Recently there have been some discussions about the political stances of the Lemmy developers and site admins. To clear up some misconceptions: Lemmy is run by a team of people with different ideologies, including anti-capitalist, communist, anarchist, and others. While @dessalines and I are communists, we take decisions collectively, and don’t demand that anyone adopt our views or convert to our ideologies. We wouldn’t devote so much time to building a federated site otherwise.

What’s important to us is that you follow the site rules and Code of Conduct. Meaning primarily, no-bigotry, and being respectful towards others. As long as that is the case, we can get along perfectly fine.

In general we are open for constructive feedback, so please contact any member of the admin team if you have an idea how to improve Lemmy.

Slur Filter

We also noticed a consistent criticism of the built-in slur filter in Lemmy. Not so much on lemmy.ml itself, but whenever Lemmy is recommended elsewhere, a few usual suspects keep bringing it up. To these people we say the following: we are using the slur filter as a tool to keep a friendly atmosphere, and prevent racists, sexists and other bigots from using Lemmy. Its existence alone has lead many of them to not make an account, or run an instance: a clear net positive.

You can see for yourself the words which are blocked (content warning, link here). Note that it doesn’t include any simple swear words, but only slurs which are used to insult and attack other people. If you want to use any of these words, then please stay on one of the many platforms that permit them. Lemmy is not for you, and we don’t want you here.

We are fully aware that the slur filter is not perfect. It is made for American English, and can give false positives in other languages or dialects. We are totally willing to fix such problems on a case by case basis, simply open an issue in our repo with a description of the problem.

Hi, I’m new to Lemmy. I saw the post about LemmyBB on hacker news and it brought me here. On the HN thread you can see the discussion on the slur filter right from the beginning. I consider myself very tolerant and I personally would not have added it by default. I also understand that the authors see things differently.

I want to thank the team who made this project a reality. You’ve built a serious alternative to a massive echo-chamber propaganda machine. THANK YOU. The slur filter is a non issue and whoever is only focused on that doesn’t understand the dire situation we reached with walled gardens being built everywhere on the internet, which is actually becoming more of an intranet …

New to Lemmy and the decentralized realm in general but really appreciate the work you’ve done here and the community thats been cultivated. As a long time Reddit Mod I have to say while I’m pretty anti content filtering in general…bravo to the slur verboten list. It is as you say a net positive for reasonable minded non hateful people. As long as the code is open source I’m fully behind it.

I think the slur filter has been removed a while ago.

yeahhhhh…new here and didnt realize the post date on the piece I was responding to. So, down with slur filter!! :) Oh well.

I like how the slur filter is described here:

“Note that it doesn’t include any simple swear words, but only slurs which are used to insult and attack other people.

but I guess the devil is in the details. Where do I see the actual words that are being blocked? When I clicked on the link I just saw a page of code which I cannot understand.

Lemmy is a fabulous creation - keep up the good work. I am excited to see what the future holds for Lemmy.

The slur filter has been removed since this post was made.

@nutomic@lemmy.ml
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I dont know if the slur filter for lemmy.ml is posted publicly anywhere, but its just insults which no one would use in normal conversation. Also, each instance can define their own filter, or disable it completely.

Hi. I’m a new Lemmy user who used to spend a lot of time on Reddit, before I became so interested in decentralization. I’m actually thrilled to hear that the people running this instance are leftist and anarchist types. It makes me feel better about my decision to use the biggest instance.

About the slur filter, I was very annoyed to find out about it, for two main reasons: I think that as a matter of technical architecture, any sort of content filtering should always be kept out of the source code, even if it’s active on a certain instance; and that there are contexts where it’s acceptable to use those words, such as when quoting from someone else, or in a discussion about the concept of offensive language itself.

And developed by people who hate the fact that you’re alive!

A comment about Lemmy I saw on Reddit. The slur filter really pulls its weight and keeps the bigots out, it was a great idea.

Dessalines
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Every time we get recommendations to remove the filter I think of this. These bigots end up staying on reddit, or moving to other bigoted platforms, and avoid lemmy, making our lives a LOT easier :smiling face: . I could care less about “growth” if that growth means an influx of disgusting racists. I’d much rather have a smaller, positive community that defends members of targeted communities.

I keep saying this: the very existence of the slur filter, even though it’s actually trivial to remove or modify, acts like an alt-right/MAGA/bigot/freeze-peach repellent even though it’s trivial to remove or modify. Just look at the types of people on /r/RedditAlternatives who say they’ll never go to Lemmy because of this, and what their priorities on platforms they’re actually interested in are. To me, that’s half the battle.

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this stance!

I think the slur filter is a brilliant idea, especially given the type of person it seems to bother most, and this site feels a lot less toxic than other online communities, probably as a direct result.

I could care less about “growth” if that growth means an influx of disgusting racists. I’d much rather have a smaller, positive community that defends members of targeted communities.

You have no idea how good it is to see this attitude from the central developers of the platform. How much better wouldn’t the world be if more people were thinking like this? Kudos to you all!

RoAe
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Although I’m more right-leaning than left, I personally think it’s great that the people leading lemmy are communists, anarchists, etc. I think it helps provide a counter-balance to the more right leaning groups trying to avoid mainstream social media.

I like the idea of a slur filter as a moderation tool for any instance I am a part of, but I feel like it goes against the whole purpose of federated social media. Isn’t the point of federated stuff that you are free of centralized control, with the freedom to pick an instance which suits your desires? It seems wrong to impose any moderation, no matter how justified, on an entire federated platform.

Generally though, I love this platform! Thanks so much for all your hard work!

@marmulak@lemmy.ml
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I think it helps provide a counter-balance to the more right leaning groups trying to avoid mainstream social media.

I think this point is important regardless of political spectrum. Lots of really nasty people have migrated to alternative platforms so that they can be nasty, but I’m glad Lemmy makes it clear enough that it’s not one of their nasty spaces.

Ideological freedom encourages nasty people. And restrictions encourage thoughtless people.

You can go on notabug and ignore the crazy psychos and chat with the creative people.

You can go on reddit and find endless people with no independent thought, repeating things and not listening to reach other.

Lemmy is in the middle. But IMO that’s not an objective good thing, it’s a preference.

@marmulak@lemmy.ml
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False dilemma, no?

How so?

You have to assume that the devs’ rules do restrict the types if discourse which happen. But other than that, it all follows.

Maya
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So as @PP44 is saying, it’s open source. The devs work to make sure that anyone can set it up straightforwardly to run with their own modifications, not just the main version – and that means modifying the slur filter is also supposed to be straightforward, even though it’s not encouraged. There isn’t actual moderation on the whole platform per se, since two instances can federate even if one has no slur filter. There are lots of “points” to federated stuff, though, so the existence of a slur filter works well to help keep Lemmy from attracting the cesspool-types while still enjoying those other benefits.

I’m clearly “left-leaning”, so I might be biased, but I don’t agree with your criticism toward the slur filter : the project is open source, and as such people wanting to use these slur can work they way to another version. The devs explain here a clear intention to make this change difficult enough to prevent at least partially the migration of some communities they don’t want to support and/or give a platform to. I think that’s an honest way to do things ?

It also open up the debate on free speech and how saying some things actively attacks fundamental rights of others. In those cases, defending free speech as a “right” becomes irrelevant since both sides of the debate can use this logic to defend opposing actions. Trying to be short here, hope you understand what I mean !

The devs explain here a clear intention to make this change difficult enough to prevent at least partially the migration of some communities they don’t want to support and/or give a platform to.

I’m happy it’s becoming harder for neonazis to find a home online, however i’m not happy that this makes lemmy english-centric, and i’m not happy that honest discussion about some topics (including thoughtful criticism) will be made harder.

Related example: on another message board a few weeks back i couldn’t post a message containing my criticism of “bitcoin” because bitcoin was part of the slur filter to filter out the crypto-capitalist clique… i understand and appreciate why it was put in place, but i felt really powerless as a user that a machine who lacks understanding of the context of me using this word, decided i had no right to post it. I appreciate strong moderation, but i don’t trust machine to police/judge our activities.

I quite agree with you that moderation is hardly a machine job, and not saying it is the perfect solution. It sure as it’s drawback. I am just arguing that the benefits outweigh them. I would prefer to be in a world where there are not needed, be as of the world today, I admit I prefer having this filter rather than not having it, mostly because of the systemic effects I explained.

