NEWS/OPINION — You do not resort to censorship if you are winning.
Notice: This article links to chat logs which are not private or privileged. They took place in the public chat of #Site17 of SCP Wiki’s IRC chat.
Look to the west!
I see a flaming pillar rising
Its molten core could swallow all creation
All that passion and inspiration
Its much more than a face or a name,
But an avalanche, the spark from when’st the flame
In the history of our species, the side doing the censoring has never ended up being the correct one. Name such a time when censorship was employed and it was a good thing, and when there wasn’t mission creep that abused it.
We’ve discussed how SCP is fundamentally similar to religious cults or primitive religions in its treatment of power and community. Individuals seen as outsiders or dissidents are subject to the same ridicule, excommunication, demonization, gaslighting, and oppression as in any other ecumenical institution that cleaves the world into a binary set (the within and the without). The reaction of the general SCP Staff to a dissident is the age-old and very natural reaction of any absolute authority to something representing a deviation from their cast. This is in general perpetuated to and through the general userbase, which will almost, as if illiterate, accept the judgements and prescriptions of their shepherding clergy in matters of harassment or wrongdoing. Only those who are paying attention notice the cracks in the makeup.
This is because, in part, there is a large gulf of maturity and intellect between the everyuser and the Staff. The former is prototypically a 15 year old; the latter is someone a bit to a lot older and with the clairvoyance of age & operation. The gap is taken advantage of in more ways than sexually. There is an immoral informational asymmetry; the users are kept from most of the secrets within the Staff, and certainly the damning ones. The dynamic most closely approximates that between the Church and the congregate pre-Gutenberg, where an inability to read what is actually within the scriptures was a large chasm in which to insert one’s own preferences and desires; a place to hide and get away with things that would knowingly outrage the masses.
In this way, the most uninformed and incapable of self-driven research and investigation in the SCP community are kept, willingly by Staff, in a sort of informational gulag. The short term memory of most users as a result of this (with less information, there are less dots to connect, and smaller structures of memory available) is also something explicitly capitalized on by staff, as in the case of DrMagnus, who “retired” from Staff, yet is a lead member of the Chat Staff team now, and whose punishment for the events of the Cerastes Scandal has still only been self-imposed, and wholly upon their terms.
This is in part the purpose and goal of this blog and now Confic Magazine; to process the information coming out of O5 and package it in a way the everyuser can understand, to keep a record and retrace the lines connecting the dots, and in particular to notice flimsy and shoddy workmanship when it comes to the rhetoric, half-truths, and outright lies that often spill from that pulpit, and prolong the great unevenness in the playing field that props up Staff.
Enter the last week, where I have had a hell of a time fighting being censored by nameless actors. It started a week ago when someone (appropriate to the message and title) flagged the contents of The Troll Chronicles: 2nd Degree Thought Criminals. This article highlighted the purblind fates given to such out-group members once fed into the clunkiness of this religious engine meant to punish ideological foes, and even potential ones. They are shoved out of the community categorically, as if irredeemable but by designated and mechanical channels of re-education, which by no coincidence travel through a mandatory groveling and recognition of staff authority (ban “appeals” in Site17); the lack of which may have been the problem to begin with. It showed how Staff assign the same homeland to the racist, the Nazi, the juvenile, the troll, the insane, and to the outspoken (these last two things being more or less the same). Each of these, despite Staff’s insistence they are done with them as tools of user manipulation, are hand-moved across a puppetry stage, the villains cast as inhuman, their sutured faces unmoving and permanently in an evil leer.
But more importantly (to Staff) was that it featured snapshots of #site67 chat logs, some of which displayed more egregious behaviors by Staff than those they were banning users for. They showed that these, supposedly the most humane people of the confic space, have a trait of cruelty, a tigerish lust to annihilate, and give themselves permission to hate — just as those banned and pigeonholed as evil-doers. The event renewed our interest in a history of staff chat leaks, and we turned again to our long-since posted chat logs of #site67 from the years 2017, 2018, and 2019, on the Containment Fiction Wiki.
