I got deplatformed from Mastodon for supporting women's sex-based rights. Now Mastodon is trying to stop me from using Gab.
Todon.nl permanently deleted my account without warning, irreversibly deleting everything I'd uploaded and written to it. I had invested a lot of time into it. The ban was not based on my activity on Todon.nl. The deletion was the result of the admin finding my blog post on my personal website and associating my identity with the Todon.nl user account he recognized.
All that's left of my account is this archive.org link, showing my 20 latest posts. I never mentioned any contentious political views on the website, just casual thoughts and ideas.
Why I got banned: my article
Basically, I have an unpopular opinion.
My article is about transgender ideology vs women's sex-based rights.
Let me be clear. I respect the human rights of all people. At no point is my article anything close to "hate speech."
I have no issue with trans-identifying people. The article is about "transgender ideology." Specifically how this ideology 1) is not the truth, and 2) is undermining women's sex-based rights.
Now I wish I would have written a better article, like MK's Why I (Still) Defend Women's Sex-Based Rights. Even if I had, it wouldn't have saved me. Mastodon as a network heavily censors this opinion, even stating (on joinmastodon.org):
We only list servers that are committed to active moderation against racism, sexism and transphobia.
In their twisted view, disagreeing with transgender ideology is hate speech. And despite Mastodon being decentralized, this rule is enforced on the majority of visible servers.
You might not agree with me, and that's okay. But this discussion topic is on the table. If you think we should censor this discussion, then you're not seeking the truth, you're doing something else.
"The only way a rational person can know the truth is to invite those who can test your truth to prove you wrong." —Norman Finkelstein
Moving servers & Gab
I picked another server and sent the admin a DM asking if I could be there. I explained the situation and included a link to my article. I was pleased that he agreed to let me be on the server.
But now he is giving up on the fediverse. He is shutting down the server. I don't blame him. Here's what he has to say.
This means my account might no longer exist there, too. (Update 7/12/19: I deleted my own account on that server because users were harassing the admin.)
Instance admins are under a lot of social pressure to conform to the rest of the Mastodon network. Users harass admins and publicly shame them for not cooperating.
Only a handful of servers don't ban gab.com on the instance level, and this server is one of them. Admins have been facing a lot of scrutiny for their unwillingness to apply a mandatory server-level block.
The mstdn.io admin also doesn't block Gab, and has been receiving a large amount of hateful messages and harassment for doing so. He too is exhausted by the fediverse.
What this means is essentially that there's very little space for my point of view in the fediverse. I am being forced out, and the few instances that would defend me are under attack.
It's true that users can run their own instance, but I don't have the time, skills, nor money. And if users with unpopular opinions are expected to run their own instance, this isn't really a viable solution for a FOSS social network.
Gab in the fediverse
Gab is a censorship-free Twitter alternative. On July 4th 2019, they went open-source and entered the fediverse. Now Gab is just like any other Mastodon instance, except there is zero moderation (except to remove illegal content).
In response to this, volunteers in the Mastodon community decided to change the code for Mastodon's biggest client app, Tusky, to prevent Gab users from using it. Their reason?
"we don't want [Nazis] to use our app" (source)
Gab is a free speech platform. It is true that there are indeed “literal Nazis” on it. This isn’t a hyperbole, as there are some users who quite literally advocate for the extermination of races of people.
The reason is because Gab censors no one. It’s not because Gab likes those people or wants them there.
We’ve identified the bad side of a platform that censors no one. Zero censorship means extreme speech can happen. But have you weighed the pros and cons? Is there any good side? I think there is. In fact, I think the good outweighs the bad.
Marginalized people are at the greatest risk of being impacted by censorship. The Feminist movement laid the groundwork for freedom of speech in the United States with the formation of the Free Speech League in 1902. They were being censored from distributing material about sex-education and abortion. Keep in mind that the majority of people were against them at the time.
The Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s fought hard for free speech. The movement won a landmark case, New York Times vs Sullivan, in which Martin Luther King supporters were sued for running an ad which criticized the police.
Black Civil Rights activists were also arrested for:
- “parading, demonstrating, boycotting, trespassing and picketing.”
- “statements calculated to breach the peace.”
- “distributing literature without a permit.”
- “conduct customarily known as ‘kneel-ins’ in churches.”
You can read the full story here: ACLU: Civil Rights Movement Is a Reminder That Free Speech Is There to Protect the Weak
I want to reiterate again that the majority of people supported these suppressions of speech. What makes you so confident that you have all the answers now? Is it possible there are some people so marginalized, that they are even marginalized by avowed leftists and liberals?
Imagine having nowhere to run. Even on Gab you are insulted, ridiculed, and demeaned, but at least they let you speak. What would you think then?
Why not just shut up?
It seems that what Mastodon is saying to me is just, "Alex, shut up." You're not allowed on Mastodon, but don't use Gab either.
It's not like Gab is the most welcoming place for me. Firstly, I'm a gender non-conforming Persian man, meaning their talking points of "white heritage" and "atomic family" are opposed to me. I don't support virtually any of the politics people on Gab advocate for, but at least they let me speak.
I won't shut up because I have something important to say. I think that women's sex-based rights should be defended. Women should not have to live in fear for saying "I didn't opt-in to being a woman" or "a person with a penis is a man." People should not be forced to contort themselves into other people's worldviews. Gab is the only place on the fediverse one can feel secure in knowing they won't be deplatformed.
People think I should be so opposed to Gab that I shouldn't want to associate myself with the platform. Apparently a mass-shooter used the website. That's pretty bad, but how exactly does blocking Gab solve this problem? If anything, embracing Gab may expose those users to new ideas.
The fediverse's separatist approach is heavy-handed. It seems they are preparing for a civil war that isn't going to happen. Meanwhile they are alienating people further. Blocking Gab promotes extremism, because extremism is born out of alienation.
When I was a kid in Texas middle-school, some of the Muslim kids got called "terrorist." I can only imagine the sense of alienation they felt. One of those kids grew up to become an actual terrorist, arrested at the airport for trying to join ISIS. If you want to stop people from becoming terrorists, stop alienating them.
I don't think hate speech is a good thing, but neither is censorship of ideas you disagree with. Clearly we're having an issue telling the difference. I tried to argue in favor of removing the block on Gab, and got met with comments like the one above.
People lump me in with Nazis because I support women's sex-based rights. It goes something like this.
- "There is no slippery slope. Nazis are Nazis."
- "Also, TERFs are Nazis."
- "Feminists are Nazis."
- "Go fuck yourself, Nazi scum."
No matter how many times you say it, I'm still not a Nazi. Supporting women's sex-based rights doesn't make me a Nazi, and neither does using Gab to express that view.
TERF is the modern-day "witch," and I'm not going to let Mastodon stop me from saying it. While I am being pushed out of online spaces, women in real life are being punched in the face for having this view. If you want to censor this discussion I have to assume you don't really care about women, and you definitely don't care about the truth.
It's impossible to moderate against both sexism and transphobia since they are diametrically opposed. For admins who moderate against transphobia, I urge you to think more critically about this issue. Are you leaving out women in the process? Consider where people will go when you ban them. If you don't want them on Gab, then change your moderation policies. This would not even be a problem if Mastodon would just allow people to have normal fucking human conversations.