Using libertarian means to help moderate an online community

What do you do when you are dedicated to anti-authoritarianism and direct action and someone decides to abuse the system for their own purposes? Here’s how simple peer-pressure solved one problem.

“Peer Pressure”
Image by Ninos_Gun via Flickr

It should be obvious to readers of the Division by Zer0 that I am a frequent user of Reddit for my source of news and online interaction. You may have also noticed that I am also generally hanging out a lot in the Anarchism subreddit as I find the community there quite vibrant and interesting to discuss with. Recently I’ve also been promoted to a moderator as this particular subreddit has a different policy on this issue to get around the potential abuse. This is a complex issue so I won’t go into it at this point as I simply wanted to mention that I ended up getting mod powers.

Now, there’s also a frequent topic of discussion on the subject of “Anarcho”-Capitalists who often come over from other parts of reddit, complain about the anti-capitalist sentiment of the Anarchism subreddit and usually proceed to downvote all pro-socialist articles and submit pro-capitalist articles which are quickly downvoted. Nobody has ever been banned or moderated in any other way for doing this as we prefer to let the moderation happen naturally through the reddit system by the community.

We always had the possibility of moderation in case obvious problems occurred, such as spam accounts. Fortunately, the automated moderation of reddit never made this an issue, so most that the mods ever did was to unban people and posts mistakenly caught by the spam-filter. However just yesterday, this exact dilemma presented itself to me, as I caught one of the latest “Anarcho”-Capitalists to join had been obviously gaming the reddit system for his own purposes.

Now I had three options. The easy one would be to simply start banning his accounts from /r/Anarchism using my moderator powers. Another one would be to report the user to the Reddit moderators themselves for them to take action. However none of them felt right. Using either, would mean that I would have to use authoritarian means to solve the problem and this is something I wanted to avoid. So what is left for an Anarchist to do? Name & Shame.

Why use this method? Simply because I believe that someone who is so interested in making his position look right to an unsuspecting audience will be particularly susceptible to public humiliation once his underhanded tactics were brought to the fore. Not only that, but it would also provide the evidence to use against him pointing to his “public approval” in the form of upvotes as an argument as he was known to do.

And it didn’t take long. Just today I noticed all his accounts have been deleted along with his main one. True, I cannot know for sure that it was indeed him and not the Reddit moderators that finally caught up with him, but as he stopped writing soon after I called him out on the sockpuppetry and he also received scolding PMs from his fellow AnCaps I believe it must have been his own decision.

For me, this was a great example of how moderation of a community can happen even without authoritarian means such as moderation or banning.It shows that even in an online forum with anonymous aliases, where very little outside IRL crimes can get back to bite you in the arse, peer-pressure can be enough to force someone who misbehaved to voluntary “exile”. It shows that simply by public condemnation or activities we wish to discourage, the community can moderate itself and avoid “benevolent dictators” or a bureaucracy.

The sad part in all of this, is all the people who, when reported, jumped in to his defence. Accusations of me bring an “Alarmist”, “Propagandist” and whatnot started flying, even in the face of undeniable evidence of wrongdoing and no actual “force” from my end. It is sad that the simple act of trying to direct peer pressure to a good cause (ie, stopping abuse of the system) must be labeled as “Propaganda” or other such nonsense. This is like the fear of public opinion I was talking about before which in my mind is an excuse for wanting to act like a jerk or of preferring to use authoritarian means.

For me, this experiment in libertarian action has been a success and gives me faith that if this can work even in an environment where peer-pressure is weak by design, it can surely work wonders in real life.

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