A lighthouse stands tall on a rugged cliff, emitting a powerful, multi-colored beam of light that pierces through a dark, stormy sea below. The beam, in shades of light gray, dark gray, bright red, yellow, and blue, guides small boats carrying diverse internet users towards a calm, welcoming shore. This scene symbolizes the efforts of individuals and communities to navigate through the chaotic and often hostile digital ocean, seeking safe, inclusive online environments. The lighthouse serves as a beacon of hope and guidance amidst the tumultuous waters, representing the importance of creating a supportive and protective space for all users in the vast digital landscape.

I’ve curated my comfy middle-class life to such a degree that I mostly hear about the dark underbelly of the web / toxic online behaviour through publications such as Ryan Broderick’s excellent Garbage Day.

In his latest missive, Broderick gives the example of a comedian I’ve never encountered before by the name of Shane Gillis. Go and read the whole thing for the bigger context, but the main point Broderick is making I’ve bolded below. I would point out that the Fediverse is, in my experience, on the whole well-moderated. At least, better moderated than centralised social networks such as X and Instagram.

Last year, Gillis was a guest on the unwatchable “comedy “podcast” Flagrant and had to tell the hosts to stop pulling up and laughing at videos of people with Down Syndrome dancing. Clips from the episode recently started making the rounds again this week on Reddit and X. It’s incredibly uncomfortable to watch.

And, sure, Gillis is not directly organizing any of this larger edgelord behavior. But he can’t be separated from it either. As I wrote above, the companies that run the internet have all but given up moderating it, so that work has to be done by us now. We have to manage our own communities and we have to look out for the most vulnerable. People with Down Syndrome and their loved ones should be able to openly share their lives online without worrying about getting turned into a meme or converted into engagement bait by some anonymous goblin. Even if that means dropping your chill bro facade and riling up the Stoolies when you tell people to stop.

Gills has the biggest podcast on Patreon. He’s been at the top of their charts for over a year. He has a massive platform and he built it by letting every awful guy in the country project themselves on to him. And while he does genuinely seem to really want to use that fame to bring visibility to the Down Syndrome community — and I think it’s admirable that he does — he’s not willing to draw a clear line between visibility and exploitation.

Source: Garbage Day

Image: DALL-E 3