But lo and behold, these had been removed, and a long time ago! A day after they were uploaded, in fact. An unidentified user removed the .pdf files and apparently dipped out. It was as if witnessing the aftermath of a secret agent’s operation; someone snuck in right under our noses and was gone without us knowing anything had changed. The date also coincided with the odd and unexplained appearance of an SCP Staff Administrator (of all people), who seemingly created an account and did nothing with it…
We attempted to re-upload these logs this week, and again they were taken down suddenly, and by an unknown user. This time, though, I got an explanation:
This is someone who works on the Miraheze project, someone high up in the ranks of its staff. Was this individual monitoring all uploads to the project? To the entire Miraheze website? Did they read all 1,000 pages of the chat logs published in order to verify any private and personally-identifying information that would violate any Terms of Service? In less than a day? Was this individual monitoring our uploads in the same fashion a whole 4 months later?
Of course not. This is the clear signature on scan of a response to another flagging effort. In retrospect, the strangely present Admin was likely the communication vector that got these logs taken down shortly after being posted; and likely again the second time, as we had made the upload public information.
What this tells us is that at the heights of Staff, there is an obsessiveness that prowls areas (like this blog, like KiwiFarms, and other places) that have the potential to disseminate what would amount to bad PR. They do so with an arsenal of complaints and accusations that, though I haven’t seen the messages, I’d wager are exaggerated in their offense. I’d also wager that the benefit and auto-capitulations we are seeing from the likes of Medium and Miraheze are the result of a first-mover advantage; that same thing that makes it more likely for the police officer to take your side of a situation if you are the one who calls them.
The attempt to make public these chat logs has therefore been a stout uphill battle. As well it should; in ways it represents the delivery of the scriptures, held so tightly and with fear of lost power by SCP Staff, directly to the doors of the congregation; the nailing of a different sort of theses to the church door. The users have a right to know these things previously kept hidden. That right is being actively fought against by those who would be cast in a less-than-flattering light; and by those who exert a sort of rule over the would-be informed. These Staff rely upon the optics of their reputations, for at any time, they could be undone by popular, political pressure (as observed in the case of Gabriel Jade, Eskobar, and AdminBright). The clergy wants to keep the masses illiterate, their insight lobotomized, as long as it will mean their sustainment in places of meek power. Potential sources of this type of information are notated as great threats of invasion to the singing choir, and to their marching soldiery. Great pains are taken to ward them off; one does not speak of such things.
I’ve had to very sternly and perplexedly ask why platforms unequal to the moment like Medium and Miraheze, exaggerations about the content of the chat leaks aside, are so fragile and sudden to uphold in faith the most reaching of accusations. What accusation could be made? That these logs reveal private information? This isn’t so, as these chats utilize pseudonyms; they are not anyone’s real name. That is extracurricular information that is not exposed in these chat logs. We cannot know who these individuals are without likewise publicly released legal names, which if they’ve happened, are likely done by the individual themself.
Secondly, these logs are hand-picked. They aren’t simply a copy&paste dump of Harmony’s old #site67 records. I went through each day of the chat logs and either selected the day’s material as interesting, or didn’t include them because they didn’t offer anything. In this process, I avoided or removed any potentially personal information, even given the one degree separation from actual, legal names. I excluded routine chatting in order to spare anyone as collateral.
I have a quiet track record of this actually, not that it would save me the the accusation from Staff as a doxer; when I was given 4 years worth of #site12 (NSFW chat), I captured an individual being particularly thirsty (despite having consumed plenty of beverage, if you know what I mean), who gave his personal phone number to another staff member within the chat (“to talk”). I redacted this phone number and declined to post it. This was on KiwiFarms, mind you. I had every opportunity. (I still do.)
The same care was taken for any potentially sensitive information. I’m not interested in extending anything done on my end to anyone’s IRL life; something that can’t be said of certain, high-ranking Staff members, who somehow exempt themselves from this sensitivity regarding the handling of private information… just of others’ and not their own (and before we get into any issues, these are from #site17, the bragging was done in public, not private). It seems their tune changes when the tables are turned.
