The Banning of @Hitler

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 – 187 views

— by saket

So a douchebag recently created an @hitler account on ADN and started spewing hateful posts sometimes directed at individuals.

I did not see any of these posts and so I'm writing this based on hearsay and the comments that've been floating around ADN.

Some members of the community lodged a complaint and the account was banned. If I'm not mistaken, this was done based on a clause in the Terms of Service that prohibits "impersonation accounts".

What I gather from this is that the guys at ADN used this clause as a pretext for kicking out an undesirable from their network. It's a time-honored practice in enforcement: Al Capone was arrested for tax evasion and prohibition charges, after all.

The problem is the precedent. There are other impersonation accounts on ADN that have not come under the axe. I presume this is because no one has complained about them. Suddenly, they are on notice.

On a healthy social network, being able to state sometimes incendiary or unpopular things should be possible. Besides livening things up, it's not bad for us to be shaken out of our comfort zone occasionally. The right to swing your fist, however, ends where the other person's nose begins. Bullying, hate-mongering and attacking people is not acceptable.

So here's what I think. People should be free to say what they think. Each individual on the network can curate their stream by unfollowing/muting accounts they find offensive. If they feel it's necessary, they have a right to lodge a complaint with ADN about the behavior of an account. This is not 'mob' mentality; hateful behavior should not be tolerated. If I mute an account it still leaves it free to attack other unsuspecting users and drag down the level of the network. I would be for a 'Spam/Abuse' button on ADN clients to alert ADN to abusive accounts. If they get enough hits for an account it could be reason to investigate. And if they choose to ban someone, they should do so based on the applicable TOS clause. Preferably one with direct bearing on the problem. It's possible to adapt the TOS to encompass things that are learned from previous situations.

That being said, the key word here is 'Respect'. Let's respect people's right to voice their opinions, even if they are incendiary. You may not like swearing, but that doesn't mean someone who uses swear words liberally should be banned. Religious/political and other beliefs are always hotbeds for heated conversations. And that's ok. In fact, it's great!

We're (mostly) adults here. We can tell the difference between someone being a douchebag and someone who's passionate, if misguided, in their beliefs. The lines can blur, but a person's record should be taken into account.

Personally, I'm glad @hitler's gone.

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