It's The (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age Of Free Speech
January 18, 2018 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Zeynep Tufekci discusses in new longform piece for Wired about how technology and the rise of social media is forcing us to rethink how we conceptualize free speech and censorship. (SLWired)
posted by NoxAeternum (59 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
as a philosopher friend once put it, "It's the freedom to be virtuous we need to defend to the death, not freedom itself, which isn't truly freedom anyway if it suppresses virtue. And now let's take a century to define virtue."

And now I shall read the article.
posted by philip-random at 9:34 AM on January 18, 2018 [19 favorites]


This leaves me all warm and fuzzy for 2018 and 2020, yessiree.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:45 AM on January 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


"6 Tales of Censorship in the Golden Age of Free Speech" including odious nazi James Damore, who shows no signs of having been silenced whatsoever, undermines the piece whatsoever.
posted by Artw at 9:48 AM on January 18, 2018 [8 favorites]


It's an interesting article, but for me, the main take-away is this paragraph:
Here’s how this golden age of speech actually works: In the 21st century, the capacity to spread ideas and reach an audience is no longer limited by access to expensive, centralized broadcasting infrastructure. It’s limited instead by one’s ability to garner and distribute attention. And right now, the flow of the world’s attention is structured, to a vast and overwhelming degree, by just a few digital platforms: Facebook, Google (which owns YouTube), and, to a lesser extent, Twitter.
The rest is less important, because these stark monopolies channel discussions as these companies direct, either through overt choices, or subtle algorithm tweaks, and either way, they're done in a black box with a lock labeled "proprietary secrets."

The internet would be healthier with less centralized infrastructure.

But I also agree that the global populace would be mentally healthier with a good education in media literacy and critical thinking, as noted in the article.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:53 AM on January 18, 2018 [19 favorites]


In the 20th century, the US passed laws that outlawed lead in paint and gasoline, that defined how much privacy a landlord needs to give his tenants, and that determined how much a phone company can surveil its customers.

So, we are going to trust the current administration to make those laws? The far right is already angry that the likes of Google have been deranking some of far right websites as of late, and most of them are pissed off at Google as well.

The only thing I see that everyone has in common is that Google is not showing the sites they think they should. And I haven't seen a principled plan for fixing any of this, just "Stop censoring me and get those assholes off the platform."
posted by zabuni at 9:53 AM on January 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


A lot of the other pieces in the issue are in the same vein, Artw. The one about the Cloudflare/Daily Stormer fiasco was particularly enraging for me, as it was a story of a man desperately clinging to ideals that he never really gave any critical thought to, while the repercussions of doing so were piling up in front of him.

But the point Tufekci makes is different - he argues for that critical thought, and to better understand what we mean by free speech, and what we actually want free speech for - as he points out, making free speech the end can easily destroy the things we want to use it for.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:58 AM on January 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


The internet would be healthier with less centralized infrastructure.

The problem is that the internet is designed to facilitate consolidation and centralization.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:01 AM on January 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


So, we are going to trust the current administration to make those laws?

Exactly, this is the problem with vague hand-waving articles like this saying something needs to be done. Who makes these rules? The articles glosses over this absolutely key problem in a single paragraph:

This is not a call for nostalgia. In the past, marginalized voices had a hard time reaching a mass audience at all. They often never made it past the gatekeepers who put out the evening news, who worked and lived within a few blocks of one another in Manhattan and Washington, DC. The best that dissidents could do, often, was to engineer self-sacrificing public spectacles that those gatekeepers would find hard to ignore—as US civil rights leaders did when they sent schoolchildren out to march on the streets of Birmingham, Alabama, drawing out the most naked forms of Southern police brutality for the cameras.

In the US until very, very recently (as in, maybe the last 30 years) there were the kinds of legal and non-legal restrictions and standards the article calls for, but they were employed to suppress discussions of socialism (or criticisms of capitalism or business), homosexuality, race, religion, "counterculture" ideas, or even sex in general. It's only recently that we can publicly discuss these things or see them depicted in the media without censure.

