Corporate Censorship of a Would-Be Autocrat
January 9, 2021 10:15 AM   Subscribe

After Trump's coup attempt, Twitter has finally kicked the president off rather than give him a stern time out. Apple has threatened to pull Parler from the App store, and Google has already followed through. Despite Trump actually being the government (with a press office), and all of these being private companies, should tech have so much power to censor communication? Does deplatforming work on a whole ideology rather than an individual?

This is a thread to specifically discuss First Amendment rights, deplatforming, and tech companies, not a catch-all thread for the capitol insurrection.
posted by benzenedream (265 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think we will see further splintering of discourse as deplatformed ideologies flee to sympathetic platforms, which will likely drive more radicalization and polarization. Look at Parler, as an example.

Interestingly, many posts on Parler are in favor of breaking up big tech, a cause with support on both sides of the political spectrum.
posted by sid at 10:24 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Tech companies are saying they don't want to be involved in providing a forum for hate, violence and insurrection. In our times, a platform is no longer a neutral space where all opinions can be represented equally, because some of those opinions directly lead to violence, uprising and fascism. Nowadays those who try to stay in the center are by default supporting one side, even through inaction.

It's not government censorship, thus it doesn't involve the First Amendment. If I kick someone out of my house for racist speech, their rights aren't being violated.
posted by TreeHugger at 10:26 AM on January 9 [70 favorites]




It's time for us to admit that Karl Popper was right, and the free speech "absolutists" were wrong. The answer to hate speech isn't "more speech", it's to demand those espousing it to either repudiate it, or be excluded from society.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:28 AM on January 9 [95 favorites]


Canada has limits free speech and we still have healthy discourse. The us does too, isn't the communist part still banned?
posted by sid at 10:30 AM on January 9 [14 favorites]


I just want to reiterate a point I made in the other thread.

The first amendment guarantees free speech. This includes freedom from being compelled to speech by the government. In the case of Trump, he is the head of government. Anyone demanding twitter be forced to keep his tweets up is demanding that the government be allowed to compel the publication of speech. They are not the friends of freedom of speech - they are its enemies.

Now back to the regularly scheduled discussion of how concentrated control of the media affects the rest of us.
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:33 AM on January 9 [75 favorites]


Thank you for making this thread. I welcome Trump's banning from social media platforms but one of the things that this banning is emblematic of to me is US-centric viewpoints absolutely overwhelming the discourse on deplatforming people for TOS violations.

Do social media platforms respond the same way when it comes to politics in other countries? Why not? Facebook and Twitter have literally been responsible for enabling dictators the world over. I saw some conservatives asking why Ayatollah Khamenei hasn't been banned in spite of repeatedly advocating for wiping Israel off the map - and Twitter's response to it is laughable, they're saying the Ayatollah's words are, essentially (paraphrasing) "just regular old foreign policy saber rattling, none of our business."

It also makes me wonder, what would Twitter say today about Arab Spring? Back then Twitter was happy to take the credit for that wildly popular people's protest against their government being organized and disseminated and enabled largely on Twitter. What grounds does Twitter have for supporting Arab Spring but not supporting the Capitol riot? Currently Twitter's justification seems to be "violence" and "inciting riot" but Arab Spring ought to be banned under these criteria as well.

Two days ago I posted on the Capitol riot thread about how it's not honest to say we object to the Capitol riot based on their methods and techniques. It's not good enough anymore to say "we object to violence" or "we object to inciting riots" or even "we object to people trying to overthrow their government." Clearly we object to different riots based on the CAUSES they are fighting for. We are taking moral stances without saying so, in fact, we're taking moral stances while pretending we're only taking procedural stands. What twitter and others are trying to do here is take a moral stance to support democracy ... while pretending they object to tactics or technique of protesters.

IDK if Twitter *ought* to be taking a moral stance to support democracy and silence anti-democracy rioters. But I do know that Twitter (and everyone else) shouldn't be trying to say one thing while actually doing something else entirely. Truth telling is our only hope.

I'm sorry, I know this is a challenging time for me to go against the grain here on MeFi. Please know that I'm not coming from a place of sealioning or contrariness. I won't be sticking around to argue with anyone about this. But I do want to point out the US-centricism in what all is happening right now, because it needs to be said. That's it.
posted by MiraK at 10:34 AM on January 9 [80 favorites]


The First Amendment has never in the history of the US been an absolute. There have always been limits to some kinds of speech (the first Alien and Sedition Acts were passed in 1798!), and the courts have over the centuries carved out numerous exceptions: defamation, incitement to violence, obscenity, and some types of commercial speech (i.e. false advertising) all have limits. The courts have traditionally privileged political speech, including hate speech, over other forms, but there is no reason why we cannot change that.

If you had asked me 15 years ago I would’ve said yes, we just need more speech instead of banning/limiting hate speech. But that was an opinion formed in large part by my subject potion as a cis het white person. For a while now it has been very clear to me that my previous position is wrong. Hate speech is violence and should be curtailed socially and legally.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 10:37 AM on January 9 [21 favorites]


many posts on Parler are in favor of breaking up big tech,

And there's calls from rightwingnuts on Twitter for the nationalization of big tech.
posted by BungaDunga at 10:38 AM on January 9 [7 favorites]


FYI, Twitter also just took down a dehumanizing Chinese embassy tweet about Uighur women. The application of their moderation policies is completely inconsistent.

I have not really worked out my thoughts about how private companies should work with regards to free speech, but one thing that I've always had in the back of my mind is that no heads of state or government leaders should have access to social media like Twitter if they don't let their own regular citizens use them.
posted by toastyk at 10:40 AM on January 9 [12 favorites]


I scanned all the comments so far and nobody has mentioned Fox. Fox is the platform for the ideology. The social networks are just vectors. To deplatform this ideology, Fox has to be the target.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 10:43 AM on January 9 [34 favorites]


Let's ask that Senator Hawley guy. I'm sure his "The Tyranny of Big Tech" book will be a worthwhile read.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 10:43 AM on January 9 [4 favorites]


I agree that Trump is a disaster and so is Trumpism.

However, I also think it's risky to have a tremendous capacity for silencing people-- it won't necessarily be used for benign purposes. I have no idea how to balance these points of view.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 10:44 AM on January 9 [5 favorites]


It's not good enough anymore to say "we object to violence" or "we object to inciting riots" or even "we object to people trying to overthrow their government." Clearly we object to different riots based on the CAUSES they are fighting for. What twitter and others are trying to do here is take a moral stance to support democracy ... without actually saying so out loud.

This is why free speech "absolutism" is so corrosive - it demands that we refuse to acknowledge that certain ideas are truly beyond the pale, even as we act in the manner noting that they are - resulting in us twisting ourselves in knots trying to balance two concepts that are being shown to be mutually exclusive.

If you had asked me 15 years ago I would’ve said yes, we just need more speech instead of banning/limiting hate speech. But that was an opinion formed in large part by my subject potion as a cis het white person. For a while now it has been very clear to me that my previous position is wrong. Hate speech is violence and should be curtailed socially and legally.

I've been thinking about this for a while, and more and more I've come to think that free speech "absolutists" paradoxically do not believe in the power of speech - and more specifically in the power of speech to harm.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:45 AM on January 9 [27 favorites]


I haven't even started to dig through the links but this thread on twitter about free speech and platform regulation looks very interesting, especially the linked syllabus.
posted by R343L at 10:48 AM on January 9 [5 favorites]




And there's calls from rightwingnuts on Twitter for the nationalization of big tech.

Lol let’s go!
posted by atoxyl at 10:53 AM on January 9 [4 favorites]


Lol let’s go!

I said this in the other thread, but if you nationalize Twitter, it would be unconstitutional to police protected speech on Twitter. The only reason Twitter can ban Qanon cultists is because they're a private company. A government-run Twitter would barely be allowed to moderate posts, the government can't ban people from speaking in a public forum based on what they're saying; if the feds owned Twitter, they'd have to allow nearly everything that Twitter bans.
posted by BungaDunga at 10:58 AM on January 9 [14 favorites]


This is your regularly scheduled explanation of why hate speech is not free speech:

Some free speech can be used to itself limit the free exchange of ideas. If I say that you should be shot in the head, and someone listens and obeys me, your speech is limited. If I say that your particular type of person is not a real human being and whatever horrible mouth noises they make are just reflex arcs, so do whatever you want to them, I have also limited your ability to speak if anyone believes me.

This is why hate speech and dehumanizing speech is rightfully limited in many countries as an explicit exception to free speech. It itself is anti-speech, a weapon that Nazis always want to use right up until the point that they can censor their enemies.
posted by benzenedream at 11:00 AM on January 9 [42 favorites]


Twitter isn't the Government. It's an app that people choose to use. It has no obligation to allow "free speech". It has rules and if you don't don't follow them you get kicked off. Pretty simple.
posted by Liquidwolf at 11:00 AM on January 9 [4 favorites]


(if the outcome you want is less hate speech on Twitter, nationalizing it is the worst possible first step, since hate speech is-generally speaking- protected speech and the government can't condition government benefits on protected speech, whereas private companies like Twitter and Metafilter have a first amendment right to ban whoever they want. A GovTwitter would have its hands tied, unless you totally overhaul free speech jurisprudence first, in which case just do that instead)
posted by BungaDunga at 11:01 AM on January 9 [6 favorites]


I can understand how the situation, with private companies having so much influence over public discourse, would make a person wary, fearful, or queasy. It makes me queasy.

But was it ever any other way in living memory? Newspapers, radio, and television in the US were always predominantly private enterprises.

I would love to see changes that reduce the concentration of media ownership, where a small number of giant companies control something like 80% or more of published media. But I also wonder if that alone is likely to make such a difference. The incentives of media companies (keep your advertisers happy!) are going to be about the same whether there are five or five hundred. Quite a lot of modern propaganda, marketing, and PR was worked out in pre-internet times and has never gone away.
posted by Western Infidels at 11:03 AM on January 9 [5 favorites]


it won't necessarily be used for benign purposes

The smarter free speech advocates argue that free speech restrictions in the US have approximately never been used for benign purposes. They've all resulted in deeply, deeply illiberal outcomes (just ask Eugene V Debs). The argument that this time, we'll get it right is very optimistic, but does it seem likely to anyone?
posted by BungaDunga at 11:04 AM on January 9 [3 favorites]


A screencap of FoxNews lists the platforms currently banning or restricting President Trump:
Facebook, Twitter, Google, Spotify, Snapchat, Instagram, Shopify, Reddit, Twitch, YouTube, TikTok, & Pinterest
posted by cheshyre at 11:05 AM on January 9 [5 favorites]


"would be" autocrat?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:09 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


BungaDunga, I said "benign purposes" because I wanted to be vague. The media in the US have never been perfect, but at least there was enough wiggle room for gay rights to take hold.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 11:10 AM on January 9


Censored? There's an entire US and international press corps ready and waiting for every utterance. The difference with them of course is he might be subject to awkward questions.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 11:21 AM on January 9 [32 favorites]


Canada has limits free speech and we still have healthy discourse. The us does too, isn't the communist part still banned?

Not practically speaking. They have a website and store and everything. There's a long history (obviously) but by the end of the '60s the ban (partly due to the free speech champions) was a dead letter and not being enforced by courts.
posted by mark k at 11:23 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


For anyone that can stomach, I highly recommend watching Fox. OMFG (understatement) how these people can hold a straight face minimizing and spinning a outright insurrection is "just those guys". Be ready to to reassure your neighbors that the shouting is at the tv and not a home invasion or something, just stomach churning. But it does need to be listened to. This other world alongside is a major element in US society and should not be ignored.

On a positive side, social media will be putting a lot of those "guys" in jail. Sounds like an effort to find legal grounds for accusing protesters in the summer of sedition may be used for these "good" Americans.
posted by sammyo at 11:26 AM on January 9 [2 favorites]


WRT the idea that pushing alt right content off twitter/facebook and onto parler causing even more concentrated radicalization I think the important thing note is that facebook and twitter were huge in exposing people to radical ideology and converting them. That doesn't work if it's shuttered away on social network that you have to be a crackpot already to want to join.
posted by Ferreous at 11:29 AM on January 9 [23 favorites]


However, I also think it's risky to have a tremendous capacity for silencing people

Why do we persist in thinking that social media is the only outlet for expression? Most people aren’t on Twitter! It’s not as important as the people on Twitter think it is.
posted by schoolgirl report at 11:29 AM on January 9 [52 favorites]


I've been thinking about this alot today and am kinda glad that this was broken out into its own discussion. A true push to somehow nationalize or otherwise 'force' Twitter into publishing certain people's Tweets has to create a political schism inside the Republican Party the likes of which would dwarf the current one over Trumpism. What possible argument at that point would the GOP ever have again for reducing burdensome regulation or protecting free enterprise? How in the world could the billionaires who back the party countenance a long drawn-out nationalization of a huge, well-known private corporation that in no actual way offers either a public good or has a monopoly? I have been working as a web developer or instructor of web design and development since 1998 and it's crazy to me that people are arguing over what is essentially one web site and/or one app!

I think two things really underlie right-wingers completely bad faith and disingenuous argument in re: free speech and Twitter.

One is that all of these platforms have significantly muddied lines between who is the public, who is the audience, who is the customer, and who is an employee, because many of them have monetized essentially contract employees creating the content. So, many right-wingers, even Trump, realize that what Twitter has really done is fired them from a real easy way to make (milk?) money. This is most clear on YouTube, I believe, where creators are in fact paid if there videos reach certain thresholds of views, but the reason journalists love Twitter is because they can use it to get more work or, better yet, book deals. It allows a journalist to more control their income, clearly, although it is being done with a really murky agreement and relationship with a private enterprise. Meanwhile on platforms like Facebook, the audiences are largely the product, as MeFi has discussed at length. In any case, the issue here is that these companies are now firing Trump and other right-wingers who echo his violent rhetoric.

This leads to the second point which is that these platforms banning Trump is a very clear signal of social approbation. Of course right-wingers hate that. I don't know that I need to go into further detail about that as MeFi discusses those kinds of things at length quite frequently.

Further, I think any serious effort to control how Twitter, Google, Apple, et al, do business will see those companies further decamp from the US by moving to Vancouver, or Dublin, or other English-speaking locales where they might be able to better influence the government.
posted by Slothrop at 11:30 AM on January 9 [5 favorites]



Why do we persist in thinking that social media is the only outlet for expression? Most people aren’t on Twitter! It’s not as important as the people on Twitter think it is.


Seriously. People talk like you've been exiled to Siberia if you can't use Twitter.
posted by Liquidwolf at 11:35 AM on January 9 [21 favorites]


Does deplatforming work on a whole ideology rather than an individual?
Yes.


It really boggles my mind that a lot of people are just now talking about this. Twitter, Instagram, et al have been banning people since their inception. When it's sex workers and queer people, I barely saw anyone talking about this, and suddenly people are worried that it's going to far because the literal president of the United States got banned? I have a hard time taking people who are talking about this but haven't been paying attention to the constant stream of people these platforms have been banning for years seriously.
posted by wesleyac at 11:37 AM on January 9 [63 favorites]


My primary concern is that any actions social media companies are taking now are just to get an incoming dem government from actually regulating them. "No it's okay we can self police, it's just a coincidence that we decided to do so after a confirmed democratic trifecta government was assured."
posted by Ferreous at 11:42 AM on January 9 [12 favorites]


They intentionally radicalized people because it increased engagement numbers and they'll continue to do so if they aren't actively prevented from engaging in that behavior.
posted by Ferreous at 11:45 AM on January 9 [12 favorites]


The smarter free speech advocates argue that free speech restrictions in the US have approximately never been used for benign purposes. They've all resulted in deeply, deeply illiberal outcomes (just ask Eugene V Debs). The argument that this time, we'll get it right is very optimistic, but does it seem likely to anyone?

To which my response is "pray tell me what's liberal about Floyd Abrams arguing that facial recognition is protected by the First Amendment?" In the US, we literally hold up allowing Nazis to engage in an act of terror against Holocaust survivors as a symbol of "free speech". So you'll pardon me if I'm at the position that free speech "absolutism" has resulted in quite a few illiberal ends itself thanks to its incoherence.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:45 AM on January 9 [9 favorites]


Let me just point out that every one of us right now, including the board members at Apple, Google, et al, are playing Calvinball with a Happy Fun Ball. Everyone's ad hoc, reactive, and trying to be pragmatic.

The time to start discussing these events as precedents for a new set of norms and rules and laws for the Internet will be January 20th.
posted by ocschwar at 11:53 AM on January 9 [7 favorites]


regardless of the merits of twitter enforcing its policies, the fact remains it is merely a private business. one day it could cease to be an entity and go out of business taking all the tweets with it. as others have said, the vast majority of americans are not on twitter. furthermore, the vast majority of twitter users aren't even on twitter. sometimes it's easy to lose sight of this. facebook is a far more sinister operation IMO. the vast majority of americans are on facebook and it amplifies nonsense far faster and more widespread than twitter ever does.
posted by iboxifoo at 11:53 AM on January 9 [7 favorites]




Or to put it another way, part of what got demonstrated on the 6th in my opinion was exactly how far Brandenburg swung the pendulum on incitement - and that we might want to rethink that.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:58 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


Bunch of rich accelerationist assholes took back the megaphone from a rich fascist asshole when the megaphone lease contract became unprofitable. People ponder the meaning and limitation of freedom of expression as they realize the accelerationist assholes' power. Meanwhile, temporarily-embarrassed rich accelerationists cry foul.
posted by runcifex at 12:01 PM on January 9 [5 favorites]


I just got asked on Twitter "Would you be OK if conservatives were in control of social media companies?"

My answer was that while we're framing this in partisan terms, let's stop to ask why rules against disinformation, insurrection, and inciting violence have become partisan issues.

Also that social media companies *are* conservative in a very real sense -- they're naturally going to be pro-business, pro-property rights, and they are in the business of providing speech.

The fact that they also have some platform rules restricting certain kinds of speech -- speech that no political party certainly needs to make its platform about -- isn't any more disturbing to me than the fact that the church I belong to doesn't let people say whatever the hell they want during meetings, either. Or that if I say certain things in someone's home or bar or whatever, I might be asked to leave. I've had comments deleted on metafilter. Didn't like it much, whatever, I can dial back my participation and get my own blog or I can work harder to try and make my case in acceptable terms (which probably don't include slandering those governing and calling for their violent removal).

So yeah, if "conservative" companies owned social media and had rules against disinformation, insurrection, and inciting violence, sure, I'd be on board with that.

I'm so tired of people thinking their desire to have their frank unfiltered self-expression privileged is what "free speech" is all about. Sedition is another level.
posted by weston at 12:01 PM on January 9 [18 favorites]


We've already accepted that tech companies can use their power to deplatform terrorist recruitment content. We had that debate after 9/11. It would seem to apply in this instance.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:02 PM on January 9 [9 favorites]


From 2018 Alex Jones says getting banned by YouTube and Facebook will only make him stronger. The research says that's not true.
Previous cases show that deplatforming works
Media expands this reach dramatically: a Harvard study from earlier this year found that mainstream news outlets are the largest amplifier of White House disinformation, since “journalists, all of whom are on Twitter, quickly work his statements into their broadcasts” .
posted by adamvasco at 12:04 PM on January 9 [29 favorites]


The fact that they also have some platform rules restricting certain kinds of speech -- speech that no political party certainly needs to make its platform about -- isn't any more disturbing to me than the fact that the church I belong to doesn't let people say whatever the hell they want during meetings, either. Or that if I say certain things in someone's home or bar or whatever, I might be asked to leave. I've had comments deleted on metafilter. Didn't like it much, whatever, I can dial back my participation and get my own blog or I can work harder to try and make my case in acceptable terms (which probably don't include slandering those governing and calling for their violent removal).

