Freezepeach warriors discover the terrible truth

Recently, as social media have begun a belated crackdown on the odious rantings of the far right, the trolls have begun emigrating to more open media, places where the promise is made to never, ever censor Free Speech, no matter how vile. The first thing they ought to realize, though, is if you knock out the bottom of the barrel, discourse is going to plunge to new lows. The second thing is that removing any limitations is mainly going to appeal to people with no respect for others, and you’re going to be wallowing in bad actors. The third thing is…you can’t run an active forum without moderation. It’s a law of nature.

So Parler, the latest free speech fad, is throwing away any pretense and cracking down on views it doesn’t like.

Well, that did not take long at all. On Friday we predicted that just like every other social media platform out there, the new favorite among people who falsely say that Twitter is censoring conservatives, would start taking down content and shutting down accounts just like everyone else. Because, if you run any sort of platform that allows 3rd party speech, sooner or later you discover you have to do that. In Friday’s post, we highlighted Parler’s terms of service, which certainly allows for it to take down any content for any reason (we also mocked their “quick read on Wikipedia” style understanding of the 1st Amendment).

Exactly. Everyone who has maintained even a little blog with a comments section knows this is true — if you don’t have a moderation policy, there will be swarms of abusers who who will take advantage of the laxity. Even if you do have a moderation policy, there will be people who try to work around it, just because they can. You will always have to block people; there is no such thing as a viable policy of absolutely unfettered free speech.

The only question is who will be blocked, and for what reasons, and that will always be a reflection of the values on your site. Not censoring Nazis is not a neutral stance, it is actively pro-Nazi.


  1. Who Cares says

    I was Ok with not censoring people like Nazis since it would show the rest of the world their true colors and the world would react appropriately.
    That was the first few years of being on the internet. And for me it got blindingly clear that the whole expose them idea does not work.
    So yes ban them like they are the mole in whack-a-mole (since they will be back despite ranting about never doing that). Hit them with that banhammer fast and as often as they pop-up again.

  2. drew says

    This seems a lot like proud lawn maintenance trying to fend of people taking a desire path. Telling people to stay off the lawn and enforcing a members-only policy is a golf course tactic. But it keeps the wrong element out of the club, now, doesn’t it?

  3. mathman85 says

    @numerobis #3

    I saw that, too. It’s almost like, despite the right wing’s bloviations against safe spaces, they can’t stand not having one of their own.

  4. raven says

    Without troll control any internet forum will die.

    I’ve gotten countless death threats, including in public posted to the internet.
    More than one person was going to, “cut my head off.”
    (More than one person has also been arrested and ended up in federal court. Death threats are a felony.)

    PZ Myers has also gotten a huge amount more of death threats.
    During crackergate, he got over 100 death threats.
    In one day.

    Some people have a limited number of behavorial responses and little to say.
    It is unfortunately limited to intending to kill people.

  5. says

    I think most of you missed the real wild west days of the internet in the 90s. Before the CDA was passed those Usenet threads were absolutely insane. For the younger among you, Usenet was like Reddit, but with absolutely no supervision. I’d go on there looking for cheat codes for Super Nintendo games and find erotic Mario fan fiction. Moderation is not just a good thing, it’s also a necessary thing.

    If someone started posting really deviant stuff like kiddy porn, there was no way to trace them. You could remove the material, but they’d just pop up again with a new username. I was against the CDA when it was first passed, but that’s only because I had yet to discover how bad the problem was. I definitely appreciate it now as well as anyone operating a well moderated forum for free speech.

  6. says

    Telling people to stay off the lawn and enforcing a members-only policy is a golf course tactic.

    Whereas telling people “No, you can’t advocate genocide here” is just basic decency.

  7. robro says

    Ray Ceeya @ #8 — I gather that PZ has ample experience in that early milieu. I dabbled for a day or two, but frankly one or two long, fomenting diatribes from some unknown individual with a tendency to (at least) express violence persuaded meek little me to stay far away. Besides, with a hyperactive child, a rundown old house, and a full-time+ job requiring 2-3 hours of commuting, I didn’t have time anyway.

  8. says

    Without shutting down the Nazis, it will very quickly become Gab 2.0. Oh, it will still become that because those with large followings on Twitter will miss those numbers, but it’ll be a slower process.

    I was amused with how fast David Nunes’ Cow got banned from Parler.