If you're calling for new rules, the people likely to be setting them right now are more likely to aim for a return to those bad old days then they are to further any goal you have in mind.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:01 AM on January 18, 2018 [6 favorites]


"6 Tales of Censorship in the Golden Age of Free Speech" including odious nazi James Damore, who shows no signs of having been silenced whatsoever, undermines the piece whatsoever.

In his own words at that. Damore wasn't "censored" he was fired because a huge portion of his coworkers were never going to work with the choad again.
posted by DigDoug at 10:02 AM on January 18, 2018 [6 favorites]


But the point Tufekci makes is different - he argues for that critical thought,

she.
posted by anem0ne at 10:15 AM on January 18, 2018 [19 favorites]


From "6 Tales of Censorship":

But while the social internet gives everyone a voice, it also has countless ways of punishing people for speaking.

Yes. This is not censorship. I can think of many other words that are better suited - "censured" comes to mind; "consequences" is another. I think in this discussion, it behooves us to be careful with our terms. Free speech does not exist without the risk that someone else can use their free speech to argue, contradict, or put forward a differing point of view. How that gets done (incitement/harassment or reasoned debate or somewhere in between) is the question.
posted by nubs at 10:15 AM on January 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


If you're calling for new rules, the people likely to be setting them right now are more likely to aim for a return to those bad old days then they are to further any goal you have in mind.

Which means that as part of building those new rules, we get put in place people who will further those goals and not go back to the bad old days. "But this could be abused!" is not an excuse for inaction when people are being harmed.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:17 AM on January 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


The problem is that the internet is designed to facilitate consolidation and centralization.

an ironic paradox, given that the protocols that run it were designed to be more decentralized than not, but whatevs.


"6 Tales of Censorship in the Golden Age of Free Speech" including odious nazi James Damore, who shows no signs of having been silenced whatsoever, undermines the piece whatsoever.


i would want to point out that that particular article was written by different people than tufekci's linked above, but if we're going to say her article was tainted by their work, we may as well point out that nothing in the nytimes is readable due to haberman and nothing in the post is readable due to the now-gone cillizza.
posted by anem0ne at 10:19 AM on January 18, 2018 [9 favorites]


But we don’t have to be resigned to the status quo. Facebook is only 13 years old, Twitter 11, and even Google is but 19. At this moment in the evolution of the auto industry, there were still no seat belts, airbags, emission controls, or mandatory crumple zones. The rules and incentive structures underlying how attention and surveillance work on the internet need to change.

Christ almighty, the most we can hope for is that the internet changes into an industry whose externalities kill thousands of pedestrians per year and pollute the Earth? This whole problem seems utterly intractable and bad, but this was the cherry on top for me.
posted by TypographicalError at 10:20 AM on January 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


"But this could be abused!" is not an excuse for inaction when people are being harmed.

But it is a reason to pause and consider, and to reflect that righteousness and good intentions aren't enough. There are real dangers here.

If new rules are put in place today, they're likely going to be rules shutting down criticism of the powerful and suppressing minority voices. We have a President explicitly calling for criticism of himself in the media to be reined in and defamation laws to be weakened. Large swathes of people decry things like Kaepernick's protest or the MeToo movement. Are you okay with standards and rules and laws being put in place curtailing those?

Too often discussion of this topic on Metafilter seems to be along the lines of "our cause is righteous so victory is assured".
posted by Sangermaine at 10:23 AM on January 18, 2018 [10 favorites]


an ironic paradox, given that the protocols that run it were designed to be more decentralized than not, but whatevs.

No, it's how systems work - centralization and consolidation happen because efficiencies of scale and network effects are a thing. Decentralization rarely happens - it usually takes effort to create and maintain.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:25 AM on January 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


This article is important. I'm from the old free-speech-everywhere mindset of Internet libertarians and argued those positions while working for Google and Twitter. It's taken me a long, slow time to realize the problems with that naive position. I thank Metafilter threads in particular for waking me up to some of it, the way online abuse silences free speech.

