The Voat influx


As predicted, with the imminent shut down of Voat, Aether has been overloaded with racists, homophobes, transphobes, antisemites, and all other forms of bigoted deplorables. You can’t scroll through New without seeing the n-word every other message. It’s unusable except to other racists, and I don’t think it’s likely to recover.


Is the board you linked a SFWlisted board? (Currently on mobile, can’t check), if so, let me know and I’ll take a look. This is the point of the SFW list.

We have been planning some changes to allow people control more exactly what they can see and share, but the network has been a fairly kind and kindred-spirited place so far, so we didn’t have a need. If this influx does continue and it creates two different types of communities on the platform, that might mean the time has come for us to allow for better user control so that the content goes only to people who explicitly ask for it.

On the other hand, there have been influxes like this before. They all subside eventually. We can’t control the discussion that happens on Aether so long as it’s not illegal in the US (that’s the point) but we can definitely make sure the SFW list remains as such, and if anyone wants to go get something outside it, then it’s their own explicit decision.


Yep. I started a thread about this a few days ago the your Meta community, sharing my concerns about the possible outcome of a huge influx of ex-Voat users. Last I checked (haven’t been on in over 24 hours, probably won’t come back at all for a while because it’s a horrible place to be at the moment, I have actually uninstalled Aether for the time being) there were 120-something comments in the thread, the majority of which from people who were openly racist, many of which containing racist, homophobic or antisemitic slurs.

Obviously with software like this freedom of speech is important, and I have no interest in policing the language others use in their own communities, but the problem with this, I believe, is that the number of active users on Aether is so small that the ex-Voat users signing up at the moment will quickly outnumber all other active users, and so the atmosphere of Voat will be pervasive throughout Aether, regardless of what community you’re in. This is what happened to Voat itself, back in the day - it started as a simple alternative to Reddit, but quickly became a refuge that was used almost exclusively by alt-right extremists who were banned from all other social platforms, meaning that Voat was unusable by anybody else.

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I myself am going to try to hang in until new features come along for blocking. But it’s really a test of patience at this point.

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This is doubly unfortunate timing because one of the reasons this happened in an SFW listed community is that I was on a holiday break (just came back now). Normally, the core position here is that the moderators of SFW listed communities are required to keep their community as such, else they’ll get removed from the list. Outside the list, generally speaking, the limitations are only of what the US law allows for in its definition of free speech, but those communities would only be visible to people who explicitly look for, and subscribe to those communities.

I’m the mod of b/Meta, and I was out of the office, and I missed that. It was my responsibility (which is separate and distinct from being the maintainer of Aether) to keep it clean. For other SFW listed communities, this is the general idea as well. We want to be welcoming to the many new users we’ve got, but we also want to make sure that they understand what Aether is, and what its rules are. They are free to create their own communities and moderate themselves, but if a community is not theirs, and if that community is SFWlisted, that means a certain standard of quality or ‘SFW-ness’ has to be met.

There are two approaches we can take here between balancing the need for free speech and keeping it sane here, plus one improvement we need so that it’s easier to deal with these cases.


One of them is the system I mentioned before: we need to make it so that people won’t have to host content that they don’t want to host, not just see. Essentially, if you see a community of Nazis (not the kind where people call each other Nazis, but a community of actual Nazis), you should have the ability to retract (or never give) your consent that your computer be used as a conduit for broadcasting this message, which I believe is fair. Everyone is entitled to free speech, no one is entitled to using other people (and their computers) as a megaphone. This also nicely avoids the issue of several corporations controlling what is acceptable and what is not, since Aether is a P2P network and by proxy, the decision on acceptability is made by the users themselves, one by one, by them not giving you access to their computers for your broadcast. It’s the fairest kind of control on speech — if most people block (or not allow in the first place) your community by not propagating messages originating from that community, by definition the masses have voted in such a way that your message is not welcome. If on the other hand, your message finds purchase and people decide to propagate your message, you get a wider and wider reach, and then you will also know that your message resonates.


The second one is that we need to give moderators better tools. For example, one thing I’m working on right now is machine learning. Moderators (i.e. everyone who wants to be one), in their own communities, can now run an ML model running on your own machine that can read these messages and flag the ones that sound off. This would still require human intervention and decision-making, but it would no longer require the moderator to read literally every message in the community. If we had this, for example, I would have been able to get notified of these issues by the ML algorithm, so that even if I wasn’t particularly looking for them at that point in time, I would be able to react.


