A similar version of this site was first published on canceledpeople.com and quickly gained notoriety. Shortly after, the site mysteriously disappeared, with public requests to revive it. canceledpeople.org is a best-effort recreation of the old site with many of the same principles & some improvements, by entirely different site admins (who wish to remain anonymous) to keep the public utility alive and useful. Original credit for the first iteration goes to whoever created it. Furthermore, we've decided to make the site completely open source so anyone in the public can contribute; please see our GitHub repository, and feel free to star it and contribute. Follow us on Twitter for updates.
We are building a database of people who have been "canceled".
Our purpose is to better understand cancel culture itself as a phenomenon. How does it manifest? How is it evolving? How does it affect societal norms around free speech that enable democracy to function and flourish? By consolidating as many well-sourced data points as possible, we hope to give researchers and others the tools to explore and draw their own conclusions.
What does it mean to be canceled?
There has been some controversy over whether or not cancel culture is real. Obviously, we do think it is real - that is the whole reason this database exists!
Part of the problem when discussing cancel culture's prevalence and existence is that there has been no clear definition of what it means to be canceled.
For the purposes of this database, we will use the following definition:
- The canceled person has been targeted for behavior that falls within the boundaries of "reasonable expression" (see more on this below). The "offense" may not be recent, and it may not even be their own action.
- The canceled person has lost their job or position (this includes forced resignations). Their future professional opportunities have been limited. If they are self-employed, they have suffered financial losses from a boycott or sabotage of their company.
- The canceled person has faced a coordinated effort to silence them. The effort seeks to render their person or their ideas unfit to discuss.
- The canceled person has faced a coordinated effort to shame them and destroy their reputation. The effort seeks to damage their self-worth and will likely target their personal or professional relationships.
What is not included?
It is perhaps as important to define what should not be considered a "canceled person":
- A person who has been subject to harsh criticism or disagreement. Disagreeing with someone's speech or behavior, even in a cruel way, is not the same as canceling them.
- A person who has been subject to online harassment but no "real-world" consequences. We recognize that online harassment and bullying can be horrific. Part of what makes cancelation unique is the attempt to bring the person down by moving outside of the online space. Most commonly, this involves contacting their employer or making them unemployable.
- A person who has said or done something outside of the window of reasonable expression and therefore is predictably getting their comeuppance. This could include many different things: saying a racial slur with the intention to wound, inflicting a sexual fetish on others, denying the Holocaust, etc. Our society does have legitimate reasons to shun a person, and employers have legitimate reasons to fire an employee.
- A person who has said or done something illegal. This one seems obvious, but for example, threatening a person online may lead to real-world "cancelation" as well as legal action - rightly so!
- A person who had the attempt made to cancel them that did not succeed. There are many examples of this and we believe they are troubling and worth paying attention to - they likely do have "chilling effects" on free speech. However, they are an example of the system working properly; the mob went after someone and did not succeed.
What is reasonable expression?
You may notice that the obvious and unavoidable problem with this definition lies in the use of "reasonable expression". What behavior falls within the realm of "reasonable", and what does not? What can be discussed? What should be silenced?
This is extremely tricky for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the window of reasonable expression should be considered within the context of the individual's nation and culture; different cultures have different social norms. Secondly, the window of reasonable expression shifts over time, but the "offense" for which someone is canceled is typically not judged by the window of the past, but by the window of the present. Thirdly and perhaps most importantly, the window is subjective and may shift depending on a person's politics, values, and opinions. What is reasonable to someone on the far left will not be reasonable to someone on the far right, and vice versa.
In fact, cancelations can be seen as an attempt to shift the window of reasonable expression itself and exclude the canceled person's behavior or speech from what is acceptable, rational, and debatable into what is unacceptable, dangerous, and unspeakable.
The only way to combat this issue of subjectivity is to acknowledge it directly. Our database moderators will need to use subjective decision-making to determine what can be included.
However, there are a few guiding principles we will follow:
- Hate speech is not considered "reasonable expression" although it is technically protected in America under the First Amendment.
- Facts matter. Data and scientific evidence should fall into the realm of "reasonable expression", even if they can potentially lead to controversial conclusions or have the potential to be used in a hateful way.
- Intent matters. Saying a racial slur in an academic context (for example, reading from a book) is very different from using a racial slur in a way intended to harm another person. Intent and context are important when judging a person's actions.
- When in doubt, we will not restrict what is considered "reasonable". In a free society, speech, opinions, and expression should be allowed to be as broad as possible, even if a majority disagree with it. Something important to note: cancelation is not a permanent state. Being canceled means that something important was taken away from a person. However, canceled people are not victims barred from the possibility of a happy and productive life. We encourage recovery, renewal, and growth for each person in this database. Here's to a brighter future!
One goal of this project is to gather as many well-sourced data points as we can, in order to give the fullest picture of cancel culture possible. However, the "data points" we are gathering are real people. We do not want to inadvertently doxx someone or create a database that causes more harm than good by drawing attention to an episode in someone's life that they do not want to be easily found online.
Our ethical rules for inclusion:
- If (a) there has already been significant publicity about the cancelation OR (b) the canceled person has demonstrated some desire to tell their story, then they will be included in the database without prior consent.
- If (a) or (b) are not true, our moderators will reach out to the canceled person for consent before including their entry.
- If at any point a canceled person would like to be removed from public view, our moderators will honor that request by hiding their entry and making it available to select researchers only.