Where’s The Line On Moderation?

The fact lesbians can't talk about being a lesbian on major social media platforms reminds us how important free speech is for the LGBT community. Republished after being removed from Medium.

A long, long time ago, in an America far, far away, by which I mean in the 1950s, mail was the primary method of distribution for, well, anything. Things you send in Facebook messages today would instead have been sent by mail. Hard to believe, right? Mail takes so long to go anywhere, particularly in these pandemic times. Yet here they were, sending things by mail.

One day in 1954, ONE Inc, found out it’s magazine, ONE: The Homosexual Magazine was ‘obscene’ and unable to be sent through the post. Originally subject to a campaign of harassment by US Post and the FBI, then Los Angeles Postmaster Otto Olesen declared the Oct ’54 issue obscene, and therefore unmailable under Comstock laws. The homosexual was now obscene, unable to discuss his or her life with other homosexuals and mail it in magazine format, at least in Los Angeles.

ONE Inc took them to court, with the case reaching the Supreme Court after successive appeals of decisions against them. The Supreme Court reversed the decision — descriptions of homosexuality were not ‘obscene’. ONE could be distributed freely. The first gay rights victory in a court of law in the United States wasn’t about marriage, or employment discrimination, or cakes. It was about the right to free speech, you know, that whole ‘First Amendment’ thing. I hear that might be an important part of the Constitution, I’ll have to check.

Why do I raise a nearly seventy year old court case? Because the more things change, the more they stay the same. On large social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit, it is now verboten to be a homosexual. You may think I am joking. Rest assured, I do not have a sense of humor, so therefore, I am not joking. I wish I was. Nowadays, homosexuality is hate speech, obscene, an offense worthy of being banned from online social media. You might think that’s odd, given the current crusade against ‘hate speech’ and the banning of racists, such as the President, from Twitter, Facebook and Reddit. But it’s gone well beyond going after racists.

Because that’s right: homosexuality is obscene, once again. Or at least, actual homosexuality. Reddit will willingly host ‘r/lesbians’ which consists entirely of men jerking off to pornography and has a ban on depictions of penises, but if homosexuals talk about homosexuality exclusively being about the buttsex or hot vagina-on-vagina action in what are supposedly gay-inclusive spaces, and the banhammer will come for you. For example, there are now no lesbian forums allowed on Reddit that are exclusively for lesbians. You must include men claiming to be lesbians and let them talk about their penis endlessly in your ‘lesbian forum’ or you will be banned. You cannot be right-wing and LGBT — or you will be banned. You cannot wish to organize purely as ‘LGB’ — or you will be banned. You cannot be gender critical — you will be banned. If you go on ‘r/lgbt’ and proclaim lesbian sex only involves people who possess vaginas, you will be banned. If you proclaim gay sex is all about the penis, you will be banned. Goodbye, do not pass go, do not collect $200, and definitely don’t do those things under your real name. Why are you banned? Because supposedly, lesbians talking about exclusively loving vaginas is ‘hateful’. In our modern crusade against ‘hate speech and discrimination’ large tech companies are now actively perpetuating homophobia. Ironic.

On one of the world’s largest social networks, you can no longer openly discuss your homosexuality with other homosexuals. It’s forbidden. You have to include straight people wanting to pretend to be you, or you are not allowed. You have to pretend your orientation could potentially include straight sex, or you are not allowed. You must do these things, or you will be removed and banned from the platform, derided as a transphobe and a purveyor of hate speech. If you’ve posted personal details, people will try and hunt you down and report you to your employer for the crime of being a homosexual, with the modern term of abuse ‘TERF’.

To be honest, I thought we were past all this. That the woke folk managed to reinvent the homophobia wheel is quite astounding. In some ways, it’s worthy of awe, that they managed to reproduce the gender and sexual politics of the 1950s in such a short time and seemingly not even realize it!

But there’s a bigger issue here — that we are outsourcing the moderation of speech to large tech companies, many of which will moderate to a particular ideological agenda. ‘The woke agenda’ for lack of a better term — an agenda where you can’t discuss homosexuality freely. Or anything freely, if it doesn’t agree with what is supposedly ‘brave’ to believe in yet is supported by every major corporation there is. People call Trump an extremist, but your neighbor and 63 million other people voted for him. The guy who did your roof a few years ago? Fifty-fifty shot he voted for Trump. 63 million is nearly twice the population of Canada. Trump voters are nearly two Canadas, multiple Australias, and 173 Icelands. That’s a lot of Icelands full of people who voted for Trump, yet half the country is going to be barred from expressing what is a mainstream political opinion — even as liberals celebrate the banning of President Trump without realizing the precedent set. You may not like that opinion, but you cannot shut half the country up.

Instead, the left has indulged in a smug lack of intellectual, or empathetic curiosity about these people. Q Anon believers do not emerge out of the ether, nor do Nazis, anti-Semites, communists, social democrats, anti-vaxxers, Covid deniers, Catholics, Lutherans, or your local book club. They don’t have a spawn point somewhere, nor is there some great machine spitting them out just out of sight. We do not live in a video game. All of those people have a place of origin. Yet there is no attempt to understand why those who stormed the Capitol believe what they do. What situation drove them to such lengths, and for one woman, martyrdom for ideals that are, well, objectively nonsense? Where did our 173 Icelands come from, and why did they vote Trump? The left has a smug attitude towards this question — they don’t care, and they don’t want hear about these people’s ‘hateful beliefs’. Who decides what’s hateful? The smugtitude blue ticks on Twitter really shouldn’t be, given that apparently, homosexuals having two online inches to themselves is hateful these days. God forbid if you’re a homosexual who voted for Trump — that’s definitely a banhammer. They aren’t enemy non-player characters in a video game, they’re real, breathing people with hopes, dreams, and ideals. Just like anyone else.

The capacity to believe nonsense is something inborn — everyone has it. We can see this given the identity politics left insists that lesbians have penises. That statement is about as well sourced as Q Anon’s various pronouncements about gargantuan pedophile rings, yet apparently, one is worthy of being spewed all over social media, and the other marks you as an ‘idiot’, a ‘numbskull’ ‘unperson’, worthy of death, where it isn’t ‘hate speech’ to describe at length about how you are going to kill someone who is politically opposed to you. This is despite the fact that both claims are as equally nonsensical as the other, and both indulge in homophobia. That the left are reproducing situations that are conservative wet dreams — like say, discussion of homosexuality being banned from many forms of mass communication, or the moderation of speech being outsourced to large corporations along ideological lines? That seems to go over their heads.

For example, Parler has been banned from distribution on Google’s app store, and Apple is threatening to remove it from it’s own app store unless they bring in ‘content-moderation’. Why do Google and Apple effectively get to decide what ‘moderation’ is on a social network? You can argue that the First Amendment does not cover private organizations such as Google and Apple, but they effectively have a duopoly on what applications you can download on your phone. Google will allow games which are flat-out scams or malware on its platform, but a social media website without moderation? Bring on the conniptions. So if Parler refuses to relent, they will effectively have access to mass communication or distribution denied to them on ideological lines. You might not agree with what’s on Parler, but it sets a precedent that can be used against any social network or app that may potentially disagree with the ideologies being enforced by Apple or Google. You already can’t openly discuss homosexuality on Reddit — are Apple or Google going to ban a homosexual-only dating app for being ‘exclusionary and hateful’? So much for the claim that people can start their own website if they don’t like the moderation on the major players — because you’ll just be denied access to any potential customers.

We cannot let a group of ideologically-motivated Silicon Valley denizens decide on what is, and what isn’t acceptable in our modern day town square, or our modern day postal system. Given that these are private organizations, the legal recourse that ONE Inc sought in the 1950s would be wholly unavailable — after all, the First Amendment doesn’t apply to private organizations. The supporters of these large corporates will gleefully tell people that when they complain about losing their freedom of speech when they are banned from platforms. But we’ve also reached a stage where those people can’t set up their own platforms without fearing the veto power wielded by large tech companies. It’s a situation that’s screaming for public regulation.

Worse are sites that crowd-source their moderation, such as Reddit or Facebook Groups. Why can’t you openly discuss homosexuality on Reddit? Because a group of ideologically-motivated ‘Powermods’ or ‘superadmins’ who are often what they would call ‘trans lesbians’ have gotten to the stage where they wield considerable power over a lot of the site, including ‘LGBT’ sections — their ‘approved’ lesbian subreddit ‘r/actuallesbians’ has no actual lesbian moderators— they are either bisexual women or have a penis. What world are we living in where that’s acceptable?

This means they have decided that they get to effectively moderate a global platform to conform to their ideology. Supposedly, they are ‘against hate subs’, but ‘hate subs’ seems to dovetail an awful lot with what they’d describe as ‘political opposition’. A lot of people get news, opinions, and discussion on Reddit, and it’s being curated and moderated by an unelected group of straight white male super-nerds pretending to be lesbians. That’s insane.

As it turns out, they’re not big on when say, lesbians and gays call them out for pretending to be lesbians. So homosexual-only forums are banned, because they won’t include these super-nerds pretending to be lesbians. Point this out, and you’re instantly a ‘TERF’ to the woke left, tarred, feathered, and denied the ability to speak on these platforms. Any reasonable person can see that this situation is utterly ludicrous. And it doesn’t just apply to homosexuals — any one who disagrees with this unelected group is denied a platform. That’s a dangerous threat to speech.

But to Apple and Google, that’d be acceptable ‘moderation’. A website like Parler, with ‘no moderation’ isn’t. There is a discussion to be had here about ‘moderation’ on the internet, a discussion that’s probably been had since the first person was banned from a BBS board. But hiding away the reality of some people’s opinions through moderation, doesn’t make them go away. They’re still there, even though you banned them. It just means that we are letting private corporations who often outsource moderation to ideologies decide who and what gets to speak — because there is no longer a public town square. Now, you might point out that newspapers are private entities — but there was a far lower barrier to entry to setting up a newspaper or a newsletter. That model is now dying. As the internet consolidates, moderation of this kind means the barriers to entry become higher and higher. The First Amendment doesn’t mean anything when the primary ways of reaching other people are held wholly privately and any attempt to make your own is subject to veto from corporations. And even newspapers with enormous circulations like the New York Post are now being subject to the Big Social Media veto if they publish something that’s politically controversial.

There is a fundamental risk of the loss of the right to speak freely, and if we lose that, we lose one of the first gay rights victories.

Instead, we have engaged collective out-sourcing of what’s acceptable in the public sphere to a group of large corporations, who then wield their power to make sure that no one else can start their own online town square that doesn’t agree with their ideology. That’s dangerous. It sets a nasty, nasty precedent. Access to the public sphere is a critical component of democracy. Even for figures like Donald Trump. He’s the fucking President, for God’s sake.

The same precedent that meant the ACLU defended Nazi’s in the Skokie case — the powers you wield against your enemy today can just as easily be wielded against you tomorrow. Parler might be full of people who are wholly objectionable. But tomorrow, the powers that be might target what you’re saying. Or your friend. And what will you say? ‘A private company doesn’t have to host my speech?’ Or will you bitch and complain about your freedom of speech being trampled on? I bet it’s the latter, but it’s your fault for paving the way.

Postscript:
Shortly after publishing this article, I was banned and my publications removed from Medium.