26

Does Stack Exchange, Inc. really care about us? Because it doesn't feel like that.

Meta is burning with hatred and heinous speech and SE Inc. is nowhere to be seen.

Sure, they made a post that apologizes for that (among other things) ten days ago. Sure, they are handling flags and removing bad stuff eventually (like, after several hours... which is way too long IMO).

But this isn't enough!

LGBTQ+ people are screaming about how unwelcomed and unsafe they (we!) currently feel on MSE. We are writing posts and comments one after the other to defend yourselves. To defend your rights to be treated like humans being. To defend your right to exist. And SO Inc. seems nowhere to be seen.

Since the updated CoC was released, things have been getting really hard on us and no one at SE Inc seems to have acknowledged that. Sure, I don't read every answer and comment that has been posted. Reading something that could be transphobic is really not good for my mental health and I definitely don't need that. So, I might have missed a post where SO Inc. talks about that.

But I just spent 10 minutes going through the LGBTQ+ related posts over the last two weeks and I didn't see any sign of a diamond. The only reason I know you are still here is because my flags are still being handled (after an unhealthy amount of hours, but still).

So yeah, do you all really care about the LGBTQ+ community? Are you planning on doing something about the current MSE fire? Or are you just hoping that silently deleting bad stuff will do the trick?

Also, could we have a sign of life from you? And an acknowledgment that you are, at the very least, hearing our pain? Also, an apology for how you are currently unable to handle the situation would be nice.

Maybe something like:

Hey, we are still here and we hear your screams and your pain and we are sorry we are handling all this so badly.

Adding a kitten picture at the end of your apology message could be nice too. You know, just to show a sign of goodwill.

  • 26
    Ironically, a few weeks ago, Monica was a moderator on Meta. If the hate speech in the comments is really getting that much out of control, I suppose they could reappoint her. Perhaps she would be handling some of those flags, and maybe that would help lower the response times. – J.R. means 'Just Reinstate' Oct 17 at 20:58
  • 20
    I no longer provide free content for SE, so I will not write an answer, but I do still visit (with ad/tracker blocker) and comment. So, briefly, no, SE does not appear to understand the concept of community, let alone care for or about one. There is, though, a fascinating opportunity for scholarship for anyone who studies community building. De-modding and publicly shaming @MonicaCellio in the press is a fascinating prelude to releasing a CoC change, an excellent example of anti-leadership, and a great way to induce mob mentality and hate. – De Novo supports GoFundMonica Oct 17 at 21:48
  • 8
    To be clear, I think you're very brave being out on this website. I admire anyone who is. It does not feel at all safe to me. – De Novo supports GoFundMonica Oct 17 at 21:57
  • 2
    This is the question I’ve been trying to figure out how to ask for over a week. Thanks for getting this out there. To me, this is the biggest current issue with the SE/SO world right now. – Todd Wilcox Oct 18 at 2:42
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    @eyeballfrog this website is not fantasy land or a video game. Real people with real lives are behind every account. The attitude that "it's just the internet, so it can't hurt you" really bothers me. Why do you think that actual harm can't happen to people here? – De Novo supports GoFundMonica Oct 18 at 2:55
  • 2
    @eyeballfrog I already suffer from anxiety and depression. Reading not nice stuff here makes my anxiety and depression worse. It hasn't done it yet but it could send me in a panic attack (which would lead to an obligatory trip to the hospital). It can also lead to suicidal thought and suicidal thoughts often lead to... suicide... which actually means death. So yeah, this website isn't safe for me anymore. – BelovedFool Oct 18 at 4:38
  • 1
    The problem is mostly that StackOverflow probably thought that just changing the rules is enough. It's not. You also need the policing power to enforce the new rules and a strategy to deal with outside threats. Do they have that? At the very least it was a bit careless behavior. Overall I would say that they kind of care but could also care more. – Trilarion Oct 18 at 7:10
  • 3
    ... and to get that policing done with a volunteer force, you need to convince the volunteers first. – MSalters - reinstate Monica Oct 18 at 7:21
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    "Meta is burning with hatred and heinous speech" [citation required] – Nax 'vi-vim-nvim' Oct 18 at 9:13
  • 4
    @Nax Sorry, but I won't put example of heinous speech in my question. Plus, most of it get deleted eventually – BelovedFool Oct 18 at 9:33
  • 2
    @Nax Every trans people I have talked to lately feel that MSE isn't safe anymore (because of the transphobie). But I guess trans people feelings will never be enought... – BelovedFool Oct 18 at 9:57
  • 1
    @Trilarion I can guarantee you that SE did not intend to lose ~10% of its moderator force over all of this. – AGirlHasNoName Oct 18 at 11:05
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    @Nax "Meta is burning with hatred and heinous speech" Listing everything is really a lot of work, and this is not really a court case, but let me sign this statement. I would also say that I have seen a much higher than usual rate of remarks that are not nice and should have been deleted according to any of the CoC. If this is not enough, please tell me how many examples you need to be convinced and I will dutifully collect them (when I have time for that). – Trilarion Oct 18 at 11:18
  • 3
    Please think carefully before saying what someone with suicidal thoughts should or shouldn't do. It can come off as shaming. – De Novo supports GoFundMonica Oct 18 at 15:14
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    Related to this, I've been wondering what the process was for deciding on this policy in the first place. Was there some round of LGBTQ user focus groups that decided this was what we needed here? I certainly would have liked to be involved in that. Or was the decision just SE saying "this is what those people need"? At this point I don't even have the energy for posting this as a question though – camille Oct 18 at 16:49
29

