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Less Wrong Banned Me

habryka wrote about why LW banned me. This is habryka’s full text plus my comments:

Today we have banned two users, curi and Periergo from LessWrong for two years each. The reasoning for both is bit entangled but are overall almost completely separate, so let me go individually:

The ban isn’t for two years. It’s from Sept 16 2020 through Dec 31 2022.

They didn’t bother to notify me. I found out in the following way:

First, I saw I was logged out. Then I tried to log back in and it said my password was wrong. Then I tried to reset my password. When submitting a new password, it then gave an error message saying I was banned and until what date. Then I messaged them on intercom and 6 hours later they gave me a link to the public announcement about my ban.

That’s a poor user experience.

Periergo is an account that is pretty easily traceable to a person that Curi has been in conflict with for a long time, and who seems to have signed up with the primary purpose of attacking curi. I don't think there is anything fundamentally wrong about signing up to LessWrong to warn other users of the potentially bad behavior of an existing user on some other part of the internet, but I do think it should be done transparently.

It also appears to be the case that he has done a bunch of things that go beyond merely warning others (like mailbombing curi, i.e. signing him up for tons of email spam that he didn't sign up for, and lots of sockpupetting on forums that curi frequents), and that seem better classified as harassment, and overall it seemed to me that this isn't the right place for Periergo.

Periergo is a sock puppet of Andy B. Andy harassed FI long term with many false identities, but left for months when I caught him, connected the identities, and blogged it. But he came back in August 2020 and has written over 100 comments since returning, and he made a fresh account on Less Wrong for the purpose of harassing me and disrupting my discussions there. He essentially got away with it. He stirred up trouble and now I’m banned. What does he care that his fresh sock puppet, with a name he’ll likely never use again anywhere, is banned? And he’ll be unbanned at the same time as me in case he wants to further torment me using the same account.

Curi has been a user on LessWrong for a long time, and has made many posts and comments. He also has the dubious honor of being by far the most downvoted account in all of LessWrong history at -675 karma.

I started at around -775 karma when I returned to Less Wrong recently and went up. I originally debated Popper, induction and cognitive biases at LW around 9 years ago and got lots of downvotes. I returned around 3 years ago when an LW moderator invited me back because he liked my Paths Forward article. That didn’t work out and I left again. I returned recently for my own reasons, instead of because someone incorrectly suggested that I was wanted, and it was going better. I knew some things to expect, and some things that wouldn’t work, and I'd just read LW's favorite literature, RAZ.

BTW, I don’t know how my karma is being calculated. My previous LW discussions were at the 1.0 version of the site where votes on posts counted for 10 karma, and votes on comments counted for 1 karma. When I went back the second time, a moderator boosted my karma enough to be positive so that I could write posts instead of just comments. LW 2.0 allows you to write posts while having negative karma and votes on posts and comments are worth the same amount, but your votes count for multiple karma if you have high karma and/or use the strong vote feature. I don’t know how old stuff got recalculated when they did the version 2.0 website.

Overall I have around negative 1 karma per comment, so that’s … not all that bad? Or apparently the lowest ever. If downvotes on the old posts still count 10x then hundreds of my negative karma is from just a few posts.

In general, I think outliers should be viewed as notable and potentially valuable, especially outliers that you can already see might actually be good (as habryka says about me below). Positive outliers are extremely valuable.

The biggest problem with his participation is that he has a history of dragging people into discussions that drag on for an incredibly long time, without seeming particularly productive, while also having a history of pretty aggressively attacking people who stop responding to him. On his blog, he and others maintain a long list of people who engaged with him and others in the Critical Rationalist community, but then stopped, in a way that is very hard to read as anything but a public attack. It's first sentence is "This is a list of ppl who had discussion contact with FI and then quit/evaded/lied/etc.", and in-particular the framing of "quit/evaded/lied" sure sets the framing for the rest of the post as a kind of "wall of shame".

I consider it strange to ban me for stuff I did in the distant past but was not banned for at the time.

I find it especially strange to ban me for 2 years over stuff that’s already 3 or 9 years old (the evaders guest post by Alan is a year old, and btw "evade" is standard Objectivist philosophy terminology). I already left the site for longer than the ban period. Why is a 5 year break the right amount instead of 3? habryka says below that he thinks I was doing better (from his point of view and regarding what the LW site wants) this time.

They could have asked me about that particular post before banning me, but didn’t. They also could have noted that it’s an old post that only came up because Andy linked it twice on LW with the goal of alienating people from me. They’re letting him get what he wanted even though they know he was posting in bad faith and breaking their written rules.

I, by contrast, am not accused of breaking any specific written rule that LW has, but I’ve been banned anyway with no warning.

