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This is regarding what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in usual online discussion forums, or social networks. I have a specific question from what happened in another discussion forum.

In another forum, I made a comment that "It is racist to suggest that all non-English people are Chinese (or Japanese or Korean)."

The context was that, the other person said that in UTF-8 English having 1 byte per character and the only other scripts having 3 bytes per character - CJK was justified since they encode words. I pointed out that this cherry-picked example ignored scripts written by billions of people. Most scripts like Devanagari, Bengali, Gurmukhi, Gujarati, Oriya, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Sinhala, Thai, Lao, Tibetan, Myanmar, Georgian, Ethiopic, Cherokee, Unified Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics, Khmer, and many others, used by billions of people are having 3 bytes per code-point, and have only one phoneme per code point, unlike he mentioned.

I was immediately banned, for saying "It is racist to suggest that all non-English people are Chinese (or Japanese or Korean)."

Is it acceptable to ban someone for pointing out ethnically discriminatory (and factually wrong) statements? Each forum may have their own policies and Code of Conduct, but I am interested in the general case.


To the people who asked me where and when this happened:

  1. This happened in KDE forums, in 2021 May.
  2. The person who posted the hate message explicitly mentioned that "Even if what I said is factually incorrect, pointing out racism is not acceptable in KDE forums". Within minutes, I got logged out and a message "Your username and account are both permanently banned from KDE Forums" appeared when I tried to log back in.

For the suggested edit in title:

I had not called anyone a racist. I had said that removing support for UTF-16 is discriminatory. When he mentioned the factually incorrect reasoning, I replied him "It is racist to suggest that all non-English people are Chinese (or Japanese or Korean)."

I did not call him racist, rather I pointed out that the afore mentioned statement is racist. Well intentioned people can inadvertently make racist statements, and pointing that out helps them correct the statement. My tone was definitely humble, and I had not demanded an apology.

The difference between saying "That is an inappropriate statement" and "You are an inappropriate person" is vast, because one is constructive criticism, and the other is a personal attack - which I did not do. So, the title "Was it fair to be banned for calling another user racist?" does not suit this question, since I did not call anyone a racist.

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  • I meant any discussion forum. English is not my native language, so I apologise for any ambiguity. I shall edit the question. May 4 at 9:42
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The specific disinformation of UTF-8 being fair since the scripts which are encoded in 3 bytes in UTF-8 being given too many code points (thus each codepoint carrying more information on an average) is widespread due to the website which advocates UTF-8 - utf8everywhere.org - which spreads this disinformation. As you mentioned, UTF-16 is more egalitarian.

Different forums have different standards regarding if and when to call out disinformation or ethnically insensitive comments. IANAL, TINLA. IMHO it is impossible to sue someone or even get any public support for this. All you should do is move on. You will waste your time, since the specific website is not legally bound to serve you in a manner which you deem appropriate. They can come up with the excuse that they only intend to support technical discussions, and you took the discussion tangential.

In my search using your username, I have seen you pointed out against the same misinformation in Github, and you were not banned there. Many websites/forums are more free than KDE forums. You can express more freely there.

TLDR: It is unfair, but they can come up with an excuse, and you have no options left.

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    Thanks for being understanding. I think that I should accept this answer, though any further suggestions regarding how to deal with such situations will have been better. When we point out some inappropriateness, some people tend to take it personally. Jul 1 at 5:56
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    When I DM'd you, you said that you will call out racism and disinformation whenever you see it. That is how you should deal with this situation. My full support is for you. But you may lose your accounts in many forums which are intolerant towards opposing racism. I am writing this so that the readers can be aware of the risks.
    – Kalyani
    Jul 8 at 16:46
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No, a ban wasn't very just here in my opinion. Though, that may just be the moderation style of that particular forum. If you were endeavoring to create a code of conduct for a community you run, I would hope that someone simply pointing out racism wouldn't result in immediate removal.

However I will touch on one thing that I feel is pretty important here. The way in which you pointed out this user's behavior probably wasn't the best way to go. You sort of derailed the conversation without alerting forum moderators of the behavior, publicly calling out this user as ethnically discriminatory. While a permanent ban is certainly a bit overboard for this, I feel that the moderators would have been just in deleting your message at the very least.

Think about it this way: If I see someone do something bad within a community I'm a part of, it probably doesn't bode well for the space if I immediately called them out on it publicly. I would fully expect to be told that calling out that person in that way, even if I was correct, is unacceptable. Depending upon the violation, it might be best to approach this person privately and discuss your problems with their behavior in a controlled, one-on-one setting, or it might be best to escalate the problem to managers/moderators of that space so they can deal with it in a way they see fit. This is to say, there's a way to deal with this problem in a constructive manner that doesn't result in public callouts.

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    Although I partly disagree with your opinion, your answer has enlightened me about the fact that there is another perspective possible to look at this issue. So, I am upvoting. Jun 16 at 6:38
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Tone matters. In the places I moderate, being correct (not all non-English languages are Chinese) does not give you free rein to accuse people of breaking the rules. Does racism explain why someone might forget "Devanagari, Bengali, Gurmukhi, Gujarati, Oriya, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Sinhala, Thai, Lao, Tibetan, Myanmar, Georgian, Ethiopic, Cherokee, Unified Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics, Khmer, and many others"? Yes, it is the most likely explanation. They utterly forgot about billions of people who don't really matter to them. But should you start there? Probably not.

If you had held your tongue on telling the person who was wrong that you think they are racist, and simply said

Not all non-English languages are Chinese. What about Devanagari, Bengali, Gurmukhi, Gujarati, Oriya, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Sinhala, Thai, Lao, Tibetan, Myanmar, Georgian, Ethiopic, Cherokee, Unified Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics, Khmer, and many others?

Then the conversation might well have moved forward and you might have been able to advance your goals. And at some later time, the person might have said "I wonder why I only thought of Chinese and forgot all those other languages?" and you might have said "well, you are surrounded by a society that ignores a lot of those people so you don't get reminded of those languages so much." In this way the person might grow without you flat out saying they are deliberately racist.

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  • Please see my edit. Pointing out inappropriateness in a statement is not the same as calling some person to be an inappropriate person. My belief was that the statement came out of ignorance rather than evil intention. If I make an unintentional mistake, I would apologise when I realise my mistake, rather than take it personally. Aug 2 at 17:52

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