What do ‘open’ and ‘closed’ mean in an ugly world?

I accidentally found myself exploring the ideas of ‘open’ and ‘closed’ this evening. Perhaps I should apologize for the ramble… (Note: This post includes the topics of child abuse and images of that abuse.)

As a quiet weekend after what feels like months of running, I had some time to do some catching up in Mastodon and movie watching. My Mastodon catch up led me to an article title: Mastodon is big in Japan. The reason why is… uncomfortable. Because of an issue a while ago within Mastodon, I had a good idea where this was going – ‘loli content.’ ‘Loli’ is a soft way to describe drawings of child sex abuse. I have been told that these drawings are legal and fairly openly accepted in Japan. As someone who has spent the last year seeking to help abuse survivors find their voice, and know that they are not alone, child sex abuse drawings are a topic closed for discussion; they are the normalization of actual child abuse.

To be clear, most Mastodon instances are closed to these drawings instances and close off access to instances that support it. But, alas, that’s the nature of open source software and decentralized networks, right?

Being open source, anyone can download the software for free, set up an instance, and openly share. Although many of those outside of Japan would be breaking their home country laws by accessing these “visual representations” of child pornography, it is clearly open to access. It seems despite Twitter’s inability to close down white supremacy and other forms of abuse and hate, they have made inroads with respect to stopping these images. Twitter is then fairly closed platform for child sex abuse drawings. My head hurts. I feel sick to think of my support, even secondhand, helping these images be open to sharing. And I’m not closed minded enough to think that it stops there. Clearly all sorts of evil, ugly and awful folks could, and likely already are, using open source tools.

How then do I reconcile this reason for growth of my favorite open online community is linked to these images, the one that I’ve argued is different because is it based on openly showing care and it was heavily shaped by the needs of the trans and disabled communities to carefully protect themselves by managing their level of openness? I am not open to corporate alternatives (whose money-driven decisions openings and closures cause harm of unknown proportions) as the solution. No, the solution would be for Japan close up the holes in their laws (and then convict those who do).

In the meantime… I am openly sharing a few links on the rise of child abuse in Japan: Child abuse at a record high, Recent child abuse cases in Japan ‘just the tip of the iceberg’, say experts, Child sexual abuse in Japan: A systematic review and future directions.  It appears unclear if child abuse is actually increasing, or if the increase is due to more open reporting.

The world has always had dark and ugly corners. Too often in the open world, and even more behind closed doors, it has been an unsafe place for too many, particularly children and women. As a reflection of our world, an open web unfortunately has dark and ugly corners. Being open minded means accepting that they do, and have always, existed. But being open to change means that I will neither fear them nor accept them.  I will instead remain open to the truth, an awful one, that they are a people problem. I will spend my time within communities that facilitate open dialogue. I will be open and honest about my own struggles and fears. I will carefully respect the wishes of others to share partly openly, or not-openly. I will close my mind to the anger and insanity over which I have no control.

I will endeavour to open my eyes more and notice what is going around me. I will be open to action and closed to excuses.



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