Those three things in combination, a propensity for long unproductive discussions, a history of threats against people who engage with him, and being the historically most downvoted account in LessWrong history, make me overall think it's better for curi to find other places as potential discussion venues.

I didn’t threaten anyone. I’m guessing it was a careless wording. I think habryka should retract or clarify it. Above habryka used “attack[]” as a synonym for criticize. I don’t like that but it’s pretty standard language. But I don’t think using “threat[en]” as a synonym for criticize is reasonable.

“threaten” has meanings like “state one's intention to take hostile action against someone in retribution for something done or not done” and “express one's intention to harm or kill“ (New Oxford Dictionary). This is the one thing in the post that I strongly object to.

I do really want to make clear that this is not a personal judgement of curi. While I do find the "List of Fallible Ideas Evaders" post pretty tasteless, and don't like discussing things with him particularly much, he seems well-intentioned, and it's quite plausible that he could me an amazing contributor to other online forums and communities. Many of the things he is building over on his blog seem pretty cool to me, and I don't want others to update on this as being much evidence about whether it makes sense to have curi in their communities.

I do also think his most recent series of posts and comments is overall much less bad than the posts and comments he posted a few years ago (where most of his negative karma comes from), but they still don't strike me as great contributions to the LessWrong canon, are all low-karma, and I assign too high of a probability that old patterns will repeat themselves (and also that his presence will generally make people averse to be around, because of those past patterns). He has also explicitly written a post in which he updates his LW commenting policy towards something less demanding, and I do think that was the right move, but I don't think it's enough to tip the scales on this issue.

So I came back after 3 years, posted in a way they liked significantly better … I’m building cool things and plausibly amazing while also making major progress at compatibility with LW … but they’re banning me anyway, even though my old posts didn’t get me banned.

More broadly, LessWrong has seen a pretty significant growth of new users in the past few months, mostly driven by interest in Coronavirus discussion and the discussion we hosted on GPT3. I continue to think that "Well-Kept Gardens Die By Pacifism", and that it is essential for us to be very careful with handling that growth, and to generally err on the side of curating our userbase pretty heavily and maintaining high standards. This means making difficult moderation decision long before it is proven "beyond a reasonable doubt" that someone is not a net-positive contributor to the site.

In this case, I think it is definitely not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that curi is overall net-negative for the site, and banning him might well be a mistake, but I think the probabilities weigh heavily enough in favor of the net-negative, and the worst-case outcomes are bad-enough, that on-net I think this is the right choice.

I don’t see why they couldn’t wait for me to do something wrong to ban me, or give me any warning or guidance about what they wanted me to do differently. I doubt this would have happened this way if Andy hadn’t done targeted harassment.

At least they wrote about their reasons. I appreciate that they’re more transparent than most forums.

In another message, habryka clarified his comment about others not updating their views of me based on this ban:

The key thing I wanted to communicate is that it seems quite plausible to me that these patterns are the result of curi interfacing specifically with the LessWrong culture in unhealthy ways. I can imagine him interfacing with other cultures with much less bad results.

I also said "I don't want others to think this is much evidence", not "this is no evidence". Of course it is some evidence, but I think overall I would expect people to update a bit too much on this, and as I said, I wouldn't be very surprised to see curi participate well in other online communities.

I’m unclear on what aspect of LW culture that I’m a mismatch for. Or put another way: I may interface better with other cultures which have or lack what particular characteristics compared to LW?


Also, LW didn't explain how they decided on ban lengths. 2.3 year bans don't correspond to solving the problems raised. Andy or I could easily wait and then do the stuff LW doesn't want. They aren't asking us to do anything to improve or to provide any evidence that we've reformed in some way. Nor are they asking us to figure out how we can address their concerns and prevent bad outcomes. They're just asking us to wait and, I guess, counting on us not to hold grudges. Problems don't automatically go away due to time passing.

Overall, I think LW’s decision and reasoning are pretty bad but not super unreasonable. I wouldn’t expect better at most forums and I’ve seen much worse. Also, I’m not confident that the reasoning given fully and accurately represents the actual reasons. I'm not convinced that they will ban other people using the same reasoning like that they didn't break any particular rules but might be a net-negative for the site, especially considering that "the moderators of LW are the opposite of trigger-happy. Not counting spam, there is on average less than one account per year banned." (source from 2016, maybe they're more trigger-happy in 2020, I don't know).


Elliot Temple on September 17, 2020

Messages (14)

I just updated the post by adding this paragraph:

> Also, LW didn't explain how they decided on ban lengths. 2.3 year bans don't correspond to solving the problems raised. Andy or I could easily wait and then do the stuff LW doesn't want. They aren't asking us to do anything to improve or to provide any evidence that we've reformed in some way. Nor are they asking us to figure out how we can address their concerns and prevent bad outcomes. They're just asking us to wait and, I guess, counting on us not to hold grudges. Problems don't automatically go away due to time passing.


curi at 12:46 AM on September 18, 2020 | #18056 | reply | quote

I posted this to LW in reply to the comment announcing the bans:

----

> Today we have banned two users, curi and Periergo from LessWrong for two years each.

