One of the more “fun” parts of being Extremely Online is the drama. Which isn’t really the best word for a lot of it, admittedly: the word can be used to downplay some very serious issues. Stuff like Richard M. Stallman being a serial sex pest who somehow get reinstated to the Free Software Foundation’s board of directors is not “drama”. The inevitable result of Graham Linehan being allowed access to a keyboard is not “drama”. A YouTuber getting subjected to accusations of pedophilia because a pack of bitter “how dare you stop having a white nationalist as a cohost” motherfuckers thought it’d be funny is not “drama”.
But when someone who’s literally 15 years old decides they have The Solution to the problem of NSFW content on Twitter? Yeah, I’m thinking “drama” might be a fitting word.
Yesterday, a minor shitstorm manifested in Furry Twitter when someone proposed a solution to the problem of “there should be a way to make sure minors don’t get exposed to NSFW content” that started out as attempting to redeem a proto-fascist movement and quickly decided to go skiing down that slippery slope. Now, I’m not going to post a direct link to the account or the posts. I’m not even going to post pictures. But that’s because the person who made those bad posts is a teenager. We all have incredibly bad ideas as teenagers that we regret after a decade, and I’d prefer that this specific bad idea not haunt its originator for the rest of their life once they realize it was a bad idea.
Besides, this isn’t about the specific ideas. (Well, mostly. There are parts of the proposed implementation I intend to dunk on.) It’s not even really about the category of idea — SoatokDhole already did a far better job than I ever could of explaining why that particular category of Discourse is a minefield. It’s about why those ideas keep popping up in the land of w(h)ine and shitposts that is The Discourse.
Before we can look into that, we do need to examine a couple aspects of the Bad Idea Post that I’m not linking. First off, the solutions presented included requiring websites to verify someone’s legal ID before they can access adult content. This is something that has a boatload of problems, not least of which is the fact that you just charged headlong into a data protection powder keg like you were trying to blow up Parliament. Or the fact that it’s already been attempted, and abandoned, in the UK. (And this is the country that convinced itself Brexit was a good idea.) Or the risks of giving social media sites power to decide if the name on your ID is actually a name. Or…well, look, there’s a lot of problems.
The second proposal I want to bring up involved a far more intrusive way of verifying adulthood: specifically, requiring proof of your job, your bank account, and of home ownership. (No, this is not the latest attempt by Republicans to restrict voting rights.) If you don’t have those, you’d need to provide a photo of your “job name tag” or similar, which would then be investigated to make sure it’s really yours. Which…well, you can tell it was a minor who came up with this proposal because nobody who would unironically suggest it has any idea how being an adult works. Seriously, I don’t remember the last time I had a job that gave me a name tag. Smart card for the door lock, sure, but I’ve never met a single person who calls those “name tags”.
If you work in tech, you may be getting some familiar vibes off these proposals. There’s been a problem for a long time, an issue that’s been tackled in several different ways with varying level of success, and someone comes in with zero experience and proclaims that they have the solution? That almost never ends well. At best, it’s a solution that was already proposed and rejected. More likely, it’s a “solution” that would make the existing problem worse and create several new ones at the same time.
And that lack of institutional knowledge is a recurring theme in the entire Wheel of Discourse, not just this particular spot. Identifying problems with something is a simple enough task, but solving them isn’t. Sometimes, the problem exists because it’s the least bad option. Sometimes, it exists because there aren’t any feasible solutions yet. Sometimes, the problem has already been solved and you’re just seeing the equivalent of those people who haven’t patched their servers since the Obama administration.
In summary, the moral of today’s story is: