Topic of the week: There are no tech solutions to social problems
We have covered this topic a few times before but it bears repeating. The solutions that technology gives to social problems rarely solve them and usually come with unforseen consequences. Let's look at the current brouhaha around PB as a case in point. For starters PB has never had an account on @news (which is done here). Additionally Drupal gives @news the option to "write in" a username which PB and many other users take advantage of as a way to have conversations over time.
In the case of PB this means that they are not the sole author of posts under the name "Post Biceps." I would guess 2-3 others use that name, mostly to make fun of PB. It's very funny (ha ha) but extrememly hard to moderate against, especially because we do not store IP addresses.
The flip response to this information (which we'll try to post as part of an FAQ) is to end anon posting, ad hoc posting, etc. While we are sympathetic to the criticism that there would be a higher level of conversation if anon* posting was removed, we still believe that the role of anon posting is 80-90% important. The unforseen consequences of removing these kinds of comments can easily be seen on other @ websites. They create internet dead zones or cliques so obscure and unapproachable that they appear to be talking just to themselves.
The open question for us here is "Why do anarchists continue to rely on crass tech solutions to social problems?" Obviously the example above is tempting here but the general problem is the way that the Internet has changed our social lives, both by limiting it (largely to a screen) and by making it seem so much more ubiquitous (always in our pocket). This is officially a big problem, for us-as-a-website but more for us-as-anarchists-who-value-f2f.
The future will not be easily structured, or worse, if it is easy, it will likely be because people turn to the Facebooks, Googles, and phone apps, not little operations like @news. In the 1990s anarchists built infrastructure (Indymedia, Riseup, mutualaid.org, etc) that attempted to challenge this upcoming threat. These only partially succeeded before being nearly entirely washed away by the torrent of social media.
Our question this week is how can we think of social solutions to social problems. Clearly there are some tools to remove toxic people from public boards (and we moderators are in no way defending toxic individuals who we are largely happy to remove) but we recognize that virulent toxicity is more powerful than a mere IP address ban or account removal. How can we live more of our life off of the Internet and use this forum as a pleasant way to survive our cubicle, our tram ride, or a quiet moment among friends. How can we, together, properly call a tool a tool and not conflate every jerk with our very core identity?