There is clearly a problem that most of the politics and news communities on Lemmy are unpleasant places to take part in discussion. People yell at each other. The tone of disagreements is that of saying what your opinion is, and insulting the other person if they don’t agree with your opinion, or a bunch of people giving quick one-off statements like “well I think it’s this way” or “no you’re wrong” which adds nothing. I’ve heard more than one person say that they simply don’t participate in politics or news communities because of it.

Well, behold:

I have made some technology which attempts to take a much heavier handed approach to moderation, by just detecting assholes or people who aren’t really contributing to the conversation, in other communities, and just banning them pre emptively en masse. In its current form, it bans about half of hexbear and lemmygrad, and almost all of the users on lemmy.world who post a nonstop stream of obnoxiously partisan content. You know the ones.

In practice it’s basically a whitelist for posting that’s easy to get on: Just don’t be a dick.

I’d like to try the experiment of having a political community with this software running the banlist, and see how it works in practice, and maybe expand it to a news community that runs the same way. There’s nothing partisan about the filtering. You can have whatever opinion you want. You just can’t be unproductive or an asshole about the way you say your opinion. And the bans aren’t permanent, they are transient based on the user’s recent past behavior.

(Edit: I think making a general news community might fit better with slrpnk than politics. In thinking about it and talking with people, I think electoral politics just doesn’t belong in the slrpnk feed, but maybe general news specifically with the political bickering that comes along with it being muted, would be a positive for the instance at the same time as I get to test out my little software project.)

I don’t want to explain in too much detail how the tech works, because I think some segment of assholes will want to evade the tech to come into the community and be assholes again. But I’d also want to set up a meta community where anyone who did get banned can ask questions or make complaints about it. (As long as that offering doesn’t turn into too much of a shit show that is.)

Is slrpnk a place where a little experiment like this could find a good home? What does everyone think of the idea?

  • poVoq@slrpnk.netM
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    1 month ago

    We are defederated from Lemmygrad and Hexbear so at least that part of the Lemmyverse wouldn’t be able to participate if the community was hosted on SLRPNK.

    • auk@slrpnk.netOP
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      1 month ago

      I know, I was just trying to give a frame of reference for what the level of ban-worthiness would be.

      So you’re okay if I try this experiment? Looking now at how it might play out, I admit I’m having second thoughts about whether it’s even a good fit for this instance. Maybe something would be better like “pleasant news,” where people can post news stories even about political or geopolitical topics, but the actors who like to turn the comments into a war zone are removed to a much lower level. Tell me what you think, though, and I also want to think about it a little bit more.

      • poVoq@slrpnk.netM
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        1 month ago

        I would like to discuss this with the other admins first. To be honest I am a bit sceptical as I don’t think what you want to do can be really done as even if you think you are being unbiased in your banning criteria, it is basically impossible to do so. And as a result you will likely get an endless number of “polite” concern trolls that will test how far they can go.

        • auk@slrpnk.netOP
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          1 month ago

          Yes. That probing on the part of bad actors is part of why I don’t want to explain anything about how it works even though that raises massive transparency questions. I’m happy to point out a message to any particular person who has a question and say “Here is the kind of thing you did, that you can’t do anymore if you want to post here,” but I definitely don’t want to draw out a little roadmap for how to trick the bot.

          Mostly the process is for the 95% of people that it is fine with to just talk as they want to, and for anyone that’s in the 5% to have an avenue to ask reasonable questions, and then run the experiment, and see what happens.

          And yes, I’ll certainly abide by whatever your decision is about whether this is the place to try it out. Making it about news in general (bringing that to slrpnk without the bickering that comes with it whenever anything political comes in) sounds like it might be a real positive for the instance. Making it about politics (as I did in my original pitch), now that I think about it, sounds a little bit wrong. But let me know what you and everyone thinks.

  • Five@slrpnk.netM
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    1 month ago

    I have concerns about your vision of an ideal community, and I’m cynical of how far technical means can go in achieving that vision, but those concerns are overwhelmed by my support for experimentation. I agree with the prevailing opinion that moderation on Lemmy is hamstrung by a lack of adequate tools. Your project, even if it fails to achieve your vision, could serve as a stepping stone to some future success.

