The (good/bad faith) x (awful / not-awful spectrum) and community moderation (thoughts). (CW for eugenics and racism)

Submitted by twovests in just_post

Community moderation was on my mind and I think, often, about problems with moderating communities.

TLDR: It's difficult to have a place for good-faith questions that won't be abused by bad-faith trolls. I think this is a problem and I don't have a solution, other than building trust, but that's not a good solution. Either way, I am happy our community is small enough to build trust, because it lets good-faith posts shine, and that isn't possible on bigger sites.

It's good to give people space to discuss, to grow, and to ask questions without being afraid. The problem is that bad-faith shitheels LOVE to take advantage of that.

For awhile, as a young teenager, I actually thought eugenics could be a good thing. I know racists had racist motivations to promote it, but I imagined it as an end to a number of genetic maladies. At the time, I was very upset about my teeth and very aware that they would just get worse. (My teeth were fucked up due to genetics + poverty, etc.)

But, I also vaguely knew that eugenics was very very bad, so much so that if I asked "Why is eugenics bad?" that I might basically get banned from my forum/IRC/whatever right there.

I ended up searching the internet for answers, but I would have really appreciated at the time being able to ask somewhere (with smart people who have already explored these questions critically), with a good-faith discussion, of why eugenics is bad. I would have even been open to the possibility that it was good.

As I grew older and more Online, I came to realize that the alt-right radicalization pipeline is very aware of this, and there's a two-sided strategy here:

  • Co-opting existing 'good faith / no stupid questions' places to intercept people asking these questions
  • Creating and fostering 'good faith' places to sink peoples uncomfortable questions.

I eventually came to realize the problem with eugenics is that, not only does it serve as a foundation to further racist policy and genocide, it also just is not a solution to existing problems in human genetics, and we (as humanity) will probably cause material problems if we try it.

I like to think that I am Good At Thinking and I maintain good priors rooted in logic in most scenarios, but like, I'm realizing it's not implausible that I could've been slucked into the alt-right pipeline.

But the problem is... Places for 'good faith' discussion are really valuable. I've asked stupid bad questions in my ignorance, and I was appreciative of people (some of whom are on here!) who would actually give me a response, assuming good-faith. I recall once asking something like "Well, why can't a horse or other animal be trans?", which is one of those things that are indistinguishable from an alt-right troll. This was especially compounded for me being "MRA-adjacent" at the time because of ~childhood trauma~, so I doubly appreciate the good-faith interpretation of my questions.

I'm coming to think that there is a spectrum of questions, on two axis:

  • The awful / not-awful belief spectrum, and
  • The good faith / bad faith spectrum.

Here's some examples:

  • Good-faith question about something awful: "Why is eugenics bad?"
  • Good-faith question about something not-awful: "Why should I measure by weight rather than volume?"
  • Bad-faith question about something awful: "Why is eugenics bad?"
  • Bad-faith question about something not-awful: "Why should I measure by weight rather than volume?"

In my mind, differentiating between good and bad faith is difficult on the internet. This is even more difficult with topics of group identity, where we'd want to elevate and focus on members of that group. (How do you prove your race, your gender, your sexuality, etc? Should you prove that? Do you feel fake for dissenting with what's considered the "correct" opinion for your group?)

I feel that the only thing that works is building trust. I've been with y'all for almost a decade, and so I have confidence no-one will see this and think "Hey, maybe this person is astroturfing for eugenics".

As I write this post, I recall another post from years ago, on an older version of this site. I don't want to mention specifics of the post (it was about a trauma someone had personally endured), but it stuck with me. I would have assumed the post was a bad-faith anti-Black troll if it weren't for the fact that the poster was someone who was Black, active for years, and who I trusted by their username. And I believe most others on the site felt the same way.

I actually think about this post quite regularly, with a hint of guilt-- I'm white, and my initial knee-jerk reaction was to dismiss a Black persons personal trauma, just because of my experience with internet trolls. And this was even after I had myself been embraced with the benefit-of-the-doubt and the assumption of good-faith by the community.

I don't really have an ending for this post, but this is the only place I feel comfortable openly rambling about forum communities. I really appreciate this forum and community (even if it is more or less a raddle link aggregator nowadays) because it is tightly moderated but also assumes good faith. It feels like something that is impossible as communities scale.


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toasthaste wrote

this is a good post and I've been thinking a lot about online spaces and moderation lately after spending some time engaging in a few on discord that were Fairly (but not Horrifically) bad in different ways for different reasons