Speaking of tables turning on these Staff, it is highly likely that by now the Raccoon has been summoned to provide legal counsel on the act of leaking chat logs from a group chat, maybe even if there is any recourse with the use of the legal funds against it. Could this be another reason why so many sites fold their spines at the first hint of wind? A legal precedent or worry?
The answer is no. The Raccoon has no claws.
First and foremost, it has been established in Supreme Judicial Courts that “rights disappear once somebody composes a text message and hits Send.” The literature is littered with conclusions, in places up to and including the Supreme Court that anything posted online has no reasonable expectation of privacy attached to it; and that messages sent are at the sender’s risk, with the understanding that nearly nothing stays private forever.
Even so, this is considering private text messages and DMs. We’ve been overly charitable in our legal analysis so far, because it is a much different ballgame for chat rooms. This has been fleshed out with the Fourth Amendment considerations at hand, the conclusion being that:
There are virtually no expectations of privacy in the true chatroom. — [source]
There is actually a test for this. If you plug in #site67 Super Secret Staff Chat — something a court would regard as possibly named by an adolescent girl’s club — it fails the test.
There does not seem to be a large judicial appetite for defining public chat places as a rightful refuge for volunteered information, even if it is personally identifying (which here, it would be in very mild, unactionable ways, like what country or state someone lives in). In fact, it seems as though services are trending towards features that help promote such a thing. In other words, if you believe that by being in a chat room you subjectively hope to remain confidential, and share information that you wouldn’t want others outside of that chatroom knowing, then you’re an idiot, and deserve the things you’ve said in secret to be known. Particularly in the case of corruption and hypocrisy that a public has the ethical right and legal allowance to see.
An argument for libel could be made, but that is only if the claims being made are incorrect. The situation here is the opposite; statements are being made that are true, as they are from the horses’ mouths themselves.
Maybe we can claim the material was hacked? Because these chat logs came from someone who was present during these chats (Harmony), and the messages directed in part towards this user willingly, and that these logs were then distributed to others, this cannot be said to be a hack of information. The information was volunteered to a semi-public setting, and a recipient within that setting has done something that was always possible with the information.
Finally, the IRC is legally defined as a public place, removing any and all doubt that messages sent in chat rooms would have a legal defense as having a reasonable expectation of privacy. Any information volunteered in a public place can’t be used to hold someone liable for publication of private facts. Here’s a nice case from 2005 — the legal charges being “Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, and Publication of Private Facts” — that parallels this somewhat. In that case, it was observed that:
“…you cannot be held liable for giving publicity to a matter that the plaintiff leaves open to the public eye. For example, when the man who helped stop an assassination attempt on President Ford sued two newspapers for revealing that he was a homosexual, the court denied him relief, finding that his sexual orientation and participation in gay community activities was already widely known by hundreds of people in a variety of cities.” This, in the court’s view, was sufficient to establish that the plaintiff had left his sexual orientation open to the public eye.
Consider perhaps that the artificial barrier to get into Staff Chat may act as a sort of claim to privacy expectation. There, just like apps, is a case for that, which found:
The court held that the plaintiff did not have a valid claim for publication of private facts because her stripping activity was open to the public eye; anyone who paid the $5.00 cover charge could see her performing her work.
And given that:
… there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.
Offensiveness has its place in legal matters around alleged privacy invasion, but cases have ruled (and I love this line) that “the law does not give special solicitude to a plaintiff with a “thin skin.”
Does a reasonable expectation of privacy exist based on ethical considerations (since there are no legal ones, and we are already being more gracious here than Staff regarding compensatory arguments from a moral standpoint)? Perhaps. But what if what occurs in that chat directly affects the understanding of a heretofore ignorant body of users whose moral opinion of those involved would change drastically, were they to be privy to the chat logs? This seems self-defeating; a bit hypocritical… to argue for ethical right of the #site67 chat participants to keep their corruption hidden, but not for the users to be made aware of that corruption.
