that people they don't know are jerks, and are hostile toward them. I don't know what you would call it. Untrusting? I can't see where you would cross that line and all of a sudden start calling it "cancel culture" or "consequence culture" or whatever. Is it because it's happening online now?


The part that is new, or at least recently en vogue again, is how this behavior is seen as a positive. It is explicitly encouraged by current social dynamics. It is even encouraged to some extent in academic or "intellectual" circles.


Do you have any studies that actually quantify that? IMO large groups singling out and bullying individuals is not really a new thing, that has been happening for a long time.


Bullying individuals is not new. Arguing that bedrock principles of legal justice like innocent until proven guilty are quaint and antiquated in the face of the 'horrors' of the accusations (odd that they should apply to serial killers, but new modern thought-crimes are so much worse that they should not) is relatively new, especially as a mainstream position in intellectual, academic, and political circles.


That has not been my experience, do you have any studies that quantify that? From my perspective, the entire concept of legal rights and due process is what is actually the new thing, considering the total span of history anyway. These were not things that anybody had 1000 years ago, and even now some political entities still don't really have it or consider it valid (unfortunately).


As far as institutional memory is concerned, new is anything that hasn't been seen in a couple generations' lifetimes, certainly not 1000s of years. This is also why I included "recently en vogue" in my prior comment, I'm not claiming that this thought process has literally never been seen before. Just that some cultural phenomena display a back and forth pattern, with a timescale such that it will feel entirely new to the current population when it's out in full force. Further, the negative impacts of the extreme adoption are precisely what will push the pendulum back eventually.

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.


I guess I'm confused, there are a lot of things in life that become known by hearsay and don't reach the same consensus as codified law. What makes this special? Would it really be any different if twitter actively had daily democratic polling on who should be criticized that day? And how would that be any different from "mob mentality," if large groups of users all decided to impulsively vote the same way?


Innocent until proven guilty by a fair trial. Not the other way around.

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.


So what is the solution there? Should twitter and facebook have their own internal legal system, decided upon by democratic vote as I was just describing? What would make it inherently less tribal if they did that? Would that stop large groups of people from all deciding to vote as a block and criticize one person all at once? Or is the goal something else? Surely, if this problem were theoretically solvable by a social media site, there should be some different way to operate one?


The legal system goes to great lengths to prevent it being everyone just voting who is guilty.

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.


So to allow any post through, twitter should have a process that randomly selects an unbiased jury of other twitter posters, and have them judge the post before it becomes public? And that process will be administered by democratically elected representatives who ultimately decide on the 5% that doesn't get thrown out? What if you are a person who just happens to hold strong preconceived opinions about a lot of things, wouldn't you be seen as "too biased" for any jury, and get totally excluded from this process? Would that be the system being fair, or would it be another example of "cancel culture" stopping people from being jurors? I don't know, I'm just spitballing here, I'm not a legal expert or anything, but I do know that jury stacking/tampering is a real thing that happens.


I’m not sure what your point even is. Twitter should just not allow people to claim other people raped/robbed/etc without pointing to some actual conviction or ongoing trial.

No letting a pool of people decide guilt based on literally no evidence. That’s insane.


- Social media should not allow the broadcasting of unproven allegations that individuals have committed crimes, just as conventional media is barred from doing so until the cases have been heard in court.

- Utility-like services should not be allowed to refuse service to individuals without clear reason.


#1 seems practically impossible to do, considering that the definition of what a crime is tends to vary between jurisdictions. It may work if on a closed internet and social media that is segregated by jurisdiction.

#2 is already true in some cases, but as usual, the real answer is something like "it depends."


> #1 seems practically impossible to do, considering that the definition of what a crime is tends to vary between jurisdictions.

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.


Whenever the talk of “consequences” starts, I’m reminded of a quote:

“There is freedom of speech, but I cannot guarantee freedom after speech.” —Idi Amin


Yeah, the "freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom from consequences" response that some liberals give has always puzzled me. It is internally inconsistent for a liberal ideology.

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.


> 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.

"[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.


Wow, that's quite a Self-Aware Wolf.


