Freedom, Censorship, & You: The Ultimate Guide (Emma's Dilemma) Pt. 1


Freedom & censorship are hot topics. This post pulls no punches. Please avoid if easily triggered.
The world benefits from people communicating with kind intentions, and this article aims to do that very thing, but it’s still not for the faint of heart. Please consider avoiding this article if you’re not in a calm, zen headspace on this topic.Censor_005_Warn.png

When I wrote my Complete Guide To Hive For Beginners, I learned a lot in the process, but I couldn't cover everything that I wanted to. One of the things I didn't address was my own personal 'fear of whales', not understanding 'downvotes', and confusion on what's 'acceptable' in Hive culture. Eventually @slobberchops soothed some of my concerns by explaining how things tend to go here. It helped a lot, and made me eager to know more so I 'Did My Own Research' and read all I could about Hive's mechanics, downvotes, and so on. This guide is the result. I love Hive and Hivers, and this was a labor of love... so I hope it helps you to read it as much as it helped me to write it.

(Also, it's fiction. It's made up. As far as I know, Hive doesn't censor naked photos, I just wanted a fictionalized example for the story.)


"Daddy, daddy! My selfies got deleted from Hive!"

Emma wailed, her tear-streaked face red as an apple.

“Shh, it’s ok honey, tell me what happened,” I said, hugging her tightly.

“I don’t know! When I went to bed last night, I was getting the most likes I’ve ever gotten, and this morning I woke up and my post was downvoted into oblivion!”


“Well, they still exist on Hive, but they're off trending and buried. My post just had the number 83 next to the broken-heart icon. Why is this happening? I poured my heart and soul into those shots.”

“I know love, and they were truly beautiful.”

“Yeah! So why? And how can I get them seen again?”

I filled my lungs and let out a sigh. “Well Emma, I can explain it to you, but please know that once you learn this, you’ll never be able to see the world the same way again.”

“I don’t care, I need to understand this. It’s total bulls–t!”

“Hey! Lanaguage, miss!”

“Sorry, Dad.”

“I’m kidding, kiddo. Say whatever you want, I’m not here to censor you. And it’s a good thing too, because that’s exactly what we’ll be talking about. Freedom, power, and censorship. Are you sure you’re ready?”

“For sure!” Emma’s head bobbled with enthusiasm. I really hoped by the time we were done, her youthful eagerness would still be there. “Where do we start?”

“We start with the fact that you’re born into a government, because that lays the foundation for why your photos were deleted.”



"Wait, WTF? I'm born into a government?!"


“I don’t believe that.”

“Well it’s true. Your parents have power over you, responsibility for (and to) you, and are (arguably) in charge of governing your behavior for a very long time.”

“But that’s not a real government, right?”

“Well… in any group there’s a ‘real’ government, honey. Sometimes it’s just harder to spot because it’s shadow-politics.”

"What's 'shadow-politics?'"

“It’s the invisible social dynamics that are always present. For as long as people are in group, one person will have more influence, power, and control, while others will have less. I’ve never seen a group where all members held equally power of influence. Not once since the dawn of time.”

“But can’t they each just do their own thing? They have equal power, right?”

“They can, but as soon as they all go their own way, they’re no longer a group. So like I said, as long as people are in a group… shadow-politics exist, and a government exists, however loose or invisible it may be.”

“So you’re saying that even if no one’s agreed on a government out loud, one exists in every group.”


“Wow, when you put it that way, I guess I really was born into a government.”

“Yep, and some governments (parents) are liberal and more ‘free,’ while others are very strict, conservative or oppressive.”

“Oh, like you and Mom!” Emma said with a cheshire grin.

I poked Emma in the shoulder playfully. We certainly hadn’t raised a timid child. Sheesh.


"Whatever. So can you tell me the hierarchy in our family?"

“Well, Dad is the head of the hierarchy, Mom is next in the hierarchy, I’m third in the hierarchy, and Cassie is fourth in the hierarchy. But my feminist friends say that Mom should be the head of the family. Or even that I should be.”

“That’s fine. I’m not here to debate which governance structure is the best, or to get into some back and forth about gender roles. I’m here to give you as much insight as I can in regards to restoring your photo to it’s former glory.”

“Ok, but can you just tell me what to say to my friends about our family-structure?”

“Sure. Acknowledge that some families are exactly as your friends say, with the mom as the main influencer. Even acknowledge that there are families where the kid has the most influence — sidenote: they’re usually spoiled, with parents doing whatever the child wants. Then tell them you’re working on shifting the power dynamics of your family and reclaiming your place as rightful head of the household, they’ll probably love it.”

Emma giggled “They will!”


“Right, so back to the main point. This ‘head of household’ structure is a fairly common hierarchy, but many people won’t admit it.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, they’ll try and pretend that ‘power is 100% equal’ between everyone in the family. Or that both children are treated with 100% fair, equal, utopian justice with zero biases. Stuff like that.”