I wanted to reply to this because I don't think it's right to judge curi the way you have. Periergo I don't have an issue w/. (it's a sockpuppet acct anyway)

I think your decision should not go unquestioned/uncriticized, which is why I'm posting. I also think you should reconsider curi's ban under a sort of appeals process.

Also, the LW moderation process is evidently transparent enough for me to make this criticism, and that is notable and good. I am grateful for that.

> On his blog, he and others maintain a long list of people who engaged with him and others in the Critical Rationalist community, but then stopped, in a way that is very hard to read as anything but a public attack.

You are judging curi and FI (Fallible Ideas) via your standards (LW standards), not FI's standards. I think this is problematic.

I'd like to note **I am on that list**. (like 1/2 way down) I am also a public figure in Australia, having founded a federal political party based on epistemic principles with nearly 9k members. **I am okay with being on that list.** Arguably, if there is something truly wrong with the list, I should have an issue with it. I knew about being on that list earlier this year, before I returned to FI. **Being on the list was not a factor in my decision**.

There is nothing immoral or malicious about curi.us/2215. I can understand why you would find it distasteful, but that's not a decisive reason to ban someone or condemn their actions.

A few hours ago, curi and I discussed elements about the ban and curi.us/2215 on his stream. I recommend watching a few minutes starting at 5:50 and at 19:00, for transparency you might also be interested in 23:40 -> 24:00. (you can watch on 2x speed, should be fine)

Particularly, **I discuss my presence on curi.us/2215 at 5:50**

You say:

> a long list of people who engaged with him and others in the Critical Rationalist community

There are 33 by my count (including me). The list spans *a decade*, and is there for a particular purpose, and it is not to publicly shame people in to returning, or to be mean for the sake of it. I'd like to point out some quotes from the first paragraph of curi.us/2215:

> This is a list of ppl who had discussion contact with FI and then quit/evaded/lied/etc.

> It would be good to find patterns about what goes wrong.

> *People who left are welcome to come back and try again.*

Notably, you don't end up on the list if you are active. Also, although it's not explicitly mentioned in the top paragraph; a crucial thing is that those on the list have left and *avoided discussion* about it. Discussion is much more important in FI than most philosophy forums - it's how we learn from each other, make sure we understand, offer criticism and assist with error correction. You're not under any *obligation* to discuss something, but if you have criticisms and refuse to share them: you're preventing error correction; and if you leave to *evade* criticism then you're not living by your values and philosophy.

The people listed on curi.us/2215 have participated in a *public* philosophy forum for which there are established norms that are not typical and are different from LW. FI views the act of truth-seeking differently. While our (LW/FI) schools of thought disagree on epistemology, both schools have norms that are related to their epistemic ideas. Ours look different.

It is unfair to punish someone for an act done *outside of your jurisdiction* under *different established norms*. If curi were putting LW people on his list, or publishing off-topic stuff at LW, sure, take moderation action. None of those things happened. In fact, the main reason you've provided for even *knowing* about that list *is via the sockpuppet you banned*.

Sockpuppet accounts are not used to make the lives of their victims *easier*. By banning curi along with Periergo *you have facilitated a (minor) victory for Periergo*. This is not right.

> a history of threats against people who engage with him

**THIS IS A SERIOUS ALLEGATION! PLEASE PROVIDE QUOTES**

curi prefers to discuss in public so they should be easy to find and verify. I have **never** known curi to threaten people. He may criticise them, but he does not threaten them.

Notably, curi has **consistently and loudly opposed violence and the initiation of force**, if people ask him to leave them alone (provided they haven't e.g. committed a crime against him), *he respects that*.

> being the historically most downvoted account in LessWrong history

This is not a reason to ban him, or anyone. Being *disliked* is not a reason for punishment.

> Those three things in combination, a propensity for long unproductive discussions, a history of threats against people who engage with him, and being the historically most downvoted account in LessWrong history, make me overall think it's better for curi to find other places as potential discussion venues.

"a history of threats against people who engage with him" **has not been established or substantiated**.

> he seems well-intentioned

I believe he is. As far as I can tell he's gone to great personal expense and trouble to keep FI alive **for no other reason than that his sense of morality demands it**. (That might be over simplifying things, but I think the essence is the same. I think he believes it is the **right** thing to do, and it is a **necessary** thing to do)

> I do also think his most recent series of posts and comments is overall much less bad than the posts and comments he posted a few years ago (where most of his negative karma comes from)

He has **gained** karma since returning to LW briefly. I think you should retract the part about him having negative karma b/c it misrepresents the situation. He could have made a new account and he would have *positive* karma now. That means your judgement is based **on past behaviour that was already punished**. This is **double jeopardy**.

Moreover, *curi is being punished for being honest and transparent*. If he *had* registered a new account and hidden his identity, would you have banned him *only* based on his actions this past 1-2 months? If you can say yes, then fine, but I don't think your argument holds in this case the only part that is verifiable is based on *your disapproval of his discussion methods*. Disagreeing with him is fine. I think a *proportionate* response would be a warning.

As it stands **no warning was given, and no attempt to learn his plans was made**. I think doing that would be proportionate and appropriate. A ban is not.

It is significant that **curi is not able to discuss this ban himself**. I am voluntarily doing this, of my own accord. **He was not able to defend himself or provide explanation**.

This is *especially* problematic as *you specifically say you think he was improving compared with his conduct several years ago*.

> I do also think his most recent series of posts and comments is overall much less bad than the posts and comments he posted a few years ago (where most of his negative karma comes from), but they still don't strike me as great contributions to the LessWrong canon

This alone is not enough. A warning is proportionate.

> are all low-karma

Unpopularity is no reason for a ban

> and I assign too high of a probability that old patterns will repeat themselves.

How is this different to pre-crime?

I think, given he had deliberately changed his modus operandi **weeks ago** and has *not posted in 13 days*, this is unfair and overly judgmental.

You go on to say:

> and I do think that was the right move, but I don't think it's enough to tip the scales on this issue.

What could curi have done differently which *would* have tipped the scales? If there is no acceptable thing he could have done, *why was action not taken weeks ago when he was active?*

I believe it is fundamentally unjust to delay action in this fashion without talking with him first. curi has an *incredibly long track record of discussion*, he is very open to it. He is not someone who avoids taking responsibility for things; quite the opposite. *If you had engaged him, I am confident he would have discussed things with you.*

> and to generally err on the side of curating our userbase pretty heavily and maintaining high standards.

It makes sense that you want to cultivate the best rational forums you can. I think that is a good goal. However, again, there were other, less extreme and more proportionate actions that could have been taken first, especially seeing as curi had changed his LW discussion policy and was inactive at the time of the ban.

We presumably disagree on the meaning of 'high standards', but I don't think that's particularly relevant here.

> This means making difficult moderation decision long before it is proven "beyond a reasonable doubt" that someone is not a net-positive contributor to the site.

There were *many* alternative actions you could have taken. For example, a 1-month ban. Restricting curi to only posting on his own shortform. Warning him of the circumstances and consequences under conditions, etc.

> In this case, I think it is definitely not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that curi is overall net-negative for the site

I'm glad you've mentioned this, but LW is not a court of law and you are not bound to those standards (and no punishment here is comparable to the punishment a court might distribute). I think there are *other good reasons* for reconsidering curi's ban.

> banning him might well be a mistake, but I think the probabilities weigh heavily enough in favor of the net-negative, and the worst-case outcomes are bad-enough, that on-net I think this is the right choice.

I think there is a critical point to be made here: **you could have taken no action at this time and put a mod-notification for activity on his account.** If he were to return and do something you deemed unacceptable, you could swiftly warn him. If he did it again, then a short-term ban. Instead, this is **a sledge-sized banhammer** used when other options were available. It is a decision that is now *publicly* on LW and indicates that LW is possibly intolerant of things *other* than irrationality. I don't think this is reflective of LW, and I think it reflects poorly on the moderation policies here. I don't think it needs to be that way, though.

I think a conditional unbanning (i.e. 1 warning, with the next action being a swift short ban) is an appropriate action for the moderation team to make, and I implore you to reconsider your decision.

If you think this is not appropriate, then I request you explain why 2 years is an appropriate length of time, and why Periergo and curi should have identical ban lengths.

The alternative to pacificity does not need to be so heavy handed.

I’d also like to note that curi has published a post on his blog regarding this ban; I read it after drafting this reply: http://curi.us/2381-less-wrong-banned-me


Max at 1:25 AM on September 18, 2020 | #18057 | reply | quote

> > and I do think that was the right move, but I don't think it's enough to tip the scales on this issue.

> What could curi have done differently which *would* have tipped the scales?

good question


curi at 1:37 AM on September 18, 2020 | #18058 | reply | quote

I replied to lsusr -- he thinks curi did make threats and provides some explanation (the bottom part of this post). Basically it's about copying discussion:

----

lsusr said:

> (1) Curi was warned at least once.

I'm reasonably sure the slack comments refers to events 3 years ago, not anything in the last few months. I'll check, though.

