Content Moderation
June 23, 2019 8:20 PM   Subscribe

Ravelry, the eight-million-strong social network for knitters previously, has announced that it will ban its users from voicing support for the Trump administration on the grounds that doing so “is undeniably support for white supremacy”.
The language of the new policy has been adapted from a similar announcement by RPG.net last November.
Further coverage from: USA Today, The Guardian, Business Insider, The Hill, BuzzFeed, Inquisitr, The A.V. Club, and The Mary Sue.
(For a sense of scale: as of February, Twitter has 126 million daily users, Snap has 186 million, and Facebook has 1.56 billion.)
posted by Going To Maine (156 comments total) 104 users marked this as a favorite
 
Good.
posted by hijinx at 8:31 PM on June 23 [51 favorites]


Excellent news! Ravelry is a great social network and an incredible resource for all things yarn-related. I'm proud of them for taking a stand.
posted by Gray Duck at 8:39 PM on June 23 [23 favorites]


Knitting and crochet provide a safe space for a lot of folks. But it’s a space that has to be defended. Ravelry is probably the most useful web tool ever developed and its owners have earned a lot of faith from its users.
posted by rikschell at 8:47 PM on June 23 [46 favorites]


This is brilliant, because if I have to see one more ugly, basic, acrylic MAGA hat (followed, of course, by a busload of baby boomer women commenting that people really just need to respect their president) I'm gonna lose my damn mind.
posted by erinfern at 8:48 PM on June 23 [80 favorites]


Excellent. I'm personally terrible at using Ravelry as a social media thing, and part of that is because of how little I really know about the values of the majority of folks using it. There's definitely a contingent of "traditional" values people that I try my best to avoid in the fiber arts community, online and off, so it's wonderful to know Ravelry's got my back on this one thing at least.
posted by Mizu at 9:04 PM on June 23 [6 favorites]


This is such wonderful news, and though I've loved Ravelry since I first joined it in 2008, I love it more than ever today. I'm a knitting blogger, and I'm currently moderating a thread on my blog's Facebook page that resulted after I posted a link to Ravelry's new policy and said how happy I was about it. It's the usual butthurt Trumpers claiming that Ravelry shouldn't take sides/get political/are interfering with their freedom of speech/didn't do anything about all the pussyhat posts that offended *them*/are LEAVING MY PAGE (yet strangely they keep posting on it), and those on the side of the angels, who are cogently and/or snarkily explaining why the Trumpers are full of shit.
posted by orange swan at 9:06 PM on June 23 [29 favorites]


Coming up, the Evangelical alternative:

Ravelations
posted by jamjam at 9:18 PM on June 23 [93 favorites]


I came here planning on a snarky comment that I'm waiting but not holding by breath for Reddit to do this, but then it non-snarkily occurred to me (warning: possible metatalk) should Metafilter do it too?
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 9:29 PM on June 23 [10 favorites]


We could Metatalk it, but I feel like a "no-pro-Trump posts" rule is pretty unnecessary around here.

Kudos, Ravelry! Once again I wish I had any crafting skill whatsoever, but alas.
posted by emjaybee at 9:41 PM on June 23 [12 favorites]


Making explicit what mostly gets elided or covered up with euphemisms seems like a powerful message. This took bravery.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:46 PM on June 23 [82 favorites]


I hope that Ravelry posts some kind of follow-up about how they implement this. Is it functionally symbolic? Are there are only one in a thousand posts that are MAGA-related, so it takes little additional effort, or is this something that will require a big lift in person-power?

I didn’t link to it, but this also got attention from Daily Wire, and presumably some other number of conservative outlets - I’m guessing that Ravelry is just large enough that being aggrieved about it will generate a lot of clicks. I could imagine that some kind of brigading will be an issue for them.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:48 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


Hah, I posted that a few hours ago in the latest political thread, I went off to a show for a few hours, and now it's all over. :)
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:57 PM on June 23


Wow, that is really awesome. Knitting is not my chosen fiber art (I'm more of a cross-stitcher) but this makes me more interested in checking out the site and trying knitting.
posted by rogerroger at 10:09 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


i truly appreciate this stance, especially following the rather necessary conversation that was happening across the fibre arts community about diversity a couple of months ago iirc, and i respected how the ravelry team took further steps following that. what was memorable to me in the ravelry-specific discussion was the move to freeze all the reaction buttons, because that was how the white fragility was expressing themselves, to the point it was visibly clear which posts got the most likes and loves and agrees and which ones didn't. so i do expect there is going to be quite a bit of upset ravellers following this move.
posted by cendawanita at 10:28 PM on June 23 [18 favorites]


This is an excellent example of a site’s management listening and responding to concerns from POC.

I have finally made a comment in the Metatalk for POC and I brought up this new Rav policy as an example of how it’s done right.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:38 PM on June 23 [26 favorites]


I'm really proud of them. I've been around long enough to remember when gay knitters were being harassed off the Knitlist for having the audacity to refer to knitting for a spouse/partner of the wrong gender. It's brave that they're taking a stand--they're big enough to be a target but not possessed of infinite resources to deal with likely attacks in response.
posted by praemunire at 11:49 PM on June 23 [27 favorites]


I’m proud of them, and I’m also worried about them. They’re an extremely small operation, and I’m not convinced that they have the resources to deal with the blowback, which could get really ugly.

Casey is a mefite , although not a very active one.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:50 AM on June 24 [12 favorites]


And support of Uncle Joe and his segregationist buddies in the Democratic Party is just fine. What about expressing support for the Chinese government? For the Turkish government? For the Canadian government (and its treatment of indigenous people)? Or Australia? Or Austria? Poland? Hungary? Russia?

Police your sites however you want, but once you start it's hard to stop.
posted by Mirax at 3:10 AM on June 24 [4 favorites]


Slippery slope arguments are the worst, let's talk about what they are doing, not what they aren't.
posted by smoke at 3:17 AM on June 24 [156 favorites]


It's not a slippery slope argument, it's questioning the laughably simplistic idea that banning "support of the trump administration" is in any way a meaningful blow against "white supremacy" or advancing "inclusivity". See Metafilter. It's easy though sure, requires minimal moderation and it gets you headlines and praise, so go for it.
posted by Mirax at 3:27 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


False equivalences are boring.
posted by tobascodagama at 3:50 AM on June 24 [74 favorites]


I'm having trouble accessing Ravelry this morning; I hope there isn't some retaliatory troll attack going on against it now.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:54 AM on June 24


Mirax, what Ravelry is doing here is a pragmatic fix for a single, clearly identified problem. Its effect on white supremacy in general will, of course, be negligible. Nonetheless, it will make the site better (and thus more inclusive) for everybody who isn't a white supremacist either directly (through their own beliefs) or indirectly (through their support of the Trump administration). This is clearly the intended effect.

Is it a perfect solution? Nope. But perfect is the enemy of good. I'm not a Ravelry user, but I'd imagine that MAGA bullshit is orders of magnitude more prevalent on the site than content related to any of the other examples that you cited.

A similar situation: I do sysadmin stuff as part of my job. One service that I'm maintaining is seeing a specific kind of disruptive traffic from cybercriminals. Rather than architecting some massive solution that would (almost certainly unsuccessfully) attempt to tackle any type of bad traffic, including types we haven't yet seen, I created specific fixes for this one type of traffic due to its clearly identifiable traits and geographical origins. It's easily expandable if the need arises, but it's sufficient for now. Ravelry can do the same.
posted by jklaiho at 3:56 AM on June 24 [119 favorites]


It's not a slippery slope argument, it's questioning the laughably simplistic idea that banning "support of the trump administration" is in any way a meaningful blow against "white supremacy" or advancing "inclusivity".

Seems it would be advancing inclusivity for their own community. I don't get the sense they're trying to strike a blow against white supremacy, just make their community more welcoming for the people they want to welcome.

I once blocked a person off FB because he had been horrible to someone I was good friends with. I was making her feel more welcome; I wasn't striking a blow against assholes.

I'm having trouble accessing Ravelry this morning; I hope there isn't some retaliatory troll attack going on against it now.

Maybe, but probably just trafiic. They got a lot of press.
posted by spinn at 3:59 AM on June 24 [26 favorites]


I'm not having any trouble getting on to Ravelry. Are you logged in? I wonder if the problem is the landing page for non-logged-in users, or maybe if they're making it hard to get in if you're not a logged-in member because they're getting unwelcome visitors.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:12 AM on June 24


See Metafilter. It's easy though sure, requires minimal moderation

"Minimal moderation"? This is not true.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:19 AM on June 24 [24 favorites]


I hear a lot about Ravelry through my partner. She's an accomplished knitter and uses the site, and was 1) pleased at the news and 2) surprised I heard it before she did. We need more of this. The slippery slope argument or complaint that there's not much difference between Trump's support of white supremacy and Biden's tolerance of same is hogwash.

I note that they're committing to preserving users' project data, and access to purchases even if a user is banned from the site. What I've typically seen from larger companies is if you're banned, you lose everything -- tough.

