- Feb 2023
Could it be the sift from person to person (known in both directions) to massive broadcast that is driving issues with content moderation. When it's person to person, one can simply choose not to interact and put the person beyond their individual pale. This sort of shunning is much harder to do with larger mass publics at scale in broadcast mode.
How can bringing content moderation back down to the neighborhood scale help in the broadcast model?
- Nov 2022
Lewis made it through a just a few tour dates before succumbing to the press and public's censure, and retreated back to the U.S. That doesn't mean that he was ever publicly regretful. His marriage to Myra lasted a decade
- Nov 2021
This is typical: More often than not, apologies will be parsed, examined for “sincerity”—and then rejected.
Why are these parsed apologies being rejected and by whom? Are they being rejected by the wronged parties or by the broader society-at-large who regularly don't have or care about the full context of the situations? How much of these are propagated by social media and the ability of search engines to continually uncover them?
How might these situations have given rise to the idea of honor suicides in cultures like Japan with rituals like seppuku? How are these sorts of cultural practices passed into common practice? How can they be reversed?
One of the people I spoke with was asked to apologize for an offense that broke no existing rules. “I said, ‘What am I apologizing for?’ And they said, ‘Well, their feelings were hurt.’ So I crafted my apology around that: ‘If I did say something that upset you, I didn’t anticipate that would happen.’ ” The apology was initially accepted, but his problems didn’t end.
Even in cases where one apologizes for offences which don't break existing rules and the apology is accepted by the transgressed, the social ostracism doesn't end. This is a part of the indeterminate length of the social sentences that transgressors suffer.
What exactly are these unwritten rules? In some cases they may be examples of institutional power wielding influence in cases where people aren't giving the full benefit of humanity and consideration to others. Some may call some of these instances microaggressions or social constructs similar to them.
Nicholas Christakis, the Yale professor of medicine and sociology who was at the center of a campus and social-media storm in 2015, is also an expert on the functioning of human social groups. He reminded me that ostracism “was considered an enormous sanction in ancient times—to be cast out of your group was deadly.” It is unsurprising, he said, that people in these situations would consider suicide.
But isolation plus public shaming plus loss of income are severe sanctions for adults, with long-term personal and psychological repercussions—especially because the “sentences” in these cases are of indeterminate length.
Putting people beyond the pale creates isolation, public shaming, loss of income, loss of profession, and sometimes loss of personal identity and psychological worth. The most insidious problem of all is the indeterminate length of the "sentence".
For wealthy people like Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, and Kevin Spacey, they're heavily insulated by the fact that at least they've got amassed wealth which mitigates some of these issues. In these cases the decades of extracting wealth through privilege gives them an unfair advantage.
There are now apparently enough cases of this happening, it would be interesting to watch the long term psychological effects of this group to see if these situations statistically effects their longevity or if there are multi-generational knock on effects as have been seen in Holocaust survivors or those freed from slavery.
Another person suspended from his job put it this way: “Someone who knows me, but maybe doesn’t know my soul or character, may be saying to themselves that prudence would dictate they keep their distance, lest they become collateral damage.”
Putting people beyond the pale creates a social contagion of sorts. It would be interesting to look at these cases from the perspective of public health and view these as disease. What information falls out of doing this? How does this model change?
From Applebaum's perspective that these cases may help sow the seeds of authoritarianism, could they be viewed as something like an initial case of untreated syphilis and authoritarianism becomes a version of festered stage three syphilis.
What other things may stem from these effects as second and third order problems from a complexity theory perspective?
All of them, sinners or saints, have been handed drastic, life-altering, indefinite punishments, often without the ability to make a case in their own favor. This—the convicting and sentencing without due process, or mercy—should profoundly bother Americans.
There is a growing number of cases in which people are having their lives being completely upended because they are being deprived of due process.
In some cases, it may actually be beneficial as people may have been abusing their positions of privilege and the traditional system wouldn't have prosecuted or penalized them at all. In these cases the dismantling of institutional power is good. However, how many of them aren't related to this? How many are being decimated without serving this function?
The purpose here is not to reinvestigate or relitigate any of their cases. Some of those I interviewed have behaved in ways that I, or readers of this article, may well consider ill-judged or immoral, even if they were not illegal. I am not here questioning all of the new social codes that have led to their dismissal or their effective isolation. Many of these social changes are clearly positive.
This sounds a lot like the article How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life though in that case it was a single instance and these examples here may go beyond social media.
Though I'm curious if all of them will entail social media as a (major?) factor in how they played out.
But dig into the story of anyone who has been a genuine victim of modern mob justice and you will often find not an obvious argument between “woke” and “anti-woke” perspectives but rather incidents that are interpreted, described, or remembered by different people in different ways, even leaving aside whatever political or intellectual issue might be at stake.