    My primary concern is that you may be filtering people into whitelists and blacklists by feeding their comment history with a prompt into a Large Language Model like ChatGPT. If that’s the case, it is a deal-breaker. You cannot submit content via an LLM API and also avoid having that text absorbed by the model as training data. Since you would be submitting the comments of other people, this violates the principles of respect and consent. Many people exited corporate social media for Lemmy to protest this hoovering of their data by ‘AI’ companies; while some have gone as far as to add an anti-AI clause as a comment footer, it should be assumed that every Lemmy commenter does not consent to their intellectual labor being exploited for the profit of tech capitalists unless they explicitly state otherwise. If SLRPNK endorsed a moderation tool that abused other Lemmy users in this way, we would quickly become a pariah instance.

    When it comes to software, I’m a fan of transparency. I hope at some point you’re willing to share your code, though I acknowledge your reasons for keeping it obscure. I would advise you to be open at least about the mechanism your filter uses while hiding your parameters if you can, so that you can alleviate any concerns that your code is feeding Lemmy comments to an LLM.

    • auk@slrpnk.netOP
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      1 month ago

      Perfectly reasonable. It’s not feeding any users’ comments into any LLM public API like OpenAI that might use them for training the model in the future. As a matter of face it’s not communicating with any API or web service, just self contained on the machine that runs it.

      As far as transparency, I completely get it. I would hope that the offer to point to specific reasons for any user that wants to ask questions about why they can’t post will help to alleviate that, but it won’t make it completely go away. Especially because as I said, I’m expecting that it will get its decisions wrong some small percentage of the time. I just know there’s an arms race between moderation tooling and people trying to get around the moderation tooling, and I don’t want to give the bad actors any legs up in that competition even if there are very valid reasons for it in terms of giving people reasons to trust that the system is honest.

    • auk@slrpnk.netOP
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      1 month ago

      Other things that have occurred to me in the meantime:

      1. I’m fine with explaining how it works to one of the slrpnk admins in confidence. We can get in Matrix, I can show the code and some explanation, and depending on how it goes I might even be fine giving access to the same introspection tools I use, to examine in detail going forward why it made some particular decision and if it’s on the right track. The point is not that I’m the only one who’s allowed to understand it, just that I don’t want it to become common knowledge.
      2. I’m not excited to be a “full time” moderator, for reasons of time investment and responsibility level. Just like with !inperson@slrpnk.net, I want to be able to create this community because I think it is important, not necessarily to “run it” so to speak. My preferred perfect trajectory in the long run is that it becomes a tool that people can use to automate moderation for their own communities, if it can prove useful, instead of just being used by me to run my own little empire. I just happen to think that this type of bad-actor-resistant political community would be a great thing on its own, as well as a good test of this automated approach to moderation of communities political and otherwise.
  • punkisundead [they/them]@slrpnk.net
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    1 month ago

    First and foremost, I like the spirit and sounds fun (I am probably banned tho)

    I think banning people before they have the chance to show that they can follow community rules is not the way I would do it, but its also not something I deeply care about.

    You can have whatever opinion you want

    I also think on slrpnk.net you are restricted by the server rules, so you can be the most pleasant racist there is and would still break the server rules and thus get banned.

    • auk@slrpnk.netOP
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      1 month ago

      You are not banned. The number of users from slrpnk that are banned is very small.

      “Ban” is not quite the right word, since it’s always flexible to current behavior. Maybe that is me trying to whitewash my self propaganda about how good an idea it is, but I pictured it more as this model: Whatever user in question has not met the bar of productive discussion to be let in, at the present time.

      Maybe the bot should be called elitistbot.

      And yes, if you are being racist or something, the bot is not needed and the mods and admins would give you an actual ban of the permanent kind. This is about detecting misbehavior at a more subtle and forgivable level than that, and reacting to it with a more temporary action.

  • I have some questions::

    1. Will there be discussion before banning or only after banning?

    2. Will the ban system be reviewed regularly and by whom?

    3. Are you open to discussing the technology you claim to have built for this? In my opinion, denying transparency and relying on security by obscurity of a closed-source algorithm makes me question the algorithm and also reminds me of moderation on Meta and YouTube.

    4. Have you attempted this method of tone policing with manual moderation in any communities first? If so, how did it go?

    5. Is this post satire?

    • auk@slrpnk.netOP
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      1 month ago

      My vision is that if some person is unable to post, and wants to post asking why, I can give them some sort of answer (similar to what I said to Alice in another message here). The ban decision is never permanent, either, it’s just based on the user’s recent and overall posting history. If you want to be on the whitelist, there’s specific guidance on what you “did wrong” so to speak, and if you decide the whole thing is some mod overreach one viewpoint whitewash and you want no part of it, that’s okay too. My hope is that it winds up being a pleasant place to discuss politics without being oppressive to anyone’s freedom of speech or coming across as arbitrary or bad, but that is why I want to try the experiment. Maybe the bot in practice turns out to be a capricious asshole and people decide that it (and me) are not worth dealing with.