Good luck to them. I hope they stick to it and thrive, and I hope they're not the last to implement the policy. The Trump administration and support for it is a cancer on this country. Yeah, we've got other diseases, but this one is going to kill us first if it's not treated.
posted by jzb at 4:19 AM on June 24 [12 favorites]


Ok, another thing. Over the next couple of days, you're going to see allegations that Ravelry is bigoted against conservatives, and evidence for that is that in early 2009, they banned a right-wing group called the Bunker. These has been a source of grievance for literally 10 years. Every group on Ravelry has its own message board, which is moderated by the people in charge of the group. The Bunker got banned, after months of spewing racist shit about President Obama and his family, because someone made a "joke" about lynching the President's mother-in-law. (They said that she was wearing a pretty scarf at the inauguration, and it looked like it would make a good noose. They claim to this day that there is no way to interpret that as being a joke about lynching. I can't see any other way of interpreting it.) The group administrators didn't moderate it, and so the group got banned. I have a vague recollection that Ravelry may have been contacted by the Secret Service about it, although that may have been about a different threat to the President or his family. So when you hear that Ravelry hates conservatives because blah blah blah they banned the Bunker, know that they had very good reason to ban the Bunker. They should have done it sooner.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:22 AM on June 24 [96 favorites]


There is some interesting background in the "knitting" subreddit:
… I believe the final straw was that someone reported a Trump related pattern as offensive. The creator of the pattern cyber stalked the reporter and posted their personal information online where other people harassed her (death threats). The pattern creators husband emailed the reporter pictures of Trump daily.

… They have a couple of groups and patterns that support this. Last week one of the supporters was reported for hate speech. The supporter posted all over social media platforms and included the name of the person who created the report. More supporters started attacking this person on multiple social media platforms and on Ravelry.

... And they went IRL, sending messages and threats to her personal email, and publicly posting her home address.

… I myself was a target in January-March when I collaborated with a designer friend to release a Fuck Your Wall pattern & yarn/pin set in response to a Build the Wall pattern. Violent threats, stalking, the works. Originating from Ravelry, and I'm easy to doxx because my business name is my social media name across all accounts and is also my legal last name.
posted by bitteschoen at 4:26 AM on June 24 [72 favorites]


My first reaction on reading the post text was not very positive - I'm far enough away from both knitting and the Trump administration to see this in a more abstract context and why do these people need to ban a particular viewpoint. Reading more of the context and the actual announcement it actually sounds like a reasonable response to an actual problem so if you feel like making an echo chamber or slippery slope argument maybe try doing that first.
posted by each day we work at 4:33 AM on June 24 [11 favorites]


My spouse and I own and run a yarn shop. We’ve had customers leave us and give us bad reviews because we supported marriage equality, because we don’t allow guns in the store, because we sold pink yarn to support Planned Parenthood, because I publicly burned a US flag after Trump was elected. But taking stands has brought us way more customers than the ones we’ve lost; and those who have left us are not people I will miss. It’s stupid to think there’s anything that’s not political. We can’t ever get everything right, but we have to try to do what we can.
posted by rikschell at 4:34 AM on June 24 [131 favorites]


It’s not like there’s a groundswell of pro-Biden posting on Ravelry, geez! I think people who don’t use the site don’t really have a good concept of what it is.

You might also make some distinction between someone who supports some racists and someone who supports ALL racists. But when you’re building a straw man you don’t need to build too well I guess.
posted by rikschell at 4:46 AM on June 24 [9 favorites]


I meant minimal moderation for Ravelry in blanket banning support of the trump admin (whatever exactly that means). Obviously Metafilter is far more nuanced than than (to its credit) and moderation here is far more complicated.

If that's what you meant, why did you write this?:

It's not a slippery slope argument, it's questioning the laughably simplistic idea that banning "support of the trump administration" is in any way a meaningful blow against "white supremacy" or advancing "inclusivity". See Metafilter. It's easy though sure, requires minimal moderation and it gets you headlines and praise, so go for it.

Why mention MeFi at all, let alone prefacing "It's easy..."? I don't think that hole is getting shallower, and I suggest you leave off attempting to justify your statements.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:48 AM on June 24 [8 favorites]


Trump and his supporters are attempting to create a white ethnostate, I'm absolutely okay with them being deplatformed in every context.

Concern trolling about slippery slope shit is still just concern trolling
posted by Ferreous at 4:50 AM on June 24 [64 favorites]


Well, I am a lapsed knitter who will now be using Ravelry a lot more. I hope other social media sites follow their lead.
posted by nightrecordings at 4:51 AM on June 24 [11 favorites]


Why mention MeFi at all

Come on, bad phrasing, thats all, relax. Mefi moderation is far more nuanced and thoughtful than blanket bans. That was my point, period.
posted by Mirax at 4:51 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


I meant minimal moderation for Ravelry in blanket banning support of the trump admin (whatever exactly that means). Obviously Metafilter is far more nuanced than than (to its credit) and moderation here is far more complicated.
Ravelry is an extraordinarily lean operation. It has 8 million users and five employees. This was a conscious decision. Ravelry has never taken any venture capital. It's entirely self-funded: it was started as a side gig by a couple who had day jobs, and they funded their expansion through things like t-shirt sales and ads for Etsy shops. They have never sold their users' information. They only accept advertising from fiber-related businesses, most of which are also tiny, shoestring operations. They're a total model of ethical internetting, in ways that are far more radical than I think people realize. And yeah, that means they don't have a lot of resources to put towards moderating discussion groups. I don't have a problem with that, and I'm actually an active, long-time user of the site. Are you? And if not, why do you think they should care what you think of their business model?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:57 AM on June 24 [160 favorites]


They didn't announce this ban on the basis of the specific behaviour of XYZ members, or off site behaviour, or anything else.

Actually the specific behaviour of some members is what brought about the ban, apparently. Obviously they’re not going to cite members and specific examples in the general announcement.

They did it on the basis of opposing white supremacy. Easier said than done, and truly doing something in that direction would come at a much bigger cost.

Well, they started from somewhere and that somewhere is specific examples of trouble-making and rule-breaking they actually experienced. It wasn’t from generic white supremacists and neonazis posting patterns of swastikas and getting reported and then harassing the people reporting it - it was from Trump supporters specifically. So your point is irrelevant. (Besides, hypothetical neonazis posting swastikas etc. - that would be already covered by the more generic "Hate speech and hateful imagery" clause in the community guidelines).
posted by bitteschoen at 4:57 AM on June 24 [6 favorites]


ugh you know Trump is probably gonna have a tweet about this
posted by spinn at 4:59 AM on June 24


[A couple comments deleted: the topic here isn't "Joe Biden".]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 5:20 AM on June 24 [13 favorites]


If you want to ban the topic because of trouble making and rule breaking, say so, don't couch it in platitudes.
Fair point, in fact you could argue that all the specific trouble-making that came from Trump supporters already fell under "violations of the community guidelines", so there was no need of a blanket ban. But if you don’t have a lot of moderators to keep up with the trouble-making, and if it seems to be coming from one side specifically, then... what do you do? It may not be the best or most ideal solution, sure - but I can understand after reading the specific examples of what happened from people actually using the website.

Cynically, that announcement would not get you praise from Buzzfeed and Usa Today et al.
You don’t think they’re going to get some backlash too for this? I’d imagine it wasn’t such an easy decision.
posted by bitteschoen at 5:29 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


ugh you know Trump is probably gonna have a tweet about this

Probably - and the ironic thing is that no member of his entourage or family would probably own or wear something hand knit by anyone from that community (MAGA supporters even). They *might* possibly wear/own things made using corporate offshore questionable labour practices under the umbrella of a brand-name fashion-house.
posted by jkaczor at 5:37 AM on June 24 [11 favorites]


Might have to take up knitting.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 5:43 AM on June 24 [13 favorites]


Probably - and the ironic thing is that no member of his entourage or family would probably own or wear something hand knit by anyone from that community (MAGA supporters even).

*snerk* You've reminded me of a Tweet I saw following one of the Womens' Marches; some GOP Congressman posted a photo of a bunch of women in the pink pussy hats and snarked something about how these hypocritical librul wimmin probably didn't bother to check whether their hats were Made In China before buying them.

I was laughing too hard to read the follow-up responses from knitters, but i'm sure they were legion.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:02 AM on June 24 [35 favorites]


I was so happy to see this yesterday. I ended up chatting with Casey about community stuff a few months ago, and in among some discussion about subtler community management strategy stuff we ended up talking about RPG.net's announcement and about some of the MAGA bullshit that was inhabiting the Rav forums, and challenges spinning out of that and out of trying to be explicitly apolitical in a context where politics isn't something that can be held at arm's length for many people. So I'm not surprised to see this, I know it was percolating already as a possible approach, but I'm really glad to see it happen and proud of 'em for making the leap on it.

A lot of what we talked about at the time was resonant for MeFi, though the balance of userbase vs. moderation resources is orders of magnitude different (millions of users, a million-plus forum comments a month IIRC). At that sort of scale it's especially useful to try and tackle some of this stuff with a big flat "hey, here's the deal" declaration like this. So it's really heartening to see it roll out. It feels however incidentally like a reaffirmation of some of the stuff I've been thinking about for a while with how we can make more explicit on MeFi some of the stuff that I think is important but which has been more an implicit part of moderation and community expectations.
posted by cortex at 6:07 AM on June 24 [29 favorites]


You've reminded me of a Tweet I saw following one of the Womens' Marches; some GOP Congressman posted a photo of a bunch of women in the pink pussy hats and snarked something about how these hypocritical librul wimmin probably didn't bother to check whether their hats were Made In China before buying them.

Does a MAGA hat that's Made in China make a sound when it falls in the woods if no one is around to hear it? Should you layer irony like you are going out into an early winter hike? Do pussy hats make you warmer than an equivalent hat of non-pussy flavor and motivation and craftsmanship? Can irony have too many layers?

The old curse of "May you live in interesting times" proves truer by the day.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:28 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Good. Now let's get rid of Twitter and Facebook and the world will be a little bit safer and less shitty. Or maybe we just need to get rid of Jack and Zuckerberg. Then again, nuking social media from orbit is probably the only way to be sure.
posted by Fizz at 6:29 AM on June 24 [11 favorites]


I've been to a bar that banned specific colour combinations. They were, of course, "gang" colours. These examples make that sound like a good analogy.
posted by RobotHero at 6:35 AM on June 24


RobotHero: link goes to "Recent Activity"....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:36 AM on June 24


[Fixed that link issue, was an relative anchor link.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:37 AM on June 24


I'm someone who has always ignored the social part of ravelry (I used it to find a local knitting group back in the day and have mostly been hanging out with those assholes since) but was happy to see this change.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:03 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Ravelry is my wife's primary social media platform, in particular a rather dedicated fandom sub-group. She has friends on there that are now friends IRL. We live in Orlando, so she also gets to meet up with a lot of others due to family vacations to the theme parks. It is a rather international group with a lot of people from various walks of life, to the point that they really are a good support group in dealing with personal issues far beyond fiber related activities.

I mentioned this to her this morning and her response was positive. Heavily politicized discussions are generally ignored. Her group has always been progressive, so there really wasn't much pro-Trump content in her little corner to begin with.

There was a brief blowup over the concept of white privilege not so long ago, but it turned into more of an educational experience instead of a flame war.
posted by Badgermann at 7:32 AM on June 24 [8 favorites]


There have been more replies in the knitting subreddit thread about what happened, so, for those who are curious, here’s a few more relevant bits:
… There were several patterns published with “build the wall” and “trump 2020” worked into them. The recent incident is that a user reported one of the patterns as offensive and was doxxed.

… Reporting a pattern wasn’t private until a few days ago. Someone reported it for being offensive, she was then targeted for abuse and her contact info shared and people encouraged to harass her. From what I can gather the designers husband was encouraging this behaviour. People became aware or it on Ravelry and started reporting the pattern en masse. (Rightfully so imho)

… A lot of stuff happens in people's insta stories fyi which is where I saw most of this unfold.
For a while there was a knit designer, I believe she called herself "Deplorable Knitter" or something to that effect releasing pattern designs with pro-Trump messages. These patterns would usually receive a lot of likes and make it to the front page of Ravs popular pattern pages.
The most recent pattern was a hat or cowl that read "Trump 2020." And like all of this designer's patterns landed on the front page of patterns. A Rav user reported the pattern as offensive. Ravelry has a weird quirk where pattern reports are public.
This is where things get murky for me. I believe the Deplorable Knitter posted this on her intsagram and tagged the instagram of the Rav user (or maybe just posted the Rav name and the user had her insta linked). This caused a bunch of people to start harassing the user on her Instagram in addition to harassment she was receiving on Ravelry.
I know all of this because people quickly rallied to the users defense and started making calls to action to report this to Ravelry. Ravelry seemed to respond pretty quickly, changing how pattern reports are made in addition to removing all of the Deplorable Knitters patterns and making this policy change.

TL;DR: Rav user reports a pro-Trump pattern as offensive, gets harassed across multiple social media platforms. Rav takes action.
posted by bitteschoen at 7:37 AM on June 24 [24 favorites]


so, DC local law actually bans discrimination based on political party affiliation. I wonder how this action intersects with that law?
posted by schwinggg! at 7:39 AM on June 24


so, DC local law actually bans discrimination based on political party affiliation. I wonder how this action intersects with that law?

Looks like Ravelry is based in Boston, so it does not.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 7:46 AM on June 24 [4 favorites]


so, DC local law actually bans discrimination based on political party affiliation. I wonder how this action intersects with that law?

Technically ravelry users can support other republicans as much as they please, they just can't post anything supporting Trump or white supremacy.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:46 AM on June 24 [5 favorites]


DC local law actually bans discrimination based on political party affiliation.

Ravelry's ban is against support of a single individual, not a political party.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:49 AM on June 24 [6 favorites]


The Twitter responses to Ravelry's announcement are littered with variations of: "Why can't Ravelry just be neutral and save the political talk for appropriate places? Signed, Person Who Wants to Talk About the Border Wall on a Knitting Forum."

I apologise for even bringing up the comments/elsewhere, but geez.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:52 AM on June 24 [49 favorites]


Then again, nuking social media from orbit is probably the only way to be sure.

Sigh - I am conflicted. Social media has benefits too. The way it is widely implemented now is the problem - if every site had active and intelligent moderation it would be better (wink, nudge).

If the business models were not inherently tied to advertising and surveillance capitalism, it might get better.

And that's where I think we are seeing more and more real online communities (essentially similar to "small, local beloved businesses" - but distributed geographically) enact and enforce their local values.

And that is not a bad thing, considering the large scale actors are failing us. I mean, there are Nazi's running and/or dramatically influencing multiple countries again - for decades the "norm" community value was - the only good Nazi is one who is de... oops, I mean... punched-in-the-face, yet here we are - society and our institutions are tolerating, encouraging, embracing and "normalizing" them. Some things are so odious that in a functioning society there are no "both sides".
posted by jkaczor at 8:00 AM on June 24


so, DC local law actually bans discrimination based on political party affiliation. I wonder how this action intersects with that law?

Looks like Ravelry is based in Boston, so it does not.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 7:46 AM on June 24 [+] [!]


It's actually not a huge stretch to see issues for DC users. But I'm not an expert in this area - just a note that it's not necessarily unproblematic legally.
posted by schwinggg! at 8:06 AM on June 24


It's actually not a huge stretch to see issues for DC users.

How so? They're not providing the service, and aren't themselves discriminating on party.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 8:12 AM on June 24


Oh in light of that DC legal question, here's an interesting thought. I've been saying for a while that Trump isn't the problem, he's a symptom. If he were removed from office, Pence would be VP, McConnell would still have his fist around the Senate, Republicans would carry on being Republicans.

But in context of this issue, Ravelry would say Trump is the problem, given that it's his administration's policies in particular that are at issue. When the last Republican president was in charge, there were problems with the administration, but not this sort of bald-faced white nationalism we're seeing now. Okay fine, Trump is different, Ravelry bans support of him. Fine.

But then what if his presence has significantly altered the Republican party itself? After he leaves office, what if they maintain the same sorts of policies? I mean it's easy to peg Trump on this, the guy can't help running his mouth, he says the quiet parts out loud. But if his policies are maintained and reinforced, I wonder if Ravalry would actually feel obligated to come out against a political party.

Just a thought experiment, but then that would be a very interesting test of that sort of DC law.
posted by spinn at 8:15 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


DC local law actually bans discrimination based on political party affiliation.
Ravelry's user base is totally international. Are you claiming that they're required to abide by every law governing speech in every place where any of their users live? Because I think that might literally be impossible. Like, you'd have to ban swastikas, because Germany, but there may well be places where swastikas are current religious symbols and where there would be laws against banning some religious symbols but not others. (And because swastikas have a long history as a knitting motif, the swastika issue comes up even if you ban all political speech.) It seems totally unworkable.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:17 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


It's the inevitable showdown from decades of the Overton Window shifting right, even as middle of the road America has clung to the idea that the truth is in the middle. At some point, reasonable people just have to stop accommodating and shifting right themselves, just to be able to stay in the middle and give the appearance of reasonableness.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:17 AM on June 24 [12 favorites]


But then if they ran afoul of DC's laws, that jurisdiction could bring them on charges, presumably. This is a big challenge of the internet and international law.
posted by spinn at 8:19 AM on June 24


I'm going to have to say here that this weird uninformed speculation on Internet Law would strike me as not terribly helpful even if it weren't so patently concern-trolling.
posted by praemunire at 8:27 AM on June 24 [78 favorites]


The Ravelry policy is not “registered Republicans can’t participate on our website,” it’s that anyone of any political affiliation has to abide by certain participation rules. A registered Democrat who comments “build the wall” would accrue the same penalty as a registered Republican. There is no concern about discrimination on the basis of party affiliation here.
posted by sallybrown at 8:29 AM on June 24 [25 favorites]


This is a big challenge of the internet and international law.

