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Author Topic: What do people do about PMs?  (Read 469 times)

Offline Arantor

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What do people do about PMs?
« on: October 08, 2019, 08:18:50 AM »
So here's a thing... I've been wondering about the PM system for a while and wondering what future it has. I don't mean the SMF 'threaded email replacement' vs something like XF's 'conversations' (that's mostly a UI and semantics debate), but the whole shooting match.

We're rapidly coming to a place where the expectation isn't just 'if a person receives an abusive message, just report it' any more. We're approaching a place where we as forum owners are expected to protect our users, and that means protecting against dick pics, grooming of children/vulnerable people and so on. The theory is becoming more and more the case that people aren't going to report PMs until possibly too late (if at all; reporting someone who has that kind of hold over you is... complicated)

I've wondered if images shouldn't be embedded automatically (just the link instead) in PMs unless the person explicitly marks the sender as some kind of 'trusted' contact which might make the 'surprise dick pic' phenomenon a little less annoying. (It's also incidentally why I don't support PM attachments.)

But I'm really wondering whether we as site owners can and should do more about this kind of thing... I know of a small number of cases where people have looked at PMs (after disclosing that the site owners can do so at any time as part of the site T&Cs) and have made police reports.

I do also wonder if we need to spend some time as site owners doing something to break the idea that PM means 'private message', which it doesn't and never has; in SMF it has always been 'personal message' and in some respects I think XF's rebranding of it as 'conversations' does something positive in that respect. (Though it confuses users and many site owners rebrand it back to 'Messages')

Would be interested to hear more thoughts.
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Re: What do people do about PMs?
« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2019, 08:29:58 AM »
The solution would be to provide the PM system with a full set of privacy settings. We can gather some of them from social media (Twitter, for example) and include new ones. The system would become kinda complex but we would be winning a lot in privacy.

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Offline Arantor

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Re: What do people do about PMs?
« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2019, 08:34:30 AM »
Except that, by its nature, privacy is the opposite of what I'm getting at. If you are a user on the wrong end of a psychological manipulation game, you might not report something that you probably should, and improving privacy on that score *does not help you*. It actually enables a predator.

The tools that are available in Facebook and Twitter are only useful *if someone uses them*. That is, unfortunately, not the situation I'm getting at - I'm talking about people who don't feel they *can* report something. What should we be doing about that?
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Re: What do people do about PMs?
« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2019, 08:36:54 AM »
Well... Using TensorFlow to identify dick picks? 8)

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Offline Arantor

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Re: What do people do about PMs?
« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2019, 08:39:28 AM »
You kid but I've been talking to some of my colleagues who've been using ML with the data sets of people in university interacting with their online learning tools to identify users who are at risk of dropping out. There's even been prototypes of sentiment analysis being done on forum posts that feed into that data set.

The only problem is that you'd need a vast amount of data to train it in a useful way and realistically that's not just a violation of GDPR and of ethical standards, it's also fundamentally flawed in that such accusations if flawed and incomplete can easily be life damaging.
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Re: What do people do about PMs?
« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2019, 08:45:47 AM »
Clearly the future of this is to implement something ML or AI related. As you know, GDPR was meant to make big companies check everything that's going to be posted. If those large companies had the enough resources to do so, it'll all be done with ML and AI but that would require A REALLY HUGE amount of resources that they don't actually have. It shouldn't be too (too) difficult to design a machine that detects NSFW content and censores it.

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Offline Arantor

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Re: What do people do about PMs?
« Reply #6 on: October 08, 2019, 08:58:17 AM »
No, the GDPR wasn't meant to make big companies check everything that's going to be posted. That really wasn't what it was about but is a common part of the misconception spread mostly by its detractors. It's mostly about making sure that you obtain consent from people whose data you're going to do something with, and that if you're going to make decisions about people based on that data, that you obtain consent for it. (Plus things like making sure you clean up after yourself on request, and letting people see and update their data where relevant.)

It also has nothing to do with the subject at hand, except about whether you can toss all the data into a big ML and make decisions about it like refusing service based on a machine-backed decision without appeal to a human.

The future is also in that place a terrifying place, where systems that literally no-one understands will be making decisions about peoples lives.

Consider the situation I'm actually talking about: two people on a forum, one of whom is grooming the other for (illegal) sexual content. This happens. It has even happened on sites run by various people here, so we can safely discard the 'it doesn't happen' card. Are we *really* going to put faith in an algorithm (which, remember, can't be adequately explained as to how it arrives at a conclusion in a conventional neural network fashion), to decide if a person is actively grooming another person? What about the opposite case of two adults flirting, but then one is accused of sexual harassment on the back of it? You *really* want to trust that to an algorithm? An algorithm that can't be conventionally examined?

As for determining something as NSFW, good luck with that. What defines NSFW? If you're talking about NSFW as nudity, better hope that you're not in, say, the art world where pictures and statues from hundreds of years ago are on show that are publicly visible (even to minors) but aren't somehow NSFW. Michelangelo's David for example.

Or, for more complexity, the amount of people that post baby photos in the bath on Facebook. That, societally, aren't somehow NSFW or inappropriate.

And then you have what happened to the owner of DragonByte Tech - a forum software provider - where he got blasted for having manga that was... somewhere around the legal grey areas.

This really isn't as simple as you're making it sound.
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Re: What do people do about PMs?
« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2019, 02:02:25 PM »
I would think utilizing the buddy system more would help in this respect - its IMHO a most neglected feature that could solve issues regarding getting messages from people you don't know. Heaven forbid we should ever think Facebook is something to go by lol..but IMO they at least got the message thing right, that is, a person have to be approved before sending you a message. While that might not make PM as open as before, it would put a fence around potential abuse.

Offline Diego Andrés

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Re: What do people do about PMs?
« Reply #8 on: October 08, 2019, 02:46:15 PM »
Maybe create a 'spam' folder by default to pair with a more robust buddy system, SMF has a label 'system' which I have never used or even read anyone talk about it, could be based off that.

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