Normalize Dark Corners!

Cory Doctorow
4 min readJan 15

There’s Nothing Wrong With Rolling Your Own.

A dark, rainy city alleyway, the walls daubed with graffiti.
Franck Michel/CC BY 2.0

Whenever something terrible happens on the internet — a coordinated harassment campaign on one of the big social media platforms, say, or a criminal conspiracy to traffick in child sex abuse images or promote a scammy cryptocurrency — inevitably we learn that this all took place in one of the net’s “dark corners.”

Maybe the plotters hatched their scheme on 4chan, or 8kun, or just a private message board. They might have gathered in a private Telegram channel or Discord. These days, you can’t turn around without reading about the shadowy corners of the Fediverse, such as Mastodon servers that welcome and shield actual Nazis.

When people get kicked off the major platforms for being racist, or organizing mass-harassment campaigns, or doxing their enemies, they end up on right-wing fever swamp apps like Parler and Truth Social, and, inevitably, they are said to have retreated to “the internet’s dark corners.”

But you know what?

Dark corners are good, actually.

The reason all this bad stuff happens in “dark corners” is that it’s not allowed on the big platforms.

If the big platforms were perfect arbiters of good and bad speech, it would make sense to equate “Banned on Facebook” with “Something no one, anywhere, should be talking about.”

But the big platforms are far from perfect. Indeed, they are very, very bad at deciding what is and is not acceptable speech.

First, this is because they have set themselves an impossible task. There is no set of moderation rules nuanced enough to be fit for purpose in regulating the speech of three billion Facebook users in more than 100 countries speaking more than 1,000 languages.

No matter how much money Facebook spends on human moderators, it will fail at this monumental task.

But second, Facebook also cheaps out when it comes to moderation.

There are lots of reasons to want to talk with the people who matter to you without being manipulated, observed, targeted, interrupted and advertised to by a giant social media company.

But social media is a network effects business: you have to talk with your…

Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog:; Mailing list:; Mastodon: