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GitHub threatens to shut down a repository for using the word 'retard' (github.com)
542 points by necessity on July 29, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 801 comments



For people who don't see what's wrong here. The issue is not about whether the word 'retard' is or is not offensive to anyone. You need to consider that GitHub currently hosts a large percentage of the web's open source repositories. This is censorship plain and simple, something that IMO has no place in open source. The issue is that there are plenty of things some people might find offensive on GitHub but you dont see them threatening everyone with takedown notices. It is the selective censorship of certain reasonable uses of free speech that is concerning here. Retarded is off limits, but cursing is okay (maybe?). Who decides what is and is not appropriate?


1. This isn't censorship of the type that is illegal or not allowed. It is a private company deciding a word was inappropriate.

2. It seems like most in this comment thread agree that this action, as a singular act, is a good thing. The word was offensive. Github asked the repo to change it. They did. The end.

3. As for the larger context, the problem with the frequent use of slippery slope arguments and cries of "censorship" is that people are choosing to die on some pretty ridiculous hills.

4. If or when Github actually does something truly abusive of their power to censor, then I'll worry.


"This isn't censorship of the type that is illegal or not allowed. It is a private company deciding a word was inappropriate."

As a Github user, that kind of thinking worries me. Google Code went away, and Sourceforge started packaging adware and spyware with other people's projects. They could do this because "they were a private company". Now Github's management is starting to throw their weight around. We now need to think about a backup plan in case Github management gets out of line. All their value, after all, is created by others.


You mean like https://gitlab.com/ or http://gogs.io/ or http://getgitorious.com/ or any of the other open source git servers that you can install on your own machine?

Not to say that Github couldn't close down some of their API endpoints in the future (like reading issues/comments), but they're one of the web services I use that I _don't_ actually fear lock-in on.


Let me add Launchpad.net (Operated by Canonical of Ubuntu Linux fame). They recently added Git support, albeit in beta and still quite rudimentary supported.

That said, if I recall correctly - the whole Launchpad platform is Free and Open Source Software. (https://launchpad.net/launchpad)


If I want to migrate to any of platforms, how difficult is it to get everything of of github (including tickets, etc) and set up a redirect on github?


I know gitlab has an option to log into your github account and I believe you can copy everything down.

I use gitlab pretty much exclusively and I prefer it to github by a large margin.

I do maintain a "public"(you likely won't come across it unless you know about it) gitlab server and host a few people's repos including my own. I mean you have to trust me instead of github, but the server is always up to date, and I won't take down anything that isn't illegal. If anyone is interested, feel free to shoot me an email.


Glad to hear you like the import function. It works pretty reliably although it can struggle when someone imports 400 repo's (10GB+) with one click of the button, but we're working on that too.


That is fine as long as it is just you by yourself finding a place to stuff code nobody looks at. But if you have a long-term open source project homed at Github, your job uses Github, etc. and all your workflow and historical data is already tied to Github, it does not really help that the code could be stuffed on some other server.


Well, this is the fundamental problem of trusting private companies to build, maintain, and run public infrastructure, or at least, infrastructure which is treated as de facto public. They do in fact own it, and, being a private business, they are in fact going to respond more to mob upsets and strong-arming than to any kind of liberal (in the classical sense) principle.

If you wanted some liberal principle, there's an organization lying neglected in the corner whose charter says it more-or-less cannot censor anything under any circumstances. Or you could start it as a commons trust, or a users' cooperative, or some other form of organization that would ultimately leave your source repo company more accountable to its users than to baying mobs of internet raiders trying to threaten ad revenue with bad publicity.


There are competitive services available, you know. You could host yourself with Gitweb, Gitlab or if that's not your cup of tea, then simply switch to Bitbucket - they're even allowing private repos for free! Vote with your legs.


That sounds good, but I am concerned Bitbucket will go in the same direction soon because they are always playing catch-up to compete with Github.


> We now need to think about a backup plan in case Github management gets out of line.

This is a distributed source control system. Keep a clone of the repo somewhere. Your source code is now no longer bound to Github.


That's not the only reason people use Github. It's the Facebook of programmers in some sense and it's got a critical mass that switching to something else is not practicable (not without some serious momentum).


"It's the Facebook of programmers"

Business Insider agrees.[1] Github, Inc. is now valued at $2 billion.

Right. Which means we have to worry about Github's management starting to think like Zuckerberg: "All your life is belong to us."

[1] http://www.businessinsider.com/github-raises-200-million-wor...


I think this is an unfair jump because they do have a legitimate business model with enterprise revenue - they don't need to start owning your life to continue to exist.


Advertising is a higher margin business.


I'm pretty sure Advertising is about as low margin as it gets.


And Github users run ad blockers at a much higher rate than the general public


The "Facebook of programmers" is a great analogy. Because while the masses act like they cannot live without it, those of us who just don't use it really do not feel like we are missing anything in our lives.

There are other Git services. There are other source control mechanisms. There are other ways to do things. Just like you can actually leave Facebook, feel free to leave Github. Or stay. But make a conscious choice.


What about your issues, pull requests, visiblity of forks?


I think issues/wiki can be exported, no?


It is not a "kind of thinking", it is a simple statement. The word "censorship" doesn't work here. You may still argue that you don't like that Github behaves like that: the statement that you quoted doesn't oppose that view.


Censorship is not by defintion done by the government. It's perfectly correct to say "GitHub is censoring X on their platform".

Now censorship by the government is a much worse act, because you can't just go become a citizen of another country, but it's still censorship if a compay does it.


OK, we seem to have a problem with definitions.

I use definition of "censorship" that people use when they think that "censorship is bad". Because this definition implies that this kind of censorship affects everyone and they can't do anything about it.

The other definition of censorship, that also includes private companies and people restricting some materials in their own domain can also be used — that seems to be what you have in mind. But this censorship, when you think about it, is almost always quite OK. Which contradicts the inherent negative connotations that people perceive when they hear the word "censorship".

So, for the sake of using words with definitions that don't contradict their cultural perceptions, I would stick the first definition.


Eh, seems to me there are lots of situations where censorship by private companies is a problem.

For example, if Chinese banks / communication companies / whatever refuse to do business with human rights groups, that's a bad thing even if the companies acted without being explicitly ordered to by the government.

And just because newspapers and TV stations are privately owned, doesn't mean it's a good thing if they all decide not to publish negative stories about Qatar/HSBC/whatever due to a profitable advertising deal. Such self-censorship, if it happened widely, would be deleterious to the independent checks and balances our democracy relies on.

Now, I agree with you that it's not censorship if Joe's Childrens Books declines to publish my manuscript "Best Of 4Chan Shock Images And Racist Jokes" - but I don't think it makes sense to ignore censorship by private companies all together, as sometimes such censorship can be deeply problematic.


I'm sorry, you must have misunderstood my point. I'm not saying that what these companies are doing is OK. I'm actually quite appalled by Github's behaviour in OP.

I'm just saying that we should use definitions correctly, and "censorship" doesn't work here.


I agree that it's not bad for them to not publish it [edit: I mean, not bad for the kids books publisher to not publish the 4 Chan book of shock images and racist jokes] (probably good actually), but does that mean it isn't censorship?

It seems like the only things which might be why it isn't "censorship" would be because either we like it (or it is objectively good by some reasoning) (which would be a terrible definition of censorship), or because there are sufficiently many comparable other options.

So, it seems that either some censorship is good, or whether something is censorship depends on what the other options for publication are?

I guess that conclusion (that or statement) is reasonable?

Thoughts?


ok, so,

whoever downvoted this, that is entirely within your rights and all. I'm just a bit confused. This comment of mine seemed entirely inoffensive, so I'm not sure why it has been downvoted three times.

When I ended it with "Thoughts?" I meant to be inviting arguments against the line of reasoning that I proposed. I thought I was being fairly open minded about it.

If it is because I was allowing for the possibility of some censorship being good, know that I was not claiming that some censorship was good. I just was choosing to not immediately reject that possibility when looking for how best to define censorship. I was not arguing in favor of censorship.

I was hoping for a discussion to try to find reasons why some definitions of the word "censorship" would be better than others.

I really don't understand why my post would be sufficiently objectionable for 3 people to downvote it. I don't mean that they were incorrect to do so, their/your reasons could have been made perfect sense. I'm just saying that I don't understand what the reasons were, and I would appreciate understanding what they were or might have been (so, if you are only providing your best guess for why someone else might have, I would appreciate that also)


Let's take this a step furher, for arguments sake.

Say blogger.com or wordpress.com would delete any mention of police violence because, well, that offensive to many people. Is that censorship? If not, what should I call it?


Censorship does not require an act of Congress. Private entities are perfectly capable of censorship. How else could the term "self-censorship" have any semantic value?


Self-censorship only has value when people fear retribution by government.

"I won't use the word retard in my project hosted on github because github's TOS prevents it" is not self-censorship in any meaningful sense of the word. (Just as "Github doesn't let me spam all these users" is not Github censoring people.) Nothing is stopping you from hosting the repo in a wide number of other places.

"I won't insult my employer in this or that nation, because I risk a jail term" is self censorship.


This is nonsense. Self-censorship occurs whenever somebody censors himself. In polite conversation we might call it discretion (or valor). In a fiduciary or confidential relationship, we might call it adherence to the duty of confidentiality. In a contractual relationship, we would call it nondisclosure. In employment, on one hand we might call it professionalism—or self censorship on the other—depending on the context.

Regardless, the term "self-censorship" is not germane to or inherent in only citizen-government interactions.


People self-censor constantly on social media. You're not worried about the government taking a tweet out of context and driving your reputation into the ground, the mob of internet idiots has that covered. Fear of internet mobs causes people to censor themselves, and a definition of "censorship" that doesn't cover uses like that is not a particularly useful one.


Self-censorship as a term has value whenever people fear losing something that is important to them. With governments it might be their their career chances, personal freedom or even their life. With companies it might be your online identity, your data, your social contacts. Imagine being removed from Facebook/Google/Twitter/[your social network of choice] for writing the wrong post/email. While it is certainly orders of magnitude less threatening than being tortured by the secret police, it is still a deterrent.


Welcome to the only game in town.


Well, only game if you're ignorant and unimaginative...


I'm not commenting on this particular case, but in general I reject such arguments.

This isn't censorship of the type that is illegal or not allowed.

Neither is posting something offensive. Have you thought about that? Yes, GitHub owns the servers. If you haven't notices already, someone owns every single piece of the Internet.

people are choosing to die on some pretty ridiculous hills.

If you just ignore it, censorship and selective enforcement becomes a socially acceptable practice through sheer repetition and groupthink.


First they came for the cussers and swearers, but I didn't speak out because I don't cuss or swear.

Then they came for the homophobes and cisgendered bigots, and I cheered them on, because I value diversity.

Then they came for the conspiracy theorists, and I didn't speak out because I don't believe the reptoids are evil.

Then they came for me, and there was none left to speak out.


the original poem is about how germans systematically eradicated entire racial and political groups.

you're comparing it to a website that won't let you save certain content onto their servers.


Censorship always starts small.


I could be wrong, but I think that was intended as a joke.


A website that, at the moment, retains a significant percentage of the entire free and open source software ecosystem. No, it's not quite as bad as genocide, but we're not suggesting putting anybody to death as a result either.


It's not a government, it doesn't have a monopoly on violence or information. People use it freely, and they can easily get most of their information out (wikis and issues no, but it's obvious that they are not part of the repo when you start to use it).

You can argue that it's bad, but for fuck's sake, don't compare it to a totalitarian regime that killed tens of millions of people. Please.


You can argue that it's bad, but for fuck's sake, don't compare it to a totalitarian regime that killed tens of millions of people. Please.

Why not? Before it became official government policy to discriminate against jews in Germany, it was considered socially acceptable to do so. Those people voted in the totalitarian regime. Recognizing this as a first step towards greater atrocities is not out of line.


Actually, it was the other way around. Hitler came to power thanks to his strong-arm leader and despite his anti-semitism. His first efforts to create hate against jews were met with resistance from german society. It took several years of concentrated propaganda to change that.

No sources ATM, posting from mobile.


> No, it's not quite as bad as genocide

> not quite

Do you mean: not at all like genocide?


It retains that software using an open source software ecosystem. You can download git right now and start your own service.


"Then they came for me, and there was none left to speak out."

By then I'll probably fall into total submission already, so I'll most likely just trust their judgment that there must be something wrong with me.


You're right. This is just like the Holocaust.


He didn't say that.


Your first line is wrong. This is not about swearing, it's about using a word that causes harm.

> Then they came for me, and there was none left to speak out.

...apart from the vast majority of people, because most people don't feel the need to use words like nigger or retard in their open source projects.


> it's about using a word that causes harm

Words do not cause harm. It's a slippery slope to total censorship and thought policing to think otherwise.


Hi. I've lived my life with a closeted gender because of words spoken by my parents, friends, and incredulous members of the LGBT community. It lead to depression, frustration, and many wasted opportunities. Now that I am no longer concealing this I still receive regular discouragement that is extremely frustrating.

The idea that "words do not cause harm" is so ludicrous. What if I started a rumor that cost you your job? What if I planted drawings (no one harmed) of child pornography on your computer? What if I reveal you perjured yourself in court?

All these things are just words. All these things could lead to consequences in your life, of varying types.


Of course semantics can hurt, obviously. But the choice of synonyms does not, and anyone claiming otherwise must try really hart to prove such an outrageous claim.


"idiot" is not a synonym for the word in question here. This is similar to saying that "t*ny" and "transsexual" are synonyms. They're not.

Let me give you an example of how referring to you in an insulting way can change your attitudes and discourage conversation.

1. Words have a lesser impact on you because you've [a lucky person] who doesn't live a life were they have been used to deny you opportunity and basic humanity constantly.

2. Words have a lesser impact on you because you're [a white male] who doesn't live a life where they have been used to deny you opportunity and basic humanity constantly.

Looking around the internet, #2 certainly seems more contentious. But let's be honest here, the overlap of case 1 and case 2 is much more likely in most of the western world than other ethnicity and gender and sexual orientation we could put in there.


The fact that you are hurt by certain words doesn't actually grant you quite enough moral authority to call up a rage-mob and apply it to the face of every entity that acts as a medium to provide an open, public space in which some people say the words that hurt you. There is real harm in rendering public space hostage to the moral outrage of self-selected groups and individuals.

It's nowhere near the harm caused by genocide, of course, but we're not even physically in the realm of genocide, so that was never an accurate framing in the first place.


Censorship is a fact of life and human experience. Calling for its eradication is to call for the erasure of a fundamental aspect of human cognition.

So we're going to apply the principle sensibly. The simple truth no one here wants to admit while they argue slippery slopes and excluded middles about how the only harm worth noting is total genocide: there is no real communicative value for github in allowing slurs on the site.

Calling the request to "find a synonym that is not in current use as a slur against a marginalized group of people" is such a modest and low impact request. It truly boggles my mind that this is the line so many people here want to draw.


>The simple truth no one here wants to admit while they argue slippery slopes and excluded middles about how the only harm worth noting is total genocide: there is no real communicative value for github in allowing slurs on the site.

That's not actually the issue at hand. Github isn't actually supposed to communicate anything at all on their site, good or bad. They're supposed to act as a platform and a common carrier for others. This requires that they not be subject to a heckler's veto, as anyone can understand if they stroll down to a university campus and look at what happens when an unpopular political group attempts to hold a meeting in a classroom (eg: they get blockaded and shouted down by hecklers).

And by "unpopular", I don't mean "Hey let's throw slurs around for the lulz", I mean, "Anything to do with the Middle East, or the Radical Students' Union, or the Campus Republicans, or anything to do with the Middle East."


> That's not actually the issue at hand. Github isn't actually supposed to communicate anything at all on their site, good or bad. They're supposed to act as a platform and a common carrier for others.

Here's the github term from their ToS that tells users to comply with local law.

Github doesn't think that Github is a dumb pipe. Github wants people in oppressive regimes to censor their projects.

https://help.github.com/articles/github-terms-of-service/

> You may not use the Service for any illegal or unauthorized purpose. You must not, in the use of the Service, violate any laws in your jurisdiction (including but not limited to copyright or trademark laws).

Github doesn't want you to insult your employer if you were working in UAE. Github doesn't want you to insult various ruling families if you live in eg Kuwait.


> Github isn't actually supposed to communicate anything at all on their site, good or bad. They're supposed to act as a platform and a common carrier for others.

"Supposed" by whom?

Arguably, they might be analogous to a common carrier with regard to their paid services. Their free services appear to be provided on the basis of mutual benefit -- the consumers of those free services get the services, Github gets the promotional benefit of hosting the services.

At least in the case of the latter, Github has a clear incentive to view the exchange differently when the content exposed by the repositories in question is, in Github's view, inconsistent with the image that Github wants to present, and seems to me to have a clear moral right to decide whether or not to make the exchange in consideration of that basis, among other factors.


> They're supposed to act as a platform and a common carrier for others.

This is your projected mission. They've never claimed they should, would or even CAN do this. Feel free to find another vendor in the marketplace that will continue to allow you to protect racial slurs on the dubious mask of free speech.

But it's worth noting the case in question WAS just "throw some slurs around because we're just massively insensitive."


>>KirinDave/StupidMinecraftFoolin

Now someone comes along and says: I have been called a stupid fool all my life. I have reported this repo because it deeply offends me. We stupid fools prefer to refer to ourselves as brainless nincompoops.


Can you show people using the word "stupid fool" in hate crime? Because we can do that for the word retard.

Can you show people using the word "stupid fool" in a genocidal program of mass murder? Because we can show the Nazis testing their mass murder techniques on "retards" before moving onto Jews.

Can you show doctors not providing medical treatment to people because those people are "stupid fools"? Because we can do that for people who were labelled "retards".

Can you show doctors conducting medical experiments on people without their knowledge because those people were "stupid fools"? Because we can do that for people labelled "retard".

Can you show people being forcibly sterilised against their will because they are "stupid fools"? Because we can do that for people labelled "retards".

Can you show people being segregated from society because they are "stupid fools"? Because we can do that for people labelled "retard".


How many people with LD have been kiled because of their LD?

If you don't know how can you tell if it's a genocide or not?


No, "idiot" is exactly a synonym, in even a strictest definition. And both versions of your sentence are equally wrong, deliberately misleading and twisted. Words have absolutely nothing to do with "opportunities" and "basic humanity".


Uh, you might want to look up "idiot" in the OED. "moron" also.


Do you think it's clever to point out 'archaic' uses? Someone else has been trying to make the case that we also live 200 years in the past and modern social context shouldn't be relevant.

"Uh", at least try to keep abreast of the conversation "also."


Lol. Gotta love that sexist, racist argument of "you don't understand because you're a white maaaaallle!"


Words do cause harm. It's a failure of imagination to think otherwise.

When you use the word retard you dehumanise people with LD. You contribute to a culture where it's okay to deny those people work; to segregate them in specialist housing; to deny them medical treatment; to kill them with lack of medical treatment.

It's a slippery slope to eugenics and genocide to think otherwise.


> When you use the word retard you dehumanise people with LD.

No. When I use the word "retard" I'm pointing out on a lack of mental ability demonstrated by a particular person. And I do not even want to discuss anything that contains the SJW newspeak like "dehumanise", "empower", "exclude" and all that crap.

> You contribute to a culture where it's okay to deny those people work; to segregate them in specialist housing; to deny them medical treatment; to kill them with lack of medical treatment.

Your imagination is likely boosted by an illegal substances abuse.

> It's a slippery slope to eugenics

Yes, another victim of the early SJWs. There is nothing wrong with the idea of eugenics per se, problems arise with its potential uses. I admire the eugenics efforts of Singapore, for example, and will be delighted to see where it all goes.

> and genocide to think otherwise.

It's a bullshit scaremongering to put these two words in one sentence.


People with learning disability have been the target of eugenics in various forms. They've been subjected to sterilisation sometimes without their knowledge and sometimes against their will. They've been interned in segregated care homes. They've been murdered - either directly killed because they have LD or allowed to die by doctors refusing to provide medical care or placing DNR notices without the patient's (or their family's) knowledge and consent. They've been shot and killed by police who lack skills to work woth people with LD. People with LD were used as subjects of medical experimentation against their will and without their knowledge. They were told they were being innoculated against hepititus when they were being infected with hepititus. (This was in the 1970s, a long time after Nürnburg Code and after Helsinki agreement). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willowbrook_State_School

Hundreds of thousands of learning disabled people have been killed purely because they have a learning disability. I stand by the genocide claim.


And how exactly did you manage to draw a connection between these outrageous facts and a use of an innocent derogatory language?


It's not "innocent derogatory language". "Cockroach" is just a word. Cockroach was used to dehumanise Tutsi in Rawanda. Use of that language was a small part of the genocide of Tutsi by Hutu majority.

We see similar dehumanising language in other genocidal actions: it's present in Nazi Germany when they describe Jewish people as subhuman - the same word has been used against people with LD. Not just by the Nazis with their T4 program[1] but also by British eugenics supporters.[2] these eugenic attitudes lost popularity after the war, but they were still easy enough to find.

And apart from these dehumanising effects the word is used to creat fear, alarm, and distress among the people it's used against. People are routinely attacked with that word.

If you think words can't hurt i) you've had a cushy life and ii) you spectacularly lack imagination and empathy.

Really: learn to English and come up with better insults.

[1] http://www.ushmm.org/outreach/en/article.php?ModuleId=100076...

[2] http://www.newstatesman.com/society/2010/12/british-eugenics...


Leanr a bit of logic. This is nowhere near a proof that a use of a certain language is a direct or indirect cause of a genocide and not just a symptom, and that censoring this language would have stopped the genocide.

Not to mention that now it seems to be a priviledge of the self-righteous SJWs to proclaim which words should be counted as offensive this week. It never comes from the minorities in question.


> Not to mention that now it seems to be a priviledge of the self-righteous SJWs to proclaim which words should be counted as offensive this week. It never comes from the minorities in question.

You're wrong. Use of the word retard has been strongly rejected by people with a learning disability in the UK. The word disability has also been rejected, which is why I use LD for learning difficulties, or I use specific diagnoses for granularity. They have rejected these terms for many years. The change in language is something they have been driving.


Any thoughts on what you'll replace "learning difficulties" with when it too gets rejected?


And you think this is because people described them as retards?


Yes, that's certainly part of it.

The word retard was used to describe these people as sub-human, as other, as not having any worth. That started in the Eugenics material from the UK and US in late 19th / early 20th century, was put into full effect in Nazi Germany (who tested their mass murder techniques on people with LD before movig onto killing Jews) and even though it slowed after WWII the attitude is still prevelant. You will still find doctors who do not treat medical problems in people with LD with the same vigour they'd treat people without LD. You find doctors placing DNR orders on patients with LD without talking to that patient or their family first.

The word retard is frequntly used during the commission of hate crime. Disability hate incidents (which aren't always crime and are not always about LD) are more common than homophobic hate incidents or religion based hate incidents.

https://www.mencap.org.uk/blog/four-things-you-probably-didn...

Disability hate crime starts with verbal abuse. It doesn't end there. http://www.theguardian.com/society/joepublic/2011/sep/13/gem...

People with learning disability live their life being bullied. A survey for UK charity MENCAP called "Living in Fear" shows how frequent this bullying is.

https://www.mencap.org.uk/sites/default/files/documents/2009...

> A survey by Mencap of people with a learning disability has found that nearly nine out of ten respondents have experienced bullying in the last year. Two-thirds are bullied on a regular basis and almost one-third are suffering from bullying on a daily or weekly basis. People with a learning disability face prejudice and widespread discrimination that often makes them feel like outcasts and prevents them from taking a full part in society. Public attitudes in the United Kingdom towards people with a learning disability remain discriminatory. The Mencap survey suggests that the bullying of people with a learning disability is institutionalised throughout society.

If you want to cause fear, alarm, upset, distress in people who have a learning disability then please do feel free to continue to use the word retard as an insult. It's not much of an insult if the person you're speaking to doesn't have an LD; they probably don't care. To them it's just a word, like "that's so gay" or "hey my nigga" are just words.


[flagged]


If I had a choice between you and Hawking I'm going to take Hawking.


> Good. Let us have genocide, then, for people with learning disabilities, starting with you.

uh

> Call me hitler, but

okay. you're hitler


Please don't feed trolls.


You guys may be thinking about two different contexts:

1. calling someone with a disability a retard (which I would never, ever do)

2. using the word "retarded" in a generic sense. For example: I may have called my kids retarded, in exasperation, for doing something nonsensical. Not elegant, but has been used as a figure of speech, of sorts, for ever.

My problem with censoring words (and political correctness in general) is that it is an overly simplistic intent to make the world a gentler place - even if you forbid people from saying/writing certain words, you will not change how they think/behave.

Nobody dares to use the n... word, but there are still a lot of racists (and reverse-racists, it needs to be said) out there. The only way to fix it is education and culture - no other way around it.


> a lot of racists (and reverse-racists, it needs to be said)

No such thing as reverse racists, it's all just racism and racists.


Agreed, it is just that my example covered one particular race being discriminated, so I wanted to make it clear. For some reason, people think only non-white people can be discriminated against.


Well anyone can be discriminated against, though some argue only those with institutional power can be racist. I tend to go by these definitions:

http://racismschool.tumblr.com/Racism:Definitions


1. How long ago was it that "retarded" was the socially acceptable term?

2. What is a "reverse" racist?


Your child is eating something. You ask if you can try a bit. They laughingly say "no way! These are mine!"

Do you then continue the joke? "stop being such a Jew! Give me a chip!"

Are you saying it's fine to use that word because it's just a joke? It's not a serious insult?


No, it is not fine to use what you described.

The difference is that you are picking on a particular nationality, while "retarded" is a generic term meaning "mentally under-developed" which, while certainly not a term of endearment, may apply to any human.


I don't understand your point.

Why is it not okay to use the word Jew as an insult against non-Jews, while it's fine to use the word retard as an insult against non-retards?


In the first case, you imply that Jews are stingy. In the second case, you don't imply anything about retards other than the normal definition of the word.


Ever been to Odessa? An epic butthurt is guaranteed from an Odessan Jewish peculiar humour.


Do you support banning all github projects that use the word "insane"? I assume you must, to be consistent in your morals.


I support github banning all projects that use the word "pickle" or "umbrella" or "orange". Their servers, their rules.

I'm less touchy about mental illness words. I tend notto say anything when they're used. I sometimes say something if people (wrongly) link mental illness to violence. There has been more time for insane etc to change use.


Your words caused harm to me, could you delete your comment? I am very offended.


Sure. Show me where words I use have been used by, for example, Nazis when testing their mass killing mechanisms before moving onto Jews and homosexuals. Or where my words have been used to deny people medical treatment; sometime causing the death of those people. Or where my words have been used in hate crime or hate incidents. (Hate incidents based on disability are more common than anti-Semitism in the UK, and anti Semitism is pretty common over here).

Show me the harm and I'll gladly chose differet words.


I've noticed that we are already well down said slope. And sliding faster.


Imagine you're a parent who happens upon a repo that uses the word "retard" as a replacement for "stupid person" or "idiot". You also happen to have a mentally disabled child.

Perhaps you would have contributed to that repository and now you won't. That seems materially harmful to me, to reduce the sum total of people contributing to open source.

Compare that to the potential of falling down a slippery slope to "total censorship" and I think there's a reasonable case, in a utilitarian sense, for Github's actions here.


Imagine you're a person who hates women who happens upon a repo that uses "she" as the universal gender. Perhaps you would have contributed to that repository and now you won't. Is it therefore "harmful" to use "she" as universal gender?

"People with biases might not like it" gives basically everyone a heckler's veto. Now I recognize that you don't actually plan to give everyone with a bias such a veto - only the people you agree with - but your stated principle is not a good one.


This is a valid point. I don't really have a response to it other than, I know people like the one I asked y'all to imagine, but I'm having trouble thinking of anyone I know who might fit your imaginary person's description.

You're probably right that this betrays a bias of mine. And you're also probably right that this isn't a great guiding principle for decision-making in the future.

Still, if I'm interested in increasing the total number of people contributing to open source projects, I would give an issue like the use of the word "retard" a fighter's chance.

Maybe it's not worth bending on free speech in some specific cases, but there is a point where it is worth it, ie, if there are enough people in the offended audience that the chance of losing a potential contributor is nontrivial.


When I think of someone who is "offended", I think the following:

"Announcing "I'm offended" is basically telling the world you can't control your emotions, so everyone else should do it for you."


When I see someone who doesn't care about language I think the following: "I'm too stupid and lazy to use language creatively so I'll fall back on my stupid and lazy language. I can say what I like, and I'm going to try to deny you the same right. Some bollocks about SJWs and Leftists goes here".


Because I'm a supporter of all language, especially hate speech. Or the communist speech back in the 50's. Or Snowden's speech about violations of our government against us.

Banning thoughts and words, as you seem apt to suggest, is how we migrate away from the principles of the 1st amendment. Of course, you will be wont to tell me that a private company isnt bound by them. Indeed.

But where do we stop? It may be vogue to silence the KKK, which is pretty established for hate speech and actions. But what then? Who decides amongst us what hate speech is and isnt? How far do we go down this rabbit hole? The answer is, "We wont" from SCOTUS.

http://civilliberty.about.com/od/freespeech/tp/Hate-Speech-C...

[F]reedom of speech...," Justice William O. Douglas wrote for the 5-4 majority, is "protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest ... There is no room under our Constitution for a more restrictive view."


An americo-centric view. Europe seems to do well with pur limited freedom of expression.


When I see someone who doesn't care about language I think the following: "I'm too stupid..."

The ironing.


Elsewhere in this thread you can find a comment from a brother of a mentally handicapped person who explains why he'd prefer the term 'retard'. So it's not that simple. I suspect that rational people (i.e., worthy contributors) won't take offence that easy.

> Compare that to the potential of falling down a slippery slope to "total censorship"

This is not a "potential". We're already rolling down that path with a very little chance to ever stop. Brendan Eich, Orson Scott Card, Matt Taylor, Tim Hunt - among the most high profile victims, with countless numbers under the radar.


The only intolerance society should promote is the intolerance of intolerant beliefs. Bucketing people off as "rational people" and "worthy contributors" because they disagree with your beliefs is an unfortunate way of dismissing conversation, probably something that you dislike when people that oppose your beliefs do it. That is, I'd say that claiming that all "rational people" would agree with you is minimally different than when "SJWs" cry "homophobe" to "polarize" discussion.

Also, how does the partial social ostracizing of the people you've listed amount to censorship? In the case of the first two, I'd say that their beliefs amount to censorship of another group of people. Don't want to allow a certain segment of the population to do the same thing that other segments already do? Sounds like censorship to me. For the latter two, I would say that those are probably unfortunate cases of a trigger-happy outrage-seeking media machine, that hones in on soundbites and screenshots. I do think that people can choose their words/attire/actions more carefully to be more inclusive of all, but I don't think we should crucify people when they fail to do that.


Did I get it right that you support the shitstorm against Eich and Card?

In my book, SJWs are by far much more evil and destructive than anyone from my list.


One good instance of disingenuity deserves another: wait a second, I thought you said words couldn't cause harm!! It can't be harmful if I call you/Eich/Card a homophobe. He'll/They'll just have to get over it and deal with the repercussions themselves!

How can you call the "just words" of what happened to Eich and Card a "shitstorm", but fail to see how "just words" can have a real, tangible impact on other people who don't share your particular persuasion?


Shitstorm was not just words - crybabies can cry whatever they want. But Eich got sacked, which is totally different. No retard was ever sacked for being called a retard.

EDIT: clearly you're failing to notice a difference between calling names and calls to action. "Kill all cyclists" is a call to action, evil and, likely, illegal. "All cyclists are dimwits" is calling names, innocent and funny.


> No retard was ever sacked for being called a retard.

Sure they have. You can deny it all you like, but that's what ignorant bigots do.

Retards have been murdered by people calling them retard. Retards have been driven to suicide by people calling them retard. Retards have been used for medical experimentation by people calling them retards.

You saying "it's just a word" ignores the fact that the word has been used as a package of behaviours to label these people as sub-human, and undesirable, and other, and then not treat them like humans.


Fantastic, you've made the connection! You're continuing to perfectly illustrate two of the points that I've made regarding your hypocrisy:

- To paraphrase: "I only want to censor opinions when they disagree with the positions that I hold. It's not fair to call (x) a homophobe." (What happened to Eich was different than calling someone a potentially hurtful label. And, somehow it's OK to want to prohibit freedom in others when it comes to their rights (a la gay marriage), but it's not OK to lambaste someone else's opinion re: that topic.)

- "Eich got sacked." (Aha! Words often spur people on to action.)

Note: I don't take offense at every use of the word "retard," as much as you are attempting to lump those that disagree with you, like myself, into the "SJW" camp. I do think that it has little place in a professional setting, or even a casual setting where deeper discourse is the aim. Why intentionally use words that might cause others discomfort, when there are other words that won't cause discomfort but will express your point just as clearly?

I don't know if Github should have taken down the repo, but I don't think that disapproving of the use of the word "retarded" is unheard of. Calling someone a "retard" probably won't do irreparable harm to that person immediately, but it's minimally different than the sort of "bullying" of Eich/Card that you think is just such a travesty.

EDIT: We're talking across one another. I most certainly understand the difference between an explicit call to action, and "calling names." The argument that I'm making is that "calling names" often spurs people on to action, or encourages negative groupthink. Throwing around the word "retard" in a professional setting serves what purpose? I personally find little use for the word outside of extremely casual situations with people whom I am very familiar with. I don't know to what extent, if any, semi-professionally oriented hosting services should monitor their channels for potentially distasteful humor, but I think that's the question at hand re: Github's role.

To go back to your Eich/Card comparison, I don't think that what ended up happening to Eich is completely justified, but I do think that we can't prevent the Twitteratti or whomever from having opinions on public people. How can you disapprove of Github stepping in in this instance, while at the same time saying that the public at large should stifle their opinions regarding Eich/Card?

And, to add another layer of hypocrisy, how can you tacitly encourage opinions such as those of Eich/Card -- which are inherently stifling of the freedom of others to associate, and is a "hands-on" approach to the lives of others -- while saying that Github should take a "hands-off" role here when it comes to the use of language?


For your point to make sense you'd have to believe that people ganged up on Eich because of the epithet "homophobe" and not because of the actions that led to that epithet being applied to him in the first place.


Perhaps you would have contributed to that repository and now you won't.

This is concern-trolling. Any project might have committers who are assholes. In that case maybe the project will be less successful than others, if it doesn't have other good qualities to compensate. Why should we care? You've arbitrarily picked out one specific flavor of asshole on which to concentrate, but the "it's for your own good" argument in favor of censorship is wrong in general.


You do know "stupid person" and "idiot" are equally offensive, right? I mean the three are pretty much synonymous with each other.


Bit tricky if you include "dyslexic" (higher incidence of high IQ) in your definition of LD.

See how your ignorance of the topic misled you?


"LD" is your term, which apparently is too general to be useful. As problematic as "retard" may be, no English speaker would hear it and ask herself, "are they talking about a dyslexic?"


People who don't know what they're talking about might make incorrect assumptions. I agree with you there. I don't think ignorance of a topic is a valid excuse to continue to be wrong.

http://ldaamerica.org/types-of-learning-disabilities/dyslexi...

From the "Learning Disabilities Association of America"

> The severity of this specific learning disability can differ in each individual but can affect reading fluency, decoding, reading comprehension, recall, writing, spelling, and sometimes speech and can exist along with other related disorders. Dyslexia is sometimes referred to as a Language-Based Learning Disability.

From a US university support site: http://dyslexiahelp.umich.edu/dyslexics/learn-about-dyslexia...

> Fact: Similar to the above myth, the International Dyslexia Foundation states that between 15% and 20% of the population have a language-based learning disability, dyslexia being the most common of these. The United States Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 15% of the U.S. population has dyslexia.

The fact you think LD is "my term" shows how ignorant you are of the topic. The fact you think dyslexia isn't an LD also shows your ignorance of the topic.

EDIT: since this thread is about the word "retard" it's probably relevant to remind people about how people with dyslexia were often dismissed as being stupid, lazy, retarded.


It seems you're attempting to convince people to use the word "retard" less. Introducing another term, and haranguing people for using (or potentially using?) that idiom incorrectly as well, is a rhetorical technique unlikely to accomplish that goal. However, if you need to get it off your chest anyway, I'll stop complaining about it.

[EDIT] The fact you think LD is "my term"...

I just counted. There are 536 comments [aside: why the hell hasn't this discussion been throttled off the front page by now?], and every single one that mentions "LD" or "learning disability" is either yours or in a thread responding to your use of the term. There is one "learning deficits" that seems to be someone else...


Should "gimp" be banned from github?


So why should you be able to say nigger and retard on hacker news? Why stop at open source repos? Why not extend it to all forums and social media?


You have to be careful in the way you use nigger or retard on HN. Calling other people a those will probably result in a comment killed by user flags. Repeated use will result in a shadow ban. Casual use of the word retard (not in the context of mechanisms) might see a few downvotes to poke people into more creative insults.

Most people don't want to use such words and are glad they aren't used in normal conversation. They don't miss cross-burnings; they don't miss similarly violent words.

This is probably a cultural thing. I live in the UK which does not have a free press and which does not have freedom of speech. Most UK citizens find the US position to be extreme. Most UK citizens don't worry about banning Westboro Baptist Church from protesting funerals.

(And, again, this is assuming that Github has actually done something. They might not have; they might be ignoring all reports about the retard word and this is all a troll who faked an email.)


> Most people don't want to use such words and are glad they aren't used in normal conversation. They don't miss cross-burnings; they don't miss similarly violent words.

Most people don't have this tradition of "cross-burning" in their past and therefore don't attach any negative/violent meaning to the "n-word".


> It seems like most in this comment thread agree that this action, as a singular act, is a good thing

That's just because those of us who don't are afraid we'll get chewed out here, so we're not commenting.


Frankly, good.

I honestly have no issue with people managing to contain their own righteous opinions (for either side of the debate) and not smash thousands of characters of spam and spam images into issue trackers.

That's not what they're for.

If the issue doesn't affect you directly (and it doesnt), and you're not a contributor to the project, then dont get involved.

There are places for discussions to happen.

Github issue trackers are not that place.


The issue of someone else getting censored affects everyone who might also get censored. Being silent about injustice against others, just because it does not affect you, is umwise.


First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. [1]

Please note I am not suggesting that this simple issue is in any way remotely related to the seriousness of what this quote refers too. However, plant enough seeds over long enough and you wake up one day without being able to express things that cause other people to be offended. You don't have to like what someone does or says but they should be able to none the less.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_they_came_...


A bunch of mostly rich people of mostly above average intelligence using a particular service are asked[1] to refrain from using a particular word, but who are free to set up their own servers and use whatever language they like

Versus

A lot of mostly poor, vulnerable, people of (by definition) below average intelligence, who are subjected to bullying based ontheir disability; who are segregated from society; who were sometimes sterilised against their will (sometimes without their knowledge); who were used as test subjects in medical experimentation; who were used by the Nazis to test mass-killing techniques before the Nazis started killed Jews; who are denied medical treatment; who are sometimes killed just because of their disability.

> Being silent about injustice against others, just because it does not affect you, is umwise.

Yes, I agree. I disagree about where the injustice lies.


> 1. This isn't censorship of the type that is illegal or not allowed. It is a private company deciding a word was inappropriate.

This is about the dumbest argument in favor of censorship theoretically possible, btw. Free speech doesn't start and stop at the first amendment to the US constitution.

> 2. It seems like most in this comment thread agree that this action, as a singular act, is a good thing. The word was offensive. Github asked the repo to change it. They did. The end.

Actually I see a lively debate as opposed to the general consensus you're suggesting. Trying to win an argument by disingenuously suggesting your opponent's opinion is unpopular, is an underhanded tactic even when you're right. It's plainly stupid when you're wrong.

> 3. As for the larger context, the problem with the frequent use of slippery slope arguments and cries of "censorship" is that people are choosing to die on some pretty ridiculous hills.

No one cares about other arguments you've had on the Internet in the past. Stay on topic.

> 4. If or when Github actually does something truly abusive of their power to censor, then I'll worry.

After heaps of projects are already hosted there, and switching to something more open becomes a larger effort? If that works for you then fine - kindly excuse those of us who take a more proactive stance.


>Free speech doesn't start and stop at the first amendment to the US constitution.

No, it really does, for most people. For example, you don't have the right to publish in the New York Times.

Just because you have the right to free speech doesn't mean you have the right to be heard.

Corporations love the first amendment because they get to set the narrative without interference.


> Free speech doesn't start and stop at the first amendment to the US constitution.

You never had the freedom of speech you think you have. You never had the right to say what you like in my house without getting kicked out, and you never had the right to say 'retard' on GitHub. Sorry. You can mourn its loss now if you like.


I don't know what it is about this particular topic that compels people to flood the conversation with egregious strawman fallacies, but anyway: I never suggested any of the shit that you're implying I did, so your argument falls totally flat and completely misses the point.

Probably no one posting in this ENTIRE FUCKING THREAD is arguing that Github broke the damn law. Quit pretending otherwise. TIA.

I mean, it's right in what you quoted! Read it again:

> Free speech doesn't start and stop at the first amendment to the US constitution.


We do, however, have the right to complain about it and take our business elsewhere. I'm not sure why you would see a problem with that.


...sure, but freedom of 'using whatever source code hosting provider' is a different (legal) concept as 'freedom of speech'.


When people say "freedom of speech" and they're not talking about a government entity, it's a pretty safe bet that they're talking about the principle enshrined in the first amendment, not the first amendment itself.

Considering that The Internet as a whole is basically amounts to a whole lot of interconnected, other people's (back yards/restaurants/other poor analogies for physical spaces), saying "but the first doesn't apply" is both willfully obtuse and missing the point.


> saying "but the first doesn't apply" is both willfully obtuse and missing the point.

It's almost always a response to a person who seems to think that freedom of speech means they shouldn't have to face any consequences for the horrible things they say.


And this itself is a mischaracterization. The problem is that the rubric for "horrible things to say" has been extended so far as to cover usage of the word "retard".

Much like the rubric for "harassment" has been extended to cover simple incivility.


Github is itself using an offensive term...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Git_(slang)


They also gladly index and help you find brainfuck repos.

I can't say fuck on TV, but it's ok on Github.

I can't say retard on Github, but it's ok on TV.

I'm glad we've accomplished something here.


> I can't say fuck on TV, but it's ok on Github.

'Fuck' is frequently used on TV.


No it's not. It's one of the "seven dirty words": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_dirty_words

You can get fined a lot of money if you say it over the air. The FCC doesn't regulate cable, however. But those companies set their own standards, as do advertisers, and do limit or ban cuss words.

Typically cuss words will be bleeped if it is used: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bleep_censor . However people are so used to bleeps that their mind often fills in the cuss word.


> No it's not.

It may be frequent by some standard (e.g., some threshold of average number of total number uses per unit wall clock time), but only on a very small percentage of TV outlets (particularly, premium cable outlets that don't have to deal with either advertisers or broadcast regulation.)


'Seven Dirty Words' is from 1972, and includes 'piss' and 'shit'. It's hardly a canonical reference for 2015. I recall Grampa Simpson using 'piss' in the mid-90s, for example...


That's true, but I can't find an official list of bad words. Fuck is still forbidden as far as I know.


lol right? sigh


Doesn't that reassure you?

Assuming this letter is true: they're not stopping you from using offensive words, they're stopping you from using a very small set of words because those words contribute to a culture that cause actual harm.

TV is a poor example: it's fine to make jokes about male rape on TV, but everyone loses their shit when an obscured nipple is shown.


> because those words contribute to a culture that cause actual harm.

No it doesn't. Where's your proof?

Plenty of people have said plenty of nasty things throughout the years, and no one died.

Yet our empire uses remote control drones to bomb small children, and that's totally OK. (Now there's a real "culture that causes actual harm")

What is really harmful, and what isn't? Take a good, hard look around.

Sticks and stones (and bombs) will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

Try it. Go on. Call me whatever you want. And watch me not give two fucks what you think.


> Sticks and stones (and bombs) will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

I guess you've never experienced school.


that has to be one of the absolute most asinine concepts of insanity ever unleashed on the public. Only someone deprived of all sanity and logic would assume that the censoring of certain words would prevent someone from being subject to abuse. You are obviously incapable of the capacity for such understanding, what with your brain cavity filled with fish entrails and pig excrement.

I say the above as a bit tongue in cheek. I've made similar statements in the past regarding being asked to implement a language/bad-word filter on a sight. By contrast, "That is the most fucking bad-ass thing I've ever seen," is a positive statement but uses words that would normally be filtered. While the former statement is completely insensitive and insulting without using any "bad" words.


[flagged]


There are cases of people who have completed suicide because of bullying based on their LD.

You cannot solve bullying by banning words. Especially in cases when those words are used in an entirely different context, having an entirely different meaning, without any profound malevolence.


The words are malevolent because they contribute to a culture where it is acceptable to treat people with LD as sub-human. You don't get to use a word and deny the long history of that word. This is nothing like, for example, the fake etymology of "nitty gritty", or confusion between the word "niggardly" with "like a nigger". The word retard has a long history and is closely associated with oppression and murder.

White people don't get to say "nigga - no, it's okay, I'm not saying nigger!"

The other confusing thing here is that people are asking for the freedom to do what they like with someone else's property, and when that person asks them to modify their behaviour they lose their shit.

This is just github saying "no shirt, no service". What happened to "their servers, their rules"?


Quite apart from LDs, there's something wrong with a medical system that allows doctors to decide who they want to resuscitate.


You probably need to investigate whatever your local version of "advance directives" are.

Seriously, advance directives give doctors useful information about keeping you alive / letting you die.

Don't say things like "no heroic measures", because that's a rare occasion. Be specific.

You're right, though. Those doctors were wrong, and that's why it's a thing. They should have involved the patient, and the family, in the decision.


>Assuming this letter is true: they're not stopping you from using offensive words, they're stopping you from using a very small set of words because those words contribute to a culture that cause actual harm.

Says who? What you are describing is textbook censorship.

You're offended? So what. Not my problem, step away from the computer.


> You're offended? So what. Not my problem, step away from the computer.

Fortunately, you don't own GitHub.


The cognitive dissonance of people downvoting comments when they are complaining about censorship is baffling.

The hypocrisy is weird.


Downvoting isn't equal to censorship. The content remains available for anyone with an account.

The commit history of this project remains available too... however, they forbid the authors to use the word in the live version if they want their project to be hosted on github. Now, I guess it's their prerogative to set the rules for people using their service. But I think it's also fair to say that being the facebook of programming it feels like they're kind of bullying the authors into compliance...

I'm pretty sure it's a really a non-story. Someone at github overreacted when a complaint was received. Big deal. If they started blocking accounts for reasons like this on a regular basis, many people would move somewhere else. It's not like they don't have competitors with equally good solutions. Their only advantage is their large userbase.


> Downvoting isn't equal to censorship.

Except when it is. Given sufficient downvotes, a post will fade to the same color as the background, making it easy to scroll past and not see it. Whether you want to admit it or not, brigading happens here too, and once in a while a perfectly valid, thoughtful, and reasoned response is silenced because it doesn't fit in with the group mentality here.

The only solution for this issue would be for everyone to adopt a personal policy of only downvoting trolls, intentionally misleading comments, off topic comments, spam, and "me too!" style comments that don't contribute to the discussion. Unfortunately we're only human, and instead of rebutting a comment one disagrees with, many of the users here take the lazy path and downvote. There's no easy fix for that, so the brigading continues, as does the censorship of valid but controversial ideas.

As for the topic at hand; while I agree with most people that the word "retard" is offensive and derogatory towards a specific group of people, I find it hilarious that its use is being questioned by people running a site/service named after an equally offensive and derogatory word.


> Except when it is. Given sufficient downvotes, a post will fade to the same color as the background, making it easy to scroll past and not see it.

It doesn't change anything. The content is still available for anyone to see if they want to.

Censorship is about making content unavailable. Not giving the exact same visibility to everything out there isn't censorship. Or upvoting is also a form of censorship, since it moves content above less-upvoted comments making less-upvoted comments more likely to be missed by people who won't scroll to the end of the page.

And for anyone used to HN's way of doing things, it's not hard to spot faded comments and highlight them if they seem of interest given the context around them.


I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. For me, attempting to whitewash something you don't agree with is censorship, and Merriam-Webster agrees with me, given their definition of "censor" means to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable (emphasis mine):

"Full Definition of CENSOR transitive verb : to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable <censor the news>"[1]

[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/censoring


Git is not equivalent to retard. Git is an everyday word. You can definitely get away with calling a pal a grumpy git. You're not going to get away with calling peoe retards unless you know them very well. And don't do so in public.

At least, this is the case for the UK.


And 100 years ago you could get away with calling someone who was mentally impaired a "retard". That's the wonderful thing about language, it's always evolving.

Personally, if someone called me a "git" or a "retard" I would take it exactly the same way, since they are both connotations for "idiot" or "slow thinker".


yes, language evolves. Now we recognise that retard was used to define people as sub-human and then to murder them; experiment upon them; forcibly sterilise them against their will and without their knowledge; deny them medical treatment (which often leads to their slow painful death); to bully and harass them; deny them employment; deny them opportunity; segregate them; abuse them; rape them.

Using the word retard against people who do not have LD is a weak insult to them, but does cause hurt to a large number of weak, dis-empowered people.

Retard as an insult is fucking stupid and lazy because it misses the mark.


> Downvoting isn't equal to censorship.

In every thread about downvoting ever you have people who strongly feel that downvoting anything other than flagrant rule-breaking posts is censorship - it makes the content less available.

> The content remains available for anyone with an account.

Github are not magically destroying content. They're just removing it from their servers. Since they own those servers it seems reasonable that they are allowed to chose what goes onto them. We can disagree about where they draw the line, but some people in this thread seem to think that Github does not have the right to draw that line anywhere.


    Downvoting isn't equal to censorship
Downvoting obscures the post being downvoted, so it kind of is.


Down-voting can be used as censorship, if not used properly. As in downvoting because you don't agree with the opinion, rather than because the post is irrelevant, ad-hominem, or content-free. If you don't agree, post a rebuttal.


> I'm pretty sure it's a really a non-story.

I agree. In this thead I'm assuming that the email is real.


>"Fortunately, you don't own GitHub."

The above comment was downvoted (not by me) because it does not contribute anything to the discussion (everyone knows he does not own Github)


'retarded' in it's current usage is not offensive. It means "very foolish or stupid."

'retarded' in it's dated usage is offensive, but it wasn't being used in that sense in the repo in question. This dated usage has fortunately fallen pretty much completely out of common usage.

If I tell you "my brother is retarded" you know exactly what I mean because if I had wanted to tell you that my brother has a learning disability I would have used a different word than 'retarded'.


So like how "lame" used to mean crippled or physically disabled but now generally doesn't in an informal context?


Except for "lame" in a formal context is still a relevant term.

I can't remember the last time I heard "retarded" used with the intention of referring to a developmentally disabled kids. Whenever I do hear that usage, I do point out to those people that the term when used that way is offensive and they should stop using it that way.


> 'retarded' in it's current usage is not offensive. It means "very foolish or stupid."

Maybe where you live. Where I'm from "retard" is about as bad as nigger. Feel free to say it. Just don't be surprised when people tell you how annoyed they are at you for using it.

EDIT: not quite as bad. Media will use "the n word", but would not say "the r word".


You're reaching, that term doesn't target any particular group.


> This isn't censorship of the type that is illegal or not allowed.

This is a weirdly common kind of thing for people to say. I don't understand what the point is supposed to be. It's still a bad thing. We have prohibitions on the government doing this because it's bad. We don't have prohibitions on people censoring third parties in their own homes, because that would be worse. This is still bad for all the same reasons it would be bad if the government were doing it. We're not criticizing github for doing something illegal. We're criticizing it for doing something wrong.


This is exactly the point.

If you are actively being stabbed, the legality of it is pretty irrelevant to your situation. It is about a place that hosts a large part of the open source community. Should a private company have power over all their contents?


No, government censorship is qualitatively different. It is specially regulated for good reason.

The term isn't even usually applied in contexts like this one. This here is usually called moderation or content policy or editorial standards etc. And most people don't consider it a bad thing.

But certainly are arguments for largest market share holders to have some kind of neutrality standards, like implemented in common carrier or net neutrality regulations. And in the other direction: at least in the EU there has been a big push to hold forums responsible for things like defamation and hate speech. eg http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2015/06/shock-european-co...


>The term isn't even usually applied in contexts like this one. This here is usually called moderation or content policy or editorial standards etc. And most people don't consider it a bad thing.

This is false. Facebook's ban on photos showing female nipples is constantly referred to as censorship.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lina-esco/facebook-war-on-nipp...


I definitely agree there is such a thing as censorship by non-government actors, but Facebook plays a very different role from Github. There's also a lot of uproar about Facebook and Twitter doing too little to weed out objectionable things.

But it's still qualitatively different from government censorship, which is imposed on third party media.


> The word was offensive.

It's not offensive to me, or a lot of people I know. I can think of far more offensive words to use for disabled people, but retard is just colloquial slang now AFAIC.


...And I'm being downvoted, as proof of what `otherusername2` said above:

"That's just because those of us who don't are afraid we'll get chewed out here, so we're not commenting."

Words have different meanings for different people it's that simple. These guys shouldn't have had to change their docs.

Where will this end? Will we not be able to use cretin next either? What about moron or imbecile? PC gone mad because some people don't understand a joke. Good job South Park isn't hosted on github...


oh cool - hey everybody! this guy says it's okay!!


> 3. As for the larger context, the problem with the frequent use of slippery slope arguments and cries of "censorship" is that people are choosing to die on some pretty ridiculous hills.

> 4. If or when Github actually does something truly abusive of their power to censor, then I'll worry.

This is bizarre. Your thinking goes directly against our human nature: recognize future danger and try to avoid it.

The danger is that you seem to be choosing to not recognize the growing trend towards what are seen as appropriate responses to being offended: shaming, ostracizing, and the forced silence of the "offender".

(edit: formatting)


The online shaming campaigns are stifling expression in a very bad way.

Imagine a source code repository where you have to be mindful of your comments, lest you become the target of a SJW out to destroy your career, friendships and reputation? Where is the utility in that?

It's bad enough on twitter now that you can only post dry comments if you use your real name. It's too risky to even post the teeniest joke or quip.


They tried that in the python-cuba wg. The former chair of it stepped down because he has been the target by SJWs trying to ruin his career. What is his crime? He spoke against the GGAB for its criteria on what is a "harasser" after he ended up on it without ever being part of GamerGate.


> The danger is that you seem to be choosing to not recognize the growing trend towards what are seen as appropriate responses to being offended: shaming, ostracizing, and the forced silence of the "offender".

So wait, do you have a problem with using language against people or not?



1. Still censorship.

2. "Github asked the repo to change it." Did github say: Can you please not use the word retarded?. No, they shut down the repo. Huge difference.

3. What a rediculous hill is is quite subjective.

4. Github can improve even though it's not sourceforge. The argument there is no need to fix any problem that is not "truly abusive" does no hold.


1. Nobody is saying what GitHub did was illegal or not allowed.

2. My biggest complaint about blocking the word is that they singled out this one guy. Even the parent repo still has "retard" and is still available. How ridiculously arbitrary is that? As a GitHub user do I have to worry that maybe one day somebody at GitHub will get butthurt and randomly disable my account over a technicality? Either make the rules apply to everybody, or don't bother having them.

3. Nobody is "choosing to die on some pretty ridiculous hills" over this. People are posting on the internet saying that it's stupid.

4. So you don't mind when you agree with GitHub, but you'll worry when you disagree with GitHub.

Private company or not, it's as much my right to say, "Hey, I think that's bullshit," as it is for them to remove content from their website.


Regarding 2) It does say in the linked message [1] from GitHub Support that this repository (nixxquality/WebMConverter) was disable as a consequence of the parent repository (WebMBro/WebMConverter) got disabled by GitHub.

[1] https://imgur.com/QC51FZz


It looks like it's changed now, but at the time of my posting the parent repo was up and still used "retards", despite what the image says.


To add to that

5. Github as a commercial entity is pretty unlikely to abuse their (indeed worrying, but not scary yet) ability to censor unless some suits decide that they are big enough to not worry about the very community that made them big (IOW, I won't worry until they do a reddit).


No, they have abused it before. They deleted a GamerGate repo then went on twitter to gloat about it.


1. Obviously or there'd be a lawsuit. Not everything that is wrong or destructive is coded into law. Censorship as a concept exists outside of the law. All censorship, legal or not, should be strongly scrutinized.


> 1. This isn't censorship of the type that is illegal or not allowed. It is a private company deciding a word was inappropriate.

It is a private company, alright, but it is also becoming a critical company for the internet as a whole. Which points to an important question our society will have to face more and more often with increasing centralization and globalization: When does a company become essential infrastructure and be judged (morally, by law, by the executive) different to any other private entity.

During the financial crisis we have seen that large parts of the banking sector were deemed "to big to fail" and kept on life support by the government. Facebook has grown large enough than any changes in their TOS and privacy policy are closely watched and often criticized by a multitude of public parties and the press (at least in Germany).

I've only recently realized how far we have come in terms of better development standards when I tried find the official repository for ncurses (which is a GNU project, by the way). There is none. The current development code is hosted via ftp as a set of tarball snapshots [1]. As far as I can tell, no development history beside the change notes of each snapshot before May 2015 is publicly accessible. Issue tracking seems to be handled over the mailing list [2]. And I asked myself, why can't this project be hosted on GitHub?

The answer depends on how reliable GitHub turns out - or continues - to be. If we can't hold GitHub to a higher standard than just "they are a private company, they may do whatever they want", then ncurses should host its own issue tracker and git repository. But if we judge GitHub as an infrastructure, then sure, host this core GNU project via a private company.

> 2. It seems like most in this comment thread agree that this action, as a singular act, is a good thing. The word was offensive. Github asked the repo to change it. They did. The end.

Note that how to deal with swear words or offensive words in general is very culture specific. In the society I live in I seldom encounter cussing or "inappropriate behaviour", but when I do, they are next to never beeped over or blurred out. Rather, when in bad faith, they serve to disqualify the speaker. (And when they are used in good faith they benefit artistic freedom.)

This is not to say "our" way of dealing with questionable or offensive behaviour is the "right" one. Rather, if we hold GitHub to internet infrastructure standards, then they have to find some middle ground between corporate America puritanism and the diverse culture that surrounds it. It's not an easy task, see for example Facebook's debate on nudity vs. breast feeding, but otherwise every entry on GitHub will be as boring as Oracle documentation - no more "Hurr durr I'ma sheep" releases for you.

[1] ftp://invisible-island.net/ncurses/current/ [2] The issue at question being that no ncurses release compiles with the current GCC: https://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/bug-ncurses/2015-06/msg00...


    It is a private company, alright, but it is also becoming a critical company for the internet as a whole
Hardly. OSS was in a very healthy state before Github and it will manage just fine without it. I'm not saying Github doesn't add value - it absolutely does - but if it died tomorrow, I'd simply create an account at a different vendor, push my repos to it, and pick up the pieces from there.


Distributed VCS are uniquely great in allowing one to switch hosters without much of a hiccup, yes.

I was referring, though, to all the surrounding aspects of GitHub, e.g. issue tracking / discussions and discoverability. Quite a lot of projects have no online presence except GitHub pages. Let me again draw an analogy with Facebook: Of course there are many ways to contact people - (e)mail, phone, instant messenger - but a lot of people rely on Facebook to stay in contact with each other and don't bother to exchange other contact information.

Besides, censorship is far more subtle and pervasive than closing shop. It changes the perception and values of the community, instead of driving the participants to some other place. Also there are surveillance and subversion issues. When it becomes common to install binaries directly supplied by GitHub, I better trust them not to include any (targeted) malware.


I get it, I just don't think it would be very hard to migrate those things. You'd probably even be able to download an OSS tools from whatever GitHub replacement you'd be about to migrate to.

I'm not sure I'm with you on the second point. I think I understand where you're coming from, but I think it's a reach to their from this incident. Being required to use civil language on a public site seems like a reasonable requirement to me.


1. This isn't censorship of the type that is illegal or not allowed.

This is true, but the same can be said of the Hollywood blacklist [1] during the Red Scare. Do you support Hollywood blacklist–style ideological litmus tests in technology? If you think such things are a bad idea, and you think a culture that encourages them is dysfunctional, then legality is really beside the point.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollywood_blacklist


1) If it was we would be suing github, not discussing it here

2) Appeal to the majority

3) When you defend freedom of speech you end up defending mostly scoundrels since it is against them the rules will first be used

4) That was about a year ago.


Sorry retard, it's actually a giant problem that access to this very popular and useful fork was interrupted for like a week (and would have been indefinite if the owner was inactive) due to an upstream repo using a mean word.


That is very sensible. Github is free to impose any arbitrary rule and repo admins are free to use competitor's products.

In fact Github cares very little about "offense" but probably only cares about their own profits. Private companies applying this sort of censorship is not a bad thing.

For example Apple, Google completely control the apps that will feature in their apps stores. That has actually improved the security of mobile devices lot more otherwise imagine a Ask Toolbar app playing an ad each time your call someone.


There are 53 other repos containing the word retard..

https://github.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&q=retard

It seems to me they are just singling out a single commit to be a problem, probably because of someone oversensitive complaining about this single commit, not knowing that github is full of what could be considered offensive to some. I am personally very happy we solved all world problems and now can focus on wording in commits.


I think making the subtitle of the project 'Webm for retards' might have something to do with it.

It's possible this project was reported by an offended user. If it is automated I expect other projects that use the word 'retard' as a project name or subtitle might have email notifications giving them some length of time to change or be banned.



Bullshit! This might be true if they only censored for malware, but at present anyone on Android who wants an ad-blocker, or software to interface with various torrent / media servers now has to resort to off-store apps which aren't subject to any review.

This is a much larger problem.


> 4. If or when Github actually does something truly abusive of their power to censor, then I'll worry.

The discretion in this case was already arbitrary and is cause to worry.


Sooo, what you're saying is that it's OK for any company to ignore any rights of yours that they don't agree with? Interesting. Of course, it isn't illegal, but does that still mean they should do it?


> It isn't illegal, but does that mean they should still do it?

Exactly. They're a private company, they're free to do whatever they want within the legal limits. The argument isn't whether they're allowed to do it (whether the first amendment applies here), but rather, should they do it?

I say probably not. In many cases, morals/ethics are subjective and should not be enforced upon others. The key word is enforced -- I'm all for them contacting the user and saying "Listen, man, this isn't cool -- please change it."

In general, I'm against the enforcement of personal morals upon others, except in obvious circumstances (we probably shouldn't hurt/kill/steal from/etc. each other). Discussion and debate is cool, enforcement is not.

And just as the company itself has the right to censor whatever it pleases, its users have the right to stop using their services when they feel that the company is infringing on their rights -- which is what a lot of people here are saying (they're not saying "this is bad, the company should get in trouble for it," they're saying "this is bad, I refuse to do business with a bad company").


rights? you have a right to save your content onto their servers?


That's what users pay them for, is it not?


rights are something you pay people for?

open source projects are certainly not paying github


They didn't ask, they said do it or else. Extortion.

If someone was upset enough to complain, why not file a PR or start a discussion instead?


By the time #4 on your list happens, what makes you think anybody will be listening?


what kind of doomsday scenario are you imagining? all the open source repos in the world slowly die as github starts censoring increasingly larger portions of the english language?


I'm imagining a nightmare scenario where, by some vauge unwritten and immature consensus mechanism, we rationalize even a slight amount of censorship as being OK.


So now graffiti removal is a nightmare scenario.


Actually, mature consensus on some graffiti is that it is art and should be treasured in the moment it exits. Banksy, for example. People are totally OK with removal for aesthetics, instead of the previously mentioned censorship.


Yeah, but they said even a "slight" amount of censorship is a nightmare scenario. It's pointless hyperbole.


The actual nightmare scenario is that people with learning disability are killed by doctors because those doctors think "retards have no quality of life". When people toss around the word retard they contribute to a culture that doesn't care about the high levels of violent hate crime experienced by people with a learning disability.

And most posts seem to miss the point: their servers, their rules. No one is stopping you from having an open source project that uses the word retard, they're just stopping you from using Github. There's a bunch of other censorship that Github does.

> You may not use the Service for any illegal or unauthorized purpose. You must not, in the use of the Service, violate any laws in your jurisdiction (including but not limited to copyright or trademark laws).

This, in particular, is restrictive.

(Also: we're all assuming the screenshot is genuine.)


> The actual nightmare scenario is that people with learning disability are killed by doctors because those doctors think "retards have no quality of life". When people toss around the word retard they contribute to a culture that doesn't care about the high levels of violent hate crime experienced by people with a learning disability.

I'm sorry, but this is ridiculous. It simply isn't how language works, never mind political change.

Simple example: "sinister" used to mean left-handed, and by extension, creepy and evil (as was believed by the superstitious in earlier times). Now it no longer means left-handed, but still means creepy and evil. The connotational meaning has become a denotational meaning, because the idea the word used to express is to all intents and purposes gone. Nobody believes such nonsense about left-handed people any more.

Mutatis mutandis, the abolitionists and later civil rights movement did not achieve their aims with regards to racial equality by harassing people for using n-bombs. They fought to change the structural, social reality (slavery, political disenfranchisement, lynchings) that supported the use of such epithets, using all manner of means, from civil disobedience to total war. They had success, albeit not total success.

The idea that you can affect the actual levers of power and privilege in society by imposing overweening social taboos on particular words is a peculiarly modern political disease.

I am not terrifically concerned about whether you can use the word 'retard' on github without incurring the wrath of moderators. (And really guys - github is your resume, I hear. Don't cover it with playground insults.) But it pains me to see plenty of people with some kind of social conscience completely wasting their energy complaining about stuff like this. You want to protect people with mental disabilities? I'm sure there's a state legislature or equivalent near you slashing funds for learning support in schools, or social care, or disability-related welfare benefits (and if it's anything like it is here in the UK, loudmouthed bigots in the press explicitly calling various needy social categories parasites). Cleaning up a github readme is not an adequate substitute.


>The actual nightmare scenario is that people with learning disability are killed by doctors because those doctors think "retards have no quality of life".

Woah, that escalated quickly. How the hell did we go from offensive words to hospitals as state run eugenics labs in one sentence?


Welcome to HN. The new motto around here is "we're actually worse than reddit."


I love you.


There are a whole slew of simulated what-ifs that we could list and all agree would be horrible and atrocious and fill our nights with shaking our heads about them. As the song by the Submarines goes, "Somethings wrong when you regret things that haven't happened yet" or as John Stienbeck's character in Grapes of Wrath put it, "Up ahead they's a thousan' lives we might live, but when it comes it'll on'y be one.”

My personal favorite was from my grandmother who said "If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we'd all have a merry Christmas." Any way you put it, speculating on things good or bad is just speculation and doesn't deserve any feelings from me one way or the other given it's a waste of resources to dwell on things that have yet to come to pass.

Censorship is not OK. Period.


>The actual nightmare scenario is that people with learning disability are killed by doctors because those doctors think "retards have no quality of life". Are you...are you talking about abortion for disabled fetuses? Because that's not the doctor's choice, that's the parent's. >When people toss around the word retard they contribute to a culture that doesn't care about the high levels of violent hate crime experienced by people with a learning disability. Citation desperately needed.