The redefining of the social phenomenon of people altering their behavior in response to negative reactions from others as "self-censorship" has been a rather toxic evolution, as it implies that it is somehow wrong for people to react negatively to hate and hostility.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:07 PM on January 9 [11 favorites]


If you think the police and government security agencies and/or moderation by tech billionaires and advertising companies will protect you from fascists, you need to wake up and smell the tear gas.
posted by sudogeek at 12:09 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Any such action is a full blown admission that free market has failed and cannot address this.
posted by asra at 12:09 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


My answer was that while we're framing this in partisan terms, let's stop to ask why rules against disinformation, insurrection, and inciting violence have become partisan issues.

I laughed for real.
posted by mhoye at 12:11 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Free speech is generally speaking an accepted principle of democracies, but it doesn't work exactly the same way in every country and no inherent reason to think the way in works in the US is better than in other democracies.

In the UK we have content regulation of broadcasters, through Ofcom, and there has been some talk of regulating social media platforms similarly. I don't know how the cross-border dimension would work though.
posted by plonkee at 12:11 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


It [deplatforming] is not government censorship, thus it doesn't involve the First Amendment.

this times a billion.

great 230 link posted above. everybody should read it in full before commenting.
posted by j_curiouser at 12:16 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


No relevant XKCD yet? Ok

https://xkcd.com/1357/
posted by Jacen at 12:16 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


More cops, fewer platforms: the risky fallout of the Capitol riot
The strategy of deplatforming carries all sorts of concealed risks for the far left. On occasion, we have seen marginal individuals with modest public platforms use the fact that they were banned from social media as a way to invoke the morality of self-defense and build up a huge new audience, greater than anything they had had before.

The left and the right are never simply fascist or anti-fascist but combine multiple other causes. When they ban right-wing figures from social media, the companies look to the left next, search for sites they could punish in order to prove that they are above politics. Last year, that meant taking down such anti-fascist sites as It’s Going Down, CrimethInc and Enough is Enough.
[...]
We cannot be at ease with an anti-fascist strategy of deplatforming which give Mark Zuckerberg or Jack Dorsey the power to decide what kinds of opinions are worthy of being heard and which deserve to be silenced.

In the face of a growing far-right, these are going to be the issues which dominate the next four years: whether to depend on the state and social media platforms to take on Trump’s supporters, or whether anti-fascists need to build our own strength.
posted by gucci mane at 12:19 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Media expands this reach dramatically: a Harvard study from earlier this year found that mainstream news outlets are the largest amplifier of White House disinformation, since “journalists, all of whom are on Twitter, quickly work his statements into their broadcasts” .

Mainstream news is constantly pointing the finger at "social media" but they've been running disinformation campaigns for decades. Remember Iraq?

And in the meantime, social media has allowed an incredible amount of coordination of feminist action, Black activism, and a dozen other things that mainstream media did not deign to cover when it was the only game in town.

Furthermore, when you talk about CDA 230, remember that the most recent call to edit/repeal/fuck with it was from Donald Trump. There's a reason for that.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:19 PM on January 9 [6 favorites]


I can't falsely yell fire in a theater, and the president can't incite treason on Twitter. I don't see any particular problem there
posted by Jacen at 12:20 PM on January 9 [6 favorites]


Why do we persist in thinking that social media is the only outlet for expression? Most people aren’t on Twitter! It’s not as important as the people on Twitter think it is.

Because far far fewer people own a newspaper, radio station, or television channel. Those who do have a highly concentrated, expensive megaphone. The rest of us have letters to the editor (if we're lucky).
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:21 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


If you think the police and government security agencies and/or moderation by tech billionaires and advertising companies will protect you from fascists, you need to wake up and smell the tear gas.

Let's just assume that people are taking this as read and not couching every comment in something like "of course this discussion does not solve the larger problem of systemic oppression but is a about bandaging a bleeding wound so we can get survive to address the deeper issues" for the sake of expediency, that would be the good faith reading.
posted by jason_steakums at 12:22 PM on January 9 [7 favorites]


R353L, that syllabus looks like an interesting and helpful collection of background reading for informed discussion on this topic.

I would also add something about group defamation as a proposed legal framework that could be useful here.
posted by eviemath at 12:29 PM on January 9


I can't falsely yell fire in a theater, and the president can't incite treason on Twitter. I don't see any particular problem there

Much of the issue is that the police and other law enforcement agencies completely refuse to enforce existing laws that do, in fact, take advantage of the many existing exceptions to the constitutional right to free speech.

For some reason people want to reinvent the wheel or make a law or what have you to deal with things like this, but the answer is in front of our noses: police and prosecutors are very right-wing as a group and they allow and suborn various kinds of dangerous, illegal speech. There are some tweaks to be made around the edges, but for the most part, we have policy and we have laws for dealing with things like slander/libel; inciting violence; making threats; harassment; etc.

Remember when the names and addresses of ICE employees were floating around the internet? Remember how quickly they came OFF the internet? That's because police and prosecutors actually give a shit about threats to other cops. The same could be true of any number of dangerous right-wing talking points. But the police and prosecutors typcially do not care.

So why should we give the police and prosecutors more power, then? So they can continue to let right-wingers skate by and crack down on, say, climate protesters? Because that's what happens when you decide that the problem with bad policing is that there's not enough policing. You get more bad policing.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:29 PM on January 9 [18 favorites]


Because far far fewer people own a newspaper, radio station, or television channel. Those who do have a highly concentrated, expensive megaphone. The rest of us have letters to the editor (if we're lucky).

On the other hand, a newspaper is responsible for 100% of its content and can be held culpable for it in a court of law - INCLUDING that letter to the editor that we send them. So it behooves them to be careful with what it does print, making certain to either a) fact-check the articles as much as they can or b) clearly and loudly label matters of opinion as matters of opinion.

Whereas Twitter is not held responsible for the things its users say, so up to a point, any one of us can say almost anything and Twitter just shrugs. So every yutz with ears having a Twitter account may only be increasing the signal-to-noise ratio rather than promoting a healthy exercise of free expression in the commons.

Also, blogs are still a thing.

(A side question - Trump was banned by Pinterest, they say. What the hell was he doing on Pinterest?)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:30 PM on January 9 [4 favorites]


schoolgirl report, I said the same exact thing to my partner last night. The vast majority of people use maybe one or two platforms, and sporadically at that. Maybe at one point when absolutely everyone was on Facebook (and even then it wasn’t really everyone), the argument could be made that you’d be cutting people off from participating in society in some way, but social media has evolved way, way beyond Facebook.

I was on Facebook from its infancy. I hardly touch it anymore, I’ve only kept my account because my partner’s dear grandma is still active on it, and it has a a bunch of my old photos that aren’t stored anywhere else but that I’ve been too lazy to download and save. Snapchat is pretty much dead for my age group. Tiktok is too young for my age group. Vine was the first Tiktok, now dead. I have a Twitter account that I’ve logged into less than a dozen times, I find it to be a bit of a cesspool along the lines of reading YouTube comments. If there’s anything worth seeing on Twitter, news networks and Reddit pick it up in minutes anyway. Digg was before Reddit, now dead. I watch the YouTube channels that I’ve subscribed to and never comment, it’s not a social experience for me. I still use Instagram because most people in my circles moved there from Facebook, and I can curate my feed for pretty pictures that I want to see. I have one account solely for houseplants. My main account is for friends, family, hockey, and cute dogs. I hear now that Instagram is on a downward trend. VSCO was supposed to be the new Instagram, but kind of fell off the radar except for the under 20 crowd. Who knows what’s next.

None of these platforms have a monopoly on being social, sharing content, or expressing your views. These platforms also come and go, and we’ve seen them all rise and fall in varying levels of popularity over the years. Why anyone would ascribe so much importance to any one of them as to cry censorship is beyond me.
posted by keep it under cover at 12:34 PM on January 9 [9 favorites]


The Tutsi genocide started with them being called "cockroaches" on the radio. But hey, that should just be protected political speech, right? Like when Trump called the press "enemy of the people"?
posted by Slothrup at 12:48 PM on January 9 [7 favorites]


On the balance, Twitter's permanent suspension of Trump's account is a good thing and I'm glad for it.
posted by The Minotaur at 12:58 PM on January 9 [6 favorites]


The real problem we have to deal with isn't censorship, it is what Trump will be doing the next eleven days to take back power. He has shown he will not leave quietly.

It is well too late to apply Section 230 to tech-based media companies, which have been given privileges to act above the laws applied to other traditional media companies. The question now is how we defend the country from the end consequences of giving Twitter and Facebook free rein to make money from Trump's repeated incitement of violence.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:02 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


(A side question - Trump was banned by Pinterest, they say. What the hell was he doing on Pinterest?)

it was a really lovely color-coordinated pinboard of jackboots, brown shirts, and bundles of rods.
posted by kaibutsu at 1:04 PM on January 9 [5 favorites]


> A side question - Trump was banned by Pinterest, they say. What the hell was he doing on Pinterest?

apparently, they're restricting various hashtags... trump was never on there i believe. but pinterest was trending on twitter due to folks asking your very question.
posted by iboxifoo at 1:24 PM on January 9


A side question - Trump was banned by Pinterest, they say. What the hell was he doing on Pinterest?
In seriousness, my understanding is that several trump-related hashtags have been blocked on Pinterest, not the president himself (since he didn't have an account to block).
So yeah, if "conservative" companies owned social media and had rules against disinformation, insurrection, and inciting violence, sure, I'd be on board with that.
I understand the underlying motivation here, but not all governments are good, and correspondingly not all insurrections are bad. There are plenty of governments that treat pointing out disinformation on Twitter as a sort of insurrection. Things are not as simple as insurrection == bad.

There's been a lot of comparisons between what happened at the Capitol and the BLM protests, but IMO the only really fundamental difference was the thing being fought for — justice in one case, and authoritarianism in the other. You can't have a coherent content moderation policy that tries to be neutral on whether authoritarianism is good or bad.
posted by wesleyac at 1:25 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


Is there a way to speak freely on the internet, de facto and de jure, since ALL the internet infrastructure is private? from what i understand the answer is no: you can run your own server, but another company can cut connectivity, etc. the constitutional free speech is limited to actual speech, private samizdat and leafleting on the street.

this answer might satisfy the private propriety worshipers crowd, so big in this debate; but to me it's still very much problematic.
posted by - at 1:28 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


It is well too late to apply Section 230 to tech-based media companies, which have been given privileges to act above the laws applied to other traditional media companies.

It's never too late to start.
posted by JackFlash at 1:43 PM on January 9




There's been a lot of comparisons between what happened at the Capitol and the BLM protests, but IMO the only really fundamental difference was the thing being fought for — justice in one case, and authoritarianism in the other. You can't have a coherent content moderation policy that tries to be neutral on whether authoritarianism is good or bad.
In one sense, yes — both groups shouted angry messages, both groups gathered en masse, both groups clashed with police. But shouting "fuck the police" after members of the police killed a member of the public is semantically distinct from shouting "hang Mike Pence" because Pence refuses to invalidate the results of an election for you; regardless of which message you find more sympathetic, there's no denying a distinct difference in goals and self-conception between the two groups.

Imagine if the George Floyd protests had been preceded by two months of tactical planning on public message boards, with BLM leaders openly discussing the vulnerabilities of assorted MPLS police precincts and deciding which one to burn down. The capitol insurrection was also the subject of 1-2 months of explicit planning by members of the far-right, with members explicitly announcing that it was the first step in a revolution to overthrow a government they considered illegitimate.
posted by verb at 1:49 PM on January 9 [10 favorites]


It is well too late to apply Section 230 to tech-based media companies, which have been given privileges to act above the laws applied to other traditional media companies.

Hello! You've Been Referred Here Because You're Wrong About Section 230 Of The Communications Decency Act
posted by hermanubis at 1:51 PM on January 9 [10 favorites]


I keep thinking about these social media companies in terms of this excerpt from George Eliot's Daniel Deronda:
It is a common sentence that Knowledge is power; but who hath duly Considered or set forth the power of Ignorance? Knowledge slowly builds up what Ignorance in an hour pulls down. Knowledge, through patient and frugal centuries, enlarges discovery and makes record of it; Ignorance, wanting its day’s dinner, lights a fire with the record, and gives a flavor to its one roast with the burned souls of many generations.

Knowledge, instructing the sense, refining and multiplying needs, transforms itself into skill and makes life various with a new six days’ work; comes Ignorance drunk on the seventh, with a firkin of oil and a match and an easy “Let there not be,” and the many-coloured creation is shrivelled up in blackness.

Of a truth, Knowledge is power, but it is a power reined by scruple, having a conscience of what must be and what may be; whereas Ignorance is a blind giant who, let him but wax unbound, would make it a sport to seize the pillars that hold up the long-wrought fabric of human good, and turn all the places of joy dark as a buried Babylon.
The "hands-off" approach that has been taken to lies, hate speech and disinformation campaigns on their platforms is direct support for the blind giant of Ignorance.
posted by hilaryjade at 1:57 PM on January 9 [12 favorites]


My feelings about this are all very complicated, but I keep circling back to how I felt very early on that Facebook and Twitter were going to be very bad news for all of us as a culture.

My comment history here has been at times very strident and vocal that people should either have never participated in those companies products in the first place or should have been fleeing and closing accounts years ago.

For about the same time or longer I've also been trying to be vocal and strident about the political problems we've been facing with the fringe alt-right growing increasingly bold and supported by the entrenched old guard alt-right and how that's connected to these platforms.

I'm trying to figure out how to express the intense dread and dismay I've been feeling and keep it tempered without devolving into an unhelpful scolding, admonishment or otherwise childish I told you so.

I'm not great at not doing this.

I was not at all shocked or surprised about the insurrection this week. Dismayed, yes, but if anything I'm surprised it took this long. I've been lurking and paying attention for over a decade now, and this not-really-new far right actually wants to murder people and they've been openly talking about it for years now.

They already think they're at war. Not a cultural war, an actual fighting and shooting war. Sit with that for a minute.

Do you? I still don't, but on the other hand, these days I find myself carrying around a first aid kit and even a makeshift tourniquet because of how often politically motivated or related shootings have been happening.

This is awful. I'm not being a doomsayer. People really need to pay attention to this existential threat to our democracy. These platforms are part of this problem.

Bringing it back to the topic at hand and these social media platforms that have been rapidly and quickly changing society in so many new ways, many of them terribly toxic in ways that we never would have expected to accept or tolerate 15 or so years ago.

I feel a lot like I've been watching most of my friends, family and almost everyone around me willingly eating some kind of poison - and/or maybe something like getting horribly addicted to something like meth - but also watching society rapidly change and people being forced or backed into corners where they must continue to eat that poison in order to find or keep employment or not lose family as other previously working forms of communication become unfashionable or even cut off, absorbed or balkanized.

Like watching almost everyone around me get trapped in a super toxic abusive relationship with a narcissist or complete sociopath. Sometimes I feel like I've been being gaslighted.

Over the years I've begged people more than polite to consider that these platforms were already a rapidly growing problem and even many responses would fit right in with apologizing for an abusive relationship.

I feel like I've been living in a pandemic and there's only a handful of people around me that wear masks and wash their hands.

I'm saying this not to be strident or hyperbolic - but because I am afraid. I have been afraid of what the internet has become and what it's doing to us as a culture and country and planet for a long time now.

I also do use some social media and I question my participation in that, too. Sometimes I think about signing up for Facebook to reach out to old friends, or getting a Twitter account to be a smartass. I don't know how many parties or social gatherings I've missed by not participating in Facebook in particular. How many pictures of friends or family.

This shit is all fucked up. We need to do something about it. We need to find better ways to communicate for life, for work and family, for public discourse.
posted by loquacious at 2:00 PM on January 9 [19 favorites]


The Tutsi genocide started with them being called "cockroaches" on the radio.

Yeah, when I was younger I brought entirely into the whole "it was totally awesome that a bunch of Nazis got to terrorize death camp survivors" ACLU take on free speech, but Radio Mille Collines killed that idea for me. They free-speeched their way to killing a million of their fellow citizens.
posted by tavella at 2:03 PM on January 9 [13 favorites]


Trump can, with 5 minutes notice, be addressing the entire world’s media from a room in the building he currently lives in. He wouldn’t even need to put on outside shoes.

He’s not censored in the least.
posted by sideshow at 2:04 PM on January 9 [31 favorites]


aside:
anytime you type The vast majority of people do/think X X... unless you have a cite, consider a small edit for clarity/precision.

The vast majority of people I know...

thanks!

posted by j_curiouser at 2:33 PM on January 9 [4 favorites]


Hello! You've Been Referred Here Because You're Wrong About Section 230 Of The Communications Decency Act

Yeah, the knee-jerk posting of Masnick's "see, there's nothing wrong with Section 230 and if you think there is, it's because you're too stupid to understand, so let someone who does understand (read: is aligned with the tech industry) explain it for you" piece is really starting to feel like gaslighting. If you don't think that Section 230 doesn't serve as indemnification, then I would expect that you should be able to explain how - because I can explain the view that it does myself.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:52 PM on January 9 [5 favorites]


The conclusion reached by the authors of Network Propaganda (free to read at Oxford U press) is that the 2016 election media landscape was not polarized, it was the right-wing media pulling away from everyone else, and that the greatest contributor to the effectiveness of the Trump message was Fox News. Their view is that social media and the Russians are side players, and Breitbart et al. aren't enough on their own.
posted by anthill at 3:07 PM on January 9 [8 favorites]


should tech have so much power to censor communication?

Yes.

Does deplatforming work on a whole ideology rather than an individual?

The answer might not yet have been proven conclusively to be yes, but signs point to yes.
posted by fedward at 3:15 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Invent the printing press? Get the Thirty Years' War. Invent the telegraph, you get World War I. Invent radio, you get World War II.

Who knows what the internet will bring?
posted by MrVisible at 3:17 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


The Aristocrats!

...sorry, that was a setup, right?
posted by Ryvar at 3:23 PM on January 9 [15 favorites]


Is there a way to speak freely on the internet, de facto and de jure, since ALL the internet infrastructure is private?

It depends on what you're saying. If "speak freely" = "hate speech", then no, not globally. Woe betide anyone of record pretty much anywhere in the world who says anything defamatory about wealthy, litigious people in England, or says anything derogatory about the Thai royal family.
posted by scruss at 3:29 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


Yeah, when I was younger I brought entirely into the whole "it was totally awesome that a bunch of Nazis got to terrorize death camp survivors" ACLU take on free speech, but Radio Mille Collines killed that idea for me. They free-speeched their way to killing a million of their fellow citizens.

The good thing is that the ACLU has (with a good deal of encouragement from fellow groups on the left) begun to walk back from that position in recent years. Which lead to free speech "absolutists" rushing for the fainting couches when a transgender ACLU lawyer made the point that "TERF lies about transitioning in one's teens are causing real, genuine harm to young transgender individuals, so perhaps we shouldn't publish them."

That incident is when I started to really think that free speech "absolutists" don't actually think speech can harm.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:30 PM on January 9 [13 favorites]


Yeah, the knee-jerk posting of Masnick's "see, there's nothing wrong with Section 230 and if you think there is, it's because you're too stupid to understand, so let someone who does understand (read: is aligned with the tech industry) explain it for you" piece is really starting to feel like gaslighting.

As long as people keep misunderstanding/misrepresenting s230, it will remain necessary to correct those misunderstandings/misrepresentations.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 3:38 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


There are some tweaks to be made around the edges, but for the most part, we have policy and we have laws for dealing with things like slander/libel; inciting violence; making threats; harassment; etc.

One of the big exceptions is that many countries don't have laws against collective/group defamation (i.e. saying that all X are Y bad thing). Defamation (libel and slander) is generally only applied when there are specific individual targets (individual, family, or company X is Y bad thing that isn't demonstrably true), and specific categories of relatively direct harms can be proven in court (loss of income or opportunities for income, loss of social or educational opportunities, and other stuff that can be specifically pointed to and preferably quantified).
posted by eviemath at 3:41 PM on January 9


As long as people keep misunderstanding/misrepresenting s230, it will remain necessary to correct those misunderstandings/misrepresentations.

Care to explain how "Section 230, as it has been ruled on by the courts, has become a form of indemnification for online providers" is either a misunderstanding or misrepresentation? Especially given that we has an example of such indemnification given earlier (namely that a newspaper can be held liable for printing a libelous letter to the editor, but an online provider can invoke Section 230 if they republish a defamatory user post under their imprimatur.) I'm a little tired of the idea that somehow the only view on tech issues that matters or that is right is the one espoused by people in the tech community that support it.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:49 PM on January 9


If you support changes to Section 230, could you describe the specific changes you'd like to see?

Two specific changes I'd like to see in the way the law intersects with tech and terrorists:

* I'd like all online political ads, however short or small, be required to list the ad sponsor, with a link to an uneditable declaration of the full names of the organization's head or CEO, and for PACS, a list of the names of the top 10 individual donors.
* I'd like all instances of threatening speech to be assumed to be genuine threats and prosecuted.

Years ago, I actually served on a jury regarding a death threat. A guy got kicked out of a bar, and as he was leaving, he told the bouncer "I'll kill you!" and said he was going to his car to get his gun. Part of the law said that the recipient of the threat had to believe it was a credible threat, and to have (argh, I wish I could remember the exact words of the law) - the threatened person had to actually have been afraid - I think there's a reference to requiring more than "fleeting" fear? A not insignificant part of jury deliberations was discussing whether the bouncer had been afraid enough for us to be able to convict.

(Part of jury selection included asking us about our position on free speech, and one of the prosecutors told us after the trial that he took a gamble on including free-speechers on the jury, the risk being that we might think death threats are protected free speech. Fortunately, all us free-speechers on the jury understood that they are not. We did, in fact, convict.)

If we treated all threats of violence as real, actionable threats, and made it a priority to prosecute them, I think that would make a real difference.
posted by kristi at 4:01 PM on January 9 [6 favorites]


That incident is when I started to really think that free speech "absolutists" don't actually think speech can harm.

One big tell has been watching all the free speech absolutists, many of whom were involved in or leading harassment campaigns against marginalized people just a couple of months ago, wondering aloud on Twitter where thousands of their followers have gone after an extremely public purge of Nazis.
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 4:08 PM on January 9 [7 favorites]


Masnick fails to explain what is oh so special about this one unique form of communication when we have had 250 years of perfectly fine communications without this exception.

150 million bloggers don't have Section 230 immunity. Hobby or special interest web sites don't have Section 230 immunity. If you start you own political ezine you don't have Section 230 immunity. Newspapers, magazines, and TV don't have Section 230 immunity. If you get up on a street corner soapbox you don't have Section 230 immunity.

Platforms should be responsible for the information they disseminate. They should be responsible for false libelous or defamatory information, just like everyone else and every other communications platform.

And the argument it's just too hard is laughable when a site like MetaFilter on its budget can provide near 24/7 moderation. They do this every day. Someone flags something, they take a look at it and decide what to do. I've had comments deleted within two minutes of posting. It's not impossible.
posted by JackFlash at 4:15 PM on January 9 [6 favorites]


One more question: has anyone explored the possibility of prosecuting Twitter and Facebook for civil rights violations, given the well-documented history of treating hate speech against some persons very differently from hate speech against others?
posted by kristi at 4:15 PM on January 9 [4 favorites]


My answer was that while we're framing this in partisan terms, let's stop to ask why rules against disinformation, insurrection, and inciting violence have become partisan issues.

I think it's pretty clear by now that rules against disinformation don't de-platform people; platform owners who decide how the rules get enforced de-platform people. That decision is the partisan part.
posted by straight at 4:51 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Note also that these companies literally have skin in the game; the users of these platforms are making threats and are likely plotting attacks against their facilities. Probably not fair to their employees to force them to publish content that could get them killed.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:14 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


Deplatforming works.
posted by tclark at 5:54 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Under 47 U.S.C § 230 companies like Twitter and Facebook are liable if the company posts something libelous. Comparing their user base and the level of moderation to Metafilter is, sadly, prima facie disingenuous. Metafilter's user base is orders of magnitude less than either company and its active base is likewise minute in comparison. With all that in mind let us consider just how stretched and how hard our moderation staff have to work to keep up. I seriously doubt that cortex is eager to see § 230 vanish either as there have been some posts over the years that have stirred great anguish and upset. How many nuisance suits do you think it would take to shut Metafilter down without the protections of § 230?

As far as hobby sites and the like go, they are held to the same standards under § 230, the issue is whether or not they have comments or guest posts. Comments sections all run the risk of joining the Usenet-to-Abusenet cycle. The larger the site the more likely that will happen. The larger sites have failed to properly and fully invest in moderation, that should be obvious to any observer of the last few years. They need to be taken to task for that. Regulation and oversight coming from the Federal level in the USA seem like good ideas but how that regulation affects smaller sites is something to be concerned about.

The need for campaign finance reform and public disclosure of all large dollar donations to PAC's, SuperPAC's, and all other 501(c)(3)'s so that we can have a chance of getting legislators who will stop playing the Mark Zuckerberg Two-Step and who might be willing to do things like pull in executives from Fox News for Congressional hearings should be part of the process in changing this crap. Another part would be the moving over to either a pay-to-use model or open-source, locally hosted social media like Diaspora and Mastodon. The free-to-use-as-long-as-we-can-use-your-data model is a big contributor to this problem. We need to make sure there is a slope to building a platform to begin with.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 6:09 PM on January 9 [4 favorites]


Comparing their user base and the level of moderation to Metafilter is, sadly, prima facie disingenuous. Metafilter's user base is orders of magnitude less than either company and its active base is likewise minute in comparison.

Ha, ha. That's a good one. Facebook pulled in over $80 billion last year. How many orders of magnitude do you think that is compared to MetaFilter's income? How many moderators do you think MetaFilter could hire with $80 billion?

As we saw last night, twitter was able to smack down Trump's repeated attempts to subvert the system in minutes. All they have to do is try. But it might knock a few billions off Zuckerberg's and Dorsey's portfolio. I'm gobsmacked at the embarrassing excuses so called lefties make to prop up billionaire capitalists.
posted by JackFlash at 6:19 PM on January 9 [5 favorites]


Buzzfeed is reporting Amazon Web Services will no longer host Parler. This goes beyond deplatforming individuals and is deplatforming the platform.
(I do hope they retain the content for law enforcement)
posted by cheshyre at 6:21 PM on January 9 [10 favorites]


I can be found occasionally ranting about the fact that ethical moderation doesn't scale, and that's the thing: it's not just that FB has orders of magnitude more money and orders of magnitude more users, it's also that (a) they don't want to spend proportionally more on moderation per increase in users and (b) even if they did, it would probably still not be viable. Megacorporate-scale social media as it exists today is a fundamentally untenable—in both practical and ethical terms—enterprise, and the only reason the people who keep trying it keep trying it is there's a shitload of money to be made before it all comes tumbling down.
posted by cortex at 6:25 PM on January 9 [22 favorites]


I’m less concerned with the deplatofrming of Donald than examining the way horrible people like Trump, Limbaugh and Tucker Carlsen get a platform and the fact that most people never get a platform. We shouldn’t pretend like the current state of the world is a free marketplace of ideas where the best voices and ideas rise to the surface and that we dare not impose any restrictions for fear of silencing ourselves.
posted by interogative mood at 6:33 PM on January 9 [6 favorites]


Republicans have always demanded that tech companies disrupt online terrorist incubators. They must be so pleased today.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:38 PM on January 9 [4 favorites]


I haven’t read through the entire thread, because NoxAeturnum hit the nail on the head when they referenced Karl Popper’s Paradox of Tolerance . There is no such thing as unlimited free speech.

The only reason we are having this discussion about the ethics of corporate limits on speech is because the Senate utterly failed in their duty last February. What the Twitters, et al. of the world are doing is a kludge because our government is so broken that they are incapable of keeping Trump in check.

Frankly, it’s a shit situation but it is what it is at this point.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 6:51 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


For me, there's something amiss about much of the discussion in this thread for talking about the issue as if it revolved around legal/governmental norms, when the extraordinary thing about this moment is that Twitter and the other social media platforms chose to act against the wishes of the current democratically elected ruling party. That it was for the best, and partly due to their own failings in bringing us to this point doesn't make it any less troubling in what that says about the times we are living through.

We simply cannot talk about norms, what the government should do or what the laws should be around speech without noting that it is the president of the United States that is the cause behind the current threat to democracy in the US, and that his party controls the Executive Branch, the Senate, the judiciary, have 27 of the governorships in the country and control 24 state legislatures. That we have reached a point where we needed Twitter, Google, Apple, and other companies to, essentially, step in where government leadership wouldn't to attempt to quell further insurrection is a problem that goes well beyond the standard norms and makes questions around speech and power far more difficult.

Social media intrinsically rewards the kind of speech Trump used and that buoyed his support. It favors adversarialism/antagonism by its "point scoring", simplicity, sloganeering, and immediacy over complexity and consideration, devalues expertise and facts for bias fitting narrative fancy, and as much as it allows previously unheard voices to be heard, its greatest positive value, it still inherently rewards celebrity and self promotion even more. It greatly facilitates division and team based animosity in meaningful and disturbing ways. It isn't that social media must be or even is all bad, but the current way it works has helped bring us to the moment where those same social media companies have chosen to act for reasons that surely are not entirely unselfish.

This moment may be fleeting, however, as the threat isn't gone and the "stupid" right, unlike so much of the "smart" liberal side, doesn't know they "can't" leave Twitter and Facebook for other options like Parler, so they do and are continuing to do so while they have that option. As long as Parler, or whatever other options arise, can't easily be joined that problem is minimized to some degree, but the current state of Parler isn't the end of that issue as other social media platforms will try to draw in that same crowd if they can find a way to do so.

So to even try to get around this problem requires recognizing that a a substantial part of the population and, likely, government isn't interested in changing legal definitions around speech to better contain or eliminate threats and harm, while at the same time recognizing that expecting companies to act in place of or even in the face of the government is itself deeply problematic and at some level unlikely to work.

None of that is to say the desire to hold hate speech and threats to greater account is wrong, I agree with that desire, but that the place we are in shows the limitations of relying on government support for those ideas, as that can be withdrawn as quickly as it is given, but we are also at a point where these global media companies are able to change the course of global politics by what they allow and don't allow to be posted. This is an untenable situation, where the alternatives don't seem all that much more palatable, Chinese government control of social media, for example, is not a better solution.

So I'm not sure where we go from here. I align my hopes with a revitalized and changed set of norms to continue to allow the previously unheard greater voice and restrain those who would use speech to harm but feel that the path to that end is beset by difficulties from the competing interests of capitalist demand for continuous growth and political interest in stirring up unrest.
posted by gusottertrout at 6:57 PM on January 9 [10 favorites]


To be clear, I am not defending Facebook or Twitter. I am arguing that § 230 is not the problem.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 6:58 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


I just love how many on the Left so forcefully argue for restrictions on free speech. Like this would ever work out well for the Left, and liberal causes, in the US. And then argue over points made by actual First Amendment lawyers, reinterpret the First Amendment, Section 230, with all the authority of the regulars at the corner sad sack bar.

Finding yourselves having the same stance as fascists wanting to nationalizing big tech, because they feel they're being so mistreated, should be a clue that maybe this route may be misguided after all. You're playing the wrong game, with the wrong rules.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:06 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Buzzfeed is reporting Amazon Web Services will no longer host Parler. This goes beyond deplatforming individuals and is deplatforming the platform.

If Parler wants to buy their own service and host the site themselves, they are welcome to do it. That's how free speech works.

(Back in the day, it was "build a printing press".)
posted by hippybear at 7:32 PM on January 9 [7 favorites]


A bit of fun - Hilary Clinton has, I believe, made her opinion on this issue clear.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:39 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


I sort of wish she'd just disappear for about a decade, but people seem to like having her pop up all the time. *sigh*
posted by hippybear at 7:43 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Whereas I think that if anyone has earned the right to say "I told you so" at any particular point in time, it is Hilary Clinton saying it now, and I am more than happy to grant her that right.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:46 PM on January 9 [41 favorites]


Of course. My comment was more about the general sweep of the timeline and not about this particular instance.
posted by hippybear at 7:49 PM on January 9


Care to explain how "Section 230, as it has been ruled on by the courts, has become a form of indemnification for online providers" is either a misunderstanding or misrepresentation?

I didn't say it was, or that the misunderstanding/misrepresentation was in your post at all. I suppose s230 could be described as a "form of indemnification", yeah, although there's obviously a lot more going on than that.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 7:52 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


AWS is canning them because they have decided that it's not worth the money to host a site that so readily violates its terms of service.

We came with in a whisper of watching live executions on Wednesday—that Donnie has lost his favorite free account to spread lies is less important overall than noticing how Facebook, Twitter, et al., have made out like bandits off this kind of froth for years, and have only decided to cut ties when hundreds of thousands of COVID deaths and 5 deaths during a failed coup have made them unprofitable.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 7:56 PM on January 9 [9 favorites]


I just love how many on the Left so forcefully argue for restrictions on free speech. Like this would ever work out well for the Left, and liberal causes

The left has never been given the same free speech rights as Republicans. For the last few decades you have been able m get Rush Limbaugh on free broadcast radio anywhere in the country for hours a days. The left hasn’t had that kind of access since the Reagan administration and event then the scales were tipped to the right. Broadcast networks are still largely staffed and run by white men, with shows written by white men and acted by white men.
posted by interogative mood at 7:58 PM on January 9 [7 favorites]


America's "Founding Fathers" were not heroic, accomplished geniuses. They were a bunch of rich, white dilettantes who owned black people as property, and thought that was just fine.

The US Constitution is not some inspired holy text. It is a half-assed document, slapped together by a gang of idle rich douchebags with limited life experience.

They clearly punted in many areas, and no one who is familiar with the people involved and the drafting process would be surprised that "oops!" they needed to tack-on the Bill of Rights a couple of years later.

...and the Bill of Rights is a complete shit-show itself. Overly broad and vague just about everywhere - leading to all kinds of crazy interpretations by the Supreme Court.

The actual text of 1st Amendment is lazy and naive at best, and has led to all kinds of idiotic and silly interpretations by every high court judge with an agenda.

It is the 21st Century. The United States became successful and wealthy by a combination of accidents of history (...avoiding 2 world wars on our home turf) and by murdering and exploiting the hell out of people of color. It was not because of any magical text.

If we don't grow the fuck up and acknowledge that - and understand that governing is hard, and always will be (there is no magic formula or ideology) - then we'll continue on our decline into (violent!) irrelevance.
posted by Anoplura at 8:06 PM on January 9 [28 favorites]


I find reading Eric Goldman's blog, with its thorough analysis of section 230 caselaw, to be a useful preventative for believing anything said by Goldman himself, that "you're wrong about section 230" guy repetitively posted upthread, or anyone else in section 230's defense.

Good reasons for nailing shut the courthouse door are very rare. And "because internet" is the worst reason imaginable.
posted by Not A Thing at 8:16 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


Good reasons for nailing shut the courthouse door are very rare. And "because internet" is the worst reason imaginable.

We really need to kill dead the idea of the internet as some world separate from reality. The reality is that Barlow was wrong, the internet is part of the real world, and the insistence that it wasn't is a major contributor to how we got here.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:26 PM on January 9 [4 favorites]


Now that we've seen Trump incite a violent mob attack on the Capitol, how is this different from Twitter and other platforms shutting down ISIS accounts?

The basic motivation for liberalism (the "liberal" in "liberal democracy") was the 16th-century wars of religion between Catholics and Protestants. Liberal principles, including freedom of speech and state neutrality with respect to religion, provide a way for people to coexist peacefully despite not sharing fundamental values (like religion).

But if in your pluralistic society you have a group organizing violent attacks, you need to be able to shut them down.
posted by russilwvong at 8:27 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Worked on socialism.
posted by Reyturner at 8:29 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Hmm. From the "you're wrong about" Techdirt article:
If you said "Section 230 is a massive gift to big tech!"

Once again, I must inform you that you are very, very wrong. There is nothing in Section 230 that applies solely to big tech.
In other words: the law, in its majestic equality, allows both rich and poor to run vast social media empires in which they aggressively promote the vilest available content without fear of accountability. How is anybody supposed to take this seriously?

I feel like this could have been pulled from the same set of Immunity Mad Libs that the Farm Bureau uses to draft its arguments for how granting tort immunity to CAFO operators isn't really a gift to Big Ag.
posted by Not A Thing at 8:45 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.”

– John Adams
or

"I do not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either. … Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never."

-John Adams, 'The Letters of John and Abigail Adams'.

ironically, Adams had no direct drafting of the Constitution.
Great post. Is the president having his 1st amendment rights violated, no as he has the one largest communication gigs going. But these are government property and if he uses them for any hint of hate, he is toast and going to jail. That's why the big 3 have cut his private comms which are basically public entities who can shut down anyone, any one. I do believe the secret service was watching Nixon during his resignation speech and another with a finger on the "please stand by" button.
What is interesting is that Pences unfollow of trump was a small Raven like Clarion call for Donald to finally have to sit still and realize he attacked every American, though I'm sure that will never sink in.
posted by clavdivs at 8:59 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]




Do large web-based businesses benefit disproportionately from § 230? Yes. That does not change that smaller web-based businesses with comment sections, forums, and other user generated content also have tremendous benefits. I would be happy to break Facebook and its assorted holdings, Twitter, Google, et al. into a thousand different businesses. I would love to see Zuckerberg publicly stripped of wealth that came at the cost of human life. I have no love for these companies. I do not use them. I have never used them. I do use Metafilter, Bushcraft USA, and a dozen other smaller websites that would not survive a repel of § 230. I have a history of advocating for social media users to migrate to supporting and using alternatives. But even those alternatives benefit from the protections of § 230. I am not opposed to a fight but I do not think that a scorched earth policy is a good idea. If you want to pull the trigger on a bomb drop please consider the fallout. There are other, and in my view, better ways to achieve the ends of checking or ending these companies.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 9:11 PM on January 9 [5 favorites]


I do use Metafilter, Bushcraft USA, and a dozen other smaller websites that would not survive a repel of § 230.

Why do people keep saying this with absolutely zero evidence of it being true? You've got the big tech guys buffaloing you with bullshit to protect their billionaire profits. There are hundreds of millions of websites out there that do not have Section 230 protection and they are doing fine.
posted by JackFlash at 9:21 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


There are hundreds of millions of websites out there that do not have Section 230 protection and they are doing fine.