    I’m not surprised. Most freeze peach absolutists rarely are as absolutist at they claim. When Ted Cruz first announced he was joining Parler, my reaction was a checklist.

    Victimhood. Check.
    Safe space (as conservatives define it). Check.
    Bubble. Check.

  9. raven says

    Redacted name of random troll from 2014
    (PZ sarcastically: Hey, it was OK to set people on fire in 1600!
    Deleted gibberish

    Yes, it was moral to burn heretics, as it would be moral to haul your own living carcass to the stake. I’d gladly set the fires myself.

    This is what passes for wit and scholarly discourse among the fundie xians.

    This guy thinks burning heretics at the stake was a great idea and wants to burn all the atheists at the stake.
    IIRC, PZ banned him shortly thereafter and no one missed him.
    Genocide always has more fans than you would expect

  10. unclefrogy says

    why would someone who advocates against free speech and actually advocates for in-equality at the least think they have the right to unfettered access to any forum just because that forum’s policy is free speech?
    If I went to the park and wanted to join a pickup basketball game I would not expect to play with football rules.
    uncle frogy

  11. ORigel says

    I thought that censoring any views is wrong when I was new to the Internet. Now I know better. What convinced me were Nazis infiltrating Friendly Atheist, a well-moderated community on Roll to Disbelieve that would be impossible to maintain without moderation, and RationalWiki’s articles on 4chan and 8chan.

  12. blf says

    If I went to the park and wanted to join a pickup basketball game I would not expect to play with football rules.

    The Harem Globetrotters might not only do that, but do it with some not-inconsiderable skill. </snark>

  13. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    I would crow that I called it, but it was obvious. I’m just surprised at the turnaround.

    @unclefrogy: They don’t believe in rights. They believe in “Fuck you, I’ve got mine”.

  14. unclefrogy says

    “…and you don’t deserve any rights so give me your stuff”
    uncle frogy

  15. Saad says

    jack16, #18

    I love that you go around threads expressing frustration at people using acronyms without stating what they mean first.

  16. tbtabby says

    So you want YouTube to do away with restrictions and let everyone in freely? That’s the same mentality that went into Rainfurrest ignoring the “do not invite” list that the other furry conventions adhered to. And we all know how that turned out…

  17. Stuart Smith says

    I wonder to what extent the existence of Gabber actually helps us. Before, companies were very much choosing between keeping the people around for the money, or banning them and losing the money. But, as more and more right-wing types abandon the mainstream platforms for places like Gabber, that reduces the financial incentive of those mainstream platforms to go along with right-wing narratives. While they do like the right better than the left, they mostly prefer the center over either. Banning a large number of right-wing content creators and alienating their followers is an expensive move, but banning a smaller number who have less fans is, obviously, easier and less expensive. So, the very existence of places like Gabber will serve to concentrate the right there – where the Youtube algorithm will no longer feed them viewers from slightly racist centrists and edgy teams, where thousands of twitter users will not have their talking points pushed on them, where they cannot benefit from the mainstreaming of their ideas by the very fact of their presence alongside other, better ideas.

    Maybe I’m missing something, but the instinct to contract in and create safe spaces is one you can only safely take when other people remain on the outside to advocate for you, and for the alt-right, that advocacy was provided in many cases unwittingly by relative mainstream folks with bad but not genocidal ideas.

  18. wzrd1 says

    @blf, are you sure? I can loan you my football bat, it’s about as useful as a Trump. ;)

    I remember the Wild West days of Usenet, of course, if one really needed to find the origin of a post, it was possible with some irritation. Just follow the UUCP bang path. In those days, pretty much everyone sent at least one e-mail via bang path to circumnavigate the globe, with some making such obscene paths to manually route an e-mail around the globe multiple times.

    I also recall the changes with the CDA, there was a write-up I ran into last week describing litigation against ISP’s and carriers over content and at the end, it was decided that a service provider either could not moderate at all, or have clear policies in place and remove offending posts.

    Still, with Parler, good that they have their forum. Less chasing between multiple venues to track the dangerous ones, it’ll pretty much be under two roofs (can’t recall their Twitter analog off of the top of my head). The FBI has people monitoring antisocial media sites, so if they’ve their own little nasty clubs, it’s just that much easier to monitor and hopefully intercept anyone going out to cause harm.