Tag Archives: David Auerbach

When Codes of Conduct Go Bad

David Auerbach notes that the ToDo Group have abandoned their Open Code of Conduct because they were unable to form any sort of consensus over its contents. He is correct in stating this particular clause would be a potential ligitation nightmare.

Our open-source community prioritised marginlised people’s safety over privileged people’s comfort, we will therefore not act on complaints regarding “reverse -isms”, including “Reverse racism”, “Reverse sexism” or “cisphobia”.

Reading that, you are forced to conclude whoever wrote than has never heard of the Requires Hate saga in SF Fandom, or has completely failed to learn any lessons from it. Such a code of contact won’t survive contact with a bad actor who identifies as belonging to a marginalised group, for starters. And it fails to acknowledge that “marginalised”, “privileged” and even “safety” and “comfort” are highly subjective and context-dependent things. Auerbach is dead right; lawyers could have a field day with that.

The online social justice movement has a contentious “Punching up/punching down” dynamic which draws from Critical Race Theory and Intersectional Feminism. But they are not uncontroversial mainstream beliefs, and there is considerable opposition which doesn’t just come from hardcore racists and sexists.

Codes of conduct are a necessary evil in a world where bad actors exist. But a successful code of condut requires a broad consensus from the community to which it applies. A code of conduct that explicitly hard-codes the values of one narrow political tribe is always going to look like a power-grap. It just plays into the hands of those who oppose codes of conduct in principle.

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David Auerbach on GamerGate and the Clickbait Media

Slate journalist David Auerbach posted a couple of quite significant things on Twitter a few days ago. It’s a screencap, which I know will have accessibility issues, but I couldn’t find the original text anywhere. There is a larger resolution version which is slighly more readable

Auerbach

When we finally write the history of the Twitter wars I hope that history covers the role of the clickbait media and the way they’ve often been willing to pour petrol on flames in order to monetise faux-outrage. The infamous #Shirtstorm was one of the most notorious; where a clickbait “news” website went with the cynically inflammatory headine “I don’t care they you just landed a probe on a comet, your shirt is alienating“, thus guaranteeing the internet would explode in a flame war that would end in people getting hurt.

As for Gamergate. I’ve been watching the issue from the sidelines for the past year, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that both the “Gamegame is a hate group targeting women and minorities” and the “It’s all about ethics in game journalism” are at best gross oversimplifications of a complex and confusing mess, and at worst deliberate and cynical lies.

My perception (which may be wrong) is that the persistence of Gamergate owes a lot to the nature of some of their more publicly vocal opponents, at least some of whom appear to be attention-seekers looking for their fifteen minutes of fame, who take Gamergate’s public mocking of them as validation. When more than one journalist has told me they won’t cover Gamergate because of the harassment and personal abuse they get from GG’s opponents, it paints a rather different picture to the narrative’s we’ve seen in the media.

As far as I can tell, Gamergate seems to consist of three groups. The first are gamers who, rightly or wrongly, had an axe to grind against the gaming press which they saw as agenda-driven and riven with conflicts of interest, much like the British music press of the 1980s. Second are opportunistic right wing types who had little connection with the gaming hobby but saw it as another front in a wider cultural war against “Social Justice Warriors”. Third were the malevolent trolls for whom the whole thing provided perfect cover to ruin people’s lives while letting others take the blame. The media narrative only acknowledges the last two of these three. Meanwhile the Ganergaters for whom it’s all about ethics are too quick to deny any connection with the trolls who have gathered under their banner.

The problem with Gamergate is that the only media outlets who have been covering the story are those who were themselves part of the story, on both sides, or are repeating their talking points without doing any investigation themselves. Nobody without a pre-existing agenda is interested in touching it.

The truth is eventually going to come out.

Given the contentious nature of this subject, I’m going to be strict on moderating comments. I’ll probably approve most comments from people I know and trust, but drive-bys with canned talking points may not be so lucky.

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The Pros and Cons of Twitter Blocklists

Slate’s David Auerbach has written a well-balanced piece in Slate on the pros and cons of Twitter blocklists. He recognises that they’re a valuable weapon against harassers and trolls, but can cause their own problems, and that people and especially organisations should be wary of using third-party blocklists without understanding the agenda of whoever is maintaining the list.

For example, Arthur Chu has a shared blocklist of 30,000 people. All you need to do to get on that list is having ever disagreed with or criticised Arthur Chu. The fact that I’m on it ought to tell you all you need to know. Other blocklists will include you merely for following the wrong accounts.

Blocklists are at best a sticking plaster for a problem Twitter itself should have been more pro-active at dealing with a long time ago.

What’s very telling, though, is the level of vitriol I’ve seen directed at the the author of the piece, with some high-profile figures not even bothering to critique the piece itself but going straight to ad-hominem, accusing him of being pro-harassment (he’s not) or being a supporter of Gamergate (which he isn’t). Somebody’s even threatened to build a new blocklist threatening his followers (i.e. unfollow him or you’ll get blocked).

It does sound as though he’s struck a raw nerve.

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