ESSAY: Thoughts on moderation policies and guidelines for decentralized communities


#1

Here’s an essay titled “Thoughts on moderation policies and guidelines for decentralized communities: addressing sensitive topics in social media while fostering a forward-thinking environment” which I wrote and submitted to the marketing department along with my official candidacy for the job of Social Media Community Manager.

Read the essay now

I have, obviously, a whole lot more to share. Stay tuned for updates!


#2

Hi Cassandria!

Perhaps it is an idea to post the essay full-text as people will be able to quote and react to it in a more targeted way :blush:.


#3

Sure, this actually makes sense!! :rofl: So here goes…

Thoughts on moderation policies and guidelines for decentralized communities: addressing sensitive topics in social media while fostering a forward thinking environment.

Abstract
A project like SingularityNet, with such a large scope and ambition, requires a departure from common business approaches, policies and guidelines. The executive team has already demonstrated this desire and the actions taken by the organization so far are congruent with this logic.

One aspect of the organization that is lagging behind in terms of forward-thinking development (at least from the perspective of the community) is the marketing side of things and, at its very core, the community channels themselves.

A recent unfortunate series of events involving hate speech distribution within one of the non-official community channels has probably brought to the team’s attention the need to enforce (or at the very least try to define) a set of moderation policies and guidelines. Or, if that need hasn’t been realized yet, it clearly should be. The very success (and ultimately survival!) of the organization is at stake here.

It can be argued that non-action, non-moderation and tolerance of hate speech within our community channels constitutes indirect endorsement. The organization cannot claim ignorance to absolve itself from the consequences. At least not after the first strike.

We can only imagine the implications of such an indirect endorsement of hate speech towards vulnerable minorities (in this case, gays, trans people, and Jews) by our organization if these events were to be brought to the public’s attention via social media in a viral manner. Not only would we face a very tangible PR nightmare situation to be dealt with immediately, we could also find ourselves with a reputation permanently damaged… beyond repair.

The nature of our activities lends itself pretty well to controversy and fringe thinking, as can be seen from the tremendous amount of conspiracy-related, pseudo-scientific and religious/ right-wing content found on the internet about SingularityNet.

We, as an organization, exist to push the boundaries of our collective existence, so it is entirely normal to experience a pushback against our vision and efforts. Our challenge (and opportunity) lies in making a distinction between, on one hand, a knee-jerk reactions stemming from fear and ignorance that will spiral us out of control and, on the other hand, a healthy skeptical pushback that is going to help us open and foster debates with academics, law-makers, ethicists, politicians and decision makers.

We are already dealing with fringe topics, and so it is normal to attract fringe people. Our aim, from a marketing standpoint, should be to move our ideas from outside the realm of fringe thinking and into mainstream public awareness.

I will hereby attempt to share some thoughts on how to meet this goal while making sure that we can avoid a repeat of the harmful situation we have experienced recently within our non-official channels. It is my hope that these thoughts will lead to implementing simple, effective and easily applicable policies that will enable us to direct our marketing resources towards the things that really matter while minimizing the risks inherent to community involvement within the organization.

Community-driven vs “core team” endorsed environments
As I was working on the community video and consulting with my volunteer colleagues Tim Richmond and Matt (malexaffey), we decided that we could help fill a gap in the community by launching our own forum/community site. It was later realized that the executive team was already working on a similar project, so we halted our effort to avoid an overlap, as a community-driven forum was clearly less desirable and attractive than an official forum built by the executive team. This seemed like the sensible and logical choice at the time, but in retrospect, we could argue that, in the context of the decentralized institution that SingularityNet aspires to be, a forum in the hands of the community is actually more in line with the project’s spirit.

My goal is not even to debate whether a forum should be community operated or not, but rather point out that the normal, logical “go-to” responses and ideas that we are conditioned to follow (in this case: corporate control over communities is a good thing) may need to go out the window in the context of a new, global, decentralized economy.

There is a decision to be made as early in the game as possible (read: right now!) about how much control we as an organization can relinquish to the community while maintaining a level of cohesion and effectiveness at attaining our objectives. Many decentralized blockchain-based projects are currently undergoing this phase of exploration/decision making at the network level, some with more success than others. But few are exploring these dynamics, let alone realizing the pitfalls and opportunities that come with them, at the level of community engagement and participation.

Steemit comes to mind as the obvious reference for decentralized community management, of course, and I will refer to the Steem blockchain again later in the text to expand on this idea.

What we have in front of us now is a tremendous amount of disparate, independent non-official channels of communication especially on the Telegram platform. I have personally counted and/or been an active member in over 8 different SingularityNet and/or AGI branded telegram groups - and that’s not even counting the international/foreign language ones.

Most of these groups bear the same Snet/AGI logo and branding, even though the majority are non-official efforts. They appear like official groups to the outsider. They also seem to be functioning like the cells of an organism, each running their own independent functions with a collective goal to facilitate the growth of a larger organism. That organic process in itself is a pretty exciting phenomenon… until one of the cells goes rogue and turns into a cancer cell, as we’ve seen recently in the “Truther AGI” telegram group. As with non-metaphorical cancer cells, the survival of the entire organism can be at stake if no action is taken.

When Tim, Matt and I were planning to launch our own community forum, it appeared quite clear to me that we needed to be upfront and 100% transparent about our non-official status. At the time I had come up with the following disclaimer, which was to be displayed very prominently on the site:

“While we work in close collaboration with SingularityNet’s official team to ensure that our message and vision is congruent with the main project, this site is a community effort not directly affiliated with SingularityNet. The views, opinions and content published on this website do not necessarily reflect those of the official SNet organization.”

The main aim of this disclaimer was to protect ourselves, the community leaders, from legal action in case something went wrong. It would have been also very effective at protecting SingularityNet’s interests.

I suggest that a similar disclaimer be forced upon all the non-official community groups or sites, to be displayed prominently in the pinned message and description (in the case of a telegram group) or on the homepage (in the case of a website). Open dialogue should be easy with members of our community, and I don’t foresee anyone opposing the use of such a disclaimer. In the unfortunate case that a group owner/moderator would refuse to post the disclaimer, it would be easy for us to flag the group to telegram for breach of copyright/spam or take other legal action as appropriate.

This is possibly the easiest, simplest, most cost and time effective way to deal with the abundant non-official, community-driven content that we will encounter more and more as the project keeps growing. The same type of disclaimer policy can be applied to a wide range of SingularityNet community projects, including: fiat exchanges, community-driven storefronts, developer sites and communities, AIGENTS sites, provider sites, so on and so forth.

Moving forward and from a legal standpoint, this policy should probably be enforced via a licensing program enabling community participants to license the right to use SingularityNet/AGI’s intellectual property. It should be made clear that the licensing program is mandatory for the use of the brand/logo/image and likeness of SingularityNet/AGI and is a completely different matter than the code and data’s (open-source) licensing model.

Steem’s witness and moderation systems: a working model to draw inspiration from
Steemit.com is a social blogging platform powered by a decentralized blockchain called Steem. A decentralized blockchain needs a varied set of people running computers to create these blocks. There are many solutions to this, and Steem uses a consensus mechanism called Delegated Proof of Stake, or DPOS. In the DPOS system, what are called witnesses in Steem are delegated by the collective Steem Power-weighted witness approval votes from Steem accounts.”

( Excerpt from https://steemit.com/steemit-guides/@pfunk/a-full-steemit-user-s-guide-to-steem-witnesses)

While our community itself isn’t powered by blockchain, doesn’t need to be and probably never will be, the democratic system we see in the process of community votes for witnesses election has intrinsic value both in terms of useability and appearance (the public likes democratic values!)

Looking forward a few years ahead at a grown-up SingularityNet, we can imagine a very large decentralized community involving actors from many levels, industries, backgrounds and cultures all working together with vastly different sets of morals, values and beliefs. Hands-on moderation will long have become impractical, as we’ve already started to see with our current community still in its infancy. A voting/community reputation system with a built-in reward system such as Steem’s witness system could be a very effective way to ensure that community decentralization doesn’t lead to chaos and unusability. While the actual implementation of such a system and the exact mechanism employed to reward elected community officials still remain to be determined, we can foresee a parallel between the network’s proof-of-reputation model for AIGENTS and an eventual democratic representation for community-based actions and integration. These ideas certainly need to be discussed right now while we’re still dealing with manageable numbers in the community.

The elephant in the room: playing the game of crazy conspiracy types
Today, SingularityNet is perhaps one of the most controversial projects in the crypto space due to the unique ideas and challenges that are being tackled. Religious types and conspiracy theorists have been known to react vehemently to our existence, let alone to actions taken by Sophia (or any related PR stunts). While it is easy to argue that conspiracy and fundamentalist discourses should simply be ignored, I claim that by doing so we would be leaving behind a tremendous opportunity to market ourselves.

Youtube is the prime breeding ground for unhealthy conspiracy/religious theories. Some of the claims and accusations aimed at our organization are ludicrous, completely out there, while others have some basis for concern (at the very least from a moral/philosophical standpoint). Either way, it seems obvious to me that engaging in the debate would prove beneficial for all parties involved. It is on one hand a great opportunity to educate the ignorant (or at least reach out to those who are grounded enough to use logic beyond religious dogma) and on the other hand an excellent cost-effective PR opportunity for the marketing department.

Monitoring, and actively engaging with the public within the comment section of those conspiracy/religious right-wing youtube videos that are talking about SingularityNet (even those that are really out there) should be a part of our ongoing social media strategy. I feel the need to specify that our presence and engagement in this field should not be done with the aim to argue or to be right (because it is impossible to do so with illogical pseudo-scientific types) but rather just to be present, present the facts and otherwise just appear very loose and accessible in our corporate presentation.

Conclusion
I have presented here just a few ideas, which may or may not be new to the marketing team’s outlook and thinking process. As with all new ideas their mere presence alone is often beneficial to foster growth and change even if they do not lead to immediate policy changes. At the actionable level, I hope to have the opportunity to contribute more of these ideas, to debate and analyze their value with the executive team and even play a key role in implementing future policies and guidelines.