It's a new year January 3, 2017 12:12 PM   Subscribe

It's a new year and there will soon be a new, and very different government here in the U.S. This will be a shift of a magnitude that many have never seen. Some people feel that this new world shouldn't be entered into, by individuals or groups, without a bit of advanced thinking and planning. My question is: Has leadership here at MetaFilter given any thought as to a need to change how the site handles moderation, security, or any other aspect of our lives here, in light of the inevitable upcoming social, cultural, or governmental changes?
posted by HuronBob to MetaFilter-Related at 12:12 PM (46 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

Briefly, as of right now we don't plan on changes to the privacy/security side of things. It's already a public site, and the best thing for individual members to do is to think ahead about what's safe or within their risk tolerance to post publicly.

We've got a few FAQ entries about privacy related stuff at Mefi (here's a big list), including info on the "minimal profile" option and privacy of information on your profile page and about what should I know about privacy at Metafilter. Anyone who has privacy concerns they want to talk about can contact the mods directly too.

There was a MeTa shortly after the election touching on some info security practices that people can implement in their own communications.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:19 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


I will piggy-back on this thread to ask something for which I'd been considering opening a separate thread: is there any chance that the mods will consider allowing people to remove their accounts (including past comments)? Trump has advocated the use of state power against his political opponents as well as many specific demographic groups, and many of us here have identified ourselves as belonging to some of these groups in public posts on this site which we cannot now remove.
posted by enn at 12:21 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


It seems really nuts to me to just smugly declare that people should "think ahead about what's safe" (with the unspoken corollary that anyone whose imperfect capacity to prediction the future led them to make decisions about "what's safe" that they now regret deserves whatever they get).

Very few people here anticipated the current situation when writing comments years ago. "What's safe" is subject to change. We should be able to correct our judgments about what's safe to have online as our personal situations change and as the political situation changes, by having the power to remove comments after the fact, as afforded by basically every other blogging and social media platform.
posted by enn at 12:26 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


I will piggy-back on this thread to ask something for which I'd been considering opening a separate thread: is there any chance that the mods will consider allowing people to remove their accounts (including past comments)?

I'll reiterate what I said last year in a couple conversations in the vicinity of the election: notwithstanding our general practice of not doing full account wipes, I'm absolutely ready to work with folks as we always have to look at removing specific privacy-centric stuff from their history that they're concerned about. Removing individual questions/posts/comments about which a user has a concern is pretty much a no-brainer. Likewise for folks who have a specific concern about e.g. the (very limited) PayPal info we store at signup time, contacting us about having that scrubbed is fine.

For anyone dealing with a more exceptional or extraordinary identity/privacy concern tied to their participation on the site, contacting us to talk about an en masse removal of activity is okay but is a more complicated situation; we have done that very rarely and have almost always been able to find a middle-ground approach of removing content of specific identity-sensitive concern and/or working out a plan to move away form an existing compromised identity on the site to a new one with a clean break from past privacy concerns. Totally okay to contact us and talk about it, regardless.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:29 PM on January 3 [10 favorites]


It seems really nuts to me to just smugly declare

LobsterMitten wasn't being smug, she was being clear about the role of site privacy actions on an inherently public site. MetaFilter is a place where very little of what exists in the database isn't already public by design; there is essentially nothing we can do to make secure text which is published openly. So it's important for folks to approach communication on the site in that sense. It's not secure channel and it's not a securable channel.

For dealing with after the fact regret about privacy- or identity-compromising stuff that's been posted publicly, we are totally willing to work with folks on that, and do so routinely. See my previous comment.

That said, enn, I know that you, specifically, have strong feelings about wanting and not getting a total account wipe. If you want to take that discussion back up, write to me and I'll try to talk it out with you with an open mind, but I am uncomfortable with you taking a general question here and shoehorning it into that long-standing beef with us at the possible expense of other folks being able to have a less immediately pigeon-holed discussion about these issues in general. I'm gonna ask you not to dig into this in here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:35 PM on January 3 [11 favorites]


Trump has advocated the use of state power against his political opponents as well as many specific demographic groups, and many of us here have identified ourselves as

I would just like to state for the record that I have pulled things out of my dog's butt that I would trust more to lead the country than Donald Trump. My name is Jen and I live on the lower west side of Chicago in one of those scary danger neighborhoods everyone else in the country likes to talk shit about and fucking come. at. me. bro. ๐Ÿ–•๐Ÿ–•
posted by phunniemee at 12:51 PM on January 3 [99 favorites]




People are being pretty civil about Cheeto Jesus the Kremlin Puppet.