I agree that the relevance of he content of the filter can be discussed too, and that banning some words can make it difficult to discuss certain topics. But I think some words are almost always meant to harm, and can be easily replace by more positive or neutral term.

As a direct example : I can talk in this post about homosexuality, and I can event paraphrase to talk about the way some f word is used as a slur for it and how I think allowing it here isn’t a good idea in my opinion. See, I can talk about it, be respectful about it. I just prevent to call you a [insert here whatever banned slur] pretending to use my free speech.

That’s the defence of the “slur filter” that everyone can agree on. It’s harmless because it does almost nothing. It has no real benefit or cost.

The people who say it deters fascists - it just doesn’t hold water.#

I don’t know, if I believe some comments around here, there are clearly some of them that explicitly explain they would not come here because they feel “hated”, in public, so clearly to deter anyone close to them to come here for these reason. If so, it means it has some positive effect, and it seems plausible to me.

I don’t understand a lot of your message.

But if i get the gist, that might not be so positive. People who feel hated, isolated, afraid to express themselves in public, they are the people we should welcome.

It sounds like they are teenagers who are just figuring out their views. They all have strange and offensive ideas at times, but with help most people figure out a sensible worldview in the end.

@nutomic@lemmy.ml
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As long as they can stop themselves from insulting or attacking other people, they can come to Lemmy with no problem.

Sorry, it was not clear at all ! I was talking about fascist publicly denouncing lemmy as a platform suppressing their free speech, and that, as such, it should be avoided.

Okay i didn’t get that at all.

Bit this new idea sounds like a paradox - someone pro free speech would mind object to that denouncement at all.

I’m not sure I understand what you mean here sorry.

Trying to avoid someone denouncing you - it means suppressing his free speech.

If you don’t want someone denouncing you, then you are not tolerant of all free speech.

alive

They do not complain about lemmy only denouncing, but putting filter to prevent certain words, which they see as free speech denial. At least I guest, i’m not in their head. To be clear I’m referencing this citation (that I found in another comment on this post) :

And developed by people who hate the fact that you’re alive !

The strong political stance seems to really put them off…

I prefer having this filter rather than not having it, mostly because of the systemic effects I explained.

That’s also the case for me, in case that was not clear :)

I think some words are almost always meant to harm, and can be easily replace by more positive or neutral term.

I don’t think it’s that easy, because of the context. Should all usage of the n***** word by black people be prevented? Should all usage of w****/b**** words by queer/femmes folks in a sex-positive context be prevented? etc… I agree with you using these words is most times inappropriate and we can find better words for that, however white male technologists have a long history of dictating how the software can be used (and who it’s for) and i believe there’s something wrong in that power dynamic in and of itself. It’s not uncommon that measures of control introduced “to protect the oppressed” turn into serious popular repression.

Still, like i said i like this filter in practice, and it’s part of the reason i’m here (no fascism policy). As a militant antifascist AFK, i need to reflect on this and ponder whether automatic censorship is ok in the name of antifascism: it seems pretty efficient so far, if only as a psychological barrier. And i strongly believe we should moderate speech and advertise why we consider certain words/concepts to be mental barriers, but i’m really bothered on an ethical level to just dismiss content without human interaction. Isn’t that precisely what we critique in Youtube/Facebook/etc? I’m not exactly placing these examples on the same level as a slur filter though ;)

@PP44@lemmy.ml
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As often in cool debate, I think in the end we mostly agree. I especially agree with you on the point that reclaiming a word is a valid way of using some slur, and that it should not be to a privileged group to choose when a word is ok or not. On this point I have to point out that this is still the case with manual moderation, if most moderator are privileged. So I agree that diversity should be push in all places of power, and all decision are better made (and more legitimate) with a diversity in the group that make them.

But on the automated part, I really think the psychological aspect is strong and should be questioned. You talk about “human interaction” but this definition is really hard non only to define, but also to defend as an efficient way of reaching you goals. I am quite sure that when the devs made their filter, there was quite a lot of human interaction and debate around it, and the simple fact the put one show that they interacted with other people around them. And is a “manual” moderation a human interaction when you don’t see or know the person, don’t know their culture, the context, their tone, etc. Moderation will never be perfect, will always involve bad decisions, errors. When errors are mades “directly” by humans, compassion and empathy help us to try and understand before judging (but judging nonetheless in the end don’t get me wrong). Why is it so different when an automated system (created by an imperfect human) ? Why is an automated error worse than a human one if the consequences are the same ?

Long story short, I don’t like thinking along great principles like “automated moderation is dangerous”, but rather try analyze the situation and think : would this place be better if there was not this automated moderation ? I agree that this is a wide and difficult debate one what is “better” of course, but the focus should always be this one : how to make things better.

Thank you so much for your answer, i’m not used to debate online because I didn’t feel at ease anywhere else before, but I love it and it is thanks to people like you and all the other interesting answers I get that I can enjoy that and think about it so much ! Thank you thank you <3 !!

(edit : typo)

this is still the case with manual moderation, if most moderator are privileged

Sure, but given a /c/blackfolks community, a white admin would probably think twice before getting involved in internal matters over there. Which an algorithm will have no clue about.

I am quite sure that when the devs made their filter, there was quite a lot of human interaction and debate around it, and the simple fact the put one show that they interacted with other people around them.

The latter is true, but i believe the former isn’t. Having some kind of filter shows great concern for people experiencing harassment/bullying online, but using a word-based filter is a known anti-pattern since about the end of the 90s. I remember i used to go to this library, and from there you couldn’t access the library’s own website because the name of the library contained a french slur inside (though the whole was not a slur really) and the library-wide MITM proxy had a slur list like the one lemmy implemented. That’s how clueless such systems are.

Why is an automated error worse than a human one if the consequences are the same ?

For the reason you mentioned: lack of context and empathy.

would this place be better if there was not this automated moderation ?

Certainly not. I’m not advocating for removing the slur filter on this specific instance. I’m arguing having it hardcoded into the source is a strong political posture and we don’t really measure the variety of consequences it may have on the ecosystem as a whole.

Thank you so much for your answer (…) <3

Thanks to you too <3! I strongly appreciate online debate in such settings. Are you by any chance too young to remember when (before Facebook) forums/BBS were the craze? We really lost something (on a human/political level) when everyone moved to these centralized platforms where interactions were turned uniform and bland, and real-name policies have led to real-life crisis (bullying, suicides…).

RoAe
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Perhaps I was a bit too harsh on the filter. After all, you’re right that someone could just modify the code. Even so, it doesn’t really seem like it lines up with the philosophy of federated platforms. It makes it more difficult to customize moderation on the instance level. I also feel like the problem of platforming nasty people could be solved by moderation on the instance level and blocking instances which don’t have adequate moderation. That’s what it’s going to need to be in the end anyway if Lemmy grows enough and people customize the code.

It does bring up the free speech debate, but I find those usually aren’t very productive in these sorts of contexts. It’s not really a legal question since the government isn’t involved, and they usually just end up being each side stating their presuppositions.

It’s not terribly important in this case anyways, I just thought I’d share my thoughts on it.

I mostly agree. And I agree that if the platform really grows, it will come down to per instance moderation and instance admins choosing wisely the instances they choose to federate with. But I think the choice is to make sure to give a head start to the people they want to welcome here. With the recent events in the US, imagine lemmy being the next tool used by “some people” the devs wich didn’t come. Then the platform as a whole would be much less attractive to some other people the devs are more interested in helping and interacting with.

So I think we agree, on the long term, if Lemmy grow, someone will come up with a modified version without thoses filter. It will just take more time. Meanwhile, Lemmur gets to be at peace as much as it can ?

Thanks for your answer !

@Tomat0@lemmy.ml
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Isn’t instance-blocking alone sufficient for being able to prevent the environment from being overrun? I understand the hesitancy to platform reactionaries, but as it stands the network effect is easily the biggest hurdle the Fediverse is going to face. Right-libertarians and actual reactionaries might be a net negative on the main instance, but as far as the software itself goes, numbers are numbers, and could end up making a world of difference.

Let them form their own circlejerks away from everyone else and have slur-blocking be on a per-instance basis, after all that’s why the federated design works so well.

