Mass Shootings

Fight the Soft Totalitarianism of Social Media Cooperation with Government

With big tech helping government officials to control the sharing of information, we need to support alternatives to undermine their censorious efforts.

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Yui Mok/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Within hours of the massacre at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that country's government called on people to refrain from sharing the killer's "manifesto" and the video he'd taken of his crimes-in-progress. Except that New Zealand's officials didn't just ask; pointing to the laws of their own country, they demanded that the offending material be suppressed by social media companies and online publishers, under penalty of laws that wouldn't seem to apply beyond the island nation.

The desire to avoid promoting a mass murderer's ideas and actions is certainly understandable, but the wisdom of removing them from public observation and discussion isn't by any means a given. And the eagerness with which most of the online giants complied with a government's censorship demands raises serious concerns about the prospects for the free exchange of ideas. The dangers of that sort of soft totalitarianism emphasize the importance of developing and promoting alternative platforms which are committed to free speech and resistant to collaborating with government officials.

"It's our view that [the murderer's video] cannot, should not, be distributed, available, able to be viewed. It is horrendous," New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters, amidst concerns that the graphic footage would harm viewers. "You can't have something so graphic available and it not. That is why it is so important that it is prioritised, that it is removed."

To achieve that goal, New Zealand's chief censor (yes, it has such an office) formally banned the video, imposing fine of $10,000 and up to 14 years in prison on anybody sharing it, and demanding the names of anybody (apparently including those living in less censorious jurisdictions) who had already done so. Officials also moved to involve the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network—Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States—in monitoring and controlling social media.

Even before the legal penalties were in place, big tech companies stumbled over themselves to comply. Facebook reported that it had deleted or blocked 1.5 million copies of the bloody video, and it fought attempts to link to the hate-filled manifesto. Twitter and Youtube did the same, and document sharing services including Document Cloud and Scribd worked to delete the 74-page screed.

The tech giants alternately won praise for moving quickly to suppress speech, and criticism for not moving fast and thoroughly enough.

It is understandable why they wouldn't want such unpleasant material circulating on their services. But it's also disturbing that they moved in lockstep, with no pushback over the call to delete content, and no public discussion of the wisdom of the policy.

As the tech giants made their move in collaboration with the New Zealand government, dissenters played whack-a-mole with the big companies and also took to smaller services and websites that didn't suppress speech. Many of them had vile motivations—it's hard to come up with a good way to characterize turning the video into a simulation of a first-person shooter game. But vile people have free speech rights, too, and we need to respect them lest the definition of "vile" become a weapon itself.

There are also constructive reasons for sharing and analyzing a terrorist's motivations and actions. By doing so, you can determine which toxic ideas may motivate violence, get an idea of where threats may come from in the future, and tear those ideas apart in public view.

Writing at Medium, James Peron pointed out that the manifesto's author "combines environmentalism, racism and authoritarianism into one repulsive package" and "hates capitalism, free markets, and free trade but he loves the Communist Chinese government and fascism."

Prominent early 20th century writer and adviser-to-the-powerful Madison Grant expressed similar ideas, according to Jeffrey A Tucker at the American Institute for Economic Research. "Men with the same views, much more sophisticated in expression but just as violent in aim, once came from the Ivy League, occupied the highest levels of social and professional achievement right here in the U.S., and remained heroes of 'Progressivism' for many decades after the Second World War," he added.

The murderer was also a product of our shits-and-giggles, but with high-stakes, age. "Parts of the document are obvious put-ons," Jesse Walker wrote for Reason, "even as the blood in Christchurch reminds us that the killer wasn't kidding about his lethal intentions."

Analyzing the document reminds us that New Zealand currently has an anti-capitalist prime minister in Jacinda Ardern, in coalition with a populist, nationalist, anti-immigration party headed by Winston Peters. The coalition government has the support of the Green Party. This coalition is by no means murderous—no more so than any other government, anyway—nor does it embrace the murderer's white supremacism.

But all too many of the Christchurch killer's authoritarian ideas are not as far removed from the mainstream as we might wish.

So, what of the video? What possible good use can come from watching people slaughtered? That's a harder case to make, no doubt. But we should remember that awareness of the brutal reality of war soared largely as a result of thorough documentation of violent conflicts, and that experience may offer us lessons for dealing with terrorist acts.

"The Vietnam War was the most visually represented war in history, existing, to a great degree, as moving image," wrote Michael A. Anderegg in Inventing Vietnam: The War in Film and Television, published in 2009. "Certainly, the war became a television event, a tragic serial drama stretched over thousands of nights in the American consciousness."

Video records of violent incidents of police brutality have also been effective tools in publicizing misconduct, fueling protest, and motivating change. (Activists have complained that Facebook is too quick to delete video evidence of bad police behavior.)

Could video of a terrorist act bring home the human cost of violence to the people who see it? It's a question worth considering—whether government officials or tech company executives like it or not.

