Zen Of Design

The design and business of gaming from the perspective of an experienced developer

Free Speech Doesn’t Mean Hosting Services Have To Put Up With Your Creepy Shit

Last week, when Reddit clamped down on Redditors rights to harass fat girls to the point of suicide, many of the disenfranchised redditors took up a mantle that they were going to flee to Voat, a creepy alternative to reddit where you can still live in the free speech utopia of upskirt shots, ‘jailbait’ pics of young girls, discussions of white supremacy and revenge porn.  Because free speech!

Anyway, after the exile, KotakuInAction was one of the most vocal communities that was discussing emigrating to Voat.  Because while they are totes not about harassment, there sure seem to be a lot of people who don’t understand the harmlessness and benevolence of their tactics.  All of last week, this amusing post was pinned to the top of the sub.




Voat initially creaked under the load – it’s servers couldn’t handle the massive influx of free speeching edgelords.   They may or may not have been DDOSed in there (which if true, should be condemned).  But the worst was yet to come – when voat’s hosting company discovered what voat was all about, they terminated their contract with Voat.   Many observers note that Voat’s hosting is currently in Germany which is not currently exactly a bastion of free speech – they are still very cautious in particular about Nazi-related white supremacy, for example, and german hosting companies carry greater liability for illegal content than hosting in other countries.

This is shortly after 8chan proudly clinging to existence by refusing to cooperate with investigations about revenge porn occurring on their site – a nice little addition to the site to go with their tolerance of child porn (link contains blurred images but is still seriously skeevy).   Meanwhile, according to KiA, the mods running 8chan are barely keeping the thing standing up because no donation site wants their business.

There’s a lot of talk about how this is an assault on the free speech of gamergators, which was basically leaning on using these sites to keep their edgier operations going.   But this misses the point: free speech means that the government doesn’t interfere with your speech.  Free speech doesn’t mean that reddit has to let you post, paypal has to take your donations, or a hosting company to want your speech to be associated with their proud company name.  That being said, there apparently is a business opportunity for hosting services and billing services to edgelord websites.  I recommend if you go in that business, charging a premium.

Predictably, KiA is melting down about this (+4581).  Still, it would be nice if they would care about free speech for game devs, game critics and game journalists as much as they do about free speech for edgelords, MRAs, white supremacists, child pornographers, revenge porn distributors, twitter dogpilers and the sort of repugnant assholes who try to shame fat girls into suicide.


  1. So, you’re attitude is that the property rights of corporations outweigh the universally esteemed belief in the right of a person to freely express themselves? I’m reminded of another issue on which property rights were deemed more important than another person’s freedom: Slavery.

    OK, overly dramatic parallels aside, Assholes, Idiots, and Psychopaths abound, but when you enact rules that impotently try to limit and corral them, you swing the door open for manipulators and sociopaths to adjust and interpret those rules in a fashion that brings them personal power and keeps them king of their particular hill. Animal Farm is one famous example of this, but you can see the same thing happen in the history of the Catholic Church and many other powerful organizations. Dogmatic beliefs lead to exploitation, every time, as a result of homo sapien’s survival instinct to exploit the systems that surround them.

    Individuals need to be treated as individuals and their actions examined as such, you don’t use a nuclear bomb to kill a rabbit. Yes, that means you have to fight for the rights of people you vehemently disagree with but who aren’t breaking laws, while punishing those specific individuals who go too far. Tribalistic hatred has to be starved now that we are in the 21st Century, regardless of who is perpetrating it. The eternal feedback cycle of revenge and grudges has already ruined so much.

    One last note, in an increasingly corporate run world, limiting your understanding of the dangers that censorship can bring to strictly the governmental aspect strikes me as foolish.

    • On the other hand, there’s only so many hours in a day, and most people would rather shut off the sewage valve rather than inspect every single turd that flows by for flecks of gold.

      • Indeed, laziness is the path of the damned.

        • Damion Schubert

          June 19, 2015 at 11:09 pm

          Not at all. On Ultima Online, we discovered some individuals in a guild were duping gold. We banned the whole guild. This was actually pretty instrumental in turning around the culture of the game, so that people got the message that not only is exploiting bad, but you damn well better report exploiting if you stumble upon it.

          Online communities are not in the free speech business. They are in the harmonious community business. Some may choose to embrace free speech as a general goal, but some level of moderation will always be necessary to keep your good members happy and engaged, and some assholes will always be asked to leave.

          • Mostly because if you don’t make the assholes leave, the assholes will make everyone else leave.

    • Yes, that’s the balance that the courts have struck for decades: private property rights trump free speech on that property. That you were previously unaware of this balance is not fault of Damion’s.

      Additionally, “No rules” is also a system that can be gamed by “manipulators and sociopaths”: see Twitter, where “no rules” quickly led to Gamergaters realizing they could brigade a hashtag and make it totally unusable for anyone at all. Your preferred standard isn’t a panacea. It’s barely even an ethos.

      • Yes, and for years the courts upheld the rights of slave owners. Do all your morals stem from the letter of the law? Does the law serve actual people’s rights or the rights of fictional entities we call corporations?

        I don’t argue for “no rules”, I’m not the best writer so I’m sorry you got that impression, I just argue that complacently giving leverage to people that can be used against free expression isn’t wise and historically has always come back to bite humanity.

        • I have a cork bulletin board on the wall of my cafe. Anyone is welcome to pin their flyer, business card, or whatever to it. Except one day, some jerk smears shit on an origami swam and pins it up. I take it down. He puts up another one. I keep taking them down, he keeps putting them up.

          Is it curtailing freedom of speech for me to remove these shitty swans? Is it curtailing freedom of speech if I ban this shitposting asshole from entering my restaurant?

          • Are you conflating your cork bulletin board, owned specifically by you (an actual person) in an actual concrete place in reality, with a worldwide town square service owned by a corporation, a corporation susceptible to pressure from elements which might want to limit free expression in a way that isn’t in the best interests of the public?

          • @Litmus: Does the logic change if my restaurant is an Applebee’s?

            I don’t believe that corporations are people, but I know they are run by people, and those people have the right and the obligation to maintain the reputation of the corporation, and to take positive action against those who would use the services of that corporation for nefarious purposes.

          • Damion Schubert

            June 20, 2015 at 4:51 am

            Why do you believe that owners of businesses that are online have less rights than people who own Applebees? That’s just bizarre. Courts have routinely (in the US) upheld the notion that companies can ban troublesome users. This is settled law, and there’s no reasonable precedent to get to another point of view.

          • I notice in this debate, one person has their own business, while the guy arguing in favor of online harassment and white supremacy doesn’t even have a job.

        • If you think the jurisprudence that balanced free speech with private property is on shaky grounds, you’re beyond help. Sorry.

          • I think balancing the rights of corporations against the ability of small groups of people to have their opinions heard is bad, yep.

    • Damion Schubert

      June 19, 2015 at 11:07 pm

      If you want to know of the sort of thing that makes rational people roll their eyes in total disdain for GamerGate, it’s their tendency to do things like compare the plight of revenge porn and skirt upshot purveyors and child porn fanatics to that of the institution of slavery.

      If you stand on your table at Denny’s and start delivering a profanity laced sermon to Satan to the restaurant, Denny’s is free to make their own decision as to whether or not to allow you to finish, or whether to haul your ass outside. This is common fucking sense, and the fact that so many people don’t see that that’s also true online is somewhat baffling.

      • Again, these aren’t restaurants or private spaces in a business, they are websites designed to allow people to communicate with each other, limiting free expression on them is playing into the hands of people who want to control the flow of information.

        The kind of thing that makes me roll my eyes and use lame heavy handed analogies is when people think it’s possible to limit free expression in order to moderate bad behaviour. Guess what, criminals will, by nature, ignore rules. Attempting to curtail this through silencing obnoxious voices is futile and ultimately self-defeating, of course it’s legal, but why the hell would a free thinking person actively support their own potential suppression, especially when there is so much precedence that real bad elements, like institutional ones, not isolated criminals who no one disputes should be made to pay for their crimes, thrive in this environment. Not to mention such suppression further drives those elements you dislike underground and forces them to invent new ways to bypass attention.

        • Damion Schubert

          June 20, 2015 at 4:59 am

          Yeah, and you know what – if you’re a LaRouchian, you can’t get into the Wall Street Journal either. Part of being successful is getting to decide what goes into your media outlet or not. And part of being a successful hosting or billing company is not being attached to controversial shit.

          Your alternative is one where the control goes over to the assholes capable of shouting the loudest and driving the reasonable and rational debaters from the town square. Maintaining a reasonable signal-to-noise ratio is necessary to run ANY community (including 8chan), because if you don’t, then people who don’t have the iron stomach necessary to endure 8chan’s withering assault on good taste will be driven from the town square.

          Freedom of speech means that if you can find someone who has a printing press, or buy your own, the government won’t stop you. But the wall street journal doesn’t have to give you your op ed page, the Applebees doesn’t have to let you smear shit on their walls, and Paypal doesn’t have to sully their reputation by having you put their logo on your website. If you are a protected class, perhaps you could get to a case. However, ‘pedophiles and shitlords’ as of yet are not recognized as one.

