Recently there have been some discussions about the political stances of the Lemmy developers and site admins. To clear up some misconceptions: Lemmy is run by a team of people with different ideologies, including anti-capitalist, communist, anarchist, and others. While @dessalines and I are communists, we take decisions collectively, and don’t demand that anyone adopt our views or convert to our ideologies. We wouldn’t devote so much time to building a federated site otherwise.

What’s important to us is that you follow the site rules and Code of Conduct. Meaning primarily, no-bigotry, and being respectful towards others. As long as that is the case, we can get along perfectly fine.

In general we are open for constructive feedback, so please contact any member of the admin team if you have an idea how to improve Lemmy.

Slur Filter

We also noticed a consistent criticism of the built-in slur filter in Lemmy. Not so much on lemmy.ml itself, but whenever Lemmy is recommended elsewhere, a few usual suspects keep bringing it up. To these people we say the following: we are using the slur filter as a tool to keep a friendly atmosphere, and prevent racists, sexists and other bigots from using Lemmy. Its existence alone has lead many of them to not make an account, or run an instance: a clear net positive.

You can see for yourself the words which are blocked (content warning, link here). Note that it doesn’t include any simple swear words, but only slurs which are used to insult and attack other people. If you want to use any of these words, then please stay on one of the many platforms that permit them. Lemmy is not for you, and we don’t want you here.

We are fully aware that the slur filter is not perfect. It is made for American English, and can give false positives in other languages or dialects. We are totally willing to fix such problems on a case by case basis, simply open an issue in our repo with a description of the problem.

I like how the slur filter is described here:

“Note that it doesn’t include any simple swear words, but only slurs which are used to insult and attack other people.

but I guess the devil is in the details. Where do I see the actual words that are being blocked? When I clicked on the link I just saw a page of code which I cannot understand.

Lemmy is a fabulous creation - keep up the good work. I am excited to see what the future holds for Lemmy.

The slur filter has been removed since this post was made.

@nutomic@lemmy.ml
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I dont know if the slur filter for lemmy.ml is posted publicly anywhere, but its just insults which no one would use in normal conversation. Also, each instance can define their own filter, or disable it completely.

creek
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@nutomic test reply.

going to reply to this test

@Yujiri@lemmy.ml
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Hi. I’m a new Lemmy user who used to spend a lot of time on Reddit, before I became so interested in decentralization. I’m actually thrilled to hear that the people running this instance are leftist and anarchist types. It makes me feel better about my decision to use the biggest instance.

About the slur filter, I was very annoyed to find out about it, for two main reasons: I think that as a matter of technical architecture, any sort of content filtering should always be kept out of the source code, even if it’s active on a certain instance; and that there are contexts where it’s acceptable to use those words, such as when quoting from someone else, or in a discussion about the concept of offensive language itself.

Seeing the pile of comments on here, I just wanna go out of my way to say I think the slur filter is a great idea. Fascists will appropriate any leeway they’re given regardless of the ideological motivations under which said leeway is provided

It is but hardcoding it isn’t. First of all the server admin should be able to change the regex (preferably without editing the source code) to fit the community’s need.

And developed by people who hate the fact that you’re alive!

A comment about Lemmy I saw on Reddit. The slur filter really pulls its weight and keeps the bigots out, it was a great idea.

Dessalines
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Every time we get recommendations to remove the filter I think of this. These bigots end up staying on reddit, or moving to other bigoted platforms, and avoid lemmy, making our lives a LOT easier :smiling face: . I could care less about “growth” if that growth means an influx of disgusting racists. I’d much rather have a smaller, positive community that defends members of targeted communities.

I keep saying this: the very existence of the slur filter, even though it’s actually trivial to remove or modify, acts like an alt-right/MAGA/bigot/freeze-peach repellent even though it’s trivial to remove or modify. Just look at the types of people on /r/RedditAlternatives who say they’ll never go to Lemmy because of this, and what their priorities on platforms they’re actually interested in are. To me, that’s half the battle.

I could care less about “growth” if that growth means an influx of disgusting racists. I’d much rather have a smaller, positive community that defends members of targeted communities.

You have no idea how good it is to see this attitude from the central developers of the platform. How much better wouldn’t the world be if more people were thinking like this? Kudos to you all!

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this stance!

I think the slur filter is a brilliant idea, especially given the type of person it seems to bother most, and this site feels a lot less toxic than other online communities, probably as a direct result.

Dessalines
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Thanks! :)

Federated social media platforms may always be smaller than the for-profit platforms which use all kinds of tricks to turn people into commodities: tracking users, using targeted advertising, having psychologists on the development team to “gamify” everything, incentivizing people to turn themselves into “content creators” and “influencers”, create and exploit addictive behaviour by having infinite scrolling pages and adjusting content based on “engagement” data.

So Lemmy won’t make you rich - but I think you’re ok with that.

Question: is it hardcoded or just active on lemmy.ml? Can it be disabled (by an instance admin)?

From my understanding it is hardcoded into the source code. Not sure how hard it would be to remove if you ran the site yourself.

I guess should not be hard to just change the regex to ^$ so it only matches an empty string… then there is also Lenny

I’m a fan of the current approach, especially if it allows the devs to focus their resources elsewhere. Can always be revisited later.

We also noticed a consistent criticism of the built-in slur filter in Lemmy.

  • The funniest and most ironic thing about this is that the same people who criticize the filter are the first to insult you… These people already have a home. That home is called Reddit. And even if they’re more fascist, they’d better use Gab. But no, this social network better not be corrupted. Lemmy is a very healthy social network. People are friendly, curious and intelligent. It sounds a bit cliché, but it’s the truth. I like to make comments and posts here. I feel more free to express myself, unlike in Reddit. I just hope the core developers continue to moderate as well as ever, without giving in to pressure from those troublesome users. Keep it up 💪🏽💖

You have obnoxious people on all sides of the debate, including people who avoid listening to foreign ideas by labeling the other sides.

To be honest, nobody knows how the culture would be different under a different sweet of rules, especially the people who act most confident about it.

Social games, that is, sets of rules, are studied under many different disciplines. Things have been tried. Experiments have occurred, papers written. We know some stuff about how different kinds of rulesets work. Sorry if you dont like the fact that others have studied and tested things, but that does not mean you get to deny their knowledge.

nBee
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Lemmy is run by a team of people with different ideologies, including anti-capitalist, communist, anarchist, and others.

❤️❤️❤️

OdinTheProle
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Looks like we got a team of based badasses developing this platform

I didn’t even notice there was a slur filter. It seems to me that if you’re not an asshole, it doesn’t affect you one way or the other.

It does: there are languages other than English, as suggested in the original post itself.

I find it quite sad that people are bothered by the political views of others enough to ignore the good things they do for the community. Even if the misconceptions about the political stance of Lemmy devs were to be true I wouldn’t care as Lemmy as a piece of software is good, and admins are quite polite on general discussions. I don’t remember even one political post made by any of them.

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I agree with you for the most part but like to discuss detail, no need to answer me if you don’t want to i’m being picky !

If I have to be honest, political view of the devs do matter to me. I’m glad I’m close to their ideas, because I clearly would not want to use something not only made by fascists, but at a stage where their control a flagship instance as important as this one is. I would be afraid of direct censorship of course, but also of the general spirit driving the project. So I think it is in fact an important question. I just happen to be cool with the situation here because I think I will agree with the vast majority of the important decision.

(edit : typo)

RoAe
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Although I’m more right-leaning than left, I personally think it’s great that the people leading lemmy are communists, anarchists, etc. I think it helps provide a counter-balance to the more right leaning groups trying to avoid mainstream social media.

I like the idea of a slur filter as a moderation tool for any instance I am a part of, but I feel like it goes against the whole purpose of federated social media. Isn’t the point of federated stuff that you are free of centralized control, with the freedom to pick an instance which suits your desires? It seems wrong to impose any moderation, no matter how justified, on an entire federated platform.

Generally though, I love this platform! Thanks so much for all your hard work!

I think it helps provide a counter-balance to the more right leaning groups trying to avoid mainstream social media.

I think this point is important regardless of political spectrum. Lots of really nasty people have migrated to alternative platforms so that they can be nasty, but I’m glad Lemmy makes it clear enough that it’s not one of their nasty spaces.

Ideological freedom encourages nasty people. And restrictions encourage thoughtless people.

You can go on notabug and ignore the crazy psychos and chat with the creative people.

You can go on reddit and find endless people with no independent thought, repeating things and not listening to reach other.

Lemmy is in the middle. But IMO that’s not an objective good thing, it’s a preference.

False dilemma, no?

How so?

You have to assume that the devs’ rules do restrict the types if discourse which happen. But other than that, it all follows.

Maya
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So as @PP44 is saying, it’s open source. The devs work to make sure that anyone can set it up straightforwardly to run with their own modifications, not just the main version – and that means modifying the slur filter is also supposed to be straightforward, even though it’s not encouraged. There isn’t actual moderation on the whole platform per se, since two instances can federate even if one has no slur filter. There are lots of “points” to federated stuff, though, so the existence of a slur filter works well to help keep Lemmy from attracting the cesspool-types while still enjoying those other benefits.

It should be in a config file IMO, so communities can add/remove things based on their needs. There might be a community consisting of black people, for example, who would want to jokingly use the n-word between themselves. Hardcoding it into the code makes it harder to change it for legitimate use-cases. Putting it into a separate file could also help people to customize Lemmy for their language (there are languages where offensive words in English are just ordinary words).

Not everyone is tech-savvy enough to find the regex in the code and patch it out, and that could make a lot of people’s life a lot harder

I’m clearly “left-leaning”, so I might be biased, but I don’t agree with your criticism toward the slur filter : the project is open source, and as such people wanting to use these slur can work they way to another version. The devs explain here a clear intention to make this change difficult enough to prevent at least partially the migration of some communities they don’t want to support and/or give a platform to. I think that’s an honest way to do things ?

It also open up the debate on free speech and how saying some things actively attacks fundamental rights of others. In those cases, defending free speech as a “right” becomes irrelevant since both sides of the debate can use this logic to defend opposing actions. Trying to be short here, hope you understand what I mean !

The devs explain here a clear intention to make this change difficult enough to prevent at least partially the migration of some communities they don’t want to support and/or give a platform to.

I’m happy it’s becoming harder for neonazis to find a home online, however i’m not happy that this makes lemmy english-centric, and i’m not happy that honest discussion about some topics (including thoughtful criticism) will be made harder.

Related example: on another message board a few weeks back i couldn’t post a message containing my criticism of “bitcoin” because bitcoin was part of the slur filter to filter out the crypto-capitalist clique… i understand and appreciate why it was put in place, but i felt really powerless as a user that a machine who lacks understanding of the context of me using this word, decided i had no right to post it. I appreciate strong moderation, but i don’t trust machine to police/judge our activities.

I quite agree with you that moderation is hardly a machine job, and not saying it is the perfect solution. It sure as it’s drawback. I am just arguing that the benefits outweigh them. I would prefer to be in a world where there are not needed, be as of the world today, I admit I prefer having this filter rather than not having it, mostly because of the systemic effects I explained.

I agree that the relevance of he content of the filter can be discussed too, and that banning some words can make it difficult to discuss certain topics. But I think some words are almost always meant to harm, and can be easily replace by more positive or neutral term.

As a direct example : I can talk in this post about homosexuality, and I can event paraphrase to talk about the way some f word is used as a slur for it and how I think allowing it here isn’t a good idea in my opinion. See, I can talk about it, be respectful about it. I just prevent to call you a [insert here whatever banned slur] pretending to use my free speech.

I prefer having this filter rather than not having it, mostly because of the systemic effects I explained.

That’s also the case for me, in case that was not clear :)

I think some words are almost always meant to harm, and can be easily replace by more positive or neutral term.

I don’t think it’s that easy, because of the context. Should all usage of the n***** word by black people be prevented? Should all usage of w****/b**** words by queer/femmes folks in a sex-positive context be prevented? etc… I agree with you using these words is most times inappropriate and we can find better words for that, however white male technologists have a long history of dictating how the software can be used (and who it’s for) and i believe there’s something wrong in that power dynamic in and of itself. It’s not uncommon that measures of control introduced “to protect the oppressed” turn into serious popular repression.

Still, like i said i like this filter in practice, and it’s part of the reason i’m here (no fascism policy). As a militant antifascist AFK, i need to reflect on this and ponder whether automatic censorship is ok in the name of antifascism: it seems pretty efficient so far, if only as a psychological barrier. And i strongly believe we should moderate speech and advertise why we consider certain words/concepts to be mental barriers, but i’m really bothered on an ethical level to just dismiss content without human interaction. Isn’t that precisely what we critique in Youtube/Facebook/etc? I’m not exactly placing these examples on the same level as a slur filter though ;)

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As often in cool debate, I think in the end we mostly agree. I especially agree with you on the point that reclaiming a word is a valid way of using some slur, and that it should not be to a privileged group to choose when a word is ok or not. On this point I have to point out that this is still the case with manual moderation, if most moderator are privileged. So I agree that diversity should be push in all places of power, and all decision are better made (and more legitimate) with a diversity in the group that make them.

But on the automated part, I really think the psychological aspect is strong and should be questioned. You talk about “human interaction” but this definition is really hard non only to define, but also to defend as an efficient way of reaching you goals. I am quite sure that when the devs made their filter, there was quite a lot of human interaction and debate around it, and the simple fact the put one show that they interacted with other people around them. And is a “manual” moderation a human interaction when you don’t see or know the person, don’t know their culture, the context, their tone, etc. Moderation will never be perfect, will always involve bad decisions, errors. When errors are mades “directly” by humans, compassion and empathy help us to try and understand before judging (but judging nonetheless in the end don’t get me wrong). Why is it so different when an automated system (created by an imperfect human) ? Why is an automated error worse than a human one if the consequences are the same ?

Long story short, I don’t like thinking along great principles like “automated moderation is dangerous”, but rather try analyze the situation and think : would this place be better if there was not this automated moderation ? I agree that this is a wide and difficult debate one what is “better” of course, but the focus should always be this one : how to make things better.

Thank you so much for your answer, i’m not used to debate online because I didn’t feel at ease anywhere else before, but I love it and it is thanks to people like you and all the other interesting answers I get that I can enjoy that and think about it so much ! Thank you thank you <3 !!

(edit : typo)

@nutomic@lemmy.ml
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Thanks for your comment, I’m really happy to read something like this. I’m glad that people can really get along here :)

this is still the case with manual moderation, if most moderator are privileged

Sure, but given a /c/blackfolks community, a white admin would probably think twice before getting involved in internal matters over there. Which an algorithm will have no clue about.

I am quite sure that when the devs made their filter, there was quite a lot of human interaction and debate around it, and the simple fact the put one show that they interacted with other people around them.

The latter is true, but i believe the former isn’t. Having some kind of filter shows great concern for people experiencing harassment/bullying online, but using a word-based filter is a known anti-pattern since about the end of the 90s. I remember i used to go to this library, and from there you couldn’t access the library’s own website because the name of the library contained a french slur inside (though the whole was not a slur really) and the library-wide MITM proxy had a slur list like the one lemmy implemented. That’s how clueless such systems are.

Why is an automated error worse than a human one if the consequences are the same ?

For the reason you mentioned: lack of context and empathy.

would this place be better if there was not this automated moderation ?

Certainly not. I’m not advocating for removing the slur filter on this specific instance. I’m arguing having it hardcoded into the source is a strong political posture and we don’t really measure the variety of consequences it may have on the ecosystem as a whole.

Thank you so much for your answer (…) <3

Thanks to you too <3! I strongly appreciate online debate in such settings. Are you by any chance too young to remember when (before Facebook) forums/BBS were the craze? We really lost something (on a human/political level) when everyone moved to these centralized platforms where interactions were turned uniform and bland, and real-name policies have led to real-life crisis (bullying, suicides…).

a white admin would probably think twice before getting involved in internal matters over there.

Yes, at least a sensible one ! But the term you used is great : “thinking twice”. I really do think that the admins though twice before choosing this filter. This is a human choice, just made with automated tools. As in your example, the moderation will be questioned in either case, and that’s great ! I’m here for it. And i promote a way of organizing the critique against moderation around the question “what are the concrete consequences of either choices”, kind of an utilitarian point of view I have to admit. I think that initializing this new platform with a quite strong political stance on these issue will help this place have a positive impact. It is “hardcoded” yes, but in an open source project. If the platform grows, forks will appear for sure, especially if strong opinion arises on this kind of “hardcoded” issues. So I think about it more as a launch measure than a definitive stance.

lack of context and empathy

  1. That does not make the errors worse, that makes them more probable. The same error made by an automated system isn’t worse than a human one.
  2. No perfect system, not perfect context or empathy. You go to a physical event, the are rules, laws that are arbitrary to some extend. you’ve got physical moderation that will make mistakes. You go online, manual moderation job is harder because you lack more of the context/empathy, but I think you are still relevant. You go system wise, automated moderation is even harder and will make more errors for sure, but it is not a definitive reason against it. Is online moderation worse than physical meeting ? Yes. Should we prevent it and organize physical court for every moderation case online ? No, even if the decision would be better for sure. Because moderation would be less efficient as a whole, and that is what matter. In the same way, is automated moderation worse than manual ? Yes. Should we prevent it and only accept manual one ? The “better decision” argument is not enough to defend the “no”.

Are you by any chance too young (…) ?

I’m too young yes, just missed it ! (I’m born in 1994). (I am very social AFK, but never used Facebook/Twitter/… so I’m not as used to online interaction, that I think have specific codes.) But things go back and forth, let’s hope projects like Lemmy are the sign of a new era of progress !

That’s the defence of the “slur filter” that everyone can agree on. It’s harmless because it does almost nothing. It has no real benefit or cost.

The people who say it deters fascists - it just doesn’t hold water.#

I don’t know, if I believe some comments around here, there are clearly some of them that explicitly explain they would not come here because they feel “hated”, in public, so clearly to deter anyone close to them to come here for these reason. If so, it means it has some positive effect, and it seems plausible to me.

I don’t understand a lot of your message.

But if i get the gist, that might not be so positive. People who feel hated, isolated, afraid to express themselves in public, they are the people we should welcome.

It sounds like they are teenagers who are just figuring out their views. They all have strange and offensive ideas at times, but with help most people figure out a sensible worldview in the end.

@nutomic@lemmy.ml
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As long as they can stop themselves from insulting or attacking other people, they can come to Lemmy with no problem.

You’re just the ones who can’t express themselves properly yet. They have to learn that by chatting with adults and getting negative feedback.

But that doesn’t have to be our problem, at least not while lemmy is still so small.

Sorry, it was not clear at all ! I was talking about fascist publicly denouncing lemmy as a platform suppressing their free speech, and that, as such, it should be avoided.

Okay i didn’t get that at all.

Bit this new idea sounds like a paradox - someone pro free speech would mind object to that denouncement at all.

I’m not sure I understand what you mean here sorry.

Trying to avoid someone denouncing you - it means suppressing his free speech.

If you don’t want someone denouncing you, then you are not tolerant of all free speech.

alive

They do not complain about lemmy only denouncing, but putting filter to prevent certain words, which they see as free speech denial. At least I guest, i’m not in their head. To be clear I’m referencing this citation (that I found in another comment on this post) :

And developed by people who hate the fact that you’re alive !

The strong political stance seems to really put them off…

RoAe
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Perhaps I was a bit too harsh on the filter. After all, you’re right that someone could just modify the code. Even so, it doesn’t really seem like it lines up with the philosophy of federated platforms. It makes it more difficult to customize moderation on the instance level. I also feel like the problem of platforming nasty people could be solved by moderation on the instance level and blocking instances which don’t have adequate moderation. That’s what it’s going to need to be in the end anyway if Lemmy grows enough and people customize the code.

It does bring up the free speech debate, but I find those usually aren’t very productive in these sorts of contexts. It’s not really a legal question since the government isn’t involved, and they usually just end up being each side stating their presuppositions.

It’s not terribly important in this case anyways, I just thought I’d share my thoughts on it.

I mostly agree. And I agree that if the platform really grows, it will come down to per instance moderation and instance admins choosing wisely the instances they choose to federate with. But I think the choice is to make sure to give a head start to the people they want to welcome here. With the recent events in the US, imagine lemmy being the next tool used by “some people” the devs wich didn’t come. Then the platform as a whole would be much less attractive to some other people the devs are more interested in helping and interacting with.

So I think we agree, on the long term, if Lemmy grow, someone will come up with a modified version without thoses filter. It will just take more time. Meanwhile, Lemmur gets to be at peace as much as it can ?

Thanks for your answer !

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I’m brand new to Lemmy but overall so far I think you all are doing great. I appreciate the diversity in the political views of the team too. I find Lemmy much more usable than other sites too in how it’s not as overfilled with garbage like a lot of digital media has become. Overall great app, no complaints from me and thank you for running Lemmy.

No need for slurs in discussions. There are better ways to express anger , disgust or other “hot” emotions.

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What if the intent is not to express “hot” emotions? What if I just want to point someone to a book that happens to use a slur in its title? Or even just a URL to said book (or are URLs with slurs allowed?) Or quote a scottish person?

You assume intent, completely disregarding context. That’s a general problem with superficial slur filters.

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I don’t t care what the developers and admins think. I care what they do. And for the most part I think what they do is very, very good.

For the thought police on the other hand, I can’t see what good would come out of what they’re trying to do. Addressing concrete decisions like the slur filter is of course fair game. At least take the time and effort to look into the what and why of actual decisions that have been made before criticizing something.

As a Scottish person, I’ve been tripped up by the slur filter only twice. Once was when I used the c word to describe Dominic Raab (I still stand by that), and the other was when I used twit by with an A instead of an I. I genuinely had no idea that it actually meant vagina! I’ve heard it since I was a child and had no idea what it actually meant.

Still, you can’t really complain about it, it’s more of a trivial thing to people who aren’t being offensive.

“Twat” doesn’t mean vagina, it’s a slang term for clitoris. In the US, “cunt” is slang for vagina, and it is also a derogatory term, typically reserved for women.

Determining what is offensive and what is not is a complex matter. It isn’t only in intent that words become harmful. I have never heard a person use the word “kaffir” as an insult, so I might think that using it was inoffensive. The one time I asked a crowd of people what it meant, my two friends from South Africa turned pale and told me to never, ever, ever use that word again.

The Internet takes us from being citizens of a country, to citizens of the world. It’s on us to learn how to avoid insulting each other. Slur filters are one approach, but… they always have problems. Words aren’t in themselves offensive; people are offensive. Instead of blocking words, I prefer to corral people who won’t stop treating others badly. But I don’t run Lemmy, and I’m thankful that this isn’t a problem that I need to solve.

“Twat” doesn’t mean vagina, it’s a slang term for clitoris.

Google told me it meant vagina, lol.

Test: twat cunt

Guess that’s been removed now.

I really like this project. I think there are some areas for improvement in community building tools and moderation, but the software isn’t even at 1.0 yet. So, that makes sense. It will be interesting to see how the structure of the software influences community building. How will the up vote aggregation affect what is seen? How will that differ between instances?

As far as the politics of this instance. I’ve found it fine as an anarchist. As lemmy spreads and there are more instances I might find a more fitting home, but I feel welcome here in all my identities for now. There are certainly other lemmy instances I don’t feel welcome at so :woman shrugging: .

It’s certainly good have diversity of opinion, to keep it interesting for everyone. But how far would you extend that?

If there were more (or more active) fascists here, would that make it richer? Probably not - there ideas are empty and obtuse and self serving and racist. But i would have said the same about tankies before i joined Lemmy and listened to them.

The one thing you do not want is a circlejerk, where everyone agrees and is happy, but there is no important argument between people who strongly disagree.

I definitely wouldn’t feel safe on an instance that tolerates fascists and/or racists.

Personally, I don’t use the label “tankie” to describe people. I just think it’s outdated and doesn’t really relay where I might have disagreements with authoritarian leftists and staunch nation state supporters. Where I don’t feel welcome on some other lemmy instances has more to do with those authoritarian leftists and staunch nation state supporters not making enough room for a nuanced discussion about the balance and tension of individual autonomy and collective action (where does the liberation/rights of the individual end and the state/commune begin?). I don’t really feel like I would be silenced here for exploring that nuance though.