This blog is about the role of civilization on Free Speech, not about what Free Speech is. For more information about what Free Speech is, what the US Court system has determined Free Speech is and what it is not, and the various opinions on what constitutes free speech, please see these resources or post your own in the comments:
Merriam-Webster has a variety of definitions for “civilization” but for the purpose of this blog, we are going to use their 3rd one, “a refinement of thought, manners, or taste.” For the word censor, the definition will be “to suppress or delete as objectionable.”
You may have noticed that Minds has adopted a Bill of Rights. This is a good thing. It also effectively ensures that at some point, you’re going to see something on Minds that you don’t want to see. So what do you do about it?
In many cases, it means you just scroll past it. But what if the free speech crosses a moral line? What if it is something that, if someone said out loud in a public place, it would cause everyone around them to back away in disapproval and disgust, or even fear?
You see, Free Speech is a good thing. It’s a great thing, actually. Being able to speak freely about any idea or opinion you have without fear of being jailed or censored by Big Brother is a key element of a forward-moving civilization. However, civilization doesn’t just get to cultivate and curate good ideas. Civilization is also responsible for identifying and denouncing bad ideas. This is a responsibility that the Internet has not upheld very well, partially due to the fact that a simple “report this post” option allowed us to remove the responsibility from ourselves and hand it off it to Big Brother (and then later, when someone reports us and we get censored, we realize that the system is corrupt) and partially due to the fact that when Free Speech is allowed to exist without Civilization balancing it out, bad ideas can take hold and grow into big problems.
Up until very recently in human history, people interacted with the same people, in person, all the time, so they brought with them their reputations and character to every conversation. There was history. Context. Social groups were limited, small, and often people never moved more than 10 miles away from their birthplaces. When someone was shunned or disowned, it was usually because they were far outside the bell curve of normal thinking. The system was not perfect, but it was effective. It kept the degenerates who dwelt on their problems separated from society, and didn’t allow them to group together to become more powerful or to energize each other. Unfortunately it also had the opposite effect—sometimes innovators were ostracized as well, but oftentimes these problem-fixers were able to rise above those circumstances and make an impact anyway.
Most people are normies. They don’t stray from socially accepted and culturally approved thoughts and ideas. But on both sides of the bell curve of civilization, there are smaller and smaller groups of people who just don’t fit in, and usually, the normies shun them both, those innovators on the far end and those degenerates on the near end. Normies like other normies. New ideas sometimes make them uncomfortable. The people on the far end of the bell curve, the innovators, are the people who don’t deserve to be shunned but sometimes get shunned anyway. They are brilliant and ahead of where civilization is at their time—they are the ones pulling us forward into the future. The people on the near side of the bell curve are the people who do deserve to be shunned—the degenerates. They are not helping society at all. They’re trying to hurt it. They are holding civilization back, even pulling us into the past, keeping us from improving and refining ourselves to become better. Either way, there have always been fringes of people, both those pulling us into the future and those dragging us back into the past, who just do not fit into the range of normality that civilization rests in most comfortably.
With the dawning of the Internet, a new Wild West was created and both of those fringes broke free of the societal constraints that had been holding them in place for so long. For the first time, the innovators had a place to meet. Formerly shunned in their own societies because they were misunderstood, they could now find community online, collaborate, and innovate. This resulted in the great technological jump. Once all the hidden geniuses were able to work together more easily, civilization in areas like technology leapt forward. This is the beauty of the Internet and Free Speech.
However, unfortunately, the opposite was also true. All of the people who lingered on the detrimental side of the bell curve, the problem-dwelling degenerates, suddenly had a place to congregate, too. And congregate they did. While the innovators were pushing civilization forward, the degenerates used this new freedom on the Internet to drag society backward. The freedom they had to mingle without the social curation that had held them in check for thousands of years gave them new power to fray society at the edges.
So now we are in a New Age, and we are establishing the rules, norms, and ideals for what we want the newest civilization, the Civilization of the Internet, to become. It is my opinion that if we want Free Speech to survive on the Internet, then the social pressure that discourages bad ideas in the physical world needs to serve a similar function on the Internet, as well. Although we must give all speech an equal and free platform to start from, we are not required to then treat equally all ideas that are presented. Some ideas should be encouraged. Upvoted. Shared. Discussed. Some ideas should be discouraged. Downvoted. Shamed. Rejected.
Now, a few decades into the Internet, entire generations of people have ceased to interact in person and now only interact online. That means they are losing the meaningful and necessary social cues from their peers that teach them what is acceptable and not acceptable to say. It means that no one is standing up to them at social functions and saying “that is just not something you say in civilized society. Either improve yourself, stand in the corner awkwardly by yourself, or go somewhere else.” We must find a way to reproduce that environment online.
Censorship is not the answer, though.
Some ideas are immoral. Some ideas are wrong. Some ideas are dumb.
Some ideas, though fully within the bounds of free speech, need to have a responsible member of society take a moment, reach out, and say “that’s not an idea that is going to improve society. Please do better.”
We, as the members of this Internet Civilization, have the power to curate the speech and ideas which we encounter, by approving or disproving of their ideas. This encourages good ideas and discourages bad ideas.
Bad ideas, unchecked, grow into worse ideas. If these people said these things in real life, other people would shun them, even hit them (I'm not endorsing it, just stating a fact). On the Internet they think they're invincible, and we've allowed that mentality to take place by saying "just go off in your own little corner and breed more bad ideas. We won't stop you." And to some degree that is fine. But when bad ideas pervade larger platforms where free speech is welcome and no Big Brother organized censorship is taking place, it is up to us, the members of that platform, to do the curation for the platform so that their platform is not taken over by degenerates.
I call this social curation, and I believe that if we the people of the Internet do not start practicing it more, then the dark corners of the Internet will soon overpower it to the point where normies and even brilliant innovators will not be able to speak due to the thunderous racket made by the immoral degenerates who have escaped the bounds of civilization in the physical world and have not been discouraged in the virtual world from promoting ideas that fray the boundaries with what society knows is wrong.
It is not censorship—people who are shunned by one social group on the Internet can always go find another social group to give their ideas to if they don’t want to change the way they present them—but what it is is a group of people telling an outlier, “sorry, your ideas are not good enough for us. Try again.” And so the delinquent would either improve by adjusting themselves to make themselves more acceptable to that platform, leave their ideas where they are and accept the distaste of their peers, or find a different audience (likely a much smaller, less powerful one) where their ideas are accepted.
In giving the innovators a place to speak freely, we must also give the degenerates the same. That is good and fair. I am not calling for censorship. However, it is not a breach of free speech if we do not need to treat their ideas the same, as long as we do not censor them (suppress or delete as objectionable). I believe we must elevate good ideas, which we already do, but that we must also be intentional about discouraging bad ideas. We must be the social curators of our own algorithm. We must take the time out of our day to say “no, that content is not acceptable for the culture and civilization that I want to be a part of.”
You can believe in Free Speech and have morals. You can want Internet Freedom and dislike when something pops into your feed that is unacceptable to you. You can believe everyone deserves a voice and believe that some voices deserve a microphone and others deserve to be told that if they want to be taken seriously, they need to improve their ideas first.
On social media, this challenges people to curate their own content, to use appropriate hashtags to target audiences that appreciate their brand, while not spamming people who want nothing to do with their ideas. It challenges people to be mature and self-aware. To think before they speak. To be wise and well-intentioned, and not just post without any sort of self-spam-filter. But people do not become mature without already-mature people helping them along. So do not sit back and expect the Internet Trolls to come out from under their bridges on their own. You need to go down there and tell them that their behavior is not acceptable.
Internet Giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Google have been curating ideas for us for years so that the degenerates don’t derail the innovators, and the innovators don’t confuse the normies, and the normies don’t upset the degenerates, however allowing them to curate for us deprives us of our own voice in who we get to talk to. This has been especially detrimental in the recent years where certain ideas have been shunned completely, and monopolistic companies have denied people a place to speak and the opportunity to be accepted or rejected by their peers. Good content creators with innovative ideas rightly blame Big Brother for this censorship, but bad content creators with degenerate ideas conveniently blame Big Brother for their censorship, rather than taking any personal responsibility for their own unpopularity and poor communication.
This is not a good development. It creates a victim mentality in the degenerates, which motivates them to shout about their victimhood louder. If we want free speech on Minds to succeed, we need to show these bad content creators that they are unpopular because their ideas are bad, not because anyone is censoring them. We need to encourage them to improve. And we need to stop acting like people are perfect and fully mature “just the way they are.”
