Suggestions on how we could improve Steem: Topic:Blacklists, blacklisting

in #steem11 months ago (edited)

-I have expounded on my previous ideas.
-I've also included ideas from other members (Thank you)
-Please feel free to share more suggestions on how we can improve Steem.

Topic:Blacklists, blacklisting

Past situation:
Before the creation of Hive, we had SteemCleaners. SteemCleaners however has left us and joined Hive. Steemcleaners was running various bots looking for “abuse” on the blockchain. When people were flagged for “abuse”, those people were blacklisted. A flag was also put beside their name notifying other users of that blacklisting.

People were to be flagged for the following reasons:
-Bid Bot Abuse

There were many issues with SteemCleaners.

  1. SteemCleaners was blacklisting people for reasons other than the ones mentioned above. I will use myself as an example. I was blacklisted for voting a post or comment of someone who was blacklisted.

  2. In most cases, people were not warned before being placed on a blacklist. For example, I was not warned.

  3. People were guilty until proven innocent. In order to advocate for their innocence, they had to appeal in the SteemCleaners Discord. Some of the active staff in the SteemCleaners Discord were extremely rude to members. They were very abrupt, degrading, and culturally insensitive. The way people were being treated was appalling.

  4. The appeal process itself was incredibly demeaning. A public apology on the user’s Steem blog was required. That apology had specific elements which needed to be included or else the apology wouldn’t be accepted. This was then followed by a “sentence” which required people to post original, interesting content for a certain number of consecutive days. Many of these sentences were excessively long (3 months or more of daily posts required). After that period everything would be reviewed, and a decision would be made as to whether or not the person would be pardoned and removed from the Blacklist. The moderators of SteemCleaners Discord had the power to determine what qualified as original, interesting content. I personally witnessed them telling a member that their content was not interesting enough. Very subjective.

  5. Some of the blacklists published some of their stats on the blockchain. Others did not. There was a huge lack of transparency.

  6. Some of the blacklists that were supposed to be used for a specific purpose, were in fact being used for other purposes. Nothing was disclosed about this to the public. Instead, people were led to believe that people who had been blacklisted had committed those crimes for which the blacklist was supposed to be used for instead of something else entirely. Public deception. Misuse of purpose.

  7. The blacklists were created using Bots. The Bots incriminated innocent people. Obviously, there were flaws in how they were designed. However, the creators accepted no responsibility for the actions and consequences of the bots they created. They made statements like: “It’s the bot’s fault.” “The bot made a mistake.” There was a complete lack of accountability. If the actions of bots are responsible for harming people, then someone has to be held accountable. Someone is accountable.

  8. People who were blacklisted who also had SBI credits, couldn’t receive a full refund unless they were able to appeal their blacklisting. I read this in SBI’s policies and procedures. My question is where were the withheld funds going? Also, was it the same case for other such investments? I only had SBI investments, so I was only aware of SBI’s policies. There may have been more than this.

  9. People on blacklists are automatically downvoted by bots every time they post. So, innocent people flagged by the bots were punished three different ways. By being blacklisted, by being publicly flagged, and also by receiving less revenue for anything they posted. In a system where people must prove their innocence, how is this fair? Where are the funds being collected going?

Members/witnesses involved with Blacklists that I know of (there are likely more):

The majority of people who have never been blacklisted have/had no idea what is happening with the blacklists. Until I was blacklisted, I was also under the impression that SteemCleaners and the blacklists were there for our protection and doing a great job. It was only when I was blacklisted that I began looking at what was happening. I began to see and understand that things were not quite as they appeared.

Moving Forward:

There is a lot of debate regarding the ethics of having blacklists and how to administer them. It’s a very difficult topic. How do you keep things fair? How do you prevent people from abusing their power? How do you protect innocent people?
Here are some ideas:

Allow a customizable interface for each user. This interface would allow people to turn on/off various options. Options such as:

-Turning off media such as photos, video-links. Depending on how the user is connected, and where they are connecting from, this might help give users some protection against media rich spam.

-If there are blacklists, an opt-in and an opt-out for various blacklists. Opt-out would allow the user to view the content, opt-in would hide it. Having various lists would allow users to filter out some content and keep some.

-Allow users to control their feed. Does a user want to see only the accounts they are following? Or perhaps, a user may want to see a customized list of users? Or perhaps, they may want to see only new posts. Or perhaps they may want to see only the top posts. Or only posts on a particular topic. Allowing users to customize their feed would allow users to view only the posts they wish to see.

