Cancel Shadow banning culture is alive and well at Hacker News

Update 2021-05-28: See the update below. It’s not cancelling, it’s shadow-banning.


In my home country (CZ), Ivermectin is an approved drug for treating severe cases of COVID-19.

So I’m a bit in shock about the treatment Ivermectin is getting in media.

Not so long ago, I have seen the DarkHorse Podcast, episode #80 and was quite amazed by the information presented there.

The meat of the post

Anyway, recently I found out, the authors of DH podcast edited their video about Ivermectin down to more palatable 21 minutes.

So I thought, why not posting that to Hacker News. Surely in this pandemic, info about Ivermectin is on topic1.

And so I did post it:

my hn post in index My post in /newest (when logged in)

my hn post Detail of my post (when logged in)

Only, the post was silently removed:

my hn post in index - cancelled /newest (when logged out)

my hn post - cancelled Detail of my post (when logged out)

And I would like to point out: not flagged, not dead. Cancelled.

Makes me wonder what other types of things we’re no longer allowed to see?

Update 2021-05-28

After just a little bit more digging2, I found out that what HN does isn’t exactly cancellation. It’s shadow banning3.

What that means is that while the original author sees the post “live” under their profile, everyone else either doesn’t see it, or – with showdead setting – sees it as dead.

Allow me to demonstrate:

my hn post - shadow banned Detail of my post (from an account with showdead on)

I can only speculate why on Earth that would be useful (can’t think of a reason4). But I’m sure HN did their analysis, and found this particular tradeoff worth the collateral damage.

Final words

Congrats, Hacker News, you are on par with Twitter and Facebook now [to me] you’re the embodiment of “let’s sacrifice morality for expedience”5.

For anyone reading this, maybe one of the two videos, or might be an interesting reading? Or even, come to think of it.

  1. And civil discussion was about the best way we – humans – used to settle things in the past.

  2. Prompted by my lengthy and mostly uninteresting e-mail conversation with HN.

  3. And it is documented elsewhere, too.

  4. Before someone brings up “security” / “anti spam”: in a made-up world that is devoid of side-channels? Maybe. In a real world, where having learned about shadow banning I can get the same signal [as if my post were displayed to me as dead] by simply looking at the index/post through incognito window? Nearly of zero value.

  5. “The end [?] justifies the means [lying]”