I like the point this article makes about the power Facebook and Twitter have in choosing what to show people. Google too. We used to kid ourselves in thinking those choices were somehow neutral, that we were using impartial algorithms to find "the best" things to show. I think everyone paying attention realizes now how naive that view is. Facebook does explicitly, with their announcement they'll be trying to something different in2 018.

The problem is that the internet is designed to facilitate consolidation and centralization.

This is literally the opposite of true historically, the Internet was designed as a decentralized federation of networks. But as you say centralized systems have a lot of advantages. Business forces particularly favor consolidation. Economies of scale, the power of network effects, and now the value of big data. Mastodon vs Twitter is a great example of this. Mastodon is nice and has some decentralization in its technical design. It seems destined to always be a tiny second-player to Twitter unless something radical happens, in which case it would become the dominant player and Twitter would go the way of MySpace.
posted by Nelson at 10:26 AM on January 18, 2018 [14 favorites]


"But this could be abused!" is not an excuse for inaction when people are being harmed.

Excuses for inaction are bad. Good reasons for inaction are good. The trick is telling the difference!
posted by atoxyl at 10:32 AM on January 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


No, it's how systems work - centralization and consolidation happen because efficiencies of scale and network effects are a thing. Decentralization rarely happens - it usually takes effort to create and maintain.

erm, the protocols that run the internet were originally designed around a decentralized sort of foundation, since the whole goal was to have it robust--if one node went down, you could still reach your goal because you'd be rerouted over a network.

hence the "ironic" bit

i wasn't talking about what actually happened, but, whatevs
posted by anem0ne at 10:36 AM on January 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


Ironically the situation we are in is the result of "But this could be abused!" being massively ignored, and Wired is very much the house magazine for the people doing the ignoring.
posted by Artw at 10:37 AM on January 18, 2018 [8 favorites]


true.

wired is garbage.

but tufekci's points are still valid.
posted by anem0ne at 10:38 AM on January 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


The problem is that the internet is designed to facilitate consolidation and centralization.

nope, capitalism is designed to facilitate consolidation and centralization
posted by entropicamericana at 10:49 AM on January 18, 2018 [19 favorites]


TFA in a nutshell:
The freedom of speech is an important democratic value, but it’s not the only one. In the liberal tradition, free speech is usually understood as a vehicle—a necessary condition for achieving certain other societal ideals: for creating a knowledgeable public; for engendering healthy, rational, and informed debate; for holding powerful people and institutions accountable; for keeping communities lively and vibrant. What we are seeing now is that when free speech is treated as an end and not a means, it is all too possible to thwart and distort everything it is supposed to deliver.
posted by rlk at 11:31 AM on January 18, 2018 [17 favorites]


Yes, the article was more thoughtful than I expected given the magazine it's in. Especially impressed that they actually managed to say this:

This idea that more speech—more participation, more connection—constitutes the highest, most unalloyed good is a common refrain in the tech industry. But a historian would recognize this belief as a fallacy on its face.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:52 AM on January 18, 2018 [7 favorites]


I like what I’ve seen of Tufekci.

Everyone on the UC Berkeley campus got an email a day or two ago about a forum for discussing free speech, specifically everything that happened last September. One thing Tufekci doesn’t explicitly mention is how easily cowed institutions like Berkeley are when the narrative centers around this issue. Berkeley was scared to be seen as opposed to free speech, and the administration made a decision to prioritize that fear over the needs of the campus as a community, actively disrupting campus life to preserve this aspect of its reputation. There was active and vigorous opposition on campus, but that ultimately wasn’t as important as what the media might say.

You can argue that shutting down parts of campus and rescheduling academic events was a necessary sacrifice to uphold core values (which was the line the administration took), but the key thing is that it was hugely disruptive either way. And there was no way for Berkeley to come out of this ahead. It was a lose-lose situation. Whether or not they screwed up the academic environment, the narrative was always going to be about how hard it was for “little old gay me” to come and “just talk, harmless talk!” The fact that there had to be a conversation about it in the first place was what really mattered. All Berkeley could do was try to save face, and they did it at a great cost.