      The whole model is more of a private club model (we’ll let you in but you have to be nice), different from the current moderation model. The current implementation would want to exclude about 200 users altogether. Most are from lemmy.world or lemmy.ml (And 3 from slrpnk. I haven’t investigated what those people did that it didn’t like.)

      Specific answers to your questions:

      1. Only after. The scale means it would be unworkable to try to talk to every single person before. Transparency of talking to people after, if they wanted to post and found out they couldn’t, I think is an important part.
      2. I think necessarily yes. I envision a community which is specifically for ban complaints and explanations for people who want them, although maybe that would develop as a big time sink and anger magnet. I would hope that after a while people have trust that it’s not just me secretly making a list of people I don’t like, or something, and then that type of thing would quiet down, but in the beginning it has to be that way for there to be any level of trust, if I’m trying to keep the algorithm a secret.
      3. It’s a fair question. Explaining how the current model works exposes some ways to game the system and post some obnoxious content without the bot keeping you out. But, I like the current model’s performance at this difficult task. So I want to keep the way it works now and keep it secret. I realize that’s unsatisfying of course. I’m not categorically opposed to the idea of publishing the whole details, even making it open source, so people can have transparency, and then if people are putting in the effort to dodge around it then we deal with that as it comes.
      4. None.
      5. Not at all.

      I thought about calling the bot “unfairbot”, just to prime people for the idea that it’s going to make unfair decisions sometimes. Part of the idea is that because it’s not a person making personal decisions, it can be much more heavy handed at tone policing than any human moderator could be without being a total raging oppressive jerk.

      • Can you please comment on:

        1. What programming and/or scripting languages are used in your tool
        2. Whether is uses an LLM
        3. How the algorithm functions from a high level
        4. What user data is stored on your machine
        5. If 4 applies, then any measures taken to secure that data and maintain privacy.

        My intention is not to be pedantic, but to learn more about your proposed solution. I do appreciate your thoughtful answers in the comments here.

        • auk@slrpnk.netOP
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          1 month ago

          I don’t want to go into any detail on how it works. Your message did inspire me, though, to offer to explain and demonstrate it for one of the admins so there isn’t this air of secrecy. The point is that I don’t want the details to be public and make it easier to develop ways around it, not that I’m the only one who is allowed to know what it is doing.

          I’ll say that it draws all its data from the live database of a normal instance, so it’s not fetching or storing any data other than what every other Lemmy instance does anyway. It doesn’t even keep its own data aside from a little stored scratch pad of its judgements, and it doesn’t feed comment data to any public APIs in a way that would give users’ comments over to be used as training data by God knows who.

  • MrMakabar@slrpnk.net
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    1 month ago

    A good number of reddit subs related to politics used very very heavy moderation to keep bots out. Many required a certain number of karma, time on reddit or similar to post on in the first place… It did not alwawys work and can lead to bubbles. Obviously so can just insulting other users. I would give it a try with some controversial memes. Something like Biden and Trump are the same. That usually gets some really bad discussions.

    Setting up a community to explain bans is not needed. The mods of a community are public, so it is easy to just message them.

    • auk@slrpnk.netOP
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      1 month ago

      Yes, this is an attempt at something similar. I think the reality is that when things grow beyond a certain size you have to do some automated moderation things or else it gets overwhelming for the mods. This is an attempt at a new model for that, since I think human moderation of everything has a couple of different flaws, and some of the automated things reddit did had glaring flaws.

  • Alice@hilariouschaos.com
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    1 month ago

    Well…

    I’ve got questions lol

    And I’m not saying any of this in a confrontational way, that’s not my intention. So I hope it doesn’t come off they way.

    Question One: When you say ‘assholes’ are you meaning ONLY the conservative, libertarian, republican, centrist and A political assholes ? Or do you mean LITERALLY ALL THE FLAVORS OF ASSHOLES (No pun intended) which are the conservative, libertarian, republican, centrist, A political ppl, AND ALSO THE leftist, liberal, Democratic, and anti capitalism assholes ? IF it’s the second one, then I would say that is fair but with the way lemmy is, I feel like some ppl are going to be thinking “Oh great, if I disagree with the majority here it’s gunna be EVEN MORE restrictive.” I ask this bc from what I’ve seen, leftist get no penalties here when being a complete dick to ppl who disagree and don’t believe their ideologies. They have free range to be an ass. But when the minority political opinions defend themselves once provoked, they’re the ones who end up getting banned that is by no means equal or fair.