Third and the last one is that we need an official Aether server installation that is capable of running on a Raspberry Pi or a device of some sort, or in a more common hosting setup. Why is this relevant to this discussion? Because I was travelling internationally over the holidays, my machine also has been, which meant that my IP address was changing. The network does take a bit of time to realise your new IP and start connecting to you, so I ended up in a place where the messages have been arriving a little late, which also contributed to the issue. Normally this issue is generally only for sending and not for new data coming at your computer, but in this case, combined with my general busy-ness with family, it made me miss what’s happening.

If I had, say, a Raspberry Pi that was hosting my actual Aether instance, instead of it directly running on my computer, it would be the case that the IP address would not change and the information flow would not have been disrupted, even if only somewhat. This would have helped me stay in the loop a little better since it would also have allowed me to use my phone to check out Aether.

I think this is also a good roadmap of where Aether P2P is going as well. Would love to hear any comments or suggestions.

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Welcome back @b yesd I came upon that thread that @AdamW mentioned and it was quite intense and really personal. I did try to moderate 2 days back (when I saw it) but realised with the democracy voting we could likely just be voted right out. It’s certainly not the type of engagements I want - I don’t mind debating an opposite viewpoint, but when it gets purely personal and subjective, what’s the point of any discussion.

To be honest some of the abuse being hurled about I think was illegal in terms of US law for a “public place” ie. open forum. Few countries today allow racial, gender, religious discrimination in a public forum. A private forum can allow for that if it is invite only as i understand the right of association.

Yes some form of block (profile/hosting) would be good.

Does look like the folks have found a forum somewhere of their own as its not popping up by me anymore.

Sorry about the abuse — I know personally how vicious it can get. Over the years working on Aether, I’ve even had an actual real-world stalker because of my work, so I do have a lot of sympathy for people caught in the crossfire. I think one thing that can help is for us to set a general philosophy of Aether on free speech, and where it starts and where it stops for us. I’ve attempted to outline something here (link) but I’d welcome any comments or suggestions, and/or counterpoints. Once I have some more comments on it, I’ll convert this to a blog post and post it ‘officially’ on the website, so the next time this kind of influx happens, our rules should be much more obviously declared. It should also allow us to build features using those guidelines as well, too.

I know none of this offsets the cesspool experience some of you guys might have experienced over December, but I just wanted to let you know that I’m aware of the issue, and after some discussion, I’m planning to build features based on what we have decided collectively.

Freedom of speech is taken very seriously in the USA, there are no “hate speech” laws, it is fully legal to be as racist or offensive as you like. Of course there will be social consequences for that, but not legal consequences.

I think the Hygiene metaphor is useful, but use the term “Sewer” instead of “Cesspool”. (Just think of the incredible sewer systems in Baldur’s Gate! They were no mere holes in the ground, but incredible works of engineering and architecture, a pleasure to view!)

We want a hygienic society, and in a very unhealthy culture, there are no sewers. Discussion platforms basically say, “Not in my back yard.” and nobody can go to the toilet.

Perhaps building the Internets Sewer System was not what was in your mind when you created Aether, @b, but people have to go somewhere. All the public toilets are being closed, and consequently those which remain are going to be ever more heavily used.

Please, do not coat shugar the issue, it is a serious one.

Continuing on your analogy… everyone of us produce shit that is somewhat different.

It is not better or worse, just different

Someone is deciding that some shit needs to be banned

I say, take care of your shit and let people live happly

We are arrassed and bullied by people pretending to be “peaceful”, hypocrites

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Ha, it’s been a long time since I saw a picture of Imoen, that was my childhood crush.

Sewers are useful, but there’s a reason they’re underground. We can both make it so that they exist and provide their services, and that they’re underground so as to not scare people off.


I myself honestly would very much like to have some tool of “blocking”, where you can choose to block a user or a board from both appearing in your feed, and from using your node to spread. It really puts a sour taste in my mouth when bigoted assholes come to open platforms to spread their hate speech, and don’t personally want to help out a platform being actively taken over by Nazis