“Can’t that be true?”

“I suppose anything’s possible, but equal power distribution in a group –if it exists– must be extremely rare, because I’ve not seen it.”

“But it sounds so nice…”

“Yes, and a world free of poverty or censorship sounds nice too… have you seen that very often?”

“Fair point.”

“Wait, censorship, that’s what I want to know about! I don’t care that I was born into a government, they banned my photos!”

“Shh, relax, we’ll get there. You’re going to understand exactly what’s happening and how to deal with it. But first you have to understand that your Mom and I can exert power over you to stop you from swearing, to dress more ‘appropriately’, to limit your computer time, etc.”

“Uh, hello, of course I understand that, you’re both evil dictators.” Emma loved pushing boundaries with her sassy barbs, but we always took them well because she radiated love when she said them.

“Pssh, you got it easy, we let you decide what language fits a situation, we encourage your modeling career, other kids face way worse from their parents.”

“I know, Dad, I was just kidding!”

“That’s the thing though, you might be kidding, you might have truly good intentions and love in your heart, but if someone else hears you while they’re not in a good place mentally or emotionally, they may assume they’re being attacked, not lovingly joked with.”

"I hear that, peeps be triggered, yo."


“Ahem, yes, ‘peeps be triggered’ indeed. And if the people who get triggered may try to censor you in response. If they have enough power in your ‘tribe,’ they may even succeed.”

“Again, like you and Mom, right?”

“Cut it out, I’m teaching you something important.”

“Ok, ok, I kid.”

“Right, so if someone can censor your joke, do you have freedom of speech?”


“And if you’re being censored now, did you ever have it?”

“I don’t know…



...did I have freedom of speech since birth, or no?"

“Well, think about it. Every creature in nature is born with the ability to make whatever sounds it wants (or is capable of), right?”


“And you’re a creature in nature, right?”


“So are you the magical exception to the rule?”

“Probably not. I get it, I was born with freedom of speech. I was born able to make whatever sounds I want (or am capable of.)”

“Bingo, and I’m pretty sure, deep down, everyone knows this is true. They are born free, able to say anything, at least, as an individual.”

"So that means I can post anything I want right?"

“Well, as an individual, you have the freedom and capability to do so, yes.”

“Whatchu mean, as an individual?”

“Things change when you add even one other person into the mix.”


“Because like we discussed right at the start, as soon as you have a group, you have power dynamics.”

“So what?”

“So one person will have more influence in the group, and the other will have less. You’re still free to do what you want as an individual, but if member A’s ‘free-speaking’ pushes past member B’s ‘boundaries,’ there may be an attempt to censor, or worse, the group will no longer be a group. It will be two people splitting off into their own ways of life. This is no path to civilization.”

"Hey, I was born 'wild and free', why civilize me?"

“Because to be part of a group, is to engage in ‘civilization.’ No one forces you to be part of a group. There are people who live as hermits & outsiders, and they get on just fine.”

“Got it, but I’m born into a group (with my parents), and if I choose to stay in that group, I’m engaging in civilization.”

“Yes, but if staying in the group has a chance of lessening your freedom… why would anyone stay?”

“I’ve never really thought about it. Um, give me a second.”

I could see the gears turning in Emma’s brain. Although we’d jumped right into deep topics like human freedoms & governance, I knew she’d get it. She’s a bright kid.

“Did you figure it out?”

“Yes, because they benefit from being in the group.”

See? Smart as a whip, I beamed proudly. “Exactly, but what benefits?”

“A sense of belonging? Not being alone? Security? Stability?”

I clapped! “Yes! All those things, and likely more. So no one really ‘civilized’ you, you were born into civilization and each day you decide whether to remain part of the tribe and get benefits from it, or to use your absolute freedom of speech and risk pushing past the boundaries of the group.”

“Hmm, maybe that’s what I did to get my photos censored by Hive?”

“It’s possible, but don’t jump to conclusions yet. It could’ve just been a bug, a misclick, or something else entirely.”

“Sorry, it just hurts to have a creation I poured my heart into, one that people seemed to love, disappear in the blink of an eye.”

“I know Em, but stick with me here and you’ll gain so much power over censorship. To be honest, it’s good that you’re upset about this. It shows you’re passionate and engaged with the system & the group. It shows you care about social boundaries. And if you really do want to change your group’s boundaries, you can. But knee-jerk reactions, finger-pointing, and blame aren’t an effective way to accomplish it. Instead, your main tools are mastering your emotions, gaining influence, and practicing persuasion in order to get agreement from the tribe. We need people who do these things to ensure society’s boundaries grow and evolve, otherwise we’d be stuck in the dark ages, we’d still have separate bathrooms for people of color, for example. Anyway, we were talking about how …

...boundary-pushing can result in separation from your tribe."