          A free thinking person would suppress free expression because if left unchecked, the entire internet would look like 8chan and FatPeopleHate. This is not tenable to good and thorough discussion of ideas or a fundamentally sound society. You want to enjoy your free speech. Enjoy it in the dark, fetid corners of the internet far away from those of us interested in talking about real things rather than comparing Ellen Fucking Pao to a mass murdering tyrant.

          • It’s strange how intent you are on arguing against the caricature that you have mentally painted me as representing. Like that I care about gamergate, voat, reddit, 8chan, pedophiles, obnoxious teens, or Ellen Pao, (I’ve actually never posted on any chan in my life and my reddit posts number a few dozen, traditional forums and face to face conversations are more my bag) and not that I’m strictly concerned with the potential for people, who might hold vital dissenting opinions, to be easily silenced in mediums that can be used for worldwide communication, mass human interaction on a level never seen before. Yes, all those profit-driven corporations and propaganda sources are allowed to set their rules of their spaces, but why should you, a simple plebeian, cheer for your own potential muzzling, have you come to identify with your captors? Actions against free expression should be harshly condemned, not applauded just because your enemy of the day is the victim at this time. These companies would cave in an instant to a culture that truly fostered free expression, they flourish or fail at the whim of the public.

            I guess our viewpoint on the fundamental nature of humanity differs too much, I just don’t believe that allowing free expression is letting in the barbarians at the gates, or that in the name of stopping a few barbarians (which could and should be dealt with individually if they break actual laws) we set in motion and cheer for a mechanism which allows the suppression of dangerous ideas, when only a few variables have to be tweaked for it to apply to anything which might challenge the powerful, you know, the guys who cause actual wars and real bloodshed, who have raped the environment and divided people around the world.

            Well, cheers, hope you stay well, I don’t think we’ll convince each other, as I’m too much of a rambler to stay on track and you’ve got too much of yourself invested in your disdain for the Other. Who Benefits is the only thing I’d ask to objectively consider.

          • John Henderson

            June 20, 2015 at 1:41 pm

            The nature of humanity is base heuristics, chaos, noise and murder.

            As a civilized society, we all as individuals must apply our own personal graces to rise above our base nature, for the sake of our civilization, and encourage others to do the same.

            To turn your argument around, if the purpose of the Internet is freedom of conversation and the spread of ideas, then the unchecked, uncouth, destructive ideas of a few are obstacles to that freedom. What you ought to be asking for is liberty, the ability to make a choice to say what you believe, and accept the consequences. But there should and will always be consequences. To argue otherwise is to ignore history.

            Or to be a rando serving up word salad.

          • The internet already does look like 8chan and fatpeoplehate.

            People have been gloating and crowing about this reddit nonsense, as if now all this stuff will go away. But you can’t censor every website out there you don’t like, and squash every voice. No matter how much you want to Damion.

          • John Henderson

            June 23, 2015 at 7:59 pm

            People can be civil if they want to. And a little moderation goes a long way. It’s not censorship if they can express themselves on their own terms. But you don’t have to use the Internet to say what you want to say. The Internet should not enable noise and chaos, but it takes people to prevent that from happening.

    • Chaos-Engineer

      June 19, 2015 at 11:51 pm

      So, you’re attitude is that the property rights of corporations outweigh the universally esteemed belief in the right of a person to freely express themselves? I’m reminded of another issue on which property rights were deemed more important than another person’s freedom: Slavery.

      OK, I see where you’re confused.

      People are able to freely express themselves on their own property. (This includes apartments and other kinds of rented or leased property.) They’re not necessarily allowed to freely express themselves on other peoples’ property, or even to stay on other peoples’ property after they’ve been asked to leave.

      So slaves weren’t allowed to freely express themselves on other people’s property. The problem is that they were forced to stay on other peoples’ property, even if they really wanted to leave. That makes a big difference. Do you see why?

      Also, in common usage, “free expression” doesn’t literally mean “you can say absolutely anything you want without restriction”. It’s understood to contain common-sense restrictions on things like fraud or criminal harassment or child pornography.

      • Did I ever suggest that breaking the law is ok? My point is to be careful in giving the power to define what falls under the banner of forbidden speech to corporations and people who don’t have public interest at heart.

        • Chaos-Engineer

          June 20, 2015 at 3:04 am

          No, but there’s a significant portion of the 8chan/voat crowd that does want to break the law. That sometimes gets lost in these discussions so I wanted to highlight it.

          • Significant portion, is that closer to a minority or majority? Regardless, that’s a good thing, law enforcement will know exactly where to find them in order to trap them with honeypots, just make sure they are actually breaking a law and not discussing unpleasant things.

    • If you really want to be free of corporate control, switch to diaspora* or something.

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