There are some other comments about recent discussion in that thread, like this: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/iAnXcZ5aGZzNc2J8L/the-law-of-least-effort-contributes-to-the-conjunction?commentId=38FzXA6g54ZKs3HQY

gjm said:

> I had not looked, at that point; I took "mirrored" to mean taking copies of whole discussions, which would imply copying other people's writing en masse. I have looked, now. I agree that what you've put there so far is probably OK both legally and morally.

>

> My apologies for being a bit twitchy on this point; I should maybe explain for the benefit of other readers that the last time curi came to LW, he did take a whole pile of discussion from the LW slack and copy it en masse to the publicly-visible internet, which is one reason why I thought it plausible he might have done the same this time.

I don't think there is case for (1). Unless gjm is a mod and there are things I don't know?

lsusr said:

> (2) Curi is being banned for wasting time with long, unproductive conversations. An appeals process would produce another long, unproductive conversation.

habryka explicitly mentions curi changing his LW commenting policy to be 'less demanding'. I can see the motivation for expedition, but the mods don't have to speedrun it. I think it's bad there wasn't *any* communication beforehand.

lsusr said:

> (3) Specific quotes are unnecessary. It blindingly obvious from a glance through curi's profile and even curi's response you linked to that curi is damaging to productive dialogue on Less Wrong.

I don't think that's the case. His net karma has increased, and judging him for content on *his* blog - not his content on LW - does not establish whether he was 'damaging to productive dialogue on Less Wrong'.

His posts on less wrong have been *contributions*, for example, www.lesswrong.com/posts/tKcdTsMFkYjnFEQJo/can-social-dynamics-explain-conjunction-fallacy-experimental is a direct response to of EY's posts and it was net-upvoted. He followed that up with two more net-upvoted posts:

* www.lesswrong.com/posts/HpiTacu2P6c22GEzF/asch-conformity-could-explain-the-conjunction-fallacy

* www.lesswrong.com/posts/tKcdTsMFkYjnFEQJo/can-social-dynamics-explain-conjunction-fallacy-experimental

This is not the track record of someone wanting to waste time. I know there are disagreements between LW and curi / FI. If that's the main point of contention, and that's why he's being banned, then so be it. But he doesn't deserve to mistreated and have baseless accusations thrown at him.

lsusr said:

> The strongest claim against curi is "a history of threats against people who engage with him [curi]". I was able to confirm this via a quickly glance through curi's past behavior on this site. In this comment threatens to escalate a dialogue by mirroring it off of this website. By the standards of collaborative online dialogue, this constitutes a threat against someone who engaged with him.

We have substantial disagreements about what constitutes a threat, in that case. I think a threat needs to involve something like *danger*, or *violence*, or something like that. It's not a 'threat' to copy *public* discussion under fair use for criticism and commentary.

I googled the definition, and these are the two (for `define:threat`)

* a statement of an intention to inflict pain, injury, damage, or other hostile action on someone in retribution for something done or not done.

* a person or thing likely to cause damage or danger.

Neither of these apply.


Max at 5:57 AM on September 18, 2020 | #18061 | reply | quote

habryka claims the definition of threat I did is:

> a statement of an intention to inflict pain, injury, damage, or other hostile action on someone in retribution for something done or not done.

No such statement has been quoted. No evidence has been given.

habryka also wrote:

> Yeah, almost everyone who we ban who has any real content on the site is warned. It didn't feel necessary for curi, because he has already received so much feedback about his activity on the site over the years (from many users as well as mods), and I saw very little probability of things changing because of a warning.

They saw no need to give me a warning, or info about any problem, or any guidance ... because I got feedback 3 years ago on LW 1.0 from a different mod team? Really?

And their own account is that I listened to that feedback and made significant changes that are positive from their pov. But they saw no need to give me any warning that those changes were inadequate and to give any guidance about what additional changes were necessary? I still, after reading the ban note, do not know what more would have been needed to stay unbanned. (Other than not being harassed by my stalker, which I think might have worked.)


curi at 11:45 AM on September 18, 2020 | #18062 | reply | quote

> Yeah, almost everyone who we ban who has any real content on the site is warned. It didn't feel necessary for curi, because he has already received so much feedback about his activity on the site over the years (from many users as well as mods), and I saw very little probability of things changing because of a warning.

The feedback I believed I had received was that nothing I had done previously was bannable. Then I did less than that and got banned...


curi at 1:36 PM on September 18, 2020 | #18063 | reply | quote

More LW replies

Reply to lsusr -- https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/PkpuvsFYr6yuYnppy/open-and-welcome-thread-september-2020?commentId=HRgoFFxsAeiRhdCWa

> > define:threat

> I prefer this definition, "a declaration of an intention or determination to inflict punishment, injury, etc., in retaliation for, or conditionally upon, some action or course; menace".

