But sadly, I think the experiment must finally be judged a failure, and the reasons have to do with the broader practical reasons why anarchy doesn't work in reality.
F169 has become dominated by an extreme right-wing fringe element -- the kind of people for whom words like "nigger", "kike", and "faggot" are a normal part of everyday talk, the kind to whom the genetic inferiority of "mud races" and the existence of evil Jewish conspiracies are considered obvious facts. It's stupid, but shocking only to the sheltered -- people like that do exist, and if you want genuine free speech, it has to apply to them as well. I don't shock easily.
The problem is that that element moved in early and established itself as the dominant presence, setting the tone for the whole of F169. Board owner "Hans" is no right-winger, never mind an extremist (his profile lists Hillary Clinton as his favorite politician), and he several times displayed an interest in attracting a larger and more diverse posting membership, but the problem was obvious -- normal people who found their way there would take one look at all the Naziism, misogyny, etc. and just leave. The dominance of that element may have been serendipitous, but once established, it's self-perpetuating.
Yesterday I finally decided to bring up the problem bluntly, posting this thread calling for a purge of the extremists. Not because their material is offensive -- the board hosts many kinds of offensive material, as a true free-speech forum inevitably will -- but because there was just so much of it that it was making growth impossible. I also pointed out that the total free-expression principle was already compromised by the gay-porn ban, so there was precedent. Others posted similar calls, and another poster collected them together here.
Today came this official response from a moderator -- a ban on.....any advocacy of banning anything.
Hans didn't set out to create a neo-Nazi forum, but that has been the de facto result of all his hard work, and it now looks as though it will remain so indefinitely.
The paradoxical fact is that for freedom to work, it needs rules. Without rules and some degree of control, the noisiest and most bullying element will take over. If you declare that anyone can do absolutely anything they want, pretty soon pigs will move in and turn your place into a pigsty, and the smell will drive everyone else away.
In an entire country, this problem isn't much of an issue where free expression is concerned -- a country like the US is too large and diverse for any one group to dominate the national conversation. But in other fields, like the distribution of economic power, we can see analogous problems with the libertarian ideology with which some elements of our society are besotted. Allowing enormous concentration of wealth in a few hands creates de facto concentration of power to an unacceptable degree. In a society where ordinary people have rights in the public space, but in practice everything is privatized as someone's property, those rights have only theoretical existence. A mentality of jihad against the supposed tyranny of the state means weakening of society's main bulwark against the real tyranny of a parasitic oligarchy. This is not just hypothetical. We've seen these problems growing in our society as economic libertarianism has taken root.
Then there's the issue of the "heckler's veto". We've seen speeches canceled as a result of campaigns to silence unpopular truths. Public advocates like Dawkins and Hitchens have been targeted by relentless threats in an effort to shut them up. Women exercising their right to abortion often have to run a gamut of menacing thugs to approach a clinic. This is people using their right of free expression to squelch the freedom of others. On a lesser scale, something like this is what's happened with F169. When you can't start a conversation about any unrelated subject without being interrupted by a passel of troglodytes yammering about Jewish conspiracies, they're using their free speech to suppress yours. Maybe not in an abstract sense, but in reality, that's what's happening.
I haven't completely given up on F169. Maybe it will eventually tackle the elephant in the room, end the dominance of one noisy element, and start to realize its early promise. But that will require recognizing that the policy followed so far has not worked, and can't deal with the problem.