The worst that would happen is what's happening in GamerGate right now: a split along ideological lines. Those who want to judge the merit of a work based on its code and those who want to judge the merit of a work based on the political opinions of the author.


I don't see that split happening right now and I often browse /r/kotakuinaction, which is one of the central gamergater hubs.

Also user Snesker, you have been hell-banned.


The fact there are two camps (GG and anti-GG) means there was a split. What's the difference between the two camps? Ideology and nothing else.


Github is not a public service; they're a private company.

> Who decides what is and is not appropriate?

Github does. That's how that works.

If you prefer you could try and lobby your government to set up some sort of national source code repo. Maybe you'd find the rules on such a thing more to your liking. (Note: You really, really wouldn't.)

Alternatively, you could host your own source code repos, and then you can set the rules.

Edit: More generally, you seem to suggest that a place where a lot of people from different backgrounds come together to try and collaborate and work should be a place with no rules, norms, or even an expectation of basic politeness. Offhand, I'd think the opposite should be true.

You're also conflating something like, eg, efforts to get around the Chinese firewall with people who want to use slurs. People have, in my view, in intrinsic right to do both, but these are still not equivalent actions, and you're not going to reach a sensible conclusion until you abandon that moral relativism. Free speech is valuable, but not all speech is equally valuable.


>> Who decides what is and is not appropriate? >Github does. That's how that works.

I don't think "github" does it; it's lobbyists either within or outside of Github - the SJW's, what used to be called the PC Police - that push agendas like this forward. Same happened / is happening with Reddit, to some degree - again the slippery slope mentioned above.

Now, the problem isn't these policies forbidding certain behaviour or language; the problem is that they're measuring with different sticks. In Reddit's case, it was banning subreddits making fun of fat people, whilst keeping racist and corpse-fetish subreddits around. In Github's case it's banning one 'offensive' word, while "git" itself is offensive and they should really censor themselves first before demanding their users do it to their own work.

AFAIK there's no official list anywhere of "Words You Shouldn't Use" on github either - which makes the enforcement of this thing completely arbitrary.


This is the great detractor from using anything in the cloud. Companies/groups/projects/developers should host things internally, themselves and that way they can control the whole process from soup to nuts. Depending on any cloud company, especially a private one is a massive gamble they don't decide to pull the rug out from under you on a whim.


> > Who decides what is and is not appropriate? > Github does. That's how that works.

In practice, for Github and most companies, it is their customers who decide. Companies are beholden to their customer's for existence. That is why they pay so much for PR (trying to mold their customer's opinions into ones favorable to the company).


Github is not a public service; they're a private company.

They're both. They're a private company that offers a public service. As such, they can't do whatever they want. For example, if they wanted to ban all repos written by black men, that would be illegal.

Nobody is suggesting that banning a repo for using a bad word is illegal. A breach of trust, a breach of ethics and a breach of reliability[0], but not illegal.

[0]: if I were a company, I would be thinking twice about trusting any of my business to Github. If a British employee commits a word that is commonplace in Britain but very offensive in America (like 'fag'), does that mean my repo goes away? Could I mess with another company by purposefully taking one of their commits out of context and creating an internet controversy over it on twitter?


"They're both. They're a private company that offers a public service. As such, they can't do whatever they want."

Strictly from being a company that pursues profits, they can't do "whatever they want" because they want to maintain their userbase.

But, being a private company means they have a "right to do whatever they please" (property rights).

But having a right to do something doesn't mean people can't criticize those decisions or be right in those assessments.


the context would be obvious. your hypothetical is a silly fiction


The silly fiction is not observing that this has already happened to twitter, facebook and reddit.


> fag

Are you talking about cigarettes or gay men? It's pretty easy for github.


It's pretty easy to point and shriek at something out of context. It's also pretty easy to use the word fag in a seemingly offensive way until you consider the author of said code may himself be gay. It's pretty easy for anybody to tell the difference, but is that going to make a difference after it becomes a public controversy? Or will github just pull it to be safe?


Of course I think Github should have the right to do this, but I don't think they should do this in cases as silly as this one.

The free market doesn't always work here. Especially when it comes to the Internet. In this instance, sure they can host it anywhere they want and then not encounter problems, but that often doesn't work in other scenarios.

When some sites try to fork in that manner, due to censorship on the original, the forked site can end up with DDoS attacks, having their domains revoked, payment accounts frozen, hosting revoked, and so on, because groups will harass companies support, demanding that they stop supporting <offending site> for whatever reason, and almost all companies cave when this happens. Suddenly, forking isn't so easy.

I strongly suggest anyone who thinks this is a good thing to read this post (which this comment is similar to): http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/07/22/freedom-on-the-centrali...


There is plenty of more harmful censorship on this very HN thread.

People with controversial or different opinions are downvoted until they don't appear on the site any more, ultimately meaning that only a small range of human opinions are welcome and valid here.

Github asked for the use of a single word to be reconsidered - nothing has been censored in any meaningful way, and the result is that a different word has been used, which means the same in this context.

Who decides what is and is not appropriate? Github does. Github chooses exactly the terms that you need to meet to host there, and decides when those terms change. That's agreed contractually and implicitly when you sign up to use Github. It's important to understand that this applies to every online service you might use.


> It is the selective censorship of certain reasonable uses of free speech that is concerning here.

Free speech laws don't apply to corporate or private censorship.

> Who decides what is and is not appropriate?

The owners of the property. Can I come over to your place and say offensive things?


Free speech laws don't apply to corporate or private censorship.

Nobody's suggesting we sue or otherwise bring criminal charges against Github. Your response is a non-sequitur at best.

The owners of the property. Can I come over to your place and say offensive things?

Legally? Yes, you can.


And legally you can eject him from your property if he does that.


Yes. What's your point?


OP used the term "free speech" which is a legal term that in the US refers to 1st amendment protections around expression.

Well, free speech laws don't apply to me on your property. It is legal for you to tell me to shut up or get out.


Free speech isn't just a legality. It's a valuable principal that's stood the test of time of being one of the few core features of functional societies.

Free speech is a value that we should all uphold regardless whether it legally applies or not. So stop making excuses for bad corporate behaviour.


"Free Speech" isn't a blank check to say and do whatever you want. Even SCOTUS says that direct threats of violence aren't protected by the first amendment.

I'm tired of reading people nebulously defining "free speech philosophies" online to act as a shield to justify nefarious behavior on private property.

Free speech exists as a protection from government censorship, and it doesn't protect you for acting like a dick on someone else's website. This sums it up pretty well: https://xkcd.com/1357/


Defending your position by citing that comic is basically the ultimate concession; you're saying that the most compelling argument you can make for GitHub's actions is that they weren't illegal. (For anyone who doesn't get the reference, look at the hovertext on that xkcd.)


I wasn't citing the comic, I said it was a summation.

The SCOTUS example points out that the people whose jobs are to interpret free speech say it is limited, and that claiming "free speech" a blank check to escape consequences is merely semantics to support a bias.


"Free speech exists as a protection from government censorship"

So what happens when the line between government and corporation is blurred? The common justification why that corporations aren't beholden to free speech is that you can just choose another corporation to spend your time/money on.

What if you can't choose? What if it's prohibitively expensive to just setup an alternative (perhaps due to regulatory capture)?

What if there's no competition because corporations have subtly merged with government?

Maybe it's simply just not right anymore to assume that if it's a private organisation that they're exempt from societal/governmental principals.


>Slippery slope

Github isn't even remotely "blurred" with a government organization. This is some pretty out-there FUD.


Slippery slope doesn't have anything to do with this. My point was that societal standards & expectation shouldn't end with the government. Yes it's not required, but that's irrelevant.

People are paying for these corporations through tax breaks, subsidies & other governmental projects (Tesla for example).


It is a slippery slope because you're trying to extrapolate public policy onto private property.

If you're upset with the tax breaks and subsidies, then elect someone who will deal with them. That and your arbitrary expectations doesn't give you entitlement to someone else's private property.


I think the fundamental misunderstanding we're having here is that people on the left side of the political spectrum believe the solution to all answers is more government control. The idea that the government isn't the beginning and ending of social control is outside of their realm of understanding.


I'm tired of reading people nebulously defining "free speech philosophies" online to act as a shield to justify nefarious behavior on private property.

This thread has been very instructive for me. I've come to the conclusion that you either get free speech as a social virtue or you don't. It's clear to me that most people don't and even can't understand it from that point of view.

What that XKCD comic doesn't even consider is what happens when you're the one being shown the door? Would you go quietly?


>you either get free speech as a social virtue or you don't.

False dichotomy. Many people get that free speech is a social virtue, because many people see protection from government censorship as a social virtue. What it sounds like is that you wish was a social virtue is the ability to behave or act in any manor on privately-owned websites without having to face the consequences of your actions.

We can consider hypothetical slippery-slopes about private websites implementing tyrannical policies, but that doesn't suddenly make it a "free speech" issue. Asking "Would you go quietly if banned from a privately held website" doesn't suddenly mean it's a "free speech" issue. Does making a certain amount of noise make something a free speech issue?

There are distributed networks (like bitcoin or other P2P) that are owned and controlled by the communities that support them. Maybe you should consider supporting those instead of trying to redefine "free speech" to fit your beliefs.


> privately-owned websites

If GitHub used their privately-owned website to deliberately offend people, would you be defending them? To me it seems like this argument based on ownership is chosen purely because it is convenient in this particular case.

> having to face the consequences of your actions

This sounds ominous, except the "action" we're talking about is forking a repository that used the "wrong" vocabulary in its assembly title. Taking that into consideration, the response is disproportionate and selectively enforced.

Nobody would say a word if GitHub sent a polite request asking (rather than demanding) the change. I am willing to bet the owner would gladly indulge them.


I'm not defending anyone. Re-read the part about how people keep making a "freedom of speech" issue.


Many people get that free speech is a social virtue, because many people see protection from government censorship as a social virtue.

QED. Thanks for playing the home game. We'll mail you your prizes.


Thank you for proving your comments aren't worth reading.


Worst xkcd ever. http://sealedabstract.com/rants/re-xkcd-1357-free-speech/ is a decent reply if less pithy.



Actually this is the worst xkcd: https://xkcd.com/457/


Free speech as a concept isn't just about the first amendment and isn't just about the law. Free speech can be defended on any number of grounds, and many of them apply equally to privately enforced speech restrictions. For example, consider John Stuart Mill, one of the founding figures of modern liberal thought. In On Liberty, his spirited defense of free speech, he argued that shunning or widespread ostracism for expression of particular views was a danger, and would ultimately harm a society that engaged in it, even if the views being suppressed were obviously wrong.

"Free speech is only first amendment" is a shallow and ignorant view of the intellectual tradition of free expression.


What privately-owned properties do you know of where the owner allows guests or customers to speak as freely as if they were on the sidewalk, without fear of recrimination from the owner in the form of censorship or ejection? I can think of 4chan, maybe some IRC channels.


Even 4chan censors various kinds of content, actually.


Mill also said that the Harm principal trumps freedom of speech (i.e. individuals should be prevented from causing harm to others and/or property at the cost of their liberty).

He also says that the offense principal should not trump freedom of speech, but acknowledges that there are cases of offense that cause psychological and social harm that still qualify for the harm principal.

Was the repo code change harmful? Maybe, depending on the definition of property. Mill saw freedom of speech as a path to the truth, and he also understood that principals and rules change over time. I think he might be in favor of Github censoring their repo since it was their property and not a crucial debate towards finding the truth.


Yes. Now, imagine you're in OP's grocery store. It's still private property, but he provides a public service out of it. Can he still prevent you from shouting at him? Do free speech laws cover privately owned public spaces?


Yes, you can eject someone from a store for being rude.

Your ISP is not allowed to censor content (as far as I know) because it is a common carrier. Google is not a common carrier, they can do what they want. If Google can do it, GitHub can do it.

Note that I don't necessarily think censorship is good. I just get annoyed when people mistakenly think they have a constitutional right to not be censored.


I just get annoyed when people mistakenly think they have a constitutional right to not be censored.

And I say that where, exactly?


You didn't, OP implied it by using the term free speech.


OP implied fuck-all, unless you take the ridiculous view that free speech and the 1st amendment to the US constitution are the same thing. For about the 99th time in this thread, they are definitely fucking not, and any arguments which rest on this assumption are, prima facie, fucking stupid.

E: Because I can't reply anymore, addressed to ectoplasm's reply to this post:

Because I said "fuck"? If that is seriously against the rules of HN then I do genuinely apologize (and will probably stop posting here so much). If it's just because I viciously attacked your argument, well, I'm actually pretty sure you're a wonderful person ectoplasm, and I am sincere in saying that, but the argument you're putting forward is fucking stupid, and ought to be called such. AFAIK that's not breaking any rules.

E2:

I have a reply link - I've hit some posting limit.

Not only stupid people make stupid arguments. You are probably not a stupid person. The line of reasoning of the argument you put forward here, most definitely is.


Somewhat appropriately, your comment is against the rules of Hacker News.

> Be civil. Don't say things you wouldn't say in a face-to-face conversation. Avoid gratuitous negativity.

edit: To reply without a reply link, you have to click on the timestamp. Your comment wouldn't be civil even if you elided every instance of 'fuck'. Who makes a stupid argument? A stupid person. You didn't really viciously attack anything, you just said I was stupidly wrong.

edit2: What does it even mean for an argument to be stupid? That's not very convincing. Your arguments are also stupid. So we tie?

p.s. I wasn't really offended or anything, I just think it's good for property rights to trump free speech, and the HN rules are an example of that.


So this entire thread has been a lesson in the pointlessness of pedanticism.


Perhaps 'pedantry' would be more idiomatic? :)


Hah, I see what you did there. ;)


It's pedantic, yes, but on the other hand, I think it's important to distinguish between legal and illegal activity, regardless of one's opinions about the moral goodness of the activity itself.


That's a mighty nice straw man you built for yourself, there. I see you dressed him in pants and everything.


That's willful ignorance of the real issue. This is not an isolated incident. Society is increasingly rejecting any and all "offensive" language and behavior.

Should we all be nice and respectful to each other? Yes, of course. Are people that way? No. Can we police ourselves fairly and achieve a society that is not offensive? Absolutely not.


> Can we police ourselves fairly and achieve a society that is not offensive? Absolutely not.

Hacker News is a pretty nice place.


And yet one is allowed to use the word retard.


This thread, and almost any thread about social issues in technology, demonstrates that it has both nice and awful people hanging out on it.


Perhaps, but what makes it a nice place is the limits on how awful people can be.


Depends, is his place a known haven for sharing information, specifically designed to encourage and promote openness?


Unlike your ISP, GitHub is not a common carrier.


The slippery slope argument is the only way to go when it comes to censorship, and it is not a fallacy. I can't even believe this is happening. I will end my years long relationship with GitHub over this, if this is not publicly addressed.

I can see at least one user in that comment stream that should also be censored (account deleted), if we're going down this disgusting road of censorship (https://github.com/MarbleFag). FTR, I wouldn't add him/her as a friend, but let me make that choice for myself. Don't censor my community, or I'll find a new one.


It sounds like entitlement to me.

Just because it's an open source project, does not grant the author free pass to do whatever he/she likes. If I come and visit someone at their house, I make sure I observe their house rules.

So GitHub makes it clear that this is unacceptable. Whilst their actions / decisions may sometimes look arbitrary, we need to remember that GitHub is not just one person.

In addition, in a public space you would expect respectful public decorum. This repository is publicly visible and anyone could stumble upon it.


I know of one country that operates a web content filter to prevent its citizens from being exposed to offensive and objectionable content. The citizens of this country find it incredibly offensive that there exists instructions on how to circumvent this filter. However, github proudly hosts these instructions[1] in spite of repeated polite requests to remove it.

Now I'd like to know why the views of Bay Area SJWs is worth listening to, but not Chinese people. If we can censor words like this, why can't we censor content that actually harms (/s) a lot of Chinese people?

[1] - https://github.com/greatfire/


So what you're saying is that you're afraid that GitHub will go down the slippery slope of censorship?

If I reframe this another way, do you think this is an acceptable behaviour in a professional setting? Then the issue becomes less of censorship, but more of acceptable conduct.

Calling names for laughs is probably OK in private, between friends, but perhaps not appropriate in a public setting.

Again, I get that the author is just having a bit of fun. But not everyone will understand that.


I do not think it is acceptable behaviour in a professional setting. I would be less likely to hire someone who's Github had such references. That does not mean that censoring them is acceptable.

Github's previous policy was to allow any content that did not expressly break American laws. I thought this was a good idea, and it was the justification behind keeping the GreatFire repo up, even in the face of DoS attacks by China. Very commendable, IMO. However, when they start censoring people who break no laws, I do think they are more likely to censor things in the future.

Lastly, I'd like to point out that "git" is an offensive word to some people. It was chosen by Linus Torvalds for that reason. Now that Github has demonstrated their willingness to censor words that hurt people's feelings, would they consider censoring this awful project? [1] While they're at it, could they change their name too?

[1] - https://github.com/git/git


I get what you mean. We are getting into some grey areas though, where does GitHub draw the line?

I still think that it's not a matter of the law, but one of conduct. GitHub probably has some ideals on how their service should be used, and this instance the language did not match up to their ideals. What do you think GitHub should do?

It's probably the same issues reddit mods have when trying to maintain their community ideals.

I also get that `git` was based on something offensive, but it has taken a whole new meaning since it's attached to a particular method of version control. However, `retard` is still derogatory however way it is put.


> where does Github draw the line

Where they did previously - content that doesn't break American laws is allowed, everything else is removed. Words weren't censored because they hurt people's feelings. There was no respect given to Americans' new found affinity to the "right to feel comfortable".

You point out that "git" means something else entirely now. I'd point out that the word retard is changing in a similar way, just like "moron" did. As you know, moron used to refer to mentally handicapped people, but the meaning has changed to mean "stupid".

In this case people were marketing their repo as "WebM for retards". This seems to be extremely similar to the "X for Dummies" series of books. These books were controversial when they came out, but they've become an accepted part of our bookshelves now. If the SJWs had had their way, "X for Dummies" would have changed to something that didn't hurt the feelings of dummies everywhere.


> There was no respect given to Americans' new found affinity to the "right to feel comfortable".

GitHub userbase is global, what may be acceptable in US culture might not be acceptable somewhere else.

> You point out that "git" means something else entirely now. I'd point out that the word retard is changing in a similar way, just like "moron" did.

Exactly, `git` has changed, but `retard` hasn't (i.e. still changing). So right now, a lot of people think it's still inappropriate.

> These books were controversial when they came out, but they've become an accepted part of our bookshelves now.

I understand what you are saying, but until it becomes widely accepted term, there will be a lot of discussions like we are having now.


There is no free speech.

1) That concept in itself is just as broken as the idea of offensive content: It's a personal or maybe regional thing. Examples: Germany vs. the USA

Why should one concept win over the other?

2) This is a corporation, offering a service. Free Speech is usually something that is discussed when we talk about the public or the government. You cannot enter a restaurant, shout offensive stuff and complain when shown the door.

3) GH is not the internet, GH is not open source. It's a company. So far they seem to be nice, but I'd have said the same thing about Google a couple years back. Don't tie GH to concepts you value (open source, free/libre software).

(I personally think that this incident is ridiculous and poor form by GH - but other than that I couldn't disagree more with the direction of your post)


Github does. If you don't like it, fork it... just not on GitHub.


They can do whatever they want, that is the market at work. If enough people find it offensive, they will produce/migrate to an alternative.


sure, they're legally entitled to do whatever they want, but you're failing to consider the most important point:

>You need to consider that GitHub currently hosts a large percentage of the web's open source repositories

would you be happy if google abused its position as the leading search engine to favor right leaning websites over left leaning websites? what about censoring websites that are "offensive" to muslims?


Or what about if your comment were mass-downvoted on HN? Would you be happy?

The censorship card ultimately falls into a relativistic trap - it's always okay to broadcast hate if it's the speech of you or your friends, because you and I can protest ignorance, humor, or lack of wrongdoing, and your more overtly bigoted friends "are good guys when you get to know them." Criticism of such speech, on the other hand, is never okay, and is "the real censorship". You don't even have to invoke a specific ideological dialogue - it is an everyday occurrence in your homes, schools, and bars.

Now, you can go out there and fight and "win" by making your preferred flavor of speech dominant in your spaces, but that just exposes a different facet of this "gem of truthiness" - it doesn't reveal the whole thing, because you still get the same problem, no matter which side you take.

The typical modern response to this is nihilistic or fanatical, but if you really feel challenged by a hostile environment, why not follow the path of the ancients and turn your speech into a puzzle or parable that hides its true intention? If your ideas are good, they will survive the transition and reach the readers who put in the effort to care and figure it out. OTOH if the whole premise is to police the surface aspects of the dialogue and Be Right, then you're speaking politically, not intellectually, and political speech comes with Consequences regardless of the legal environment.


Funny, the same thing seems to happen with the "it's not censorship" card. For example, a while ago a social justice activist got banned from Twitter for death threats against Wil Wheaton, and suddenly all the tech industry folks who claimed sites should ban people for harassment were going after Twitter for doing it because it was an approved social justice death threat.


> Who decides what is and is not appropriate?

GitHub, because that stuff is hosted on their servers.

This is not about Open Source. This is about GitHub.

Yes, it has no place in Open Source. Whether or not it has a place on GitHub is, however, up to GitHub itself.


Your logic becomes flawed when you realize how many % of the world's open source projects are hosted primarily on Github.

Their actions are all legal and good, and since I don't live in America, the freedom of speech argument is invalid to me.

That doesn't make this sort or action OK, and should in fact be cause for alarm.

To quote my favorite comedian, Steve Hughes: "What offends me may not offend you. And you want to make laws about this? How do you make a law about offending people? How do you make it an offense to offend people? Being offended is subjective. It has everything to do with you as an individual or a collective, or a group or a society or a community. Your moral conditioning, your religious beliefs. What offends me may not offend you. And you want to make laws about this? I’m offended when I see boy bands for god sake!"


Don't get me wrong, I think GitHub's move is retarded.

It's just that no one has a right to whine about it any more than they have a right to whine about what their retarded neighbour does in their apartment. If your retarded neighbour has a "no cursing" policies in their home, you can either not be his guest, or not swear while in his house. Either way, it's his right.


Github has become a too important center for open source work, to silently accept their policy.


There are two possibilities:

* Either this is not OK for Open Source, and it will prompt people to move away from GitHub -- because, sure, we needed the INT_MAXth reminder that relying on a private third-party for a free service is a bad idea, or

* This is something most open source projects have no problem with, and they'll just keep going, while leaving open source "radicals" like you and me to whine about it.

Github didn't just magically become this super important center for open source work. It's an important center for the open source world because a lot of people are using it.

It can stop being an important center, that's not a problem.


One of the main things to keep in mind is that GH is a business. Businesses avoid negative controversies.

That said, politically correctness has the basic potential to just push these human tendencies internally. It's saying some people are too primitive and thus these things have to be made into taboos rather than let it be part of human communication flotsam.


We view this type of censorship as offensive because the word "retard" doesn't carry much weight. Nobody would be fighting for this man's freedom of speech if he littered the code with the word "nigger" or "lynching"

One of the executives probably has a son or daughter who is a retard. Makes sense why such censorship can occur. When you own a product, your bias will inevitably saturate into the product. Having a son or daughter who's a retard makes this bias especially strong.

Personally I agree that "retard" shouldn't be censored because I hate censoring in general. But I also agree that "nigger" shouldn't be touched either. Defending freedom of speech means defending the right for other people to have dissenting opinions, this includes opinions that are stupid, racist and bigoted.


I have a son (or daughter) who is a git - I am offended by *hub and demand they change their name to 'basebornhub' or 'intellectuallychallengedhub'


I bet you don't have a son or daughter who is a git or a retard. You definitely wouldn't be writing this otherwise.


You did not get his point: what is offensive to one person may or may not be offensive to other people. Where do we draw the line?


We don't draw the a line. Freedom of speech.

All I'm trying to promote is understanding among people from both sides.


> Personally I agree that "retard" shouldn't be censored because I hate censoring in general. But I also agree that "nigr" shouldn't be touched either.

The people who use the N-word should be called racists and shamed for using it though.

> Defending freedom of speech means defending the right for other people to have dissenting opinions, this includes opinions that are stupid, racist and bigoted.

Yep. Like I said though, those people should openly be called racists and be forced to know how their racism affects others.


It's threads like these that remind me that reddit's ability to collapse entire threads is priceless.


It you're using Chrome or Chromium, this extension provides that plus after a refresh orange bars indicating new postings: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/hckr-news/mnlaodle...


That is yet another argument for why one company should not become a virtual library of Alexandria for oss.


You don't think standards of professionalism have a place in open source, or on GitHub?


Given that most user generated content in GitHub is not professional then no, not really. Besides, in most circles profanity is not professional.


"standards of professionalism" are used as a device of exclusion. It has a fairly narrow definition now, but that will change, just like the words "racist", "sexist" and "homophobic". You used to have to perform an action of actual malice to be accused of those things. Now, all you have to do is make an honest mistake and the entire internet's on you like jackals.


When are you referring to? Of course nobody jumped on you like jackals before you had a global platform to offend people. You used to have to look someone in the face to offend them. Then we invented writing and the world changed.

>"standards of professionalism" are used as a device of exclusion

Indeed. You exclude the behavior that doesn't mesh well with your goals. Every law, standard, and community that has ever existed has been used as a device of exclusion. Hacker News is a device of exclusion. That's not a bad thing.


When are you referring to?

Do you use twitter at all? And nobody here jumps on me like jackals because they use downvotes to do that for them.

Hacker News is a device of exclusion. That's not a bad thing.

You can't claim to be for free and open source software for all humanity, except for those people. Those people aren't ideologically pure, they can't participate. That mindset is why GNU is a footnote in programming history, but everybody knows what linux is.

Code quality, not political ideology.


No, I don't use Twitter. Any communication medium that severely limits the amount of text you can send is going to be prone to miscommunication, aggression, and triteness.

Anyway, nobody is forcing you to not write free and open source software. GitHub doesn't have a problem with the software. Nor are they preventing anyone from getting it or using it. They've erected what I would call a rather trivial obstacle for the developers: use a different term.

I mean, if that's too hard to accept -- if that is what has causes the downfall of GNU -- then we are doomed to fail from the start.

>Code quality, not political ideology.

The world is not black and white. You can have good code quality while making politically favorable decisions.


No, I don't use Twitter.

You should pay attention to what's happening over there. It's a good preview for what's coming.

Nor are they preventing anyone from getting it or using it.

You have an odd view of banning. Yes, that does prevent anyone from getting it or using it. That's like saying banning a book doesn't prevent anyone from getting it or reading it. People will find a way, but that doesn't mean we should encourage banning books.

You can have good code quality while making politically favorable decisions.

You can also have good code quality while making politically unfavorable decisions. You can also have good code quality while eating an all cucumber diet. The ridiculousness you would feel about being required to eat a cucumber sandwich before being allowed to commit code to github is exactly how I feel about being required to think politically correct thoughts before being allowed to commit code to github.