This definition seems okay to me.

> undue justice

I don't know how justice can be *undue*, do you mean like undue or excessive *prosecution*? or *persecution* perhaps? thought I don't think either prosecution or persecution describe anything curi's done on LW. If you have counterexamples I would appreciate it if you could quote them.

> > We have substantial disagreements about what constitutes a threat,

> Evidently yes, as do dictionaries.

I don't think the dictionary definitions disagree much. It's not a substantial disagreement. thesaurus.com seems to agree; it lists them as ~strong synonyms. the crux is *retribution* vs *retaliation*, and *retaliation* is more general. The mafia can threaten shopkeeps with violence if they don't pay protection. I think *retaliation* is a better fitting word.

However, **this still does not apply to anything curi has done!**

-----

reply to habryka (who, notably, hasn't replied to me, but has made some--short--replies to others) -- https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/PkpuvsFYr6yuYnppy/open-and-welcome-thread-september-2020?commentId=DhcKpyeKDQhCnsb96

> This is the definition that I had in mind when I wrote the notice above, sorry for any confusion it might have caused.

This definition doesn't describe anything curi has done (see my sibling reply linked below), at least that I've seen. I'd appreciate any quotes you can provide.

https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/PkpuvsFYr6yuYnppy/open-and-welcome-thread-september-2020?commentId=H2tyDgoRFov8Xs8HS

-----

reply to Kaj_Sotala --

https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/PkpuvsFYr6yuYnppy/open-and-welcome-thread-september-2020?commentId=geeuqyCMB49v7qiut

> The traditional guidance for up/downvotes has been "upvote what you would like want to see more of, downvote what you would like to see less of". If this is how votes are interpreted, then heavy downvotes imply "the forum's users would on average prefer to see less content of this kind".

You're using quotes but I am not sure what you're quoting, do you just mean to emphasize/offset those clauses?

> but people also have the right to choose who they want to spend their time with,

Sure, that might be part of the reason curi hadn't been active on LW for **13 days** at the time of the ban.

(continued)

> even if someone who they preferred not to spend time with viewed that as being punished.

I don't know if curi think's it's punishment. **I** think it's punishment, and I think most ppl would agree that 'A ban' would be an answer to the question (in online forum contexts, generally) 'What is an appropriate punishment?' That would mean a ban **is** a punishment.

LW mods can do what they want; in essence it's their site. I'm arguing:

1. it's unnecessary

2. it was done improperly

3. it reflects badly on LW and creates a hostile culture to opposing ideas

4. (3) is antithetical to the opening lines of the LessWrong FAQ (which I quote below). Note: I'm introducing this argument in this post, I didn't mention it originally.

5. **significant parts of habryka's post were factually incorrect.** It was noted, btw, in FI that a) habryka's comments were libel, and b) that curi's reaction--quoted below--is *mild* and undercuts habryka's claim.

curi wrote (in his post on the LW ban)

> > Those three things in combination, a propensity for long unproductive discussions, a history of threats against people who engage with him, and being the historically most downvoted account in LessWrong history, make me overall think it's better for curi to find other places as potential discussion venues.

>

> I didn’t threaten anyone. I’m guessing it was a careless wording. I think habryka should retract or clarify it. Above habryka used “attack[]” as a synonym for criticize. I don’t like that but it’s pretty standard language. But I don’t think using “threat[en]” as a synonym for criticize is reasonable.

>

> “threaten” has meanings like “state one's intention to take hostile action against someone in retribution for something done or not done” and “express one's intention to harm or kill“ (New Oxford Dictionary). This is the one thing in the post that I strongly object to.

from the FI discussion:

> JustinCEO: i think curi's response to this libel is written in a super mild way

>

> JustinCEO: which notably contrasts with being the sort of person who would have "a history of threats against people who engage with him" in the first place

LessWrong FAQ (original emphasis)

> LessWrong is a community dedicated to improving our reasoning and decision-making. We seek to hold true beliefs and to be effective at accomplishing our goals. More generally, we want to develop and practice the art of human rationality.

>

> **To that end, LessWrong is a place to 1) develop and train rationality, and 2) apply one’s rationality to real-world problems.**

I don't think the things people have described (in this thread) as seemly *important parts of LW* are at all reflected by this quote, rather, they contradict it.


Max at 12:21 AM on September 19, 2020 | #18065 | reply | quote

Another LW reply

I left another reply, this time to habryka

https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/PkpuvsFYr6yuYnppy/open-and-welcome-thread-september-2020?commentId=GKz8GfnKK2WjwAEij

----

> Yeah, almost everyone who we ban who has any real content on the site is warned. It didn't feel necessary for curi, because he has already received so much feedback about his activity on the site over the years (from many users as well as mods), and I saw very little probability of things changing because of a warning.