As much as I’m worried about Facebook and Twitter as platforms for hate, I’m more worried about when institutions like Berkeley bend over backwards to uphold a very one sided narrative about free speech as an end unto itself. This year is officially “Free Speech Year” at Berkeley, and that says a lot about how dumb and scared this issue can make people, and how this goes way beyond who gets to write a tweet.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:35 PM on January 18, 2018 [13 favorites]


Would some kind of effort to take “Free Speech” back from its new meaning of “let nazis intimidate people” be helpful at this point? Is that even possible at these days?
posted by Artw at 12:45 PM on January 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


"But this could be abused!" is not an excuse for inaction when people are being harmed.

But it is a reason to pause and consider, and to reflect that righteousness and good intentions aren't enough. There are real dangers here.


Right wing campus conservatives have started using anonymous complaint hotlines to make Title 9 sexism complaints against what they feel are lefty faculty.

If you don't think about how abusers will use a system meant to protect from abuse you can very well end up being instrumental in the abuse you think you are preventing.
posted by srboisvert at 12:53 PM on January 18, 2018 [10 favorites]


This year is officially “Free Speech Year” at Berkeley, and that says a lot about how dumb and scared this issue can make people, and how this goes way beyond who gets to write a tweet.

This is because we in America deify free speech rather than engage with it critically. As Tufekci points out, the reality is that we use free speech as a means to a number of ends such as free discourse, but we treat it as an end unto itself. And because we treat it as an end that we glorify, when free speech comes into conflict with those ends we're really using it for - we routinely toss those ends away in favor of "free speech".

Would some kind of effort to take “Free Speech” back from its new meaning of “let nazis intimidate people” be helpful at this point? Is that even possible at these days?

The point to start at is encouraging people to be more critical about the idea of free speech as its shown in our society. Point out things like the heckler's veto and what it says about free speech and the goals for it, as well as pushing back when people try to use free speech hagiography as a defense.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:56 PM on January 18, 2018 [9 favorites]


The part about how freedom of speech isn't an end really fit in with a lot of things I've been thinking about recently. The whole point of freedom of speech is to have a marketplace of ideas where the good ones win out. Protecting transgressive speech because speech is good has it exactly backwards. You protect and support good speech, even when it is transgressive, and give wide leeway for the benefit of the doubt. Defending garbage ideas just because they're transgressive demeans freedom of speech by undermining it's purpose of letting people seek out and choose the best ideas - it's not protecting freedom of speech, it's attacking it.

Freedom comes with responsibility. If you don't have the government protecting people from the negative repercussions of certain forms of speech, then it's everyone's individual duty to do what they can to protect people.
posted by Zalzidrax at 1:24 PM on January 18, 2018 [6 favorites]


This is not censorship. I can think of many other words that are better suited - "censured" comes to mind; "consequences" is another.

I really like this. Ultimately it's not freedom from "Censorship" that these people want, it's freedom from "Censureship." They want to be able to state their odious, inflammatory beliefs free from public and private consequences. You're not getting censored if you get fired from your job for speaking about your shitty beliefs, you're getting censured.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 1:56 PM on January 18, 2018 [12 favorites]


This is because we in America deify free speech rather than engage with it critically. As Tufekci points out, the reality is that we use free speech as a means to a number of ends such as free discourse, but we treat it as an end unto itself. And because we treat it as an end that we glorify, when free speech comes into conflict with those ends we're really using it for - we routinely toss those ends away in favor of "free speech".

One of my Internet Rules is - or, was - to never talk to Americans about free speech. I've been in enough shitfights with Americans who couldn't even understand the concept of hate speech, that if free speech is powerful then it can be used against the marginalised, and that free speech alone is not enough to stop 'tyranny'. It just became easier to not bother. This has become an easier argument to have these days, where America had all the free speech it wanted and it's mostly assisted in bringing about a tyrannical regime.

(My favourite version of this was when Popehat - specifically Ken White, because Popehat's had some crazy writers - complaining about the right of free assembly being used as a sword instead of a shield, with no awareness.)
posted by Merus at 2:07 PM on January 18, 2018 [12 favorites]


This has become an easier argument to have these days, where America had all the free speech it wanted and it's mostly assisted in bringing about a tyrannical regime.

These days more Americans are starting to realize that there's more to free speech than the hagiography we're taught in school, which is good. Also, marginalized groups who have lived the experience of free speech being used as a weapon against them are having a greater voice these days, which also helps. Still, there's a long way to go given how people in the US deify free speech.

Part of why I found the Cloudflare piece so infuriating is you can see how Prince was so steeped in that culture of free speech absolutism that as the evidence of how those beliefs were failing and causing real harm to people (harm that Cloudflare was enabling, by the way,) he kept tying himself in knots until he finally couldn't resolve the moral dilemma he had created and stay true to the beliefs he refused to question in a way that wouldn't leave him a social pariah.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:29 PM on January 18, 2018 [6 favorites]


I'm from the old free-speech-everywhere mindset of Internet libertarians and argued those positions while working for Google and Twitter. It's taken me a long, slow time to realize the problems with that naive position.

the real problem is that it's not a naive position - it's actually a foundation of our governmental system

yes, facebook, google and twitter are free to make what speech rules they want as it's their networks and hard drives - but the government CANNOT compel them to - you would have to eliminate the 1st amendment to allow that

it's not helpful to claim that americans deify free speech - the fact is, whether they want it or not, they HAVE it and can't get rid of it without an extremely unlikely political process happening first

encourage decentralization and private parties being more responsible by all means - but you will be waiting a long, long time for free speech as it is currently understood in the US to change
posted by pyramid termite at 2:32 PM on January 18, 2018


First off, allow me to point out that the First Amendment is far from absolute when it comes to free speech - the fact that defamation laws exist is proof. Second, the government already enforces significant restrictions on what sort of speech those organizations can and cannot allow, through things like obscenity laws and such.

Your argument is a perfect example of what I mean by deification of free speech and the First Amendment - it's less argument and more a dismissal of the consideration that the First Amendment may not be the entirety of the thought on free speech, by pointing to the First Amendment. And the reality is that more people in the US are starting to look at free speech more critically, in large part because we are going through a pointed demonstration of the dark side of free speech absolutism.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:52 PM on January 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


I'm not following your argument, pyramid termite. Yes, free speech as a First Amendment right of individuals vs the government isn't going away. Good! But we're not talking here, or in this article, about government restriction on speech. We're talking about private companies like Twitter and Facebook and Google and how they approach policies on speech. And as you rightly point out, companies largely get to do what the want legally. They have to define their own policies.

And here's the thing, I've worked at two of those companies. I participated in discussions about what those company's policies should be about free speech when those policies were being written. We made those policies. That absolutely can change. It is changing. People like those here on Metafilter can change it.

(FWIW I still believe in free speech as an ideal, even as an end to itself (rather than a means, as Tufkeci discusses). I just don't think policies like what we have now at Twitter or Google are working very well, in large part for the reasons Tufkeci discusses. Among other things these companies are making editorial decisions on what speech is seen, which itself is a form of favoring some kinds of speech over others.)
posted by Nelson at 2:59 PM on January 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


i draw your attention to the end of the article -

In the 20th century, the US passed laws that outlawed lead in paint and gasoline, that defined how much privacy a landlord needs to give his tenants, and that determined how much a phone company can surveil its customers. We can decide how we want to handle digital surveillance, attention-­channeling, harassment, data collection, and algorithmic decision­making. We just need to start the discussion. Now.

the claim is that laws should be passed to alter corporate behavior - but in the context of the article, it's pretty plain to me that she's trying an end run around free speech rights in the guise of correcting other issues

she moved the goalposts here and is hoping that no one notices

i'm all for facebook, etc etc making better rules about speech and having more competition - i am not for government involvement in this
posted by pyramid termite at 3:14 PM on January 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


No, she isn't - she's pointing out rightfully that politics is part of how a society discusses these sorts of issues. And the reality is that the system we have is failing at achieving the ends we want it to. The question thus is do we adapt to better achieve those ends, or do we just sacrifice them to an ideal that is failing a lot of people?
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:40 PM on January 18, 2018 [7 favorites]


The whole point of freedom of speech is to have a marketplace of ideas where the good ones win out.

