Policy Proposal: SocialHub Community Values

@kaniini, I find myself once again in agreement with most of what you say, and I have argued in similar direction in other conversations.

From my understanding everyone is in agreement (but anyone pls chime in if they see it differently) that the effort to ‘provide community safety and ensuring community health’ - part of which in form of a policy, CoC, diversity statement, or whatever we agree it to be - is indeed scoped exclusively to SocialCG, SocialHub and affiliated sites plus repositories.

I’ve also argued that - though technology is not neutral, and this community not entirely apolitical - we should try to be as neutral as possible, but with clear values and boundaries than cannot be crossed (without consequences, moderation action, etc.)

Because after all - and this may also need to be better defined - we are a community hub that exists for the purpose of:

  1. Evolving ActivityPub / Fediverse technology standards and practices, and the adoption of these by developers.
  2. Discussing / researching / improving / advocating Fediverse culture, social structure and new appliances.

(I know that most people currently in this community joined on the premise of point 1. Positioning is open for discussion, OT here)

Now as for the reason of some of the points in the policy that led to most discussion. A not-so-hypothetical case (because it happened) where the project of a member itself led to controversy, multiple people expressing concerns and one other leaving the community (but returning when seeing this effort).

Think of a case where the imagery used in the project itself (e.g. project logo, opengraph images + description, names used, etc.) does not conform to community values. So by even pasting a link into a forum post one would cross the line.

(I think in the particular case that we dealt with, it was debatable whether the action was warranted, but notwithstanding that fact people were feeling really uncomfortable / unsafe. So action was taken)

Edit:

I forgot to mention that related to point 2. above, an example of discussion within scope of SocialHub imho is a topic I created yesterday, namely: Improving fediverse culture and social behavior. The various tracks to achieve this improvement boil down to technical solutions and advocacy approaches.

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The problem is that while the intent is that the policy statement be scoped to projects affiliating with SocialCG, it is phrased in such a way that projects are responsible for their downstream users, which they have no control over.

Mastodon can’t control the fact that counter.social, Gab and dozens of alt-right instances use their software.

Pleroma can’t control the fact that KiwiFarms, Spinster, and dozens of alt-right instances use their software.

The policy statement as presently required would require Mastodon and Pleroma to reject all forms of contribution from those groups, including security-impacting bug reports, lest falling in violation of the policy statement, and thus being exposed for punitive actions from the SocialCG admin team.

This is completely absurd, but it is how the policy statement is worded, and as a result concern trolls will demand it be applied that way.

Until and unless there is explicit recognition of the boundary between SocialCG and project autonomy, I will not agree to this policy statement and I encourage all other developers to also reject it.

Thank you. Yes, this point has been clearly made. I feel it needs no further repeating, only improving.

the policy will enter into force after a week ( February 9, 2021 )

I think the first step should be to make it one more week.
Apart from making clear about

downstream users

personally I will talk about technical improvements too tomorrow with some others.
Remember what
@CristinaDeLisle
said in SocialCG:
“so when you as an admin were peering with another instance you are showing your set of values, and if that other instance believes that they are sharing those values, that instance can peer with you”
If we would have a minimum set of values like human rights, I think, it could help technical.

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The current matter concerns the scope of the proposal: it’s about what we want within the SocialCG and the SocialHub, e.g., to avoid having the #software category reaped with software supporting alt-tech values that we do not share ; it’s about making this space uninviting for people whose political views are to step on other people’s heads. It is not about chastising software developers whose software is serving such communities. But it’s definitely about not having here people who encourage such unwanted values that are both contrary to the W3C CEPC and an ethics respectful of others.

scope of the policy

I do see a problem with strictly limiting the scope of this to SocialCG and SocialHub comunications. Because the linked W3C CoC lists some unacceptable behaviour that’d be impossible to regard when exclusively focusing on this platform.
One example is stalking: When one participant is stalking another person, that obviously does not only happen on this forum. But being stalked somewhere else still makes this space unsafe if their stalker is allowed to be in the same community.
Similarly, playing polite here while throwing racist or TERF slurs to members of this community via other channels is also something I find hard to accept – in the long term, this causes marginalised people to leave while their adversaries are staying.