Therefore I am calling on you, my fellow Minds users, to use your social influence and maturity. To take some responsibility. To acknowledge that if you don’t want an algorithm dictating your feed for you, you’re going to have to curate your social circle yourself, and acknowledge that we all must grow a backbone and start standing up to bad ideas on the Internet, rather than scrolling past them and allowing them to breed more bad ideas, or reporting them to Big Brother and enabling the victimhood mentality even more.
In a virtual world where people only get positive feedback, spoiled, rotten children thrive. Any parent will tell you that discipline is essential to raising a respectful child. Feedback is much better than censorship: it allows the original poster to understand what they did that was not acceptable and improve, or if they don’t want to improve, it allows them to understand what they’re doing isn’t popular here and go somewhere else.
As a community, we must begin to socially embrace what is good content and discourage what is bad content. We must do this individually, so that no Internet authority has to do it for us. Therefore, I am going to start using the downvote button, responsibly and with care. Not emotionally just because I don’t like who someone is (that is a very important point here! There might be people I don’t like, but I don’t mass-downvote everything they say—for this to work I need to stick to ideas and individual posts only), but purposely and intentionally when an idea or post crosses a line, to let people know that this specific piece of content is not good, and that if they want to succeed on a platform like Minds, they need to up their game. I hope that you will join me.
I want to strongly caution that I am not advocating for downvoting on anything and everything you don’t like. Only content that is actually detrimental to the advancement civilization on the Internet. Obviously everyone has a different idea of what that is, but here are some suggestions based on current societal norms:
Give a Downvote When:
--Unoriginal Content does not credit the Original Creator
--Content that openly targets someone due to an immutable characteristic (something they can’t change about themselves)
--Plagiarism or Content that violates copyright
--Direct and explicit calls for violence
--Lies, or inaccurate content, manipulative content (provide a source to back it up)
--Explicit Content that is NOT tagged as such
Scroll Past, don’t Downvote, On:
--Opinions, even poorly formed ones (comment instead, create a respectful dialogue)
--Anything and Everything a person says or posts, just because you don’t like them (scroll past)
--Explicit Content that is Appropriately Tagged (scroll past)
--Lazy Content (scroll past, no reward, no punishment, just no engagement at all)
In some cases it would be beneficial to also comment on downvoted posts and explain why you downvoted. Be prepared for people to be upset with you. Many people do not understand that while Free Speech allows them to say whatever they want without the government interfering, it does not mean that their social circles don’t have the right, and even the obligation, to speak up and tell them that they’re being an idiot or a jerk.
We don’t want Big Brother to take down our posts, so we need each other to curate what is wrong and what is right, what is good and what is bad. I hope that this provides some insight into why I believe a downvote button is a good idea, and encourages users to employ the downvote button when they see content that users should reconsider posting, or post more responsibly, next time. This is just a friendly suggestion based upon my time on the Interwebs, not a requirement of any kind, nor is it endorsed by anyone.
I look forward to your feedback, and of course, if you think that this is a terrible idea, give me a downvote. I am always looking to improve and your feedback, even negative, is helpful in that regard :)
If you have additional ideas on what should go on the “downvote when” and “scroll past when” lists, I’d love to hear those in the comments!
Quotes for thought:
He should not be lulled to repose by the delusion that he does no harm who takes no part in public affairs. He should know that bad men need no better opportunity than when good men look on and do nothing. He should stand to his principles even if leaders go wrong.
—John Stuart Mills
No man, who is not inflamed by vain-glory into enthusiasm, can flatter himself that his single, unsupported, desultory, unsystematic endeavors are of power to defeat the subtle designs and united Cabals of ambitious citizens. When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.
*Note: It has come to my attention that while I was writing this blog, someone targeted a synagogue in a hate crime. Reports show that their social media history was full of anti-Semitic remarks. There is no use speculating what could have been done to stop him if someone had engaged in conversation with him about this topic instead of letting him enter an echo-chamber of like-minded hatred—it was yet another tragedy and I think we are all becoming so used to them that we don’t even give pause for the victims anymore—but I found it somewhat disheartening that the topic I was writing about had such a vivid example happen literally while I was writing about it. So, if you’ll join me in taking a moment to pause and pray for, wish peace upon, or send good thoughts to the victims and victim’s families of the tragedy, perhaps then we can finally face the truth that we need to individually stand up against things we don't agree with, while still maintaining a platform where people are allowed to say it.