Alister Cameron // Blogologist

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Digg ignores obscenity and fails in its duty-of-care to teens and young adults

Muhammad Saleem picks up on a post by Rathnavibushana, lamenting the moral wasteland that Digg can sometimes be. Do take the time to read both those posts… they’re worth it.

Sadly, I think the phenomenon of blatant and unashamed vulgarity, racism, mysogyny and xenophobia on Digg is in fact a fairly accurate mirror of the web at large. The only reason why some are getting so upset at Digg lately is that Mr Rose and team haven’t yet worked out that the right thing to do is to censor that rubbish out.

Unfortunately, the internet has a rather expansive and unseemly underbelly that most of us do not talk about, because it’s just plain awful.

I’m frankly amazed and ashamed that in 2007 (12 years after this thing called cyberspace really took off in the mainstream) we still have nothing like the kinds of simple, effective, reliable and cheap content controls one might hope for.

Heck, I’m a parent of four children under 10, and recently — after changing from one router to another at home — discovered that one of my kids had quite innocently stumbled upon full-blown pornography. I am devastated by that. Really upset. Not just for my failure to have filters in place (the new router sucks for that, basically), but because in 2007 I still can’t rely on anyone or anything outside of myself to help me protect my kids (or myself) from this filth.

Newsflash: the Internet — like a big dead carcass of a cow lying in the noonday sun — is as much now as it ever was infested with the filthiest kinds of maggots, and they’re multiplying still. And the people who could do something about it don’t care a toss, it seems.

Kevin Rose doesn’t care. My ISP doesn’t care (and still hosts the vilest newsgroups that exist for no other reason than the distribution of child-porn binaries). Your government doesn’t care.

As a member of my church’s pastoral staff, on a team responsible for the spiritual health and growth of young adults, I know what the temptations are like for today’s teens and young adults… and they’re NOT the same as they used to be… not in kind, not in magnitude and especially not in proximity. Our young people are more impressionable than they’ll admit, they’re all online and they’re all just a click away from the worst soul-destroying pollutants imaginable.

I don’t personally know what to do about it, but I know we’re sowing for a very ugly harvest to come. For example, there is a very dark and violent side to teen male sexuality that doesn’t get talked about near enough. And in parallel, there is far more damaging content on YouTube and MySpace than most will admit.

To repeat for emphasis: the acceptability among teen/adolescent males of violence in sexual encounters has hit a level that is unprecedented. And only the utterly naive or deceived would fail to make the connection to the prevalence of sexualized violence online.

And to those who would cry foul and appeal to freedom of expression and other similarly neutered values, I say this: don’t talk to me until you have children. Don’t waste my time with your meaningless comments until your profound parental passions have silenced your baseless, philosophically absurd desire for freedom without form.

So… stepping off my soapbox…

I suspect that Kevin Rose and team don’t want us to know what I have suspected from the start: that a significant proportion of diggers are teen and young adult males, a sizable proportion of whom haven’t yet grown up to the point of realizing that obscenity isn’t cool (or that it’s damaging).

They’re (perhaps even) the majority who digg-and-click almost randomly, who so rarely ever add anything that resembles a constructive comment on your site, and whose favourite adjective/conjunction/filler is the f-word.

The thing is though… I am passionately committed to that generation. Which is why I hate so much that we make room for this behaviour, that we dismiss it lightly, that we don’t call them to account. Because when we don’t we’re effectively saying, “We don’t expect any better from you.”

And heck, I do! I do expect better.

And so should Kevin Rose. So Kevin, take action against this filth or stand accused of a profound lack of care of your user-base… many of whom are young people who need you to explicitly esteem them to something more virtuous and “excellent” than the maggot-infested carcasses you’re allowing onto their table right now.

6 Comments

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  1. Posted 7 years, 7 months ago // Permalink

    Righteous indignation of the ..ehrm righteous kind. Great post, I love the passion & the sentiment. I’m not a digger, but I hope Kevin & others are listening. I sure am.

    Thanks, Aaron.

  2. Posted 7 years, 7 months ago // Permalink

    …wha?

    I can’t comment until I have children?

    ….okay…. :(

  3. Alister Cameron
    Posted 7 years, 7 months ago // Permalink

    No Brent. You are welcome to comment… I just don’t want protests from people insisting on their rights to express themselves obscenely, who have no idea what it is to want/need to protect others. It’s usually parenting that first really awakens that side of us, that’s all.

  4. Posted 7 years, 7 months ago // Permalink

    Alister, until I read your post, I thought I was being draconian in managing my kids’ Internet exploits. We keep PCs in communal areas and in the attic office (where there are two), one of us will be in supervision at all times.

    Re: Kevin Rose and Digg. I don’t think they’re solely responsible for their community, but to filter that kind of content/conversation – surely that denies people a certain kind of freedom?

  5. Posted 7 years, 7 months ago // Permalink

    Digg is actually pretty mild compared with a lot of the stuff on IRC (see bash.org) and other message boards–most of which pre-date Digg significantly. So from that perspective, Digg makes it look like the internet is getting better.

    Communities that are built around the idea of group decisions make it very difficult to do any type of filtering. The whole idea of having the community making decisions is that (for better or worse) the community decides. If a comment is inappropriate the community (not Kevin Rose) will flag it.

    Slashdot has been doing this for some time. In fact one of the main reasons (at least years ago) for not viewing anything that had been moderated below a certain level was to avoid porn links. If you go through all of the comments on Slashdot that have been moderated down, you are going to find all kinds of junk.

    In the US, if Slashdot was to try to start deleting in appropriate comments, they would suddenly become responsible for every comment. I’m assuming that Digg has the same issue. Once they start deleting stuff, they will then become the target for lawsuits about anything on Digg. As it stands now, the individuals in the community are responsible for their own comments. You can’t sue Digg because someone slandered you on their site. (at least this is my understanding of current US law)

    My question for you is this: Would you support laws that would make it illegal to use the f-word online?

    Don’t get me wrong. It might have some great short term benefits and I think it would be great if we didn’t encounter it all over the internet. However, I am not convinced that choosing that path would lead to a future I would be happy with 20 years later.

    You have to be very careful what you ask your government to control because it might eventually extend to areas where you want freedom. You may want the government to ban the f-word, eventually someone else might want them to ban your ability to blog about your religious beliefs.

    Regarding your ISP, mine doesn’t offer USENET groups at all. My previous 2 ISPs either didn’t offer USENET groups, or they filtered out groups that existed for spreading porn.

    If you have a problem with your ISP, cancel your account, tell them why, and take your business elsewhere. If enough people did this, I’m sure they would eventually stop hosting the newsgroups.

    A free market is a community just like Digg. Somethings get voted up and some get voted down. You vote with your dollars. When you pay money to a company you are hitting the “Digg” button for them.

  6. Posted 7 years, 6 months ago // Permalink

    And for more on why Digg sucks so bad, check out http://allsux.com … it’s fairly amazing how they blatantly break their own rules and shut people down for criticizing them.

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  2. … many of whom are young people who need you to explicitly esteem them to something more virtuous and “excellent” than the maggot-infested carcasses you’re allowing onto their table right now. Comments

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