    Question Two: Have you thought about instead putting an automatic disclaimer when users go to create a new post saying at the bottom something like: WARNING BEFORE POSTING TO THIS COMMUNITY You can have whatever opinion you want. You just can’t be unproductive or an asshole about the way you say your opinion to other users in this community or you WILL BE BANNED ! Think carefully before posting and replying. Maybe even pin it as the top comment on a post? Although I’m not sure lemmy can do that.

    Question Three: what’s been your biggest issue with this that has promoted you to create this solution? What will the desired result look like in your opinion if you go forward with this?

    Thanks for your time. Was an interesting read

    • auk@slrpnk.netOP
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      1 month ago

      Sure. I’ll take some time for a detailed answer:

      Question One: I already said; it’s nothing to do with the user’s politics. What you’re saying about the flaws in the normal moderation model, I agree with. In practice I have seen political moderation boil down to “you better be leftist or we’ll ban you,” or else “anything goes unless you’re crossing certain way-too-loose boundaries, but if you just make the conversation unpleasant for everyone, that’s fine.” That’s exactly why I would like to try a third way that works by a different model.

      I just checked, and you would be banned. Not for anything political, but for things like this and this. Maybe I shouldn’t have brought the word “asshole” into it, because neither of those comments is any kind of asshole thing. But the point is, there’s a high bar. If you came in saying “Karl Marx is wrong and here is why” or the same for Biden or Trump or Bernie Sanders, or Swedish politicians, I think you’d be fine.

      Your comment about how Sweden should ban rape first is really a perfect example of what this is specifically intended to pick up on. It deciding that means you’re not allowed to post, is it working as I intended. Whether that is a feature or a bug depends on individual viewpoint of course.

      Question Two: Yes, it should be very clear what’s going on. The whole point of the community is to offer this moderation model for people who want to be in that community. But like I say, think of it more like a whitelist. You don’t really have to do anything “wrong” for it to not let you in.

      If there’s a way to set the CSS so people have a warning about what’s going on, also, that sounds good to me.

      Question Three: The Lemmy political communities are maybe one third people talking about politics, and two thirds people yelling opinions at each other with no interest in hearing what the other person is saying, no interest in explaining why they hold their viewpoints, just barking “this way this way” in discord with each other, and it makes it unpleasant.

      Look at this thread for a good example.

      • Top level comment with a little bit of explanation, fine
      • Reply with a pretty inflammatory response with 0 explanation and no follow-up when the person asks questions. What a bunch of crap.
      • Top level comment with detailed argument for, basically, the same thing Linkerbaan’s reply said, but with a lot of argument in favor. Fine.

      To me, the first and last ones would be influential to a “don’t ban” decision, and the middle one would be influential to a “ban” decision.

      I’m not saying that’s how the technology would see it, but you asked me how I would like the conversation to look. If it was the first guy and the third guy disagreeing with each other but explaining why and going into some detailed back and forth about it, and little inflammatory opinion-bombs like the second one weren’t allowed, I think that would help things be less painful.

      Hope this explanation and answer is helpful.

      • Alice@hilariouschaos.com
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        1 month ago

        Appreciate the response getting into detail.

        I think I get the idea of what you’re meaning and trying to do. My interpretation from what you’ve written is basically, sense people go ape shit and lose their marbles derailing actual discussion, toxic asf, out of control basically.

        The idea is to lay a strict barrier of entry to any and all users across the bored, while also immediately banning users that display any type of chaotic behavior, its solely dependent on their temperament, interactions, and behavior on lemmy. Because that will be the indicator if whether or not they are just gunna absolutely lose their shit in the political community OR if they’re grounded enough to actually be able to ‘handle’ and maintain their composure.

        I get it, I mean it makes sense. I’m not saying this in a being an ass passive aggressive bs way, but basically since those communities are a disaster, you want to strictly moderate to the strictest degree in order to get the crap out. And if they don’t like it ? Well though shit. You either be civil or gtfo and not allowed to participate. Good behavior? Then, yea, ok you’re allowed but also follow these x rules or you fucking out.

        Makes me think of Pavlovs dogs honestly lol But I could be wrong that’s just my interpretation of the idea. Desperate times Desperate measures. Stay on topic zero tolerance for deviating. Idk man you’re not wrong. The political communities are toxic asf maybe it does need that. We’ll see in sure some instances will be interested.