I understand how you feel. Believe me, I do. I agree with some of what you say so just know that this first half of my answer isn't directed at you.


When people say that by putting a policy in place designed to protect us, Stack Exchange put us in the crosshairs, they are shifting blame. The people to blame for the rampant transphobic backlash are the people participating in the rampant transphobic backlash.

It isn't as if it was all rainbows and sunshine before. I actually heard in all this mess, that if trans users just didn't tell others that they were trans then no one could say transphobic things to them. First off, people shouldn't have to hide. Second, we still get to hear the transphobic stuff that gets said about other people. It still hurts us.

It hurts us when you go out of your way to say hurtful things to us and then pretend like you didn't know it could possibly be hurtful. Or you go out of your way to say hurtful things to us and then say that you aren't responsible for the hurt caused by the things you say and do.

Now we have more explicit rules codifying that that is not okay.

Now if you step out of line and claim ignorance we can call you on it without you wielding "good intent" like an ever-exhausting shield. Your intent is irrelevant. Here are the rules that you are expected to abide by. Please follow them.

Furthermore, attacking us doesn't prove that firing Monica was wrong. Attacking us proves you are willing to attack a marginalized group and blame them for bad things that are happening outside of your control. I'm sorry Monica got fired. I'm sorry there was no process or transparency. I'm sorry we still don't know what is happening with her. But stop blaming us. Stop blaming the rules that we need to keep us safe.


Now back to your point about Stack Exchange. I know the CM's are out there working tirelessly. The number of flags must be extraordinary. The workload left in the wake of the moderator resignations must be extraordinary. I know the flags aren't getting processed fast enough for our liking but I also know that the mountain is just too tall to climb as fast as we want. But we need more support.

We need more vocal support.

We are trying to vocally reject the ideals being espoused in opposition to us simply existing on this site, but we need help. We are being shouted down in every corner. There are prominent and influential members of this community posting overtly transphobic content, and while it is getting deleted, they are hardly getting so much as a verbal slap on the wrist. The hate is going unchallenged and it is getting emboldened and it is getting sharper.

I don't know what you can do to be more visibly supportive. But we need it.

A cat is lying on its side.

  • 32
    This is an unbelievably important answer every ally should read. Stack Exchange takes zero direct blame for the transphobic speech on SE. Yes, I wish they were doing more to clean it up, but never by removing fault from the people who are actively causing harm. "They made us talk about it!" No. "If you hadn't said anything..." No. "Some people are always going to be vocally bigoted, so why act?" No. These lines of reasoning must be wholeheartedly stopped in their tracks for marginalized voices to be safe. – Aza Oct 18 at 2:15
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    YES And the employees have to be part of this vocal support! – Todd Wilcox Oct 18 at 2:48
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    With the concent of the answerer (since I did't want to put her in the crossfire without asking first), I'm accepting this answer for now. If a SE employe were to answer, I would (probably) switch the accepted answer. – BelovedFool Oct 18 at 4:26
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    "...by putting a policy in place designed to protect us, (SE) put us in the crosshairs". The issue isn't that SE put a policy into place. It is the manner it was put in place and the surrounding actions. There is enough blame to go around. People who have written bigoted things are responsible for their own words, but SE is responsible for the lack of trust between leadership and the community, and for a rollout that dialed the anxiety level as high as it's been for a while before rolling out this policy. – De Novo supports GoFundMonica Oct 18 at 5:12
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    People are not hard coded as bigots. Leadership can be helpful, or not. In this case, it was not. – De Novo supports GoFundMonica Oct 18 at 5:14
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    I support this answer. It is a well articulated summary of the events and I'm tired of the abuse and hatred on the site. The people taking advantage of moderation being thin on the ground should be ashamed of themselves. There is no excuse for the disgusting vitriol that is pouring onto the site by people who claim to care about the site and/or its community. – Nobody Oct 18 at 6:38
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    "There are prominent and influential members of this community posting overtly transphobic content, and while it is getting deleted, they are hardly getting so much as a verbal slap on the wrist." Then, isn't the problem in how it's moderated, more than how the CoC is worded, or the horrendous way it was rolled out? The old "be nice" clause provided plenty of ammunition to deal with transphobia and other forms of bigotry. – Cerbrus Oct 18 at 6:42
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    A majority of us supports you, independent of any controversy about the new CoC or the demise of a moderator. Already in the old CoC good intent could not be used as a blanket, especially for repeated actions. I fear people may put too much hope in the power of a CoC, when it's more like a cultural change that is needed. How to achieve that? I don't know. But please be assured again that independent of the controversy, most of us support you. We really do. – Trilarion Oct 18 at 9:00
  • 2
    @DeNovo I agree that the events leading up to the CoC were awful. I was addressing the people who continue to suggest that the CoC itself is bad and should be rolled back because it hurts is. The highest voted answer suggests this. – AGirlHasNoName Oct 18 at 11:20
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    @Trilarion: I see no evidence that a majority of "us", whether defined as SE contributors, Meta posters, moderators, or staff, support the LGBT community. All I see is lots of transphobia and a thousand downvotes for a very mild "don't deliberately use the wrong pronouns" CoC change. Silent support means nothing to me. – Silenced Temporarily Oct 18 at 19:10
  • @SilencedTemporarily Then let's clean up the transphobia together and let's be careful and fair during the cleanup. With majority I meant that enough people will defend and support all victims against transphobic content. Actually I cannot guarantee that and nobody can, I only hope it will be like that. – Trilarion Oct 18 at 19:20
  • 1
    @Trilarion Making cultural change is hard. One of the ways to do it is to carve out safe spaces. Which doesn't always work Then you slowly normalize your marginalized group through exposure. This takes some very brave people who are willing to stop hiding who they are when it isn't always safe to be open. Then you shine a light on the atrocities and you humanize the people. It is easy to hate a t[slur] or really any [slur]. It is harder to hate a person. – AGirlHasNoName Oct 18 at 22:05
63

SE cares as much as Marks and Spencer cared by creating a "LGBT" sandwich.

IF SE REALLY cared, they would have asked before they acted.

The LGBTQ+ community is not a monolith, and does not engage in groupthink. There are some who are for the CoC and some who oppose it, for a variety of reasons. But, like the white-saviors who go into minority neighborhoods and gentrify it to the point where the residents can no longer afford it and have to move out, SE is obviously more interested in LOOKING GOOD than in DOING GOOD.

Hey! We introduced this new CoC, so we are the good guys!!!! See!!!!

No, they created a massive backlash that is hurting the very people they claim to want to help, all while patting themselves on the back, and like Nero, sitting back and watching everything burn.

I see no evidence of them caring at all.

  • 23
    THIS. It very much feels like SE is telling LGBT users what LGBT users want, refusing to listen to them, and then shouting down anyone who disagrees. – Nate S - Reinstate Monica Oct 17 at 20:36
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    There is no doubt in my mind that this was a sincere attempt to improve the experience on this site for the LGBTQ+ community. And frankly, if SE had somehow managed to hear what Monica was saying instead of banishing her and gathered more feedback from everyone before proceeding, this might have all turned out very differently. – ColleenV parted ways Oct 17 at 20:46
  • 3
    There's enough evidence of what the SE community think about LGBT+ issues to make me disbelieve that the results of asking in advance would have made anyone feel more welcome. though the last few weeks would certainly have been calmer if that had happened. – ben is uǝq backwards Oct 17 at 21:22
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    @benisuǝqbackwards: That post you linked is only evidence that the community didn't want the platform to be politicized. I think the events of the past three weeks or so demonstrate quite clearly what such politicization looks like. – Robert Harvey Oct 17 at 23:15
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    As an LGBT SE user, thank you. So much idiocy has been said and done in the name of supposedly helping me. The Code of Conduct FAQ made me feel far more unwelcome than anything a user has ever said here. – eyeballfrog Oct 18 at 2:21
  • 2
    @eyeballfrog How has the CoC made you feel unwelcome? Is it the backlash it’s caused, or specific reasons related directly to the CoC? – divibisan Oct 18 at 2:34
  • Another aspect that occurs to me about the CoC is that they are trying to outsource fixing the culture. I don’t think that’s going to work. I strongly believe culture comes from the top down, not the bottom up. No CoC alone, no matter how it’s enforced, can change the SE/SO culture. – Todd Wilcox Oct 18 at 2:44
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    @divibisan I don't like sites telling me what I have to say, especially given that, as Monica discovered, the penalty for disagreement is severe. I also don't like the implication that LGBT people are so fragile that writing that avoids personal pronouns is an affront to their identity. – eyeballfrog Oct 18 at 7:20
41