If you're interested in learning about the values held by liberals, as one myself, I recommend you read the UN declaration of human rights https://www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-huma... as I think it does the best job at summarizing the general values held by liberals.

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.


Great, so then you must agree, only a complete idiot would call themselves a liberal and also believe free speech should have negative consequences.

One of the liberals I respect most, Noam Chomsky, agrees: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zwojLDxOWGA


It's only a 5 min read, I recommend it, you might find you have more shared liberal values then you thought, but if you're not going too, let me point out some of the relevant ones here:

Article 12 > 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.

Article 23 > 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.

Article 19 > 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.


"wage slavery"

Part of liberalism is accepting your own flaws and failures. Go and get another job.


I don't know why you think I disagree with the idea of liberalism. I simply think if someone is a liberal, they should believe purely disagreeable speech should not have consequences; else, they are an idiot.

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.


>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.

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.


"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."

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.


I think there's different scenarios.

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.


Yes, I totally agree that the argument should be about "... what speech should be considered 'purely disagreeable' (which is a purely subjective term) and what consequences are valid". As I said in my very first comment, "... the argument should actually be about what consequences are warranted in response to speech".

> 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.


>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.

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.


That person is being coy about the difference between Liberal and Progressive and Social Activist, perhaps because they are unaware of the meaning of "liberal" in American politics.


> I don't know why you think I disagree with the idea of liberalism

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.


It shows that witch trials haven't gone away; they never really did. They just became more technologically savvy in their influence, both publicly and politically.


Socrates was an early victim of "cancel culture".

Every generation thinks they discovered sex. Kids rebel against the hierarchy. Elders complain about "kids these days."

Lather, rinse, repeat.


The "consequences" thing is one of my biggest pet peeves.

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.


So how could responsibility be ensured? Make a social media site where people can't criticize each other at all? Require all posts to go through third party fact checkers?

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.


How about more employee friendly labor law so people can't get fired because of public pressure? Without teeth, this mob justice will be less of a real world problem and more contained to social media.


So what would that look like? Would employers no longer field public complaints about potential problem employees, under any circumstances? In effect, they would be required to always side with the employee in case of a dispute?


It would look like France, Japan, or, y'know, most industrialised countries. Employers would be required to give cause for any firing, and follow a documented process in which the employee has certain rights (e.g. the right to be assisted by a union representative, see the evidence against them, respond to allegations).


In some cases, that is how it already works in the US: https://www.nlrb.gov/about-nlrb/rights-we-protect/your-right...

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.


> In some cases, that is how it already works in the US: https://www.nlrb.gov/about-nlrb/rights-we-protect/your-right...

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.


Perhaps it would exclude complaints about what they do in their job but firing someone for things they do that are unrelated to their job could be protected, like what happened in their personal relationships or what they posted on the internet if it's not part of their work.


Picture someone you really dislike, for some good reason. Now imagine you hired that person before they did whatever, or before you found out. Now you're stuck with them. Now your company is known primarily for what they did and you are losing business.


If everyone knows the company can't fire them, then why target the company in the first place?


The company is paying George the Putrescent Person to do nothing, because nobody there wants to work with him, either?


So basically the way it was with overt racist and sexist hiring before that was illegal? The solution is to suck it up and let the other employees who are too bigoted to cope quit.


That seems to hinge a lot on having a specific and consistent definition of what "related to the job" and "part of their work" means that won't unfairly affect some companies, maybe there is an established legal definition of that somewhere?


The legal system manages to work out vague definitions. Here's an excerpt from New Zealand's employment law regarding unjustifiable dismissal:

"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.


Some US states do have laws of that type, though not all of them. In general, the answer to any kind of employer abuse is mostly the same as always: unionize.


The truth is these people are looking for acceptable targets they can safely lash out against.


Reading the list of "receipts" in the "wrongfully accused" link is heart-breaking. I can't imagine having to dig through my personal correspondence to submit to the court of public opinion, "see?! I wasn't a creep!"


If/when any of my friends get attacked by the mob, I hope I'll have the courage to stand by them publicly. A good recent test was the doxing of Scott Alexander. I signed the open letter against it with my real name and was happily surprised to see the names of many people I know. We should have more of these small but visible acts of resistance that let like-minded people find you.


The Scott Alexander controversy isn't analogous at all. That was entirely due to his public writing, not alleged private interactions between him and others.


One issue is that your friend would often not want your public support. You throwing yourself onto the pyre will not rescue them, only destroy you too. In many cases it would be symbolic-- and really just another example of virtue signaling, just like the mob but signaling a different set of virtues to a different audience.

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. :)


I know of two people that went through the whole social media mob thing. The most hurtful thing to them was the lack of friends actually standing up for them. They felt completely alone. And with nobody taking their side, it feeds the narrative that they really are as bad as everyone claims. So no, I think you're completely wrong and what you are suggesting is cowardly.


Strongly disagree. Always stand by your friends, even if it's hard and costs you a lot.


The post, and your comment, IMO wrongly frames this as courage .vs. cowardice in standing up for friends.

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.


This happened to a friend of mine recently. Some woman posted their conversation to an instagram story, saying all my friend wanted was sex and implying that people should stay away from him. It seemed like she thought she was doing something courageous, when in reality she's kind of a monster. The dude did nothing more than unfollow her on insta after she strongly hinted that there would be no possibility for romance after he invited her to hangout. Instead of just getting rejected for a pretty standard way to meet people, he gets shamed in front of potentially hundreds of people. So much for ostensibly sex friendly liberalism. Screenshots of DMs are hardly smoking gun evidence of anything if your audience is heavily inclined to pile on, nor does it matter because that's a shit way to communicate anyway and removes from someone any kind of recourse. I couldn't have done anything because she had a private account, but I couldn't have done anything to counter it anyway because it was just an outlet form of social media.

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'.


He should have sent vocals which cannot be screenshot


Screen record.


Ok but you have to do it immediately or you lose the ability to re-play the audio


I think an interesting question is: can you support people and wish the best for them even if they've done a bad thing?

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.


> 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.


I’d like to think I could but it’s largely context and “acknowledgement + repentance dependent” on the part of the ‘accused’ (if they did do the bad thing).

That is, I am not going to defend somebody who won’t even be honest and open about their wrongdoing.


That kind of scenario doesn’t seem relevant, given the kind of attacks this thread is about, but if shown a damning screenshot, I would hope that I would not not immediately disavow a friend before looking into it, and if the situation was indeed that bad, would still love my friend enough to help them rehabilitate and obtain forgiveness from the people they wronged. I believe it’s possible to temporarily withdraw good graces to that end without permanently disavowing someone.


This is a good and much more balanced/nuanced outlook.

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).


I think that a culture of lovingly challenging our friends is part of the solution to that problem of that counterweighting. I should be the first to uncover the sins, if you will, of my friend, and urge repentance and restitution, temporarily withholding approval to achieve that end, and involving more people in that knowledge to the degree necessary with public shaming being a last resort. (In this example, the problem is not one requiring legal intervention.)

Sadly, the idea that a friend can be a loyal one, while insisting on good behavior, seems alien today.


> I think that a culture of lovingly challenging our friends is part of the solution to that problem of that counterweighting. I should be the first to uncover the sins, if you will, of my friend, and urge repentance and restitution, temporarily withholding approval to achieve that end, and involving more people in that knowledge to the degree necessary with public shaming being a last resort. (In this example, the problem is not one requiring legal intervention.)

This sounds very Catholic


Yep. :) I tried to generalize the philosophy but apparently didn’t cover my tracks well enough. I’d like to think that the principles would work for anyone.


They definitely don't. These things are easily manipulated and abused. Leaving the church was one of the best things I ever did, but now the moralistic tone makes sense. Thanks for your honesty.


Sorry to hear. I really tried to make clear that the whole point is to fight abuse from within as hard as possible, for those in any particular group.


Righteousness generally lends us to believing those things. I think my memories of it were that it was more harmful than good, though there was surely some benefit.


I think I know what you mean by the words righteous and moralistic. I’d definitely say I’m optimistic about these ideas, and obviously pessimistic about how rare they’re applied in the wild as I said a few comments ago. The criticism you’ve given me is exactly the kind of challenge and accountability I’m asking for, though, even though we aren’t in the same group aside from HN, so thank you!


This is very good. I definitely endorse this approach (and largely agree with your final sentence).


My view is more like "a true friend would help you hide a body", or the short story "Friends in San Rosario" by O.Henry. If I abandoned a friend to the mob due to "screenshots of lewd DMs", I'd have a hard time living with myself afterward.


Just a heads up for any friends of mine reading this comment, if you kill someone, I'm not gonna help cover it up. Probably even if you were justified — you'll still have to take your chances with the court system. Good luck tho!


That doesn’t feel like a worldview that would result in a fairer society or better personal conduct.

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.


I have a little kid. When we watch cartoons, they might point at the villain of the piece - e.g., Jafar - and say "he's a bad man!"

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.


While I agree with your worldview as presented here there is a difference between:

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.


It's in the nature of friendships to not be fair or good for the whole society. We regularly favor our friends over strangers for all sorts of things. If you want fair, don't favor your friends. The trouble is, that also means probably not having any friends. There's a personal price to pay for being "good".


Our actual legal system is adversarial, and for good reason. The best way to get to the truth is to have devoted partisans on both sides.


"a true friend would help you hide a body" <- if both of you are criminals, perhaps.


> eg, A situation with damning screenshots of lewd DMs are pretty ‘smoking gun’

Not really. Fake screenshots of such things are trivial to create.

For example: https://streamable.com/zcgqie


Screenshots are trivially easy to fake. Friends don’t have to be character references, just public opinion defense attorneys who play dirty.


I should have caveated my comment with “screenshots that can be proved to be real”


What screenshots can be proven to be real?


You’re right. It was a bad, rushed example on my part.

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’.


Speaking of Scott Alexander, this kind of thinking seems exactly like the kind of virtue signaling he writes about in "I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup". As the priest in the parable says:

>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.


> most of the left-right difference on this issue comes down to how strongly they feel about the infraction in question

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.


How is this a similar situation? No one ever made accusations against Scott Alexander. No one said he did anything wrong.


I hope you'd ask them first. I see a lot of "cancellations" where the person at the center has already admitted fault and apologized while flying monkeys are swirling around screaming about censorship and mob justice, not realizing they're the mob and nobody asked for their help. They end up looking like idiots and make things worse.


1) be pseudonymous. People in my real life don't need to know what I do on the internet. Not like I'm doing anything untoward, but I am candidly discussing things with random strangers, including things some might view as beyond discussion, and you don't want some crusade against you for that. Your real life and your internet life don't need to overlap, and 99% of people get no benefit from them overlapping.

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.


6 is a bit difficult in the US, where access to the legal system requires money. Remember Smith College, where several employees lost their livelihood after a privileged kid set her Twitter army on them. Good luck to them in court, but they won't have it.


Well, it is important to do anyway, even if the only people that come out on top financially are the lawyers. People that want to destroy your life baselessly will only be deterred if they know it will destroy them as well.


On what money? Good luck as a former dining hall employee (salary < 40 kUSD) against the near-unlimited endowment of Smith College.


1 and 6 are mutually exclusive.


Sure, if done right. But in the event it does happen, there are people in this world that are the reason we have prison as a deterrent. You must deter these kinds of people.


It's hard for me to not think of politicians here and the incentives we are creating.

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'm a staunch Democrat, but the Kavanaugh accusations were absurd and angering to me. There was nothing there to back her allegations at all. The witness she said was there, her friend, said she didn't remember the incident. She couldn't even remember where the alleged assault took place. She even got the year wrong and had to backtrack to a "more correct" date range later on.

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?


I wouldn't call OP's post "receipts", but rather "his curated receipts."

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.


> 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.)


Didn't know that. Won't do again. Thanks. Passionate topic.


Appreciated!


Hey dang. I think this post need to be taken down. I've followed this drama before and after reading a lot from both sides, it's pretty clear in my eyes that there is an ongoing harassment campaign from Pasquale. I was really shocked to see this getting so highly voted on HN.

