Forum moderation, and why I'm leaving (temporarily)

TL;DR: I’m temporarily deactivating my forum account over the issue of supremacist dog-whistles on the forum, and how they are moderated.

I will reactivate my account if and when it becomes a matter of settled policy that supremacist dog-whistles are absolutely prohibited.

In the course of recent threads and behind-the-scenes discussion about them, it became increasingly clear that the non-ECC moderators and I were not on the same page regarding this issue.

As far as I am concerned, the absence of supremacist memes is not a nicety. It’s a minimum bar for it to be possible to have a civil discussion forum that includes people in groups that are targeted by that supremacism.

I’m not interested in getting into a debate about which memes are supremacist dog-whistles, but I think that as a starting point it’s pretty clear that at this point all Pepe memes are. (Yes, I’m aware that the Pepe character wasn’t originated by the alt-right and was co-opted by them. It doesn’t matter, given that the co-option is so thorough.) I also won’t be gaslighted by arguments that, for instance, a Pepe-based character literally named “Honkler” as a reference to Hitler, is not white supremacist or anti-Semitic.

Hiding such posts just because they were “off-topic” is not even remotely adequate. It matters why posts are hidden or deleted, because it matters that people in targeted groups can have confidence in the process.

ECC management recently confirmed to me that I do not have any obligation, as part of my job, to participate in the forum. That’s good, because it was taking an increasing toll on my mental health to have to deal with practically every moderation decision I made being second-guessed. That included decisions that were absolutely cut-and-dried, literal applications of the forum CoC (such as deleting a post supporting Trump).

In particular, I’m sorry to say that I did not feel that the rest of the (non-ECC) moderation team had my back over these incidents. In some cases, some of them joined in with the pile-on. I wish I could say that the productive relationship that I otherwise had with the team members was enough to outweigh my disappointment over this response, but it isn’t.

I considered just stepping down as a moderator and continuing to engage with the forum as a user. However, I can’t do that because the toleration of extremist right-wing, anti-Semitic, etc. memes on the forum is literally not tolerable to me. Lest you think I’m exaggerating the problem, the Zcash Telegram group had, last time I looked, been allowed to be overrun by this shit.

I would also like to register my opposition to opening the moderation team to random applicants, and to enforcing stricter conduct rules on members of that team than for other forum participants. I think that these are bad ideas that risk undermining the team’s ability to do its job effectively.

I hope to see you all again when this issue is resolved.


Edit: there doesn’t actually seem to be a way to explicitly and voluntarily deactivate a Discourse account on a given server; I can’t find the pause feature referred to here in the account settings. Anyway, consider it deactivated.

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Hi Daira,

We might not see eye to eye on this issue, but I’m still a big fan of yours. I hope the time away is as fruitful as ever.

Sincerely,
James

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This is very upsetting.

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Eloquently put, precise and disturbing - we have a problem that tolerance will not fix.

EDIT: Y’know what? I’m done. There are other places to talk about Zcash.

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Now it seems we have ended up with three different CoCs: Forums CoC, ECCs employee CoC, and Zcash Contributor GitHub CoC. :pensive:

The Zcash Contributor GitHub CoC is being replaced by the ECC Code of Conduct. Note that the latter not only applies to ECC employees (when representing ECC in public spaces), but also uniformly to all contributors within ECC community spaces:

This Code of Conduct applies within all ECC community spaces identified in Addendum A, and also applies when an individual is officially representing ECC in public spaces.

Addendum A – ECC Community Spaces

ECC Sponsored Community Resources

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Thanks for the clarification.

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well, without being cold to daria’s important and strong feelings, does this mean that zcash (or this foruum) can now publicly support donald trump for president of the united states?? capital and ideology go hand in hand, and participating in popular public discourse can only benefit the lagging exchange price.

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Please see this section of the Zcash Forums CoC:

Please do not:

Post political content that would be viewed as endorsing or campaigning for any political candidate. The Zcash Foundation is a 501©3 non-profit organization and as such are “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office”

Note that this does not exclude discussion of politics all together; for instance if a candidate or government entity like congress had a particular policy for or against privacy coins, that would be topic of interest to the Zcash community. But the forums (ran by the Foundation) nor Foundation can be viewed as endorsing a particular candidate.

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thanks for clearing that up. i did not recognize that the forum was an asset of the foundation.

since the foundation acts with such vigorous posse comitatus, shouldn’t the foundation have a sunset date for its termination to achieve decentralization?

Someone has to keep the lights on around here :wink:

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i appreciate your help in assisting me learn the ropes around here @Shawn. i’m currently reading nadia eghbal’s working in public to become a better informed forum participant.

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+1 Forum was so much better when I joined. It has become a lot worse & we all know who they are — I wish you exit the community, you add negative value cumulatively to Zcash. If your posts are getting consistently flagged, you need to understand that you are posting stupid content.