I'm going loud and proud, full-birther. I invite you to join us. If he's going to dossier us all, I want it to be yuuuge and damning.
posted by valentinepig at 2:01 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


As a for funsies project, mefi could add two factor authentication or a .onion address.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:07 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


I would just like to state for the record that I have pulled things out of my dog's butt

If you want to make some extra cash, that would comfortably win at least third place in some rural English village shows I've attended.
posted by Wordshore at 2:19 PM on January 3 [9 favorites]


I didn't vote for him myself, but nonetheless I plan on giving President Trump exactly the same amount of support and respect all my Republican acquaintances gave President Obama the past eight years.
posted by yhbc at 3:07 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


Technical question:

it looks like general full retroactive account wipes are not-on-the-table - For reasons stated by both Lobstermitten and Cortex.

I was wondering though, in the case of individual comment wipes (from the past) or account purging, won't that leave gaping holes in past MeFii discussions? Or worse potentially remove valuable information and links from past AskMe's ??

Hope that makes sense.
posted by Faintdreams at 3:07 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Defaulting to HTTPS isn't a privacy panacea, and it will add a bit to the server load, but is there any chance that might be an option in the future? At the moment it seems to be opt-in rather than opt-out, and it isn't something available to non-logged in visitors.
posted by figurant at 3:13 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Oh, just to lay out an example of why that might be a desirable: Some people might be interested in exploring certain socially or politically sensitive tags in AskMe without leaving an easily visible trail at their ISPs.
posted by figurant at 3:16 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


I was wondering though, in the case of individual comment wipes (from the past) or account purging, won't that leave gaping holes in past MeFii discussions? Or worse potentially remove valuable information and links from past AskMe's ??

It can be disruptive, which is part of why wiping huge chunks is something we try so hard to avoid. But introducing a little bump here and there in exchange for helping someone feel a lot better about their privacy and security is a trade-off I consider worthwhile; I can't remember the last time we had a situation where a belated privacy-minded request like "hey, can you remove this question/delete these couple comments/redact my full name from my comment" was outweighed by continuity concerns, even though I care about those continuity concerns a fair amount otherwise.

Defaulting to HTTPS isn't a privacy panacea, and it will add a bit to the server load, but is there any chance that might be an option in the future? At the moment it seems to be opt-in rather than opt-out, and it isn't something available to non-logged in visitors.

Yep, it's something we're actively looking at. It'll be simpler in some ways to turn it on for non-logged-in readers by default than for active members because there's few things to break, so it's likely we'll do the shovelwork to turn it on by default and then revisit the opt-in vs. opt-out question after that. But it's worth reminding folks that as that opt-in bit is available—if you go to your Preferences, you can turn on https by checking "Use secure browsing?" in the first group of options.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:24 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Aren't account wipes futile except for dealing with all but the most casual investigators?

I mean, trolls or state actors with nary a pulse know to look at archive.org or google cache...... never mind with whatever other crawler tools they may be employing? The internet never forgets.
posted by lalochezia at 3:44 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


Would you please replace all of my previous content with the Cheeto Jesus emoji? KTHXBI
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:45 PM on January 3


Noooo... we just lost the other Florence Henderson last year! We can't lose the "reigning" one so soon! (reigning... raining, get it?)
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:57 PM on January 3


Sadly, I have just discovered that there is no Cheeto Jesus emoji. Yet.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:13 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


I'm a no-talent hack. How much to get one?
posted by valentinepig at 4:31 PM on January 3


I don't actually use them, so nothing from me. But I think the world would be a better place, so there's that. Plus, I think it would be appropriate for the Cheeto Jesus to be emojied by a no-talent hack.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:35 PM on January 3


Although I admit that I'm tempted to finally join Twitter just so I can troll the president.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:37 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


It seems really nuts to me to just smugly declare that people should "think ahead about what's safe" (with the unspoken corollary that anyone whose imperfect capacity to prediction the future led them to make decisions about "what's safe" that they now regret deserves whatever they get).