I think this post covers a lot of what is happening - https://savingjournalism.substack.com/p/vcbrags-pasquale-mit...


Well you've certainly convinced me that this is a drama that I will never rightly apprehend—it's like looking into a kaleidoscope while on acid. But does that mean the post should be taken down? I'm not sure. A post being on HN's front page does doesn't imply either that it's true or that we're in any way officially condoning it. At most it implies that there's an interesting discussion to be had. If you want an official position, here's my take after a minute of skimming: there are at least two sides to every story, and I have no idea what really happened.

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.


Do you have something better to show harassment? That post doesn't appear to. As far as I can tell it's about an account that replied to people patting themselves on the back with clap symbols, which seems rather benign. Although I may just be too removed from twitter and people who use twitter culture to get it.


I don’t know about any of this drama but that post is unreadable. What is it actually saying? It spends like half the time talking about prior versions of itself with long detailed explanations of why it changed.


Seconded.


Here's an example[1], from his blog post, about the interaction one of these women defined as "creepy".

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.

[1] https://www.notion.so/image/https%3A%2F%2Fs3-us-west-2.amazo...


That's his receipt. Not hers.

Is that really 100% of the interactions they've had?

You seem to be pretty confident there's only his side of the story.


Then she should share receipt of the alleged creepy messages. The burden of proof is on the accuser, not the accused.


Yeah, the only "evidence" brought by the women are screenshots from anonymous Twitter accounts with no proof they're associated with Pasquale. Surely someone must have a harassing message from the guy?

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.


Burden of proof for what? To charge him with a crime? Sure.

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.


We're in a weird space that previous models don't map very well to. For example, the legal system doesn't map because virtually none of the things people are doing on social media are illegal, and probably shouldn't be. On the other hand, the previous social models, such as gossip ("random people freely making whatever conclusions they want") don't apply because their potential for destructive effects are relatively circumscribed.

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.


You can tell someone what good criteria are for wines, why not forming opinions? They're not obligated to listen to you, but I don't get saying that you can't advise.

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.


What consequence does my choosing to believe either side in this story have?

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.


What do you call a mob of people piling on someone and causing them to lose friends, opportunities and a healthy state-of-mind? A belief system?

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.


"...publicly executed..."?


While I did not mean that and just failed at English, one can easily find documented instances of actual murders and lynch mobs directly caused by lies being spread on social media, so, yes?


The question was about how someone should form their opinions, and whether we can tell others how they ought to do that. Lots of our opinions do affect others (e.g., if they should be hired, if one should help them, how we treat their reputations), so it's appropriate to point out what good and bad criteria are.

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.


> Burden of proof for what?

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.


Punishment or firing is different than believing or not believing. I agree you should have a higher burden of proof before doing those things.

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.


Why don't you believe either way? If the "he's creepy" side had provided their "curated receipts" would you believe 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.


How would your perspective change, if it all, if the accuser came forward and said that those were in fact the only DMs exchanged?


> 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...

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.


I think in most of these cases, the accusations are correct. But some of them aren't correct and we must protect the innocent as well.

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.


Why do you think most accusations are correct?


The majority of people are not malicious and would not make this stuff up. Some obviously are and will but my feeling is that these people are the minority.


Not sure the math makes sense on that.

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.


This was an interesting thought but I think the difference is that the defender has a much greater incentive to defend than an accuser has to accuse. There is no downside to not falsely accusing someone but there is a major downside to not falsely denying an accusation.

So it would be expected that almost every accused person would defend themselves when they would not lie if the sides were reversed.


There is an assumption you're making that is missing from your analysis. Yes, it does seem likely that an abuser or what have you will be highly incentivized to defend themselves, more so than you'd expect people to falsely accuse people. What is in question is how likely you think someone being an actual abuser/creep/etc is in the first place. You're not comparing apples to apples.

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.


This is still bad reasoning.

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.


There's quite a bit of irony in the number of HN commenters who are prepared to side with the OP instantly & without any apparent consideration as an innocent victim of... people online instantly & without apparent consideration siding with accusers.

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.


> three random unrelated women

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.


Don't judge people on what your emotions tell you is most likely what that type of person usually has a reputation for doing according to the selectively reported news. That's how racism works, or in your case, it's sexism.