I don't need to use Twitter. Every time something interesting happens through twitter, people flock to forums and blogs to talk about it. Because Twitter is not a platform for mature, reasonable discussions. It's for self-promotion and advertising.

>Yes, that does prevent anyone from getting it or using it. That's like saying banning a book doesn't prevent anyone from getting it or reading it.

GitHub didn't ban anything. It edited it. In fact, it edited a part that you yourself said doesn't matter. "Code quality, not political ideology." Remember?

>The ridiculousness you would feel about being required to eat a cucumber sandwich before being allowed to commit code to github is exactly how I feel about being required to think politically correct thoughts before being allowed to commit code to github.

Or someone asking you to take your shoes off in their private home. It's so ridiculous. You should have a right to be rude in people's private spaces.


Or someone asking you to take your shoes off in their private home. It's so ridiculous. You should have a right to be rude in people's private spaces.

Good job avoiding the argument altogether for this particularly uninteresting non-sequitur. You don't trust your livelihood to being able to take your shoes off at a friend's house.


I don't trust my livelihood to the need to say offensive things, either.

Regardless, I'm going to excuse myself from this conversation. What I've done is present an analogy to you (no more of an "uninteresting non-sequitur" than your talk about cucumber eating) and apparently it fell on unwilling ears. And typically, when one's brain stops understanding analogies, that's a pretty good sign it isn't working at all. So get some rest and think about it when you're in better condition.


I don't trust my livelihood to the need to say offensive things, either.

You're trusting your livelihood to the idea that other people won't willfully misinterpret innocent phrasing on your part for their 2 minutes outrage.

And typically, when one's brain stops understanding analogies, that's a pretty good sign it isn't working at all. So get some rest and think about it when you're in better condition.

Aww, your argument is crap therefore there must be something wrong with me. The laziest of intellectual assumptions: he disagrees, therefore he's incapable of understanding. I understand your argument well, you don't understand my argument at all and there's something wrong with me?


We both understand each other's argument. There's something more interesting going on underneath the surface arguments; values and priorities.

You are taking what I say in rhetoric, interpreting it literally, and throwing it back in my face. That is dishonest and hypocritical at best. The reason there is something wrong with you is because you have no intention of solving any problems here, you are attempting to beat me into the ground with your intellect. Your priority here is winning the argument.

Well, you've won. Congratulations. You're the smart one who knows best. I was wrong about everything, and I'm a dull moron with nothing interesting to say. I'm not worthy of your respect, patience, or generosity.

Now interpret that as sarcasm, throw it in my face, and get the last word in; your feelings are more important than anything I have to say.


Being offended by words is no sign of professionalism.


Being offended by racial slurs is a sign of professionalism. You could extend this to ableist slurs pretty easily. I know I cringe everytime someone (sadly including myself sometimes) uses it since I have a family member that is mentally handicapped.


Should I be wearing a suit when I'm interacting with github?


Imho, this strikes me more as a similar situation as a primary school kid getting suspended for swearing at school. Sure, freedom of speech technically allows him to say whatever he wants, but at the same time the school is responsible for preventing classes from turning into a profanity-fest.

What's the big deal if Github did delete the repo data from their servers? Isn't the whole point of Git that you can just go and setup an upstream somewhere else with a one-liner? They are merely a free hosting provider among many.

This is not a dispute against the government, so the discussion about censorship and the rights and responsibilities entailed by free speech isn't relevant at all. Remember that the free speech provision is primarily intended to be about citizens' ability to self-organize to defend their constitutional rights if their representatives don't have citizens' interests at heart; it's not meant to be used as an excuse for immature behavior.


If you say or do socially offensive things, don't be surprised if there are social repercussions for it. GitHub is not the government. They are free to ban whomever they want for saying anything GitHub objects to.

And yes, "retarded" is more offensive than random swearwords because it is a slur against a class of people.


> Who decides what is and is not appropriate?

Or when. This is certainly not the only repository using that word. Nobody else is getting takedown notices.


A bit early to say that. There may be others that haven't come forward yet, or that they just haven't got to yet (assuming it's not an automated process).


GitHub has a right to decide what it allows on its platform.

We have a right to move our code somewhere else if we don't like what they're doing.

End of controversy.


A private company choosing not to allow content for whatever reason is not censorship. People who choose to use the word "retard" are not a protected class, Github can ban this word as they see fit.


Well, in the literal sense it is censorship, being the suppression of materials deemed objectionable on moral, political, military, or other grounds. A bit like a (likely American) TV censor might "bleep" a word they don't want to expose people's delicate sensibilities to.

I mean, that doesn't make it "evil", but a lot of people might say that censorship of any sort is a bit of a grey area. That whole "I disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it" thing.


I never really understood this part of the american culture. I'm not american and to me they are just words, censoring offensive words with beeps on TV is really an american/british thing, it's really strange to me.


> "I disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it"

When it comes down to it, no one would really do this.


You don't think that people would defend to the death one of the basic principles of human rights?

To be clear, I'm not saying that Github censoring "retarded" is a human rights issue, but as long as we've gone off the rails let's see where the train comes to a stop.


> You don't think that people would defend to the death one of the basic principles of human rights?

A progressive making that claim would never take a bullet so that someone could fly the Confederate flag, for example. It's just not going to happen.

They may fight to defend the 1st Amendment, but that's easy because it's a proxy behind which exists all the specific instances of speech they would find horrible along with the speech they hold dear.

People making the claim probably mean the latter, but the wording implies something more specific, presumably for effect.


Ah, it looks like the train didn't make it very far, did it.


To be fair, I agree with your original comment. I'm just nit picking on that particular phrase, independent of what you wrote. I think your use of the phrase is appropriate.


Charlie Hebdo did.


They did not.

Charlie Hebdo did not publish, then get attacked for, content they themselves found offensive.


No, they know it's offensive and their fight was exactly about freedom of speech.


Yes, they knew it was offensive - to others. There is no indication that it actually offended them. Which, unless it did, it's not the same thing.


They are caricaturists, nothing can offend them. You miss the point of their reasoning.


Someone actually got arrested and went to jail in France for an offensive parody of one of the equally offensive Charlie Hebdo covers: https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/france-beg... (because it was insensitive to French people rather than Egyptians).


That's not entirely fair, either. I'm sure there are plenty of things that would offend them, but they understand that just because something is offensive does not make it wrong.


> nothing can offend them

Then they didn't die to protect speech they were offended by. I don't know how much clearer this can be.


It's not required to be offended personally by something to protect freedom of speech, I can understand how else I should say it. And if you don't want to understand it - Charlie Hebdo also published caricatures about christian religion, so it was offensive for them too, for their friends. Muslims just were more aggressive.


Splitting hairs doesn't make them any easier to find.


They did publish the original danish cartoons, which they publicaly said they found not from a very good taste, and that some were pretty bad cartoons, but that they had to publish them for the sake of free speech, even if it made them a target ( which it did). That's how it all started.


I disagree with what you said and i ask the moderators to hellban you and delete all your comments

Let's see if anyone jumps to defend you...


Except, of course, people literally have.


What the...? What the.. what... I ... WHAT? You.. I can't even.

What?


So if a restaurant asks you to leave because you're shouting ethnic slurs, that's censorship? Come on. GitHub is not the entirety of your expressive domain. If you were disallowed by law from saying "retard" I would be sympathetic to this case. As is this entire thread reads like a series of entitled children whinging that their mums told them not to be nasty at school. If you dislike what GitHub has done, host your repo at one of the other free sites that provide this service, and stop insulting people in legitimately oppressive states by equating your churlish valley bigotry with legitimately repressed speech.


Hey, if you want to argue with the dictionary be my guest. I'm afraid my name isn't Oxford, though, and I'm not really sure how to reach him. Sorry about that.


In that case - since you're merely quoting the dictionary without voicing an opinion - I invite you to refrain from further diluting the present discussion with your vacuous commentary. I assure you that the entirety of HN readership can avail itself of word definition services.


If you're going to ask me to put away the dictionary you could try it without dragging out the thesaurus.


Another profound contribution to the discourse! Are you always so topical, or are you making a special effort here?


Apparently not.

This. Is. Censorship.

It's not in any way a debatable point.

The dynamic that's going on here is that people want to endorse censorship while avoiding using that word.


The difference being that there are no network effects in restaurants and usually there is another one just around the corner.


Bitbucket, gitlab, ? Also, because you do not perceive any network effect in restaurants in no way proves that there are none.


False. When Trey Parker and Matt Stone wished to show Muhammad in South Park Comedy Central overruled them and placed a big black censored box over Muhammad in the cartoon. If you want to say that a black box with the word censored doesn't qualify as censorship then you're retarded.

You are ever correct that GitHub can ban the word if they want. They're fully within their legal right to do so.


I think where the confusion comes from is that along with many cries of "censorship", there is often a subtext of "this is illegal" or "this is not allowed".


> If you want to say that a black box with the word censored doesn't qualify as censorship then you're regarded.

This is a definition of censorship that removes any useful descriptive meaning from the word. It's not censorship when I refuse to listen to offensive things or refuse to repeat them to others or allow you to graffiti it on the side of my house. Similarly, it's not censorship when a private company declines to let you use its private resources to say whatever you want.

The difference between these types of "censorship" and scary, actual government censorship is that GitHub doesn't have the authority to hold a gun to your head and compel you to be quiet. You can take your repo and host it privately and say whatever you want. Comedy Central didn't have the authority to compel Trey Parker and Matt Stone to be quiet. Parker and Stone could have terminated their contracts and posted a Mohammed cartoon through some other channel.

You rob censorship of its depth of meaning -- compulsory silencing by force -- when you apply it to private actors choosing not to use their private resources to promote others' speech.


I could not possibly disagree with you any more strongly. I'm far from alone in my opinion. I may even be on the majority side. That doesn't make me right of course. But it is worth your consideration.

I could defend my stance. I think you're probably smart and probably know almost everything I'd say. If that's the case then we're resigned to agree to disagree.


> ban this word as they see fit.

Then they're going to have a busy night.

https://github.com/search?q=retard&type=Code&utf8=%E2%9C%93


No, it is censorship. The idea that private companies can't engage in censorship is incorrect, and in conflict with the definition of the word.

Doesn't make it bad, necessarily, but it is censorship.


Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication or other information

The argument is it isn't suppression because as a private company, people can still choose to engage in that speech elsewhere. The government can actually make laws to stop people from saying certain things in any context.

When a private company does it, they can only do it in the medium they control and for people who choose to use that medium.


From the same wiki article you're quoting from -

"Governments, private organizations and individuals may engage in censorship"

It's simply incorrect to say that private companies cannot engage in censorship.


This is the internet, where retarded people redefine the words and their world view as they see fit.

Most comments and up/down votes are about what people like/dislike not about what's either right, interesting or insightful.


I take every downvote on a comment of undeniable factual information as a clear indication of the downward slide of HN.

It is what it is, and the mods couldn't care less.


It's simply incorrect to say that private companies cannot engage in censorship.

If they have enough control over a medium to effectively suppress speech, then yes. The argument is whether that is the case here. The definition of censorship is not merely "any case where someone prevents someone from saying something". The bar is higher than that.


Github can ban this word as they see fit.

And people can discuss whether that is or is not appropriate as they see fit. If enough people feel differently, that's when alternative services start to appear.


This always seems to happen in situations like this. People jump to defend the actions of the company with statements like "It's their website, they can do what they want". Which is true, except nobody is arguing that fact.


Yeah there was this bakery I think that didn't want to make a cake for a gay wedding. That's ok too right? Or should we burn down their business?


Their refusal did not constitute censorship, if that's what you're asking.


The argument is that Github's censorship is acceptable because those are the terms under which they choose to operate their business and if you don't like it you can go somewhere else (which seems reasonable enough to me).

I think toehead2000 was asking how that squares with a bakery not being allowed to operate their business under certain other terms.


Exactly -- it's not censorship when you give someone something for free but ask them to abide by your rules. If you want the freedom to say whatever you want, pay someone to host your repo or host it yourself.


Your argument is incoherant.

You complain about censorship, but then you complain that Github doesn't censor everything. You ask for free speech, but you seek to deny Github the freedom to chose what they want to publish.

The sense of entitlement in this thread is baffling. "I want the freedom to use your property whoever I like, and how dare you try to stop me".

You're also not allowed to use github to insult your employer if you worked in UAE - that's censorship worth fighting over.


I'm not saying that this particular case is reasonable, but:

> Who decides what is and is not appropriate?

Common sense. For millennia, human society has regulated itself by employing common sense, civility and good judgement. It's not that hard, really, even without a foolproof mathematical algorithm. Sometimes mistakes are made, but that's just how we people roll. If you accidentally go beyond the confines of civility, someone will point that out to you, you say "sorry", fix your mistake and move on. It's no big deal. Your freedom of expression is not hurt, just your freedom to behave rudely in public with no good reason. AFAIK, this has always been regulated pretty much in every civilized society since the dawn of mankind.


Agreed on all counts, I really don't get why you're being downvoted. Not that we care about internet karma, more that I wonder why others disagree with the points you've made.


Censorship of your freedom of speech really only applies when the government is doing it. Github is not the government and, by contract law, you waived your right to freedom of speech when you agreed to their terms of service. If that truly does concern you then you're free to move your code to a new repo, or host it yourself.

Unless Github decides that "anything goes" on their servers then it's going to be a judgement call sometimes. Using the word 'retard' in this context might be seen as harassment, unlike using profanity. I personally think Github made the right call here.


Freedom of speech is broader subject than the rights granted by the first amendment.

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