Freedom, Censorship, & You:
The Ultimate Guide
Table Of Contents
1. Getting Censored
2. Born Censored
3. Freedom To Express
4. Attention Economy
5. Rules & Laws
10. Political Correctness
13. Whales (Hive)
- Language Psychology
- Looks Like Bullying
- Content Still Exists
- Attempted Censorship
15. Overton Window
The Last Word
Created: May 13, 2021
Reading Time: 61min.
Last Update: May 15, 2021
Freedom & censorship are hot topics. This post pulls no punches. Please avoid if easily triggered.
The world benefits from people communicating with kind intentions, and this article aims to do that very thing, but it’s still not for the faint of heart. Please consider avoiding this article if you’re not in a calm, zen headspace on this topic.
1. Getting censored
"Daddy, daddy! My selfies got deleted from Hive!"
Emma wailed, her tear-streaked face red as an apple.
“Shh, it’s ok honey, tell me what happened,” I said as I hugged her tightly.
“I don’t know! When I went to bed last night, I was getting the most likes I’ve ever gotten, and this morning I woke up and my post was downvoted into oblivion!”
“Yeah, it just had the number 13 next to the broken-heart icon. Why is this happening? I poured my heart and soul into those shots.”
“I know love, and they were truly beautiful.”
“Yeah! So why? And how can I get them seen again?”
I filled my lungs and let out a sigh. “Well Emma, I can explain it to you, but please know that once you learn this, you’ll never be able to see the world the same way again.”
“I don’t care, I need to understand this. It’s total bulls–t!”
“Hey! Lanaguage, miss!”
“I’m kidding, kiddo. Say whatever you want, I’m not here to censor you. And it’s a good thing too, because that’s exactly what we’ll be talking about. Freedom, power, and censorship. Are you sure you’re ready?”
“For sure!” Emma’s head bobbled with enthusiasm. I really hoped by the time we were done, her youthful eagerness would still be there. “Where do we start?”
“We start with the fact that you’re born into a government, because that lays the foundation for why your photos were deleted.”
2. BORN INTO CENSORSHIP
"Wait, WTF? I'm born into a government?!"
“I don’t believe that.”
“Well it’s true. Your parents have power over you, responsibility for (and to) you, and are (arguably) in charge of governing your behavior for a very long time.”
“But that’s not a real government, right?”
“Well… in any group there’s a ‘real’ government, honey. Sometimes it’s just harder to spot because it’s shadow-politics.”
“It’s the invisible social dynamics that are always present. For as long as people are in group, one person will have more influence, power, and control, while others will have less. I’ve never seen a group where all members held equally power of influence. Not once since the dawn of time.”
“But can’t they each just do their own thing? They have equal power, right?”
“They can, but as soon as they all go their own way, they’re no longer a group. So like I said, as long as people are in a group… shadow-politics exist, and a government exists, however loose or invisible it may be.”
“So you’re saying that even if no one’s agreed on a government out loud, one exists in every group.”
“Wow, when you put it that way, I guess I really was born into a government.”
“Yep, and some governments (parents) are liberal and more ‘free,’ while others are very strict, conservative or oppressive.”
“Oh, like you and Mom!” Emma said with a cheshire grin.
I poked Emma in the shoulder playfully. We certainly hadn’t raised a timid child. Sheesh.
"Whatever. So can you tell me the hierarchy in our family?"
“Well, Dad is the head of the hierarchy, Mom is next in the hierarchy, I’m third in the hierarchy, and Cassie is fourth in the hierarchy. But my feminist friends say that Mom should be the head of the family. Or even that I should be.”
“That’s fine. I’m not here to debate which governance structure is the best, or to get into some back and forth about gender roles. I’m here to give you as much insight as I can in regards to restoring your photo to it’s former glory.”
“Ok, but can you just tell me what to say to my friends about our family-structure?”
“Sure. Acknowledge that some families are exactly as your friends say, with the mom as the main influencer. Even acknowledge that there are families where the kid has the most influence — sidenote: they’re usually spoiled, with parents doing whatever the child wants. Then tell them you’re working on shifting the power dynamics of your family and reclaiming your place as rightful head of the household, they’ll probably love it.”
Emma giggled “They will!”
“Right, so back to the main point. This ‘head of household’ structure is a fairly common hierarchy, but many people won’t admit it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, they’ll try and pretend that ‘power is 100% equal’ between everyone in the family. Or that both children are treated with 100% fair, equal, utopian justice with zero biases. Stuff like that.”
“Can’t that be true?”
“I suppose anything’s possible, but equal power distribution in a group –if it exists– must be extremely rare, because I’ve not seen it.”
“But it sounds so nice…”
“Yes, and a world free of poverty or censorship sounds nice too… have you seen that very often?”
“Wait, censorship, that’s what I want to know about! I don’t care that I was born into a government, they banned my photos!”
“Shh, relax, we’ll get there. You’re going to understand exactly what’s happening and how to deal with it. But first you have to understand that your Mom and I can exert power over you to stop you from swearing, to dress more ‘appropriately’, to limit your computer time, etc.”
“Uh, hello, of course I understand that, you’re both evil dictators.” Emma loved pushing boundaries with her sassy barbs, but we always took them well because she radiated love when she said them.
“Pssh, you got it easy, we let you decide what language fits a situation, we encourage your modeling career, other kids face way worse from their parents.”
“I know, Dad, I was just kidding!”
“That’s the thing though, you might be kidding, you might have truly good intentions and love in your heart, but if someone else hears you while they’re not in a good place mentally or emotionally, they may assume they’re being attacked, not lovingly joked with.”
"I hear that, peeps be triggered, yo."
“Ahem, yes, ‘peeps be triggered’ indeed. And if the people who get triggered may try to censor you in response. If they have enough power in your ‘tribe,’ they may even succeed.”
“Again, like you and Mom, right?”
“Cut it out, I’m teaching you something important.”
“Ok, ok, I kid.”
“Right, so if someone can censor your joke, do you have freedom of speech?”
“And if you’re being censored now, did you ever have it?”
“I don’t know…
3. FREEDOM TO EXPRESS
...did I have freedom of speech since birth, or no?"
“Well, think about it. Every creature in nature is born with the ability to make whatever sounds it wants (or is capable of), right?”
“And you’re a creature in nature, right?”
“So are you the magical exception to the rule?”
“Probably not. I get it, I was born with freedom of speech. I was born able to make whatever sounds I want (or am capable of.)”
“Bingo, and I’m pretty sure, deep down, everyone knows this is true. They are born free, able to say anything, at least, as an individual.”
"So that means I can post anything I want right?"
“Well, as an individual, you have the freedom and capability to do so, yes.”
“Whatchu mean, as an individual?”
“Things change when you add even one other person into the mix.”
“Because like we discussed right at the start, as soon as you have a group, you have power dynamics.”
“So one person will have more influence in the group, and the other will have less. You’re still free to do what you want as an individual, but if member A’s ‘free-speaking’ pushes past member B’s ‘boundaries,’ there may be an attempt to censor, or worse, the group will no longer be a group. It will be two people splitting off into their own ways of life. This is no path to civilization.”
"Hey, I was born 'wild and free', why civilize me?"
“Because to be part of a group, is to engage in ‘civilization.’ No one forces you to be part of a group. There are people who live as hermits & outsiders, and they get on just fine.”
“Got it, but I’m born into a group (with my parents), and if I choose to stay in that group, I’m engaging in civilization.”
“Yes, but if staying in the group has a chance of lessening your freedom… why would anyone stay?”
“I’ve never really thought about it. Um, give me a second.”
I could see the gears turning in Emma’s brain. Although we’d jumped right into deep topics like human freedoms & governance, I knew she’d get it. She’s a bright kid.
“Did you figure it out?”
“Yes, because they benefit from being in the group.”
See? Smart as a whip, I beamed proudly. “Exactly, but what benefits?”
“A sense of belonging? Not being alone? Security? Stability?”
I clapped! “Yes! All those things, and likely more. So no one really ‘civilized’ you, you were born into civilization and each day you decide whether to remain part of the tribe and get benefits from it, or to use your absolute freedom of speech and risk pushing past the boundaries of the group.”
“Hmm, maybe that’s what I did to get my photos censored by Hive?”
“It’s possible, but don’t jump to conclusions yet. It could’ve just been a bug, a misclick, or something else entirely.”
