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Strava is a movement now?

Published by marco on

Strava recently published new Community Standards. It’s mostly fine, filled with the standard entreaties to avoid “hate speech” (even though that’s a legal term that has a different meaning every country they have users in) and singing paeans about being nice to each other.

Strava also declares its right to terminate the account of anyone they consider to have transgressed against what seem like deliberately vaguely defined rules.

They probably think they’re being precise when they write,

“Hate speech is a direct attack based on race, ethnicity, age, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, caste, sex, gender, gender identity, serious disease, disability, body type, or immigration status.”

So that’s their definition, but there’s a lot of wiggle room, as always with these kinds of definitions. What is missing is context and tone, something that never interests censors—especially digital ones that are completely incapable of detecting sarcasm or wit.

What is heard versus what is meant

There are innumerable examples of something that sounds pretty bad in a transcript—until you hear the original audio or video and realize that the person being quoted actually said the words in a “yeah right, like we’re supposed to believe that” tone. That is, the spoken meaning was the opposite of what it looks like when written down. That’s not a rare occurrence, honestly. Almost any discussion about anything of substance can be sliced and diced to distort its meaning.

So, for example, I’m not sure if I would get banned for telling one of my oldest friends that he’s slower than me on a particular hill because “everyone knows Turks can’t climb.” I mean, I would be totally kidding and it would be a joke between us (and my account is restricted to only followers), but who knows who else would lean in to take a look and take offense on behalf of all Turkish people at words exchanged between friends and not intended for anyone not privy to the context?

Not what Strava is selling

I, on the other hand, signed up to Strava as a place to upload sports data and share it with friends, who do likewise. Strava is a platform, but now they think they’re a cult. Although you would think that their purpose is to provide a sports-data platform, according to these new standards, they have higher goals. To whit, to,

“[b]e inclusive and anti-racist

“Strava is committed to actively dismantling and eradicating racism and discrimination in all forms. If you use Strava, you’re joining us in this commitment, without exception.”

If I use Strava, I have to join this commitment? No exceptions? What the actual hell, Strava? I paid you money so I can see my historical data neatly and nicely parsed and now you tell me that, by the way, I’ve also got to join you on your crusade of anti-racism? In order to use Strava, it’s not enough that I am not racist in my thoughts or actions, but I have to don superhero togs and actively fight racism, nay, “dismantl[e] and eradicat[e] racism and discrimination in all forms”.

Fuck, dude, I’ve got a day job, OK, Strava? Is it all right with you if I just work there, teach my night-school classes and ride my bike once in a while? Jesus, I didn’t think signing up to a sports platform meant I was signing up for a war on racism. A war whose parameters are defined, of course, by a VC-infused, Silicon Valley company, which is where I like to look for moral and ethical guidance.

If you’re sufficiently woke, then you’ll happily swallow this transgression of a paying relationship without a second thought. The list of things that count as “hate speech” won’t trigger a single worry that perhaps the net will be cast too widely.

Protecting yourself by hiding yourself

I suppose the answer is to not leave any comments on Strava if you want to stay on the safe side. Another approach is to expose only a stunted, anodyne version of your identity there, which is what many of us end up doing in most relationships. That’s probably a good rule of thumb these days for pretty much anything that considers itself to be “social” media—media that then doesn’t really let people “socialize” in the way that they choose.

So, sites are policing language and behavior on so-called social sites—and the state is working hard to make encrypted, private, communication channels open to agents of the state, just to make sure you’re not committing crimes. For now, their stated goal is to prevent “human trafficking” and “buying drugs” and all sorts of other nefarious activity that they allege is rising dramatically, if not stratospherically.

But how long will it be before policing of hate crimes and forbidden language—and thoughts—comes to formerly private conversations? As we’ve seen with Twitter and Facebook—and now Strava—the policing is coming everywhere people gather and interact. If you’ve nothing to fear, you’ve nothing to hide, right?