Matthew Sutton: Should there be a revolt by authors against Quora Censorship?

Context is Should there be a revolt by authors against Quora Censorship?, initiated by Jack Menendez in protest of the collapsing of Jack Menendez’s answer to Why Trump is considered to be the greatest president in America history? See also: Would Quora moderators collapse Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” answer to the question of how to solve poverty?

Matthew Sutton :…

A “revolt” will not be particularly useful or effective. In all likelihood it will be counter-productive.

There’s tens of millions of Quora users—perhaps even a hundred million—with many new users showing up daily. There’s no Quora writers’ union that can shut down site contributions. While Top Writers might be cozy with some staff at Quora, as a group they have no power whatsoever. A revolt on Quora’s site will be shut down with ease; a revolt from exile outside of the site will go unnoticed.

A few upset indivuals leaving or being banned at a time is hardly noticeable—even extremely prolific ones with wide exposure. Had many of those valuable voices stayed there might be hope for a constructive discourse. While I didn’t respond to your A2A request, I am still here: able to engage you and share what few insights I can offer.

Quora is a company. It may not be one with a revenue stream yet but they have owners and investors that have invested a lot of money developing a platform and cultivating a broad userbase. Quora management has to answer to those folks and must protect its platform. Quora’s core business is not in offering “free speech” and “due process”.

Losing a few users here and there won’t make any difference, and sad as it is to say Quora won’t mourn the loss of a few easily replaceable writers. Even if every Top Writer left the site tomorrow, Quora could simply award a few hundred alternates TW status. Boycotting Quora won’t cost them a dime and will free up server space and reduce moderator workload—that’s the reality of the power dynamic at play.

I’m not defending Quora but I think everyone has to arrive at their own conclusion as to how much of themselves they feel comfortable in investing in a site that won’t be compensating them for their time, which may ban them at any time, and will keep all of that contributor’s content once they ban said user.

I was edit-blocked thrice and was informed I was on the verge of an account ban. I could’ve have continued contributing answers after this but I realized that I was now on borrowed time and that if I continued answering questions moderators would eventually find cause to ban my account. I once warned writers on the Quora Writers’ Feedback Facebook page that another writer purge might be underway and I was banned from that forum in apparent retaliation immediately thereafter.

I still enjoy reading and commenting on the site and so I decided it was in my best interest to remain on cordial terms with everyone and simply become a passive, non-contributing Quoran. It’s worked out well over the past two years. And honestly it’s been so long since I’ve written an answer I don’t really even miss it any more. For writing Medium is probably a better site for many people (though I found the “targeted writing” of Quora question’s more inspiring to me personally). Point being there are other options out there if I find myself frustrated with Quora’s policies or policy enforcement.

By completely boycotting Quora in protest I would have no voice nor presence here at all. While I’m currently something of a “ghost” on Quora…and may forever roam around in “purgatory”…if I simply vanished I’d be locked out; I wouldn’t be around to leave this comment. I doubt I’ll be around long enough to see Quora reform itself but then again it’s not impossible—authoritarian hierarchies intolerant of criticism, unwilling to reform, and who depend on opacity seldom last long. If I simply abandoned Quora I’d never see Quora open up and I would eliminate any chance I could steer any discussions in that direction. The inevitable arc of history is towards openness and transparency and I don’t imagine Quora proving an exception.

Quora obviously has a festering problem alienating once-loyal, committed users who were well-liked by the community of writers. I’m not sure how they will fix this or even if they will soon acknowledge that such a problem exists. Although a temper tantrum may feel cathartic, a “revolt” won’t accomplish anything—of that I’m certain.

Quora can and will ban “revolutionary” accounts out-of-hand, and they won’t lose a wink of sleep over it. Sticking around and being a reasonable, consistently respectful voice advocating greater transparency is probably the best any user can do. Only until a critical mass of users collectively become conscious of the systemic problems with Quora will there be any motivation for Quora management to accommodate them. That won’t happen for a very long time, and at the current rate that users vanish without a trace, it may never happen.

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