Doesn't 230 apply to all websites that host user submitted content? It doesn't specify companies.
posted by meowzilla at 9:56 PM on January 9 [5 favorites]


As to dealing with hate-speech, that is going to take a long time and a constant drum beat. For the better part of a century the Lost Cause of the South was taught, preached, and presented in media. It has a deep and pernicious quality which will take generations to clear away. The ideas of white supremacy date back to early Jamestown and are even more ingrained. It will take the will to persistently and seemingly without immediate or even near term success grind away at every level of white America to root out ideas and assumption that are seemingly just in the air we breathe as we grow up. And in some cases we will just have to wait for some folks to pass beyond. For example I have a grandmother who believes that slave-owners did treat their slaves horribly, except for Baptist slave owners, because they were Godly Baptists. It ain't so but she isn't going to be changing her view. And then we have kids being raised today by the folks, who if they were not a part of Wednesday's abomination, support it. Some will rebel but the others will adopt the views of their parents. The effort to change minds is, as it has always been, Herculean. And that will be advanced by having access to forums like this one and by people seeking them out and trying to talk with them about these things. And have to put up with the BS that will result.

Short answer as to why people say what we keep saying about § 230, please see Stratton Oakmont, Inc v. Prodigy Services Co. As to the § 230 protections, are you under impression that somehow they only kick in after a certain valuation? The United States is the most litigious country on the planet. Better that then some alternatives, but lawyers are expensive and it would not take much to tip most smaller sites into the abyss. Consider, someone with more money than sense, say a cartoonist with Trumpist ideas, feels that they have been defamed by being called out as being a jerk or a racist by another user. Without § 230 they can include the website hosting the forum in the lawsuit. That may get thrown out later but the website will still have to pay legal costs. Those can mount fast and make the risk of running a site that allows others to post much more of a financial risk. Especially if the site is trying to grow.

I understand that there is a lot of just anger at what the larger companies have permitted, ignored, and profited from. Conflating the § 230 protections with the cause of their profit is just wrong. If you want to make their profits collapse you make it illegal to collect and sell user data. You make targeted advertising models illegal. You hobble their actual profit models. If you want to go with sites that have a publishing model like magazines and newspapers we can go that way as a society. If you want to see a new batch of EULA's spring up just so you can post a product review or participate in a forum that's cool too. But without some form of legal protection the kind of interactive web culture that has come to be will no longer exist.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 10:04 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]




Broadcast networks are still largely staffed and run by white men, with shows written by white men and acted by white men.

Well, that is because for a certain white, male segment of the population, "white" and "male" are considered to be the default settings and any variance from this beyond the white male hero of the show having a black friend and also a (white) girlfriend is shoving an agenda down our throats.

I know another white guy who uses the same bank I do. He has complained to me in the past about the bank's website because the image on the Personal Banking page shows a Black couple at the dining room table, studying a laptop screen. "Sean, you know that Black people use banks too, right?"

He doesn't complain to me any more.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:49 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


As to the § 230 protections, are you under impression that somehow they only kick in after a certain valuation?

No, my impression is that while the protections started with the idea that a service provider shouldn't be held accountable for something a user said without their input, they have been further expanded in ways that we hae never given protections for before. For example, courts have ruled that if a service provider reprints a user's defamatory comment under their own imprimatur, that provider is still protected under Section 230 - which is very much different from how we have handled similar situations with newspapers and other media. This in turn led to the situation we saw with Facebook refusing to do any sort of oversight on political ads because they had Section 230 protection regarding their content.

This is why I get tired of the repeated argument that people "misunderstand" Section 230 when they see it as being a wide ranging indemnification for major online platforms - because if you look at what's happened, it has been turned into such.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:30 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


if the feds owned Twitter, they'd have to allow nearly everything that Twitter bans.

As opposed to having a direct profit motive in promoting Trumpism and only pivoting against when he’s outlived his usefulness and too hot to handle?

(I don’t know if that was actually supposed to be a counterpoint to my comment. I was being glib about the actual complications of nationalizing Twitter but who gets banned wasn’t one of the primary issues I was concerned with regardless.)
posted by atoxyl at 11:33 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


Alexey Navalny: "I think that the ban of Donald Trump on Twitter is an unacceptable act of censorship" (Thread)

11 points on Twitter vs. Trump by the Russian activist Alexey Navalny.
posted by - at 4:21 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


It really boggles my mind that a lot of people are just now talking about this. Twitter, Instagram, et al have been banning people since their inception. When it's sex workers and queer people, I barely saw anyone talking about this, and suddenly people are worried that it's going to far because the literal president of the United States got banned?

Yeah, like... none of this has anything to do with free speech.

Try posting a copy of Disney's Song of the South anywhere. It'll get taken down.

Not because it's disgustingly racist, but because particular speech can be “owned”, Disney dictates that licenses for Song of the South will not be offered, and there's an international regime of enforcement that results in a chain of events ending in the local police wherever you are busting down your door and effectively seizing your printing press. Not for printing the owned speech, necessarily, but for merely printing directions on how to find the owned speech: for publishing hyperlinks to intellectual property which could potentially be accessed by someone not in possession of an intellectual property license, or even someone actually in possession of a license but who is consuming the IP in a manner not compliant with the wishes of the powers that be.

Which “free speech absolutists” take no notice of whatsoever, because they're never actually talking about free speech.

Likewise, as has been repeatedly pointed out above, disrupting communications coordinating the overthrow of a government has nothing to do with free speech. Imagine that Twitter guaranteed Trump that every Tweet he types into his phone with be published on their web site in perpetuity... starting after the 21st. He would still throw tantrums and incite violence in response, because getting his message and thoughts out aren't what he cares about: coordinating the activities of his followers in the course of overthrowing the government is what he cares about.

A government could use a false pretense of an insurrection to suppress free speech, but that's not what's happening here: there's an actual autogolpe attempt to overthrow a government going on.

You could also shout at the clouds for disrupting your optical telegraph and thereby supposedly infringing on your free speech...
posted by XMLicious at 5:10 AM on January 10 [6 favorites]


It's bad that we're all siloed into our own media. 75 million people voted for Trump in the USA; are any of them commenting in this thread? If so, they might not say so; the further your views get from "I am very sad that Elizabeth Warren is not the President" to the left or the right, the more you get yelled at and/or your comment gets deleted.

I don't think there are 75 million fascists in the country; I also don't think that it's good that I can't see what the President is saying on Twitter anymore. Trump is an artifact of a broken political system that even now refuses to remove him. We need to reform the system or create new institutions and that won't happen if we're all in our media silos. We have to find spaces to talk to each other.
posted by Kwine at 5:11 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


While I can't fully agree with the terms used by Alexey Navalny - calling this "censorship", for instance - he is making a good point. And responses to him are altogether missing it.

8. Of course, Twitter is a private company, but we have seen many examples in Russian and China of such private companies becoming the state's best friends and the enablers when it comes to censorship.
Alexey Navalny
@navalny
·
18h
9. If you replace "Trump" with "Navalny" in today's discussion, you will get an 80% accurate Kremlin's answer as to why my name can't be mentioned on Russian TV and I shouldn't be allowed to participate in any elections.


I've seen this happen in Singapore as well. It has an absolutely chilling effect on the speech of the opposition, as well as on the existence of an opposition. Governments and the media should never ever be working so closely with each other that the media will selectively mute only those people who challenge the existing political status quo.

Let me repeat: Governments and the media should never ever be working so closely with each other that the media will selectively mute only those people who challenge the existing political status quo.

You see, Donald Trump didn't get banned for as long as he was the existing political status quo. In fact Twitter made special rules and provisions to keep his account open in spite of acknowledging he broke the rules, and explicitly stated they are only leaving him be because he was the political status quo.

THAT is the issue here (and that's why Navalny may indeed be correct to call this an act of censorship. Twitter and Facebook acted as arms of the administration that is in power. They made their ban decisions based on the fact that Trump was - in reality though not technically - no longer in power, not based on any ToS violation or any incitement of riot or whatever other fig leaf they are claiming now. FOR YEARS they've said they won't ban a sitting president.

The fact that they didn't even follow this until he was *technically* not the president, but rather they acted while he was still the sitting president but in his lame duck period?? That's even more terrifying! This was Twitter and Facebook acting as arms of an incoming government to ensure that their predecessor was thoroughly stripped of power in an extra-legal (as in outside legality) way.

(Spare me the analysis of how twitter is not that big a deal at all. The only reason we are celebrating is because we know how much of Trump's power came from these channels.)

This is fucking terrifying. Either Twitter should enforce its ToS all the time for everyone, or it should enforce it for nobody - it cannot simply throw out the Capitol Rioters from its platform but still be bragging about how Twitter enabled Arab Spring. Either it should have a rule about never ejecting a sitting president or it should have no special policy about them - it should not claim to not boot out sitting presidents but nevertheless do it during that president's lame duck period, after it has become clear he has totally lost real world support.

It scares the shit out of me the same way it scares the shit out of me to hear reports that Nancy Pelosi is using backdoor channels to make sure the nuclear codes are kept out of the hands of a sitting president. To be super duper clear, I'm not blaming Nancy Pelosi for it! I'm not even blaming Twitter for any of it. This situation is just broken beyond belief and this is among the ways the brokenness is being laid bare.

We have been reduced to extra-legal ways and means to rein in our president because GoP is unwilling to admit that the naked emperor is also a dangerous madman. Everyone knows it and nobody will say it, so it falls to Twitter and Facebook to strip him off power. All because Congress and the cabinet won't.

We should all be scared of setting the precedent of allowing all these other extra-legal actors to strip a sitting president of real world power. Seriously.
posted by MiraK at 5:11 AM on January 10 [16 favorites]


Honestly the fact that Twitter still brags about enabling Arab Spring while also helping despotic governments in quelling rebellions (eg China) is another point that shows Twitter acting essentially as an arm of the US government enacting US foreign policy agenda via social media.

I've been groping for the words and reasoning to describe why this act has sat so very wrong with me. I think I finally found the exact thing. These social media companies are an arm of US hegemony in the world, in very real terms. They are just checked and outside the control of even a sitting president nevertheless. It scares me, folks.
posted by MiraK at 5:18 AM on January 10 [8 favorites]


They are *unchecked - sorry, typo there, not "just checked".
posted by MiraK at 5:30 AM on January 10


11 points on Twitter vs. Trump by the Russian activist Alexey Navalny.

I think most of that is wrong. Twitter and FB ban people all day, every day. Covid deniers, QAnoners, they all get nuked. They don’t need a public committee to do it. If anything, they need less friction in their process, so they can more quickly take action against the endless death threats and harassment. We need more bans, not fewer.

If he’s advocating for a committee that’s only applicable to potential bans of prominent people, how do you define that? Blue checks only? Is that fair?

It is clear that Trump got banned for very specific reasons, and Twitter was very open about those reasons.
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:06 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


It is clear that Trump got banned for very specific reasons, and Twitter was very open about those reasons.

Twitter still brags about being the platform that enabled the organization of Arab Spring, which was a violent riot to overthrow a government.
posted by MiraK at 6:13 AM on January 10


Users of major mobile carriers can no longer access a service that detailed the personal information of police officers, a possible sign that the city is turning to tactics used in mainland China. (NYT, Jan 9 2021)

But that's ok, because carriers are private companies.
posted by - at 6:37 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


That’s an incredibly facile description of the Arab Spring. And you will note that Twitter did not prevent anyone from talking about and planning the rally that turned into the insurrection. It is only now, after the real motivation and threat and Trump’s role in it is known, that they’re taking action. Too late, in my opinion.

But more to the point: what are you advocating? Nobody gets banned? No politicians get banned?
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:41 AM on January 10 [7 favorites]


But more to the point: what are you advocating? Nobody gets banned? No politicians get banned?

I'm not sure what the solution is. All I know is that private corporations should not have these unchecked powers, because they are motivated by profit and have no checks or balances on them. I'd say we need laws granting the US government formal oversight over social media deplatforming rules/ToS (since they continue to insist they are only platforms and not media companies), but that's just more US hegemony given that these platforms are global and given the current state of the US government I can't in good conscience advocate for government having more power. I truly and genuinely do not know.

Except I do know this is scary as shit.

We need to pay attention to what's actually going on here. Twitter didn't ban Trump for as long as he was in power, because Twitter's relevance (and hence profitability) (and hence power) is contingent upon government heads of state using Twitter as an official communication channel. Let's start there. Twitter does not enforce its own ToS impartially in order to consolidate TWITTER'S power. I think that might be the crux of the issue. Twitter and others might need to be held accountable for enforcing their own ToS consistently.
posted by MiraK at 6:50 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


I don't think Twitter has ever considered itself as "an official government communication channel", and it's peculiar that you characterize it as being such, and that you think its business model is somehow dependent on that.
posted by hippybear at 6:53 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


I mean, Trump was being Trump on twitter long before he ever ran for office. Look at his Birther bullshit or his Central Park Five rantings. He wasn't a government official then, he was just being who has been since forever. The fact that he was on twitter isn't because twitter is an "official government communication channel", it's because he got a twitter account and THEN happened to become POTUS.
posted by hippybear at 6:55 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


My whole contention is that these entities are acting a certain way while not acknowledging it in so many words.

Pelosi using back channels to keep nukes out of Trump's hands is not being acknowledged as a soft coup even though it is.

Twitter consolidating power and profits by building itself as an official "cut out the middleman" type of communication channel (conveniently exempt from regular media laws) -- not just for government officials but all kinds of powerful people is clearly one of its main agendas but of course they don't acknowledge it in so many words.

We've known for years that they only selectively impose their ToS. Now it's in plain view of, and directly affecting, the US public which has the largest voice in the global arena. What are we going to do about it?
posted by MiraK at 6:56 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Twitter and others might need to be held accountable for enforcing their own ToS consistently.

On that you and I agree. But as someone who prepares ToS and advises clients about enforcing them, I can tell you that even as a ToS spells out what is a violation, fitting specific actions by users into those categories is difficult. It’s also subjective. If your terms prohibit “offensive” speech or speech that incites violence, it is up to you to decide what meets those definitions. And frankly I don’t want the government setting those definitions.
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:59 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]


Twitter thread with many links to studies derived from efforts to deplatform groups like ISIS.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:04 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


As a moderated site member, I burn slowly when I'm told (by a moderator) that my searingly on-point comments are not appropriate. I fume when they are deleted. But, I don't consider the site's editorial prerogatives to be a curb on my First Amendment rights. Facebook is no different than MetaFilter, except that we actively try for civility.

In any case, neither Facebook nor Twitter is obliged to be consistent in their moderation. They are not enforcing a law; they are expressing policy. Policy, by definition, can be flexible. If I understand the chain of events correctly, the White House's official website was not banned when the real Trump was banned. I read that as an attempt to avoid censoring political statements (however unhinged anything coming from the president at that time may have been).

As a final and more than a little disturbing thought, I don't see Facebook and Twitter's actions beneficial in curbing the flavor of crowd-sourced sedition being worked up by the wingnuts supporting Trump. The internet provides other avenues for strategizing and recruitment, and the mobile phone enables on the spot coordination of tactics. It would seem that the idea of free or protected speech has evolved: say what you will, but know that someone is taking notes.
posted by mule98J at 7:12 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


@POTUS still exists as an account, although Twitter has removed posts by Trump when he used the account to try to get around his personal ban from the service.

It's important, perhaps, to note here that Twitter has specifically banned an individual from using the platform, and has been pursuing that ban even across multiple accounts. They haven't banned a movement or a group of people, just one person in this instance.
posted by hippybear at 7:18 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


The reason that Facebook and Twitter continue to publish this shit is because it is profitable and because they have Section 230 immunity to any consequences.

Take away their immunity, make them like any other media publisher, and they will quickly figure out a way to take down the lies or they will get sued -- just like any other publisher.
posted by JackFlash at 7:43 AM on January 10


Note that these companies continue to operate in Germany. Meaning, they have the ability to identify and filter out Nazi propaganda. They simply choose not to.
posted by mhoye at 7:50 AM on January 10 [9 favorites]


Better that then some alternatives, but lawyers are expensive and it would not take much to tip most smaller sites into the abyss. Consider, someone with more money than sense, say a cartoonist with Trumpist ideas, feels that they have been defamed by being called out as being a jerk or a racist by another user. Without § 230 they can include the website hosting the forum in the lawsuit. That may get thrown out later but the website will still have to pay legal costs. Those can mount fast and make the risk of running a site that allows others to post much more of a financial risk. Especially if the site is trying to grow.

Why do people keep making up fantasy stuff like this? It sounds like Guiliani convinced there are 200,000 stolen votes.

We have real data with real facts. A small media company can buy libel and defamation insurance and it is dirt cheap. You can get $2 million of coverage for about $500 a year.

Now think about those numbers -- $2 million coverage for $500 a year. Insurance companies are not stupid. They have very smart actuaries and computers that calculate their risk from the history of every lawsuit ever filed.

What that insurance price is telling you -- divide $2 million by $500 -- is that they calculate that they will collect at least 4000 years of premiums from you before they ever have to pay a claim. Or more realistically, if they insure 4000 media companies, maybe one of them will get sued each year -- and that one company will have their legal costs covered by the insurance.

Another way to look at it is that $500 a year is about what you as a home owner pay for $2 million of umbrella liability coverage in case someone trips over a crack in your sidewalk. Do homeowners say, oh my god, there's no way anyone could ever own a home unless the government gave you unlimited liability immunity? No, that's crazy talk. And it's just as crazy when you apply it to media companies.

The insurance is cheap. And the reason it is cheap is because it almost never happens. That is exactly what insurance companies are telling you when they sell you liability coverage at a low cost.

But that is not true for Facebook and Twitter. They are uninsurable because they publish defamatory stuff and make no effort to moderate it because it would cut into their profits. So they have buffaloed everyone into thinking that everyone is going to get sued if there is not Section 230. No, that is just not true. It is Facebook and Twitter that are going to get sued, not everyone else.
posted by JackFlash at 8:06 AM on January 10 [6 favorites]


"The best lack all conviction and the worst
Are filled with passionate intensity"
Free speech does not equal justice.
posted by nicenoice at 8:11 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Yesterday I was on a hike with friends, talking about my misgivings about a member of our small community. They were fairly serious misgivings: Should this person be leading young people? For a dreadful second I thought this person was within earshot.

That was a reasonable fear. Never, ever would I type these misgivings out and post them publicly, at least not without expecting serious consequences. And I relied on my friends to understand that my misgivings were provisional, subject to revision, and not to be taken as actual accusations.

I think that's a good arrangement. Public claims have grave consequences; don't make them unless you really know what you are talking about.

Your craving of Instant Justice is a danger. Any form of moderation that cools that craving, but also allows considered thinking and research its due, is beneficial to all of us.
posted by argybarg at 8:16 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


> The insurance is cheap. And the reason it is cheap is because it almost never happens. That is exactly what insurance companies are telling you when they sell you liability coverage at a low cost.

This is correct, however, it follows logically that lifting of legal protections for carriers would increase the number of claims, thereby increasing the cost of the insurance. I'm not going to weep for the big platforms, but it's not at all clear to me that there won't be detrimental effects on smaller sites if they have defend against these claims.

However, a site that can't root out Nazis shouldn't exist, so fiat justitia ruat caelum.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:17 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


How's Gawker doing these days?
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:26 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


ignorantsavage: Short answer as to why people say what we keep saying about § 230, please see Stratton Oakmont, Inc v. Prodigy Services Co.

If that name gives you deja vu, Stratton Oakmont was Jordan Belfort’s penny stock scam fest portrayed in Wolf of Wall Street.
posted by dr_dank at 8:29 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


it follows logically that lifting of legal protections for carriers would increase the number of claims, thereby increasing the cost of the insurance.

Big monopolistic social media platforms would likely have exponentially higher insurance costs than smaller ones, especially if small platforms have greater ability to moderate (like MeFi does). Everything about this seems fair, idk.

