Lemmy is federated and decentralized and that means that we can all coexist regardless of our differing political opinions. I think it’s important to preface this by saying that I am not offended by or concerned with anyone’s politics, and I’m certainly not here to argue with anyone about them.
My concern is that users are being banned and content is being removed on lemmy.ml citing a rule that is not publicly stated anywhere that I have seen.
Moderators of lemmy.ml are removing posts and comments which are critical of the Chinese government and are banning their authors.
This came to my attention because of how lemmy user bans are federated just like everything else, and I was confused about why my instance had logged a lemmy.ml user ban citing “orientalism” as the reason for the ban.
I noticed that the banned user had recently commented on a post in [email protected] that had been removed with the reason “Orientalist article”.
Here’s the article that was removed, titled “China may face succession crisis”. It was published by axios.com, which mediabiasfactcheck describes as having “a slight to moderate liberal bias” and gives its second-highest ranking for factual reporting. The article writes unfavorably of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
I had not remembered seeing anything in lemmy.ml’s rules that would suggest that “orientalism”—meaning, as I understand it, the depiction or discussion of Asian cultures by people in Western ones—was against the rules. So I checked, and I found that there was not. Not on the instance’s front page, and not in [email protected].
There is a stated rule against xenophobia, but I think that xenophobia is not widely understood to include Westerners writing critically of the actions of an Asian government.
This is where I went from confused to concerned.
Lemmy instances have public moderation logs, which I think is a very positive thing about the platform. So I looked more closely at lemmy.ml’s moderation log.
Please note that moderation logs are also federated. It’s hard to be 100% sure which instance a mod action is actually associated with, looking at these logs. The previously mentioned user ban and post removal were, I think, definitely actions taken by lemmy.ml moderators. My own instance’s mod log identifies the banning moderator as a lemmy.ml admin, and the removed post was submitted to a lemmy.ml community. I’ve done my best to verify that all of the following removals were really done by lemmy.ml moderators, but I can’t be absolutely certain. Please forgive me if any of them were actually made on other instances that do have an explicitly stated rule against orientalism.
Removed Comment Ah yes. Being against China’s racist genocide is racist. China, the imperialist ethno-state, is clearly innocent. by @[email protected] reason: Orientalism
Removed Comment Lol. Thinking some countries have better governments than others is supremacist? Whatever, dude. By the way. If there are any countries with decent governments, I don’t know of them. But like. If there were decent countries, they wouldn’t behave like China. by @[email protected] reason: Orientalism
These following moderator actions did not specifically cite orientalism, but did not seem to be breaking any of the instance’s or community’s explicitly stated rules.
Banned @[email protected] reason: Only makes anti russia and anti china, crosspostst from reddit. 2nd temp ban expires: 9d ago
Removed Comment Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Tibet are all Colonies of China, which it treats as Colonial Territories, by - Forcibly destroying the local culture. Forcefully extracting to harm of the locals. Genocide, abuse, kidnapping, rape. But there is no point in engaging to you. You are a liar. You know you are. When you deny genocides, you put yourself on the same side as the fascists and reactionaries of the past. by @[email protected] reason: Rule 1 and 2
I have no affection for the Chinese government and I do not call myself a communist. I would not enforce a rule against orientalism on my own instance. But I think that lemmy.ml’s moderators are entitled to enforce whatever rules they please. It’s only that, as the largest single lemmy instance so far, I believe that they have an obligation to disclose these rules, and an obligation to not ban users or remove content for failing to follow unobvious and unstated rules.
I’d like to raise some awareness about this, and I’d like to openly ask the moderators of lemmy.ml to state the rules that they intend to enforce clearly and explicitly.
I will be very clear and state it again: I am not asking for anyone to change their opinions or to not enforce a rule that they believe in. That is the great thing about lemmy, that we can coexist in this federated community even when we don’t share the same opinions. What I am asking is for lemmy.ml’s rules to be clearly stated, because I think it does not reflect well on the broader community if the predominant instance moderates its users and content according to rules that are not being explicitly disclosed.