A Lost Pony

@seriouspony is no more, and it makes me really sad.  

My experience of @seriouspony borders on the profound and I’m extraordinarily happy for having that experience in my life. I would not have thought it possible to deliver any wisdom that would change your perspective or your outlook and force you to rethink your entire mindset in 140 characters – until I encountered @seriouspony. I’m extraordinarily grateful for being able to interact a couple of times in that weird space between technology, learning, education and experience. She’s enabled me to experience the ocean while living in a fish bowl

I wish @seriouspony all the best. I hope she’ll return one day and as I’m grateful she littered our feeds with majestic Icelandic ponies and gallons of insight. 

There’s no blame here – the decisions she’s been forced to make (more than once) are unimaginable – but I am sad and mad at the Internet. Sad that it can be used to shut someone down and force them out rather than empower them. Mad that it can be used with such malice and enhanced the powers of those seeking to do damage. It’s wrong and it needs to change.

For starters Social Networks have a duty of care. Free speech is a nice ideal, but not at the expense of safety. The cost of free speech shouldn’t be somebody’s silence. What constitutes safety isn’t rocket science. When any social media is being used as a vehicle for threats of rape, death and violence – that’s not a good thing. Threats are not “free of speech” and they don’t promote safety – they force people to flee. Instead of working on an algorithm to improve advertising how about you concentrate on making your environment somewhere people actually want to be. You can think of it purely as a business decision – no one wants to feel unsafe and you will loose customers if they do, impacting on those remaining and your monetary potential. Quick lesson: that’s really shit UX. 

But more importantly is we have to have a real conversation about this idea of “free speech”.  

It’s not free speech if there’s a cost involved. It’s not your right to say anything you please – you’ve missed the fucking point if you think that – it’s the right to say things without the expense of silence, alienation, violence, intimidation and fear. As I said before:

The cost of free speech shouldn’t be somebody’s silence

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2 thoughts on “A Lost Pony

  1. Kathy penned this post on her ordeal – http://seriouspony.com/trouble-at-the-koolaid-point/

    Not sure what you can say – except fuck that!

    This isn’t acceptable on any level. I have no idea what drives people to behave like this – Kathy does give a pretty good analysis – but it will take effort on everyone’s behalf. Despite whats happened perhaps it’s telling Kathy is still hopeful:

    “I do think we need more options for online spaces, and I hope one of those spaces allows the kind of public conversations and learning we had on Twitter but where women — or anyone — does not feel an undercurrent of fear watching her follower count increase. Where there’s no such thing as The Koolaid Point. And I also know the worst possible approach would be more aggressive banning, or restricting speech (especially not that), or restricting anonymity. I don’t think Twitter needs to (or even can, at this point) do anything at all. I think we need to do something.

    We can do this. I know we can. And many of you — especially you javaranchers — you know why I’m so certain. You’ve seen a million visitors a month in a male-dominated community year after year after year maintain a culture defined by a single TOS: be nice. You’ve seen how learning thrives in an environment where you can be fearless with questions and generous with answers. If millions of programmers can maintain one of the largest and most vibrant developer communities online, for 15 years, without harassment of any kind, then anyone can. Good luck trying to convince me it can’t be done. Because I have something the trolls do not— evidence.”

  2. Pingback: Silence and Free Speech | Heart | Soul | Machine

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