I think you're denying him an important chance to do error correction via that decision. (This is a particularly important concept in CR/FI)

curi evidently wanted to change some things about his behaviour, otherwise he wouldn't have updated his commenting policy. How do you know he wouldn't have updated it *more* if you'd warned him? That's exactly the type of criticism we (CR/FI) think is useful.

That sort of update is *exactly* the type of thing that *would be reasonable to expect* next time he came back (considering that he was away for 2 weeks when the ban was announced). He didn't *want* to be banned, and he didn't *want* to have shitty discussions, either. (I don't know those things for certain, but I have high confidence.)

What probability would you assign to him *continuing just as before* if you said something like "If you keep continuing what you're doing, I will ban you. It's for these reasons." Ideally, you could add "Here they are in the rules/faq/whatever".

Practically, the chance of him changing is *lower* now because *there isn't any point if he's never given any chances*. So in some ways you were exactly right to think there's low probability of him changing, it's just that it was **due** to your actions. Actions which don't need to be permanent, might I add.


Max at 8:42 AM on September 19, 2020 | #18070 | reply | quote

I liked this defense of me regarding the "threats" accusation. Zack_M_Davis writes:

https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/PkpuvsFYr6yuYnppy/open-and-welcome-thread-september-2020?commentId=WqMsvrEGMoRcnzwsE

>> I've reliably used the word "threat" to simply mean signaling some kind of intention of inflicting some kind punishment in response to some condition by the other person. Curi and other people from FI have done this repeatedly, and the "list of people who have evaded/lied/etc." is exactly one of such threats, whether explicitly labeled as such or not.

> This game-theoretic concept of "threat" is fine, but underdetermined: what counts as a threat in this sense depends on where the the "zero point" is; what counts as aggression *versus* self-defense depends on what the relevant "property rights" are. (Scare quotes on "property rights" because I'm not talking about legal claims, but "property rights" is an apt choice of words, because I'm claiming that the way people negotiate disputes that don't rise to the level of dragging in the (slow, expensive) formal legal system, have a similar structure.)

> If people have a "right" to not be publicly described as lying, evading, *&c.*, then someone who puts up a "these people lied, evaded, *&c.*" page on their own website is engaging in a kind of aggression. The page functions as a threat: "If you don't keep engaging in a way that satisfies my standards of discourse, I'll publicly call you a liar, evader, *&c.*."

> If people *don't* have a "right" to not be publicly described as lying, evading, *&c.*, then a website administrator who cites a user's "these people lied, evaded, *&c.*" page on their own website as part of a rationale for banning that user, is engaging in a kind of aggression. The ban functions as a threat: "If you don't cede your claim on being able to describe other people as lying, evading, *&c.*, I won't let you participate in this forum."

> The size of the website administrator's threat depends on the website's "market power." *Less Wrong* is probably small enough and niche enough such that the threat doesn't end up controlling anyone's off-site behavior: anyone who perceives not being able to post on *Less Wrong* as a serious threat is probably already so deeply socially-embedded into our little robot cult, that they either have similar property-rights intuitions as the administrators, or are too loyal to the group to publicly accuse other group members as lying, evading, *&c.*, even if they privately think they *are* lying, evading, *&c.*. (Nobody likes self-styled whistleblowers!) But getting kicked off a service with the market power of a Google, Facebook, Twitter, *&c.* is a sufficiently big deal to sufficiently many people such that those websites' terms-of-service do exert some controlling pressure on the rest of Society.

> What are the consequences of each of these "property rights" regimes?

> In a world where people have a right to not be publicly described as lying, evading, *&c.*, then people don't have to be afraid of losing reputation on that account. But we *also* lose out on the possibility of having a public accounting of who has *actually in fact* lied, evaded, *&c.*. We give up on maintaining the coordination equilibrium such that words like "lie" have a literal meaning that can actually be true or false, rather than the word itself simply constituting an attack.

> Which regime better fulfills our charter of advancing the art of human rationality? I don't think I've written this skillfully enough for you to not be able to guess what answer I lean towards, but you shouldn't trust my answer if it seems like something I might lie or evade about! You need to think it through for yourself.


curi at 3:34 PM on September 19, 2020 | #18074 | reply | quote

LW claims, quoted in the OP:

> the moderators of LW are the opposite of trigger-happy. Not counting spam, there is on average *less than one account per year* banned.

My friend suspected that LW miscategorizes some non-spam bans as spam bans. I thought this was possible but that perhaps LW wasn't doing it. I delete some blog spam myself. There exists a category of blatant spam that's pretty easy to categorize accurately and is reasonable to distinguish from other bans.