“Sorry, it just hurts to have a creation I poured my heart into, one that people seemed to love, disappear in the blink of an eye.”
“I know Em, but stick with me here and you’ll gain so much power over censorship. To be honest, it’s good that you’re upset about this. It shows you’re passionate and engaged with the system & the group. It shows you care about social boundaries. And if you really do want to change your group’s boundaries, you can. But knee-jerk reactions, finger-pointing, and blame aren’t an effective way to accomplish it. Instead, your main tools are mastering your emotions, gaining influence, and practicing persuasion in order to get agreement from the tribe. We need people who do these things to ensure society’s boundaries grow and evolve, otherwise we’d be stuck in the dark ages, we’d still have separate bathrooms for people of color, for example. Anyway, we were talking about how …
...boundary-pushing can result in separation from your tribe."
“Yes, yes, I’m with you. And?”
“And if you hold a lot of power in your tribe, you can push boundaries with very little consequences, but if you’re low status in your tribe, when you push boundaries the consequences will often be ejection from the group.”
"So it comes down to power & powerlessness?"
“In a way.”
“What do you mean ‘in a way?'”
“Well, every human being is powerful. And group boundaries can shrink, grow, and be influenced by interactions inside the tribe, as well as ones from outside the tribe. It only takes one person tapping into their personal power –like Rosa Parks did– to start a revolution.”
“So then no group has power over me, right?”
“Sort of. Your individual power may drop the more you hunger to be part of a group. Rosa Parks claimed her power because she literally didn’t care if the entire group hated her. She wanted to sit, she knew the risks, and she stepped up and took them.”
“So someone who cared too much about what the group thought of her, would put away her own power to create change, and instead just ‘play nice.'”
“Spot on. Having power in a group requires influence, unattachment to the group, and the boldness to push boundaries and risk upsetting the group. But you were still born as a free individual, with unlimited freedom and personal power, that when you’re alone, is fairly obvious.”
“Right, when I’m alone I can speak out whatever I want, do whatever I want. Like you said, it’s only the moment I involve others that power dynamics come into play.”
“Yep. If other members of the group feel fear, attack, discomfort, etc. as you express yourself, they’ll likely exert power to pressure you into changing.”
“But fear & victimhood is just a form of powerlessness, right?”
“Yes, so let’s look at an example. If Joe is unable to manage his emotions on the topic of nudity, what happens when Olivia posts a naked photo to raise money for charity?”
“Joe gets triggered, like anyone who’s not great with their emotions.”
“Yes, he does, and?”
“And he feels attacked and uncomfortable.”
“And he tries to get it banned, or censored. He tries to exert power in the group through protests or voting Olivia off the island or something.”
“You got it! You’re following along well. Are you feeling like you understand your banned-photo situation slightly better?”
“A bit I guess, I still don’t get what I’m supposed to do about my deleted pic, but I feel smarter somehow.”
“Heh, good enough. Let’s continue. Your example of Joe’s behavior had him exerting power through protests, getting voters on his side, etc.”
“So those are good examples of power being leveraged in a ‘democratic’ group or culture.”
“Em, please, be patient with this, k? Censorship isn’t exactly a ‘rush through this’ topic.”
“The point is that while there are other forms of power-exertion in dictatorships, in a democratic culture, ‘public opinion’ is one of the strongest forms of power, and it is often brought to bear on anyone expressing near the edge of the group’s boundaries.”
“I get that, that’s why I said Joe would speak out against Olivia and start getting people on his side.”
“Right, but to get the public opinion of the majority of his group to side with him in banning Olivia from the group, what must he acquire?”
“I don’t know, money?”
“Nope, attention. He needs people’s attention, and more specifically,
4. ATTENTION ECONOMY
...he needs their positive attention."
“Ah, he needs their agreement.”
“Joe is ‘selling’ the idea that nudes are bad, even if they’re for charity, and that Olivia’s free-expression is not good for the group.”
“Right, and like any ‘activist’, he needs his followers to ‘buy into’ his idea with their agreement.”
“Well said. So if Joe gets enough people on his side, what will happen?”
“Olivia will either cave to the pressure and play nice, or she’ll reclaim her individual freedom by separating from a group who’s pressuring her to conform.”
“Yep and this happens all the time in society, even three kids playing in a sandbox.”
“Yes, like Hivers downvoting my photo because it makes them uncomfortable!”
“Hey, what did I tell you about jumping to conclusions and immediately labeling Hive as bad?”
Emma sighed. “You said it could be a glitch, or some totally justifiable downvote.”
“Yes, and since you don’t like it when others are triggered by your photos, don’t you dare be triggered by your assumptions about hive whales.”
“Sorry Dad, I’m sure there’s a good explanation for all this.”
“That’s better. Now, where were we?”
"Joe, Olivia, followers, attention."
“Yes, Olivia is on one side of the nudity issue, Joe is on the other, and by being vocal about it, they get the attention of followers. This makes them each a leader in the group, at least temporarily. And leaders have different levels of influence and power in a group, there’s no arguing it. And the followers in a group are often those with low critical-thinking skills. Instead of thinking an issue through themselves, they simply think ‘do I like Joe, or do I like Olivia?’ and then side with whoever they ‘like.’ Does this make sense?”
"Sounds as if many people are sloppy with their attention?"
“They are. But it’s an opportunity for savvier members of the group to gain influence. They can appeal to followers in the group and easily snatch up their agreement. This is what politicians aim to do, because they know our society runs on an attention-economy.”
“I’ve seen some charismatic people get tons of attention, be elevated to leader-status, and then just abuse their power, or get lazy and stop caring, or just generally be terrible leaders.”
“You’ll likely see it often. A lot of times, a charismatic person gets attention, becomes a leader, and then sucks at leading. Just how it is. The masses have given them power, failed to stop their meteoric rise, and now they’re entrenched. The only solution is for another member to ‘win’ at the attention game, or for the masses to wake up, reclaim their power, and give it to superior leader, despite that leader possibly being ‘bad’ at charismatically ‘getting’ attention.”
“Sounds like some of society’s best-suited leaders get skipped over in favor of those who persuasively manipulate mass-attention.”
“100% true. Our best leaders may be right under our nose, but the masses will never elect them because they aren’t looking for them, and since these leaders aren’t really ‘attention-chasers’ they’ll never end up on the radar. But that’s a talk for another time.”
“But aren’t all leaders just power hungry for follower’s attention?”
“Yes and no. Usually they start out well-meaning but confused. They want to lead the group to a better life. They have ideas for change that they believe in. Some realize that getting attention empowers them to accomplish more –which they’re eager to do– so they end up fiending after attention like an addict.”
“I get it, but what does all this have to do with my censored photo?”
“Well, since leaders are usually trying to create a better life (hopefully for the whole group, but even just for themselves), they’ll often have strong opinions on what ‘should’ and ‘shouldnt’ happen in the group.”
“Ohhh, and leader-Joe believes the naked body is bad for the tribe, while leader-Olivia believes it’s good for the tribe.”
“Yes, and they both realize that if the majority doesn’t agree with their view, they’re going to be forced to ‘play nice,’ unable to live the way they want. (At least while remaining part of the tribe.)”
"Seems silly to think humans will agree, no?"
“Yep, 8 billions humans! Not likely (or even physically possible) for all of them to agree on a topic, all at the same time.”
“So what’s the point?”
Our chat had dug deep into the foundations of free speech and censorship, but Emma clearly wasn’t connecting them to her own dilemma. I knew it’d click for her if I could nudge her to imagine the outcome, so I carried on.
“The point is if Joe or Olivia can get a majority on their side, they’ll eventually get to create a ‘rule,’ (unspoken or explicit) about nudity. Imagine what will happen if the group sides with Joe.”
“He’ll make a rule like ‘don’t post nipples’ or something.”
"But isn't Hive different? It's decentralized with no CEO!"
“Yes, Hive is different. Your photo wasn’t deleted. It wasn’t ‘banned.’ It still exists on the blockchain, you still own it, and it still has a URL you can link to and promote. But Hive isn’t so magically different as to be an exception to human social dynamics that have existed since cave-man times.”
“It’s not lame, honey. It’s nature, it’s physics, it’s how social group dynamics have worked for centuries. Whether it’s a group like our little family, or Joe & Olivia’s group, or an entire social media platform… the influencers of the group are looking to make rules & consequences, because they know there’s no way to have everyone agree. It’s the only way they know to create order for the group. They’re doing it constantly even if they don’t realize it.”
