[hackerspaces] Project for an effective debate on the internet with a new kind of moderation, contributions welcome!

Julien Rolland julien.rolland.tlse at gmail.com
Mon Oct 26 22:15:43 CET 2020


A few words of presentation first:

In France (I hope my English will be good) during the lock down I saw a lot
of beautiful projects emerge. I said to myself "And you? What could you do
that would be useful? I'm a left-wing activist (humanist to simplify), a
bit of a programmer, a bit of a statistician. I had an idea: how to solve
the problem of debates on the Internet, so that they bring out the best and
not the worst, and that they lead to concrete actions. Ambitious? Maybe,
but on paper it works.


Debating on the internet is unproductive. Only the worst comes out (like
the Q-Anon movement). To reappropriate this fabulous space a new form of
efficient and democratic moderation must be put in place. It is also
necessary that all of this be concretized IRL by acts. To achieve these
objectives, I propose some ideas that can be freely taken up. The heart of
the idea is to reuse the theories on the random casting of delegates for
the purpose of moderation.

The most difficult thing would not be to develop the application system,
but to deploy it so that it is used on a massive scale. It won't solve the
problems of fake news, but it could give us a kind of "safe place", where
we can get information and debate in an efficient way.

1 - State of the debate on the internet:

Debating on the internet has become impossible. The trolls, the fascist
sphere… are too numerous. Algorithms often do their job badly and bring up
the worst of the web. And even with good will, finding and debating
intelligently on the internet seems to me impossible now.

Today a certain form of moderation is used which doesn't suit me. It
depends on the all-powerful moderator (or impotent depending on the
platform). And it's not the best comments that surface but the most popular
ones; the current algorithms make it seem like a vicious circle even if
it's crap.

This is my fourth writing of this presentation, not easy because the
subject is complex. But I think the idea is beautiful. To answer the above
problems, I found a pretty easy way to set up a new kind of
forum/network/application that uses something that is more and more
appreciated: the random draw.

You could say that the goal is fourfold:

1 - To get rid of the trolls, fascists, conspirators (explaining why)

2 - Emphasize the quality of the remarks and not popularity

3 - The whole thing is completely democratic, self-managed.

4 - Getting things done IRL

It is a tool. A tool that could be used by everyone for a lot of things. To
plan actions of strikes. Debate on government policy. On how to make
ecology. To even write a new constitution even with millions of people.

2 - The basic functioning:

The functioning is complex to explain but quite simple to set up and use.
In my opinion it also seems powerful to achieve these objectives. It
doesn't matter whether there are 100 people to debate (it's already a lot)
or millions. So far I haven't found anything equivalent on the web.

2a - Quality of the comments:

I will take the example of a user who launches this 'application' for the
first time (it can also be a website). He registers. He can read everything
that has been posted. However. To post a comment, he will first be asked to
vote for other comments. The revolutionary trick of this app is that he
won't choose on which comment to vote, they will be drawn among the
existing comments!

The vote will not be 'yes or no' but on one (or more) scale. This first
principle allows a comment to be judged on its quality and not its
popularity. Indeed, it will be impossible to vote 'voluntarily' for a
'chosen' comment on which you already have a precise personal point of
view. According to my statistical knowledge. About twenty votes per comment
would be enough to have a reliable score of the quality of the comment.

If we start from this figure of 20, it means that on average we would have
to vote 20 times to comment once. So, we will have to limit the size of the
comments a little bit, so that it is not too painful.  We can imagine an
"abstract" system like we do in scientific papers: a short summary limited
in characters sufficient to vote, and then we put as much as we want to

2b - Democracy of votes:

20 votes in a row is too many, I think. It can be easily solved by also
allowing to vote (always on randomly chosen texts) without commenting. From
time to time. Almost like a game. But beware, our voting quota will be
limited. Indeed, a user who spends his days on the web could vote 1000
times in a clumsy way and bias the results. So I imagine a small algorithm
that will give a big daily voting quota to a new (and active!) registrant,
a quota that will decrease more and more with time. This is for the
egalitarian and therefore democratic side of the application. [to be
improved, but the idea is to have an egalitarian voting quota].

The number of comments that a user will be able to submit to the vote
during the week will also be limited, in order to take time for thinking
and for other users to have time to vote on them (always by random). We can
imagine that there is a kind of parallel forum that would be unlimited in
comments but not submitted to the vote, to the referencing. (If a really
good comment is posted in this section, anyone will be able to submit it to
a copy/paste vote).

2c - Anti-troll:

At this stage we have a democratic functioning that is supposed to bring
out the good things. But if trolls arrive massively, everything collapses.
That's where it becomes really interesting (and a bit complex). When we
vote on a text (on a scale), we can also tick "off-charter (/concordat ?)"
boxes. So we'll have to write a charter (/concordat ?) (simply respecting
the law would be nice). This idea of application is indeed obviously
intended to bring together people of good will, humanists, etc... and not
the extreme right which already has facebook and company.

We can imagine 4-5 boxes for reporting 'sexist remarks', 'xenophobic
remarks', 'conspiracists remarks'.... And here comes my basic idea: let's
say that 60% of the users are from the extreme right. Logically the shitty
comments will come out. But the remaining 40% will flag it as 'off the
charts'. So, it will be easy to see if the user votes for crap. Then the
user identified as off-charts (/concordat ?) will have all his votes
cancelled, the site/application accessible only in read-only mode, and will
be redirected to texts or sites to try to make him understand why he's
blocked (we can redirect a conspirator to anti-conspiracy sites for example
that exist and are of good quality).

For example, right-wing extremist comments will be buried at the bottom of
the page or even deleted. And the interesting comments at the top of the
'quality' ranking.

It is not quite foolproof at this stage. But: already, this application
will first be deployed, communicated, in left-wing circles obviously, so we
should start on a healthy basis. But we can imagine all kinds of
retro-control. The 'off-charter' reporting of members who have shown good
faith could be stronger than that of new members (the 'quality' votes
remain totally equal).  All this is a bit technical but very easily done
and will close the door to offensive comments. (Without closing access to
the application).

This was for the basics. All this is very easy to do, a small team of
motivated developers can do it very quickly. Of course, in open-source,
non-commercial, reusable everywhere, in all countries...

Well, there's one last point, it's all very well to have an idea that gets
a good grade/notation, but then people have to be willing to get involved
in it. And with random votes it's not easy. So:

2d - Efficiency for struggles:

In addition to the main classification by quality of the remarks, will come
other tabs (one or more, to see). We will be able to vote freely this time
on the comments exceeding a certain quality rating. As a 'like'. For
example, 'I like this idea, I want to participate'. Thus, it will be a form
of petition, an idea of struggle for example (organize a big mobilization
on such date for such reason) can be voted on a lot, commented, debated,
etc. And there will be a ranking of these most popular ideas/projects.

A little bit of statistics (moving average of “like per days”) and even a
new idea, if it is well noted, will be quickly found in the first results.
It doesn't matter who you are, new user or not.

Then you can imagine any kind of ranking by keywords to distinguish
comments ('action', 'economic debate', 'ecology', 'writing a new
democracy', etc...).

3 - How to participate, the to-do list :

I hope you like the idea. It is a real reappropriation of the internet tool
that I propose. Effective, democratic debates that lead to something
concrete.  Nothing like this seems to exist at the moment. It is however
very simple to set up. There are three stages, and you are cordially
invited to participate in them to your measure:

- Comment and improve this project, on the political or technical side of

- Find developers willing to do this quickly.

- Share as much as possible massively on all networks as soon as it's

That's it! That was pretty simple! No? I did everything I could to make it

To be improved....

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version) (and some personal
adjustment !)
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