The discussion of insurance here is making me see this through a different lens, too: that just like oil companies work very hard to externalize environmental costs and responsibilities, social media companies are working very hard to externalize the costs and responsibilities of political and cultural damage wreaked by their business model. Forcing these companies to take responsibility for these costs + requiring them to carry insurance to cover them is a great way to immediately, within the confines and limitations of our capitalist system, shift the responsibility back where it belongs.
posted by MiraK at 8:30 AM on January 10 [6 favorites]


This is correct, however, it follows logically that lifting of legal protections for carriers would increase the number of claims, thereby increasing the cost of the insurance.

No, that that doesn't logically follow. If car companies sell more cars, does that make car insurance more expensive? Yes, there are more claims simply because there are more cars, but there are just as many car owners buying insurance. There is no corresponding increase in the cost of insurance.

We have lots of data showing that libel and defamation claims are very rare. It doesn't matter if it is newspapers or magazines or ezines or bloggers. There is literally no evidence that there will suddenly be an explosion of libel cases for companies like MetaFilter if Section 230 immunity is eliminated. There's nothing particularly special about this one segment of the internet. It's a myth created by the big tech giants who don't want to moderate their content.
posted by JackFlash at 8:44 AM on January 10


Are the critics of Section 230 typically looking for a full repeal, or some sort of reform?
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 8:46 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Maybe they should only repeal it for the big guys, over $x billion in revenue or something. Like how small businesses are exempted from a bunch of regulations.

(Hey, look, we just broke up Facebook!)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:53 AM on January 10


Section 230 should be repealed entirely. It isn't necessary. We have had 250 years of free press and free speech without it. There is no reason to treat one small segment of media or the internet any differently.

Publishers should be held responsible for what they publish, without hiding behind some false excuse like "Hey, I didn't say it, he said it and I just published it." That goes for MetaFilter as well as Facebook.

It's not that hard. If something posted is flagged as potentially libelous or defamatory, you can just take it down and be done with it. Or if you feel strongly that it isn't libelous or defamatory, then you leave it up and adjudicate it in a court of law. That's the way publishing has always worked.
posted by JackFlash at 9:05 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


THAT is the issue here (and that's why Navalny may indeed be correct to call this an act of censorship. Twitter and Facebook acted as arms of the administration that is in power. They made their ban decisions based on the fact that Trump was - in reality though not technically - no longer in power, not based on any ToS violation or any incitement of riot or whatever other fig leaf they are claiming now. FOR YEARS they've said they won't ban a sitting president.

I think that has it the wrong way around. Let's be honest - Twitter did not make special changes to their rules because they loved Trump. They made special changes to their rules because they were afraid of retaliation: either by the government directly, or by supporters of Trump while the government looked the other way and failed to protect them. The moment that threat was ended, and they felt actually free to publish what they wished, they dropped him.

Let's be honest. Trump has zero respect for the Constitution. He has zero respect for freedom of speech. He was perfectly willing to send federal agents to abduct protesters without a warrant and suggested military occupation of cities who allowed protests against the police and against him.

What were are seeing now is the media actually having freedom of speech. Free from government compulsion, they can now enforce their terms of service. The only reason that isn't blindingly obvious to everyone is that people's conception of the US as a free democracy has not yet caught up to the reality under Trump.
posted by Zalzidrax at 9:18 AM on January 10 [8 favorites]


Pelosi using back channels to keep nukes out of Trump's hands is not being acknowledged as a soft coup even though it is.

Wait—you're not worried about “I'm going to exterminate all life on the Korean peninsula, explicitly because I feel threatened, also my nuclear button is bigger than yours” Trump having nuclear weapons, but Twitter... possibly positioning itself to carry out a, like, a nuclear Tweetocaust, in which people's accounts would be vaporized in an instant and they would have to switch to another service for their microblogging needs by the untold millions, is what's “fucking terrifying” and “scary as shit”? Or perhaps even more mildly, some traumatizing nuance of their terms of service?

I mean there are issues here but... yeah, there are issues here.
posted by XMLicious at 9:19 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


XML icious, I absolutely do not want Trump to have access to the nuke codes! I just find it alarming (even if not as immediately alarming as Trump having access to the codes) that Pelosi is able to use back channels to deny him access to them. It's a dangerous precedent to set, that a sitting president can be denied access to constitutional powers ... under the table, by extra-judicial and extra-legal channels.

Like I said, that we have to resort to unofficial methods of stripping power from a dangerous leader shows how broken the system is. It's not just the dangerous leader we need to be worried about. It's also the hidden, secret channels and actors who are suddenly now capable of circumventing the constitution without any transparency or checks or established procedures, too, that should alarm us.
posted by MiraK at 9:24 AM on January 10


It's a dangerous precedent to set, that a sitting president can be denied access to constitutional powers

The ability to launch nuclear weapons is not a constitutional power of the President of the United States. In fact it's the opposite—the constitutional power for declaration of war, which nuclear annihilation would certainly constitute, lies with congress.

The fact that the president can just nuke places under “normal”, post-Gulf-of-Tonkin-Resolution circumstances is what's constitutionally broken about the system.
posted by XMLicious at 9:38 AM on January 10 [10 favorites]




Excellent! If the system worked as per the law and Pelosi wasn't successful in finding a backchannel, I am truly heartened by the strengths of our legal & political framework (as much as I can be while also being terrified Trump will launch the fuckin nukes).
posted by MiraK at 9:42 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Er, “Pelosi finding a backchannel”? Again, constitutionally, congress is supposed to control things like nuking other countries and other forms of war.

Concern about constitutionality sure evaporated quickly. I guess things not being constitutional, even involving nuclear weapons, isn't that terrifying after all. Keep fighting the horrifying dark forces that want to poison the purity and essence of our natural microblogging, though.
posted by XMLicious at 9:50 AM on January 10


After this action, can Twitter/Facebook be sued if they don't ban influential folks promoting/defending other protests that turn violent? Does this ban in anyways increase their liability?
posted by asra at 9:52 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


The Constitution is not a suicide pact.

It looks like the Speaker has been our de-facto military commander in chief for the last 48 hours.

And that's okay.

We need to talk seriously about not treating the Constitution as holy writ any more. About it having elements that were necessary in the days of travel by horseback and row boat, which are actively dangerous now.

One of the things we have in common with Brazil is a rigid constitutional calendar to enable synchronized government operations over a wide ranging area with slow travel. Another thing we have in common is telecommunications and travel systems that make that calendar un-necessary. A third thing we have in common: a fucking fascist head of state. We need a parliamentary system with snap election mechanisms, and shadow cabinets, and we need this NOW.

In the mean time, Pelosi's the CinC. And that's okay.
posted by ocschwar at 9:56 AM on January 10 [7 favorites]


Cmd-F "porn"

No results.

I've said this in other threads about online platforms limiting what and who they allow on their service, specifically Alex Jones. Pornography is, at least in the United States, Constitutionally protected free speech. Yet, YouTube and Facebook ban pornography from their platforms, though Twitter allows it in a highly-restricted manner. Few people see this as a problem, myself included, though I am 100% in favor of pornography.

If it is within the right of these services to block or restrict pornography—and it is—why is not in their right to block people promoting violent uprisings against our government, or promoting harmful conspiracy theories? Why is porn on one side of the line, and violence on the other? We have seen that letting Donald Trump and other conspiracy-mongers use these platforms causes real harm to real people. Five people died from what happened Wednesday. This shit is clearly far more harmful than pornography.
posted by SansPoint at 10:00 AM on January 10 [15 favorites]


After this action, can Twitter/Facebook be sued if they don't ban influential folks promoting/defending other protests that turn violent? Does this ban in anyways increase their liability?


What Section 230 effectively does is put discussion of their moderation policies in the court of public opinion, where (IMHO) it belongs, and more importantly, it allows Twitter to evolve their moderation policies without having their decisions instantly reviewed in court. This is a good thing. Remember who stacked the courts recently.
posted by ocschwar at 10:09 AM on January 10


Publishers should be held responsible for what they publish, without hiding behind some false excuse like "Hey, I didn't say it, he said it and I just published it." That goes for MetaFilter as well as Facebook.

It's not that hard. If something posted is flagged as potentially libelous or defamatory, you can just take it down and be done with it. Or if you feel strongly that it isn't libelous or defamatory, then you leave it up and adjudicate it in a court of law. That's the way publishing has always worked.


I’m sorry but this is insane. There are probably hundreds of millions of posts made on Twitter every day. You expect Twitter to review every single one, decide whether or not they might be liable, and act accordingly? Why expose themselves to that? They’d simply delete anything and everything that got flagged. And then people would kill them for that.
posted by schoolgirl report at 10:17 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


In the mean time

Definitely the time in which we are living.
posted by hippybear at 10:17 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


On section 230, I think a full repeal would be preferable to the current state of affairs. To the extent that section 230 actually addresses a real policy problem (i.e. that there are unreasonable risks of people being held liable for others' speech or actions, in tort or otherwise), that should be addressed in a medium-agnostic fashion.

For example, if a bookstore clerk would be liable for recommending a "how to plot a coup" book to a known insurrectionist, online platforms that do the same thing except with some computers involved should be held to the same standard. (I have my doubts about whether either one should be liable in that situation, but that's a whole nother thing.) Likewise, if there's really a problem with the country being overrun with defamation suits (a claim notably lacking in evidence), the legislation should address that problem, not just carve out a special giveaway for online operations.

This is parallel to another policy issue: the ability of online retailers to use artfully-drafted terms of service and forced-arbitration clauses to effectively exempt themselves from the routine liabilities that would apply to any brick-and-mortar retailer, giving online shops a completely illegitimate competitive advantage. If my local grocer can't post a "browsewrap" waiver of liability at the door, then their online competitors shouldn't be able to do that either. In that case, the problem arises from out-of-date legal frameworks with a dash of judicial activism; in the case of section 230, it comes from written-to-order legislation. But either way, the distinction between cyberspace and meatspace, if it ever made any sense at all, is completely useless in today's world.
posted by Not A Thing at 10:21 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


You expect Twitter to review every single one, decide whether or not they might be liable, and act accordingly?

Of course not. But they can review the posts that are flagged. That's what they do on MetaFilter. Just because you can't review everything isn't an excuse to review nothing. If a lawyer sends you a take down notice for defamation, maybe Twitter could find someone to take a look, you think? Twitter brought in $4 billion last year. They can afford to spend money on moderation, even if it breaks Dorsey's $13 billion heart.
posted by JackFlash at 10:24 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]



Of course not. But they can review the posts that are flagged.


No. They can't. We've already had campaigns of mass flagging to swamp their systems.
"Flood the zone with shit" included flagging stuff to silence voices.
posted by ocschwar at 10:26 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Of course not. But they can review the posts that are flagged. That's what they do on MetaFilter.

But if that was the known policy, people would flag absolutely everything. You’re basically telling these services to review every post and decide whether they want to risk litigation. If I’m their lawyer, I tell them it’s time to shut it down.
posted by schoolgirl report at 10:28 AM on January 10


> Despite Trump actually being the government...

I have to take issue with this statement in the OP. Trump is not the government. Belief that Trump is the government is what underpins some people's motivations in the white riot going on around us right now.

Trump is an elected government official. He, like every predecessor, is dispensible and he will be replaced. The US military take oaths to protect the nation. The Secret Service take oaths to protect the offices of government. Absolutely nobody is sworn to specifically protect Donald fucking Trump.

This is probably simply a matter of how OP phrased their post, I doubt we are really in disagreement. But regardless, what stands there now should not go unchallenged.
posted by at by at 10:35 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I'd be more willing to believe that twitter would respond to a repeal of section 230 by ceasing all moderation (absolving themselves of liability), than to review every flagged post. That seems like a worse situation, not a better one.
posted by No One Ever Does at 10:39 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


But if that was the known policy, people would flag absolutely everything.

It's laughable the excuses people make for billionaire capitalists.

They could institute a system to expel abusive flaggers. They could institute a system of only trusted flaggers. They could prioritize only legal take down notices filed in court. But they don't have to do nothing.

They are making $4 billion a year. You might be amazed what $200,000 a year coders can come up with with sufficient motivation, things you or I haven't even thought of. $4 billion a year in motivation might do it. Right now, they aren't even trying, because their legal immunity means they don't have to even try.
posted by JackFlash at 10:40 AM on January 10 [7 favorites]


I'm pretty sure a repeal of section 230 would result ultimately in nearly all the big social media sites being shut down and people having to go back to self-hosting their content like they did in the early days of the interwebs. The legal liability for taking responsibility for what every random schmo posts on your site is too immense.

The reason newspapers work is because they have editorial gatekeepers. Back in the old day, if you couldn't get a paper to publish your screed, you'd buy your own printing press and publish it yourself. The internet also allows for that. It just has all these other "put it here" media devices, which are currently protected by section 230.
posted by hippybear at 10:42 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


The legal liability for taking responsibility for what every random schmo posts on your site is too immense.

And what is so hard about taking down the random schmo's posting and banning them from the site? It doesn't have to be instantly. It can take a hour or a day or a week or even after you have received a legal notice asking to take down.

What they shouldn't be allowed to do is leave up false and defamatory postings and then say "Fuck you, I've got immunity."
posted by JackFlash at 10:50 AM on January 10


I think ad-driven/network-effect-driven social media has been a gigantic mistake and I would support any way to permanently destroy them, but repealing Section 230 as it is would also kill many small sites (like Metafilter, for example) because there is a massive asymmetry in effort between posting things that would get a site in trouble in a post-230 world vs cleaning up those same things, even if you give sites an hour or a day or even a week to clean that content up.

Bullets cost a lot less than treating traumatic gunshot wounds.
posted by Ouverture at 10:58 AM on January 10 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure a repeal of section 230 would result ultimately in nearly all the big social media sites being shut down and people having to go back to self-hosting their content like they did in the early days of the interwebs.

So you're saying there's no downside.

But seriously, if that's true (and I have serious doubts, otherwise FedEx would be liable for everyone who xeroxed a defamatory flyer there), it means that the only way these operations are viable is because the government actively props them up by shielding them from liability for their actions. If that were really the case, surely all sincere advocates of the free market would agree that these companies should fail.
posted by Not A Thing at 10:58 AM on January 10 [9 favorites]


They could institute a system to expel abusive flaggers. They could institute a system of only trusted flaggers. They could prioritize only legal take down notices filed in court. But they don't have to do nothing.

You’re trying to apply a MetaFilter model to Twitter, and it just doesn’t scale. And you have a very casual attitude toward litigation. Again, every single one of these sites would 100% shut themselves down if the other option was to risk legal liability for what every rando on their site has to say.
posted by schoolgirl report at 11:04 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


I think it's notable that the comments that has a view that's drilled directly to the relationship of corporate interests and the perceived values of the government of the day (or about to be), regardless of the good this particular twitter ban has brought, is coming from those in countries where the polite fiction that there exists a wall between corporate interests and government direction doesn't exist (ie Singapore, Russia, and for me, Malaysia).

Forgive us for being extremely sensitized to this dynamic, but for me, this is why in recent years I've been very clear that I'm not in the mood to discuss tactics (or the 'tone argument') but the values and strategies of stakeholders who can employ such tactics. In any case, we're just people who are extremely cynical at how in bed corporate interests can be.

I think the USA still isn't quite at that stage yet, but I think it's worth thinking through how much your country is already there though. In our case, a lot of that collusion really is a consequence that so much of our private industry is directly public-funded. Maybe USA doesn't have such a dependent private sector, but consider the value having US politicians on Twitter or more materially, the defence contracts Amazon gets.

Thru this lens, Twitter was merely acting in anticipation of the incoming govt, not through any stated principles. Emphasizing that they're horrified by the violence still meant they're only upset by the tactics, but not the values these terrorists espoused.
posted by cendawanita at 11:10 AM on January 10 [10 favorites]


I suppose then, for this line of argument, it's really a matter of addressing the fact that american corporate interests are indistinguishable from its political interests. But perhaps that's a larger argument. Certainly even from my point of view where private sector being able to maintain its independence from government intervention is a net good, the fact that these tech companies have resources and reach greater than many governments and international bodies is a major concern. That's no counterbalance.

That said, it's high time these tech companies are considered as media or public forums instead of (just) tech companies. This makes Section 230 moot, and hey, there are literally well-established code of conduct for media.
posted by cendawanita at 11:17 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


I have serious doubts, otherwise FedEx would be liable for everyone who xeroxed a defamatory flyer there

No, because FedEx wouldn't be doing the distribution of those xeroxed flyers. That would be something the person creating the physical documents would have to arrange on their own. This is similar to back when people with printing presses would put out broadsheets and some would be popular to pick up and others would be ignored.

If FedEx were a newspaper and were publishing everything created in their Office centers, they'd have to take ownership of that content. But they aren't a newspaper, and they aren't publishing anything, they're merely a printing press that is available to the public. That's why newspapers work -- they have editorial control.

Social media websites can also be seen as a printing press that is available to the public, but the twist is that they also are the method of dissemination of the content of their printing press. It isn't contingent on the creator to generate interest -- the platform itself promotes and creates interest. That's vastly different from the days of "get your own printing press".

I'm not sure our culture even knows how to think about these developments. It's too new and different. And it has consequences, sadly.
posted by hippybear at 11:21 AM on January 10


Thru this lens, Twitter was merely acting in anticipation of the incoming govt, not through any stated principles.

I wish I could fave this comment more than once. It dovetails with how I’ve been thinking about it which is basically - oh, you found your conscience under the big stacks of money you printed off the guy? And there just happens to be a new guy coming in who wants to make a clean break of the thing?
posted by atoxyl at 11:30 AM on January 10 [4 favorites]


Social media websites can also be seen as a printing press that is available to the public, but the twist is that they also are the method of dissemination of the content of their printing press. It isn't contingent on the creator to generate interest -- the platform itself promotes and creates interest. That's vastly different from the days of "get your own printing press".

If that's the distinction, then social media companies would simply have to disable the algorithms they use to boost engagement/sort user timelines and they would be in the clear. I don't think that's the intended result any of us want (since it actually doesn't solve the issues of disinformation/fascism propagation we want them to solve).

Interestingly enough, I think a lot of users would claim to be in favor of that (even though the companies have all the evidence they need to show how users actually end up preferring algorithmic timelines vs chronological timelines).
posted by Ouverture at 11:34 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I don't actually know anything about Section 230 aside from that it is the subject of much internet debate. But I can say with certainty that, of those defending it because repealing it would kill smaller sites like metafilter and those defending it because then all sites would be required to do the sort of moderation that metafilter does which can't possibly scale up to Facebook and Twitter sized social media sites and thus repeal would kill social media, at least one argument must be incorrect.

(Likewise of the arguments in favor of repealing it because that would requires larger social media sites to do better moderation versus those in favor of repeal because that would necessarily break up the larger sites and they view this instead as a positive outcome, of course. But my vague impression is that the folks promoting each of those two pro-repeal arguments clearly see each other as having a different perspective, while the folks promoting the pro-Section 230 arguments, although no given individual is promoting both of the logically exclusive arguments, aren't commenting on that distinction within the pro-Section 230 side. That is, these folks seem to view themselves as having more in common with other pro-Section 230 viewpoints, whereas the pro-repeal folks seen to emphasize their commonality in understanding what the consequences would be with those on the pro-Section 230 side as opposed to those who have the opposite prediction of what the outcome of a repeal of Section 230 would be?)
posted by eviemath at 12:10 PM on January 10


I don't think that's the intended result any of us want (since it actually doesn't solve the issues of disinformation/fascism propagation we want them to solve).