Striking the balance in such a way that people do not bring in their nitty-gritty personal minor conflicts is challenging, indeed. But as part of this policy is understanding how stalking, racial slurs and similar are not just personal issues, I think that’s doable.

responsibility for downstream project interactions

While I advocate for not restricting the scope of the policy too narrowly (see above), I suggest to restrict its reach somewhere else:

@kaniini’s concerns about weaponised downstream liability sound reasonable to me, so I suggest that by default a project is not immediately liable for actions of or interactions with non-project members.
I suggest to combine this with an idea similar to the liability restrictions of hosting providers or with a good samaritan clause (disclaimer: I’m neither a lawyer not from the anglosphere of jurisdiction). When interacting with external users, bug reporters, or contributors, good faith and naivety of the project members is assumed in case the entity they are interacting with is in violation of this policy here. Once they have been made aware of the problematic entity of who they’re dealing with – the allegations need to be substantiated of course – then the decision of whether to continue this interaction or not becomes their liability.

transparency of moderation decisions

As we just have seen, discussing the legitimacy of moderation decisions is hard to do when it is not even clear what had happened.
So in spirit of transparency, I suggest that some especially strong moderation decisions need to be published in a summarised and anonymous form afterwards.

Example: account deleted/ project rejected because of clear ties to the QAnon myth, which is in violation of our policy on racism and violence.


These are some ideas for improvement. Once they have been discussed, I am willing to put them into actual policy phrasing.

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This is precisely the reason I chose to leave Pleroma – it became obvious we weren’t all playing on the “same team.” So it made sense to step out of the way and do something else.

I agree that a boundary should be set there. As participants in SocialCG, we should all be playing on the same team, and not slagging each other outside of the work environment. So hard +1 from me on that front.

Mostly this, but what if the evil entity is reporting a legitimate bug (say, a security bug) that impacts all users of the software? Should they be disallowed from doing so?

I might not personally like authors of certain fediverse software, but if they reported bugs to me, I would want to fix those bugs so that everyone benefits.

So I think the appropriate boundary is whether a problematic entity possesses commit rights to the software: users involved in a project which is affiliated with SocialCG must abide by the policy statement during the period of that engagement or the affiliation will be terminated.

This is a concrete and most importantly objective boundary that does not impose any undue burden on a downstream.

/meta
pinned this post globally
reason: It concerns all socialhub users and should be immediately visible.
It would otherwise go below the fold of the main stream.

The policy statement as presently required would require Mastodon and Pleroma to reject all forms of contribution from those groups, including security-impacting bug reports, lest falling in violation of the policy statement

I agree that this interpretation is absurd, and not what was intended. I’d like to continue to work on the wording to avoid this interpretation in future. This was kind of what I was trying to capture with “good faith”, but obviously needs to be clearer. Thanks again for the feedback, all in this thread.

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@Sebastian invited me to post my views as a user of the Fediverse after I replied to his post pointing to this proposal and discussion.
Is this proposal signing intended just for ActivityPub developers or end users too?
Either way I object to it. Namely that distasteful behaviour seems to only be considered a problem when vulnerable groups are the victims. Shouldn’t everyone have the benefits of a kind community, not just a few?

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The proposal is precisely to highlight that we stand with vulnerable groups in particular, and will not disregard the experiences of those at the disadvantaged end of a systematic power imbalance. It is not always obvious that that is the case.

The W3C CECP applies to everyone, and for everyone. Please read it, if you haven’t. It covers all kinds of distasteful behaviour, none of which are accepted in this community.

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I suggest that this proposed policy is more significant than it first appears. It effectively forces all SocialHub members to (in turn) enforce social justice on all communities using their software. Failure to do so will result in the contributor’s exclusion from the SocialHub community and the support that this community offers.

I understand that this proposal is motivated by a genuine desire to protect vulnerable people. I commend that desire.

Enforcing a single world view (whether that of social justice or any other) on all independent social projects, however, is a Very Bad Idea.

If you disagree with that statement, it may be that you have complete confidence in social justice as world view. Perhaps you believe that social justice is so clear and obvious that anyone who questions it must be motivated by a desire to retain their unjustly-held power (bigots, fascists, etc.). Perhaps you suspect me of having these motives.

It is precisely this (over)confidence in the virtue of a particular world view, however, which is the problem. The only way to prevent significant overreach of a world view is for each person to have the right to question and critique orthodox beliefs.

Enforcing social justice creates a new group of vulnerable people (those who disagree with it) and justifies harm against them (as ‘accountability’ in the form of cancellation, harassment, etc.). This harm is justified by the overconfidence mentioned in my last paragraph - the belief that dissenters must be driven by selfish motives and, therefore, that the faithful have an obligation to punish them and lay the blame at their feet. This is the same logic that oppressive regimes use to brutally punish dissenters and blame the dissenters for their own punishment.

