Thursday, June 18, 2015

Paoism creates ripple effects on Reddit: following admins, mods get trigger-happy

Writers often talk about trickle-down effects as well as chilling effects. The former refers to what happens when people at a lower level in a power structure start emulating those above, the latter to the situation when people are afraid to speak their minds because of what happened to others. Under Ellen Pao, Reddit has combined the two: since admins have declared censorship valid, and threatened subs that fail to implement it, the Pao regime's censorship of non-SJW thought is now being done by admins out of fear for their own forums.

While the screenshot above shows a user being banned for a flippant comment that may be in poor taste, the phenomenon is nowhere near confined to /r/worldnews. Other subreddits have picked up the hint from the mods and started banning more people for trivial infractions, both because they now know they have support of the admins in doing so, and because they fear having their subreddits banned like /r/fatpeoplehate.

Most examples go unreported for the usual reason, which is that people become disgusted, frustrated and feel powerless. The implication of the seemingly arbitrary nature of these bans is that they are applied selectively. This allows mods to filter out anti-SJWs if not simply all non-SJWs. When fringe behavior overlaps with lack of ideological conformity, the solution is to boot people.

This seems to be the intent behind Reddit's recent very public purges. To the mods, this says "Go ahead and kill off the troublemakers; we've got your back." To subs with edgy content, it says that any fringe behavior in addition to the offending content will constitute a justification for their removal, so they should crack down twice as hard. To normal subs it says that if too many fringers take up residence there, removal may be imminent.

Much as under Joe Stalin, Adolf Hitler or Chairman Mao, terror rules through a powerful central force that removes opposition under the guise of regulating bad behavior. In this case, it takes advantage of the already fanatical and power-hungry nature of SJW mods, as detailed in this post:

Back in the day, I had an alt /u/Totes_Mcgee and I had been using it to get an idea of how cancerous the cancer is. I had built up an ideological profile posting comments in SRD, SRS, AskWomen, Metanarchism, and using all the idiotic terms and political views that are based on vacuous post-modern college Humanities degree talking points. Long story short, it's very cancery.

Anyways, the mod running /r/Feminism is some dude /u/demmian who is pretty much the only active mod on there. Everyone else is pretty much a dormant account or they are super fresh newbies getting "trained" by him. This guy is a total asshole. No truly, he is the quintessential example of an asshole. When I got my alt in as a mod, he asked for my schedule, my beliefs, how I feel about SRS and SRD (Pro is the correct answer), he would watch every moderator action I made and critique them. He would ask me why I didn't ban a certain user or remove a certain comment. And he must literally spend all fucking day on the site because I would randomly get on at 1AM in the morning and I would perform some kind of visible moderator action and he'd be on it in less than 5 minutes.

I toed the line and banned people for absolutely no reason. I removed comments for ridiculous things and acted like the world was against me. Most users were polite and asked me why I had banned them and to be honest, I couldn't give them an answer as to why. So, I just retorted with something snarky.

I discovered that I couldn't answer legitimate arguments with facts or theories that made sense. The only thing I could rely on was a fake display of feelings. It was the only way to feel victorious. Well, that and removing comments helped...after a month or so of modding, I couldn't handle it anymore and so I took a break. What got me booted was the fact I was gone for about 3 days. 3 days was enough for him to say bye bye. I wasn't taking the mod seriously enough he said. And just a reminder for y'all, this is fucking unpaid work.

I actually feel sorry for the guy...but only a little. He just seemed pathetically lonely and neurotic, taking his anger out on Reddit's userbase and exercising such a need for control that I can't see how this person functions in the real world. It still escapes me that someone would spend an inordinate amount of time pissing in the wind to control something.

So when you guys talk about shitty mods. It's true. Its not just retaliatory speech.

Reddit's latest move has been calculated to not exclude these people, but recruit more of them and give them more power. That way, Reddit can continue its longstanding habit of simply giving people with the "right" ideology a pass on their infringing behavior. This policy has for years allowed brigades like /r/shitredditsays and /r/subredditdrama to operate with total impunity despite their demonstrable effect on other subs.

It was this tendency that originally prompted observers to ask "Should Reddit’s powerful mods be reined in?":

Casual browsers of Reddit often assume the platform relies solely on a one-user-one-vote system, that whether a post makes it to the front page of the site rests entirely on if it receives enough upvotes from logged-in users. They would be wrong. Yes, the voting plays a large part, but there are likely thousands of posts and comments submitted every day that are never seen by more than a handful of people before they’re removed from public view, often because they violate at least one of the thousands of subreddit rules spread out across the entire site.

[...]In 2013, the mods at r/politics were widely criticized when they released a list of URLs that were universally banned from the subreddit; the list included the Huffington Post, Salon, Mother Jones, and Gawker. The mods claimed this was because these domains regularly produced subpar content, nevermind the fact that Huffington Post had recently won a Pulitzer for its investigative reporting and Mother Jones had broken arguably the biggest story of the 2012 election cycle—Mitt Romney’s 47 percent video. Then, in 2014, a gumshoe redditor, after noticing a paucity of front-page r/technology posts concerning certain topics, published a list of what he suspected were banned keywords within the subreddit. This included the words “NSA” and “Snowden,” meaning any news relating to arguably the most explosive and far-reaching tech story of the year was not allowed on the largest tech forum on the Internet. When another redditor discovered that the word “Tesla” was banned from r/technology, that redditor was then summarily banned from the subreddit entirely by one of the mods without any given reasons.

The voting system has two fatal flaws: if a subreddit keeps a static audience, people stop up and downvoting in a type of electoral entropy. If a subreddit grows, new users crowd out and statistically displace the original group, then change the subreddit to the same old stuff one finds everywhere else through their expectations and choices of the same, which might be seen as Darwinian degeneration. Entropy creates a lack of pressure for content improvement, but degeneration creates a downward pressure, as described here:

Darwin’s work on evolution and heredity made evident the potential for retrogression as well as evolution. Darwin's idea was that because of natural selection, only the fittest survived. However, the entire process of evolution implied that mankind's development was no longer fixed and certain. Mankind's development could evolve or degenerate into an unknown future. In Darwinian terms, evolution did not necessarily mean progress and improvement.

This provides a model for how Reddit's admin-to-mod pressure works. The admins set up a situation where rules can be enforced capriciously on anyone who is not on the good side of the admins, which usually seems to include ideological conformity (a form of the entropy described above). The admins then apply the same pressure that is pushed onto users, forcing the mods to apply that as well to the users, with the caveat that they will not be punished for enforcing ideological conformity. This creates a situation where the evolutionary pressure rewards only that ideological sameness, and in the ways Darwin described, gradually eliminates everything else. The catch is that instead of making a better site, that makes one more likely to suffer entropy, as if inbred or unmotivated.

As others have observed, Reddit is a dead man walking. Not for the loss of a few angry 4channers hanging around in /r/fatpeoplehate, but because of the ecosystem it has now created in which evolutionary pressures toward quality have been inverted through their replacement by a political filter against non-conforming ideology. Over time, this means that users with any thought outside the hugbox will be eliminated, and the community will be oblivious because its users will only see others who agree with their opinions, and to them, things will appear just peachy.

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