Part of the problem is that the 'marketplace of ideas ' is a fundamentally flawed metaphor. It presupposes that ideas are compared and the best one wins. That doesn't even happen in science, the field explicitly designed to facilitate this.

the real problem is that it's not a naive position - it's actually a foundation of our governmental system

This is the kind of thing I'm talking about with Americans: where they decide their interpretation of free speech is the only valid one and thus everywhere else isn't really free, despite the lived experiences of the people living there.

If they'd said 'centuries of Supreme Court rulings have constrained us into a particular interpretation of free speech' that would be different.

Backing out before I break my Internet Rule.
posted by Merus at 3:55 PM on January 18, 2018 [13 favorites]


First off, allow me to point out that the First Amendment is far from absolute when it comes to free speech - the fact that defamation laws exist is proof.

No, incitement is this proof. The government doesn't legislate against defamation to make it illegal, only to provide civil remedies which is where most people get the first amendment terribly wrong.

Free speech is only stopping the government from making what you say illegal. It doesn't mean freedom from consequences from other actors or society at large.
posted by Talez at 4:40 PM on January 18, 2018


The government doesn't legislate against defamation to make it illegal, only to provide civil remedies which is where most people get the first amendment terribly wrong.

Allowing a civil remedy is a state limitation on speech, as said remedy is authorized and enforced by the state.
posted by NoxAeternum at 5:15 PM on January 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


The whole point of freedom of speech is to have a marketplace of ideas where the good ones win out.

A child might say that the whole point of their parents going to work is so they can buy a unicorn one day. It's not the reason the parents have for going to work and if it were, it'd be a terrible one because there's no such thing as a unicorn.

Similarly, I don't think that's the reason most people give for supporting free speech, and if it were, that would be a damn shame because it's not a real possibility.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 5:20 PM on January 18, 2018


Michigan State Will Let White Nationalist Richard Spencer Speak On Campus

In a legal settlement the school must also pay for security, a bill likely to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
posted by Artw at 7:07 PM on January 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


Reading the line about free speech being an end to itself made me wonder if that is indeed the problem.

It seems (to me) the problem we're facing instead is Free Speech being used as a means to the Capitalist/Corporatist end.

The revocation of the Fairness Doctrine being mixed with the Citizens United appears to be the toxic cocktail we are being forced to drink with the strong arm of Free Speech tipping our elbows back.
posted by CheapB at 10:37 PM on January 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


I just saw a friend complaining about FAacebook removing this article from her feed:

Assange Keeps Warning Of AI Censorship, And It’s Time We Started Listening
posted by jeffburdges at 7:36 AM on January 19, 2018


Algirythmic detection of Russian bots is something I *would* approve of, now you mention it.
posted by Artw at 7:40 AM on January 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


Assange isn't being censored, he's being treated as what he is - an agent of a hostile foreign power whom has a track record of manipulating and falsifying information to serve as propaganda.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:46 AM on January 19, 2018 [5 favorites]


Can you single out anything he falsified?
posted by jeffburdges at 9:10 AM on January 19, 2018


Can you single out anything he falsified?

Yep. The thing that put him on the map - the Collateral Murder video, which he edited to better align with the message he was looking to push. He admitted to doing so on The Colbert Report, which caused Colbert to break kayfabe to tear his conduct down.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:16 AM on January 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


Back on topic, The Economist has a thoughtful piece this week on Germany's efforts to both protect free speech and yet also ban hate speech. Germany is silencing “hate speech”, but cannot define it. The editorial slant is a little too negative (in keeping with The Economist's biases), but it has a lot of good details on how companies like Twitter are being required to help enforce German law and possible problems from that.
Once posts are flagged by users, a social-media firm has 24 hours—extended to a week in complex cases—to check and remove those that contravene the rules, or face a €50m ($60m) fine. In the first week, Facebook’s over 1,000 German moderators have had to process hundreds of thousands of cases.
Overwhelmed by the volume and wary of incurring such huge fines, social-media firms are erring on the side of censorship.
Speech policies are hard, particularly in the face of monstrous people who will exploit every loophole and technical measure they can to spread messages of hate. I'd love to read a German press article about this same topic.
posted by Nelson at 9:31 AM on January 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


Meh. I'm not bothered by that given our government and press have such omissions constantly. If you want to justify war then you're going to omit things that justify your targets actions. If you want to say a war is unjust then you're going to omit things that justify it. It's obvious the second helps end the war while the first causes people to die.

I do agree that professionally trained journalists like say Glenn Greenwald will present a more balanced interpretation than Assange does, while actually conveying almost exactly the same message, but so long as wikileaks published the source material then your claim that they "falsified" something fails.

Attempting to push this back on topic, we cannot avoid bias because we can neither all be professionally trained journalists nor restrict the right to public speech to professionally trained journalists.

I think Zeynep Tufekci's TED talk We're building a dystopia just to make people click on ads handles this topic somewhat better than her article here. We've always had small vocal minorities pushing their opinions for both good and bad, but if they can target their message with facebook's help then the bad ones can do far more damage.

We need to regulate what google, facebook, etc. can know about individuals, so that deceptive speech cannot be targeted at all, not regulate the speech itself.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:10 AM on January 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


Meh. I'm not bothered by that given our government and press have such omissions constantly. If you want to justify war then you're going to omit things that justify your targets actions. If you want to say a war is unjust then you're going to omit things that justify it. It's obvious the second helps end the war while the first causes people to die.

That's called a lie of omission, and it doesn't work, because when people find out that you weren't being completely honest with them, you lose trust. Furthermore, presenting a doctored video as unedited is an active act of deception.

Attempting to push this back on topic, we cannot avoid bias because we can neither all be professionally trained journalists nor restrict the right to public speech to professionally trained journalists.

Bias and deception are not the same - you can honestly present things while holding a position. Furthermore, there is nothing about being a journalist that says one cannot be biased, and in fact the history of journalism is littered with notable journalists who were biased, but held their bias honestly.

We need to regulate what google, facebook, etc. can know about individuals, so that deceptive speech cannot be targeted at all, not regulate the speech itself.

The issue isn't just about "deceptive" speech, but also things like hate speech, which is toxic regardless of if it's directly targeted or just spewed out like a sewage leak. Speech is the actual issue, and that's not something you can dodge, no matter how uncomfortable the topic might make you.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:34 AM on January 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


It's clearly presented as their edited version, especially since they post the unedited one right there too. We all talked about the murdered journalists but the real story was visible double tap: "the US has for years been conducting delayed second strikes on targets for the express purpose of killing to who attempt to rescue or treat the wounded."

As I understand it, these hate speech regulations do work in the German context, but similar laws only magnify racial problems in France. It seems flouting hate speech laws kinda built Dieudonné M'bala M'bala's career and bolstered Jean-Marie Le Pen. It's not simply the history but also legitimacy that France's government lacks.

There is no comparison between targeted advertising/speech and untargeted speech because the former cannot be challenged. It's already the hidden dog whistles, subtext, etc. that do the most damage even with broadcast speech, but explaining them works.

Ignoring the economics behind targeting to focus on content will hand victory to problematic speech.

"The outstanding [Crimes of Britain] account - which documents the atrocities of UK foreign policy as rooted in the imperial legacy of the Britain empire - had its account deleted by Facebook for being 'hateful, threatening & obscene'"
posted by jeffburdges at 2:53 PM on January 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


I haven't read the rest of this thread yet, but Cloudfare's excuse is a real liar liar pants on fire situation.

I'm literally seeing red at the way Wired is giving them a pass.
posted by Yowser at 8:45 AM on January 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Cloudfare, 2015, passing along complaints with full e-mail addresses to one of the most active alt-right harassment websites. (Twitter link, to MeFi's own RLH)

It's only when it made the news that they cared.