You might respond by saying that you do not wish to prevent people from discussing ideas, you only wish to prevent harm to vulnerable people. To that I suggest that social justice has such far-reaching goals in redefining language, culture and law that there is very little room for anyone to move without transgression. Consider that, for instance, a Black person is only a Black person if they fully agree with and abide by every tenet of social justice, otherwise they become an unprotected white-adjacent lower-case ‘b’ black person who is scorned. Social justice loves only the people who fully surrender to it and it hates everyone else - even members of vulnerable groups that it claims to protect. This, I respectfully suggest, is not love at all.

It is difficult to see this when considering your own world view.

Imagine a proposed policy for SocialHub which said the following:

we do not welcome participation (however polite) by contributors to projects which are designed or primarily used for:

- disseminating ideas which oppose traditional and/or family values,
planning, encouragement of or inciting violence against conservative people.
- promoting leftist ideas or other authoritarian systems and practices.
- perpetuating, promoting, or enacting socialism or Marxism.

We reserve the right to exclude projects which tolerate such behaviours within their communities, or have not made a good faith effort to discourage such behaviours.

Would you be opposed to such a policy? Of course you would, and rightly so.

You might be opposed to it because you believe the ideas contained in it to be toxic. I suggest, however, that you should oppose any policy which enforces a single world view on every person. Even - and most especially - the world view that you personally hold to be true.

Enforcing any single world view on the Fediverse is the path to totalitarianism, not to the freedom that I believe we are seeking.

Thank you for reading my objection to this proposal. I am happy to answer any questions, concerns or objections that you have.

I cannot accept this reversing. The policy statement clearly defines boundaries, and doing harm is beyond this boundary. I think you’re confusing community boundaries – the sort of things we do not accept – with some abstract relativist worldview. We’re not talking about enforcing stuff on people, but simply to mark a line of no-go. Following your logic, we should be complacent with fascists because they do not agree with social justice. Well, no: it is not us who harass people and threaten them.

Then we do not have boundaries. Or can we? If you can come back with a proposal that makes sense, not enforcing a single world view, I can start thinking about it, but your binary flipping of a coin does not make any sense.

This policy is to encourage diversity, not diversity-averse uniformity. Being a bigot is not being diverse, it’s being against diversity. Shedding light on a problem does cast shadows, but also marks limits.

AFAIC the main objection made by @kaniini is that it feels like making software developers responsible for the abuse of some of their users. What I’d like that we clarify is that it does not: but it also encourages that software developers do not sympathize with harmful users and communities. If you respond to a security bug, it makes sense to fix it ; if you respond to a plead for help and support from an adversarial group, it’s another story. But still, we’re not a police force. This is a line drawn in the sand, if you cross it, it’s legitimate for the community to question your presence, and it’s fair that you’re
given a chance to think about it and act accordingly (that’s the meaning of:

So, to conclude : this is not about identity politics nor a binary coin that you can flip ; it’s about unwanted behaviors and the limit we draw for active participation in this community.

I hope we can advance to actual proposals.

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This bothers me, for a few reasons:

  • what if you don’t know they are an adversarial group?

  • this seems like a substantial overreach of SocialCG into the internal operations of projects.

I’ve already explicitly stated the boundary I am comfortable with (commit rights). If commit rights prove insufficient, we can revise later.

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I have an actual proposal: We don’t need this proposal. The W3C guidelines go far enough.

It effectively forces all SocialHub members to (in turn) enforce social justice on all communities using their software.

We don’t force anything. We already discussed the concern about burden on adjacent communities/projects, and plan to clarify, I just didn’t have time to write anything yet.

Enforcing any single world view on the Fediverse is the path to totalitarianism, not to the freedom that I believe we are seeking.

To be clear, we have no power over “the Fediverse”, only the behaviour that is acceptable in this forum, and SocialCG meetings and events.

Agree with @how’s response, flipping the policy is nonsensical.

Saying bigotry is not welcome or tolerated here is not discriminatory and should not even be controversial.

what if you don’t know they are an adversarial group?

@kaniini I would consider this caught by the “good faith” phrase. I do plan to try to improve the text to address your earlier concerns, as soon as I can. We also need to make sure moderation decisions are transparent, collaborative and reversible if we make mistakes, to mitigate any accidental harm to genuine contributors.

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Given the update, @kaniini (and others) are you fine with this policy?

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Yes, that seems fine.

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Then, I would like to proceed to the next stage, calling to everyone to read the policy and take a stand.
Later today or the next day I will move this discussion to a dedicated linked topic and edit the first post to reflect the new stage.

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