It genuinely isn’t. There isn’t a good case here.
posted by sallybrown at 8:30 AM on June 24 [16 favorites]


This is a big challenge of the internet and international law.

But is it really? We’re not talking about a corporation hiring or firing people based on their political opinions. We’re talking about a private internet community deciding what type of content they do and do not want to see on their own pages. Are you sure there are any laws forbidding that?

And... don’t you think the people running Revelry have already thought about the legal implications, before making such a policy change and announcement? I would bet they don’t want to deal with potential lawsuits on top of trolling. I would bet they are safe in the knowledge there are no grounds to sue for no longer being able to post a "build the wall" pattern or troll the forums...
posted by bitteschoen at 8:37 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Are you sure there are any laws forbidding that?

Yes, in DC. It violates DC's Human Rights Law for a public accommodation (that is, a private establishment open to the public) to discriminate on the basis of political affiliation. There's an example provided by the DC Government that shows how private establishments can refuse to serve white supremacists without violating the law.

By the way, in DC you can also not discriminate against people with tattoos or college students.
posted by schwinggg! at 8:41 AM on June 24


Yes, in DC. It violates DC's Human Rights Law for a public accommodation (that is, a private establishment open to the public) to discriminate on the basis of political affiliation.

Again, this policy does not discriminate on the basis of political affiliation. It does not ban registered Republicans from Ravelry.
posted by sallybrown at 8:42 AM on June 24 [12 favorites]


Reporting a pattern wasn’t private until a few days ago.

This seems like an egregious oversight and I'm glad it got corrected.
posted by radiosilents at 8:43 AM on June 24 [8 favorites]


a private establishment open to the public

Hmmm does Ravelry fit in that definition?

As far as I know you can’t even see a lot of the content if you’re not a registered member and logged in... And it’s an internet forum, anyway, not a restaurant. I don’t know, I may be a complete idiot but it seems strange to apply that definition to something like that. Any precedents?
posted by bitteschoen at 8:44 AM on June 24


[Folks, this legal derail is a very weird hypothetical that is not going anywhere good and needs to stop.]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:49 AM on June 24 [37 favorites]


Sigh - I am conflicted. Social media has benefits too. The way it is widely implemented now is the problem - if every site had active and intelligent moderation it would be better (wink, nudge).

I'll try to keep this tangent short, lest it become a derail, but: I wonder if active, intelligent moderation is scalable. We just had a post on the Blue about one particularly terrible Facebook moderation office. Some of the issues in that article are bog-standard labour rights issues, but some of the issues are specifically about the emotional and psychological toll content moderation takes on people. We can legislate and organize to combat the former; increasingly I don't know that we can do the same for the latter.

If the kind of intelligent, thoughtful moderation that takes place on Metafilter is ultimately unsustainable past a certain size and tempo of community, it stands to reason that actually yeah, those networks DO need to be torn down or massively rethought.

Back to Ravelry: it's commendable that the owners took this action, especially given their apparent company size and the likelihood of some kind of retaliation. It's also neat that RPG.net's announcement is now being used as a template for enacting these policies in other communities, and I hope we see more of that kind of thing in the future.
posted by chrominance at 8:58 AM on June 24 [4 favorites]


Ravelry seems to be taking real steps to start to deal with the racism involved in crafting circles and using it to educate the community as well. I've seen a couple of knitting vlogs by sweet old white ladies expressing their shame and need to educate themselves on the lack of intersectionality involved and what steps they are taking to listen and learn more after some more of the horrific racism came to light. It's such a big site that I'm happy they are at least trying to highlight non-white designers and spoke freely about why they need to do that and then moderated the fuck out of the comment section.

I don't really see Ravelry as a social media site. It feels like an old school forum. It has been good in connecting me to Canadian designers and stores near me.
posted by kanata at 9:01 AM on June 24 [22 favorites]


[Folks, this legal derail is a very weird hypothetical that is not going anywhere good and needs to stop.]

This is a maxim for life. (Unless, I guess, you are a lawyer.)
posted by Going To Maine at 9:04 AM on June 24 [6 favorites]


I wonder if active, intelligent moderation is scalable.

The default assumption right now is “no.” The ambitious, imaginative position is to say “yes!” and then try to figure out how to make it work. At least one part of the Facebook problem (which I imagine must have come up in that thread) is that the humans are being treated as a temporary resource, until the AI gets there. Well, people are working there now, so treat them as such.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:08 AM on June 24 [4 favorites]


I've said this before, at least in general terms, but I think the answer is no. When you're actually moderating, what you're doing is managing interpersonal relationships. This requires a lot of context, understanding of tone, understanding of (often) a broad variety of subjects and societal forces. It's doable, but it's not the same as maintaining a banned-word list or a register of disallowed images or videos. And as you add more people to a community, those interpersonal relationships increase exponentially. Unless you're increasing the mod staff exponentially as well, your resources get depleted extremely fast.

This is why, despite Metafilter's financial struggles, we've never even considered a serious marketing push to throw a couple thousand more active users into the system. Yeah, that would make us money, but it'd be a linear increase, and the increase in work would wipe it out before we got to buy our first beer with it.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:14 AM on June 24 [23 favorites]


I wonder if active, intelligent moderation is scalable.
The default assumption right now is “no.”


Frankly - it's not even possible here, without alienating some members of our community. And - according to egilito's numbers, this would be moderating a total of about 4300 active users per month, out of about 62,000 registered users. So - in the grand scheme of things, this is a tiny tiny bastion of light (well, Blue) in the web...

And our moderators are thoughtful, experienced and want to actually be doing what they are doing, while OTOH I am pretty sure the FB moderators are just working a crappy job they hate to pay the bills.
posted by jkaczor at 9:33 AM on June 24


So the wisdom, I think, is: what would have to change to make moderating Facebook be a job you would want to have? How can that job solve Facebook's existing problems?

I do want to emphasize that I don't think it's easy. Honestly, I think that making a website at FaceBook scale that has good moderation would require a radical rethinking, a "burn it down, start again with moderation first" approach. But maybe dreaming big can at least tilt the present in a better direction.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:42 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


I think that making a website at FaceBook scale that has good moderation would require a radical rethinking

Some kind of decentralization? It’s not as if that works perfectly on Reddit (understatement of the year), but if you broke Facebook into small regions and had paid, full employees (not contractors) in charge at various levels, they’d have the appropriate local context and understanding to mod, and their employee status would mean they could be held accountable. But that would require Facebook giving up the fiction that it’s like some nation-state where it can’t regulate content and users.
posted by sallybrown at 9:49 AM on June 24 [6 favorites]


what would have to change to make moderating Facebook be a job you would want to have?

Well - the pay seems to be pretty decent, above minimum wage.

However - I am willing to bet that they have to deal with a cesspool of content and users that our moderators do not .

And I would double-down that they don't have clear guidelines from their owners/leaders/management tree of what is allowed - there are clear "Fake news" ads - and nasty crap (Pelosi "fake drunk" video) that FB has allowed to stay up.

And they probably have no real authority to actually ban a user (because the users are the product...) - and definitely have no clear or documented community standards that users have to adhere too. (And if they are policing/removing porn, that is a horrible job that WILL cause breakdowns in even the most hardened law enforcement people)

So - that sounds like a pretty crappy, go-nowhere, un-empowered PTSD, stress inducing job that most wouldn't want. (But, on edit - moving to "employee" versus contractor (and I say this as someone who always works as a contractor in the tech world), making them more local/regional and probably empowering them to have some authority would probably improve things)
posted by jkaczor at 9:56 AM on June 24


Some kind of decentralization? It’s not as if that works perfectly on Reddit (understatement of the year), but if you broke Facebook into small regions and had paid, full employees (not contractors) in charge at various levels, they’d have the appropriate local context and understanding to mod, and their employee status would mean they could be held accountable.

This worked reasonably well for an old neighborhood group I used to belong to -- the moderators were also residents of the neighborhood (and regularly did stuff like post where they were going to get a beer if anyone wanted to join them), understood the personalities and quirks and things that outsiders wouldn't (like banning all MOVE jokes), and it wasn't perfect, but it worked pretty well. That was great for a neighborhood group, but I don't know how well it would work for a non-geographical group...
posted by kalimac at 9:57 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


my understanding of ravelry is that, like reddit, you do have specific groups for specific topics, which is pretty much the sharding and decentralized moderation you're talking about

which is okay i guess but then you have subreddits like frenworld and the_donald and jailbait and cringeanarchy and gendercritical and unpopularopinion which probably have similarish analogues on ravelry

like, decentralized modding can work but you're then assuming the shards will all have the same standards

and they won't
posted by anem0ne at 10:00 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


So the wisdom, I think, is: what would have to change to make moderating Facebook be a job you would want to have? How can that job solve Facebook's existing problems?

Facebook's Board of Directors would need to prioritize users instead of profits.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:33 AM on June 24 [4 favorites]


[Note that there is an active thread about Facebook moderation specifically - let's not entirely take over this somewhat-different situation with speculation about that one. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:35 AM on June 24 [4 favorites]


And let's not forget that Zuckerberg has a majority of votes, so it's basically a one man show. He wants white supremacy.
posted by Yowser at 10:51 AM on June 24


I think what Ravelry is showing (following RPG.net and other communities) is that you can take a stand on the nature of content you are willing to host.

This isn't about users, unless those users violate the new, clearly-stated guidelines. It's about Ravelry saying that content that supports Trump, MAGA, and the Republican Party will be interpreted the same as content that explicitly supports white supremacy and therefore banned.

I'm not sure that's easily scalable to a platform where the sharing of the thing is the content rather than any kind of a theme to the content itself.

But it may be that as sites/platforms like Ravelry set standards, the bar will gradually be raised at least some. I really applaud their work to be the change they want to see, kind of thing. If everyone involved found a small place in their own communities, online or off, to make a similar change, it might be that it would become less socially acceptable to hold unexamined or openly racist viewpoints.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:54 AM on June 24 [7 favorites]


It's also possible that more and more smaller/mid-size sites take a stand on what they would like to see in their content, the web becomes less centralized again.

I don't know how likely it is, but it would be nice.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:59 AM on June 24 [13 favorites]


I have been on Ravelry since 2007 (user #1601!) and I'm really happy to see them do this. They are good people.

Bitteschoen's comment here explains some context. It's not an arbitrary decision and is in response to some, well, deplorable behavior from someone calling herself Deplorable Knitter.
posted by apricot at 12:16 PM on June 24 [8 favorites]


deplorable behavior from someone calling herself Deplorable Knitter.

Because "Knitler" would have been too obvious.
posted by Etrigan at 12:39 PM on June 24 [60 favorites]


Exactly, apricot -- and sorry to keep adding quotes from other forums, but hope they’re as interesting to others as I have found them, I have been curious myself as to what led to the ban specifically (especially since the news reports did present it as if it was a sudden decision, and didn’t bother to search around for some more specific background...) -- this is from the Ravelry forums or rather, the "Big Issues Debate" group, there is a discussion on this, and this is from one of the mods:
… this was not an easy decision for them but was brought about because of diligent, deliberate, and repeated abuse of members of this site, including actual threats and doxing. We have seen this before, right here in BID, where we had people who abused others tolerance to the breaking point, including abusive PMs which drove people off the board. It has everything to do with bad behaviour of people who we’re aware of the rules and tried to avoid being held to account, and with trying to write a policy that will not involve another round of those badly behaved people trying to justify and rules lawyer their way out of consequences. Writing policy isn’t easy, and after a while, you get sick of plugging the holes to try and make everyone happy.

…it was an ongoing pattern of behaviour that was repeated multiple time. This time it got bad enough to escalate outside of Rav and involve stalking on other social media and threats, but it’s not a one time thing. This kind of harassment lost BID at least two mods that I know of because they couldn’t deal with the stress of the harassment.
And from a user in the same thread:
… You may or may not realize that several Conservative groups here on Ravelry are notorious for banning and censoring anyone who posts things they don’t like in their groups, no matter how respectfully or nicely they behave. Plus, at least one group has gone so far as to preemptively ban hundreds of people whose only crime was being a member of a Rav group they don’t like.

There have also been problems from people in at least one conservative group where they persistently post racist memes and messages which violate Ravelry Terms of Service. The mods of that group refused to do anything about it so the group was shut down.

There were also threats made against President Obama from at least one member of a conservative group which resulted in the FBI showing up at [Ravelry founders] Jess and Casey’s door. Finally, some members of these conservative groups themselves have done things like stalk Jess at a fiber festival.

Now, if you were the owner of Ravelry, what would you do?
posted by bitteschoen at 12:52 PM on June 24 [32 favorites]


they've thought of it now- twitter trolls are now calling the ravelry admins "knazis", which...doesn't seem to support their point about the site oppressing white supremacists? I'm just so.tired. of bots & trolls, and looking at the twitter feed just makes me appreciate Ravelry & Metafilter's moderation more.

There are also troll brigades which are apparently creating Ravelry accounts or taking over zombie/abandoned accounts, posting goste & obscene photos and sending messages on the site, so casey et al are certainly having a monday.
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 12:54 PM on June 24


twitter trolls are now calling the ravelry admins "knazis", which...doesn't seem to support their point about the site oppressing white supremacists?

"Nazis suppressed views they disagreed with, therefore anyone who does something vaguely like that is the real Nazi!" is pretty much the first-line response to Nazis being banned from anywhere these days.
posted by Etrigan at 12:57 PM on June 24 [16 favorites]


Moderation is tough, especially in creative spaces. There are often people trolling because that's really their hobby, and then they double down when you give them gentle warnings or public reminders.

While it is essential to deal/have policies that deal with people/groups of people who are really only their to drain your time and effort, it's also important to note that this vocal subset is a minority. (they are also the loudest protestors of any moderation being applied to themselves)

The majority of users happy with the site, they are sharing their art and their lives like well socialized adults, and enjoying the benefits of expression with normal sized squabbles here and there like most groups do.

I like the way Rav is trying to make sure that people know that they are still welcome, won't be banned for past actions/posts, won't lose their unpublished patterns and can stick around as long as they don't post about certain topics unrelated to the focus of the site.

Some sites ban all hot button topics like religion and politics outright.

This is not an easy day for the Ravsters, I hope they make sure to unplug for a few hours here and there, to maintain sanity. It's far too easy to get hyperfocused on moderation when things like this blow up, sometimes to the detriment of your health. Take care.
posted by dreamling at 1:18 PM on June 24 [4 favorites]


This may seem a nitpick, but my math spider sense went off when seeing a comparison between total users and daily users - Comparing Ravelry's 8 million total users to daily user counts for other sites for a sense of scale is probably misleading. According to their own homepage, Ravelry had 800,000 users active this month. Extrapolating from the Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook monthly numbers, it looks like monthly numbers are very roughly 1.5 times the daily. So ravelry might have about a half million daily users. Though ravelry probably has less fake accounts than any of the others.
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 2:35 PM on June 24


There's usually a distinction between people who login/view/read the site daily and people who *post*, and that sometimes varies by a couple orders of magnitude. I'm not sure exactly how they're defining what, here.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:37 PM on June 24


There are a lot of comments about how Ravelry has taken this step as a result of doxxing, stalking, and other kinds of IRL abuse. Which makes a lot of sense.

But honestly, even if all the posters of BUILD THAT WALL patterns or whatever were otherwise polite and well-behaved, they would still be creating an environment where people would feel besieged, targeted, and unwelcome. So I think it would have been just as legitimate if Ravelry had made this move even without all the backstory, because Trumpism really is a movement built on othering and on encouraging hatred and harm towards those others. To pretend otherwise is to help that movement grow. It's more than okay to take a stand.
posted by trig at 2:57 PM on June 24 [19 favorites]


And it is very very weird through-the-looking-glass situation to go see racist twitter spouting off about how Rav is fascist and racist against MAGA, basically the mirror image of trig's analysis. I looked briefly and have realized how well I've filtered my friend and social media so I'm not exposed to that crap. Yay for me, but yikes, those people are delusional or straight up propaganda writers.
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 3:09 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


I have a lot of thoughts on this but my primary one is that I hope that after the initial blowback, this will lessen the burden on Ravelry's central team. It is a small operation and they are juggling many things to keep the site useful, friendly and — crucially — welcoming and inclusive.

I've not seen much outrage from Ravelry's core users. The majority appears to come from the usual suspects on Twitter who have never knitted or crocheted a stitch in their lives, and see it as yet another attack on their FREEDUHM. There's been a few feathers ruffled on IG but not as many as I expected. I work in the fibre industry and when I posted about it, I had maybe 3 users hammering me with comments which isn't too bad. Lost maybe 5-6 followers out of 11K. I asked around other industry people today and similar stories there.

Overall the fibre industry appears very supportive of the move and the vast majority of users also seem happy with the new policy.

But it's made the news and I hope other internet spaces follow suit in clarifying where they stand. It's very nice to see Ravelry lead the way.
posted by kariebookish at 4:18 PM on June 24 [9 favorites]


knotsies
posted by banshee at 4:18 PM on June 24 [4 favorites]


Ravelry might have over 8 million accounts... but on preview I see that others have noticed that they're not all active. It is true, but still a lot of people to deal with.

Note: There are cases where dedicated trolls and spammers will make a bunch of accounts and leave them for years so that when they feel like being a troll they've got an old disposable account to do it with. Other trolls just make new ones as needed.

I am proud to be a Raveler, and I support this decision. Besides, it's Casey and Jess's house. We are all guests.

(The shit they get for the Pride flag every year. OMG.)

Anyway.

If it helps, think of Ravelry as a pattern/yarn/project database with pattern shop that has a conjoined twin of Reddit-esque group/forums. Some people only use the database and never use the groups/forums, some people don't even knit or crochet and are there for the community.

Whatever you are looking for, there's probably a group. Fandoms, designers, location. Anyone can start one. All of these are moderated by in-group volunteer moderators. There are splits and schisms. There are trolls. There are people who get harassed and even doxxed to varying degrees.

As someone who does most of their socializing in one group on Ravelry, is a member of some others, and a barely active member of a certain group in which membership has been known to be an automatic ban in the right-wing groups, this policy hasn't changed much for me as far as daily experience goes. But given the constituency of my main group, I wasn't expecting it to make a large impact in the membership there.

All of my current active real-life friendships started on Ravelry.

From what I have seen, there are some non-Trump supporter free speech idealists and/or non-American people leaving, though in the latter case it seems to be because they believe that the Trump supporters are cowering in fear of oppressive political correctness. But I and others don't expect all of the Trumpists to leave completely, even if they do stop spewing nastiness. And it was a river of unreasonable hateful nastiness, in various group forums, but lately more commonly in the comments on patterns. The Trumpists refused to stop being aggressively offensive. The latest harassment may have been the tipping point, but I am not surprised to learn that they've been thinking about this for a while.

By one person's count, as of about 12 hours ago there was a net loss of at least 1700 accounts on Ravelry. They didn't start keeping track until about 2 hours after the announcement though, and haven't updated their estimate since then.

I was watching the Twitter blow up over this yesterday. It was wonderfully entertaining. And I was glad to see it get attention in the political thread and now this FPP here.

Me, I avoid discussing politics on Ravelry, but mostly because I'm spoiled by how good the politics thread here is and I end up frustrated with Ravelers for not having better and fresher information.
posted by monopas at 4:48 PM on June 24 [5 favorites]


has announced that it will ban its users from voicing support for the Trump administration

It's doing nothing of the sort, and OP misphrased that.

Ravelry isn't saying, "You can't say this." Ravelry is saying, "You can't say this here."

It costs money, time, effort, and emotional labor to run a forum. The people who run it have the right to lay down what can be said in their place.

I'd be willing to put down some cash that the Ravelry admins are not saying, "If you're a pro-Trump Tweeter, but you don't bring that in the door, you're still not welcome here."

People confuse freedom of speech with the right to say whatever wherever. The latter doesn't really exist. The former just says government can't constrain it, and, frankly, government has constrained it whenever and wherever it's wished ("free speech zones"), so ...
posted by WCityMike at 5:16 PM on June 24 [12 favorites]


Sarah Mervosh in The New York Times: "Ravelry, a Popular Knitting Site, Bans Pro-Trump Content"
posted by Going To Maine at 8:06 PM on June 24


Meanwhile, in Germany, a town buys out all the beer to deprive neo-Nazis.
posted by MrGuilt at 9:04 PM on June 24 [9 favorites]




knotsies

...doesn't actually work. If Ravelry was into macrame, yes. Knots involve pulling the strands tight but knitting involves loops which are a little loose.
posted by Rash at 11:00 PM on June 24


Ravelry does indeed, cover macrame. and may I interest anyone with a spot of nalbinding, ie viking-era 'knitting' which is basically knots upon knots?
posted by cendawanita at 11:49 PM on June 24 [6 favorites]


Not to mention crochet, my primary medium, which boils down to an elaborate system of slip knotting, has many similarities to nalbinding, and is the second heavy hitter of Ravelry's whole deal.
posted by Mizu at 11:55 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


it would have been just as legitimate if Ravelry had made this move even without all the backstory

Sure, and you and I and many others here would agree on that, but at least for media reporting purposes, for the general public reading about this, the backstory DOES matter and quite a lot - see for instance in the New York Times article linked above, see if this doesn’t annoy you - first they do go to the trouble of looking for Ravelry users to be interviewed but oh they interview only people who disagree with the policy, and then this:

- "Ravelry, which says it has eight million members, was shut down to new users on Monday, and the site’s leadership did not respond to multiple requests for comment."
This makes it sound like oh perhaps they are closing it down for good to new users, or who knows how long - but it says it right on the registration page that registration is closed temporarily and will be open again in a few days...

- "On the site’s forums, several posts about the ban had been locked, archived or deleted by moderators. "
I saw two massive threads on there, one on the main forums (For the Love of Ravelry section) that went on for more than 42 PAGES of posts before being locked, and another in the Big Issues Debate group, that was like 5 pages yesterday and today has been locked too after reaching 40 pages... And they’re just locked, because the mods cannot keep up after 42 pages, but they’re still there and perfectly readable.

- “Kill yourselves,” one protester said. “Boycott Ravelry,” said another. “Just wow,” one user wrote. “I didn’t vote for him. But I don’t support this. I don’t support thought police.”
Just wow indeed, congrats NYT for the keen eyesight - I browsed those threads and saw an overwhelming majority of thanks and users being enthusiastic about the new policy, a few disagreements, some civilized discussion, I’m sure there were abusive comments too (that must have got deleted and quickly) but why not mention the majority of users are indeed super happy with this?

And this, the cherry on top:
"It was unclear exactly what prompted the Ravelry policy change on Sunday. "
Really... This is why the backstory is important. This article is even worse than the generic other ones that just leave you the impression this was out of the blue, the NYT goes out of its way to make sure you read this in the worst possible terms as some arbitrary, unexplainable decision that leaves a lot of users unhappy.
posted by bitteschoen at 2:57 AM on June 25 [25 favorites]


What do you expect? The NYT has been supporting white supremacy this whole time.
posted by agregoli at 4:37 AM on June 25 [15 favorites]


Ravelry isn't allowing any debate of this policy on the Big 6 boards, which are the main, official discussion boards that every member is automatically subscribed to. (There are thousands of independently-moderated groups, and you can still debate it there if the group admins choose to allow it.) I think they learned their lesson from the above-mentioned arguments over the Pride flag. Every June they put up a Pride flag above the Ravelry log, and every June a bunch of assholes completely lose their shit about it. They start endless discussions about how Ravelry is bigoted against Christians, about how they're violating Christians' First Amendment rights by failing to give equal time to homophobes, about how Ravelry should fly some imaginary gay-hating flag to even the score, etc., etc., etc. Moderating these hate-fest threads took a huge amount of site resources, and it's not like there was any point to the exercise. So last year, they basically just refused to engage. They said that Ravelry loves and supports its queer users, that the flag is a symbol of that love and support, and that if you really can't live with that, then this might not be the site for you. And then they locked threads and dimmed posts that criticized it. This year, there's a thread about the Pride flag, and it's 90% people showing off their rainbow-colored knitting and crochet projects. I think they're straight-up deleting critical posts. They've decided that they get to set the policy, that they aren't required to endlessly engage with criticism, and that they're willing to risk losing a few members over this. And I think that's the right call, because the health of the site and the emotional well-being of staff and volunteer moderators are more important than a bunch of bigots' imaginary free-speech rights.

I don't know if it has to do with the fact that most of the long-time staff members have become parents over the course of Ravelry's existence, but they've become much more willing to say "this is site policy, it is not open to discussion, and your recourse if you can't abide it is to leave." And sometimes you have to do that, because arguing with overt bigots is exhausting, futile, and ultimately kind of soul-crushing.

Another interesting development is that there's a thread on For the Love of Ravelry (the Big 6 board where you discuss site policy) in which people are whining about the fact that they can't cancel their accounts and still get all the benefits of having an account. And those benefits are significant. You can search patterns without an account, but you can't see other users' projects that they made from those patterns. You have to be logged in to see projects, and being able to see people's projects is by far the best feature of Ravelry. You can buy patterns and have them emailed to you, but logged-in users can save them in their libraries, where they can easily find their patterns and see updates and errata. There is no substitute for Ravelry, and there's no way to cancel your account without losing real things. I strongly suspect that many flouncers will open new accounts, even if they never post anything on them. Not having access to Ravelry would be a serious bummer.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:10 AM on June 25 [25 favorites]


Ravelry's user base is totally international. Are you claiming that they're required to abide by every law governing speech in every place where any of their users live?

Other websites do this - that's why they all changed their privacy policies vis-à-vis GDPR. Twitter totally blocks Nazi crap in Germany - that's why it's so infuriating when they imply it's too difficult to do elsewhere. It depends on the size of the userbase in the country as to whether it makes financial sense, of course.

I'm curious of the effects over on RPG.net. Is it much easier for their (volunteer! amazing!) moderators? I hope so.
posted by bluefly at 6:19 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


Okay, but I just saw a 'sO mUcH fOr ThE ToLeRaNt WeFt' joke on a locked account on twitter and it was so good that I had to share it with all of you.

(their reality is so warped)
posted by dinty_moore at 6:25 AM on June 25 [14 favorites]


As a person of color and an immigrant, I'm...not impressed at all? Unless they're also banning pro-cop and pro-US military content, which have been much more significant drivers of white supremacy for a lot longer than Trump has been around, this just looks like shallow performative wokeness.

