I have been thinking about this for a while, and I have finally decided to voice my disagreements (as a user) with Cake’s current moderation tool that allows Origional Posters, or OP’s, to delete other user’s posts at their discretion. My disagreement with this is for several reasons, as I will elaborate on further. Before I begin, I would like to say that I do think that Cake is a wonderful thing that is honestly a pleasure to use, and this critique is not trying to be an attack, but rather a reasoned critique of an aspect that I disagree with and think the program as a whole would be better without.
Another thing I would like to say before I begin is that I understand the reasoning behind why the system is there in the first place, I.e to protect women and empower them to be able to remove harassing posts without needing to involve a moderator. I also understand that this would (in ideal conditions) reduce moderator workloads, which is a great boon to a small company like cake as employing moderators is a costly endeavor. However, I personally believe that the downsides of this tool are too great for it to be implemented.
My first issue with the moderation tool is that it disincentives users from continuing to use cake. What I mean by that is that if you are an average user, and you get a post deleted due to a misunderstanding, that user isn't going to be happy. Sure, it might have been a misunderstanding, and sure, it might get reinstated, but who would want to go through that for a post on a message board? I feel it is a reasonable assumption to say that people who's posts are deleted would be less likely to continue to use Cake, as no one wants their voice to be censored. Now, please note, I'm not making a freedom of speech case here, but rather just a pure user retention argument.
As an aside to the first issue, you could say that the people who are being deleted are likely bad apples / trolls, and that it would be a net boon to Cake to disincentives them. If it only got rid of trolls, I might agree with that argument, except there is no way to assure that it is only getting rid of trolls. Instead, the tool relies on the judgement of other users to decide, which could lead to very negative outcomes. Furthermore there is demonstrated evidence of the tool being misused on well meaning individuals right now on cake.
My second issue with the tool is that it doesn't fit the site. From my understanding of the situation, the tool was adapted from a similar one on Facebook. However, I don't think it belongs on Cake because Cake isn't Facebook. It is reasonable to have a tool such as this on Facebook, as its completely acceptable to give this level of control (deletion powers) over your own personal page. But Cake isn't a personal website, its a message board, and Cake threads aren't status updates on a personal page, but rather lines of discussion about a specific topics on a public forum. The main issue I'm trying to get at here is that some things that would be completely reasonable on a private area are not very reasonable when they are applied to public places.
My third issue with this tool is that it is a god send to trolls and other ne’er do well’s. As someone who has followed a variety of internet mischief for a while now, I've never seen a tool with such a potential for misuse given to users so freely. What do I mean by this? Lets consider some examples:
Example 1 (Mild) : I made a post on December 16 asking cake users if they preferred cats or dogs. I got a few replies, all saying dogs. Now if there was a user who said they personally preferred cats, I could have called them a troll and deleted their post, or just deleted it without saying anything. This is a very mild form of trolling, so lets look at some stronger forms.
Example 2 (Political): Lets say someone from one of reddit’s political echo chambers ( r/LateStageCapitalism, r/The_Donald) comes over and starts a thread that appears unassuming, talking about politics. They can then delete literally any post on their topic they disagree with, with nothing stopping them. This will lead to quite toxic malignant tumors developing on Cake of echo chambers that are unappealing to the vast majority of users. Even if you can filter these cancerous threads out, whats stopping these users from deleting other users posts because they have a different political view. For example, say someone from The_Donald started a thread about motorcycles, and then noticed someone who he disagreed with commented on his thread ( discussing motorcycles) and deleted his post for unrelated reasons.
Example 3 (Worst Case): This example is, IMO, the worst possible outcome for the abuse of this tool, as it is using it in a way that is directly antithetical to its stated purpose. Say someone is a secret troll. They've built up a reasonable account with some basic posts, one that looks like a regular user. But in reality, they’re preparing for a single big troll. On International Women’s Day (March 8), they start a thread that looks something like this:
“On International Women’s day, we are all discussing and celebrating the great accomplishments of women around the world, from getting the vote to getting our rights. But we cannot ignore the blights upon our gender. Rape, Abuse, Domestic Violence, FGM, the list goes on and on. Lets start a discussion here about these difficult issues, and show solidarity with our fellow women! Please feel free to share stories and give support, this is a safe place.“
The thread blows up, hundreds of posts, maybe even gets stickies to the front page, who knows. After a bit, the troll strikes. With rapid clicks, he starts hiding every single post. Stories and voices are all fodder to the threshing strikes of the troll as he turns the once lively discussion into a wasteland. As he finishes his salted earth, he places a cherry on top by posting a finale post stating that women are worthless filth who deserve to be raped, or some other vacuous screed. He remains on the thread, deleting any replies to his manifesto, until an actual mod comes around and resolves the situation.
Now you may think that I am being hyperbolic here, but I assure you this is all well within reason. There are plenty of trolls that will plan attacks like these, and even do the groundwork before hand in building a good cover to fly under the radar. As no one has protection from the tool, its completely plausible that a single troll could clean hundreds of comments in minutes.
As I said earlier, this abuse of the tool is the worst because it goes against everything the tool stands for. It takes something designed to empower women, and uses it to silence them. This is why I think this tool is so dangerous. It puts too much power into too many peoples hands with absolutely zero vetting.
My final issue with the tool is that it creates extra work for the moderators. In my previous example, if a moderator wanted to resolve the issue by restoring everyones posts, they would have to individually restore each post to the thread. Thats an incredible amount of work for a moderator, and turns their job from moderation to damage control. A possible fix for this would be giving moderators the ability to mass un-hide posts, but that solution just reenforces the idea that people would be abusing the tool, and also could allow some actually abusive posts to return among the false positives.
A counter argument to this would be that if users didn't have this tool, the moderators would have to respond to reports anyway and delete these posts individually. This argument is true, they would. However, in the current system, they instead have to respond to the reports of the deleted people’s posts instead, so there is no negation of work, but instead the extra work of correcting for trolls abusing the system on top of existing moderation work.
These issues are my main concerns with the system as it exists currently, and I feel that if nothing is done to change it, it has an extreme potential for abuse and mischief. I would like to restate again that I really do enjoy Cake, and I only want the best for the system. I would appreciate feedback on this, and I hope everyone has a wonderful day!