@nutomic@lemmy.ml
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There are more important things than making numbers go up. Just the existance of the slur filter makes right-wingers upset, and stops them from even considering to use Lemmy. That makes our job much easier because we dont have to deal with them.

@Tomat0@lemmy.ml
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I disagree just due to the aforementioned network effect. Numbers with social media have a snowball effect, where people make their decision on whether or not to participate based on existing levels of activity. What sets Lemmy apart from stuff like Lobste.rs and HackerNews IMO is that it’s integration of federation gives it potential to break out as a serious alternative to the platforms rather than catering a specific niche, so I’d say the snowballing is important also since it has the potential to help bring up the rest of the Fediverse.

Given Lemmy’s reputation as being a platform run by communists, the fact that such a hardcoded filter even existed to begin with, and also per-instance blocking/slur filtering, I’d think that should be enough to keep them away and stop them from polluting the communities associated with the flagship instances, then again I’m not an admin so I can’t say for sure. It’d also help the issue you mentioned regarding ambiguity of what slurs to include, since each community can decide that for themselves.

@nutomic@lemmy.ml
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Lemmy is growing quite well, one year ago we only had 800 users, now we are already at 13.000. Sure the slur filter might limit growth a bit, but we are not a silicon valley company whose goal is growth at any cost.

Can you post a link to your Lemmy? When I ask the Duck about it, it shows me this old guitarrist from UK. I don’t wanna ask Google. When I type “Lemmy net” it shows me an internet company in Germany but nothing with forums.

@nutomic@lemmy.ml
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I dont understand, you are using Lemmy right now. Welcome!

The way the first post was written leaves me with the impression that lemmy.ml and Lemmy are two different things ran by the same person or people. I also saw somewhere on this site the sentence “lemmy.nl is the flagman of the Lemmy network” which also suggest that .ml and Lemmy are two different things.

@nutomic@lemmy.ml
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Lemmy is the software project, lemmy.ml is one instance where it is running. There are also other instances.

@MyopicTopic@lemmy.ml
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Myself I’m personally not sure what is a slur about the term for a female dog, or a prostitute for that matter. Seems like those words can be used for expressing more than simply misogynist rhetoric, but whatever. Or maybe my belief that the phrase "ain’t that a b**ch* isn’t offensive is outdated. If that’s the case, so be it.

Don’t have much against a slur filter per se, but it will always be controversial, and I don’t necessarily believe some of those who view it negatively are better off not joining. But, it is what it is.

Just because a particular word isn’t offensive to you, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a population that itvs meant to insult. Claiming that you find an insulting term to be fine suggests that anyone who is offended by it is just being overly-sensitive. That’s not a great way to approach looking for methods of reducing insulting speech.

I’m not even implying the words bch or wh* to not be offensive, because they are. I’m saying I’m not sure if those words specifically (out of all the very specific and pointed offensive terms to use towards a certain group or subset of individuals which are also banned on here) are so pointedly offensive to warrant an outright ban on them. I’m also not entirely convinced those words were or ever have been used to disadvantage an entire group of people in the way the words that I feel are justifiable in their banning have been. If anyone feels calling a woman those two terms is on the same level or at all comparable to the other words on the list then I absolutely disagree, even though I also agree that calling a woman either of those terms to be offensive and wrong.

At the same time I feel their use outside of that context warrants allowing them to be used even so. Especially if we’ve decided the term cunt is evidently fair game when to call a woman that would be much further over line than either of those other two banned terms.

nBee
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Lemmy is run by a team of people with different ideologies, including anti-capitalist, communist, anarchist, and others.

❤️❤️❤️

I’m always the first to start these threads.

But it’s good to remember, we chose Lemmy over sites like notabug because it works better. Some good decisions by the devs created a good website, enabling good discussions, which you just don’t see elsewhere.

Some things like the “slur filter” seem sketchy, but you have to give the devs the benefit of the doubt. They clearly know a couple of things about forum design.

At the same time, it’s important to talk about this stuff. Better ideas usually come from debate.

IngrownMink4
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We also noticed a consistent criticism of the built-in slur filter in Lemmy.