Will they ban support for Democrats who have used drones to kill children or passed legislation that drove up mass incarceration or enabled predatory lending? Or is white supremacy simply a partisan problem?
posted by Ouverture at 6:50 AM on June 25 [2 favorites]


Technically ravelry users can support other republicans as much as they please, they just can't post anything supporting Trump or white supremacy.

The point is that supporting Trump and supporting white supremacy is an "and" relationship, not an "or" one.
posted by Gelatin at 6:52 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


Yes, but they also would have to find a current Republican leader that wasn't also supporting white supremacy. Which might be difficult for them.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:56 AM on June 25


But also, like I was saying, overt displays of Trumpery are used to assert dominance. Red hat is a gang colour. The policies of other politicians certainly have material consequences, but nobody was using them symbolically for intimidation on the Ravelry forums themselves.
posted by RobotHero at 7:40 AM on June 25 [6 favorites]


My 1st reaction was Hey, cool, then that it's suppression of free speech. It is. They are saying that commentary in favor of the President of the US is banned. I don't know if an Internet forum can be (successfully) sued over this, but I will be surprised if they aren't sued. In general, free speech is pretty great and a big part of what I like about America. The owners of Ravelry are saying that the President is so racist, so vile, so bad for everything, that support for him will not be allowed. I'll bet they know there's a risk, and I admire them for what feels a lot like civil disobedience. I'll join Ravelry in support, and if they need a legal defense fund, I'll contribute. They have sorted out their priorities,and I believe they are correct.
posted by theora55 at 7:52 AM on June 25


Also, over 100 comments about knitting and politics, and no mention of Madame DeFarge?
posted by theora55 at 7:55 AM on June 25 [3 favorites]


Once again, freedom of speech as defined by the First Amendment only covers governmental action against speech. Private entities are free to decide what speech they want and what speech they don't want in their spaces. This is why alt-right forums are "allowed" to exist.
posted by cooker girl at 7:59 AM on June 25 [29 favorites]


My 1st reaction was Hey, cool, then that it's suppression of free speech. It is.

It isn't, though.

They are saying that commentary in favor of the President of the US is banned. I don't know if an Internet forum can be (successfully) sued over this, but I will be surprised if they aren't sued.

And they will win that suit because Ravelry is a PRIVATE BUSINESS, and the First Amendment only covers GOVERNMENT-OWNED spaces.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:00 AM on June 25 [26 favorites]


My 1st reaction was Hey, cool, then that it's suppression of free speech. It is.

In addition to the fine points raised above about public vs. private, I will remind you that free speech is not -- and can never be -- an absolute right. Imagine if I were to lie to you about an investment opportunity and then walk away with the money: FREE SPEECH! Imagine me standing under your bedroom window with a bullhorn and yelling about how great The Good Place is at 3 a.m.: FREE SPEECH! Imagine me telling your boss that you offered to sell me corporate secrets: FREE SPEECH!

Free speech is like water: It's great, but you can still drown in it if you let enough in.
posted by Etrigan at 8:32 AM on June 25 [17 favorites]


As a person of color and an immigrant, I'm...not impressed at all? Unless they're also banning pro-cop and pro-US military content, which have been much more significant drivers of white supremacy for a lot longer than Trump has been around, this just looks like shallow performative wokeness.

You can certainly argue the policy doesn't go far enough, but saying that a site voluntarily sacrificing revenue and putting itself in the cross-hairs of the current howling bigoted mob online to try to protect its users from being harassed and excluded by other users--which was what was going on--is just "shallow performative wokeness" is just wrong. They are going to take, are already taking, a lot of crap over this. I don't know you, so I'm not saying this sarcastically: I also really hope that you are constantly excoriating the much larger and much more powerful sites like Twitter and Facebook that don't even try.
posted by praemunire at 8:38 AM on June 25 [18 favorites]


I used to own a bookstore. In general, I don't like censoring books, but there were books I chose not to make available in my store. Self-censorship is a thing that people can practice.

Y'all can @ me. Yes, I think they are suppressing speech, I'm not crazy about that, but I value that they have chosen to suppress hate speech. Freedom of speech has some legal definitions; it is also an idea and an ideal. I think somebody will sue them, it will cost them legal fees and be unsuccessful. If you read what I posted, you see that I support the decision of Ravelry. But there's a bunch of yelling because I say it's suppression of free speech. I want freedom of speech because it's more likely to be progressive speech that is suppressed. It is a measure of how bad things are in this country that right-thinking people are taking extrememeasures.
posted by theora55 at 8:59 AM on June 25


Or is white supremacy simply a partisan problem?

That a recent political slogan by one party is now a proxy for a klan robe does suggest a certain gross disparity between the two.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:01 AM on June 25 [6 favorites]


BUT! I do think there is a funny thing going on here where this policy is pooh-poohed as not being anti-Republican, just anti-Trump (see the "is this discrimination by political party?" derail upthread) while at the same time a number of other folks are looking agog at the first group and please asking them to stop trying to gaslight them. The question of whether the President is separable from his party remains quite real and is only going to get hotter as policies like this one propagate.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:11 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


Imagine me standing under your bedroom window with a bullhorn and yelling about how great The Good Place is at 3 a.m.

To be fair this is absolutely warranted and no sane jury would convict.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 9:18 AM on June 25 [15 favorites]


The question of whether the President is separable from his party remains quite real and is only going to get hotter as policies like this one propagate.

I mean, if you're talking about subtext, whether the President is separable from his party is indeed a murky area. In terms of the practical logistics of what Ravelry's ban entails, though, the upshot of "this is about Trump and his administration" seems to be that you can still post a pattern of a cute little stuffed elephant to express your support for the GOP in general, or a pattern of a little Ted Cruz stuffy or something; you're good with those as long as neither the elephant or the Ted Cruz stuffy is wearing a cute little "make america great again" t-shirt as part of the pattern.

I grant that it's a bit of a tap-dance along the line between "the person or the party", but it's a tap-dance that to my eyes stays on the "person" side of the line.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:54 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


My 1st reaction was Hey, cool, then that it's suppression of free speech. It is. They are saying that commentary in favor of the President of the US is banned

First bookmark on most of my browsers: Free Speech
posted by terrapin at 9:58 AM on June 25 [5 favorites]


But there's a bunch of yelling because I say it's suppression of free speech.

I think there's a bunch of yelling because freedom of speech is a constitutional guarantee only against government action, and most people choosing to ignore that these days are right-wing trolls.
posted by praemunire at 10:17 AM on June 25 [16 favorites]


I grant that it's a bit of a tap-dance along the line between "the person or the party", but it's a tap-dance that to my eyes stays on the "person" side of the line.

O, I agree, and I think that to that end the portion of the policy surrounding not goading people into stating their support and the broader context of doxxing surrounding the ban is key. Whenever one can describe a policy as "tap dancing", though, you are in a pretty bad space that really easily opens you up to being accused of misrepresentation.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:34 AM on June 25


Whenever one can describe a policy as "tap dancing", though, you are in a pretty bad space that really easily opens you up to being accused of misrepresentation.

in this instance I think that the people who are most invested in misrepresenting them would be doing so regardless of what their policy actually was. So in all likelihood the Ravelry team decided not to give two fucks what they thought.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:53 AM on June 25 [7 favorites]


Fuck yeah, Ravelry.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:48 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


So in all likelihood the Ravelry team decided not to give two fucks what they thought.

How refreshing. Joe Biden & the Centrists* ought to adopt that as a policy.



* A really bad name for a band.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:13 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


Also, over 100 comments about knitting and politics, and no mention of Madame DeFarge?

I prefer not to make everything about me.
posted by Madame Defarge at 6:14 PM on June 25 [22 favorites]


You can certainly argue the policy doesn't go far enough, but saying that a site voluntarily sacrificing revenue and putting itself in the cross-hairs of the current howling bigoted mob online to try to protect its users from being harassed and excluded by other users--which was what was going on--is just "shallow performative wokeness" is just wrong. They are going to take, are already taking, a lot of crap over this.

My fear is that many otherwise nice (mostly white) Americans think that meaningfully stopping white supremacy is stopping Trump or even just the current GOP. These are the same people who will one again have nothing to say when it's a Democrat who is once again building up America's drone strike program or deportation infrastructure or deregulating the mechanisms that lead to racially predatory lending.

I wonder what Abdulrahman al-Awlaki would think about Ravelry's content moderation rules.

I don't know you, so I'm not saying this sarcastically: I also really hope that you are constantly excoriating the much larger and much more powerful sites like Twitter and Facebook that don't even try.