I think it’s an open question how much of the online crazification factor comes from explicit versus implicit filter-bubbling. I’d be fine with trying out less of the former. It seems like a separate question from what should be allowed. Even if you’re beyond an absolutist conception of free speech it doesn’t really change the basic epistemic argument for protecting speech by default, with restrictions limited to exceptional cases. And the legitimate bases available for restrictions are pretty much “the whims of unaccountable private actors” or “the consent of the governed, enforced by the government.”
posted by atoxyl at 12:14 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


I wonder if repealing 230 would just have the consequence of Facebook/Twitter picking and choosing users to allow to post or at the least limiting the default visibility of posts. That would let the platforms moderate more comprehensively. This would mean that Posters who can be better monitized would be preferred. Most of us would be in a read-only mode.
posted by asra at 12:53 PM on January 10


Interestingly enough, I think a lot of users would claim to be in favor of that (even though the companies have all the evidence they need to show how users actually end up preferring algorithmic timelines vs chronological timelines).

I've tweaked all my twitter settings so it is merely a reverse timeline of tweets and retweets from people I follow. No "likes", no stuff from anyone i'm not following. It's exactly what I want. I don't know why more people don't do this.
posted by hippybear at 1:05 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I've tweaked all my twitter settings so it is merely a reverse timeline of tweets and retweets from people I follow.

I did the same. Except I didn't follow anybody.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 1:55 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I think it's important to keep in mind the history before section 230 (paragraph from the wikipedia article on it, here.

In the early 1990s, the Internet became more widely adopted and created means for users to engage in forums and other user-generated content. While this helped to expand the use of the Internet, it also resulted in a number of legal cases putting service providers at fault for the content generated by its users. This concern was raised by legal challenges against CompuServe and Prodigy, early service providers at this time. CompuServe stated they would not attempt to regulate what users posted on their services, while Prodigy had employed a team of moderators to validate content. Both faced legal challenges related to content posted by their users. In Cubby, Inc. v. CompuServe Inc., CompuServe was found not be at fault as, by its stance as allowing all content to go unmoderated, it was a distributor and thus not liable for libelous content posted by users. However, Stratton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy Services Co. found that as Prodigy had taken an editorial role with regard to customer content, it was a publisher and legally responsible for libel committed by customers.

Without 230, you either need to go all in on moderation, or not in at all. Sure, Facebook and Twitter might die due to being unable to moderate all posts and being unwilling to cease moderation, but other sites that did no moderation would rise. We'd see doxxing, targeted harassment, and slurs prevalent on these platforms, since they'd be liable if they did any moderation, including keyword banning.

Keep in mind that the case of Stratton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy Services Co. was about defamation, and in that case, the claims even turned out to be true!
posted by No One Ever Does at 2:10 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


Seen (ironically) on social media: “Imagine thinking people have a right to Twitter but not to health care.”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:02 PM on January 10 [8 favorites]


I don't think there's a situation where the big tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter are going to say "wow 230 has been repealed, I guess we'll just close down". These companies have immense resources and lobbying power. Many have diversified beyond social media and can survive a small hit or change there. Their users love them and will fight for them.

It's more realistic to think that these companies will pass something like CA Prop 22, which all the gig-economy companies supported in response to a California law making all their workers into full employees, that creates special exemptions so they would not be drastically affected. They'll have support in the legislature, as people like Trump find it a benefit to talk directly to their constituents. Normal people in the US will see it as government overreach that prevents them from sending baby pictures to their grandparents. The big companies will figure out how to leverage their huge bank accounts and army of lawyers to strengthen their moat.
posted by meowzilla at 3:03 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


I would never have expected to say anything good about the frigging Digital Millennium Copyright Act, but if one has to choose some form of lobbyist-drafted 1990s tech legislation, the DMCA's safe-harbor model seems to have weathered the ensuing decades considerably better than the CDA's blanket immunity. That's particularly striking since the hand-waving and unsubstantiated claims made, above and elsewhere, about tort lawyers are actually true when it comes to copyright lawyers. In contrast to tort law, the generally ridiculous US copyright regime makes it possible for a sufficiently unethical lawyer to make a living doing literally nothing but filing bogus copyright claims (at least until the courts catch on). Yet the DMCA's safe harbor provision means that those shakedown artists can seldom touch platform providers.

If it were necessary for some reason to replace section 230 with anything at all, why not simply extend the DMCA's notice-and-takedown model to other legal claims?
posted by Not A Thing at 3:25 PM on January 10 [5 favorites]


Without 230, you either need to go all in on moderation, or not in at all. Sure, Facebook and Twitter might die due to being unable to moderate all posts and being unwilling to cease moderation, but other sites that did no moderation would rise. We'd see doxxing, targeted harassment, and slurs prevalent on these platforms, since they'd be liable if they did any moderation, including keyword banning.

posted by No One Ever Does at 2:10 PM on January 10


Thank you No One Ever Does. I had come back to this today and was getting a head of steam on to point that out.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 4:25 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Social media websites can also be seen as a printing press that is available to the public, but the twist is that they also are the method of dissemination of the content of their printing press. It isn't contingent on the creator to generate interest -- the platform itself promotes and creates interest. That's vastly different from the days of "get your own printing press".

I'm not sure our culture even knows how to think about these developments. It's too new and different. And it has consequences, sadly.


It is just the church/town bulletin board writ large. The analogy breaks down because of reach and automation (you can't grep a dead tree) but that is the case for a lot of technology. Productivity improvements have fundamentally changed things.

(even though the companies have all the evidence they need to show how users actually end up preferring algorithmic timelines vs chronological timelines).

Companies have shown it increases engagement allowing more ad impressions which is a totally different thing from user preference. Which is why they have to force it as the default and take steps to make it difficult to revert to chronological.
posted by Mitheral at 5:18 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


re: "Paradox of tolerance" - there is no paradox of tolerance because tolerance is a peace treaty, not an ethical foundation; it's a shared agreement to cooperate in order to have functioning communities. Anyone who doesn't agree to the terms of the contract, isn't covered by them. No paradox.

re: user-generated content platforms - When the fandom pornographers of yore were tired of being kicked off of platform after platform after platform, we built one of our own. And we set up a bunch of rules that were different from any platform in the past: Zero commercial promotion, BUT the OTW won't honor DMCA takedown requests based on "this is fanfic and that makes it copyright infringement."

11+ years of operation, 3+ million users, 7+ million fanworks... zero lawsuits for copyright infringement. With an all-volunteer staff. Yeah, that's tiny compared to Twitter, FB, etc. I bet it's not tiny compared to Parler and Gab, both touted as "we couldn't stand the rules Over There so we built our own place."

I'm not buying "X platform is too big to moderate content to keep within legal bounds." I can accept "Twitter, Facebook, YouTube as they are, are too big to moderate." Because they've been allowed to ignore the law and their own terms of service, claiming they can't possibly keep track of what's going on. That would slow down BUSINESS, of course. People making money would make it slower, if they had to actually [pay attention to how their platforms are used]/[prevent malware in ads]/[evaluate whether death threats are real].

Since I don't think large corporations or venture-capital-funded startups have some innate, deity-granted right to make money, much less to make it quickly, that all sounds like "but I don' wanna actually manage the business I wanna build; I just wanna push the 'start' button and wait for the money to roll in!"

Adding oversight to current platforms would be disruptive. Would cause a lot of hassles for a lot of people, including many who have been using those platforms entirely legally for benign purposes. That doesn't mean it's not worth making those changes. Whether that's best done through 230 removal or some other law, I don't know.

I do know that most people are not unmitigated raving screaming assholes, and communications technology should be focused around their needs and interests rather than those of (1) shareholders and (2) the unmitigated raving screaming assholes.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:51 PM on January 10 [15 favorites]


I've said this before on the site, and it's been stated in other threads recently, but I think it deserves repeating here: the panopticon is already built.

Twitter can operate in Germany, Facebook knows when you're sleeping, Amazon knows how many condoms and birth control pills you use.

An even more crucial example I almost never see mentioned in these conversations is China. Heavy moderation is mandated by law (their version of Section 230 is "websites ARE liable for anything that goes against what we don't like, also here's a daily and very detailed and confidential list of what we don't like, don't fuck up, every cop everywhere has full access to our database of undesirables and can search it", that's not ver batim but that's pretty much what the law says) they monitor everything, take down anything controversial almost instantly, they monitor private chats (WeChat has zero end-to-end encryption, just server-to-user, and retains user logs for 6 months and bots autoflag controversial things for human moderation the instant you send them, which is mandated by law, and which is why WhatsApp/Telegram/most other non-Chinese chat programs are illegal there), and they employ algorithms and hundreds of thousands to millions of human moderators, most of which are paid for by internet companies. They use the same technology we do, and their budgets are lower.

People who say it isn't possible for companies to vet user-generated content at scale need to go do some homework. It is more than possible, it is happening right now in the real world.

The panopticon is built. It's done. It's here. To the extent you can opt out, it's through inconvenient loopholes like not using a smartphone at all.

I don't know what to do about Section 230, but I do know it's an integral part of asking - now that we have the panopticon, what are we going to do with it? A lot more is possible than US Big Tech likes to admit. Should we do what China does with it? Fuck no. Maybe we should take it apart? Maybe we should strengthen and clarify 230 plus legally define proto-fascist speech as harmful and set up a specific government branch & courts to deal with it? I dunno, I'm stupid. But we should definitely do better than the kludgy clusterfuck we have now, and we should do it proactively, before we end up where China is by default.
posted by saysthis at 9:14 PM on January 10 [7 favorites]


Speaking about fandom, DCMA, copyright, and whether twitter could moderate... man, they don't even check their DCMA takedown notices to make sure they were actually filed by the copyright holder. No way they are prepared to actually investigate claims of defamation/libel, which are much more subjective and require context and interpretation.
posted by subdee at 9:18 PM on January 10


Incitement to violence/encouragement of illegal activity, on the other hand, is a much clearer line that could be enforced more consistently. Ao3 functions by not drawing any kind of subjective moral line, all content that is legal in the USA is allowed and all content that is illegal in the USA is removed. Trump's ban from the platform is not sketchy at all, it's the timing now (and coordination with all the other platforms) that's extremely sketchy. Incitement to violence is illegal and against the ToS so there's no real question that this ban has been a long time coming.
posted by subdee at 9:22 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


In relation to Zunger's position on tolerance, he is missing the underlying circumstances of tolerance as a societal phenomena. It can begin as a legal framework, such as with the example of religious tolerance in Western Europe, but that framework can become part of a societies mores. Think of things like individuality, duty to the state, and property ownership. As a society progresses these mores take on moral overtones to eventually be perceived as moral underpinnings of the society. They become the way things are supposed to be. There has been no abstract contract about tolerance in the USA. We have developed a hodgepodge of ideas and practices around the idea of tolerance but the idea is a powerful underpinning for a lot of people, especially a lot of liberal white folk. That there are ideas (rather than actions) that are intolerable goes against what are seen as victories in overcoming what has been seen as the policing of ideas. There are good historical reasons that the USA has grown free speech absolutists and the ideas of tolerance that have come along with them.

As to the adding moderators that has problems for [Content Warning: Just about anything that might upset you may be mentioned, for both links] Facebook and YouTube. I am unaware of similar problems for Twitter but I would expect that there are similar issues waiting to be revealed.

And yes the PRC is a police state. It has been a police state. It will for the foreseeable future be a police state. The services that have developed there have been shaped from Day 1 to be private servants of the government. I see the connection but not the point. The argument has not been about Facebook or YouTube or any of the half-dozen big services not being able to afford adding moderators. The argument has been that nuking § 230 is not going to help. The point of bringing up Stratton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy Services Co. was to remind people that without § 230 having moderators made a service more not less liable. I absolutely agree that moderation should have been a priority for those companies from the get-go but getting rid of § 230 will only incentivize them to dump moderation altogether, which strikes me as very much not anyone here's goal.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 9:39 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


got this via my counter terrorism scholar circles - Amarnath Amarasingam on Twitter:
1. (THREAD) So, it seems like the deplatforming debate is once again kicking off, so I thought I would introduce some of the earlier work that was done in this area back when ISIS was buck wild on social media. What have we learned over the last six years might be useful today:

(I stopped the practice of threadreaders because I've read from a few poc accounts it takes away their engagement metrics which is key in their presentation of clout/worth when negotiating for other appearances)
posted by cendawanita at 9:39 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


Welp, sounds like (←link to enormous currently-1.6-kilocomment thread) the Parler “free speech absolutists” have not only now been ultramegahacked, but they believed in free speech so much that they also did not believe in really actually deleting their users' posts when those users pressed the delete button, but rather simply flagged such posts as deleted. Freedumb! </Braveheart>

So I think that, to choose an appropriately Aryan analogy, today the tears of Nazis will be enough to fill the ocean, like Thor's piss after a drinking contest among the gods. (Alas, hardly the war won, but it's a take-things-day-by-day era in history.)
posted by XMLicious at 2:12 AM on January 11 [4 favorites]


cendawanita, thanks for that very interesting thread by Dr Amarasingam. While I'm not a scholar in this realm, one of my external doctoral advisors has overlaps in that space given how much of digitalization by mobile telephony is an underlying condition. One of the interesting things of note is that African twitter, too, is far more social and supporting when accounts get suspended. Overall global South social media gives far more strokes to each other in terms of likes, emojis, and favs, and we find the West's social media twitter threads cold and unwelcoming - everybody is a on a megaphone building their brand and hustling stuff, nobody responds to your conversational attempts, and barely fav an RT or comment to acknowledge the interaction. There's no sense of community much less a sense of shared common humanity of each other. I always feel strangely abused when I'm in western twitter lands and come back to my global South/African twitter community where I'm welcomed and patted and loved and stroked for my hurts and aches. Is this a sign of being a radicalized terrorist per the learned scholars at esteemed places like RUSI? For sure, the continent of Africa is a hotbed of "Black Lives Matter" angst and agony. After all, if there had been twitter back in the day, there'd be hashtags looking for captured loved ones on the way to the slave boats.

Here's an interesting research paper by Rizwaan Sabir on how well the UK has done with its anti radicalization efforts and counterterrorism. As our grandparents could have told us, they're *so* good at ethnographic research on our quaint kampungs and gaons with their picturesque fabrics and colourful clothings.
posted by infini at 3:10 AM on January 11 [5 favorites]


Parler hack has its own thread now
posted by XMLicious at 4:34 AM on January 11


After Trump's coup attempt, Twitter has finally kicked the president off

At last.
posted by Gelatin at 4:46 AM on January 11


Germany’s Merkel: Trump’s Twitter eviction ‘problematic’.

As I said earlier, it's mind-blowing how ALL metafilter is cheering private capital for its power to censor people, and de-platform entire communities. I didn't realize the private propriety worshiping was so highly regarded here.
posted by - at 6:32 AM on January 11


The flip side of your viewpoint is that the government (i.e., Trump) can and should force private entities to publish whatever he wants, whenever he wants. That's what we've had the last four years. The consequences of that have seemed to play out as terribly as they can, so far.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 6:56 AM on January 11 [10 favorites]


As I said earlier, it's mind-blowing how ALL metafilter is cheering private capital for its power to censor people, and de-platform entire communities.

I've never been a believer in the argument that hate speech is the price of free speech (and am a big fan of the idea of tolerance as peace treaty), so the slippery slope argument that social media finally cracking down on hate is going to lead to Orwellian places doesn't really have any traction with me. Furthermore, saying "they're deplatforming communities" while failing to note that said communities are getting deplatformed because they're threatening to harm and kill strikes me as a lie of omission.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:07 AM on January 11 [18 favorites]


Merkel or her surrogate weighing in with "problematic" is just muddying the water. Serious people have got to put up specifics or get out of the way.

Personally I admit to an anti-twitter bias, I hope that some of the destructive power of the company will redound back on the product. I simply can't stomach (or for that matter be intellectually convinced) that Twitter is an essential component of (global?) free speech. It's mind boggling to me that Chinese state organs, Trump, German minsters, all use the same platform. This state of affairs makes us go down rabbit holes of trying to control something that perhaps shouldn't exist. Maybe the world doesn't need a universal chat room.
posted by Wood at 7:18 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


As I said earlier, it's mind-blowing how ALL metafilter is cheering private capital for its power to censor people, and de-platform entire communities. I didn't realize the private propriety worshiping was so highly regarded here.

Valuing strong moderation over unfettered speech is pretty on-brand for Metafilter.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 7:35 AM on January 11 [9 favorites]


The power of social media corporations to enable racist/extremist/fascist movements, as they have done, is the problem. Why on earth would anyone give these people a platform in the first place? Not only are these platforms free, they’re used to fund their dirty work.

Freedom of speech does not mean I need to pretend some fascist has a right to dictatorship. That’s just idiotic.
posted by romanb at 7:37 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


It doesn't matter if it can be admitted into evidence. It's a place to start. Parallel construction is a thing law enforcement has had a lot of practice with.
posted by Garm at 8:19 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


As I said earlier, it's mind-blowing how ALL metafilter is cheering private capital for its power to censor people, and de-platform entire communities. I didn't realize the private propriety worshiping was so highly regarded here.

the wise man bowed his head solemnly and spoke: "theres actually zero difference between good & bad things. you imbecile. you fucking moron"
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 8:20 AM on January 11 [9 favorites]


the question is, as always, good for whom. it's not random that both Merkel and Navalny see a problem with corporate censure, because they understand very well that what it might be seen as a good development in one country, by a at least half of the population, it will have nasty effects in other contexts, as MiraK eloquently explained earlier in the discussion.
posted by - at 8:39 AM on January 11


I do not see Merkel and Navalny acting to destroy their respective countries, or commit acts of violence against people, in the way that Trump is doing. Again, that's not a question of speech, or whether or not I agree with his speech, to be clear, but a question of action -- his actions, specifically. Regardless of whatever extent you feel the 1A obliges all private companies to publish Trump's speech, incitement to violence is an act of violence, itself, and it would not be protected, in any case. You can't threaten people's lives, however indirectly.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 8:47 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


I'm well aware that this isn't all about the US 1A, but since it just seems to have come up: wouldn't forcing twitter to publish Trump be pretty much the exact opposite of what 1A has stood for legally and spirtually forever?
posted by Wood at 8:57 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


I don't exactly support twitter in this move or anything else. I tend to think that to square this circle of how to tame the beast that is twitter we need to recognize that it is an extremely popular bit of the mediasphere. It is not the fucking press. At heart, perhaps, it is an audience and free speech has never guaranteed an audience. Trump still has a press office.

What exactly has he lost? The ability to be dropped into people's phones by Dorsey's app? Fuck that damage.
posted by Wood at 9:00 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


Let's be clear, it is very concerning that a small handful of companies have the power to platform or deplatform people.

But that power is there independent of what they choose to do with it. And inaction is as much a choice as action. If they choose to platform people, that is wielding that power. If they choose to deplatform people, that is wielding that power.

And right now what has happened is that they have chosen to wield that power to protect a democratically elected government by disrupting the communication of those who would violently overthrow it to install an autocrat.

I would applaud a billionaire for charity, even as I think that no one person should have the power that such wealth gives. The situation here is not different, except in just how stark the choices are.
posted by Zalzidrax at 9:03 AM on January 11 [9 favorites]


In relation to Zunger's position on tolerance, he is missing the underlying circumstances of tolerance as a societal phenomena.

He's not missing it, he's pretty explicitly rejecting it. The point of the essay is that viewing tolerance as a moral precept not only misses the point of tolerance, it's how you wind up with the "paradox of tolerance" in the first place - because you only get to that point when tolerance is viewed as a unilateral moral precept.

the question is, as always, good for whom. it's not random that both Merkel and Navalny see a problem with corporate censure, because they understand very well that what it might be seen as a good development in one country, by a at least half of the population, it will have nasty effects in other contexts, as MiraK eloquently explained earlier in the discussion.