Cancel culture and modern mob justice are possible as the result of volumes of more detail and data as well as large doses of context collapse.
In some cases, it's probably justified to help level the playing field for those in power who are practicing hypocrisy, but in others, it's simply a lack of context by broader society who have kneejerk reactions which have the ability to be "remembered" by broader society with search engines.
How might Google allow the right to forget to serve as a means of restorative justice?
Right here in America, right now, it is possible to meet people who have lost everything—jobs, money, friends, colleagues—after violating no laws, and sometimes no workplace rules either. Instead, they have broken (or are accused of having broken) social codes having to do with race, sex, personal behavior, or even acceptable humor, which may not have existed five years ago or maybe five months ago. Some have made egregious errors of judgment. Some have done nothing at all. It is not always easy to tell.
After that, she must wear a scarlet A—for adulterer—pinned to her dress for the rest of her life. On the outskirts of Boston, she lives in exile. No one will socialize with her—not even those who have quietly committed similar sins, among them the father of her child, the saintly village preacher.
Given the prevalence of people towards making mistakes and practicing extreme hypocrisy, we really ought to move toward restorative justice. Especially in the smaller non-capital cases.
- context collapse
- unwritten rules
- public health
- institutional power
- beyond the pale
- social media
- restorative justice
- Republican party
- search engines
- sentencing guidelines
- Scarlet Letter
- Justine Sacco
- due process
- right to forget
- cancel culture
- post traumatic stress
- social norms
Context: Sonia was watching Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath: Season 3: "Episode 1" and had previously been watching a documentary One of Us about people who had left oppressive seeming Hassidic Jewish communities.
I can't help but that that every culture could be considered a "cult" in which some percentage of people are trapped with comparison to all other cultures on Earth. Based on one's upbringing and personal compass, perhaps living and submitting to one's culture can become oppressive and may seem particularly unfair given power structures and the insidiousness of hypocrisy.
Given this, could there logically be a utopian society in which everyone lives freely?
Even within the United States there are smaller sub-cultures withiin which people feel trapped and which have the features of cults, but which are so large as to not be considered such. Even the space in which I freely live might be considered a cult by others who don't agree with it. It's only the vast size of the power of the group which prevents the majority who comfortably live within it from viewing it as a bad thing.
A Democrat may view the Republican Party as a cult and vice versa, something which becomes more apparent when one polarizes these communities toward the edges rather than allowing them to drift into each other in a consensus.
An African American may think they're stuck in a broader American cult which marginalizes them.
A Hassidic Jew may feel they're stuck in a cult (of religious restrictions) with respect to the perceived freedoms of broader American Culture. Some may feel more comfortable within these strictures than others.
A gender non-comforming person living in the deep South of the United States surrounded by the Southern Baptist Convention may feel they're stuck in a cult based on social norms of one culture versus what they experience personally.
What are the roots of something being a cult? Could it be hypocrisy? A person or a broader group feeling as if they know "best" and creating a rule structure by which others are forced to follow, but from which they themselves are exempt? This also seems to be the way in which authoritarian rules arise when privileging one group above another based solely on (perceived) power.
Another potential thing at play here may be the lack of diversity within a community. The level of cult within a society may be related to the shape of the bell curve of that society with respect to how large the center is with respect to the tails. Those who are most likely to feel they're within a "cult" (using the broader definition) are those three or more standard deviations from the center. In non-diverse communities only those within a standard deviation of the norm are likely to feel comfortable and accepted and those two deviations away will feel very uncomfortable while those who are farther away will be shunned and pushed beyond the pale.
How can we help create more diverse and broadly accepting communities? We're all just people, aren't we? How can we design communities and governments to be accepting of even the most marginalized? In a heavily connected world, even the oddball teenager in a small community can now manage to find their own sub-community using the internet. (Even child pornographers manage to find their community online.)
The opposite of this is at what point do we circumscribe the norms of the community? Take the idea of "Your freedom to strike me ends at my nose." Perhaps we only shun those extreme instances like murder and pornography, and other actions which take extreme advantage of others' freedoms? [This needs to be heavily expanded and contemplated...] What about the over-financialization of the economy which takes advantage of the unprivileged who don't know that system and are uncapable of the mathematics and computation to succeed. Similarly hucksters and snake oil salesmen who take advantage of their targets' weaknesses and lack of knowledge and sophistication. Or the unregulated vitamin industry taking rents from millions for their superstitions? How do we regulate these to allow "cultural freedom" or "religious freedom" without them taking mass-scale advantage of their targets? (Or are some of these acculturated examples simply inequalities institutionally built into societies and cultures as a means of extracting power and rents from the larger system by those in power?)
Compare with Hester Prynne and Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.
- Sep 2021
The big thing that I want to talk about here is out groups. This is a phenomenon that we that we see, which is that it's very very easy for people to decide that someone else is not like them they're different and they should be shunned and talked about.
This is the minimal group paradigm. Thanks to Rashmi for giving that term. [It] says the smallest possible difference will be magnified into in group and an outgroup. Kevin Marks, Web 2.0 Expo NY 09: "...New Words You Need to Know to Understand the Web"
Perhaps we can decrease the levels of fear and racism in our society by tummelling? By bringing in outsiders, treating them with dignity and respect within your own group of friends, you can help to normalize their presence by decreasing the irrational fears that others have built up and carry with them about these supposed outsiders.
Buzzwords for understanding the new internet
Importance of words (neologisms) for helping us to communicate.
retweets as a means of bringing new faces into your stream to expand your in-group.
<small><cite class='h-cite via'>ᔥ <span class='p-author h-card'>Kevin Marks </span> in Epeus' epigone: Publics, Flow, Phatic, Tummeling and Out-groups - New Words You Need to Know to Understand the Web (<time class='dt-published'>09/06/2021 15:15:38</time>)</cite></small>
- Aug 2021
Middleware would reduce both platforms' own power and their function as levers for unaccountable state power, as governments increasingly pressure platforms to "voluntarily" suppress disfavored speech.2
Tangentially related idea which this sparked:
Within my beyond the pale thesis, banishing people in smaller social groups is easier, but doesn't necessarily scale well.
In larger towns, cities, and even states, it may work in some of the smallest and most egregious cases like major crime or murder when carried out by the state, but what about the smaller social infractions?
Cancel culture is attempting to apply this larger social pressure to bigger public figures in ways that it traditionally has been more difficult to do. It's even more difficult in a highly networked world where globalism has taken hold.
How do we cater to the centric masses while potentially allowing some flexibility to the cultures considered at the edges? Ethics aren't universal, so there will be friction at a huge number of overlaps.
- Paula Dean (racism), loses shows, deals, etc. but still has reach in certain sections of the country and online
- Jun 2021
We live in a moment where censorship and free speech are hot button topics. So it’s all the more striking that these anti-CRT bills, with clear intent to limit a discussion of the basic facts of American history and society, are being made into law all over America with minimum protest from the people who yelp the loudest about cancel culture.
This is another solid example of the hypocrisy of large portions of the Republican party. Do as we say, not as we do. How far can these laws drift from our overarching principles before there is a schism?
How does this fit into the [[beyond the pale]] idea going from small communities to a much larger internet-connected society?
- Mar 2021
- Feb 2021
Let's face it, these days, if you want to socialize, you don't go out to the mall or the library, and it's a 50/50 shot if you even have anything resembling a town square. You go on the internet.
And this is the problematic part of the internet as a town square: we have no defined governance or pale beyond which to cast people who go far beyond societal norms.
- Nov 2020
This seems like a useful reference within my research for determining things online that are "beyond the pale". Also includes some additional prior art and references itself.
- Aug 2020
Decentralized Social Networks vs. The TrollsDerek CaelinIn the summer of 2019, the alt-right social network Gab migrated to the decentralized "Fediverse" of social networks after being booted from mainstream financial services and hosting solutions. Almost immediately, Gab was met by a dedicated movement to isolate it. The movement was largely successful; within a year, the Gab CTO announced they would leave the Fediverse. This talk will cover how moderators, activists, and developers in the Fediverse used human moderators, strong moderation tools, representative codes of conduct, and no small amount of organization to promote healthy online spaces.We’ll review how some of the challenges faced by centralized platforms, which struggle with their own size and scale, have been addressed in networks of smaller, community run, more moderated servers. In the debate over how to make a healthier internet, the open platforms and open protocols in the model of the Fediverse may have some of the best resources to isolate bad actors, including Gab.
It’s understandable that in order to relax, users need to know they’re not being overheard – though there is a less playful side to this. If groups are perceived as a place to say what you really think, away from the constraints of public judgement or “political correctness”, then it follows that they are also where people turn to share prejudices or more hateful expressions, that are unacceptable (or even illegal) elsewhere.
The idea of public judgement or "political correctness" here is exactly the definition of a modern digital pale, around which technology is being used to extend people's thoughts.
The ongoing rise of WhatsApp, and its challenge to both legacy institutions and open social media, poses a profound political question: how do public institutions and discussions retain legitimacy and trust once people are organised into closed and invisible communities? The risk is that a vicious circle ensues, in which private groups circulate ever more information and disinformation to discredit public officials and public information, and our alienation from democracy escalates.
WhatsApp groups can not only breed suspicion among the public, but also manufacture a mood of suspicion among their own participants. As also demonstrated by closed Facebook groups, discontents – not always well-founded – accumulate in private before boiling over in public. The capacity to circulate misinformation and allegations is becoming greater than the capacity to resolve them.