“Yes, yes, I’m with you. And?”

“And if you hold a lot of power in your tribe, you can push boundaries with very little consequences, but if you’re low status in your tribe, when you push boundaries the consequences will often be ejection from the group.”


"So it comes down to power & powerlessness?"

“In a way.”

“What do you mean ‘in a way?'”

“Well, every human being is powerful. And group boundaries can shrink, grow, and be influenced by interactions inside the tribe, as well as ones from outside the tribe. It only takes one person tapping into their personal power –like Rosa Parks did– to start a revolution.”

“So then no group has power over me, right?”

“Sort of. Your individual power may drop the more you hunger to be part of a group. Rosa Parks claimed her power because she literally didn’t care if the entire group hated her. She wanted to sit, she knew the risks, and she stepped up and took them.”

“So someone who cared too much about what the group thought of her, would put away her own power to create change, and instead just ‘play nice.'”

“Spot on. Having power in a group requires influence, unattachment to the group, and the boldness to push boundaries and risk upsetting the group. But you were still born as a free individual, with unlimited freedom and personal power, that when you’re alone, is fairly obvious.”

“Right, when I’m alone I can speak out whatever I want, do whatever I want. Like you said, it’s only the moment I involve others that power dynamics come into play.”

“Yep. If other members of the group feel fear, attack, discomfort, etc. as you express yourself, they’ll likely exert power to pressure you into changing.”

“But fear & victimhood is just a form of powerlessness, right?”

“Yes, so let’s look at an example. If Joe is unable to manage his emotions on the topic of nudity, what happens when Olivia posts a naked photo to raise money for charity?”

“Joe gets triggered, like anyone who’s not great with their emotions.”

“Yes, he does, and?”

“And he feels attacked and uncomfortable.”

“Correct, and?”

“And he tries to get it banned, or censored. He tries to exert power in the group through protests or voting Olivia off the island or something.”

“You got it! You’re following along well. Are you feeling like you understand your banned-photo situation slightly better?”

“A bit I guess, I still don’t get what I’m supposed to do about my deleted pic, but I feel smarter somehow.”

“Heh, good enough. Let’s continue. Your example of Joe’s behavior had him exerting power through protests, getting voters on his side, etc.”


“So those are good examples of power being leveraged in a ‘democratic’ group or culture.”

“Yeah, so?!”

“Em, please, be patient with this, k? Censorship isn’t exactly a ‘rush through this’ topic.”


“The point is that while there are other forms of power-exertion in dictatorships, in a democratic culture, ‘public opinion’ is one of the strongest forms of power, and it is often brought to bear on anyone expressing near the edge of the group’s boundaries.”

“I get that, that’s why I said Joe would speak out against Olivia and start getting people on his side.”

“Right, but to get the public opinion of the majority of his group to side with him in banning Olivia from the group, what must he acquire?”

“I don’t know, money?”

“Nope, attention. He needs people’s attention, and more specifically...


...he needs their positive attention."

“Ah, he needs their agreement.”

“Nailed it.”

“Joe is ‘selling’ the idea that nudes are bad, even if they’re for charity, and that Olivia’s free-expression is not good for the group.”

“Right, and like any ‘activist’, he needs his followers to ‘buy into’ his idea with their agreement.”

“Well said. So if Joe gets enough people on his side, what will happen?”

“Olivia will either cave to the pressure and play nice, or she’ll reclaim her individual freedom by separating from a group who’s pressuring her to conform.”

“Yep and this happens all the time in society, even three kids playing in a sandbox.”

“Yes, like Hivers downvoting my photo because it makes them uncomfortable!”

“Hey, what did I tell you about jumping to conclusions and immediately labeling Hive as bad?”

Emma sighed. “You said it could be a glitch, or some totally justifiable downvote.”

“Yes, and since you don’t like it when others are triggered by your photos, don’t you dare be triggered by your assumptions about hive whales.”

“Sorry Dad, I’m sure there’s a good explanation for all this.”

“That’s better. Now, where were we?”

"Joe, Olivia, followers, attention."

“Yes, Olivia is on one side of the nudity issue, Joe is on the other, and by being vocal about it, they get the attention of followers. This makes them each a leader in the group, at least temporarily. And leaders have different levels of influence and power in a group, there’s no arguing it. And the followers in a group are often those with low critical-thinking skills. Instead of thinking an issue through themselves, they simply think ‘do I like Joe, or do I like Olivia?’ and then side with whoever they ‘like.’ Does this make sense?”


"Sounds as if many people are sloppy with their attention?"

“They are. But it’s an opportunity for savvier members of the group to gain influence. They can appeal to followers in the group and easily snatch up their agreement. This is what politicians aim to do, because they know our society runs on an attention-economy.”

“I’ve seen some charismatic people get tons of attention, be elevated to leader-status, and then just abuse their power, or get lazy and stop caring, or just generally be terrible leaders.”