I'm really sorry for you, but I think Stack Exchange can't do much more right now:

  • Flags are being handled (just see one of Tim Post's recent comments to get an idea of how many there are), but as almost all of their employees are US-based, there is a large part of the day when they're not really active
  • Another statement that they support the Lavender community would just be a duplicate of the previous ones. There's simply no need to state that again.
  • I don't really see what else they can do. Promises they'll do better in the future aren't really credible, are they?

If this entire situation causes a lot of strain for you personally, which is completely logical, then the only advice I have for you is to avoid Meta Stack Exchange for the next 6-8 weeks. It's a sad situation but it's going to take a while to clean up the mess. And we will clean it up, I know we will in the end.

Is that fair? No, it isn't. At all. Sometimes life just isn't fair :(

  • 5
    "Another statement that they support the Lavender community would just be a duplicate" -> Maybe it would. But I still feel like it would help. – BelovedFool Oct 17 at 16:32
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    The problem with avoiding MSE for 6-8 weeks(I see what you did there) is that there is no one to challenge the vitriol. Our voices are being scared off and MSE is turning into an echo chamber. Then people who genuinely are ill-informed get to only hear the narrative that is dialectically opposed to us. We need support to stand up to it. Not advice on how to hide from it. Trust me, we are all extremely good at hiding from it. – AGirlHasNoName Oct 17 at 17:37
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    @AGirlHasNoName I don't see vitriol. I see disagreement. Strong disagreement, yes, but people have strong feelings about this subject. Surely you understand that. – eyeballfrog Oct 18 at 2:19
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    @eyeballfrog Surely you understand how condescending it is to tell people that something they’ve seen repeatedly with their own eyes doesn’t exist. I don’t doubt that you haven’t seen anything you consider vitriol, but I can guarantee it’s there. It’s unbelievable rude to imply that we only see it because we’re idiots – divibisan Oct 18 at 2:45
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    @eyeballfrog: There's quite a bit of vitriol. It just gets removed. You not seeing it doesn't mean it's not there. – V2Blast Oct 18 at 2:45
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    They could change their own internal culture first. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of evidence that they’ve done that. Then they could be active in the communities (perhaps they need more staff) to promulgate a better culture. – Todd Wilcox Oct 18 at 2:45
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    @divibisan If it's being removed, there is no need to challenge the vitriol because people won't see it. AGirlHasNoName is clearly referring to posts that have not been deleted. – eyeballfrog Oct 18 at 7:13
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    BTW, I did upvote your answer. And life isn't fair. And I love your pronoun userscript. – AGirlHasNoName Oct 18 at 15:24
  • @HugoZink There we go: you don’t listen to what they’re saying and assume they’re lying because you think it’s obvious that they’re lying. What’s the point of even discussing anything with you if you’re going to have that attitude? – divibisan Oct 22 at 13:14
  • 1
    I'm not saying anyone is lying, I'm saying it should be easy enough to show examples if it's that prevalent. If it's being removed, what's the issue? It isn't removed in time? If only there were more moderators around, I wonder what happened to them? – Hugo Zink Oct 22 at 13:43
24

As I expressed in a previous post I feel that SE is partially responsible for the LGBTQ+ community's current situation. I feel like we've kinda been thrown under the bus and that SE hasn't done enough to pull us out from under it. To be clear I definitely respect the mods and CMs who are continuing to help clean up this mess and keep things civil. Nonetheless I feel SE itself needs to do something.

  • 1
    My opinion is that the CMs and mods are doing everything it can to fight the fires with the very limited resources that are available, but what they really need to do is put out the blaze by making real steps to address core concerns that have thrown the community into turmoil. If they address the situation with Monica fairly, then that will reduce the number of angry users and bring back more mods so they can take care of these problems faster. I know they're working on it, so I have hope! – divibisan Oct 17 at 17:12
  • 3
    @divibisan while I admire your optimism I feel a bit more cynical. They may be working on something but I feel worried that if they continue to show the amount of tone deafness that they have before that it may lead to the situation getting worse for everyone. – Gwideon Oct 17 at 17:15
  • That's why I'm actually hopeful that they're taking so long. When they've done something off the cuff, things haven't gone well. I'm hopeful that the time they're taking to address this situation means they're making sure to get this right. Maybe this hope is misplaced, but if I didn't have that hope then there really wouldn't be any reason to stay on this site – divibisan Oct 17 at 17:20
  • 9
    Looks like relevant SE staff are busy enjoying non-SE-users on Twitter saying things like "I am... loving the direction StackOverflow is moving in the context of community safety?" (actual quote), and consider it job done. They're praised for their intentions, and it'll look great on their LinkedIn profiles - so why check what is happening to real users in real life? – user56reinstatemonica8 Oct 17 at 17:21
  • @divibisan I understand. I don't mean to take that hope from you and to be honest it would be really nice if what you hope comes true but yeah I have to be honest with myself in the fact that anything from SE could make things worse. – Gwideon Oct 17 at 17:27
  • 8
    Seconded. If SE had deliberately wanted to hand a tool to the transphobic and other LGBTQ+-phobic bigots and haters, I don't think they could have done better than this. (I'm not saying that this is deliberate; I try not to ascribe to malice that which can be easily explained by incompetence.) – Jenny D Reinstate Monica Oct 17 at 18:14
15

The house is on fire, and we're looking around for the firefighters, but they're busy fighting the blaze.

We have two options. Stick around and try to put out the fire, but risk harm to ourselves because we don't have the same level of protection as the firefighters, or we can run out of the blaze, and maybe come back at a later point (but maybe not at all).

The moderator community is mostly made of volunteers, and I personally wouldn't volunteer to be the one that half of the community shouts at for having a differing opinion, but they do need help right now.

We're a divided community, and we need to collectively stop, calm down, and come at this from another angle.

We need to take into account the views of those that we disagree with, to get to a point where we can all improve the system that is in place together, and that isn't going to happen while members of the community are actively pouring a petrol trail through the hallways.

The moderator community has shrunk considerably since this happened, and they're only human. They are trying to find a solution, but considering the mess that we're in, appreciate that they're taking a while to get it right this time.

  • 7
    What I want is some reassurance that what the firefighters are putting on the blaze is water and not gasoline. When the loudest voices are shouting about how being told not to misgender people is unthinkable censorship, and the staff isn't standing by their policy, I'm not reassured by "we're doing something", when what they may well be doing is planning to roll back the anti-misgendering policy. – Silenced Temporarily Oct 17 at 20:50
  • 9
    @SilencedTemporarily: If I look at the highest-votes responses, such as the letter from the moderators, then the loudest voices don't appear to be transphobic at all. The problem with the current CoC is that it's divisive to the point of threatening the viability of SE,Inc. Not rolling back may be off the table, which would explain why SE,Inc is now so silent. The hard part is not the planning itself, but the admission of failure. – MSalters - reinstate Monica Oct 18 at 7:31
  • 2
    to be fair the firefighters all resigned in protest dearstackexchange.com – Not loved Not their people Oct 18 at 8:23
5

Meta primarily relies upon a open posting and community moderator model, so when moderators are away or there is large backlog the system can start to break down. Until we have new moderator elections the list of options are pretty limited:

  • Flag posts and comments! If enough flags are raised by the community the system will automatically delete the offending content.
  • Use the Help Center - Contact Us page to send emails to the Community Manager queue. There is a backlog there so it might take some time to get a response though.
  • Contact Stack Change via Twitter @StackExchange and it's appropriate to @ some of the public faced employees as well if you know their handle. That can be a pretty quick way to get a response (or at least the moderator queue looked at).

Beyond that, the trolls are fairly active right now because the current situation got picked up by some right-leaning / transphobic blogs that hit Google News. Short of the increasing the requirements for Meta users to use the site (unpopular suggestion) they will be around for awhile and can only be fought with proactive moderation.

  • 6
    I might recommend . . . not bringing this stuff up on Twitter (yes, I was guilty of that once before; that was not phenomenal). That can get out of hand really quickly; moreover, we really don't have any influence there in terms of dealing with trolls or transphobic remarks. And if we can't control that, there's the potential for lots more harm for many users - and we simply can't protect the folks being targeted if it's happening on Twitter. (But yes, I absolutely agree with the flagging suggestion!) – HDE 226868 Oct 17 at 18:05
  • Interesting. I heard about this kerfluffle on some non-SE site, possibly from a right-leaning poster, and checked in to find a lot of distressed people, but the bad things they were saying (that I saw) were about SE management, and about self-appointed allies who do things for people that are neither wanted nor helpful. I saw perhaps 2 people clearly misbehaving. But that was all. No obvious trolls. Either the folks here have been very restrained and adult, or the flag-and-downvote systems have been working incredibly well. – Arlie Stephens Oct 19 at 16:10

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