  • The funniest and most ironic thing about this is that the same people who criticize the filter are the first to insult you… These people already have a home. That home is called Reddit. And even if they’re more fascist, they’d better use Gab. But no, this social network better not be corrupted. Lemmy is a very healthy social network. People are friendly, curious and intelligent. It sounds a bit cliché, but it’s the truth. I like to make comments and posts here. I feel more free to express myself, unlike in Reddit. I just hope the core developers continue to moderate as well as ever, without giving in to pressure from those troublesome users. Keep it up 💪🏽💖

You have obnoxious people on all sides of the debate, including people who avoid listening to foreign ideas by labeling the other sides.

To be honest, nobody knows how the culture would be different under a different sweet of rules, especially the people who act most confident about it.

Social games, that is, sets of rules, are studied under many different disciplines. Things have been tried. Experiments have occurred, papers written. We know some stuff about how different kinds of rulesets work. Sorry if you dont like the fact that others have studied and tested things, but that does not mean you get to deny their knowledge.

skull
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I’m brand new to Lemmy but overall so far I think you all are doing great. I appreciate the diversity in the political views of the team too. I find Lemmy much more usable than other sites too in how it’s not as overfilled with garbage like a lot of digital media has become. Overall great app, no complaints from me and thank you for running Lemmy.

I really like this project. I think there are some areas for improvement in community building tools and moderation, but the software isn’t even at 1.0 yet. So, that makes sense. It will be interesting to see how the structure of the software influences community building. How will the up vote aggregation affect what is seen? How will that differ between instances?

As far as the politics of this instance. I’ve found it fine as an anarchist. As lemmy spreads and there are more instances I might find a more fitting home, but I feel welcome here in all my identities for now. There are certainly other lemmy instances I don’t feel welcome at so :woman shrugging: .

It’s certainly good have diversity of opinion, to keep it interesting for everyone. But how far would you extend that?

If there were more (or more active) fascists here, would that make it richer? Probably not - there ideas are empty and obtuse and self serving and racist. But i would have said the same about tankies before i joined Lemmy and listened to them.

The one thing you do not want is a circlejerk, where everyone agrees and is happy, but there is no important argument between people who strongly disagree.

I definitely wouldn’t feel safe on an instance that tolerates fascists and/or racists.

Personally, I don’t use the label “tankie” to describe people. I just think it’s outdated and doesn’t really relay where I might have disagreements with authoritarian leftists and staunch nation state supporters. Where I don’t feel welcome on some other lemmy instances has more to do with those authoritarian leftists and staunch nation state supporters not making enough room for a nuanced discussion about the balance and tension of individual autonomy and collective action (where does the liberation/rights of the individual end and the state/commune begin?). I don’t really feel like I would be silenced here for exploring that nuance though.

Yes good points.

Btw what’s a better term than “tankie”? I only learnt about this ideology recently, am ignorant of the details of it.

It’s okay IMO to have instances which are now closed, more restricted speech/ideas. There are good reasons why some people like them, and why they need to exist. But there must be other places where fee speech/free debate is possible. For example in France it recently became illegal to criticise a policeman by name, no matter what he has done. Very dangerous.

I agree with the policy in concept, and I think it has generally done good. As a new user to the platform I am impressed by how friendly and non-vitriolic it seems to be.

Having the filter hard-coded and public is a great way to keep things transparent and free from abuse.

However, I do have some issues with the actual content of the list.

I’m not going to even allude to them for obvious reasons, but there are many slurs that really should be included and are not.

There’s also the case of reclaimed slurs. While some of the slurs on the list are pretty much purely used by racists, a few are frequently used in a reclaimed context, and excluding them may harm or exclude the targeted group - possibly more so than to allow them.

OdinTheProle
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I understand the perspective of slurs being used in a reclaimed context. However I used to be an admin for a relatively large multiplayer MILSIM game and I can tell you right now that perspective falls apart the moment trashy people get their hands on it. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard the excuse “but I am black” or “but I am gay” in an attempt to defend what is clearly a statement meant to harm a specific minority group.

This isn’t to say I don’t understand where you are coming from because I do but I don’t think that the internet is really a place that can be a safe space for people to anonymously use reclaimed words no matter the context. You would be surprised how many people may infiltrate a space just to get a pass to say slurs.

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