The message communicated over and over by Staff in this economy of punishments for conveying the truth unfortunate to them is that it is not their responsibility to act as if someone was watching; it is instead the responsibility of others to cover their unwillingness or failure to do as much. Their demand is a denial of their actions and words.
This leads us back to the Terms of Service for Medium and Miraheze. While they mean well on paper, in action a total game can be made of the severe sensitivity to any material even claimed to be personally-identifying on the platform. The end result is that these platforms make themselves unavailable for the type of journalism that can disrupt the status quo… thank goodness for places like WikiLeaks and KiwiFarms (this last one only redeemed by its refusal to surrender to political pressure and cancel culture). Because no status quo can possibly be upset given these hyper-cautious Terms of Service, no progress from that status quo can be made. It is a concrete poured over the keys to unlocking revolution against corruption… and done in the name of protecting those who stand to be exposed as frauds. An odd alliance of circumstance.
Any discussion further into my philosophical disagreements with this sort of mentality that incentivizes & preserves dishonesty and hidden corruption is too far. Shame on Medium and Miraheze. No matter who sent the messages, if they were pleading, leading, or legally threatening. The point is that by displaying such a clawing greed and jealousy for the logs— what is felt incorrectly to be privileged information — SCP Staff uncover an awfully desperate fixation that is, to someone like myself, as valuable and enjoyable as the chat logs themselves; Staff do not like to reveal anything about themselves any more than they can help. A proportion of them think that they are better than you, and are squeamishly considering the fact that you might finally know it.
SCP Staff wouldn’t be doing this if they were winning. Look at the things they have to say and do to keep the farce alive. Contrast the cool, slow 4 months it took us at the Confic Wiki to notice that the .pdf chat logs had been taken down, with the furiously paced and machine-like efficiency of those files’ incumbents; these taken down within one day of being made publicly available; not once but twice… 4 months apart. Who is desperate here? Who is on the defensive? Who is upon the wrong side of the tide? We have entropy’s benefit of simply wading into and out of the currents that are already set for this group; riding it and paddling like in a lazy river. They are not withholding any punches. Yet it would seem still at least, that we are stronger than ever.
Staff, I would say, is in trouble. Not because I think I have a nuclear bomb of staff chat leaks, but because they have told me so. Nuclear reactions are chain ones; what was once microscopic and the concern of just a few protons and neutrons in some invisible atom over there, has been disrupted by an inability of a body to tolerate it unperturbed. It’s to become a mushroom cloud’s height and heat of dire light spotlighting the skeletons bare. Now it will just be in pieces over time; a slower and more painful way off the stage.
I have a question for Staff: why do they get to share private messages and chat logs of those they discipline, but others aren’t allowed to share their chat logs that would get them disciplined? They are both done in confidence with an anticipation of confidentiality, if naively. They are both legally public places. The claim for either being privileged, personally-identifying information is a fantasy. Why can Staff uniquely peruse and archive private logs and messages of users off-site, for anti-harassment and “gotcha” purposes, but when the same is done of them, they force the logs down by petitioning on grounds that are not theirs?
If for reasons of transparency, we are a long way from finding any. Such an appeal to such an ideal seems to collapse the second it is pivoted on its supposed support; once the idea of transparency and surveillance is applied to Staff.
Because there is a different set of rules for Staff. Staff can do what they tell others they can’t because they believe they are above others. That’s why they get onto it; that’s the appeal. It’s the point, and it’s in your face; “rules for thee and not for me”. Staff have an ethical status they believe isn’t afforded by the simple fact of another also being a person. That’s the entire point and revelation of the chat logs, but it has been made again, in meta, by these censorious attempts.
And so the gist from the chat logs comes reborn and larger, the sting now promising to be 100x more painful; as there is at least some small dignity in the acknowledgement of self-discipline and self-punishment.
As for the logs, I will keep them tucked away. It’s more meaningful to just release snippets relevant to current events, and I think, somehow, that option is also as worrying to Staff.
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Disclaimer: The information contained in this blog is not to be construed as legal advice.