But the thing is that context is everything, which is why the same act of killing a person can be seen by the law as murder in one context and self-defense in another. We need to be leery of seeking out bright lines to the point that we become overreductive, lest we lose needed nuance in our search for a general case.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:21 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


As I said earlier, it's mind-blowing how ALL metafilter is cheering private capital for its power to censor people, and de-platform entire communities. I didn't realize the private propriety worshiping was so highly regarded here.

Again, though... Song of the South.

And, were these companies to literally chisel in stone, free of charge, the “speech” of these people, and fashion holy Arks of the Covenant in which to bear the stone tablets to the top of Mount Sinai, (or the foot of Mount Sinai? whatever, I'm an atheist) in addition to forging a covenant to publish their tweets in perpetuity on the web... but doing it all after January 21st, that would not be acceptable. Because this has nothing to do with free speech, it's about communications channels for coordinating the violent overthrow of a democracy.

Also they would complain about the Ark of the Covenant / Mount Sinai thing because they hate Jews and think that Jesus was blond.

It's not that there aren't issues raised or questions to be asked about the entire state of speech, publishing, communication, etc. in the brave new world of post-Nazi-coup-d'état-America, it's just that none of them are new, urgent, or really of any significant magnitude next to stuff like the entire government-enforced-private-monopoly-on-owned-speech-international-intellectual-property-police-regime thing.

The latter, like everyone allegedly concerned with free speech I have ever interacted with, you are showing no inclination to remark on whatsoever, despite clumsily trying to characterize your interlocutors as “the private propriety worshipers crowd”.

Also, like, by raising these issues in connection to the violent overthrow of the Union—not the Confederacy, though it's hard to tell these days—by losers led by an orange thing (this? nope, uglier, and not a hero, just a really pathetic sort of unter-villain) who has spent the last half-decade wiping his ass with the US Constitution while ruling said Union, yet formulating your concerns as being about “constitutional free speech”, you're sort of bringing a well-regulated-militia-borne blunderbuss to a laser gun fight.

┈┈┈┈

The pivotal point for preserving the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States was back when there was a candidate for POTUS who was talking about creating a government registry of Muslims and special police patrols of Muslim neighborhoods.

The rest of the odious, simpering, inadequate Republicans were at the same time also claiming that Muslims should be barred from holding office in the US, which violates not only the First Amendment but the pre-amended text of the Constitution, Article VI mandating,
...no religious Test shall ever be Required as a Qualification To any Office or public Trust under the United States
┈┈┈┈

...okay I got a little bit carried away with assuming you were Trump-curious before checking your post history -, and had to rewrite some stuff accusing you of acting out a certain poem carved into a Holocaust memorial, but I can see that you probably have in fact used your free speech to speak up for the kinds of people on that list.

I think your mind is being blown by the wrong things, though... we are indeed between Scylla and Charybdis^, or more accurately trying to fly our Star Destroyer through an asteroid field^ of extreme dangers, but I think the concern about Trump's ability to Tweet is misplaced and is indeed not really a free speech issue in the moment.

There are aspects of your concerns which are valid; the communications channels for overthrow of a democracy are functionally the same as those for the overthrow of a dictatorship—it's true that the difference is not inherent to the act or method of communicating which actually gets disrupted, rather the difference is in the far-less-tangible and less-tractable-to-non-exploitable-rule-based-governance purpose. But “censorship” and “free speech” as terms and printing press analogies have lost their ability to adequately model the world, which I think is a source of the vehemence of even good-faith discussions about these topics. Also, the house is burning down right now.
posted by XMLicious at 9:40 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


I hope we decide that deplatforming is a 1st Amendment issue. That way I have constitutional justification for forcing the Wall Street Journal to publish my review of the 2017 American disaster film, GEOSTORM.
posted by brundlefly at 10:17 AM on January 11 [7 favorites]


I have rarely spent this much time on a MeF thread but I have enjoyed the comments (and the links) from all sides.

I have looked at the arguments surrounding Section 230 and think its original intention (encouraging discourse) was correct.

It's probably the right time for a multi-partisan review of its legal interpretations and impact, to decide if it’s still relevant and up to the job.

I am not sure that Section 230 is the cause or the solution to the topics of this thread (First Amendment rights, deplatforming, and tech companies).

When platforms are monetising disinformation at a great cost to society (fraud, bigotry, anti-vax, covid, climate etc.) some level of regulation will be required.

That’s the tricky part and I don’t have any answers but:

This has global implications, so it would be wise to think globally.

We need to understand what we are protecting and decide principles for ensuring accountability at all levels (i.e. enforce your ToS)

We also need a framework that makes it easier for sites and advertisers to make better decisions but also encourages the societal benefits these platforms can provide.
posted by jozifd at 10:34 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


Welcome to Parlor, the app that everyone's accidentally downloading instead of Parler

Parlor’s existed for 10 years and only had “40,000 downloads as of December 2020,” but is now the second most popular app on Apple and Android.

The overall vibe of the thing is Yahoo! chat room circa 2005.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 10:34 AM on January 11 [4 favorites]


Why platforms had to cut off Trump and Parler:
What changed last week weren’t the principles of moderation, but the facts on the ground. On January 5th, platforms could dismiss vague threats against Vice President Mike Pence or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as just overheated rhetoric; today, they have to grapple with a real risk of physical violence and sedition. That’s a horrifying shift, and it’s been difficult for players in every corner of US politics to come to grips with it. But tech companies are responding to that change, not causing it.
I'd be difficult to convince with a slippery slope argument even without this reality. I score no points for being one of the people who thought that particular violent rhetoric was actually going to lead to violence before it did, in fact, lead to violence. The armed insurrection does put the lie, unequivocally, to the idea that this was speech that was without harm.

Also, because it apparently still needs to be repeated: Deplatforming is not censorship. Twitter and Facebook are private companies that can do what they want. They can't, and shouldn't, be compelled to host anything. Me kicking an unruly party guest out of my house would be the same thing.
posted by fedward at 11:07 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


Seen somewhere: Imagine Twitter is a Christian bakery, and Trump (or substitute "violence-spouting right-wingers") is a gay couple who want a cake for their wedding.

Kind of a masterpiece of "Yeah! Wait... no. ..?"
posted by ctmf at 11:18 AM on January 11 [3 favorites]


A small number of powerful companies have been able to de-platform people since the days of the Hearst Newspapers. The only thing unique here is that it is happening to fascists instead of those who oppose them.
posted by interogative mood at 11:53 AM on January 11 [4 favorites]


Seen somewhere: Imagine Twitter is a Christian bakery, and Trump (or substitute "violence-spouting right-wingers") is a gay couple who want a cake for their wedding.


Imagine Twitter is a gun store, and Trump is a person with a record of terrorism who wants an AR-15.
posted by MrVisible at 11:59 AM on January 11 [7 favorites]


As I said earlier, it's mind-blowing how ALL metafilter is cheering private capital for its power to censor people, and de-platform entire communities. I didn't realize the private propriety worshiping was so highly regarded here.

This is absolutely bizarre to me. Metafilter is a global standard-bearer for content moderation, but when a larger company incorporates a tiny aspect of it, it's the end of the world for some people. Trump was kicked, he kept going, then he got kickbanned. It happens on Metafilter, and it's been going on in other parts of the internet for close to 30 years. Is it about scale/size? I don't think that's significant.

This isn't about private capital unless Metafilter can be reduced to it. TWTR is a public company, so PE effect on their policies is questionable at best, if it even exists. Furthermore, is a good business case for banning Trump even possible?

Parler is private, funded by the racist Mercers, and possibly an FBI honeypot, so if anybody wants to talk about the effects of private capital in online communications channels, maybe focusing on that troublesome case could be fruitful.
posted by rhizome at 12:00 PM on January 11 [5 favorites]


As I said earlier, it's mind-blowing how ALL metafilter is cheering private capital for its power to censor people, and de-platform entire communities. I didn't realize the private propriety worshiping was so highly regarded here.

I think it’s a problem that they can do this (and have a broader commitment to free speech than some people here) but it’s not as if Amazon is bound by precedent. They have the power, it doesn’t matter if you’re cheering for them or not.

Thus I am resistant to, say, impulsive changes to the legal frameworks governing online communications. But I’m not about to scold people for enjoying seeing their enemies get stomped by a bigger monster this time.
posted by atoxyl at 12:03 PM on January 11


As I said earlier, it's mind-blowing how ALL metafilter is cheering private capital for its power to censor people, and de-platform entire communities. I didn't realize the private propriety worshiping was so highly regarded here.

Perhaps assumptions and insults are no way to engage with your fellow users. You assume that we are cheering a larger situation about the role of private companies in choosing which voices get heard. Your description of this event is inaccurate.   The specific instance of Trump being banned has nothing to do with the larger situation -- in many ways his rise was the direct result of the algorithms and user behavior encouraged by these platforms. We have forced these companies to act and we should celebrate our accomplishment. We have forced them to silence the monster they made. There was nothing organic or real about @realdonaldtrump's power on twitter. It started with botnets of fake users who rewteeted and promoted him. It grew with their toxic algorithms that allowed his lies and hate speech to go unchecked.
posted by interogative mood at 12:42 PM on January 11 [4 favorites]


To elucidate what I mean when I say
But “censorship” and “free speech” as terms and printing press analogies have lost their ability to adequately model the world...
take for example the case of one individual sending a message to another individual over the internet, an analog to Ben Franklin penning a letter in his own hand, putting it in a sealed envelope, placing it into the postal system he built up as colonial postmaster, and the recipient receiving the envelope, opening it, and reading the letter.

Doing the same thing, but with a printing press involved and with a nebulous context of doing it “published”/in public, is what the amenders of the Constitution were thinking of when they wrote the First Amendment.

(Note that an unspecific form of intellectual property came first in the original Constitution's text but was quite different from the busting-down-your-door-cause-you-made-hyperlinks stuff, being To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries..., originally resulting in books, maps, and charts being copyrightable for a maximum of 28 years—no patents, no copyrighted music or images, and no home invasions over hyperlinks, plus obtaining the government-enforced monopoly required the author actually filing paperwork requesting it, as opposed to automatic instantaneous monopoly on all “fixations” that was already resulting in $12.5 million in self-estimated accidental infringement for this one law professor in 2007 alone.)

If I understand the legal aspects properly, on the internet we do away with the published/not published distinction and just consider everything, even messages intended to travel from sender to receiver with no other human involved, as “published”.

Now, how does it work when a third party adds an advertisement in to what Ben Franklin would have thought of as a private letter? What does that even mean in the context of “censorship” and “free speech”? Even if you just shrug, it seems like it has some bearing once we're thinking in terms of communication channels and control of them, rather than the old square-peg-in-a-round-hole of regarding private internet messaging between individuals as a form of publishing.

I don't play many online games, but I played one once, about a decade ago, wherein the game's sound effects had radio-broadcast-like audio advertisements mixed in with them. What if you were on a phone call with someone and an audio advertisement was mixed into what you were hearing from them? Would that just be the same thing as an advertisement appearing in your email provider's sidebar, or “sponsored” or specially-highlighted items appearing in your social media feed?

What does it mean, in the context of “censorship” and “free speech”, when Facebook experiments on the emotional state of hundreds of thousands of its users, to measurable effect, by reshuffling their feeds?

The next stage will be, if it's not already happening in a sanctioned way: what if a third party re-writes part of a message between two individuals? Perhaps the Chinese Communist Party decides a key public relations element related to its latest five-year plan needs a bit of extra “pep” and presto-changeo, Chinese citizens sending each other messages appear to be endorsing a wonderful new government project as though rumors of how amazingly amazing it is have preceded by word of mouth the official announcement. (China used as an example here because the Golden Shield's comprehensive controls on the internet are a more plausible way of accomplishing something like that without detection, not because any other government, or corporations, or organized religions, would be less inclined to do this.)

There's a bit of this now: if two people use different email providers, the text one writes and the other reads may be the same, but is formatted differently. Just formatting is changed, but the medium is the message.

And to slippery-slope things up some more—augmented reality, wherein technological devices essentially annotate someone's perceptions: for example, in some warehouse management systems, workers carrying out picking tasks will wear head-up displays or smartglasses or whatever the tech of the moment is that guides them to the location where they need to grab something.

Once we're all Black Mirrored up and that kind of thing is ubiquitous in wearable consumer electronics, or implants, or something, you'll probably be pressured to install an app that will “help” read messages, or do other things, and it'll plaster the Minority Report advertisements everywhere and maybe spruce up your messages to make them more positive, hey maybe you'll get a prescription from your doctor to have an app do something like the aforementioned Facebook experiment to brighten your mood after Nazis try to overthrow your country's government, and the apps will fight with each other over which ones get to place ads and control the rewriting of reality, and maybe they'll actually do what you tell them to in the privacy-slash-mental-autonomy settings or maybe they “accidentally” won't, and the devices will contract computer viruses...

But ooh, forcing people to use alternative microblogging platforms, the tyranny and dystopia of it. Yeah, “censorship” and “free speech” are ancien régime concepts and do not cut it any more.
posted by XMLicious at 1:01 PM on January 11 [5 favorites]


But ooh, forcing people to use alternative microblogging platforms, the tyranny and dystopia of it.

My position is stated above, but surely the story that’s even worth discussing here is the one in which the guys who own all the servers everybody uses now pull the plug on an “alternative microblogging platform” overnight.
posted by atoxyl at 1:22 PM on January 11


As I said earlier, it's mind-blowing how ALL metafilter is cheering private capital for its power to censor people, and de-platform entire communities. I didn't realize the private propriety worshiping was so highly regarded here.

As others said upthread, the only thing keeping Trump and his ilk on many of these platforms despite cheerfully violating TOS was a fear of retribution from the Republicans / President. "Deplatforming" them, and adhering to the company's given TOS is a win for free speech. Do you think Nazi harassment of POC on Twitter is somehow improving discourse?
posted by benzenedream at 1:23 PM on January 11 [6 favorites]


Imagine Twitter is a gun store, and Trump is a person with a record of terrorism who wants an AR-15.

Imagine Twitter is a jerk store, and when Trump called, they were like 'we're out of you!'
posted by box at 1:42 PM on January 11 [7 favorites]


Cumulus radio orders on air conservative personalities to tone down claims of election fraud. The whole of right wing media is a sham that amplifies the views of a handful of evil men who have a hateful political agenda. We should de-platform the whole rotten mess
posted by interogative mood at 1:52 PM on January 11 [4 favorites]


Imagine Twitter is a jerk store

That, uh, doesn't take much imagination at all.
posted by ctmf at 2:10 PM on January 11 [3 favorites]


Do you think Nazi harassment of POC on Twitter is somehow improving discourse?

Also to that point: what's the point of having Terms of Service and Codes of Conduct if they're not enforced or enforced radically unequally? Which is something we're also seeing with the cops response to BLM vs these fuckos at the Capitol. I can both hate the cops and also hate the fact that white terrorists are treated significantly differently from BLM protestors by the cops. For me as soon as I saw that Twitter in Germany didn't have Nazis but Twitter in the US did, I knew the game was more rigged than I thought it even was.
posted by jessamyn at 2:18 PM on January 11 [14 favorites]


My position is stated above, but surely the story that’s even worth discussing here is the one in which the guys who own all the servers everybody uses now pull the plug on an “alternative microblogging platform” overnight.

I'm actually not clear on what your position is from looking through your comments repeatedly... I mean you said “They have the power, it doesn’t matter if you’re cheering for them or not” and you're “not about to scold people for enjoying seeing their enemies get stomped by a bigger monster”; so... they have the power, not scold-worthy, but at the same time it's “the story that’s even worth discussing here”, for which I guess you're not responding to any of the rest of my comment except that one sentence, while sending me off on a goose chase to try to figure out what you think about what I've said?

If you think it's unimportant whether or not eighteenth-century concepts about dead-tree-sheet printing presses can even accurately describe issues of automated technology-mediated control and subversion of communication channels between people, and you're content with descriptions like “the publication of the Nazis' microblog free speech might be delayed” as the really dystopian possibility here rather than Black Mirror stuff... well, you be you, I guess.

People above are taking the click-through ToS seriously as something that would ever constrain anything in some rational or consistent manner, a ToS of the sort Facebook got academics to treat as valid consent for experimentation on human subjects in the study FPP I linked to. I'm kind of feeling like we're all already perceiving completely different realities.
posted by XMLicious at 2:33 PM on January 11


surely the story that’s even worth discussing here is the one in which the guys who own all the servers everybody uses now pull the plug on an “alternative microblogging platform” overnight

As far as I know, Stormfront is still in existence. As is 8chan. Neither are hosted on AWS. I don't think the worlds largest social media service Weibo uses AWS either. (For the avoidance of doubt, I am not in any way suggesting that Weibo attracts a similar crowd to Stormfront or 8chan)

I used to have an IMO excellent WordPress blog that generated an income, which I let drift into tumbleweeds, it got hacked and my host said I had 24 hours to sort it out or they would terminate my contract for TOS reasons and it was slightly beyond my technical capability to fix the problem or move to a new host. No one wrote articles about my free speech rights being tampered with nor worried about my fall in income.
posted by plonkee at 3:28 PM on January 11 [5 favorites]


XMLicious, I think we disagree on a lot of stuff because we observe politics from different perspectives and we have different political experiences. Thank you for checking into my posting history. But it's kind interesting you had so many assumptions. I am very interested in the MeFi Mind-Reading Machine that so many users seem to have. How can I get one?

I think, the nature of our disagreement, steams that for you, the censorship, "It's about communications channels for coordinating the violent overthrow of a democracy."

From my humble perspective: it's really not. There was no capacity and especially, no organization to overthrow of a democracy. Some say that the "US coup failed because there was no US Embassy in Washington, DC, providing logistical support.", but I think Marx quote is more apt here: history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. Or more aptly in the context: first time as based, the second time as cringe.

Not to underplay the significance of the event. It was very significant. But it was also cringe. What people wanted to do there was the supreme version of "owning the libs", a more aesthetic than substantial take. Seeing the capitol riots as a "violent overthrow of a democracy" does no justice to situations where there is real, organized, coordinated attempt to sabotage democracy. This one looked like a coup, but it didn't have any of the contents of a coup. Few months ago everybody was laughing about a coup attempt in Venezuela. Well, the one in Venezuela was way more concerning than this one. Believe me, if somebody wants to try a coup, they won’t twit about it. And if you are looking for a what a real coup attempt looks like, look no further than Bolivia (but it also failed, fortunately). The very concerning stuff were around the mob, more than the mob in itself: the police being so soft and complicit, a clear sign of white power. And of course, the people that lost their life.

Between 2011 and 2017, I had the chance to live in Paris. I still remember vividly the day of the Bataclan attack, and the day after, where among the many victims one girl I went to university with, lost her life. I remember the earlier attacks to Charlie Hebdo. In that case, you had a bunch of people that build for themselves their alternate, romantic and struggling reality, against their miserable daily reality. They dreamed of a caliphate with good morals, against what they considered a corrupt and rotten world, they LARPED themselves with long beards, and caftans... They were romantic, and radical losers (perhaps the most insightful text on radicalism I ever read, by German writer Hans Magnus Enzensberger - time to re-read it)

In my opinion, that happened, ALSO because those people get "deplatformed" by reality, they created their own bubble. Alienate in the French and Belgian suburbs, no jobs, racism, frustration, resentment. Jihadism - in itself - is not a new phenomenon, it's full of romanticism, idealism, the nostalgia of an Arcadia that never was. In my opinion, it shares so much with Nazism: their romantic idea of proud, strong and healthy German nation. The one of the elders (...that never was). Not the one corrupted by cosmopolitanism. Jihadists found consolation in their internet world. They reinforced their convictions, their worldview. They felt like the only moral beings in a land of debauchery without God. In France the bubble exploded in reality, and very much so.

