There was once a time when I believed in “free speech absolutism”. In many ways I consider it unfortunate that this time has passed, because I still hold the values that led me to this belief.
I think that people should not be interfered with if they are speaking, writing, or otherwise expressing themselves, in ways that could be broadly categorized as “honest”. I am inclined to allow such honest action on platforms under my control, so long as this does not interfere with the purposes of those platforms. If action is dishonest or does so interfere, then we will take means to deter it.
We’re going to explain this concept in some detail, but the TLDR version is this:
- If you are looking for trouble, look elsewhere. We don’t care what sort of trouble you seek. We don’t want any trouble.
- We consider a user who has contributed little other than criticism or insults to be a source of trouble.
- Violence, criminality, drugs, and pornography are, in this sense, trouble.
- If you are looking for promotional consideration, contact me and offer to pay for it. Advertising without paying for it (spam) is a form of theft.
- If you forward messages from, or links to, other Telegram channels, our bot will warn you. If you keep doing it, something worse will happen.
- If you disagree, articulate your disagreement in a manner more likely to persuade than to insult.
- Moderators will ban accounts without warning if they are obviously acting in bad faith.
- Moderators will warn accounts which exhibit behaviors associated with bad faith actors, and if those warnings are not heeded, will consider said bad faith to be obvious.
- If you disagree with a warning, heed it anyway, and don’t argue. If you consider the warning an abuse of discretion, contact me and say why.
- If you think you have been wrongly banned, contact me and say why.
- If you were appropriately banned, and you want to apologize and promise never to do it again, contact me and beg.
- If your account is banned, you are banned. Joining with a new account does not grant you a new lease on life.
- We think it should go without saying that we reserve the right to disassociate from anyone for any reason, or no reason, but now we have said it anyway.
The Long Version
To put a finer point on our concept of honest action, a comedian who tells an untrue story as part of a joke, for the purpose of making people laugh, is being honest, in this sense. Even a politician who exaggerates to make a rhetorical point he believes in, is in this sense honest. A fiction author who tells a story about things we know to be impossible, has surely not by this alone violated our premise.
He who repeats a falsehood he believes to be true, is most certainly, in this sense, honest, and he above all benefits from free discourse. He obtains the benefit of being told he is wrong, and averse though many seem to be to receiving such news, it is among the greatest gifts any of us can receive. Speaking as one who is not infrequently wrong himself, I far prefer this mode of correction to the economic, kinetic, and biological means of error correction, that often follow the refusal of such a gift.
The common refrain that, “the answer to bad speech, is more speech” well approximates our point thus far, but falls short of providing guidance for moderators of public discussion forums.
These guidelines were composed with my (Christopher Cantwell’s) Telegram comments group in mind. They are referred to as guidelines rather than rules or laws, because they exist to guide honest people in productive use of the system, rather than providing bad actors with a list of things they must avoid to continue abusing the platform with impunity. They also exist so that said honest actors will understand the actions of the moderators, which we acknowledge up front will not appear in any way systematic or rigid or entirely predictable to outside observers.
The only rule is, act honestly. The platform exists primarily to facilitate discussion among people who read, listen, or watch the content posted to the platforms of your humble correspondent. We consider it a dishonest purpose to use the platform in ways not consistent with this function.
We do, however, welcome the input of others. Even if you do not think our purposes are worthwhile, we welcome good faith efforts to influence us in ways that will guide us toward better purposes. If you change my mind, you will not be the first, second, or third person to do so.
On the other hand, if you view us as enemies and seek to undermine us, then we view such use of the system as inconsistent with its purpose, and for this reason we will use whatever means the law permits to deter you.
Similarly, if your purpose is to draw unauthorized promotional benefit from my reputation, we view this as a dishonest purpose, and will treat you in about the same way.
Moderators of the system make a good faith effort to infer user intent based on the totality of the circumstances. Whether you think so or not, they are acting honestly. As we’ll presently explain in greater detail, this is difficult under the best of circumstances, and we do not operate under the best of circumstances. Your polite cooperation with our effort to maintain order is both appreciated and mandatory. If you think a matter has been mishandled. do not argue with the moderators. Contact me privately and politely explain your dispute.
This discussion forum is uniquely situated, even among the darker corners of the Internet. Here, we know with certainty that employees of intelligence agencies (foreign and domestic), partisan political operatives, and more mundane criminals, have exerted a peculiar degree of effort for purposes that could be broadly categorized as subversive. We are similarly plagued with an unusual degree of content that could be broadly categorized as “spam”, though I think it worth mentioning that these categories are by no means mutually exclusive.
It is a well publicized strategy of the Democrat Party and its various “non-partisan” organizations, to sow chaos in the ranks of their opponents . Having weaponized the domestic intelligence agencies, collaborated with foreign governments, organized and deployed street criminals, used pedophile pimps for blackmail, and dominated social and legacy media, they are remarkably effective in this pursuit.
There is nothing that they will not do to retain and expand their power. We are a threat to that power, and thus they are a threat to our existence.
The most common tactic they deploy against us is to stoke conflict between factions using artificial social media accounts. On a routine basis, people enter the Telegram chat and start arguments or attack other media producers and activists. A lot of it is so transparently dishonest that we ban them without warning.
But these people are sophisticated. They did not obtain the power they hold today by being stupid. They understand our ideas and our personalities and they use this knowledge to approximate the expected behavior of real users. They tend to use real issues to launch these attacks, and the only thing conspicuous about it is that they often seem to have a narrow focus on conflict.
For this reason, we discourage sincere users from using the platform to attack or discredit other platforms. The practical effect of such attacks is not a positive one, even if made in good faith, and since bad faith actors do this all the time, it makes the user appear suspect to the moderators.
Another common tactic is to try and make us look violent or otherwise criminal, in an effort to bring the force of the State down upon us. This has been used to great effect and it has already gotten men sent to prison and subjected to other abuses of the legal system.
For this reason, we do not tolerate “fedposting”, threats, or advocacy of violence or other criminal behavior. We discourage, in the strongest possible terms, content that even hints in this direction.
In the broadest sense, spam is any use of the platform for promotional purposes not authorized by your humble correspondent. We do not categorically and axiomatically prohibit forwarded messages, hyperlinks, mentions of other outlets, or discussion of one’s own content. We do, however, categorically look upon such contributions with suspicion.
Our moderators notice whenever references are made to other platforms and producers. They observe the context in which the reference is made, and attempt to infer the intent of the contributor, the impact on the experience of other users, and ultimately its effect on the business and political goals associated with the platform.
Users who frequently forward messages from other channels to our chat are looked upon as suspected spammers. If the forwarded message is in some way related to ongoing discussion, or otherwise makes a meaningful contribution to the exchange of ideas, we are inclined to overlook it, but we are actively considering configuring a chat bot to automatically delete forwarded messages. Our experience is that most forwarded messages do nothing to advance discussions in the chat, many are outright spam, and a substantial number actually have the potential to harm users. Their costs do not outweigh their benefits. We would prefer you not forward messages to the chat, but if you do, make sure it serves a legitimate purpose.
If you are associated with a political or media operation, and you use my chat as one stop on your post production promotional tour, you will be banned without warning once we observe this behavior. It it is not a defense to this charge that we are “on the same team” politically. If you are a media producer, you are my business competitor. If you are an activist, we are still competing for attention and resources. Pasting links and forwarding messages on Telegram is not “earned media” it is “spam”.
Try to do the right thing, and generally speaking, you won’t have a problem.
Please keep in mind that the platform has a business and a political purpose. It is in the interests of our users that these purposes are successful. If you act in a way that is likely to advance these purposes, you are not going to have a problem.
If you act contrary to these purposes, we will remove you and you can go hang out with your Democrat friends.
Questions? Problems? Contact Me.