Right, which is why you refuse to believe the accusers, right?

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?


What has been stated so far is not 'judgment'. SavantIdiot has merely stated a prior that applies to any and all accusations of some sort, regardless of the evidence. The fact that OP can provide evidence of unambiguously positive exchanges, while not dispositive as has been pointed out, is at least enough on its own to overcome the prior.


Alternatively: three similar accusations of different events by different people without any other relationship seems like that should be enough to outweigh a nice text message that got sent once, no?

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.


Person A accuses Person B of sending creepy text messages. Person B shows a message history of what they claim to be the entire conversation between them, with no creepy messages in it. Person A refuses to share any text messages.

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.


> How is it sexist to believe that Person B is innocent?

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.


You're not even presenting an accurate picture of the accusers side though. Two of them are apparently know each other literally because the original accuser told another accuser[1] that Pasquale was to blame.

[1] https://www.notion.so/image/https%3A%2F%2Fs3-us-west-2.amazo...


That's not at all how racism and sexism work.

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?


Racism depends on making assumptions or judgements about other people based on their skin color. It has nothing to do with power. Minorities don't have a free pass to be racist towards White people, and women don't have a free pass to be sexist towards men.


For social media outrage, women seem to have more power than men (eg. this article), so your claims about men are sexist due to the power imbalance. I'll also demonstrate the equivalence of your statement to racism by changing some words:

"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."


all major social media companies are literally owned and run by men


Can you connect that claim with a conclusion using some logic? For example - and I know this probably isn't what you're implying but I don't know what it actually is - "They are run by men and the sex who's members run them is the one with the most power, therefore all men have more power than all women.


Yours is neo-nazi thinking: "Look at all those banks and media companies, so many Jewish last names..."

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.


-isms are a belief that "$group does $thing, so $person who is a part of $group probably $thing" held or supported by a large enough group of people that it out-powers $person.

Saying only long-held -isms somehow pass your bar is gatekeeping and not ok. Victims don't need your approval.


The smallest, most vulnerable, most powerless minority of them all is the individual. So parent's point is still very relevant.


The women clearly aren't unrelated if they are referring to each other in their tweets about why so-and-so is a creep.

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.


My question is, why is this any of your (or my) business? Why do we feel it necessary to involve ourselves in a situation we have neither the context nor the authority to have an opinion?


Because nature tells us :

"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.


> 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.

Seems he dated two of them? I guess we all know who ended the relationship now. (hint: not them!)


I agree with your curiosity about this.

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.


You know, this seemed like an interesting case study right up until he quoted Scott Adam's take on "being cancelled."


How come?


Scott Adam’s says some pretty bizarre things in public on his blog and on his podcast. He wrote about causing his readers to orgasm via his words.[0] The tone was not that of a person with a healthy attitude towards sexuality. I found it unpleasant and gross.

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.[1] 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.

[0] https://www.scottadamssays.com/2015/12/31/hypnotizing-you-to...

[1] https://m.soundcloud.com/qanonanonymous/episode-43-scott-ada...


Even if you don't like Scott Adams (And I don't particularly like the guy myself), I don't think that should invalidate the specific statement that the article quotes, which should be able to stand on its own regardless of the background of the person saying it.

See also: ad hominem, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/character-attack/


Remember what happened to ProJared?


Isn't he the dude who cheated on his wife and solicited nudes from fans?


No I don't. Not sure what side of the arg ProJared is on.

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?)


Jared was accused by his ex of some shitty things, then a bunch of randos straight up lied about him to pile on. It's 40 minutes but he explains what happened to him here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBywRBbDUjA


Both things can be wrong. ProJared didn't victimize Vanessa Guillen so it's a category error to put the military cover up that happened with people lying about ProJared and him showing receipts on how he wasn't victimizing people.


Exactly. Like it or not, accusers have the right to make accusations. Obviously all the predominantly straight, anti-woke men here are going to sympathize with the guy and other people won't. But at the end of the day, what's the solution demanded here? You shouldn't be able to call someone out for being an asshole? What about the people whose accusations are true?