Which is why moves by New Zealand's government to ignore individual rights, bypass discussion, and head straight to censorship are so disturbing. Worse is the inclination of tech executives to submit without protest. We know that governments tend toward authoritarianism; we don't need the private sector moving in lockstep as their enablers.

Exacerbating the threat is a new generation of technological tools under development that "will make past efforts to spread propaganda and quash dissent look primitive," promise Richard Fontaine and Kara Frederick of the Center for a New American Security. If the companies that once prided themselves on battling repressive regimes (remember when Facebook and Twitter facilitated communication among Arab Spring protesters?) instead uniformly turn to enabling control, anybody who differs with officialdom's kneejerk reactions to events is in for a rough ride.

That's why the smaller social media companies and independent sites that didn't knuckle under to New Zealand's demands are so important. Whether committed to free speech, resistant to top-down commands, driven by a need to differentiate from the big players, or themselves sympathetic to vile ideas, these alternatives ensure that we're not all compelled to speak as with one voice, or act as if under the direction of a single will.

Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube suppressing unpleasant material is just a policy preference if other services are free to make different choices. But if the tech giants move in lockstep to enact the dictates of government officials and to choke off other voices, their success isn't just a matter of corporate preference, it's a victory for soft totalitarianism.

Fortunately, alternative services and sites are available and those of us who care about free speech and diversity of ideas should do our best to ensure their viability. None of the more free-wheeling social media platforms currently have the user base of the big companies, and the users they have can sometimes be the sort who unsurprisingly feel unwelcome in mainstream settings (Gab is widely characterized as an alt-right mecca). You may want to keep your Facebook account just to share photos with your cousins and your college buddies. But these alternative services offer policies generally more respectful of diverse ideas than their big competitors. It's worth having accounts on Mastodon, Gab, MeWe, Minds, and the like to expand their audience and to make sure they survive so that dissent remains possible.

The future can remain welcoming for free speech and diverse viewpoints, despite the efforts of governments and their collaborators among the big tech companies. But we're all going to have to make some effort to keep the welcome mat out.

NEXT: Does Donald Trump Hate the TSA as Much as the Rest of Us?

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  1. It is understandable why they wouldn’t want such unpleasant material circulating on their services. But it’s also disturbing that they moved in lockstep, with no pushback over the call to delete content, and no public discussion of the wisdom of the policy.

    If you’ve been paying even the most cursory of attention, it’s been like this for a while. I could list all the isolated cases in this comment, but there are character limits.

    But make no mistake, these companies are working together, and not just in cases where life and death are at play, such as the Christchurch massacre. They’re working in unison to block and ban ANY problematic content, including behavior that didn’t even occur on their platform(s).

    Again, I implore everyone to start following a channel called Youtuber Law. Easy to find on a search.

    1. They’re working in unison to block and ban ANY problematic content, including behavior that didn’t even occur on their platform(s).

      Getting your ass drug in front of a congressional committee to answer stupid questions a few times will promote this kind of behavior. It makes it that much harder to determine if the behavior is based on SJW principals or simply anticipating an inevitable government mandate.

      1. In Zuckerberg’s case, you don’t even have to get dragged in front of a committee. All that’s needed is that Zuckerberg et. al. are sufficiently star-struck by power and thus while sitting at European state Dinners, they desperately want to please Angela Merkel and her band of merry censors.

        1. They are private enterprises. If they voluntarily want to please Merkel, that is their right.

          1. If they did not have billions in government citizens tracts I would agree with you.

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        2. Zuckerberg is playing congress. He is angling to manipulate them into turning Facebook and similar established platforms into public utilities, or seething very similar.

          If that happens, Facebook will never go away. Unlike MySpace. He knows this. The best way to get rid of Facebook is to let the market abandon it, just like MySpace.

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  2. Big mistake. Should be showing the most gruesome and bloody parts to highlight the madness that lives within minds that have been twisted by rabid ideologies instead of rational thinking.

  3. It is understandable why they wouldn’t want such unpleasant material circulating on their services.

    Is it? Does anyone really think Zuckerberg gives a flying fuck what people post on his platforms as long the companies generate revenue?

    The internet has been a bastion of free speech since its inception. It was only ever a matter of time before governments stated imposing restrictions. But the governments don’t pay the bills, they just impose taxes.

    Facebook makes money because it has connected billions of people that would otherwise never have contact with each other. Seems like alienating its dwindling user base is not the best strategy.

    1. its dwindling user base

      You’re funny.

      1. Facebook as the specific platform is seeing a decline in user base. However, Facebook Corp’s products like Snapchat are still going strong.

        1. Yep, but I’m willing to bet that this has nothing to do with censorship. The decline in younger users is because mom & dad are on the platform now. It’s a platform for people that think memes are defined as a picture with a caption underneath.