Cloudfare is poison.
posted by Yowser at 9:08 AM on January 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


Update on Twitter’s Review of the 2016 U.S. Election. The company discussing what they know about how they were used to spread Russian propaganda during the election. Talks about the propaganda accounts they've identified, what they've done to notify folks exposed to that propaganda, and future efforts to do better next time. It seems sincere and serious but boy it's a hard thing they're trying to do.

Meanwhile, Twitter is still being used as a platform for Russian propaganda furthering various Republican party efforts to discredit the Mueller investigation. Right-wing demand to #ReleaseTheMemo endorsed by Russian bots, trolls. The NBC is mostly citing Hamilton 68 as a source; they're an independent organization tracking statistics on Russian bot accounts on Twitter. Their dashboard is amazing.
posted by Nelson at 9:22 AM on January 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, Twitter is still being used as a platform for Russian propaganda furthering various Republican party efforts to discredit the Mueller investigation.

And Glenn Greenwald continues to deny the fact that there is a coordinated effort by Russia to poison the well of discourse.

I haven't read the rest of this thread yet, but Cloudfare's excuse is a real liar liar pants on fire situation.

I'm literally seeing red at the way Wired is giving them a pass.


A lot of people fell into the same trap of not thinking critically about free speech that Prince did, and as such find his argument of "I have to do business with Nazis and terrorists because freedom" credible. They tend to be the privileged sort who have never been in the crosshairs of such groups, and thus don't understand how much damage they do. (See also: White, Ken.)

(And yeah, the article made me see red too. People need to point out to Prince that his "principles" are nothing more than self serving excuses for working with monsters, and that if he truly believes that no one man should have the power to shut down a website, he would have shut down Cloudflare.)
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:17 AM on January 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


Cloudfare, 2015, passing along complaints with full e-mail addresses to one of the most active alt-right harassment websites.

Cloudflare had an excuse - copyright made us do it:
In the process of standing guard outside its clients’ websites, Cloudflare’s filters sometimes trap legitimate complaints against these sites, the majority of which involve copyright infringement. Someone uploads a catchy song to a website without permission from the artist. Eventually, the songwriter takes notice, but her lawyer can’t present a cease-and-desist notice because the copyright violator is behind the Cloudflare shield. And so, over time, Cloudflare had developed a policy of passing along any complaint to its customers and letting them deal with the requests.

But a system designed to address copyright infringement proved to be less adept at dealing with Nazis. Ordinary people disturbed by the hate speech on the Daily Stormer would seek to register their complaints about the site to Cloudflare, the host. But instead of directly addressing the complaint, Cloudflare, following its usual policy, would pass those complaints, with the senders’ contact information, along to the Daily Stormer.

In early May, another story came out—one that Cloudflare could not ignore. The article, by ProPublica, revealed that people who had complained to Cloudflare about the Daily Stormer were getting harassing and threatening calls and emails, including one that told the recipient to “fuck off and die.” The ProPublica piece quoted a blog post under Anglin’s name: “We need to make it clear to all of these people that there are consequences for messing with us. We are not a bunch of babies to be kicked around. We will take revenge. And we will do it now.” It looked as if Cloudflare had ratted out decent people to an army of fascist trolls.
It didn't look like like anything - Cloudflare disclosed their information to people who would do them harm, because they didn't care who they did business with.

It seems sincere and serious but boy it's a hard thing they're trying to do.

No, it isn't. It's just that the answer - identify and manage bot accounts in a visible manner - would fuck with their investor storytime, so they are trying to avoid what is obvious to everyone at this point.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:34 PM on January 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


Twitter talks a lot about bots doing things but doesn't talk a lot about things it did - promoting popular tweets, moving tweets up in timelines, blocking accounts based on mass misreporting - because of bots.
posted by Artw at 2:47 PM on January 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


Twitter talks a lot about bots doing things but doesn't talk a lot about things it does - promoting popular tweets, moving tweets up in timelines, showing all tweets to all followers, increasing the @s per tweet - that help the bots.
posted by Pinback at 7:45 PM on January 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


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