From my humble interpretation, in the US, you have a similar, but different, dynamic. Trump won the election because the liberal élite really didn't give a damn the concerns, real or perceived, of a lot of people, their angst, their resentment. A lot of liberals, like to believe Trump victory is due to Russian bot, WikiLeaks and what not, but that's - quite frankly - bullshit. It tells a lot about the lack of will to give a hard look to a system that in the last decades has made people more precarious. Trump gave an ear to the losers of globalization. (For Jacobin I wrote an article where I talk about how Orban used a similar strategy before Trump. They are very similar people.Ok no, Orban is more intelligent.)

Instead of starting a true debate on this, America’s political discourse become a theater of emptiness, where culture war completely ignored the problems beneath. One of the posts I was the prouder here on Mefi, that, of course, got canceled by moderation (sigh... lol) pointed out that "the only thing lacking in this theater production is authentic antagonism. Not only is the capital relation itself beyond question, the modifications of its accumulation regime open to consideration remain narrowly constricted."

In other words, instead of dealing with that issue, American civil society preferred to 1. avoid tackling the issues (a redistribution problem). 2. retrench in their algorithmic bubbles, to preach to the choir (Facebook & Twitter, etc). 3. Talking about unrelated stuff (culture wars)

The internet companies, like Facebook or Twitter, are central in this dynamic: instead of doing what the media traditionally did, opening the conflict, thinking it and digesting it - they just created algorithmically separated bubbles that made everybody happy, pivoting the confirmation bias typical of humans, but making it a feature, rather than a bug. And then, like in France, the bubble exploded. Now Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Google, that now are celebrated as the paladin of justice (lol) for deplatforming entire communities, were functional in creating those communities in the first place. But you don’t resolve political conflicts with less politics, you need MORE politics.

When Merkel, very wisely, points out that Trump media silencing was "problematic" as there is a “risk of further incitement of violence”, I think she is referring to avoid creating MORE bubbles. Because bubbles pop. Because this is the dynamic in action since way too long.

In other words: silencing Trump, doesn’t resolve Trumpism. And seeing people celebrating the companies that made Trump big is just dystopia. Because we are just getting ready for another round, as MiraK underlined so well.
posted by - at 4:19 PM on January 11 [7 favorites]


We are not obligated to set up our democracy to give Trump the space he needs to commit acts of violence against our democracy.

Germany set up laws outlawing Nazi symbols and hate speech after WWII. While Nazism hasn't gone away in Germany, these laws put Nazis on notice that they can and will suffer consequences if they pull their Nazi shit in Germany. Nazism is not popular in Germany, despite its unfortunate recent, Putin-funded rise in former East German states.

Whatever happens with the threat posed by right-wing domestic terrorists in the United States, Trump will not be president after next week. His going away will not cure Trumpism, nor will it magically go away. There is no government action to remove him from communication networks, but a few private companies have decided to act on their own volition. This will not make him disappear, but it diminishes his influence. Likewise, impeaching him a second time will not make Trumpism disappear, but it diminishes his future opportunities in the political sphere.

Like vaccination against a virus causing a pandemic, taking any kind of action on any level — public or private — to fight violence against our democracy may not completely eliminate that violence, but it does reduce it to something we might be able to better manage as a society.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 5:18 PM on January 11 [3 favorites]


If you think it's unimportant whether or not eighteenth-century concepts about dead-tree-sheet printing presses can even accurately describe issues of automated technology-mediated control and subversion of communication channels between people, and you're content with descriptions like “the publication of the Nazis' microblog free speech might be delayed” as the really dystopian possibility here rather than Black Mirror stuff... well, you be you, I guess.

I was really just responding to the particular line that I quoted. I just thought “no big deal they’ll have to move to another microblogging website” was a pretty dubious framing when the whole issue is the leverage possessed by a handful of companies over websites in general due to their dominance of web infrastructure.

they have the power, not scold-worthy, but at the same time it's “the story that’s even worth discussing here”

Yes, as in - I think it’s bad that Amazon has that kind of power, but when people try to use an appeal to left-wing sensibilities to take potshots at people who are simply enjoying seeing the right wing eat shit on something like this I feel like they are taking a curiously un-materialist tack just to party poop, basically. That wasn’t aimed at anywhere you were going, I’m just annoyed with people on the internet. The broader discussion about the actual structural issues and the leverage held by service providers is the one I think is worth having, and I thought that part of your comment was a little dismissive of it.
posted by atoxyl at 5:28 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


This one looked like a coup, but it didn't have any of the contents of a coup. […] Believe me, if somebody wants to try a coup, they won’t twit about it.

What we've learned is that (at least some of) the people who wish to overturn the most recent election will, in fact, tweet about it (or parley, as the case may have been), along with live streaming their own video. If you think a coup can't be organized in the open, you may need to rethink your understanding of what a coup is. Is your argument that it wasn't secret enough to be a coup attempt, that it wasn't organized enough, or just that it wasn't effective enough, and therefore it couldn't have been a coup attempt? In the main it may not have been the most organized storming of a capitol, but there were definitely people there using the cover of that disorganization to attempt hostage taking at a minimum, if not worse.
posted by fedward at 5:32 PM on January 11 [3 favorites]


Anyway sorry I’m jumping in and out of this conversation in a weird and messy way. If it sounds like I’m talking nonsense no worries.
posted by atoxyl at 5:34 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


Is your argument that it wasn't secret enough to be a coup attempt, that it wasn't organized enough, or just that it wasn't effective enough

At some point this is mostly a semantic argument, isn’t it? Whatever it was, it wasn’t good. But I think perhaps the content of the coup/no coup argument boils down to a.) what were the realistic dangers of the event and b.) what did Trump expect to get out of it?

I have a hard time seeing any way this could have realistically lead to Trump remaining in power. Is that a “no coup?” I’m not sure whether Trump thought it could lead to him remaining in power. Is that a “maybe coup?” I do not have a hard time imagining that lawmakers could have been seriously hurt, which makes it a scary scenario nonetheless.
posted by atoxyl at 5:44 PM on January 11


I have a hard time seeing any way this could have realistically lead to Trump remaining in power.

Well, I suppose he thought that he could prevent Congress from pinky-swearing on the electoral votes, or perhaps create some scenario where disputed States could not be counted, so that no one got 270 Electoral Votes, so that the election would be decided by the votes of State delegations in the House of Representatives. How realistic were those hopes? It seems to me, not very.
posted by thelonius at 5:55 PM on January 11


This one looked like a coup, but it didn't have any of the contents of a coup. […] Believe me, if somebody wants to try a coup, they won’t twit about it.

The serious coup people involved in *not* sending troops and backup are not tweeting about it. Look up the many discussions on a stochastic coup. Coups can be ridiculous and still be coups
posted by benzenedream at 5:58 PM on January 11 [6 favorites]


From my humble interpretation, in the US, you have a similar, but different, dynamic. Trump won the election because the liberal élite really didn't give a damn the concerns, real or perceived, of a lot of people, their angst, their resentment. A lot of liberals, like to believe Trump victory is due to Russian bot, WikiLeaks and what not, but that's - quite frankly - bullshit. It tells a lot about the lack of will to give a hard look to a system that in the last decades has made people more precarious. Trump gave an ear to the losers of globalization.

Exactly how much time should we give to the concerns of the white middle and professional class as their unearned position of social control slowly vanishes, thanks to the slow changes in demographics and culture? It's worth noting that we've seen a lot of the better off in the insurrectionists' number - lawyers, CEOs, senior officers, etc. - because that's the sort of people who had the wherewithal to travel to DC for Wednesday's coup. It's also why you had things like the boat parades - the boats that you saw in those are not something the people who are the "losers of globalization" can afford. As we've seen over and over, Trump's base was never the poor - it has always been the white middle class, whose feelings of "precariousness" have less to do with money and more to do with their position in American culture slowly vanishing. There's a reason that the phrase "economic anxiety" became a punchline.

The internet companies, like Facebook or Twitter, are central in this dynamic: instead of doing what the media traditionally did, opening the conflict, thinking it and digesting it - they just created algorithmically separated bubbles that made everybody happy, pivoting the confirmation bias typical of humans, but making it a feature, rather than a bug. And then, like in France, the bubble exploded. Now Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Google, that now are celebrated as the paladin of justice (lol) for deplatforming entire communities, were functional in creating those communities in the first place. But you don’t resolve political conflicts with less politics, you need MORE politics.

First off, nobody is looking at the tech industry as "paladins of justice". From what I've seen, the main sentiment is a resigned sigh as the tech industry finally takes seriously the whole mess they helped create in the first place. This isn't a celebration, it's an exhausted cry of "...finally." Most of us are absolutely tired of the worldview that the tech industry has been pushing down on us, that we are obligated to break bread with the hateful and intolerant who would wish us dead out of some twisted idea of "freedom", and we are relieved that they are finally beginning to realize that no, you cannot negotiate with those who are unwilling to recognize the right of others to exist.

Second, the simple point is that Karl Popper was right - there is no tolerating the intolerant. You keep on saying "deplatforming entire communities" while leaving out the salient detail of these communities being abusive and hateful, threatening and routinely committing violence against those they deem The Other. As I noted before, this is a lie of omission, meant to make the point of "how horrible is it that these people are now being given the boot" while leaving out that they're getting said boot because they've taken the position that the only world they will accept is one that puts them on top, and will force that worldview on the rest of us with violence.
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:25 PM on January 11 [15 favorites]


Well, we may have ourselves a traveler here.

So -, I really actually did look at your posting history simply to make sure of whether I was about to do something like quote then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew to a Jewish person; being Jewish hardly guarantees that anyone will adhere to the principles of that poem, exempli very gratia Stephen Miller; but it can be a bit awkward. However by openly stating that I peeked at history, I seem to have made you lose your cool a bit.

I guess you must have missed it but in this thread, MiraK already tried the gimmick of shouting CONSTITUTION!!1!eleven! in a crowded building and then “oh wait, now that people are mentioning actual facts about the constitution, I don't care about it any more, forget the stuff about Pelosi and backchannel nukes.”

So trying the same thing yourself, then trying to pivot to shouting about Charlie Hebdo and jihadism instead while ignoring all substantive issues related to free speech I brought up, was not the brilliant rhetorical flanking maneuver it may have seemed in the moment.

In particular, invoking “constitutional free speech”, then when I brought up what the First Amendment actually says and listed out all of the obviously-modeled-on-Hitler's-stuff infringements on religious liberty against Muslims from the past half decade, suddenly feeling inspired to talk about jihadism rather than First Amendment freedoms any more, was a poker tell it was not terribly swift to let slip during a Nazi attempt to overthrow the government of the United States.

(Note, by the way: I initially started writing my previous comment without reference to US-specific free speech principles, having picked up the vibe that you may be European; but then I noticed the quote invoking the constitution.)

Doing so while simultaneously trying to pooh-pooh the Putsch itself, based on your “humble perspective” earned on the hardcore streets of Gay Paris, or whatever, was the maraschino cherry on top of a pile of shit.

And don't let me forget to mention that, when France is the origin of the alternative moral rights framework for intellectual property to the “big companies just own everything” US version, what a glaring omission it is for an earnest French or France-dwelling free speech warrior to have nothing to say when it comes to intellectual property and freedom of speech.

Silence also on the free-speech-promoting measure of literally chiseling the Tweets and parleys of Trump and the Putschisten into stone, and disseminating it all across the world for free, but doing so after the 21st, since that would be entirely compliant with any definition that has existed since the printing-press-related invention of the concept of free speech in publishing—in fact you just explicitly said that you are not concerned with communication channels and that this is merely my divergent political perspective. Delays at the publisher have never been an infringement of free speech. So, sure, I can even play “no Putsch, no communication channel concerns” if you want.

Just to be clear—I'm not doubting the truth of anything you've said: that you care very, very deeply about specifics of one particular facet of free speech, and these particular Twitter bans and the demise of this particular app make it “horrifying to see so many people cheering capital”, but capital having police bust down doors for the cross-borders IP regime which has involved the largest transfer of wealth from public to private hands during the last century is “meh”, though you also QFT explicit communist references such as “the fucking digital means of production are still in the hands of people as powerful as Trump” and quote Marx above; and when persecution of Muslims on a religious basis comes up your mind immediately wanders from 1A rights to the Charlie Hebdo attack and jihadism, despite all of your solidarity with the poor living in the banlieues of Paris, (“deplatformed by reality”? nice touch) a great part of whom are Muslims who march for their rights regularly, living there because France started annexing parts of North Africa in 1830 and didn't stop there.

Oh and I can't believe I missed this until re-reading just now: Muslims of the banlieues are the real Nazis, you say. I guess because they object to silly trivial Nazis-storming-the-US-capital things like Le Pen and the rest being granted amnesty for all war crimes committed during the Algerian War, despite there being evidence down to the point of a photo of the dagger he used to torture people with his name engraved on it, explicitly ruled legal to publish when he lost his defamation lawsuits. But, Gallic shrug, the amnesties...

Tsk, tsk, for social media companies “celebrated as the paladin of justice” when Trump and confederates must be given social media amnesty—celebration which is not actually happening btw, of course. Mustn't have bubbles though, right? Not when it's bubbles walling off important things like Trumpspeak (except IP-regime-enforced subscription paywalls are totally okay, Marx probably said something in favor of them amirite).

Did you, like, actually talk to a French Muslim when you were in Paris? Or simply read a French newspaper? Bubbles.

I genuinely believe all that you say about yourself, I just know what it means, because you wear it on your sleeve . No mind reading needed.
posted by XMLicious at 8:38 PM on January 11 [9 favorites]


"Constitutional free speech", it's funny that you assume I was directly speaking of the US. Because I said "constitutional", as if the unwashed masses don't have constitutions either. Of course if we talk about constitutional rights, it must be *only* the American one.

"Doing so while simultaneously trying to pooh-pooh the Putsch itself, based on your “humble perspective” earned on the hardcore streets of Gay Paris, or whatever, was the maraschino cherry on top of a pile of shit."

I think you need a hug.

Oh and I can't believe I missed this until re-reading just now: Muslims of the banlieues are the real Nazis, you say

I can't believe I missed this stuff too, probably because I never wrote it. And thank you for lecturing me about Le Pen. My point was: creating an alternate political reality creates a bubble, and the bubble grows until it explodes. Ignoring the bubble for too long, like in the case of jihadists, that they grow in their separated internet (and material) reality, makes things worse.

A lot of Trump supporters, just like jihadists, they created their fantasy world as well, and big tech was *central* in the process. Instead of integrating people, alienating them create this infinite resentment.

If you think that de-platforming, a lot of Trump voters and Trump himself will solve the problem, OK, you are welcome. It’s like the kids closing their eyes and thinking they disappear. I think that corporate censorship will make things worse in the long run, and not only in America: many governments are eager to enact the same strategies elsewhere, and now they will be fully justified by some illustrious precedent. Censoring their words will continue this process of creating bubbles till they burst. Also Merkel happens to think the same, and an opposition leader like Navalny too... and I am not surprised they come against this decision. In all of this, the role of big tech was central.
posted by - at 1:37 AM on January 12


Also France minster of the interior spoke about it: "Digital regulation should not be done by the digital oligarchy itself . . . Regulation of the digital arena is a matter for the sovereign people, governments and the judiciary."
posted by - at 1:53 AM on January 12


Also Mexico's president condemns the censorship: "‘Let’s see, I, as the judge of the Holy Inquisition, will punish you because I think what you’re saying is harmful,’” López Obrador said in an extensive, unprompted discourse on the subject. “Where is the law, where is the regulation, what are the norms? This is an issue of government, this is not an issue for private companies.”"
posted by - at 2:33 AM on January 12


[XMLicious and -, please do not take your conversation any further in this thread. Let's leave some room for folks to engage with the thread topic. Feel free to take your convo to MeMail! ]
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 8:28 AM on January 12 [6 favorites]


A lot of Trump supporters, just like jihadists, they created their fantasy world as well, and big tech was *central* in the process.

The epistemic closure of the American right wing well predates the rise of social media. Reactionary groups like the John Birch Society have been around for decades, the backlash to Brown resulted in the rise of the Religious Right, and the Reagan Administration repealing the Fairness Doctrine laid the groundwork for conservative talk radio and Fox News. By the time social media got started, the right wing bubble had been around for a decade or more.

If you think that de-platforming, a lot of Trump voters and Trump himself will solve the problem, OK, you are welcome.

No, deplatforming is not by itself the solution - that's a ridiculous notion. But it is part of the solution because it sends a message that hatred has no place in society, it tells the targets of that hate that they have allies, it pulls out energy from the dynamics that sustain and feed the very bubbles you are so concerned about. Nobody expects that deplatforming Trump will make him disappear - the goal is to stop him from throwing gasoline on the fire and stoking racial hatreds.

Also, can we please stop pretending that Trump voters are temporarily embarrassed socialists? Yes, Trump wrapped himself in the language of populism, but it didn't take much to uncover the racial animus actually powering things. Again, his base was the professional and upper middle class - hence why you had a number of lawyers, small business owners, senior officers, etc making up the insurrectionists.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:43 AM on January 12 [12 favorites]


it's mind-blowing how ALL metafilter is cheering private capital for its power to censor people, and de-platform entire communities

...

ALL metafilter

...

That seems like an unnecessarily roundabout way of declaring your allegiance to private capital having broad power over people's speech. You could probably state that more directly without the incorrect, overly-broad assumption about what the rest of us think.

Don't @ me though. I'm just stating my opinion, here in this privately owned social media site with strong content moderation. Since such a setup is so clearly antithetical to free speech, though, you'll have to pay to read my opinion. A contribution on the order of $25 to Metafilter in my name would be acceptable payment terms, I think.
posted by eviemath at 12:32 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


Angela Merkel's Germany has laws against hate speech, particularly and specifically involving Nazism, so it is unfortunate that her comments continue to be mentioned here or elsewhere, without that very important context. For very good and historical reasons, Germans do not have an open platform to speak on certain topics, as the leader of her country very well knows.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 12:34 PM on January 12 [4 favorites]


On the subject of Trump's demographic base, this analysis of the makeup of the districts represented by the Sedition Caucus is enlightening:
A demographic and economic analysis of the constituencies represented by the 139 Republicans who objected to the certification of at least one states’ election results helps to clarify the social and material conditions in which this right wing authoritarianism has taken root.
In particular, the evidence cuts strongly against the conventional wisdom of Trumpism as “lumpen” Rust Belt rage, originating in the country’s shrinking rural hinterland. Rather, the picture that emerges of districts represented by the most committed Pro-Trump Republicans is one of fast-growing, rapidly diversifying greenfield suburbs where inequalities between white homeowners and their non-white neighbors have been shrinking and low voter turnout has helped deliver large margins to Republican candidates.
In unsurprising news, what fuels Trumpism is not globalization, but - as has been shown over and over - racial animus.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:48 PM on January 12 [7 favorites]


This isn't in response to anything in particular, but: is YouTube still accepting advertising money from The Epoch Times? If so, why? My skin crawls every time it shows me one of those ads.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 3:56 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


it's mind-blowing how ALL metafilter is cheering private capital for its power to censor people, and de-platform entire communities
...

That seems like an unnecessarily roundabout way of declaring your allegiance to private capital having broad power over people's speech.


Mommy! Daddy! Please stop fighting!....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:19 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


whole-site generalisations rarely play well across the whole site
posted by inpHilltr8r at 9:06 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


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