I have a number of strong opinions on what is happening here. But before I delve into them, I would like to separate out the facts of this specific situation from the broader—and I think more important—point that I would like to make, immediately following:
I've said publicly and privately that an import and export license are both required for ants to be legally sold and shipped to buyers. A responsible company will both defer to the judgment of individual states in how they issue such import licenses, as well as incorporate other externalities, such as the contentiousness of exporting ants to amaeteur hobbyists, before any exchange of goods takes place. Based on my discussions with the owner, I am certain Gamergate understands this 100%.
Currently, Australian ants only come into places like Europe through the black market, where the sole obstacle to obtaining them is the huge pricetag. If irresponsible, amateur hobbyists were the only market for Australian exports, Mikey would be right to ban such individuals from his group—but that's not the case. Being able to export from Australia legally, sustainably, and ethically, now means that North American and European museums, universities, and ant research labs will have a legitimate opportunity to display or study native Australian ants, and one can expect a pretty big commercial market for that alone, consisting of mature adults with generally flexible corporate spending accounts.
So, given the fact that Gamergate has only just announced that they are seeking to export, without any public details of how such a service would operate, or to whose benefit, we should condemn the decision to de-platform and isolate the site owner—who, in my opinion, is a quite mature and responsible individual—for allegedly expressing the desire to recklessly export ants to amateur hobbyists in other countries, when there's literally no evidence that this has happened yet, or would ever happen.
Let's assume, as Mikey apparently has, that Gamergate did intend to export to qualified hobbyists (say in Canada, where it's apparently easier to obtain an import license, for obvious reasons related to climate), even though Gamergate hasn't advertised as such yet. Well, as a mature and responsible individual, the exporter would be quick to learn of the possible legal and logistical challenges, never mind the extreme contentiousness within the scientific and hobby community (as evidenced by this reaction to the announcement), and would then reassess how best to accommodate all the parties involved to reduce, or ideally, eliminate conflict.
The problem here, with the facts I have, based on both public and private information, is that Mikey simply "banned" the Gamergate owner/author without any warning, and with no opportunity for education or explanation, as he does anyone who advertises the sale of ants not also advertised though his "Global Ant Nursery," or GAN program. While that is Mikey's right as the group administrator, it should also be said that the rigidity and callousness to which the zero-tolerance policy is applied will be sure to send disruptions and discord throughout the community both as we see now, and into the foreseeable future. If future Gamergate blog articles, unrelated to the sale of ants, are prohibited from appearing on the largest antkeeping hobbyist group on Facebook, in the same way that those grey and black market dealers and links to their respective websites are banned or taken down, then essentially, one individual (with a commercial conflict of interest, mind you) is picking and choosing who gets seen, and who remains hidden and obscured, which leads me to a more important point:
Broader point, opposing vendor-run communities:
As commercial vendors (Tar Heel Ants, Ants Canada, AntStore, etc.) continue to accumulate power and influence through social media, private groups, and business ventures, their ability to decide who's allowed into the mainstream online communities, or who's relegated to the fringes, will have an increasingly chilling effect on the ability of gifted hobbyists, makers, thinkers and innovators to be discovered, to succeed in connecting with antkeepers like your and me, and to remain as independent operators, free from monied influence. In my view, the designation of Gamergate as a prohibited resource in the largest, vendor-run Facebook group for antkeepers, and the banishment of its owner/author, would appear to be mainly a business decision made under the guise of scientific ethics, and that decision should alarm any and everyone with a stake in this hobby and community.
Independent forums and blogs like Formiculture and Gamergate will continue to be the only platforms where ideas may be promulgated freely, and individuals seen or heard, based on the popular merits of their contribution(s), with relatively little censure. Given the failed attempts by Ants Canada to absorb and acquire both (Formiculture and Gamergate), we should enjoy these freedoms while we still can.
Edited by drtrmiller, December 16 2016 - 3:53 PM.