> You shouldn't be able to call someone out for being an asshole?

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.


Just like any false accusation: it has to go to court.

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?


> Just like any false accusation: it has to go to court

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.


> Everyone is free to look at the situation and make their own judgement.

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 best solution here is to completely disconnect from social media or (at most) have an incredibly sanitized presence. Unless your job or livelihood revolves around needing to engage with a random internet audience (i.e. you're an influencer, entertainer, etc.) stay away from having a public persona on Twitter/Facebook/etc.

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.


+1. I did exactly this a few years back when I saw a prominent member of the Nodejs community get savaged for linking to an article (exploring the idea that campus speech codes might adversely impact autistic people). I thought "if they can (nearly) take down this guy (a Nodejs technical steering committee member) for linking to a blog post, what are they going to do to me, Joe Nobody?" I was primarily a consultant at the time and relied on being invited to conferences to give talks & trainings in order to drum up new consulting work. Reputational damage would have been devastating to my income as a freelancer.

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.


What if you need increase your reputation so you get invited to more conferences and talks then you may need to engage on social media ?

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


Yeah I stopped consulting and for a full time gig around the time I quit Twitter. You’re right I really couldn’t afford to quit while I was consulting, at least it seemed unwise at the time.


I don't see how that would have helped OP. He wasn't called out for things he said or did on social media, barring a few people who piled on over extremely "sanitized" exchanges.

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.


> I think your "best solution" aligns well with what the OP appeared to be doing, and he still burned.

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.


> OP has a huge Twitter presence (600k+ followers),

He has 16k followers https://twitter.com/pasql


Oops, mea culpa. I mistook another screenshot in his post to be his own account. Yeah, 16k isn't that much; pretty sad.


> isn't that much

16 thousand people follow him. That's way more than enough to be considered a 'public person'


No, 16k accounts follow his. Of that, maybe a few hundred actually have users behind them that look at his tweets with any kind of frequency.


You can buy that kind of following for the price of a bottle of wine.


Not at all. I had more than that before I quit twitter and I am about as minor a figure in a sub-sub-sub-industry as one can be; actually-famous people have millions. Not-quite-famous people have hundreds of thousands.


Historically, even just a few decades ago, if you had reach of sixteen thousand (!!) people, you were incredibly publicly exposed.

To think that we now file it as “not that much” is something I can’t wrap my mind around.


No one actually has the reach of their entire follower count. If there was a way to analyze your own followers to root out Bots and inactive people, who knows how much lower the number would be. That isn’t counting active users who don’t pay attention to you. And even if they pay attention to you, it might be in a non caring way. Outside of 16K being a big number. That number alone doesn’t mean much when it comes to modern social media.

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.


Not really. If you put a classified ad in a Chicago paper saying you were having a garage sale, you were exposed to a million people and had the direct attention of the many thousands who would actually read the ad. If you spent an hour putting up flyers at major intersections near the bar you were playing at on Thursday night, thousands of people per hour would see them.

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.


It's not much different from compute power increases over the same time period. Once more is the norm then less becomes inadequate.


To add on top of that. It’s really the accusers’ following that is important. The target may not even have a social media profile as long as they have some online identity to point to.


> vast majority of mainstream social media users (a) don't tend to have good-faith debates

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


I think a key reason is HN has (IMO) a well-designed vote-based moderation system. Flamebait tends to get downvoted/flagged pretty quickly, burying it where it belongs.

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!


HN does not have out-of-control mobs and flamewars because HN has dedicated human moderators who monitor hot conversations and use a variety of tools to de-escalate them.

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.


Reddit works the same yet does not has the same feeling at all except for niche subs maybe.


Agree. Reddit has a unique ability among large social networks to bring up sanity and good discussion. If there is misinformation being being spread I'd expect information disputing it to be in the comments 90%+ of the time. (Except for the niche subreddits as you mentioned)


You're assuming that internet mobs only attack based on misconstrued online content, but that's far from true.

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...


> I think the best solution here is to speak up on behalf of those who are unfairly attacked

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?


It's hard to know the truth from the outside looking in, but it is easy to be more mindful than a mindless mob.


Having a following on social media has great benefits for regular techies, not just influencers and entertainers, etc. It lets you magnify your resume to reach people with authority who you normally couldn't connect with. It helps you get spots at conferences, seats on cool new projects or positions that you can further leverage to increase your online fame and bump up your compensation. You can also use your following to get preferential treatment with companies and authorities, have your problems solved faster. Got your app removed from the Play Store with no explanation? Raise a stink on Twitter.

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.


As a regular techie with a 16,000 person following you are not getting any of those perks. Your app will die. You may feel like you are raising a stink but a phone call would work better. Recruitors finding you on twitter is possible, submitting your resume ensures they have it is a better strategy. Making conference organizer friends on twitter or in person can get great conference speaker spots but not something the average developer does.


You can certainly be both an "influencer" and a "techie" but what you describe is someone participating in the "influencer" side of things and no longer being just a "regular" techie.

There are a lot of benefits of being an influencer, but it has its downsides too.

(s/influencer/celebrity for a few decades ago...)


No kidding. Getting off facebook was game changing. I also just started blocking everyone strong on the outrage / offense scale (I used to be friends with a pretty broad section from right to left though I'm left). But everyone just lost their minds.

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.


One of the things that IMO helps HN a lot is that it de-prioritizes politics (at least hotly debated topics,) in part due to the rules, and in part simply due to having something else to talk about.

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.


Yeah I cut Facebook out of my life and went cold turkey after realizing it was not healthy place and now find it actively repellent to be on it. The only reason i haven't closed my account entirely is because Messenger and my D&D group uses it for scheduling. even that I use the web site and refuse to allow it a foothold on my phone.


I get my dopamine from Instagram. But I'm on Facebook because it is a unique source of connections and information and the anti-social media crowd seems unwilling to acknowledge this. I certainly understand if some people don't see Facebook that way. Maybe they don't have a need for certain niche communities or they don't care about keeping in loose touch with far flung friends and family. But I have found tremendous value in those things. That's fine if you don't, but at least acknowledge that many people do and simply saying "quit Facebook" doesn't help those people. And the problems persist.


> The only community I interact with candidly tends to be this one.

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.

Meh. Whatevs.


I think rejection from society at large is a fundamental human problem. We went from literal witch hunts to figurative ones, but the concept and human psychology has more or less always been the same.

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.


Adults are, generally, prejudiced, biased and unfair. Most people will have no problem with favouring their friends, but vehemently accuse others of favouritism, nepotism, etc. By nature, we are suspicious of strangers, and rightly so, but it's also holding us back in everything.

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.


> The best solution here is to completely disconnect from social media

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?


I think he’s saying you should disconnect before any of that happens.

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.


If you are not part of the platform it can’t hurt you. I’m not on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, any of these services, so the mobs can’t really get to me. They could be flaming me there right now and I’d have no idea and it wouldn’t bother me at all! Excising social media altogether pretty much removes this vector of harassment.


> If you are not part of the platform it can’t hurt you. I’m not on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, any of these services, so the mobs can’t really get to me. They could be flaming me there right now and I’d have no idea and it wouldn’t bother me at all! Excising social media altogether pretty much removes this vector of harassment.

What if the people you know are reading it, and it affects your friendships, your job, your business partners, your reptuation?


People are going to believe what they want to believe regardless of information presented disputing. You can expend energy and effort and get frustrated by not changing anyone's mind, or not and have the same result. ???


Social media is pure poison that exploits every frailty of human nature. And it is optimized to be this way, even if unintentionally, because that's what makes money.


To me it shows humans simply cannot (yet?) deal with such wide-reaching communication. It's fine in neatly organised and moderated forums. But those still have some sense of privacy, similar to how people at a workplace can freely talk about things that wouldn't be fine to say on live TV.

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.


Hey, since we're on the topic of better social networking, I wonder if a side project I've been working on for the past few months might be of interest to you. The website, Reason, is an app for helping people connect with others with similar interests through group chats. It's kind of like Meetups, but online and designed for people who would like to find semi-regular groups of friends and acquaintances to chat about some specific topic.

https://www.reason.so/


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