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The Art Of Free Speech

By Yehudit Mam, November 4, 2015

There is much debate about free speech nowadays. The internet has allowed for a great outpouring of expression as well as abuse and darkness. Because it is a human concern, what we find on the internet runs the gamut from the sublime to the appalling. It has spawned revolutions, social change, and progress, as well as legions of people who feel emboldened to harass others under a virtual cover.

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As the makers of a social network where people draw with others, we know full well of the dangers of trolls. We have all kinds of users: from prolific and extremely gifted artists to people who are learning the ropes. Most of them are civilized people who abide by societal rules. Yet among them, in small but not insignificant numbers, there are those who join with the sole purpose of raining on everyone’s parade. Most people are there to create; they are there to destroy.

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As our user base grows, we have noticed meaningful differences between DADA and other social media. DADA is an actively creative platform. Drawing takes time, effort, concentration, and imagination. It comes from the deepest corners of people’s selves. It is not the same as clicking on a like icon, dispatching a rehashed post or even commenting from a safe, and sometimes anonymous, distance. People put themselves out there when they draw. So when someone deliberately mars this experience, the effect is extremely aggressive. As with words, people feel violated.

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For the most part, our community is comprised of passionate, helpful, positive people who delight in making and discovering new drawings and who have forged meaningful relationships with others from all over the world. Our members cheer each other’s work and encourage each other to improve. They feel appreciated and safe. Curiously, and in contrast to other networks which are based primarily on users’ personal circles, they seem to prefer to draw with distant strangers. Perhaps it is more liberating, less competitive and judgmental.

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So we have interesting challenges ahead of us. A garbled scrawl of a penis is usually not art. But what if someone makes an erotic drawing? Art is permissive by nature. Images present an interesting paradox: they can be more powerful than words, but they are also more elusive. We think a good starting criterion is whether the drawing was made with a creative or a destructive intention. Context is key. That is, you can make a silly little scribble and it will be welcome, but the most technically and artistically dazzling swastika will be coming down.

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Sometimes people cry censorship and freedom when we take down a drawing, but they forget that DADA is a free space that we provide for people to enjoy themselves, draw together and get along. We can reject any drawing or person that prevents other members of the community from thriving. But what tends to happen is that people who draw offensively end up talking to themselves in a vacuum. No one is compelled to stoop down to their level and reply.  The forces of good prevail.

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As we grow, we will certainly come across drawings that may be difficult to categorize. That’s the nature of the beast. We will continue to be vigilant and also rely on the community to self-regulate, hopefully, with drawings.

All drawings are by artists on DADA.


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