“You’ll likely see it often. A lot of times, a charismatic person gets attention, becomes a leader, and then sucks at leading. Just how it is. The masses have given them power, failed to stop their meteoric rise, and now they’re entrenched. The only solution is for another member to ‘win’ at the attention game, or for the masses to wake up, reclaim their power, and give it to superior leader, despite that leader possibly being ‘bad’ at charismatically ‘getting’ attention.”

“Sounds like some of society’s best-suited leaders get skipped over in favor of those who persuasively manipulate mass-attention.”

“100% true. Our best leaders may be right under our nose, but the masses will never elect them because they aren’t looking for them, and since these leaders aren’t really ‘attention-chasers’ they’ll never end up on the radar. But that’s a talk for another time.”

“But aren’t all leaders just power hungry for follower’s attention?”

“Yes and no. Usually they start out well-meaning but confused. They want to lead the group to a better life. They have ideas for change that they believe in. Some realize that getting attention empowers them to accomplish more –which they’re eager to do– so they end up fiending after attention like an addict.”

“I get it, but what does all this have to do with my censored photo?”

“Well, since leaders are usually trying to create a better life (hopefully for the whole group, but even just for themselves), they’ll often have strong opinions on what ‘should’ and ‘shouldnt’ happen in the group.”

“Ohhh, and leader-Joe believes the naked body is bad for the tribe, while leader-Olivia believes it’s good for the tribe.”

“Yes, and they both realize that if the majority doesn’t agree with their view, they’re going to be forced to ‘play nice,’ unable to live the way they want. (At least while remaining part of the tribe.)”


"Seems silly to think humans will agree, no?"

“Yep, 8 billions humans! Not likely (or even physically possible) for all of them to agree on a topic, all at the same time.”

“So what’s the point?”

Our chat had dug deep into the foundations of free speech and censorship, but Emma clearly wasn’t connecting them to her own dilemma. I knew it’d click for her if I could nudge her to imagine the outcome, so I carried on.

“The point is if Joe or Olivia can get a majority on their side, they’ll eventually get to create a ‘rule,’ (unspoken or explicit) about nudity. Imagine what will happen if the group sides with Joe.”

“He’ll make a rule like ‘don’t post nipples’ or something.”


"But isn't Hive different? It's decentralized with no CEO!"

“Yes, Hive is different. Your photo wasn’t deleted. It wasn’t ‘banned.’ It still exists on the blockchain, you still own it, and it still has a URL you can link to and promote. But Hive isn’t so magically different as to be an exception to human social dynamics that have existed since cave-man times.”


“It’s not lame, honey. It’s nature, it’s physics, it’s how social group dynamics have worked for centuries. Whether it’s a group like our little family, or Joe & Olivia’s group, or an entire social media platform… the influencers of the group are looking to make rules & consequences, because they know there’s no way to have everyone agree. It’s the only way they know to create order for the group. They’re doing it constantly even if they don’t realize it.”

“Ah, unspoken rules, like the shadow-politics you mentioned.”

“Yep, like an unspoken rule in our house might be ‘dont ask Dad for money when he’s angry,’ right?”

“Haha, yeah, me and Cass learned that ages ago.”

“Sure, but technically, as a person, shouldn’t you have the ‘freedom’ to ‘speak out’ any request whenever you want?”

“Yes, but pissing off the already-angry Dad isn’t a great idea. We might get grounded, or never get money again or something.”

“Exactly, so the unspoken rule is: if you want to get along in this tribe called ‘our family’, curb your ‘personal freedom’ a bit and aim to ask for funds at appropriate times.”



"Hmm. Is that why people follow laws?"

“They follow laws because they care more about getting along with the group than they do about expressing some tiny aspect of their personal freedom. A lot of women wouldn’t even post photos like you did, even if deep down, they really wanted to. Do you know why?”

“They’d rather live in peace and avoid controversy in the tribe?”

“Absolutely correct. And what about the ones who take their photos even farther than you do?”

“They’d rather express their personal freedom, even if it risks ejection from the tribe.”

“You’re on fire, hon. So does this put your downvoted photo into a bit more perspective?”


"So whoever has seniority decides the laws?"

“Yep. Some influencers will censor anything they don’t like, others will censor only things the majority disagrees with, others do their best to censor ‘nothing’ except hate speech. Whoever’s most influential will decide what’s acceptable in their group.


A) Exists in all groups, from a small family to a nation.
B) It’s effected by someone of higher group status.
C) It’s the suppression of another’s expression due to it’s ‘offensiveness.’

Now, in a democracy, the power-players love to make it sound like people are ‘equal’ and ‘everyone gets a vote’. It sounds like a beautiful system, a utopia, right? There’s a formula that makes crowd-wisdom work. And technically, it may be true. But are all votes equally influential? That’s not something they talk about much. And does the fact that many ‘followers’ are sloppy with their votes matter? Does the fact that many can’t or won’t think for themselves matter? Equality in democracy doesn’t play out as neatly as people imagine.”