“Ah, unspoken rules, like the shadow-politics you mentioned.”
“Yep, like an unspoken rule in our house might be ‘dont ask Dad for money when he’s angry,’ right?”
“Haha, yeah, me and Cass learned that ages ago.”
“Sure, but technically, as a person, shouldn’t you have the ‘freedom’ to ‘speak out’ any request whenever you want?”
“Yes, but pissing off the already-angry Dad isn’t a great idea. We might get grounded, or never get money again or something.”
“Exactly, so the unspoken rule is: if you want to get along in this tribe called ‘our family’, curb your ‘personal freedom’ a bit and aim to ask for funds at appropriate times.”
5. Rules & Laws
"Hmm. Is that why people follow laws?"
“They follow laws because they care more about getting along with the group than they do about expressing some tiny aspect of their personal freedom. A lot of women wouldn’t even post photos like you did, even if deep down, they really wanted to. Do you know why?”
“They’d rather live in peace and avoid controversy in the tribe?”
“Absolutely correct. And what about the ones who take their photos even farther than you do?”
“They’d rather express their personal freedom, even if it risks ejection from the tribe.”
“You’re on fire, hon. So does this put your downvoted photo into a bit more perspective?”
"So whoever has seniority decides the laws?"
“Yep. Some influencers will censor anything they don’t like, others will censor only things the majority disagrees with, others do their best to censor ‘nothing’ except hate speech. Whoever’s most influential will decide what’s acceptable in their group.
A) Exists in all groups, from a small family to a nation.
B) It’s effected by someone of higher group status.
C) It’s the suppression of another’s expression due to it’s ‘offensiveness.’
Now, in a democracy, the power-players love to make it sound like people are ‘equal’ and ‘everyone gets a vote’. It sounds like a beautiful system, a utopia, right? There’s a formula that makes crowd-wisdom work. And technically, it may be true. But are all votes equally influential? That’s not something they talk about much. And does the fact that many ‘followers’ are sloppy with their votes matter? Does the fact that many can’t or won’t think for themselves matter? Equality in democracy doesn’t play out as neatly as people imagine.”
“How does it play out?”
“It plays out with a few savvy influencers in positions of power. These people are able to leverage the media to get votes. They can leverage money to get votes. They can leverage rhetoric to get votes. And whichever influencer plays the game and commandeers the most votes from the group, gets to decide the law. It’s usually the government, but who’s to say certain corporations aren’t pulling the governements strings?”
“Dang. And since there are few leaders and many followers, once the law is in place, it will likely remain there.”
“Yep, and on social media, CEOs who own the platforms, such as Mark Zuckerberg hold even more power, because their company isn’t really a democracy, and he and his board can simply make a decision and users of the platform either go along with it or are ejected from the group.”
"But you said all groups are like that."
“They are. And it’s why a lot of people have left Facebook for Hive. Hive is a more appealing tribe to be a part of to them.”
“True, I have posted many photos there that Facebook would’ve banned instantly with no recourse.”
“Right, but just because Hive is decentralized and gives you more freedom with less bans…”
“…doesn’t make it the exception to social dynamics, I know, I’m getting it, Ell… Oh… Ell.”
“If you’re getting it, then you tell me why whales at Hive get to censor people?”
“Because they have the most power and influence in the tribe. Just like a government gets to make laws for a nation, and parents get to make laws for kids, Hive whales get to make laws for Hive, whether explicitly stated, or unspoken shadow-politics.”
“Oustanding summary, miss! I’m proud of you. There is always an hierarchy, even in companies, governments, and tribes that claim otherwise. Hierarchies are part of how nature organizes groups.”
“OK, but there are thousands of users on Hive who each have the option to ‘downvote’ any whales or witnesses they don’t approve of, at any time…
...The people have the power, don't they?"
“You’re right, just like you, Cassie, and Mom have the option to unite against me at any time, but are you going to? I’m the main breadwinner in the family and I keep us in food and shelter while you go to school and Mom looks after the home. So is it seriously in the realm of possibility, y’all are going to outvote me and change the direction of our little group?”
“Hey! Are you saying you’re some king in charge of everything?”
“In a way, yes. I’m a whale, with a lot of power in our group. I didn’t take it by force, or manipulate you into getting it. It was given to me. All 3 of you allow me to have it, and you won’t unite against me, almost no matter what.”
“Uh, if you keep talking like this I’m just going to move out and tell Cassie to run away. I don’t encourage dictators.”
“Good, that’s how I raised you. You do have that power at all times, but I can call your bluff too. I believe you’re making empty threats, and that you’ll stay in our little family, and allow me to have all the power still.”
“Yuck! So annoying. So we made you a whale because we care so much about the stability of our group, and we refuse to risk upsetting you?”
“Yes. All three of you do have the freedom of expression to go against my leadership. You always have. But if one of you starts getting uppity, I can give more money to the other two, and begin treating you worse. I can influence things, drive a wedge between the 3 of you, use my power to make sure you never agree and unite. I can stamp out revolution in sneaky ways or overt ways.”
“Holy… you’re a monster!”
Emma’s lip was curled into a pout and her body was turned away from me. Realizing my example really bothered her, I spoke.
“Hey, hey, honey, this is all hypothetical. C’mon you know I love all three of you, have a good heart, and would never abuse my power this way.” Emma relaxed a bit and opened her posture, so I continued. “I’m pouring my heart into explaining this so that you’re never manipulated by anyone. So that you understand your individual power and the power of others.”
“Doesn’t sound like it, geez.”
“Hey now, would anyone else have the guts to be so honest about possible family dynamics and abuse? If I was really trying to harm someone, I certainly wouldn’t tell them what’s going on, and give them the keys to seeing the manipulation, right?”
“Fair enough. I guess this is pretty deep stuff that the puppetmasters would never tell us.”
“Right! I would’ve went on living our happy life. I’m only doing this because YOU wanted to see through the looking glass. YOU wanted to know about your photo. I could be out playing golf right now, I don’t have to be sharing secrets and risking upsetting my daughter’s temper.”
“Ok, ok. Thanks, I feel better.”
“Good, so do you want to continue, or is this too dark?”
“No, no, keep going.”
“OK, so do you get that even if a system ‘appears’ to be setup for equality and freedom, that influence and social politics are always at play, forever?
"Yeah, censorship seems heavily connected to politics..."
“It is. There are politics in every family. Sometimes kids get fed up with the politics & censoring of their behavior. They choose to leave the group to reclaim their own personal freedom. Other times kids care so much about the family, they allow nearly all of their personal freedoms to be crushed. Some kids do a blend of both, picking their battles.”
"Can we look at an example please?"
“Sure. Let’s say you post a photo on Hive. For some reason, it doesn’t trigger any whales, they all just find it lovely, and valuable, and they WANT it in the tribe. What happens?”
“They upvote me, and I earn a lot of crypto.”
“And why do you earn a lot?”
“Because people with a lot of influence have ‘approved’ of my contribution to the tribe.”
“Do you complain when that happens?”
“No, I love it.”
“Right, because the group is giving you exactly what you want. It’s giving you the freedom to post the thing you wanted to post, and even more so it’s rewarding you with validation, approval, engagement, improved reputation, influence, power in the group, and currency.”
“God that sounds amazing. I was getting that last night, to be honest.”
“Right, now let’s say you post a photo on Hive, and it triggers some whales for some reason.”
“Maybe they feel you’ve been earning too much lately, and want to leave some for others. Maybe they have a trauma in their past about photos like that. Maybe they have strong opinions on the female form. Maybe it’s a misunderstanding because they’re confused about your intent. It could be anything, doesn’t matter.”
“Because that’s not the point. When they were upvoting your photo you didn’t go prowling around for their reasons about it, did you?”
“Because all you care about is getting what you want from the group. That’s why you’re part of the group, for benefits, right? Didn’t we agree on that in the beginning?”
“So does it matter why they downvoted you? Or does it just matter that suddenly you’re not getting what you want from the group anymore, and you’re yearning for the freedom to express without backlash? That suddenly you don’t have their power and influence on your side?”
“I guess the latter.”
"And what if you had billions of dollars?
What if you could make a deal with a few the whales to upvote you once more, would you care about the downvotes?”
“Hmmm, I’m not sure.”
“What if you made a deal that for every post you made, these whales would upvote you for like a thousand bucks? No one would know.”
“I’m not sure, sounds shady.”
“Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but it’d be you wielding financial power in the group, to get agreement from others, ending up with freedom to express, with minimal downvote backlash, and your life would be better than ever, since you didn’t have to worry about downvotes ever again.”
“I’m still not sure I’d do it.”
“Well that’s probably because you’ve never had that much money and power, so you don’t know how you’d behave. You might have a guess, but many others before have started out poor, got money, and happily bought votes and agreement from others with no compunctions.”
“Why does any of this matter? I’m not gonna win the lottery and buy myself into the trending feed!”
“Right, but how do you know others aren’t doing that right now? How do you know this isn’t happening, or won’t ever happen in your tribe?”
“I mean, I just assumed…”
“Assuming makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’…
…and ‘me!’ I know Dad, god!” Emma finished the lesson I’d repeated to her ever since she was little.
"Do you know what advertisers have done since the beginning?"
“I dunno. Bought upvotes?”
“Basically. Like lobbyists and politicians, they buy attention, agreement. Look what happened to facebook! It started as an ‘equal’ platform based on ‘organic’ reach, now you literally can’t be seen unless you’re paying Zuckerberg for ads.”
"So censorship & free speech is just about money & power?"
“A bit reductive, but kind of, yes, and always has been. In groups… (Positive) attention leads to agreement. Agreement leads to influence. Influence leads to power. Power leads to cash-flow, & rule-making.”
"So people's sloppy beliefs, attention, & emotion makes censorship possible?"
“More like people’s beliefs, attention, and emotion is their power. And they often give their power to certain influencers in the tribe, which allows those influencers to influence what is and isn’t acceptable in their tribe.
“This whole thing is so bleak for humanity.”
“No it’s not, my little bumblebee. It’s the nature of power. It’s the nature of influence. It’s the nature of social dynamics, and not understanding it is the only reason you’re upset about censorship.”
“It’s not natural at all, it’s gross.”
“It is. The largest, strongest, most powerful lion makes decisions for the pride. The alpha wolf makes decisions for the pack. The queen bee makes decisions for the hive. The most influential parent makes decisions for the family. The most influential leader makes decisions for the nation.”
“Then why does all this just make me feel worse?”
“Because you don’t see yourself as the most influential. But you could be.”
"Tap into your personal power.
Become a stronger lion. Start your own group. Whatever. If you’re Olivia, figure out a way to get more people, with more power, on your side than Joe. The beautiful part of all this is that a ‘normal girl’ like Rosa Parks can be more powerful than all the slavers and segregators. The Wright Brothers can be more influential than the entire scientific community of their time. Stefani Germanotta can pop out of nowhere to catapult LGBT into the mainstream as Lady Gaga.”
“So you’re saying that instead of getting upset at all these power games, I should learn to play them.”
“I’m saying you may want to learn to WIN at them. No daughter of mine was born to be a victim, a whiner, a finger-pointer, a blamer. I raised you to be hold your head high, follow your heart, and do what feels best to you.”
“That’s what I’m doing with my photos!”
"Yes, but there are consequences to every action."
“It feels like freedom of expression isn’t really free.”
“Expression is free, but that doesn’t mean free of consequences.”
“And the consequences in any tribe are determined by the most influential members, whether that’s a minority or a majority. I’m getting it, Dad.”
“Right, so if you get it, what are your options when something you don’t like happens?”
“1. Become influential enough to change the group. 2. Leave the group and start my own. 3. Play nice and stfu.”
“Yes! You’re finally seeing clearly and putting your knee-jerk anger aside. What’s stfu, though?”
“Uh… it’s internet slang for ‘Shut The Eff Up.'”
“Oh, I see. Out of touch Dad, I guess.”
“You may be out of touch with netspeak, but you’re totally in touch with freedom of speech and censorship issues. My mind is blown right now.”
“Good. I told you you’d never see life the same way again. And this is a good thing. Because once you’re out of the matrix, you can decide how powerful and influential you want to be. Either in your current group, or in another one, or by starting your own. If I don’t like what’s going on on Facebook, I can join Hive. Hive is a tribe that was founded because the founders didn’t like what was happening on Steem. If you don’t like what’s happening on Hive, start up the world’s first sex-positive social platform. Look what SuicideGirls accomplished.”
“Ugh, that sounds like such a hassle, can’t I just talk to the mods at Hive and get my post restored?”
“Sure, but that’s just another form of influence. It’s not money or law-making, but it’s still getting agreement from others. You’ll still have to sell them on the fact that there’s been a mistake, and sell them on the fact that it’s worth restoring your post to it’s rightful glory. It’s still persuading others to your cause, just like Olivia and Joe in our earlier example.”
"Eww, I don't want to 'sell' people."
“Oh honey, you already are.”
“What do you mean?”
“You may not realize it, but you just tried to sell me on the idea that ‘selling is yucky’, with your ‘eww’, phrase. But I won’t buy it, because I know the truth.”
“Oh really, and what’s that?”
"To sell is human."
“That’s actually the title of a book by a very smart man, you may want to read it.”
“When you post a photo, you’re trying to sell people on the idea that your photo is valuable and worth their attention and upvotes. And when many upvote it, but a few whales don’t buy-in to your idea and dole out the downvotes, you’re upset. But you’re not upset because the world is unfair or censorship is out of control, you’re upset because you were unable to sell this tribe on your idea about your photo. You’re upset because some bit players bought what you were selling, but the influencers didn’t buy in. And it feels shitty when people don’t buy in to what we’re selling.”
“Dad! Language!” Emma was smiling, playfully throwing my earlier phrase back at me.
“Shush you. Did you hear the bombs I be dropping?” I did my best to affect a patois street accent of some kind, but like many parents, failed hard at it.
"So is censorship the result of capitalism?"
“Nope, censorship exists in all groups, because all groups must decide what behavior is acceptable, and what behavior is out of bounds. Hate-speech is censored in nearly all groups, as is pedophiliac expression. On the other hand, ‘blasphemy’ may only be censored in certain orthodox religious groups, but totally fine in general society. Capitalism just assigns dollar values to power and influence in more obvious ways. Capitalism sees a marketplace of ideas, and money is just one form of persuading others to buy what you’re selling.”
"Hmm, I always thought of persuasion as manipulation."
“Persuasion is what you’ve been doing since birth. Persuading your Mom and I to give you more freedom, extra toys, later bedtimes, etc. If we resist you have to be more creative in your selling. But somewhere along the way, most kids stop their committment to persuasion and instead start accepting the status quo of things.”
“So whether I persuade Hive whales to publish my photo with sugar-coated words, or logic, or straight-up bribing them, I’m still doing a persuasive ‘sales-job’ on my photo’s value?”
"Still seems like the rich & powerful can just censor whatever they want."
“So if I had enough money I could pay you to kill your Mom?”
“What? No! Don’t be disgusting.”
“My apologies, love. I’m just making the point that no matter how much money someone has, your true power, individuality, and freedom is untouchable, and not for sale… unless you allow it to be. You see?”
“You’re right, only I control my thoughts and feelings.”
“And they’re only for sale if I let them be.”
“Right. And it’s not like members of our tribe, our nation, aren’t aware of the power of money. They know what’s up and do their best to prevent it, at least to some degree.”
"Probably why we have anti-trust & consumer-harm laws."
“Yep! But like a system that governs any group, there are holes. There’s ways around consumer-harm stuff a lot of the time. Like it seemed like Hive protected your photo more than yucky old Facebook, right?”
“Until last night. And now it feels like Hive isn’t protecting your precious photo at all, yes?”
“Exactly my point, social dynamics are just that… dynamic!”
"OK, so should I pull a Rosa Parks and take a stand?"
“You know, make a splash, contact the media, I dunno. Start a #mybodyisvaluable movement or something to rally people’s attention to my cause and gain influence? That way I can beat this censorship with my own power?”
“That’s certainly a path you could take, but how many times have I told you not to assume Hive is harming you here. You haven’t heard their side of things, or even tried to do so yet. Take a moment to appreciate the blessing of Hive.”
“I don’t feel very blessed by these downvotes.”
“Sure, but on Facebook they own your content. They can delete and you’ll never get it back. They can probably use it to sell and make money, who knows. On Hive, even if it’s downvoted, you own it, and no one can delete it or sell it on you. Blessing, see?”