I think I've discovered the answer:

habryka, a Less Wrong admin, writes:

https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/vWEgN376HazKn6vGC/moderation-list-warnings-and-bans?commentId=CweWPc32BwArbaEAu

> Update: Steve Whetstone is banned for spamming lots of really long crackpoty looking comments

Banning someone for writing crackpoty comments is incorrectly being categorized by LW as a spam ban. I think LW bans some alleged crackpots and then doesn't count them when considering how often they ban non-spammers.

Based on this description, I'm very doubtful that he deserved to be called a spammer on the same page that talks about banning *actual spammers* who do things like use spam bots to advertise shady websites.

:(

After writing the above, I read the rest of the comments on the page:

Apparently he was such an actual human being trying to communicate that he made a new account to quote LW's own guidelines at them and protest the ban. And then LW admitted they were wrong and unbanned him.

Although this case got fixed, I'm now even more confident that LW bans people who aren't actually spammers and while falsely categorizing them as spammers. People who are bad at discussion should never be conflated with people or bots who are e.g. selling viagra.

His thread, that he asked about, remains deleted from public view (I tried the link).

LW appears to have a recurring but not clearly publicized policy of banning people they don't like who write things they don't value, and using downvotes as one of their excuses.

I fear downvotes represent *what lurkers think* more than *what the best LWers think*, and emphasizing downvotes helps cause *reversion to the mean*.


curi at 3:56 PM on September 19, 2020 | #18075 | reply | quote

LW's Sexual Assault Problem

http://benjaminrosshoffman.com/why-i-am-no-longer-supporting-reach/

REACH is a LW IRL community space in Berkeley. I've previously read some Reddit discussion about how those places have lots of poly sex and sexually pressure people. It sounded awful and not related to rationality.

Anyway, I liked the blog post. He wanted to share why he changed his mind about something and he complains about the lack of transparency when banning people at REACH.

Then I found out what happened by looking at comments. The issues include a MeToo sexual assault accusation thread against the friend (and the girl simultaneously accused multiple other people) by his ex-girlfriend who was admittedly mad about being dumped:

https://twitter.com/RuffleJax/status/1009637239075287040

I have no idea whether the sexual assault accusations are true. How did REACH handle it?

They tried to set up a panel to investigate but then they had even worse problems to deal with so the panel was distracted by those for months. The person who runs REACH said basically she's incompetent to investigate or deal with such things (other than by the method of forming a panel of other people to maybe look into it months later). She said they were planning to get around to these sexual assault allegations soon since the other even worse problem was wrapping up.

And the person in charge of REACH denied having banned the accused sexual assaulter while the investigation was incomplete. And she ghosted the blog author who followed up asking for info because she's disorganized. He finally got to find out what was going on due to publishing the blog post.

And then 5 months later someone asked in comments if the investigation had happened yet. There was no reply.

Another month later, someone else was apparently banned without explanation or investigation:

> It seems like a similar process has been used in the recent Jacy Reese case. Curious if you have similar feelings about that?

And the blog author replied:

> I don't follow that scene closely anymore. It makes me too sad and I don't see much upside.

Previously, the blog author had been a big enough LW fan to donate money to REACH despite not living in the area.


curi at 4:32 PM on September 19, 2020 | #18076 | reply | quote

Vaniver, a Less Wrong admin, wrote:

https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/PkpuvsFYr6yuYnppy/open-and-welcome-thread-september-2020?commentId=rg2aBQujqL68C7xXr

> For what it's worth, I think a decision to ban would stand on just his pursuit of conversational norms that reward stamina over correctness, in a way that I think makes LessWrong worse at intellectual progress.

Apparently he thinks disagreeing about what conversational norms reward correctness is a bannable offense. And he doesn't conceptualize it as a disagreement, just as me being wrong. He sees no need to debate the matter or to tolerate disagreement. He also makes it ambiguous whether he knows I disagree and thinks I'm mistaken, or whether he's (incorrectly) suggesting that my goal is to reward stamina.


curi at 11:08 PM on September 19, 2020 | #18082 | reply | quote

Technical Solutions to Perceived Noise

https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/PkpuvsFYr6yuYnppy/open-and-welcome-thread-september-2020?commentId=hc6np6yPaCjxM5sNP

I'm a fan of solving problems with technology. One way to solve this problem of people not liking an author's content is to allow users to put people on an ignore list (and maybe for some period of time).


Gavin Palmer at 5:43 AM on September 22, 2020 | #18106 | reply | quote

~Less Wrong leadership thinks they're super good at having rational conversations, dealing with intellectual conflict, dealing with disagreements, mediating debates, facilitating learning, etc. Why, then, did they not even attempt such things with me?


curi at 3:25 PM on September 24, 2020 | #18120 | reply | quote

(This is an unmoderated discussion forum. Discussion info.)