-Allow users to block members from their feed. They would not see these members in their feed. We could further it by allowing them to also block comments. We could allow them to filter that just for themselves, or perhaps also for anyone who visits their feed. Is it necessary to notify a user if they have been hidden from a feed? I think it just upsets people. I wonder if it is at all necessary.

FYI: Member and developer @leprechaun ( has expressed an interest on working on such an interface in cooperation with others. Please contact him for more information.

If blacklists are implemented:

-Transparency is necessary: It is far better to inform people than to leave them guessing.

-Full disclosure: Full reporting on all blacklists/blacklistings.

-Accountability: Who is responsible? Will those that are responsible listen? Are they receptive to adapt to the community’s needs and wishes (a more decentralized approach).

-A warning system: A chance to be informed of the problem and to correct the problem.

-A more accessible appeal process: Preferably on the blockchain, so it is on record, can’t be deleted, and can’t be edited. I don’t think it is fair to expect people to download and install a third-party program in order to appeal a blacklisting. What no one took in consideration, or perhaps it was known and purposefully done: Discord is blocked in some countries (UAE and mainland China). So blacklisting people from those countries and then expecting them to appeal via Discord puts them in a difficult situation (not everyone is an advanced user).

-Professional and courteous staff: Staff/leaders have a responsibility to lead by example.

-There cannot be a financial incentive for blacklisting people: (i.e. downvoting trail). It is unethical.

-Better coding of bots so that innocent people are not blacklisted: Being blacklisted unfairly is absolutely terrible for morale.

-No conflict of interest: For example: A developer/witness can’t be running a bid bot and then be blacklisting people using other bid bots.


Image by bluebudgie from Pixabay


I'm really happy to see the you and many other community members working hard to keep STEEM strong. Thanks so much for your hard work. I'll give this post some more thought and come back to you.

Hashkings Founder

We would love to earn you witness vote!

View Witness Thread

Canna-Curate Discord
Hashkings Steem App

Phenomenal analysis.

In a system where people must prove their innocence, how is this fair? Where are the funds being collected going?

Steem denied to authors by downvotes get dumped into the reward pool, which gets scooped into the hungry mouths of the TOP EARNERS.

Ironically, steemcleaners is the most consistent TOP EARNER (second only to burnpost).

Isn't it ironic?
There is so much more to bring to light. Really unethical behavior. People have really been deceived. Yet, these same people are very loud when talking about other people. And people never question, never look deeper and never put two and two together.
It's all so gross.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? is a Latin phrase found in the work of the Roman poet Juvenal from his Satires. It is literally translated as "Who will guard the guards themselves?", though it is also known by variant translations, such as "Who watches the watchers?" and "Who will watch the watchmen?".**

Who will watch the watchmen?

Let me know if you think Holacracy mitigates many of these loop-holes.

And this in a nutshell is exactly the problem I witnessed in old steem. No one seemed to be paying attention to what our leaders were really doing. People failed to understand that there could be a difference between what we were told and what was actually happening. And, many things happened which we weren't told about. This is why I want to push for some sort of oath of ethics for witnesses and developers. Such people carry a responsibility to safeguard not only the blockchain (and their interests), they have a responsibility to safeguard the community and its members as well. Transparency, full transparency would allow more oversight. And yes, people could research people's accounts to find out info, but why not just fully disclose what you are doing in the first place? I will respond to the question about Holacracy on your video comment.

And yes, people could research people's accounts to find out info, but why not just fully disclose what you are doing in the first place?

Yeah, claiming the blockchain itself "transparent" is an appeal to ignorance (appeal to complexity).

Most people don't have the tools and or the expertise to identify "problematic" behavior patterns purely "from looking at the blockchain".

It places an artificially high-bar for "oversight", especially when critics can simply be "blacklisted".

Yet, this is the mentality: It's all right there. I'm not hiding anything. Anyone can look. It's not my fault if they don't. Then they deserve it.

A sucker is born every minute.

Since it is cumbersome and time consuming and labor intensive to look very few do.

And, I am willing to bet people bank on that.

Well stated.

I personally witnessed them telling a member that their content was not interesting enough. Very subjective.

By this standard, they should be downvoting all accounts they find boring.

The "restitution" posts should be simply "not criminal" and forcing people to post EVERY DAY also seems unreasonable. Most people don't post EVERY DAY, and failing to post EVERY DAY is not considered a criminal violation generally (why then make posting EVERY DAY a requirement?).

Many sites simply impose a suspension period lasting from 3 days up to 30 days. That seems much more reasonable.

Yes, I have seen some outrageously long sentences. And yes, the requirement was to post every day for every one of those days in order to be considered for an appeal. LOL I mean, how can it even be serious? And, they are so rude about it. But apparently they've quit Steem now and have brought that circus over to Hive. It serves as yet another example of centralized power and censorship. I don't understand why people are so blind!

I think I may have found a better framework to replace FEUDAL-OLIGARCHY.

Click to watch 18 minutes,

Is Holacracy a significantly improved framework for Democracy?

Does Holacracy make military style (corporate) Authoritarian (cult-of-personality) systems OBSOLETE?

Can we finally break free from our HERO-LEADER brainwashing?

Steemcleaners et al would probably argue that they were using a Holacracy Model.
Which, would be fine(things need to be fluent in order to be/remain effective) as long as it is fully transparent, communicated, and other people (other than the executors of blacklists) can have input/power to improve the system.

I think what happened is that they were stretched very thin(not enough manpower). Fingers in too many things. This resulted in corners being cut. Using the excuse that it was OK because there was not enough time to do more/other things.

However, I think if you make a commitment to do a task, you need to carry it through. You can't make a commitment on a bunch of things and then start cutting corners which compromise ethics/function. Transparency could help with this. So could receiving input from members.

I would personally have put out a call for help from the community before I would compromise the values/mission of what I was trying to do. (Assuming the best of intentions.)

I sometimes get the impression that people get so lost in the thick of it, that they lose sight of the bigger picture. In which case, again, it would be beneficial to allow other members to have input/power.

I think allowing each member to control their interface/content would probably be the most Holacrastic model. We as members have governance over whatever content we see/don't see.
It seems like the best solution to me.

If we have an opt-in/out blacklist, it must only be for the purpose stated. It must be accurate. There should be some sort of appeal process to allow people to redeem any bad behavior. I wouldn't want to opt into a blacklist without knowing 100% that it was fair. Right now, I don't know that with certainty.

I still think a warning system would be appropriate too. If people knowingly do things after being warned, that is an entirely different scenario.

I feel like we keep coming back to the same solutions. No?

In other news, I hear Steemcleaners is removing/has removed their auto downvoting. It really struck me as unethical to take earnings from people in a "guilty until proven innocent" system. It also appeared to be a conflict of interest. Blacklisting people should not be incentivized.
There must be another way to pay for developers/developments. I am happy that the auto downvote was removed. It's a step in the right direction.

I think allowing each member to control their interface/content would probably be the most Holacrastic model. We as members have governance over whatever content we see/don't see.
It seems like the best solution to me.

Yep, I agree.

The initial example [of Holacracy] in the TED talk was a story about a novice pilot who noticed a "low-voltage" warning light.

This warning light was small, and all other indicators were nominal (indicating no problems).

The perceived "danger" was small, since there didn't seem to be a "consensus" of warning lights so the pilot ignored the "low-voltage" indicator.

This turned out to be a critical error in judgement, and the plane nearly crash landed.

This served as a primary impetus to develop the Holacracy framework.

Can a system be designed that gives every warning light a fair hearing?

In practice this would mean a logical and fair appeals processes would be accessible to every member of "the whole".

I learned this when I became an accountant. If you are out even 1 cent, it can be an indicator of being out thousands of dollars (because of there being two sides). It's important to pay attention. And besides, everyone has something to contribute even if it is just a challenging opinion(challenging opinions often bring out problems..that's a good thing).
I think if people adopted that attitude, that everyone has a voice and can contribute in some way, things could be better.
Yes, and right now as it stands the appeal process is not available to every member. That is so incredibly wrong.

Well stated.

Several great points @akiroq

I wonder if you could find a way to reach with your message anyone who has any real power on steem.

There was a complete lack of accountability
That's partly the problem with mindset of people on blockchain. Lack of responsibility for actions taken.

All those 4 members involved with Blacklists are quite well known for their rude behaviours. I also had unfortunate "pleasure" to deal with most of them.

Yours, Piotr

I am hoping for change. I'm looking for solutions. I think there must be a better way. Ethics, transparency, and accountability would be a good start. IMO appeals, if necessary, should take place on the blockchain(not offsite), in this way everyone would have the opportunity to witness/have access to what is going on. I am willing to bet that the majority of users have no idea of how blacklists/appeals were being handled.
The other major issue I had was that the ordinary user had little to no say. I gave my constructive criticism directly to them. I was not left with the impression that it was welcomed, or that it would be taken into consideration. I don't believe that this speaks to decentralization. It gives a few people a lot of power. The users of a blockchain should have power/say in its own governance. I know people will say we can do that with our votes, but with large stake holders (which still exist in the ecosystem) small users have very very little say. Not to mention witness voting schemes. Against that we have no chance. A lot of things need to change. But the good news is that things can change. Things can be better.