Webworm House Rules
Just so I've got it written down - and it goes without saying - Webworm is a misinformation, disinformation, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and racism-free zone!
I’ve lived on the internet for what seems like forever.
Back in 2021, I wrote about my love of online forums during the late 90s — places I’d spend hundreds of hours interacting with people from all over the planet, united in our love of movies and music. It opened my mind to new things. Sitting at the bottom of the world in New Zealand, it expanded my world view. Things felt bigger.
That’s still one of my favourite Webworm pieces, where I caught up with one of the old forum members, who actually met their partner in our lil’ community:
I owe the chance meeting of my lifelong partner of 17 years this July, the lives of my children, and a large portion of my life’s purpose and happiness to some grey and black poorly designed and edgily named message board.
I guess it was over that time on forums that I got used to the idea of “moderation” — people who had been around on the boards for a while kept an eye on the community and the comments, making sure that idiocy was kept to a minimum.
Often the community would self-moderate, this fairly liberal bunch of music fans sending any hate on its way.
I have been pretty lucky on Webworm in that my moderation has been kept to a minimum, because the community here rocks.
Webworm isn’t a social media network, so there isn’t an influx of crazy. People like you — who I assume like me and my work — choose to receive my newsletter and read my words. If you don’t like me, you go somewhere else.
That being said — I’ve never really openly stated any rules of engagement here on Webworm. And maybe I don’t need to.
But — just so it’s written down and I can occasionally refer people to this post, I want to make it clear that I don’t come here to read misinformation, disinformation, homophobia, sexism, transphobia or racism in the comments. Those things aren’t up for discussion or debate.
There will be other things there too — things I try and live my own life by — but those are the biggies that come to mind as I type this at 6.13am.
I don’t want to read it, because I don’t want my readers reading it.
I care about my readers, and I want Webworm to be a respite from the blizzard of crap you get flung at you in places like Elon Musk’s Twitter or the dark depths of YouTube and Reddit.
PS: I’m here to chat this out in the comments — like me, you will have thoughts and experiences about online communities.
PPS: I have banned about five people over the last nearly three years of Webworm. They left comments that violated my lil’ moderation policy: they contained things like misinformation, disinformation, sexism, homophobia, transphobia or racism.
And those comments all had something in common — a conversation style that’s a huge red flag for me: They all posted using a series of questions. Endless questions. It’s called “sealioning”, and it’s explained well here:
Sealioning refers to the disingenuous action by a commenter of making an ostensible effort to engage in sincere and serious civil debate, usually by asking persistent questions of the other commenter.
The term has its origins in a 2014 comic strip by David Malki:
It’s hugely pointless, and it really just doesn’t fly in this particular community.
This is what I emailed to the last one, as I refunded their subscription:
You asked if I am trans-exclusive when it comes to trans women being appointed to “represent the womankind”, being “a spokesperson for women’s refuge”, or who advocate for “safe spaces for girls and women”.
I think you asked this knowing my answer — I have mentioned it on Webworm numerous times. No, I am not trans-exclusive. I am trans-inclusive. Trans women are women.
I have a trans-inclusive stance on Webworm, and it’s one place on the internet where I don’t want to read endless questions about this stuff. And I don’t want my trans readers having to read it also. It makes them exhausted. It makes me exhausted.
I have addressed so much of this in an earlier Webworm, “It’s pretty shitty in the cyber world for us right now”.
This is a good piece on all this: Trans Lives Matter (and can be boring):
It shouldn’t be hard to imagine that trans people, like pretty much every other marginalised group, just want to get on with their day. Trans teenagers want to go to school as much as every other teenager (which is to say that desire varies WILDLY). Trans elders want to do Aqua Zumba in the pool with ‘Ofa and Glynis and that zany instructor with the blue hair and neon pants. Tired trans dads want their toddlers to go to sleep already so they can crack out the can of Stoke Dark that’s in the fridge.
We’re not weird creatures hiding under bridges or haunting public toilets. We’re just people. We’re poor and we’re rich and we’re brown and we’re white and we’re across all classes and employed and on the dole and we’re out there just like you, scratching along, living our lives.
And yet for some reason, there are people out there who have developed the equivalent for QAnon for genitals and created an incredibly weird mythos around people like me. Like QAnon it seems to swallow their entire lives. It’s weirdly, horribly fascinating watching a famous comedian go from posting a tweet with a “legitimate concern” to posting pages-long essays about the “trans conspiracy” at 3 am.
I’ve refunded your last subscription — and wish you well.
Okay — that’s my lil’ internal set of Webworm rules, stated out loud.
Much aroha, and talk soon,
Best rules. Thank you <3 Also as someone who WORKED at a women's refuge, having a trans woman to represent them would be amazing. Because then maybe more trans people would seek out help instead of avoiding it due to fear of discrimination. It's so gross someone tried to use that as a gotcha when it would be a huge step forward for representation. Trans women are women and thus belong in women's spaces. The end.
I am a new(ish) Webworm subscriber...I joined early 2023 and this has been BY FAR the best thing I subscribe to. I appreciate all the work you do, and Webworm is such a wonderful relief from all the nonsense that overtakes the rest of the internet platforms. All the webworm readers in this community are so insightful and knowledgeable and kind, and I really enjoy reading what everyone has to say. Really brings a lot of joy to my day!