Yeah, I didn't construe the mods' perspective as smug, certainly not something intentionally so, and yet, the same concerns as you occurred to me immediately when I opened this thread. I see the issue differently: there's something to be said about the nature of a site where people make public comments in a type of semi-public space, and there's social ramifications of that. For example in past years other mods have said as much that the nature of metafilter (i.e., considering the internet/technological aspects, the geographical and economic aspects) seems to mean that as a site it is not really suited for various levels political organization. So from your and my perspective as members/commenters, our immediate reaction may be along lines of, "hm, I seem to be hitting a limitation on the kinds of discussions where I can still feel safe [meaning, literally] on this site". What to do about that? E.g., criticize the mods, or else? And so on. And that safety issue is a very real thing, without me getting into specifics for obvious, not-kidding reasons. So that's something to think about and hopefully for more people using this site to be more aware of.
posted by polymodus at 4:38 PM on January 3


Haha, if it really comes to lists I'm so much more fucked than the average keyboard snark jockey. Fuck trump in his wherever.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:58 PM on January 3


I'm absolutely ready to work with folks as we always have to look at removing specific privacy-centric stuff from their history that they're concerned about.

cortex pls remove from public view any shameful evidence of my previous enjoyment of teen wolf, thank u
posted by poffin boffin at 5:21 PM on January 3 [10 favorites]


I would just like to state for the record...

Here here, phunniemee; let me second your announcement for myself. I'm a queer biologist in fucking Texas. I study singing mice, along with about half a dozen other people at UT Austin and NYU; we're the only people in the world who work on them. There's three women in the entire country with my first and last name combination, and I am easily the most vocal on the Internet. (Also the youngest, but that's beside the point.) "White woman in Texas working on singing mice" is easily enough to identify me by name in about five minutes, and of course I have chosen to link to a twitter account that I keep under my full name in my profile. When I was a child, I was raised in the DC area, and I developed a quiet but strong sense of patriotism and civic duty there; as an adult, I have developed an equally strong sense of liberal-leaning politics based on the morality of inclusivity.

Donald Trump is terrifying for many reasons, but none of them come from the man's basic competence. He is foolish, shortsighted, prone to jealous attacks, narcissistic, and easily manipulated. He will lead my nation into destruction, and that has made me angrier than I have ever been as a citizen of a country I believe in. I will oppose him, and those whose bigotry has been emboldened by him, with every iota of my being that doesn't go to keeping my family fed and taken care of.

Hi. I'm Erin. My safety depends on whether or not it is safe to say these things in public, because I am for shit when it comes to hiding, and I am more to the point no longer willing to pay the price that hiding brings. Moreover, my profession depends on it--'scientist' is quickly becoming a dirty word--and my family depends on it, because my partner and I are acceptable targets under this new regime. And that safety relies on the fragile certainty of public opinion that there is nothing shameful about a single word I just said. If we behave as if our actions and words are shameful, as if we are not willing to publicly stand by them, how can we expect people to treat us as though we are not ashamed? How can we expect people to hear that there is nothing shameful about what I said if we act as if saying it is a thing to be ashamed of?

Keep yourselves safe, but remember that there's a strategy to deliberately not hiding, too. If I act like it is okay and acceptable to speak the way I do about our diseased raccoon of a President, that sets a social norm. If enough people do it, that sets a social norm of its own, and more importantly makes it that much harder to target any one of us. I am being brave about this only because I am afraid, and I think that while hiding might keep individuals among us safer in the short term, it will only make it easier for Trump and his brownshirts to pick us off as the public stop caring about us or become convinced that we are indeed shameful in the long term.

Your choices are your own, but remember that hiding from a predator isn't the only way to keep yourself safe, even if you can't kill it yourself. Sometimes it's safer to scream as a group and harass the predator until it can't stalk any one person and stalks off in disgust.
posted by sciatrix at 5:23 PM on January 3 [65 favorites]


Tell me your lab has an a capella group called "the Singing Mice!"
posted by spitbull at 6:31 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


It will be sad when future anthropologists try to read the old election threads and every comment has been changed to a
posted by gatorae at 7:03 PM on January 3


Yeah, I was going to suggest that people stand proudly behind their chicken fucking GIFs and their disses of that stanky old Cheetoh. I mean no one begrudges someone who acts on the fear we all feel right now, but I guess I've made the decision that hunkering down now in hopes that I can avoid being sent to the camps in the next four years is a fool's deal. There ain't gonna be four years from now and the time to stand up is now.

Of course I imagine it's easier for me to say as a straight white middle aged dude, but I'm here to say that if they drag even one of my queer black Muslim friends off, I'll be the first one to drive my apocalyptic gang of warriors through the gates to liberate my people.

We're being a bit melodramatic here, I would say a more realistic concern would be someone applying for a government job or grant getting denied because of some Republican bashing in what we assumed was a safe free speech zone, right? But, to extend the metaphor above, as a Generally Respected member of the establishment (though deep in my heart I'm socialist as fuck) I'd vouch for any true Mefite who asked me to do so in whatever way I could.

That having been said, I realize things I post here are easily searchable (and believe it or not, some crank with an axe to grind stalked my Metafilter profile, presenting evidence of my "casual and reckless" opinions to the WA state Medical Quality Assurance Commission), I am wondering if MeFi mail is any more protected than what I post on the blue? I have some very strange fetishes that I have repeatedly mailed cortex in great detail about.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:51 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


The greater the number of courageous people, the less easy it will be to wear down those who are courageous. Don't make those who are being brave feel alone. Be there for each other. Don't hide unless you just can't deal with the anxiety or unless you must to protect, say, children.
posted by amtho at 7:53 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


I hope to expend all the safety I have as a white middle class middle aged woman married to a white middle aged man who works in the tech industry over the next four years standing up to the old white "christians" who can't let go of a world that should never have belonged to them in the first place.

But I understand that it's much scarier out there for others. Perhaps if enough people like me are yelling Fuck the President, we'll make it safer to do so for everyone.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:00 PM on January 3 [10 favorites]


Although I admit that I'm tempted to finally join Twitter just so I can troll the president.

While entirely fake, I will never stop repeating this Bionicle tweet story.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:22 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Donald Trump and his gang of miscreants can kiss my shiny white ass.

I study singing mice

Excellent, Frankie Mouse! Excellent!
posted by octobersurprise at 5:54 AM on January 4


Would it be possible to make a users comments all retroactively posted by 'anonymous'? That way the info stays but the signal to noise would be so poor as to render the specifics pretty meaningless.
posted by ian1977 at 6:08 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Wait...

Singing mice?

Can someone please explain this much, much further?
posted by Etrigan at 6:34 AM on January 4


I can very easily see the "please delete all previous comments" or "make all of my comments anonymous" being gamed by people who have shady stuff in their commenting histories. It's the kind of thing that IMO should only be used in case of emergency, or by a member that is leaving the site permanently. And by permanently, I mean just that: they won't be using sockpuppets or coming back under a BND account. Otherwise it'll just be a new way for bigots and trolls to continue to be assholes with no real consequences.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:07 AM on January 4 [5 favorites]


When I was a child, I was raised in the DC area, and I developed a quiet but strong sense of patriotism and civic duty there

Also raised in the DC area and feel this way about civic duty, political life, etc. Glad to see someone else acknowledge this as a thing.
posted by zutalors! at 7:25 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


Here's a video explaining more about the singing mice. Including showing an experiment in progress.
posted by hippybear at 9:00 AM on January 4 [3 favorites]


To hell with him. I plan to fight, right out in the open, against any move toward repression or discrimination. One lesson of history is not only not to give in, but to stand up for ourselves and our neighbors and our fellow citizens of the U.S. and the world.
posted by bearwife at 10:01 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Can you get the mice to sing Fuck Trump songs?
posted by chavenet at 12:24 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Hereโ€™s a video explaining more about the singing mice. Including showing an experiment in progress.

A more recent & IRB-approved take on the singing mice.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:25 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


Oh my god, you weirdos, I didn't intend to totally derail the conversation with my work! I promise that when I resolve the fuckery driving me nuts with my current project and publish it, I'll bring it to Projects. Until then all you loons are going to have to be content with some actual videos of real live singing mice stolen from the last time one of us published something about them.
posted by sciatrix at 12:38 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


Until then all you loons are going to have to be content with some actual videos of real live singing mice stolen from the last time one of us published something about them.

What.

I like that y'all got him a fog machine for his performance.
posted by phunniemee at 12:49 PM on January 4 [9 favorites]


For the record, I usually refer to that video as "Mousezilla," because I know damn well that the gentleman who filmed it knows that cloud forests do not usually keep the beautiful wisps of fog swirling about a literal inch from the ground.

He claimed artistic license.
posted by sciatrix at 12:52 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


My large grey geriatric cat very much appreciated the singing mice derail. Or seemed to at least.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:56 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


My large grey geriatric cat very much appreciated the singing mice derail. Or seemed to at least.

One of my brown tabbies started trying to dig into my lap, under my laptop, during the slow-mo to find the source of the noise. Both of them are still kind of staring at the walls, waiting for the invasion.
posted by lazuli at 6:19 PM on January 4 [5 favorites]


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