I care a lot about ZF’s mission and following healthy non-profit governance procedures, but FWIW I think this is not the right rationale for moderating political posts. This is pretty clearly an open communication forum, folks aren’t automatically speaking on behalf of the foundation just by posting here. I might be overestimating my knowledge or misunderstanding the rules, but I’ll look into it.

IMO such posts should be tagged as off-topic and shunted to a category/subforum where they can be easily ignored by those who don’t want to see it, and at most we can fight over the defaults. We could do that with the existing forum features couldn’t we?

I’m not claiming to be neutral. At this point I’m just slightly more anti-censorship than anti-trump. "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" is engraved deep within me. I want to make sure @daira can reply against racist bullshit, no authority needed, and I’ll do it myself until she returns.

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@antonie from ZF felt this was the best way to adhere to the 501c guidelines for not siding one way or the other with regards to political campaigning.

This is extremely difficult if not impossible moderate fairly. If the very mention of certain political candidates causes issues how can we say that it’s ok in this section but not the other? We literally have two polar opposite sides of the issue, one that supports and one that opposes. If one is allowed the other will feel threatened, if one is not then the other will feel censored.

I agree that politics is off-topic on a Zcash forum which is why I advocated for just considering it too hot of an issue to have calm civil discussions about, so my idea was disallow politics all together, but that didn’t get approval either.

Moderators by definition are supposed to be moderate and not favor one position or the other so they can fairly enforce the rules as written, avoiding personal bias. I strive to be inclusive and understand the diverse viewpoints of a diverse community, my personal opinions and affiliations are secondary to the rules.

Anyone should feel free to flag anything they feel uncomfortable with and if it is in violation of the forums CoC then it will be removed.

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This is a mechanism based on the use of authority to censor, rather than speech against speech which doesn’t require authority.

Authority to move topics to a subforum should be considered strictly less than authority to ban/delete a topic outright.

The principle of least authority, which is usually for computer security but applicable here too, is that the least authority possible for any task should be used. Because it results in the least damage when misapplied.

Any justification based just on the existence of two sides is extremely vulnerable to shifting overton windows… basically it’s not hard at all to establish a polar opposite to a reasonable position just by expressing support for a ridiculous position. Or to put it more surreally,
“Even a single edged sword is a double edged sword. On one side it cuts, on the other it kinda doesn’t”

It’s a fair point, I don’t think any of these questions are easy, and for sure everyone on the internet and civil society is grappling with this. I’m just expressing a view here i haven’t been able to articulate coherently yet.

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Agreed. I don’t want to see purely political posts on the forum by default. They are off-topic, highly divisive, and often dumb (if you are talking about a political candidate, and not a specific policy, it’s usually a dumb discussion). Posts that are purely political but don’t violate any other form rules should be quarantined so that you have to opt-in to read them.

I think that political posts should be allowed on the main default forum only if they are about specific policy proposals that are directly relevant to Zcash. Otherwise, we send them to quarantine rather than censor.

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To reiterate a few things @daira said, the leadership at ECC felt it was important that the entire ECC team knew that participation in communication channels and mediums where we didn’t have control over the code of conduct and it’s interpretation was optional on their part. In short, we wanted to make sure they feel safe and comfortable in environments where they might engage in support of the Zcash mission.

We also drafted our own Code of Conduct as @str4d mentioned which all Github repositories will soon reference in a contributor-oriented document. We took inspiration from our own Contributor Code of Conduct, the Rust community’s Code of Conduct, and a couple of other sources commonly used as a basis for similar documents.

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This calling out of ‘dog whistles’ is a woke whistle and I’m concerned about the state of the ECC at this point. If a hard left doctrine took hold in this company, the ‘get woke, go broke’ effect isn’t far. Better projects than this have failed due to employees political agendas. This is a huge issue for me as an investor, I came here today to the forum to find out everything about the ECC and zcash and already I see a red flag. What is this all about?

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Okay I see. I take issue with this part of the Code of Conduct: Excluding people for rude language that has been expressed UNINTENTIONALLY cannot be an offense that leads to exclusion. It means that anyone can state to be offended by anything and get the other one excluded. If you say for example that my concern, this one, gives you anxiety by the offchance that I am x or y, I have to be removed. Is that correct?
A jury system that decided over such cases is usually the most fair way to handle “edgy” content, since people’s edges differ greatly.

“We will exclude you from interaction if you insult, demean or harass anyone. That is not welcome behavior. We interpret the term “harassment” as including, but not limited to, the following examples:
Violence, threats of violence or violent language directed against another person.
Sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist or otherwise discriminatory jokes, language, or imagery, whether intentional or unintentional”

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