You certainly don't. The funny thing is that I would post a lot more about how evil massive ad-driven social networks (along with Big Tech) are on here, but it's posts like these that remind me how frustrating primarily white America-centric liberal spaces are.
posted by Ouverture at 12:16 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]


I don't think they're doing this to strike a blow against white supremacy in the abstract. They're reacting to the presence of particular rhetoric and projects on their site. If people start posting "Drones are Awesome" hats and "Deregulate the Mechanisms that Lead to Racially Predatory Lending" scarves, then they should attend to that. But the issue at hand was a Build the Wall pattern that was trending in the spot where they track the most-visited patterns, and they moved to deal with the specific hate speech that they were seeing on their site at this specific moment.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:57 AM on June 26 [12 favorites]


cendawanita and hurdy gurdy girl mentioned this near the top of the thread, but I’m bringing it back since it’s been lost in thread drift: Casey and Jessica are enacting a policy change specifically requested of them by a number of BIPOC/POC ravelers (including myself, bias disclaimer) during a conversation where they invited people to share their experiences of racism in the fiber community at large and Ravelry in particular. That request was made because of specific hostile behavior on the part of Trump supporters on the site. There’s certainly grounds for criticism of this policy but “listening to what the marginalized members of your community say they need to feel welcome and safe, and then making it happen” is not how I would describe performative wokeness.
posted by bettafish at 6:58 AM on June 26 [31 favorites]


I despise the way they immediately follow up their notice with a weird reassurance that being conservative is still okay. This has been bothering me more and more the more I think about it. If, in your statement of allyship, you just can't RESIST adding the observation that you're not saying conservative politics are, like, bad, exactly, then I will never feel safe around you. Why couldn't they have stopped after saying that Ravelry members can't support Trump? Why did they cast around for a way to make Republicans feel better about this?

I've been a member of Ravelry since 2009 and I think the owners are doing their best. But their "best" has this stink of pandering and it is not cool.
posted by Amberlyza at 7:20 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]


Maybe they aren't trying to fix the planet via moderation policies on a social media planet for knitters? Maybe they just care about making their site a safe place for the people who use it in good faith?
posted by tobascodagama at 8:09 AM on June 26 [13 favorites]


I don't think it's pandering as so much that they do still believe there are 'good' conservatives (in quotes because I mean conservative in the active American political sense doesn't strike me as having that much good left), and it's an impulse I recognise because it's same here too, as a majoritarian member of my society.
posted by cendawanita at 8:24 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's pandering as so much that they do still believe there are 'good' conservatives.....

....or, they suspect that if they did ban conservatives as a general rule they knew they'd be opening themselves up to an even bigger pushback?

At least this way they have the plausible deniability to point to and say "this isn't about an entire political party, it's about one guy's actions and administration. If you're conservative, just play nice and we got no problem."

I mean, you know and I know that the conservative members ain't gonna play nice, and probably so do they. But at least this way their asses are covered that "hey, we said we didn't have a problem with conservative members as long as they played nice. Their ban is now on them."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:38 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]


Yes, I can see that too and I do agree. But that whole 'you know and I know' understandably doesn't leave the more discerning* members a little :/ because who's this 'we', exactly? But I get it, legal reasons and suchlike.

*And even then that depends on the time of day for me
posted by cendawanita at 9:46 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]


....or, they suspect that if they did ban conservatives as a general rule they knew they'd be opening themselves up to an even bigger pushback?

Who said anything about banning conservatives? I'm saying that after the sentence about banning explicit support for Trump they could have just stopped talking. "No Trump support permitted here. The end. Good day."

But no, they just HAD to add another bunch of sentences. That says something very loud to me about their allyship.
posted by Amberlyza at 10:00 AM on June 26


Who said anything about banning conservatives? I'm saying that after the sentence about banning explicit support for Trump they could have just stopped talking. "No Trump support permitted here. The end. Good day."

And the conservative members of Ravelry would have had a hissy fit that "omigod you're BANNING US" and caused an even bigger stink, so this is heading them off at the pass and saying "and NO WE ARE NOT BANNING CONSERVATIVES good lord"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:03 AM on June 26 [9 favorites]


The kind of tone argument when the complaint is that your tone wasn't harsh enough.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:19 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]


cendawanita and hurdy gurdy girl mentioned this near the top of the thread, but I’m bringing it back since it’s been lost in thread drift: Casey and Jessica are enacting a policy change specifically requested of them by a number of BIPOC/POC ravelers (including myself, bias disclaimer) during a conversation where they invited people to share their experiences of racism in the fiber community at large and Ravelry in particular. That request was made because of specific hostile behavior on the part of Trump supporters on the site. There’s certainly grounds for criticism of this policy but “listening to what the marginalized members of your community say they need to feel welcome and safe, and then making it happen” is not how I would describe performative wokeness.

It's great to hear they are listening to their PoC members and doing something about it. I hope your experiences do get better.

But if they're explicitly saying "white supremacy is not okay" while also explicitly saying "being a conservative or having conservative politics is still okay", then to me, it certainly seems like an extremely shallow analysis of what white supremacy actually is and how it harms people of color. Maybe that is pragmatically what they have to do, but I guess I'm looking for a bit more when it comes to allies.
posted by Ouverture at 10:20 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]


Right or wrong, the reward for doing better is to be asked to do keep doing better.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:27 AM on June 26 [5 favorites]


I, like kariebookish, am also a professional in this industry and I am all for it. When your friends AND THEIR DOGS are getting death threats because a handful of right wing knitters got their cast-ons in a twist over a policy announcement you can get back to me about slippery slopes.

I watched a multipage, multiweek thread go on because a designer refused to change the racist name of her pattern, and in fact tried to circumvent the site’s attempts to keep her from renaming it with ANOTHER racist term more than once. With eight and a half million users, no one has the time for that shit and frankly, I’d have shut it down faster if it were me.

I applaud Ravelry for trying to keep their users safe from the hateful actions of a bunch of people I can only describe as “provocateurs” because my actual opinion of their behavior may put some of you off your next meal.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 3:31 PM on June 26 [26 favorites]


I think that Ravelry could have explained more in that announcement, but I think that it was intended for members to see and most members who have been in the discussion forums know what has been going on.
The general public do not, and many are interpreting it as all Trump supporters are not welcome. Which is not true.
posted by PollyWaffle at 9:19 PM on June 26


Reddit Places a 'Quarantine' on The_Donald, Its Largest Community of Trump Supporters

Reddit quarantines its biggest headache
The step is far from the ban that users have long requested from the company’s CEO Steve Huffman in his regular site-wide Q&As. Just last month, Huffman addressed some of the issues r/The_Donald had been causing:

“…Yes, we do see individual posts and comments that cross the line, but the offending content also gets removed as we ask and expect, and we also take action against those individual users and accounts with suspensions or full bans from the site as appropriate. I wish there was a solution that was as simple as banning the community—certainly it would make some things easier—but the reality is that banning a large political community that isn’t in violation of our policies would be hugely problematic, not just for Reddit, but for our democracy generally…”
posted by bitteschoen at 5:41 AM on June 27 [3 favorites]


AFAICT, T_D have long since moved all their brigade organising over to private Discords, so there's a real too-little-too-late vibe to that action by Reddit. Also, I note here that it was only when they started to threaten *cops* that Reddit did anything.
We are clear in our site-wide policies that posting content that encourages or threatens violence is not allowed on Reddit. As we have shared, we are sensitive to what could be considered political speech, however, recent behaviors including threats against the police and public figures is content that is prohibited by our violence policy.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:06 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]


And now Twitter introduces "the Trump rule", a content warning label for "tweets by major political figures if their content violates the site’s rules but the company believes deleting them is not in the public interest".

The question of who gets to define what is in the public interest is of course a whole other world of headaches there...
posted by bitteschoen at 12:23 PM on June 27 [3 favorites]


Due to my outspoken support for Ravelry's new policy of zero tolerance for pro-Trump posts, I have lost perhaps 30 followers out of the 16,000+ who follow the Facebook page for my knitting blog, The Knitting Needle and the Damage Done, over the past few days. As you can imagine, this 0.001% decrease in the number of people who follow my Facebook page for free has left me devastated and unsure as to whether I can possibly carry on.

My only solace is lurking on the "Boycott Ravelry" Facebook page, where, under a heading photo of some disturbingly unattractive synthetic yarn, 333 stalwart souls (as of the time of this writing) try to separate the sheep from the goats. By which I mean that they insist, in misspelled and arbitrarily capitalized sentence fragments, that they are not white supremacists because they support Trump, were banned from a website with "no due process", and won't buy anything from anyone who supports Ravelry's "fascism".

I read the list of the dozens of designers and businesses who support Ravelry's new policy and against whom these boycotters intend to strike a crippling economic blow, and wonder sadly if I, as a knitting blogger, will ever be numbered among them.

I'm coping with it all by making a list of terms these pro-Trump, anti-Ravelry types use but don't seem to understand: free speech, hate speech, due process, libel, liable (used interchangeably with libel), "the real racism", discrimination, fascism, totalitarian, segregation, their/there....
posted by orange swan at 3:45 PM on June 28 [13 favorites]


« Older Shot through with dilettantism, sexual harassment...   |   Can the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre Survive? Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments