Sure.

The case is different from site to site. Each site has a different community policy and as such, subjects users of all types, to the same set of equal standards. The problem is the exposure to abuse, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny etc. isn’t equal.

Quora, if you’re not familiar, is supposed to be a knowledge sharing site. A place where good answers are upvoted and bad answers downvoted. Bubbling good answers to the top. Or that’s the theory.

Like other sites, Quora has its own community guidelines and has one policy, BNBR (Be Nice, Be Respectful) which has the laudible aim of maintaining respect between users, especially contributors. The biggest problem with it, is that it was naturally crude.

At the time of my engagement, it used a very simple voting system for a report. People were reported by the community and Quora would warn, then edit-ban (you could read but not post), or outright ban individuals, sometimes totally randomly (this happened to me once before). The more the reports came in, the faster and more extreme the action.

During and after the UK’s EU Referendum, there was a coordinated attack on facts and truth in general. This included targeting anyone who provided the facts of the events and experts in general. Especially after Michael Gove targeted experts during the campaign.

In addition, a large number of a mix of a spectrum of naive Leave voters and hardcore racists and white supremacists started to appear on Quora. In general, they acted like a mob. Their aim, especially with ethnic minorities, was to discredited them, run a comprehensive disinformation campaign and crucially, goad ethnic minorities in particular into a position, backed into a corner, where a tonne of downvotes or reports would go into Quora, which triggered an edit-ban or a total ban. It didn’t matter which of the two happened, as it was sufficient time for the mob of disinformants to ask questions and get views from their colleague accounts (they we’re often the same person answering their own questions under a different account — Quora’s systems were insufficient to recognise this). That information was upvoted by their click-farm colleagues to the degree that those with the expertise were unable to match.

Specialist expertise is naturally lower frequency in the population. Voting is by far the worst mechanism to promote accurate answers, since you don’t get enough of that representation in the population for the knowledge to be understood. Plus, the knowledge is often too far from the mental model of average Jo Public, that even conspiracy theories sound more plausible. For example, topics related to advanced, specialist cancer knowledge can be understood by perhaps 2 dozen people in each country around the world. In the UK, superstition, spirituality, conspiracy theories and religion have much much higher representation. So when someone asks a question related to that cancer knowledge, even if the respondent is the world leading cancer expert in that field, they would get outvoted quickly by people selling crystals or mustard under the nose. If that group were also malicious, they would downvote the cancer specialist’s answers, and with enough downvotes, it would become “collapsed” and invisible to the outside world.

That was precisely what happened with Brexiteers. The content was unequivocally racist. Some of it coded language. Some of it badly influenced by other Quora content creators. Including young Max here.

“Racism Ruined my Night” https://medium.com/@EtharUK/racism-ruined-my-night-f2c85f04b158

Quora, being a self-proclaimed “knowledge site”, was perfect for that. Because it was never about knowledge. It was about what people believed to be true, not what actually was true. People would seek knowledge there and it was relatively left leaning, so users would support covert white supremacist content from both sides of the divide, with the left doing so under the auspices of allowing free speech.

In addition, after a report, Quora, like all social media sites, never seeks the views of anyone else involved in an exchange and indeed, those innocent bystanders have no idea the post has been reported and initially, neither does the target of the report, which again, is common to all of them. Plus, they wouldn’t have the option to defend the target of racism even if they did.

In conjunction with both the left and the far-right reporting, it actively contributed to the advancement of racism on Quora, this meant ethnic minorities were categorically alone in having to defend their digital presences. Yet as soon as you do, your account gets blasted by your stalker “fan clubs” and you get banned. You never got as many reports by the liberal folk against coded language as you got against yourself by the white supremacists (who report everything you ever post). Especially if the left, the very people you’d expect to cover, weren’t “woke”.

“Today’s Quora Bordeline-Racist Award goes to….” https://medium.com/@EtharUK/todays-quora-bordeline-racist-award-goes-to-d2a62c9100f3

So it continues. Quora, as I see it, is an abject failure in it’s aim of being a knowledge site. It isn’t a knowledge site. It’s about getting a consensus. That consensus doesn’t necessarily align with the truth or empirical research. The wisdom of the crowds is itself, a debunked idea on so many fronts. Perhaps the most fun one appears in this TED talk by the late Hans Rosling.

https://youtu.be/Sm5xF-UYgdg

And this isn’t limited to Quora. Change.org has a problem, because they don’t enforce any community guidelines at all. This was astroturfed by the far right too. Including this petition, which claims to want to ban Halal meat in the UK. All of the claims within it are false. The video isn’t from the UK. The YouTube account is associated with an Australian white supremacist who was once an Australian MP.

https://www.change.org/p/theresa-may-prime-minister-ban-halal-kosher-meat-in-the-uk

But the petition is not what it seems. Yes it’s set up by racists (anti-islamic sentiment is mostly a proxy for racism and is as illegal as racism is in the UK anyway) but the petition’s target gets actively increased every few months. The petition is linked to a donation site and people can donate money. It is this that the petition is for. Groups like Britain First use the money to go on holidays, organise the odd rally, pays their personal bills etc. And most of it is straight fraud. But because the dogmatics are cult level believers, they pay it and never claim a refund.

I have reported that and many others (including the continuously debunked “super mosque”) half a dozen times each. Change.org has absolutely not acted at all. Not even to acknowledge my report.

It is a huge problem that most sites and site users aren’t seemingly willing to tackle. Not least because it’s difficult to hold any one person or entity accountable for it.

Written by

EA, Stats, Math & Code into a fizz of a biz or two. Founder: Automedi & Axelisys. Proud Manc. Citizen of the World. I’ve been busy

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