Combating Cancel Culture

I am not sure if this is the right place for this post. I am also probably not very good at expressing things in this context.

The daily mail has run an article on a professor who got cancelled after twitter complaints.

Without getting dragged in to a debate on the above topic matter etc. It would be nice to have the fediverse as a place that we can post views, make arguments, hopefully without the risk of being bullied, cancelled etc.

This isn’t to say we should end up as a free for all.

How we word all that, and make the right balance is up for discussion on these forums.

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What exactly does the ‘cancelled’ mean in this case? He’s a public person, as such he’s held to be accountable for what he says, so he’s under investigation. Nothing bad happened to him as far as I can tell…


I think “cancel culture” is a good thing.
If you behave/talk/write in an unacceptable way, you shouldn’t be given a platform.
Excluding bigotry from a debate doesn’t make the debate less open for a wide range of views, but the opposite. It opens the discussions for people who wouldn’t speak up somewhere were bigotry was acceptable.


I think my point was more lets make the fediverse a safe place to debate things and have conversations or even ask for help / advice on how to handle things.

if someone posts anti vaccination or other misinformation on fedi I just ignore them

Several people use language such as ni**a which seems to be a different spelling to the other spelling which is known to be racist, I appreciate that word is used within certain groups and means different things depending on spelling.

I am not an expert in every single culture, I am just too scared to even ask for help or advice.

I’m not sure I understand you correctly, but the n-word is never okay to use, no matter the spelling, unless you are a BlPOC.
What makes you scared to ask for advice? And on what?

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Ok thanks

I had some impression that some spellings seem to be OK or are used within certain groups between the same ethnic group

I agree the n-word is just not acceptable regardless of what spelling is used.

As for being scared to speak out, personal experience of working in a school, facing daily abuse, and teachers (senior leaders) not really giving a damn, as we can’t upset the little brats.

We are in a culture of fear, speak out and you get accused of being racist of offensive to that person.

I can understand this fear people have to speak out. As @paula points out it is essential that people have proper respect for others, and if they cross the line and misbehave they don’t deserve a platform. Treat people like you want to be treated yourself. It should be part of normal decent human behavior, but unfortunately it is not.

Though “cancel culture” goes a bit further than that. Yes, it includes the fine people that want to improve discourse online, and it is okay that there’s a bit of activism to that too as it is needed. These people are a majority.

But a minority is overly aggressive, in general too judgmental, and to quick to convict and ostracize. Those are causing others be hesitant and feel afraid to speak out, in fear of mistyping or breaking a cultural rule unbeknownst to them. Even while their intentions were good, or they were just misunderstood (easily happens in typed text, especially if there’s limited char length). And they might get cancelled for it by an angry mob. Maybe not so much on the Fediverse as in other online media as yet, idk.

It is this part why I don’t like to use the term “cancel culture” myself, as here, on the fringes of the cultural movement, it turns more and more into ideological warfare. And even most likely benefits the alt-right as they take “wokeism” as a rallying cry (just my perception, I don’t know too much about that all).

There’s a phenomenon that comes with cancel culture, I think, which is called a “purity spiral”:

A purity spiral occurs when a community becomes fixated on implementing a single value that has no upper limit, and no single agreed interpretation. The result is a moral feeding frenzy.

But while a purity spiral often concerns morality, it is not about morality. It’s about purity — a very different concept. Morality doesn’t need to exist with reference to anything other than itself. Purity, on the other hand, is an inherently relative value — the game is always one of purer-than-thou. […]

It is a social dynamic that plays out across that community — a process of moral outbidding, unchecked, which corrodes the group from within, rewarding those who put themselves at the extremes, and punishing nuance and divergence relentlessly. […]

A purity spiral propagates itself through the tipping points of preference falsification: through self-censorship, and through loyalty tests that weed out its detractors long before they can band together. In that sense, once one takes hold, its momentum can be very difficult to halt.

I wrote a topic about it on humane tech forum.


Thank you for this, you have expressed this here far better than my attempt to.

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To the original question, I prefer to analyze things for myself rather than follow individuals and crowds. I try to look for principles that can be applied, striving for the kind of reproducibility that is core to scientific thought. I prefer to verify rather than trust and if I can’t do that, then know that others with more time can verify and so place trust in those who’ve shown a track record for objective analysis.

I never heard the term purity spiral but it makes a lot of sense. I’m going to try and remember it when I see these kinds of incidents.

As for what to do, I think innovation around moderation strategies is needed. Deplatforming is the nuclear option. Blocklists are more precise but can still create collateral damage. Individuals blocking individuals doesn’t scale. Somewhere in the middle I feel a web-of-trust can strike a balance more like what would happen in a real-life town or village.

I don’t want extremists exiled to ruminate and plot. I’d prefer they can maintain relationships with moderate and patient people who can help them find a place in society and work through whatever issues they’re experiencing.


Indeed, we can as a community brainstorm and find the right solution to this. At least we won’t be putting profits first, which is the policy big tech seems to have.

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If anyone’s interested to help build and test web-of-trust moderation like I mentioned above here are some links:

Scalable Moderation using a web-of-trust model - Fediversity - SocialHub for background is a discussion of using an approach pioneered by FreeNet which has a clear economic attack vector that only web-of-trust seems to have solved is a problem statement which is open for discussion as to scope, accuracy and value is an implementation of the FreeNet approach as a Python Flask server and could be a good starting point for anyone who wants to develop software in this vein


Sounds interesting, the most I know about web of trust, is to do with gpg and keysigning.

I totally agree with you on that topic!

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