        As for the CSS disclaimer I need to find the post. But maybe a month ago I saw a .ml post someone asking to only leave their community post disclaimer in specific communities and not all of them. So it is possible to do that. I just don’t know the necessary details about getting that going. You should look into it. I’ll try to find that post and link it in a comment. But in case I don’t, it’s worth a search if you’re interested and if it would help you.

        • auk@slrpnk.netOP
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          Right. Or, even if people aren’t getting openly hostile, if they’re just not being productive with how they approach the discussion. It’s for an exchange of ideas and not for shouting opinions in short hostile bursts and nothing more.

          Compare it to a big party at someone’s house, where you can come in if you’re a communist or a jock or a DJ or whoever you are, but if you’re openly being annoying to people, you may have to go, and there’s a rough understanding of who is and isn’t supposed to be there and the social contract. In contrast to a bar, where there are some baseline legalistic rules but nothing to prevent any random person from “having a right to be there” even if they’re kind of being a jerk.

          Maybe it can come with a guidebook about what to do so the bot won’t active Judge Dredd mode on you.

          Maybe this is just my imagination at work, but I think it’s a good idea.

          • Alice@hilariouschaos.com
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            1 month ago

            Maybe it can come with a guidebook about what to do so the bot won’t active Judge Dredd mode on you.

            Yes.

            In my opinion, for what you’re trying to achieve, this would literally help a lot of people.

            I was even going to mention if you thought of providing examples to the community of what NOT TO DO so ppl can avoid the ban hammer.

            I think examples and such would help get you to where you want the community to be faster, and also it shows you’re being transparent with everyone and that’s what most ppl appreciate and respect.

            If you don’t provide a guide like that they might feel like a wool is being pulled over their eyes.

            I mean you’re not required to care about that, yes that’s true, I’m only saying I think it would paint you and your goal here in a better/ Your trying to help everyone light rather then assuming you’re trying to silence everyone if that makes sense.

            • auk@slrpnk.netOP
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              1 month ago

              That sounds like a good idea. I can make a wiki or sticky post with some examples of what type of thing can get you banned.

              • Alice@hilariouschaos.com
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                If you’re interested, you should try this community idea I had. You can use it, I don’t care. But it would be an interesting experiment for this I think maybe give you some insight ? It’d be a fun way to see how users can adhere to strict rules in political communities.

                Community - Extremely Polite Politics: Where everyone can argue and be rude to eachother about politics BUT it MUST ONLY BE WRITTEN IN EXTREMELY FORMAL AND POLITE LANGUAGE think 1800s kind of but to the point of Ridiculousness. Example: Leftist might I inquire about your beliefs in X Y and Z and why it appears as though, you are most certainty incorrect on all of the above issues as mentioned? No cussing no slang. None of that.

                https://hilariouschaos.com/post/266168

                Just a thought

                • auk@slrpnk.netOP
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                  1 month ago

                  I like the general thinking of these. I was aiming with this bot to achieve very similar things. Meaning, certain types of discussions are impossible on the internet right now because there’s no penalty for being a jerk or hard to talk to, as long as you’re within the bounds of the community rules. The types of discussions that I want to make possible are very similar to the conversations you’re talking about in these communities.

              • Alice@hilariouschaos.com
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                Yea I think that would really show effort on your part of ‘trying to make it work’ and not ‘working against’ if that makes sense.

                Hell dude, you use chatgpt? Use the voice option and have it type it up for you to save some time. Obviously edit for specifics and clarity. Even ask it’s opinion on it for shits and giggles lol

                I do that it’s interesting sometimes. But good luck ok ! U got this !

                • auk@slrpnk.netOP
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                  1 month ago

                  Thanks. Let’s see what happens.

                  I don’t anticipate it being a “working against” thing for an overwhelming majority of people. Most people’s experience should be simply that they get to talk about politics without a bunch of disruptive comments all over the place.

                  You’re right that anything I can do to show transparency will help create that, because it would be easy to interpret the place as a “working against” thing where everyone has to be obedient to my way or else I’ll ban them, even if everything with the bot works perfectly and there’s no reality to that at all. More likely, everything won’t work perfectly, and there will be some small number of people who legitimately wind up tangling with the bot even if they are fine.

                  I do anticipate there will be a certain population that will get very upset that they’re not allowed to come in and make whatever type of hostile or disruptive comments they want, and make a big stink about how it’s grossly unfair that I am running the community like my own little echo chamber and kicking out any unpopular opinion, even though 99% of the time nothing like that is happening. I plan to ignore those people.