“The way you’re talking though, someone with power could just sell my photos, do what they want, and if I speak out against it, they can just use their influence to censor me, right? So they COULD sell my stuff.”
“Well, that’s why our tribe came up with copyright laws.”
"Ugh, copyrights just feel like more censorship."
“They kind of are. And they’re meant to be. They’re meant to censor behavior (like ‘idea-theft’) that ‘harms’ creators, artists, and entrepreneurs who’ve contributed their creations to society and who deserve to be rewarded for those, not robbed of them. At least, that’s how it started.”
"But what about creative works? Or parodies?"
“Well, that’s a grey area. The courts appointed by our leaders often have a lot of trouble deciding whether they should censor a comedian, or fine someone who ‘copied’ a musical beat from someone else, and so on. Since ideas and creativity bubble up from our own private minds, it gets tricky to regulate the ‘marketplace of ideas’ that capitalism believes exists.”
"I like that name, 'marketplace of ideas,' sounds so cool."
“It’s kind of cool, but you have to be careful.”
“Because most ‘marketplace of ideas’ preachers don’t admit that a market can be skewed. They don’t address market monopolies and cartels.”
“Yikes. Now it doesn’t sound so cool.”
“That’s my point, a ‘marketplace of ideas’ view can sound like a blessing or a curse. For example, what does the media do to this marketplace of ideas, if they’re owned by corporations and only publishing one view or agenda? What if the media have all decided that only controversy sells, and so tame, kind, loving ideas rarely get represented in this ‘marketplace of ideas’?”
“Wow. Yeah. Ok, food for thought.”
I gave her a moment to digest all this. We’d covered so much…
-Being born into shadow politics.
-Social boundaries & backlash.
-Power, influence, & attention.
-Laws, politics, consequences & more.
I didn’t want her to be overwhelmed.
“The media packaging controversy as their flagship product leads to extremism?”
“Nailed it in one. And look around at the world today. What do you see?”
“I see more and more extreme views, more polarization, more controversy, and more knee-jerk reactions. I see less voices of reason, and the ones who are reasonable may get cancelled, ignored, or buried in noise. I see influencers doing our thinking for us while everyone just upvotes and downvotes blindly according to their triggers. I see us all pretending we’re autonomous free-thinkers but instead we’re heading towards conformity with whatever corporations, celebs, and the media tell us to think.”
"Whew... could you be a more disillusioned, cynical, millennial?"
“What-ever. That’s what I see, I’m just being honest. Authorities abuse power.”
“Well, you’re not the only one who sees things this way. It’s why you get art such as 1984, Farenheit 451, Minority Report, Black Mirror, and more.”
"That's what I'm saying, Twitter literally banned the President."
“They did, but Twitter is it’s own group, right? It’s a private corporation, and they’re allowed to kick anyone out of their group that they want, even the President, right?”
“I guess, but if the President has more influence and power, he could make laws that would make Twitter’s life hard, right?”
“Yep, and that’s the interplay of social dynamics and influencers. Twitter is a platform that amplifies the language, speech, and expression of people on it. Trump used his words to invoke feelings, invoke allegiances, and to discredit his enemies. In Twitter’s eyes, he abused the platform to spread ‘fake news’ and trick people. They let him do it for a long time, and eventually had enough. He was flexing his presidential power and freedom of speech, so Twitter flexed their corporate power and freedom of censoring.”
“By banning him. Got it. So say Trump flexed back? Who would win?”
“Whoever got the most agreement, influence, and power from others on their side. Just like Joe and Olivia. Two giants fighting over the free speech laws might even start a revolution.”
“There’s irony here, ’cause he gained office on a platform of anti-political correctness.”
10. Political correctness
"And what is 'political correctness?'"
“Well, it’s censoring any expression that might offend some group. I’d say.”
“Right, and someone like you, who is so passionate about her freedom of expression, might possibly LIKE a leader who is anti-censorship, right?”
“Excuse me?! Are you saying I voted for Trump?”
“I’m saying that in a society that’s being censored often by Big Tech, a leader with an opposing view is very appealing. The tribe is likely to buy what he’s selling if they’re also fed up with Big Tech’s censorship.”
“You’re saying that you can understand how he gained agreement from the tribe and made it into office, because everyone’s tired of political correctness.”
“Please don’t say that again.”
“Oh, Emma, are you trying to censor my speech?”
“No, I’m trying to save other people’s ears.”
“And there you have most censorship arguments in a nutshell.”
“Hahah, very funny.”
“So the politically incorrect candidate gained office, then got censored by Twitter. He has power and influence. Did he fight the ban? Did he make new laws to harm twitter?”
“The President picks his battles and didn’t feel ready to go head to head with ‘Big Tech.’ He accepted his ban, basically.”
“Who wouldn’t? Social media censors more than the government now.”
“Ahem, including your photo, right?”
“Chill Em. You’ve got to admit, you have a way, way, way better understanding of why stuff like this happens, how it plays out, and ways you can come out on top now, right?”
“You guess? Why am I teaching you freedom of speech 101 for some lukewarm response?”
“OK! I definitely know more, and I’m super grateful… but you still haven’t told me the secret to recovering my photo!”
“We’re almost there, bumblebee. Let’s talk about facts vs. opinions, first. It will set the stage for solutions, ok?”
"Fine, what matters more, facts, or opinions?"
“You tell me.”
“I used to think facts mattered more, but after everything we’ve discussed, it sounds like all that really matters is how many people you can persuade to agree with your opinion.”
“Yes, and facts are useful mainly because they can assist in persuasion.”
"Like cancel culture, right?"
“Exactly. The facts of what someone does don’t matter nearly as much as the opinions of others about those facts. A person may have done something normal, but with even a whiff of controversy, ‘snowflakes’ may fly off the handle, go on a witch hunt, and start a mob to censor that person from the tribe entirely.”
“Do you think ‘snowflakes’ are censoring my risque pics?”
“Not necessarily. Maybe you’re the snowflake in this scenario, getting all incensed because people used their downvote power in a way you don’t like.”
“But it’s my art!”
"Many others would see it as porn."
“What? It’s so tasteful!”
“To your mother and I it is, honey, but much of America holds onto Victorian prudishness. They simply do not see the value of showing off a human body. They believe fervently in modesty and restraint, and so they censor anyone who goes against that.”
“Can’t we just live and let live?”
“Oh probably, but that requires emotional maturity and co-operative solution-finding from opposing sides. Is it possible to ‘control’ prudish people? Is it possible to make them emotionally mature and focused on win-win solutions for both sides of the art vs. porn issue?”
“Then there you go. Whether you think they’re ‘snowflakes’ ’cause they can’t handle your risque photos, or they think you’re the snowflake for not sucking up the downvotes… neither of you are mastering your emotions here. Neither of you are currently focused on solutions.”
Emma ground her teeth. She didn’t want to admit the truth of what I was saying, but I’d raised her to call things like they are, and admit the truth when faced with it.
"You have a point. Still, maybe they're just cyber-bullying me?"
“That’s possible. But most of this stuff is just the consequences of someone ‘expressing freely’ in a group.”
“Are you saying this is my fault?”
“I’m saying you have power, and you use it often. Issues pop up when you’re unaware of what’s going on. If you’re in a church, you know that you’re free to blaspheme, but you probably wouldn’t because you know it would upset the group, and it’s not worth taking a stand on. If you’re in a nightclub, you’re still free to blaspheme, but this time you’re likely more comfortable doing so. Your awareness of group dynamics makes you happy to put aside your freedom-of-speech crusade until church lets out.”
“Well that’s just it, Hive made me think there is no censorship there.”
“So did you expect Hive to welcome hate-speech? Would you try crossing that line due to your freedom of expression?”
“Well, no but…”
“So then you’re aware that Hive, as a group, has boundaries. And you’re aware enough not to test them. And you understand if you did that there’d be consequences. And you chose to ‘play nice’ by avoiding hate speech?”
"I'd never write hate speech anywhere."
“Sure, but you see my point. Someone truly passionate about freedom of speech might actually try testing those boundaries, right?”
“And they’d be upset, just like you were, if their expression ended up censored, right?”
“And then you’d be the one justifying the censorship, right?”
“I thought so. And now with the internet, when someone does dip into hate speech, a lot of the time we don’t even know who it is. And why is that?”
Because they're anonymous?"