          1. I believe it’s both, but I’m guessing that’s very hard to quantify. I would agree that a large majority of the exodus is young people fleeing to hipper platforms. Based on a recent survey however, Facebook “favorability” ratings have plunged dramatically, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that FB is getting pegged in multiple orifices. Conservatives hate it for all of its censorious social justice bullshit, and liberals hate it because they believe it facilitated russian bots in defeating Hillary Clinton.

            At this point in time, Facebook simply can’t win. No matter what they do, they’re either going too far or not going far enough. But that’s the tangled web you weave when you practice to police content.

            1. I’d agree that some people will leave the platform over perceived political bias or unethical behavior (there are 2.2 billion users, after all).

              Another thing I think more people are aware of is all the negative press about ad targeting, data sharing, etc.

              Personally, I left the platform after it was exposed that they manipulated people’s feeds to see if they could influence the user’s mood (make people happy, sad, angry, etc.). As far as I’m concerned, its deeply unethical experimentation on the general public. Facebook is basically cancer in every way.

              1. ” its deeply unethical experimentation on the general public. ”

                And yet you post comments, testing the responses from the public. Experimenting!!

                1. Yeah, I’m exactly like Facebook. Impeccable logic, BigT.

                  1. “Yeah, I’m exactly like Facebook. Impeccable logic, BigT.”

                    Just the scale is different, you may not have a goal in mind, and perhaps your diligence in recording responses.

                    You posted something and looked for the responses.

              2. Another thing I think more people are aware of is all the negative press about ad targeting, data sharing, etc.

                Yes, I was incredibly remiss in not talking about this elephant in the room. Absolutely. FB’s privacy is a major concern with its users.

    2. It is perfectly understandable; it upsets the powers-that-be.

      You can’t fight the beast by pretending otherwise.

    3. The internet has been a bastion of free speech since its inception.

      This is myth. An immaculately conceived internet. Originally, the internetworking was between France’s (nationally owned) CYCLADES network, Britain’s (nationally owned) NPL, and the US’s (largely nationally owned) ARPANET. The specific problem was that packets couldn’t travel freely from one network to the other. Xerox PARC was largely responsible for the building of ARPANET but, because of Xerox’s confidentiality policies, Xerox employees could only hint at solutions the ARPANET researchers should implement to birth the internet.

      It was no more a bastion of free speech at its inception than the printing press or the written word. Sure, they enabled a more prolific and free flow of information, but they also enhanced the control, structure, and distribution of that information.

      1. This is myth. Computer jargon gobbledygook internet

        Um, I remember thinking in 1988 that my buddy’s BBS’s that you had to dial in to access was a really cool way to disseminate information outside the official media and publishing channels.

        Ten years later, I could access millions of blog pages from around the world about any topic imaginable simply by typing in a search parameter. The portals have had a lot of control over how we access the content, but only limited control over the content. Even China and Iran have had problems suppressing it without the direct cooperation of providers. I would call that a bastion of free speech.

        Dude, do you even remember Napster?

        1. Even China and Iran have had problems suppressing it without the direct cooperation of providers. I would call that a bastion of free speech.

          They have trouble suppressing the information regardless of media.

          Dude, do you even remember Napster?

          I’m pretty sure there are at least a couple of burned CDs in a box of mix tapes recorded from broadcast. Maybe a couple of VHSs with the tabs taped over that I recorded some MTV music videos as well. But then, I was raised in a house with a HAM operator.

      2. Yes and no. Free Speech was never a design goal of the DARPA initiative. But it was still there, unintentionally, as an emergent freedom of the nature of the protocols.

        The goal was a network that could survive a nuclear attack. So it was decentralized. It was multi-modal. Information could route around problems. Bomb a military base and the protocol just routes around it. Company decides to charge too much for packet delivery and the protocol just routes around their nodes.

        The protocols don’t care about the packet internals, they only care about the packet headers. That was just basic engineering. You don’t have to know what bytes you are delivering in order to deliver them. Even if DARPA wanted to censor the content the technology wasn’t good enough to analyze the bytes being transported. And so the side effect emerged of content neutrality. The protocols don’t give a shit about the content, so long as it gets to where it’s going. It’s why net neutrality is so much bullshit. A company trying to block content is just going to get routed around.

        And finally, the software that runs the Internet and the protocols it uses and the infrastructure it all sits on were NOT created by the government, but by engineering students and businesses and hobbyists who were trying to build a communication network not a censorship mechanism.By the time the Internet caught on among the general populace, an online free speech culture had already emerged.

        1. Yes and no. Free Speech was never a design goal of the DARPA initiative. But it was still there, unintentionally, as an emergent freedom of the nature of the protocols.

          I agree with this and it’s fair. To me, ‘bastion’ connotes something constructed specifically to be well defended and protected. ‘Yes and no.’, ‘there unintentionally’, and ‘as an emergent phenomenon’ voids the notion of ‘bastion since inception’. I think the notion that it was is a myth that has been perpetuated and has bled into a mythos about the medium. The technological frontier was new and niche enough that, for a time, there was a large amount of freedom. Much like any other Wild West or Gold Rush throughout history.

          the software that runs the Internet and the protocols it uses and the infrastructure it all sits on were NOT created by the government, but by engineering students and businesses and hobbyists who were trying to build a communication network not a censorship mechanism.

          This is a misconception; we both know that you don’t have to own the majority of the hardware the internet runs on or have authored a significant portion of the software that runs it in order to effectively silence free speech or chill dissent. I think we both agree that from the beginning and to the current day the government has had more involvement and visibility into virtually all corners of the internet for libertarians to declare it ‘free of censorship’ or ‘free from chilled speech’.

  4. Pics, or it didn’t happen.

  5. All I know is Dorsey should stop doing these interviews.

    1. He needs to do more to continue to show how full of shit he is.

      1. That was my thought exactly. No, Dorsey, talk more. And make damned sure your community safety and social justice bitch is with you when you do. That lady’s a deer-in-the-headlights laugh riot.

  6. They are private enterprises and can do whatever they want.

    Nobody at Reason is putting 2 and 2 together and realizing social media censorship of conservatives is also to support established government authority.

  7. At the risk of getting banned again by Reason for opposing arbitrary social media censorship (and getting all my comments deleted, again), thank you Reason for opposing arbitrary social media censorship.

    1. Day, if I’m not getting banned for all the shit I say, then I highly doubt you will.

      1. Already been, twice. What’s your secret? Is it to eat crap and tell the world it’s delish?

  8. Officials also moved to involve the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network?Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States?in monitoring and controlling social media.

    “The Five Eyes” doesn’t sound Orwellian in the least.

    1. They just opened one up in my neighborhood.

      1. It makes sense as a diabolical plot to get the world to put malted vinegar on french fries!

        1. My mother was English so this is normal for me.

        2. Actually, this is pretty good. Also, malted vinegar is great on friend fish.

          1. Actually, this is pretty good. Also, malted vinegar is great on friend fish.

            I’m actually a big salt and vinegar potato chip fan. As long as the vinegar on fries hasn’t reduced them to warm soggy mush, I’m good.

            Batter fried fish is a sin. Sprinkling vinegar on it makes eating that sin modestly more palatable.

    2. But not a bad name for a band

    3. Just for the record, . . .

      There are the Five Eyes countries = Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK, U.S.A.
      The Nine Eyes = Five Eyes + Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and Norway.
      The Fourteen Eyes = Nine Eyes + Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Sweden

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UKUSA_Agreement

      Make sure your VPN, encrypted email service, and cloud storage company isn’t based within the Fourteen Eyes countries and you’re taking a reasonable step to protect your privacy.

      1. You protect your privacy with face to face meetings in a large open space, muttering behind a hand in front of your lips; and a big floppy hat between you and the satellites.
        To be really sure, you don’t speak, but use asl inside a tent you set up and know does not have cameras. That is, leave your cell phone at home.
        Or you just plain don’t give a damn, live your life, and go home alive.

      2. Are you really claiming that Saudi Arabia or China would be a better place to host your internet activities?

  9. Notice, the government didn’t need to tell the social media companies to seek out and eliminate this content from their platforms. The reason isn’t because they’re afraid of government regulation. The reason is because these social media platforms are primarily advertising platforms, and advertisers like Coca Cola, GEICO, and Disney don’t want their advertising to inadvertently appear to be endorsing a racist rant and the snuff films of a mass murdering terrorist.

    Incidentally, we used to never hear the Misfits, Cannibal Corpse, or Slayer’s “Angel of Death” on commercial radio for the same reason. I just caught the first ten minutes of Blazing Saddles on AMC–they scrubbed it of the “n-word”–for the same reason. It’s an advertising platform, and nobody wants their advertising associated with content that’s too controversial in the wrong way.

    If you want a platform that doesn’t censor speech, then you need to go to a platform that isn’t as dependent on advertising. Who buys advertising during the Jerry Springer show? Payday lenders, bail bondsmen, fly by night doctor’s assistant schools, and ambulance chasers, and other advertisers that don’t have any scruples. If you want to see tits, hear strong language, see bodies ripped apart, etc., then you generally have to go to a subscription model outlet like HBO.

    1. Disney don’t want their advertising to inadvertently appear to be endorsing a racist rant and the snuff films of a mass murdering terrorist.

      And yet, the whole “promise” of the internet was to be able to tailor advertising for specific eyes. Have a channel that’s all about puppies? Advertise Petco. Have a channel with a foul-mouthed, ranting anti-immigration nut, then show the ads from companies that are ok with that. I don’t know why Google et. al. are making this so hard. Youtube isn’t a radio show with a single stream programming system with captive eyes and ears.

      1. “Have a channel with a foul-mouthed, ranting anti-immigration nut, then show the ads from …” Reason commentators.

        1. And they still have ads. Amazeballs!

    2. Notice, the government didn’t need to tell the social media companies to seek out and eliminate this content from their platforms.

      Well, except for that time Joe Lieberman and the U.S. Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee literally called up Amazon to have a conversation about Wikileaks.

      Also, repeated and widespread domain name seizures by the DOJ.

      And High Court orders to ISPs across a couple of continents.

      And also, the MPAA’s invocation of DMCA to compel Google to take down content.

      And the repeated attempts and open policy statements by virtually all media companies that they will impose the least common denominator of legal protections of free speech against any given government and content. Not just caving to the Great Chinese Firewall, but also imposing Europe and Canada’s more onerous free speech restrictions on American (and other) users who run afoul of those rules/laws.

      Other than that, you’re right. The government didn’t specifically request Alex Jones’ takedown and his deplorable, controversial, and yet popular nature are completely analogous to the way you don’t hear deplorable, controversial, and yet popular bands Rancid or KISS on the radio.

      1. The only other point that Ken misses (although I think is general comment is worth pondering) is that the highly limited world of broadcast media had already succumbed to censorious regulation under the FCC. The entire point of New Media (which, by the way included subscription/cable models such as HBO in the early 80s) was that you could show sex, tits, ass and say the seven deadly words because they fell outside that regime. The entire INTERNET supposedly falls outside that regime, but with such powerful players, we do see an interesting free-market aspect at work. What Ken has alluded to is the self-regulation (which Reason often touts, by the by) of advertiser-dependent platforms removing any icky content that might scare away said advertisers.

        So the remaining question is, can other services start up in an environment where there appears to be collusion between the major players to deplatform not just content creators, but other entire platforms who decide to carry the creators that the major services have already banned.

        1. “The highly limited world of broadcast media had already succumbed to censorious regulation under the FCC.”

          Hence the proliferation of cable–even before the internet became commercially available (say pre-AOL and Netscape).

          Why would people pay for television, when 90% of what they were watching on TV was broadcast for free by three or four networks with advertising? Surely, the answer is that people were willing to pay to see content they couldn’t get past the advertisers (and to a lesser extent, the FCC). They even rented movies from Blockbuster so they see the stuff that wouldn’t get aired on advertising supported television.

          To me, this inspires hope because it suggests that when advertising platforms were censored in the past, people decided they would pay a premium for uncensored content. Some of the nastiest, most violent, sexiest, raunchiest movies ever made were made before the internet–in the midst of all that broadcast television censorship. People were willing to pay for the content they wanted, and I don’t think there’s any reason to believe that won’t continue in the future.

          1. P.S. The writing may be on the wall for Facebook and Twitter if they can’t be raunchy enough for what their viewers want because of advertisers and they can’t generate the growth their stockholders expect because the advertisers wouldn’t let them tolerate the content they need to achieve that growth. This is like the WWE and the ECW taking on the Turners’ wrestling brand during the Attitude era, the company that’s less dependent on advertising can get a whole lot raunchier–even when they’re both on cable. Turner’s WCW ended up looking like “Leave it to Beaver”. That may be Facebook ten years from now. Their dependence on advertising may prove to be their Achilles’ heel.

            1. Advertisers need to grow up and realize that it doesn’t necessarily hurt their brand if they’re seen alongside raunchy or problematic content. This whole thing was started by an industry group who tried to shame advertisers into running away from so-called New Media and back into the arms of so-called “Old Media”.

              Basically, it’s a bunch of men in a burlap sack trading hats for a living. Everyone in this tightly closed media bubble is just listening to each other while ignoring the public.

            2. Facebook et al can easily initiate niche services tuned to each sector.

              “can other services start up in an environment where there appears to be collusion between the major players to deplatform ”

              Pornhub to the rescue!

  10. “You may want to keep your Facebook account just to share photos with your cousins and your college buddies.”

    I’d argue that a closed system like Slack is even better for close families or smaller groups of friends.

    “But these alternative services offer policies generally more respectful of diverse ideas than their big competitors. It’s worth having accounts on Mastodon, Gab, MeWe, Minds, and the like to expand their audience and to make sure they survive so that dissent remains possible.”

    Look at Bit.Tube as an alternative to YouTube. They’ve found a way to do it with cryptocurrency rather than as a subscription model.

    https://bit.tube/dashboard

    Likewise, look at Steemit and their YouTube like system.

    https://steemit.com/

    Rather than a subscription, you get paid in coin to create and curate content.

  11. >>>the eagerness with which most of the online giants complied with a government’s censorship demands raises serious concerns about the prospects for the free exchange of ideas

    raises? crossed that river a decade ago, minimum

  12. “With big tech helping government officials to control the sharing of information, we need to support alternatives to undermine their censorious efforts.”

    Catch a clue: We should be trying to undermine their censorious efforts even where the censorship ISN’T directed by government.

    It’s censorship that’s the problem. It’s just that we need to adjust to a world where government isn’t the only serious threat in that area.

