Screenshot of my Quora profile page
Since the coup attempt at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, online publications and social media have received renewed scrutiny for allowing hate speech on their platforms as well as providing a venue for domestic terrorists to connect with each other. Breitbart, VDare, Daily Caller, Gab, 4Chan, 8Chan, DLive, and Parler often come up in these discussions. Quora doesn’t.
Founded in 2009, Quora is a question-and-answer site visited by 300 million people a month who can ask or answer just about anything. I’ve gotten advice on my fruit trees, acrylic nails, appliances, and answers to quirky science questions.
Quora is also a place for political dialogue, and in this area, it skews far to the right of what I have experienced on Twitter and Facebook. On Quora, I learned that social justice is a bad thing, and social justice warriors are despicable characters out to ruin anything enjoyable. (My response, always: “I am a social justice warrior and I am delightful.”) Racist, misogynist, homophobic and transphobic questions, answers, and comments appear regularly.
As does fascism. Quora has an entire space ostensibly for people interested in fascism, but after reading a few entries, one understands the space is a discussion group for fascists. A few days ago, a Quoran asked me a question about what white supremacists or fascists want to achieve. I checked to see if others had answered the question and found a person who presented himself, without apology, as a fascist. “I look at the modern west and see the uselessness of Democracy,” he wrote, citing Europeans allowing Muslims to flood their countries and leaving their traditions and freedoms to focus on hedonism. He continued:
Fascism is the answer. Fascism will destroy the socialists for their many crimes, forcibly repatriate the foreigners who do not belong in our countries, and harshly punish the elites who have so damaged the west that they might enrich themselves further.…
Violence is going to be necessary to restore the west, and fascism is the necessary vehicle.
I complimented him on his honesty, noting that a lot of fascists participate on Quora who do not acknowledge their fascism (and who for some reason think ANTIFA are fascists.) I wrote, “Maybe those of us working for human rights could finally wake people out of their apathy and bothsidesism if the Right had the integrity to name what they are.”
His response: Your side never will. You talk about “human rights” a lot, maybe you even think you actually care about them, but you don’t.…”
He then accused my “side” of violence, censorship, and suppression. “I know exactly what you socialists are and your intentions are, which is why I hate you and support using the same tactics against you.”
The difference between you and me comes down to two things. One, I’m honest about my intentions and what I am. Yes, I want sides to no longer exist in my country. I’ve listed my reasons why and I think they’re fairly rational.
You people would round my side up for the cattle cars without a second thought and try and somehow justify it or pretend it isn’t happening.
The reason your side focuses so much on propaganda and censorship of your opposition is that your ideology can only exist unchallenged. That’s why your activists are far more confrontational, violent, and prone to rioting than mine. Fascists arrive at fascism as a result of a realization of the true nature of society and humanity and a realization of the incredible weakness of democracy…
I find it really interesting that you don’t understand at all what it means to be an advocate for human rights — everybody’s human rights — but your description of what it means to be a fascist is pretty much how human rights advocates understand fascism.
Him: “I do support human rights, for the right people.”
He followed with a screed condemning human rights advocates who support ISIS widows, adding that Israel’s subjugation of Palestinian savages only makes sense. He shared his approval of the AUC paramilitaries in Colombia, noting they are more effective than the Colombian army in stamping out communism. (I want to add here that Colombian paramilitaries commit by far the most vicious human rights atrocities against Colombian civilians.)
The discussion continued, but you get the idea. Note to self: do not argue with fascists.
Quora claims to be non-partisan, stating its site exists to “share and grow the world’s knowledge.” Its moderators do not monitor the postings. Instead, it asks its members to police the site and report objectionable content.
And therein lies the problem. Women, racialized people, queer people, disabled people, and Muslims have their content downvoted and reported to the moderators consistently by white male Quorans. One woman told a journalist that she tried rephrasing some of the most sexist questions she found on Quora so that they pertained to men. Almost immediately, her questions were downvoted or reported out of existence. A similar pattern of harassment, downvoting, and reporting routinely happens to members of marginalized groups. The result? Most of them leave Quora, making it a very white, troll-y space.
If you’re Palestinian, Quora is an incredibly hostile environment. You will be told that you and your country do not exist. That you are innately savage. That everything about your history and culture boils down to one Hamas or Islamic Jihad training video. Quora has banned the space Palestine Today — where people discuss Palestinian culture, history, politics, and the Israeli military occupation of Palestine — at least three times since I joined in 2017. It has banned Rima Najjar, a Palestinian professor who has compared Zionism to fascism. Her expulsion begs the question: If fascists are welcome to post about fascism on Quora, why can’t someone compare another ideology to fascism on Quora?
My detractors have downvoted and collapsed many of my own answers about the Israeli military occupation of Palestine. These answers did not express opinions so much as provide accounts of what I had witnessed in the Al-Khalil/Hebron area over two decades of work with Christian Peacemaker Teams. I appealed, and Quora moderators usually restored them, but then the partisans of Israel downvoted them again.
I also created a space, Allies and Accomplices, which was popular for the two weeks it existed. Allies and Accomplices provided space for people to report oppressive behavior they encountered on Quora since reporting this behavior to moderators didn’t seem to work for people of color, Muslims, and other marginalized people. I learned about oppressions that I hadn’t considered. For example, I had noticed an obsession in the questions about personality disorders. I had not considered how the plethora of those questions would affect people who struggle with them. Membership in our space increased rapidly, and we even generated automatic congratulations from Quora for doing so well.
My co-moderator and I appealed when Quora moderators suspended and then banned the space (one post had mentioned a Quoran’s name, and he reported us for that.) We said we could adapt the space to bring it into compliance with the rules. We never heard back from Quora.