“How does it play out?”

“It plays out with a few savvy influencers in positions of power. These people are able to leverage the media to get votes. They can leverage money to get votes. They can leverage rhetoric to get votes. And whichever influencer plays the game and commandeers the most votes from the group, gets to decide the law. It’s usually the government, but who’s to say certain corporations aren’t pulling the governements strings?”

“Dang. And since there are few leaders and many followers, once the law is in place, it will likely remain there.”

“Yep, and on social media, CEOs who own the platforms, such as Mark Zuckerberg hold even more power, because their company isn’t really a democracy, and he and his board can simply make a decision and users of the platform either go along with it or are ejected from the group.”


"But you said all groups are like that."

“They are. And it’s why a lot of people have left Facebook for Hive. Hive is a more appealing tribe to be a part of to them.”

“True, I have posted many photos there that Facebook would’ve banned instantly with no recourse.”

“Right, but just because Hive is decentralized and gives you more freedom with less bans…”

“…doesn’t make it the exception to social dynamics, I know, I’m getting it, Ell… Oh… Ell.”

“If you’re getting it, then you tell me why whales at Hive get to censor people?”

“Because they have the most power and influence in the tribe. Just like a government gets to make laws for a nation, and parents get to make laws for kids, Hive whales get to make laws for Hive, whether explicitly stated, or unspoken shadow-politics.”

“Oustanding summary, miss! I’m proud of you. There is always an hierarchy, even in companies, governments, and tribes that claim otherwise. Hierarchies are part of how nature organizes groups.”

“OK, but there are thousands of users on Hive who each have the option to ‘downvote’ any whales or witnesses they don’t approve of, at any time…

...The people have the power, don't they?"

“You’re right, just like you, Cassie, and Mom have the option to unite against me at any time, but are you going to? I’m the main breadwinner in the family and I keep us in food and shelter while you go to school and Mom looks after the home. So is it seriously in the realm of possibility, y’all are going to outvote me and change the direction of our little group?”

“Hey! Are you saying you’re some king in charge of everything?”

“In a way, yes. I’m a whale, with a lot of power in our group. I didn’t take it by force, or manipulate you into getting it. It was given to me. All 3 of you allow me to have it, and you won’t unite against me, almost no matter what.”

“Uh, if you keep talking like this I’m just going to move out and tell Cassie to run away. I don’t encourage dictators.”

“Good, that’s how I raised you. You do have that power at all times, but I can call your bluff too. I believe you’re making empty threats, and that you’ll stay in our little family, and allow me to have all the power still.”

“Yuck! So annoying. So we made you a whale because we care so much about the stability of our group, and we refuse to risk upsetting you?”

“Yes. All three of you do have the freedom of expression to go against my leadership. You always have. But if one of you starts getting uppity, I can give more money to the other two, and begin treating you worse. I can influence things, drive a wedge between the 3 of you, use my power to make sure you never agree and unite. I can stamp out revolution in sneaky ways or overt ways.”

“Holy… you’re a monster!”

Emma’s lip was curled into a pout and her body was turned away from me. Realizing my example really bothered her, I spoke.

“Hey, hey, honey, this is all hypothetical. C’mon you know I love all three of you, have a good heart, and would never abuse my power this way.” Emma relaxed a bit and opened her posture, so I continued. “I’m pouring my heart into explaining this so that you’re never manipulated by anyone. So that you understand your individual power and the power of others.”

“Doesn’t sound like it, geez.”

“Hey now, would anyone else have the guts to be so honest about possible family dynamics and abuse? If I was really trying to harm someone, I certainly wouldn’t tell them what’s going on, and give them the keys to seeing the manipulation, right?”

“Fair enough. I guess this is pretty deep stuff that the puppetmasters would never tell us.”

“Right! I would’ve went on living our happy life. I’m only doing this because YOU wanted to see through the looking glass. YOU wanted to know about your photo. I could be out playing golf right now, I don’t have to be sharing secrets and risking upsetting my daughter’s temper.”

“Ok, ok. Thanks, I feel better.”

“Good, so do you want to continue, or is this too dark?”

“No, no, keep going.”

“OK, so do you get that even if a system ‘appears’ to be setup for equality and freedom, that influence and social politics are always at play, forever?


"Yeah, censorship seems heavily connected to politics..."

“It is. There are politics in every family. Sometimes kids get fed up with the politics & censoring of their behavior. They choose to leave the group to reclaim their own personal freedom. Other times kids care so much about the family, they allow nearly all of their personal freedoms to be crushed. Some kids do a blend of both, picking their battles.”

"Can we look at an example please?"

“Sure. Let’s say you post a photo on Hive. For some reason, it doesn’t trigger any whales, they all just find it lovely, and valuable, and they WANT it in the tribe. What happens?”

“They upvote me, and I earn a lot of crypto.”

“And why do you earn a lot?”

“Because people with a lot of influence have ‘approved’ of my contribution to the tribe.”

“Do you complain when that happens?”

“No, I love it.”

“Right, because the group is giving you exactly what you want. It’s giving you the freedom to post the thing you wanted to post, and even more so it’s rewarding you with validation, approval, engagement, improved reputation, influence, power in the group, and currency.”

“God that sounds amazing. I was getting that last night, to be honest.”

“Right, now let’s say you post a photo on Hive, and it triggers some whales for some reason.”


“Maybe they feel you’ve been earning too much lately, and want to leave some for others. Maybe they have a trauma in their past about photos like that. Maybe they have strong opinions on the female form. Maybe it’s a misunderstanding because they’re confused about your intent. It could be anything, doesn’t matter.”

“Why not?”

“Because that’s not the point. When they were upvoting your photo you didn’t go prowling around for their reasons about it, did you?”

“Well, no…”

“Because all you care about is getting what you want from the group. That’s why you’re part of the group, for benefits, right? Didn’t we agree on that in the beginning?”


“So does it matter why they downvoted you? Or does it just matter that suddenly you’re not getting what you want from the group anymore, and you’re yearning for the freedom to express without backlash? That suddenly you don’t have their power and influence on your side?”

“I guess the latter.”


"And what if you had billions of dollars?

What if you could make a deal with a few the whales to upvote you once more, would you care about the downvotes?”

“Hmmm, I’m not sure.”

“What if you made a deal that for every post you made, these whales would upvote you for like a thousand bucks? No one would know.”

“I’m not sure, sounds shady.”

“Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but it’d be you wielding financial power in the group, to get agreement from others, ending up with freedom to express, with minimal downvote backlash, and your life would be better than ever, since you didn’t have to worry about downvotes ever again.”

“I’m still not sure I’d do it.”

“Well that’s probably because you’ve never had that much money and power, so you don’t know how you’d behave. You might have a guess, but many others before have started out poor, got money, and happily bought votes and agreement from others with no compunctions.”

“Why does any of this matter? I’m not gonna win the lottery and buy myself into the trending feed!”

“Right, but how do you know others aren’t doing that right now? How do you know this isn’t happening, or won’t ever happen in your tribe?”

“I mean, I just assumed…”

“Assuming makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’…

…and ‘me!’ I know Dad, god!” Emma finished the lesson I’d repeated to her ever since she was little.

"Do you know what advertisers have done since the beginning?"

“I dunno. Bought upvotes?”

“Basically. Like lobbyists and politicians, they buy attention, agreement. Look what happened to facebook! It started as an ‘equal’ platform based on ‘organic’ reach, now you literally can’t be seen unless you’re paying Zuckerberg for ads.”


"So censorship & free speech is just about money & power?"

“A bit reductive, but kind of, yes, and always has been. In groups… (Positive) attention leads to agreement. Agreement leads to influence. Influence leads to power. Power leads to cash-flow, & rule-making.”

"So people's sloppy beliefs, attention, & emotion makes censorship possible?"

“More like people’s beliefs, attention, and emotion is their power. And they often give their power to certain influencers in the tribe, which allows those influencers to influence what is and isn’t acceptable in their tribe.

“This whole thing is so bleak for humanity.”

“No it’s not, my little bumblebee. It’s the nature of power. It’s the nature of influence. It’s the nature of social dynamics, and not understanding it is the only reason you’re upset about censorship.”

“It’s not natural at all, it’s gross.”

“It is. The largest, strongest, most powerful lion makes decisions for the pride. The alpha wolf makes decisions for the pack. The queen bee makes decisions for the hive. The most influential parent makes decisions for the family. The most influential leader makes decisions for the nation.”

“Then why does all this just make me feel worse?”

“Because you don’t see yourself as the most influential. But you could be.”



"Tap into your personal power.

Become a stronger lion. Start your own group. Whatever. If you’re Olivia, figure out a way to get more people, with more power, on your side than Joe. The beautiful part of all this is that a ‘normal girl’ like Rosa Parks can be more powerful than all the slavers and segregators. The Wright Brothers can be more influential than the entire scientific community of their time. Stefani Germanotta can pop out of nowhere to catapult LGBT into the mainstream as Lady Gaga.”

“So you’re saying that instead of getting upset at all these power games, I should learn to play them.”

“I’m saying you may want to learn to WIN at them. No daughter of mine was born to be a victim, a whiner, a finger-pointer, a blamer. I raised you to be hold your head high, follow your heart, and do what feels best to you.”

“That’s what I’m doing with my photos!”


"Yes, but there are consequences to every action."