  13. Fascism. I can’t wait for everybody worth a follow to be disappeared on social media in the run-up to 2020.

    1. Google disappears Greenpeace co-founder.

      https://tinyurl.com/y3wqj5l7

      He doubts AGW and spoke well of Trump. Digital guillotine!

      1. “Sent to the Googlag”

        Ok, that gets the comedy smirk of the day.

  14. Fortunately, alternative services and sites are available and those of us who care about free speech and diversity of ideas should do our best to ensure their viability. None of the more free-wheeling social media platforms currently have the user base of the big companies, and the users they have can sometimes be the sort who unsurprisingly feel unwelcome in mainstream settings (Gab is widely characterized as an alt-right mecca).

    Almost every site that’s beginning to percolate up the chain is now being characterized as “alt-right meccas”. The new service Dissent is being harangued by the establishment media as just such a platform because it cuts right to the hear of their own internal censorship efforts by blocking comments on hot-button articles.

    It’s been an amazing two years to watch the established players become openly hostile to open discourse, and it’s coming from the very sector that has historically prided itself on the tenets of free speech.

    And just a side note, these other services can be very shaky when MasterCard, Visa, Paypal, Patreon, AMEX, Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo, the backbone provider, the CDN provider AND the certificate authority all decide to deplatform you within a 24 hour period. Yes, all eleven of those entities are private companies, but when they act in unison, then libertarians need to start asking themselves some tough questions about the potential limits of the free market.

    1. ” it’s coming from the very sector that has historically prided itself on the tenets of free speech.”

      It bears repeating: The left only ever cared about freedom of speech because they assumed the right would get to be the censors. As soon as they decided they had a shot at that job, free speech lost its appeal, and now that they’re confident only leftists are going to be able to censor, they’re positively opposed to free speech.

    2. “Yes, all eleven of those entities are private companies, but when they act in unison, then libertarians need to start asking themselves some tough questions about the potential limits of the free market.”

      This very thing is exactly why I’m not a libertarian anymore.

    3. When all 11 companies act unison in that manner, I wonder if it is the free market at play, or whether they are responding to implicit government threats. Remember Ron Wyden’s thinky veiled threat to repeal social media immunity from suit.

      1. To Mr. Flanders and Number 2:

        I still am a libertarian and I still believe in the free market. I think the best result is that Facebook goes the way of MySpace without any government intervention.

        But I’m careful to say that the idea that the free market will always end up in the right place without any nudges from a state authority is at least worth pondering. Even if it does end up in the right place in the long term by itself, what about the people that are hurt in the interim? I don’t claim to have answers, but I think it’s a worthwhile topic for libertarians to debate and I think Reason has woefully missed the boat on what’s going on with the internet, instead focusing on the latest campus outrages in Flyspeck, Montana.

        Tuccille is at least touching on it here.

        But to Number 2’s point, that’s the dark piece to this whole pie. It may not even be a free market issue, but quiet back channel discussions going on with the Zuckerbergs and the Dorseys etc, nudging them to clean up their platform of dissenting voices. We KNOW that’s happened with European leaders and Zuck specifically, but we can only speculate how many calls a week they get from the likes of Dianne Feinstein and other odious authoritarians.

        1. I agree with pretty much everything you said here.

        2. “But I’m careful to say that the idea that the free market will always end up in the right place without any nudges from a state authority is at least worth pondering.”

          It cannot be as bad as they’ll wind up with explicit regulation by state authorities.

      2. When all 11 companies act unison in that manner, I wonder if it is the free market at play, or whether they are responding to implicit government threats.

        As a non- or even anti-civil libertarian (somewhat counter intuitively) it is, IMO, de facto no longer a market and actually represents the sort of true violation of free competition that anti-trust or public accommodations are meant to prevent. If the government collects all the tax money but only ever concerns itself with, say, dead tree postal delivery policy while the top level power brokers across various and non-competing aspects of industry collude to effect a tyranny of the majority, opposing mail service regulations doesn’t exactly make you a bona fide libertarian. Trying to avoid describing myself as a true scotsman, it’s essentially identifying as a libertarian during a(n explicit or implicit) definition shift.

    4. Yes, all eleven of those entities are private companies, but when they act in unison, then libertarians need to start asking themselves some tough questions about the potential limits of the free market.

      I don’t see why. The free market never promised that all (traded) goods will be available at every price. You want access to FB’s services? pay with your privacy & getting censored. You want to keep your privacy & want to have unfettered access to ideas + ability to spread ’em? pay for it with your money and limited access to the eyeballs & gray matter of your fellow (wo)men. This is entirely free market-compatible.