“Yep. Keyboard warriors feel consequence-free behind their screens. They know they won’t be ejected from the tribe, because no one can even prove they said anything.”
"So how do we moderate if people are anonymous?"
“As best we can. Reddit uses voting and public opinion to deal with it. YouTube uses copystrikes and AI. Hive uses vote-strength, where that strength currently resides substantially with whales. Each group handles it differently. Many disenfranchised souls on the receiving end of these censorship systems don’t feel they ‘handle’ it at all. But… mass anonymity is a relatively new thing. Historically we haven’t really dealt with this, so moderation of it is a new challenge.”
"But I guess we all have a right to privacy?"
“Sure, and there’s tons of benefits to that. I love my privacy. I love being able to express freely. I love a lot of things. But when I’m interacting with a group, there are natural consequences to how far I push these things. There are power dynamics at play. And all the complaining in the world won’t make those things go away. It’s just the same way a beta wolf can’t whine to the other wolves in order to become the alpha. And the same way a smaller lion can’t rally the rest of the pride against Mufasa. I mean they can, but it doesn’t happen in a vacuum, free of all backlash. There are results from doing stuff like that. Consequences.”
"You said consequences keep us accountable."
“They do. If a beta wolf doesn’t like how things are run, he’s free to go off, become a lone wolf temporarily, until he becomes the alpha of his own pack. Same goes for people.”
“Isn’t it reductive to compare people to animals?”
“Why? They’re both creatures in nature. Both obey the laws of nature. Both are subject to inter-group power dynamics.”
“So… groups of people will always self-organize into an hierarchy, whether visible or invisible.” Emma sighed.
“Well, I’m open to something else happening, but it hasn’t so far.”
“So basically groups will always exist, and all I can do is find one I like best?”
“That’s one solution. But can you think of any others?”
"The only solution I see is to raise better kids."
“That’s my girl. One of my favorite solutions. The next generation has always been our saving grace, and holy grail, and the highest leverage solution we have is to ‘be the change’ and inspire the people who come next. Every group has ‘systems’ and ‘rules’ in place to maintain it’s boundaries decently well. In a democracy, laws get changed by lawmakers, who are voted into power by people. On a digital platform like Hive, ‘system code’ gets changed by ‘witnesses,’ who are voted into power by users. Generational influence is one of the most powerful tools of change… That said, it won’t get your picture back now, which is what I assume you want.”
“Oh Em Eff Gee, Dad, YES, PLEASE. What do I do?”
“You tell me. Show me what you’ve learned from all this.”
1. Hive is a group of people.
2. Like any group, they contain power structures and social dynamics.
3. There is zero point complaining about this.
4. I have the same three options we talked about earlier.”
“Remind me what they are?”
“A. Increase my influence til I ‘win’, B. Play nice and take my lumps, or C. Find/make a more suitable group for me.”
“Beautiful. You understand it clearly. And you see that this clear-mindedness is only available to you when you put your triggers away, and take responsibility for your thoughts, moods, and choices?”
“Yeah, that’s a subtle undercurrent running through this entire lesson.”
"That since I control my beliefs & moods, it's on me to navigate society."
“Right. Because freedom of speech is not freedom of consequences. And because power structures exist in all groups, behavior moderation and censorship exist in all groups.”
“So the only option on the face of the planet is to accept that and navigate with maturity, to the best of my ability.”
“Bingo. So whatcha gonna do?”
“Gosh…I’ll have to think about it.”
“Actually you won’t.”
“What? Why not? This is a major decision now. It’s not just about my photo, it’s about my place in society, or at least, in Hive. Do I want to raise my influence and reverse these downvotes somehow? Would I go so far as to ‘buy’ votes in crypto, or in real life? Would I rather move on to another platform? Or maybe, like you said, start my own sex-positive social platform?”
“All great questions Em, and I’m glad you’re thinking deeply about it, coming to your own conclusions.”
“Right, so why would you say I won’t have to?”
“Because while you were in the bathroom I DM’d a couple of the whales and it turns out you got downvoted not because they’re anti-sexiness, you got downvoted to balance out the rewards pool.”
“That’s what they told me. Nothing personal, they love you and your photos, they were just doing their duty to balance out the rewards pool.”
“Uh, that actually makes me feel worse!”
“Huh? Why? Sounds nice to me.”
“Dad, you know so little about Hive. That means that they think my post was over-rewarded, maybe even low-effort! It means they don’t think it deserved all the attention it was getting!”
“Oh, I see. And you’re not cool with that.”
"Well then I guess you do need to figure out what you're going to do."
“Hey, but at least you have a solid foundation of knowledge. At least you understand how this all works. At least you’re not some powerless victim spitting into the wind, raging at the storm of censorship in front of you ineffectually.”
“Yeah, thanks to your masterclass on freedom & censorship, Dad.”
“Aw, well I’m glad you appreciate it, hon. And now you can teach it to Cass when a teacher censors her essay or her science project ruffles too many feathers.”
“Puh-leeze, like I’m teaching Cass anything.”
“Well that’s your decision, and you’re free to make it, but a powerful member of our family may respond by flexing our power and influencing the consequences, if you know what I mean.”
"You're right, I'll never see life the same way again."
“Actually, more like I won’t see power, censorship, and freedom of expression the same way, that’s for sure.”
“Yep, you have levelled up beyond most people who talk about this stuff. They’ve not considered even the tip of the iceberg, whereas you’ve swam underwater and set up a little ice-cave in the middle of it.”
“Yes! If knowledge is power, I’m practically a free-speech goddess!”
"So what does it feel like now that you're a whale yourself, honey?"
“So what does it feel like now that you’re a whale yourself, honey?”
“It’s pretty crazy. On the one hand, it’s great because I can post whatever I want and because of my Hive Power and influence, it’s hard for downvotes to affect me much.”
“Aren’t you glad you took my advice to increase your own power influence?”
“I am. At first I was doing it in an unaligned way. Sucking up to people felt like shady politics.”
‘But once I began just being myself, contributing my value, and bringing many of my model friends to the platform, things started to click. Hivers started seeing me as a huge source of growth for the platform. They started respecting me more. I feel so blessed. And it’s great because now I can post whatever I want and because of my Hive Power and influence, it’s hard for downvotes to affect me much.”
“I’m hearing an unspoken ‘but’…”
“But on the other hand, now I feel more pressure.”
“Because my downvotes mean so much, and I know more about the reward pool and how Hive works now.”
“Why does that matter?”
“Well, since you’re not on Hive you won’t get it.”
“Explain it to me.”
"OK, well there's a few things you should know about Hive Rewards Pool:
1. It’s like a daily pie, that keeps growing until a certain year.
2. Each day the whole pie gets fed to Hivers until 2035.
3. When someone downvotes one slice of pie, the other slices of pie get bigger.
4. On Hive, these ‘slices’ are each Hiver’s post.”
5. Sometimes Hivers get carried away and ‘over-reward’ an original post, which hurts all the other posts of the day, since the original post is gobbling up most of the rewards. Conscientious curators and whales like me will sometimes ‘downvote’ posts like this in order to make sure rewards are being dished out more fairly, and it’s done as a positive service to all of Hive.
“Yes, I’m following. So why are you so pressured?”
"Because since I have so much Hive Power, I can heavily influence which slices get bigger, and which get smaller."
“So, everytime I upvote or downvote something, people complain! It’s impossible to please them!”
“Hmmm… I see. Well, what are some of the issues they complain about?”
"They complain about every single downvote."
“Of course they do, hon, they’re human beings. When I tell you your time on the XBox is over, and to give Cassie a turn, what do you do?”
“Ugh. Complain. Welp, I’m never doing that again.”
“Sure, for the XBox, but there’s a 99% chance you’ll do it with something else. It’s human psychology. People snap back when something unexpected or unpreferred, or both happens to them. Downvotes are no exception. In fact, there’s only a few exceptions I can think of.”
“Oh like what?”
“So you’re saying unless every Hiver has Buddha-level emotional control, I’ll always be the target of complaints?”
“Basically, yes. And no matter why you’re downvoting…
...it's going to feel like censorship to some Hivers.
Whether it is or it isn’t may just be semantics, because unless you plan on making every Hiver into buddha, they’re going to see things their own way. They won’t have had this convo about social dynamics. They’ll just see their ideas being repressed and visibility on the platform being suppressed.”
"The psychology of language."
“Oh god, this sounds like science and math. C’mon Dad, my photo!”
“What do you kids say? Chill out? It’s not too science-y. Here, think about this, what gives you a better emotional reaction:
A. ‘I hate your sucky photo.’
B. ‘The photo I’m seeing just isn’t for me, hopefully that’s ok with you?’
“Option B, obvi! It’s way nicer and more respectful.”
“Exactly, that’s the psychology of language. All we say and do has ‘energy’ behind it. That energy can be loving and respectful energy that aims not to step on toes, or it can be blunt but truthful, or it can be malicious and disrespectful.”
“Or anywhere in between, right?”
“You bet. Now let’s look at another example, what gets a better emotional reaction from you:
A. A ‘random’, ‘unjustified’, ‘downvote’
B. A respectfully explained ‘rewards rebalancing’?”
“The answer is B again, for sure. And this is totally clicking. Even though Hives ‘downvotes’ use the same language as reddit, since financial rewards are involved, I can see how this ‘language’ could easily come off as bad energy and intentions that will trigger people, even if it’s not.”
“Smart girl. So, what are the intentions behind downvotes?”
"Well, downvotes are mainly to prevent reward abuse."
“It’s where people are buying votes, or selling votes, or self-voting their own content to manipulate their slice of the pie.”
“Oh yeah, most groups frown on such shady tactics and police it. This is why governments have voter-fraud and anti-trust laws.”
“Exactly, so why are people so mad about them?”
“You’re the one getting the complaints, you tell me.”
"Well, a lot of the complaints just come from entitled jerks who got their first downvote and threw a fit."
“Yes, things that appear to be unexpected, unjustified, unfair punishments drive most people nuts. Remember how you felt months ago when your photo was downvoted?”
“Would you have responded better if you were told up front what the ‘downvote punishment’ was for? Why it was happening to you?”
“I mean, I’d probably have gone from ‘livid’ to ‘annoyed’ or ‘confused’, sure.”
“Right, on Facebook or Instagram, if I want to ‘report’ a piece of content as against the community, I literally have to provide a reason for it. Do they make you do that on Hive?”
"Nah, downvotes can happen with no justification given.
And there’s no way I’m explaining to all these dudes why I downvoted them.”
“I see. Well that’s fine, you can do whatever you want, but just understand that people respond better to punishments that are justified, or at least have an attempt made to do so.”
“So if I want to downvote with impunity, I’d best be ready for the complaints is what you’re saying.”
“I am. But surely there are other complaints, right?”
“Yes, some of them are from honest creators, doing their best, and…
...there does exist some undeserved downvotes."
“Sounds like a girl I once knew…”
“Shush. This isn’t the same I’m just adjusting the rewards po–“
“–not the same, eh? Wasn’t that the exact same thing that happened to you?”
“So you know exactly where those creators are coming from. And do they have someone like me enlightening them about censorship?”
“No. You’re right, I guess I can make peace with those complaints too.
But some Hivers say downvoting is just bullying."
“And is it?”
“I don’t see it that way. But I guess it could be. I’m sure someone has used it that way. If me and a few whale-friends of mine don’t like someone we can downvote them, lower their rep score, reduce or nullify their earnings, and create a ‘black mark’ in the eyes of others. That kind of thing would be so oppressive and discouraging to someone pouring love into their work, I could see them being bullied into leaving Hive. But I would never do that!”
“Sure, but you know humanity. You know social dynamics. You understand about power more than most. So are you saying no bullies like that exist on Hive? Is it a utopian-magical-fairy-land where we can just pretend everything is ok, and no one is abusing their power?”
“Well, obviously not…
...but I'm not a bully, why are they yelling at me?"
“Think about it, you’re ‘big’ like a bully might be. You’re ‘powerful’ like a bully might be. You dish out ‘punishments’ like a bully might do. If it looks like a duck…”
“Geez! But what if I’m a robot, just in the shape of a duck? Or what if I’m a really nice girl in a duck costume?”
“So you’re expecting these people who don’t know you, who’ve probably had traumatic experiences with bullies, to be able to tell the difference between one powerful influencer who downvotes and another?”
“I mean, they really should be able to.”
“Even when they’re triggered and emotional?”
“Dang Dad, I guess not. Which means I guess I have to be okay with these complaints too?”
“Up to you, hon. You can handle it lots of ways get the (what are they called?) Hive Witnesses to address some of these issues with downvoting, Hive-culture, and user-education, or you can go on with your life with a better understanding of these complaints. I’m just doing my best to give some fatherly wisdom.”
“I know, and I appreciate it, thank you. Maybe I can make a post that teaches people to ‘take their lumps’ from downvotes, the same way they would on any platform.”
“That’s certainly an option, anything that smacks of censorship is going to upset people though, even if they’re educated about it. I taught you all about it, but I bet if the government decided Hive was illegal, you’d be furious that they use their power to take away your favorite platform.”
“I really would, even though I understand exactly how hierarchies and power structures work now. But downvotes aren’t censorship!”
"Well, I can downvote all I want, but people's content still exists on the blockchain."
“Sure, and the government can ‘downvote weed’ all it wants, but marijuana still exists, and some still smoke it. Do you feel free as you do shady deals with your dealer and smoke under our back porch? Or do you feel your freedom restricted, and your enjoyment of plant-life censored?”
“Exactly, censorship doesn’t only include ‘banning’ things or ‘deleting’ them from existence. It’s any form of suppressing another’s expression. That includes lowering their earnings or reputation, simply for expressing something you find offensive or undesirable or ‘over-rewarded.’ You feel censored even by things that aren’t ‘obviously’ censorship, because deep down, you know your freedom of expression is being pressured.”
“Right, but you said that will happen in any group, by the group leader, either through invisible shadow-politics or overt censorship. So…”
“So let’s say you’re at a party with Mia.”
“Oh, I get to hang around with the Queen Bee of the school!”
“Shush. Now, you girls bump into a group of people, and Sarah’s there too. Mia’s high status, Sarah’s low status. Sarah is about to share a funny story about Mia’s ex-boyfriend. It’s a hilarious tale and it’s gonna make the group happy. But Mia wants to bury this story. She doesn’t want it spoken out loud. So she uses her influence and social status. She gives Sarah a glare. Is this censorship?”
“Ummm… After everything I’ve learned here, I was sure I could answer this, but I honestly have no idea.”
"The answer is, it's attempted censorship. Can you tell me why?"
“I guess because Mia knows her power, and Mia has an agenda, and Mia’s agenda is to squelch Sarah’s natural expression… but since we don’t know if Sarah shuts up, we don’t know if it’s actual censorship that has succeeded, or a failed attempt at censorship. But c’mon, no one’s going to call a glare ‘censorship.'”
“No, they won’t, but only because they misunderstand influence, social dynamics, and natural-born freedom of expression. If they understood it, they’d realize so much of the world they live in is tiny, nuanced, subtle degrees of censorship that occur all the time in every group… ever. And that’s a good thing. It’s how society sticks together.”
“Right, otherwise every individual would ‘go their separate ways’ and group with nobody as they prioritized their freedom of hate-speech rather than be censored.”
“Haha, it’s an exaggeration, but yes. Censorship, whether invisble or overt, holds the group together and sets the boundaries of what the group finds acceptable.
15. Overton Window
This is called the Overton Window."
“The what now?”
“Imagine a ruler. On one end you have extreme freedom of speech, even hate-speech and pedophilious tendencies are allowed. On the other end you have extreme censorship, literally nothing is allowed unless the King says it is, even breakfast conversation must be approved of. The Overton Window is the boundaries of acceptable possibilities on this ruler. No society is ‘OK’ with the extreme ends, but every society falls somewhere along the ruler, whether it’s narrow boundaries, or wide ones.”
“Ah, so on Hive downvoting spam and plagiarism is totally acceptable, downvoting with clear malicious intent is totally unacceptable, and Hive’s Overton Window (on the topic of censored content) is somewhere inbetween.”
“So, like a glare from Mia, downvotes are an exercise of power, that may or may not become actual censorship?”
"Yep, but people get crazy about labels sometimes...
especially if they see censorship as ‘bad’, rather than an acceptable part of every society that actually glues it together.”
“So maybe I just call them ‘downvotes.'”
“Yes, and you can even tell people ‘its not censorship’ if you don’t think they’re emotionally ready for the deeper truth.”
“OK, well speaking of copyright, can we look at YouTube’s thumbs-up / thumbs-down system?”