“It feels like freedom of expression isn’t really free.”

“Expression is free, but that doesn’t mean free of consequences.”

“And the consequences in any tribe are determined by the most influential members, whether that’s a minority or a majority. I’m getting it, Dad.”

“Right, so if you get it, what are your options when something you don’t like happens?”

“1. Become influential enough to change the group. 2. Leave the group and start my own. 3. Play nice and stfu.”

“Yes! You’re finally seeing clearly and putting your knee-jerk anger aside. What’s stfu, though?”

“Uh… it’s internet slang for ‘Shut The Eff Up.'”

“Oh, I see. Out of touch Dad, I guess.”

“You may be out of touch with netspeak, but you’re totally in touch with freedom of speech and censorship issues. My mind is blown right now.”

“Good. I told you you’d never see life the same way again. And this is a good thing. Because once you’re out of the matrix, you can decide how powerful and influential you want to be. Either in your current group, or in another one, or by starting your own. If I don’t like what’s going on on Facebook, I can join Hive. Hive is a tribe that was founded because the founders didn’t like what was happening on Steem. If you don’t like what’s happening on Hive, start up the world’s first sex-positive social platform. Look what SuicideGirls accomplished.”

“Ugh, that sounds like such a hassle, can’t I just talk to the mods at Hive and get my post restored?”

“Sure, but that’s just another form of influence. It’s not money or law-making, but it’s still getting agreement from others. You’ll still have to sell them on the fact that there’s been a mistake, and sell them on the fact that it’s worth restoring your post to it’s rightful glory. It’s still persuading others to your cause, just like Olivia and Joe in our earlier example.”


"Eww, I don't want to 'sell' people."

“Oh honey, you already are.”

“What do you mean?”

“You may not realize it, but you just tried to sell me on the idea that ‘selling is yucky’, with your ‘eww’, phrase. But I won’t buy it, because I know the truth.”

“Oh really, and what’s that?”

"To sell is human."


“That’s actually the title of a book by a very smart man, you may want to read it.”

“When you post a photo, you’re trying to sell people on the idea that your photo is valuable and worth their attention and upvotes. And when many upvote it, but a few whales don’t buy-in to your idea and dole out the downvotes, you’re upset. But you’re not upset because the world is unfair or censorship is out of control, you’re upset because you were unable to sell this tribe on your idea about your photo. You’re upset because some bit players bought what you were selling, but the influencers didn’t buy in. And it feels shitty when people don’t buy in to what we’re selling.”

“Dad! Language!” Emma was smiling, playfully throwing my earlier phrase back at me.

“Shush you. Did you hear the bombs I be dropping?” I did my best to affect a patois street accent of some kind, but like many parents, failed hard at it.

Emma giggled.


"So is censorship the result of capitalism?"

“Nope, censorship exists in all groups, because all groups must decide what behavior is acceptable, and what behavior is out of bounds. Hate-speech is censored in nearly all groups, as is pedophiliac expression. On the other hand, ‘blasphemy’ may only be censored in certain orthodox religious groups, but totally fine in general society. Capitalism just assigns dollar values to power and influence in more obvious ways. Capitalism sees a marketplace of ideas, and money is just one form of persuading others to buy what you’re selling.”


"Hmm, I always thought of persuasion as manipulation."

“Persuasion is what you’ve been doing since birth. Persuading your Mom and I to give you more freedom, extra toys, later bedtimes, etc. If we resist you have to be more creative in your selling. But somewhere along the way, most kids stop their commitment to persuasion and instead start accepting the status quo of things.”

“So whether I persuade Hive whales to publish my photo with sugar-coated words, or logic, or straight-up bribing them, I’m still doing a persuasive ‘sales-job’ on my photo’s value?”

“Perfectly said.”


"Still seems like the rich & powerful can just censor whatever they want."

“So if I had enough money I could pay you to kill your Mom?”

“What? No! Don’t be disgusting.”

“My apologies, love. I’m just making the point that no matter how much money someone has, your true power, individuality, and freedom is untouchable, and not for sale… unless you allow it to be. You see?”

“You’re right, only I control my thoughts and feelings.”


“And they’re only for sale if I let them be.”

“Right. And it’s not like members of our tribe, our nation, aren’t aware of the power of money. They know what’s up and do their best to prevent it, at least to some degree.”

"Probably why we have anti-trust & consumer-harm laws."

“Yep! But like a system that governs any group, there are holes. There’s ways around consumer-harm stuff a lot of the time. Like it seemed like Hive protected your photo more than yucky old Facebook, right?”


“Until last night. And now it feels like Hive isn’t protecting your precious photo at all, yes?”

“Exactly my point, social dynamics are just that… dynamic!”

"OK, so should I pull a Rosa Parks and take a stand?"

“You know, make a splash, contact the media, I dunno. Start a #mybodyisvaluable movement or something to rally people’s attention to my cause and gain influence? That way I can beat this censorship with my own power?”

“That’s certainly a path you could take, but how many times have I told you not to assume Hive is harming you here. You haven’t heard their side of things, or even tried to do so yet. Take a moment to appreciate the blessing of Hive.”

“I don’t feel very blessed by these downvotes.”

“Sure, but on Facebook they own your content. They can delete and you’ll never get it back. They can probably use it to sell and make money, who knows. On Hive, even if it’s downvoted, you own it, and no one can delete it or sell it on you. Blessing, see?”

“The way you’re talking though, someone with power could just sell my photos, do what they want, and if I speak out against it, they can just use their influence to censor me, right? So they COULD sell my stuff.”

“Well, that’s why our tribe came up with copyright laws.”


"Ugh, copyrights just feel like more censorship."

“They kind of are. And they’re meant to be. They’re meant to censor behavior (like ‘idea-theft’) that ‘harms’ creators, artists, and entrepreneurs who’ve contributed their creations to society and who deserve to be rewarded for those, not robbed of them. At least, that’s how it started.”

"But what about creative works? Or parodies?"

“Well, that’s a grey area. The courts appointed by our leaders often have a lot of trouble deciding whether they should censor a comedian, or fine someone who ‘copied’ a musical beat from someone else, and so on. Since ideas and creativity bubble up from our own private minds, it gets tricky to regulate the ‘marketplace of ideas’ that capitalism believes exists.”


"I like that name, 'marketplace of ideas,' sounds so cool."

“It’s kind of cool, but you have to be careful.”


“Because most ‘marketplace of ideas’ preachers don’t admit that a market can be skewed. They don’t address market monopolies and cartels.”

“Yikes. Now it doesn’t sound so cool.”

“That’s my point, a ‘marketplace of ideas’ view can sound like a blessing or a curse. For example, what does the media do to this marketplace of ideas, if they’re owned by corporations and only publishing one view or agenda? What if the media have all decided that only controversy sells, and so tame, kind, loving ideas rarely get represented in this ‘marketplace of ideas’?”

“Wow. Yeah. Ok, food for thought.”

I gave her a moment to digest all this. We’d covered so much…

-Being born into shadow politics.
-Social boundaries & backlash.
-Power, influence, & attention.
-Laws, politics, consequences & more.

I didn’t want her to be overwhelmed.

“The media packaging controversy as their flagship product leads to extremism?”

“Nailed it in one. And look around at the world today. What do you see?”

“I see more and more extreme views, more polarization, more controversy, and more knee-jerk reactions. I see less voices of reason, and the ones who are reasonable may get cancelled, ignored, or buried in noise. I see influencers doing our thinking for us while everyone just upvotes and downvotes blindly according to their triggers. I see us all pretending we’re autonomous free-thinkers but instead we’re heading towards conformity with whatever corporations, celebs, and the media tell us to think.”

"Whew... could you be a more disillusioned, cynical, millennial?"

“What-ever. That’s what I see, I’m just being honest. Authorities abuse power.”

“Well, you’re not the only one who sees things this way. It’s why you get art such as 1984, Farenheit 451, Minority Report, Black Mirror, and more.”

"That's what I'm saying, Twitter literally banned the President."

“They did, but Twitter is it’s own group, right? It’s a private corporation, and they’re allowed to kick anyone out of their group that they want, even the President, right?”

“I guess, but if the President has more influence and power, he could make laws that would make Twitter’s life hard, right?”

“Yep, and that’s the interplay of social dynamics and influencers. Twitter is a platform that amplifies the language, speech, and expression of people on it. Trump used his words to invoke feelings, invoke allegiances, and to discredit his enemies. In Twitter’s eyes, he abused the platform to spread ‘fake news’ and trick people. They let him do it for a long time, and eventually had enough. He was flexing his presidential power and freedom of speech, so Twitter flexed their corporate power and freedom of censoring.”

“By banning him. Got it. So say Trump flexed back? Who would win?”

“Whoever got the most agreement, influence, and power from others on their side. Just like Joe and Olivia. Two giants fighting over the free speech laws might even start a revolution.”

“There’s irony here, ’cause he gained office on a platform of anti-political correctness.”


"Uh, Dad? You mind if we take a quick break?"

"Sure hon, why?"

"I gotta use the restroom real quick."

"Fair enough, but we're at a pretty juicy part of the conversation. We're about to explore downvotes, Hive, and the mechanics of social platforms-- especially regarding punishing content... such as your photo."

"OK! I'll hurry back!"


Due to Hive's post-size limits, I'll stop PART 1 of this guide here. You can read the entire guide as one piece on this (beautifully formatted) webpage: or return here for a link to PART 2 once it's posted. (Edit: The Ultimate Guide To Censorship Part 2 is live.)

Thus ends...


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