      1. The free market never promised that all (traded) goods will be available at every price.

        Goods not being traded at the agreed upon price, or any price, is not a market. I said this before, if there were some manner of protracted warning (and Twitter does this in part) or some manner of contract/user agreement renegotiation, I might see how you have a point. E.g., they offered to let Alex Jones stay on the platform for a $150/mo. ‘miscreant fee’, he declined, they booted him. Seldom to never is there any sort of ‘parties reaching an agreement and contracting amongst themselves’ as part of a deplatforming. It’s pretty specifically “You’re off and no amount of money could get you back on.” Which may entirely jive with property rights, but it not a market.

        1. Goods not being traded at the agreed upon price, or any price, is not a market.

          This is false: no vendor of a particular good is required to provide a full range of said goods at a price acceptable to some consumer. If I make low-end dirt bikes which cost less than let’s say $500, no one can demand from me to manufacture a high-end dirt bike: not for $500, not for $600 but not even for $5,000. (In this hypothetical example,) I’m offering a particular product at a particular price (point): the consumer can take it or leave it, but that’s the full extent of her sovereignty: she can’t demand of me anything else.

          “E.g., they offered to let Alex Jones stay on the platform for a $150/mo. ‘miscreant fee’, he declined, they booted him.”

          Maybe they would have entertained such an offer for $15 million/month: according their calculations, that would offset their loss of income for making such an agreement. That’s nobody’s business except theirs that how much they ask for serving their customers’ custom needs.

          1. This is false: no vendor of a particular good is required to provide a full range of said goods at a price acceptable to some consumer.

            No. It’s not. Nobody trading anything at any price is not a market. Somebody offering a good or service and somebody else, on the other side of the planet offering payment, with no means to transfer payment and/or goods and services is not a market. If you have carpenters and lumberyards to build houses, but nobody can buy, lend or barter for the services, you don’t have a housing or homebuilding market. Toasters toasting bread is not an example of market forces at work. You’re really being retarded about this.

            1. No. It’s not. Nobody trading anything at any price is not a market. Somebody offering a good or service and somebody else, on the other side of the planet offering payment, with no means to transfer payment and/or goods and services is not a market.

              These aren’t arguments: these are only reiterations of your assertions.

              If you have carpenters and lumberyards to build houses, but nobody can buy, lend or barter for the services, you don’t have a housing or homebuilding market.

              Correctly: if nobody can buy, lend or barter for the house-building services, then you don’t have carpenters and lumberyards to build houses.

              You’re really being retarded about this.

              This isn’t an argument, either; it’s just the expression of your frustration with my argument, converted into ad hominem.

              1. Sorry about screwing up the blockquote tags; let’s try it again:

                No. It’s not. Nobody trading anything at any price is not a market. Somebody offering a good or service and somebody else, on the other side of the planet offering payment, with no means to transfer payment and/or goods and services is not a market.

                These aren’t arguments: these are only reiterations of your assertions.

                If you have carpenters and lumberyards to build houses, but nobody can buy, lend or barter for the services, you don’t have a housing or homebuilding market.

                Correctly: if nobody can buy, lend or barter for the house-building services, then you don’t have carpenters and lumberyards to build houses.

                You’re really being retarded about this.

                This isn’t an argument, either; it’s just the expression of your frustration with my argument, converted into ad hominem.

          2. Maybe they would have entertained such an offer for $15 million/month: according their calculations, that would offset their loss of income for making such an agreement. That’s nobody’s business except theirs that how much they ask for serving their customers’ custom needs.

            Sure, but the fact that they didn’t ask/offer means it explicitly wasn’t a business negotiation or market decision. If they’d said “Cough up $15M/mo., tone down your rhetoric so sponsors don’t leave, or GTFO.” we could at least recognize it as a business decision, whether or not we agreed with the numbers and/or policies. That they didn’t means it’s entirely speculation on your part as to whether they did it for profit, animus, mandate, or some other reason. I agree with the religious baker’s ability to refuse to bake cakes for gay people. I’m not a retard that would pretend like “Well, that’s the market at work!” when the baker makes such a decision. And, in this/these cases, it’s specifically not the market at work. It’s a weird sense that divorces the concept of ownership *and* control and declares an exchange that has either one by either party as the free market.

            1. the fact that they didn’t ask/offer

              You know for a fact that they didn’t ask/offer? Show us the proof of this knowledge of yours.

              in this/these cases, it’s specifically not the market at work. It’s a weird sense that divorces the concept of ownership *and* control and declares an exchange that has either one by either party as the free market.

              ???

              You will have to expand on this argument of yours: it isn’t meaningful in this form.

          3. “I will not offer my goods/services at any price.” is a non- or even anti-market based decision. Reality isn’t defined by the market so there are certainly valid non-market-based reasons to take such a stance, legally defensible even. But the idea that “I will not offer my goods/services [to someone] at any price.” is just the market at work is nonsense.

            1. Reality isn’t defined by the market

              This is hilarious: what else on this God’s green Earth can define reality besides the market participants’ revealed preferences, i.e. the exchanges they make?

    5. “And just a side note, these other services can be very shaky when MasterCard, Visa, Paypal, Patreon, AMEX, Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo, the backbone provider, the CDN provider AND the certificate authority all decide to deplatform you within a 24 hour period.”

      RICO!!

  15. Are Facebook etc really being censored here? I think that publicizing acts of terrorism is not good for the company image. Neither is profiting from acts of terrorism good for the company image. Perhaps these are reasons enough to suppress the videos without any input from the government.

    1. If I were a CEO of one of these companies, I’d be okay with taking down the videos too simply because I wouldn’t want them damaging the company. Its not like they are telling users they can’t go elsewhere to download it and share it privately… no violation of freedom of speech IMO.

    2. No, they’re not being censored, they’re doing the censoring on behalf of powerful people.

      1. ” they’re doing the censoring on behalf of powerful people”

        Powerful people like the shareholders of Facebook, who rely on management to protect the company and keep generating profits. I don’t see government involvement as a deciding factor here. A private business has plenty of motivation to censor the videos, as I’ve tried to outline in a previous comment.

        1. No, powerful people like Angela Merkel who is on record whispering sweet nothings into Zuckerbergs ear while he nodded emphatically and telling her he was get right on her bidding.

          1. I doubt Zukerberg needs Angela Merkel to tell him how to run his business. Zukerberg probably has a good sense of what is good for the company and what is bad. I don’t think it’s incredible that he’s concluded that his company publicizing and profiting from terrorist attacks is not good for the company image. I don’t think he needs to be told by a politician to realize this, but is able to come to the conclusion independently. If you think, contrary to Zukerberg and Merkel, that publicizing and profiting from terror attacks is good for the company, or that Merkel knows better than Zukerberg how to run the company, you haven’t made the case.

            1. Zuckerberg (I would argue) sees his business as synonymous with the goals of EU powerbrokers. I’ve stated this before, it’s pretty clear where Zuckerberg wants to be.

              1. I humbly bow to your superior mind reading abilities.

  16. Search engines, too. Google has reportedly blocked searches for “burgundy.”

    Earlier today I cited two election stories (in a post about the quality called haughtiness): Trump’s allegedly saying “People who stay in my hotel won’t be blind” and HRC’s allegedly saying “They aren’t rich: they’re useless.” I searched for online links to both stories. Google went directly to Snopes for the latest on the Trump story, plus a lot of Barbara Res’s other remarks about our Prez, but the HRC story (which I remember well having quoted from Roger Moore’s book)? Google found only two references, both on my web site. And Amazon failed to open a searchable page for Moore’s book.

    Timing? Or bias? Based on the observed behavior of Al Gore I suspect the latter.

    1. Google is just a vehicle to deliver customers to advertisers. Maybe you should try Lexisnexis who for a fee could provide you with the information you seek.

    2. This is a tough call. We know that Google suppresses search results for politically unfavored things because they’ve explicitly told us they do.

      But when it comes to the really nebulous stuff, it’s hard to prove. This is where competition is the answer, not government intervention. Start using alternate search providers like Duckduckgo.com if you suspect shenanigans. I have found Duckduckgo presenting me with top-level results on controversial subjects where they either didn’t show up or were way down the list with google. I admit suspecting shenanigans, but the answer here is competition– more search engines, not turning Google into a utility which will absolutely backfire and make the problem worse.

  17. I can tell you that the reason why the NZ government is running around trying to ban this stuff is that they’re in panic mode. About 95% of the members of the cabinet are brand new to this whole ruling thing, having never been responsible for anything important in their lives – they spent the last 9 years in opposition where you can promise anything and never have to do anything to fulfil them.

    This is their first crisis and they’re not exactly shining, although local media are giving them a pass for now.

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  20. What’s so different about Christchurch and that which we see every night on the boob tube? Just about every night the first news stories are about violence of some kind. People can’t get enough of it. Killing is killing. Perhaps some killings seemingly more horrific than others. People seem to put a premium on the various methods in which people are killed. Avoid the news. Governments are at a loss to stop violence, in fact some regimes support it. Free speech is being killed off because those in power want to control what we see and hear and take away our ability to form opinions about it. This is why we have fake news…it is designed to move opinion, thoughts and beliefs in a certain direction. Everyone in the world wants control somebody else and no one wants to take responsibility for their actions. Since the dawn of man, more that 100 billion people have died. What death(s) is more significant than any other?

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  22. Preventing the populace from seeing the evidence, especially the manifesto presumably means:
    1. The politicians think the populace are soft minded and fairly idiotic, reading such things will convert them into raving shooters on the street.
    2. The populace will lose an opportunity to think through and rebut ideas, if they want to do that. That can have serious impact down the road.
    3. People with high reactance against state nannying may have an increased motivation to adopt the ideas.
    4. Other ideas will be easier to censor, block and punish. China has social credit and is open about it, NZ is headed for something similar, but hidden.
    5. The social media are already trying to meld people’s minds, they should stop, not be forced deeper into dysfunctional mind control attempts.

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