“Sure, what are you thinking?”
"Well, their users seem totally fine with downvotes."
“Yes but every single downvote on there is ‘equal’ and barely affects them unless they get thousands of them. And the downvotes have even less impact on their earnings. It sounds like just one downvote from a whale on Hive can be devastating, and that that same well can actually spam downvotes on a target too.”
“All good points. I mean they do demonetize people for soooo many reasons, but I’m not sure downvotes was ever one of them. OK, never mind, Hive downvotes aren’t in the same league as YT downvotes, lol. A downvote from a whale is kind of like Obama trash-talking your content. Maybe that’s why some people want to put certain accounts in charge of downvoting.”
“Understandable, it’s common for a group of people to…
...create a 'police' whose job is to take care of punishments...
“Not really, everyone’s free to downvote how they want, whales included, but we do have @hivewatchers , which is kind of the seeds of what you’re saying.”
“It sounds like part of the issue for people is that money is involved?”
“Yeah, your examples show me that downvotes are ‘natural’ and present in every group, even offline ones that down have voting buttons, but those examples don’t factor money in like it is on Hive.”
“Ah but they do. Social capital is still capital. Money is just influence, and influence leads to power. Money that sits still, doing nothing… has minimal power. Money flowing & influencing others… has lots of power. Powerful people will use whatever influence they have to ‘glue’ a group together, even if to them that means using their money to get nude photos banned.”
“This sounds like a whole other discussion.”
“OK, let’s stay on topic, my point is that on Hive, some people upvote just to make money, and downvote just to lessen the earnings of others, which in turn makes their slice bigger. They don’t care at all about the content. It could be hate-speech and they’d still do it, so long as they earned more.”
“Yep, and lots of people vote for politicians simply because they’ll get paid more in the short term, or it makes welfare easier for them, or it’s ‘good for business’, and their justification goes no further than that.”
“God, that’s such a lame reason to vote on content.”
"Well, that's their freedom of expression...
They don’t have to have ‘good reasons’ that you agree with. Wanna use your power to cut more into their freedom of expression? Because you’re free to do so. They get to do what they want, you get to do what you want, and both of you must face the consequences of doing so in a social structure.”
"So in most groups there are always people who do things for poor reasons."
“Yes, and there’s enough of them, they could downvote you into oblivion, calling your reasons ‘lame.'”
“Well that’s kind of the point of Hive. It’s supposed to leave the power in the hands of the users. Like, technically there’s more minnows and dolphins than whales, so if they don’t like something whales like me are doing, they can band together and outvote us.”
So if people don’t like things, they can all band together and downvote the whale. Anyone with voting power can challenge any vote, up or down. There’s not really any mechanical way of stopping the community from deciding to nullify any vote. If the opposition votes are strong enough it will be rendered ineffectual. – @tarazkp
“That’s the traditional understanding of democracy.
'Everyone has a vote' so everyone can change things...
…But what if a system is setup to make change near-impossible. Here’s a quote from academic Noam Chomsky.
“The beauty of the system, however, is that such dissent and inconvenient information are kept within bounds and at the margins, so that while their presence shows that the system is not monolithic, they are not large enough to interfere unduly with the domination of the official agenda.” – Noam Chomsky
In our society, the media have abandoned any attempt at unbiased, truthful reporting. They’ve become the tools of the whales, and they decide what ideas get visibility, and which get buried. Censorship rarely if ever happens to the powerful members of a tribe, it is something far more common to happen to the lower-status tribe members. Can you see a mirror of this in social media?”
“I guess whale-votes and the trending page determine what gets visible and what gets buried.”
“Yes, and the minnows will rarely, if ever, be able to self-organize and create an upset, revolution, or end up censoring the powers that be.”
“But it’s technically possible.”
“Sure, and it’s technically possible for someone like Nelson Mandela to come along and overturn apartheid. When a lot of power lies in the hands of a few people, an upset is always technically possible, but it’s better to examine the probability of it in a system that’s setup to minimize any chance of upset.
How does the law treat rich people? How does it treat the poor?
It’s ‘technically’ the same system, that totally benefits everyone equally… right?”
“Wow, this is a lot of food for thought.”
“Well, I want my girl to enjoy a full meal. Gotta leave satisfied!”
“So I can’t stop complaints, censorship is the glue of any society whether people realize it or not, and changing a system of concentrated power is unlikely. So what am I supposed to do?”
“You tell me, bumblebee. Hive, like any group, requires governance of some kind. Even though it’s decentralized by design, human power and influence always clumps up and never remains distributed. Maybe the power is concentrated into whales and witnesses right now, fine. But if you suddenly got rid of all of them, power would relocate to the ‘most popular’ authors, or ‘hackers’, or some other type of people on Hive. Just like if, god-forbid, I died in a car accident, your Mom would gain authority in the household.”
"Dad you know society is way past the 'man of the house' thing, right?"
“Yes love-bug, but for now, that’s our family’s current power-structure. You’re welcome to upset it if you like, don’t worry, I’m sure it will be easy since we’re all technically ‘equals.'” I stuck my tongue out at her.
“Ugh! You’re so bad.”
The Last Word?
People have been debating censorship & free expression for ages. What’s been said here is meant to get you thinking for yourself. It’s meant to give insight and guidance on an often murky subject that even our current best experts have trouble with. The best advice I can give about all this stuff is…
Take a breath.
Downvotes aren’t death.
Nothing dramatic is going on here, especially if you understand group dynamics.
Would a system that was more focused on positivity and upvoting be better? Would putting downvotes in the hands of a select few vetted accounts be better? Would educating people on the power of their votes be better? What’s the right balance of censorship and free-expression for a society? Social groups have been dealing with these questions for hundreds of years and haven’t yet solved them.
Hive is a new social group just getting it’s footing. It’d be awesome if it triumphed where previous groups have not, but silly to expect it to do so. Hive may be a fit for you or it may not be, period.
Keep in mind that social groups have always had:
a) power structures and b) Overton Windows. If a member plays near the edge of that window, they risk backlash. If a member plays outside of those boundaries, they’ll be cast out and have to find a place that suits them better.
Whether you’re part of a nation or a cluster of anarchists, your most important mission on earth is to be happy. To do what makes you happy.
Whether you’re a minnow, a whale, or something in between, the main thing is doing things that generate happiness for you. If you’re happy on Hive, great! If you’re unhappy posting here, apply yourself positively to change-making, or migrate to another group.
On Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, YouTube there will be things they are comfortable publishing, and things they aren’t. But on those platforms, things can get outright deleted, no ifs, ands, or buts.
On Hive you can have your visibility lessened, but nothing's ever deleted.
Which do you prefer?”
“Well, I prefer Hive, that’s why I’m on it.”
“Bingo. Many people praise Hive’s decentralized structure as some sort of magic panacea for free-speech issues humanity has had since the beginning. It isn’t, expecting it to solve freedom of speech for humanity is a recipe for disappointment. What Hive is, is a new social media contender that may upset giants like Facebook or may leave the social arena bloody and battered.
And just like any social platform, on Hive you’ve the option to play nice and take your downvote lumps, raise your influence to change-maker levels, for to opt-out and find another group.
Nowhere in those options did I list complaining.
Because complaining is low-value and unlikely to generate happiness for you.
Navigating any social group is easier with emotional maturity. It’s easier with awareness of society’s boundaries. It’s easier with an understanding of power.
You can’t wave a magic wand and make Hive fit your idea of what it should be, but you can improve your own emotional maturity, your own awareness of it’s boundaries, and your own understandings of power.
Doing that is by far the most empowering thing you can do for yourself, and will significantly improve your experience on Hive.
Or just keep whining about repression, I guess.
This post was inspired by...
...Hivers with something to say about downvotes, censorship, etc.
This includes: @mynima * , @wedacoalition , @thoughts-in-time , @tarazkp , @rishi556 , @pharesim , @lucylin , and more.
I’m thankful for the pieces they wrote on this important topic, and I’ll link to them if you’d like to explore their take on things.
Short-Form Content Is Content
Free Speech, Dr. Mercola, & The Eugenisists
Content First In Cancel Culture
Curangel, Downvotes, And Hive
….At Least This Can’t Be Down Voted, Can It…
Powerful Dev Accounts Should Not Be Downvoting Content
Cry Havoc And Let Slip The Memes Of War
*Mynima provided proof-reads and edits.