Capitol Riot

Why Purging Social Media of Extremist Speech Might Not Make Us Safer

Law enforcement will have an easier time arresting and prosecuting criminals on Parler than on Telegram.

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It's been a wild week on social media. Twitter and Facebook permanently suspended President Trump following the Capitol riots; Twitter removed 70,000 accounts for allegedly promoting violent and conspiratorial content; Facebook mistakenly locked former congressman Ron Paul out of his account, an incident that demonstrates the perils of overly broad moderation; Apple and Amazon moved to eliminate Parler from the former's app store and the latter's servers, effectively destroying the alternative platform used by many Trump supporters.

The social media companies' treatment of both Trump and Parler has prompted furious criticism from conservative pundits and politicians. "Big Tech wants to control what we see, how we behave, and what we say," said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R–Fla.) in a statement entirely characteristic of the right's response.

These moderation decisions can be defended on their own: Trump has repeatedly violated Twitter's terms of service, and spokespersons for the company have frequently suggested that he was receiving leniency only because of his status as president. The Capitol riots, in which Trump's inflammatory rhetoric likely played some role, are a new low for his presidency, and the platforms are understandably worried that future calls to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election could inspire further violence. Moreover, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple are all private companies, and thus they have broad latitude to curtail speech, even in cases where doing so is not wise or well-founded.

It's also fair to criticize the platforms for decisions that appeared hypocritical. While Parler has certainly played host to extremist speech, so have Twitter and Facebook—but Apple and Amazon didn't punish either of them, which makes it seem like Big Tech is picking on a politically disfavored minor competitor. "It looks a lot like they're making Parler a sacrificial lamb to political pressure to do something about people talking too uncontrollably online," noted Reason Senior Editor Elizabeth Nolan Brown.

There's another reason to be wary of far-reaching bans and takedowns that have the effect of purging extremists from mainstream social media sites: Many such social media users will migrate to corners of the internet where it's harder to track their activities. Ironically, this could make it more difficult for law enforcement to foil violent plots, and more challenging to prosecute those who are responsible for violence.

Indeed, the swift justice currently being meted out to the rioters who stormed the Capitol last week is an illustration of this point. From the man who stole House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D–Calif.) lectern to the masked figure who brought zip ties (and his mom) inside the building, social media has been indispensable at helping to identify riot participants. The fact that so many of them tweeted about their plans—or even uploaded selfies while they were in the act of trespassing—means it will be trivially easy to arrest, try, and convict them.

There are similar lessons in counterterrorism. A recent study by the criminologist Joe Whittaker took a look at the Islamic State's social media presence and found that the group was too online for its own good. Terrorists who discussed their plans on social media were twice as likely to be apprehended by law enforcement.

"It is vital to understand the unintended consequences," wrote Whittaker. "This is particularly the case for content removal, which may inadvertently be aiding terrorists and hampering law enforcement investigations."

It's very clear that efforts to remove pro-ISIS content from Twitter and Facebook prompted the terrorist group to begrudgingly migrate to Telegram, an encrypted messaging service. Over time, ISIS became extremely reliant on the service, which made the group vulnerable; in November 2019, Telegram participated in a wildly successful police initiative to identify terrorists who were using the platform for recruitment. Even ISIS's use of this somewhat more underground social media site ended up backfiring.

Many people who were kicked off Twitter or Parler—or are perhaps fearful they could be next—are currently flocking to Telegram and Signal, another encrypted messaging service. If these platforms become the default organizing centers for the kinds of right-wing political extremists currently threatening to unleash more violence on Trump's behalf, they might be harder to foil in the future.

This doesn't mean social media platforms should abandon efforts to moderate extremist content entirely, just that we should be wary of the tradeoffs involved in such moderation. I have to imagine the FBI would prefer for terrorists to livestream their seditious plots, complete with location tracking and time stamps, on an easily accessed social media site.

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    2. In a nutshell:
      The purpose of allowing free speech isn’t because free speech for it’s own sake and liberty. It is to make it much easier for the police state to arrest people for their speech. ~ ROBBY SOAVE

      1. Bluwater-the-Nut, naked and out of Bluwater’s nutshell:

        If domestic terrorists have a nuclear weapon, and are discussing how and where to detonate it, we the people, and our government, need to respect their privacy!

        1. Your arguments are terrible sarcasmic.

          1. Then refute them, authoritarian worshipper of the Great Whitish-Orangish-Pumpkin-Father!

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            2. it is impossible to refute what doesn’t exist. It would be better if you verified your statements. I have asked many liberals to support their arguments, none ever has, so I find their arguments from untrustworthy to outright lies.
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        2. Cripes, Sqrlsy is arguing for the surveillance state again.

          Can you remind me how you’re supposedly libertarian in less than 10,000 words?

          1. Libertarianism is NOT my only value! NOT getting blown up by a nuclear explosion created by uber-fascist right-wing assholes is ALSO a value of mine! So is democracy instead of mob-ocracy! Is THAT so hard to understand, right-wing nut job?

            1. Authlritarianism is your primary tenet. You bow to the left and The Narrativr.

            2. But how could “uber-fascist right-wing assholes” even make a nuclear bomb in the first place? They don’t even believe in how to do “The Science”!

      2. Absolutely! And there are plenty of actual patriots out here who take screen shots of posts white trash Yee-hadis make inciting domestic terrorism and insurrection and forward them to the FBI and BATFE.

        Is that prilled ammonium nitrate stuck on your MAGAT t shirt or just “snacks” from yesterday’s lunch?

      3. That’s what I took from this article. Don’t want people to have free speech and privacy at the same time. Oh the horror of it all for Robby Soave

  2. MIGHT??? FFS Robby…stop.

  3. Why would they be harder to foil? Wasn’t your example that ISIS was foiled on Telegram?

    Well anyway if anyone thinks running something over the public internet even if it’s vpn or encrypted is not accessible to the government today or in the future you’re shockingly unaware.

    1. The Dread Pirate Roberts agrees.

      1. Eh, the real one is retired and living like a king in Patagonia.

        1. “living like a king in Patagonia.”

          That’s one shitty kingdom.

        2. Thats just what the FBI wants you to believe.

          Wait does that mean FMsDH is FBI?

          *shuts up and backs away slowly*

  4. Might not?

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  6. There’s another reason to be wary of far-reaching bans and takedowns that have the effect of purging extremists from mainstream social media sites…

    Extremism is a murky term and you could be next?

    1. Robbie made his rep with rape denial and defending a white supremacist Catholic school kid.

    2. This is the first thing I thought of. When you purge one round of extremists, the people who were just a little bit less extreme than the extremists that were just removed suddenly look a little bit more extreme in comparison to the average.

  7. We all know that there is only right wing extremism, all left wing rhetoric is completely normal and fine

    1. The two separate assaults on the White House last year by lefty rioters was actually good for the environment and resulted in positive psychic energy for all concerned.

      1. Sarcasmic and chipper just won’t be happy until it is just them two sitting in a room sucking each other off and laughing at what they claim are jokes.

      2. Didn’t you hear? We met our CO2 reduction goals by nuking the economy. PROGRESS!

        1. Think of all the environment you could save if you herded all the bad think into special camps.

          1. Well, concentration camps unify those within them, so we could also meet Joe Biden’s goal.

  8. Shit Robby, don’t let sarcasmic or White Knight hear you.
    They’ve been arguing that the corporate censorship is a social good.

    1. Damnit. Meant above comment for here.

    2. Here we go again. Are all Canadians this bad at understanding property rights?

      Let’s say you have a house, err, in your case, a log cabin. You invite a group of friends over for a small get-together. One of your friends drinks too much, drops his pants and starts pooping on your countertop, err, on your favorite pine tree out back. You ask him to stop but he refuses to stop. Under your extremely limited worldview there is nothing you can do but watch in horror as your inebriated friend ruins your favorite pine tree. In ACTUALITY, you are allowed to force him to leave as it is YOUR property. Your friend does not own the log cabin, the pine tree, the wood pile, the jug of maple syrup, the three-legged horse or the decrepit outhouse, he only owns his feces which he is actively spreading around your property, against your wishes.

      Does this make sense to you? I tried to explain it in a way that a Canadian would understand.

      1. “Let’s say you have a house”

        “chemjeff radical individualist
        January.10.2021 at 9:28 pm
        I try to think of these things in analogy with the physical world because it’s just easier for me to think of things this way”

        1. Lol. Sophists gonna sophist.

      2. There’s a world of difference between saying a particular action ‘should be illegal’ and saying that the same action is ‘a bad idea’.

  9. “If these platforms become the default organizing centers for the kinds of right-wing political extremists currently threatening to unleash more violence on Trump’s behalf”

    Heavens, that’s a Reichstag fire too far. They might just break TWO windows next time.

    Did KMW pin you down with the power of Blue hair dye No. 6 and make you type that?

  10. Tjry don’t give a shit about safety. If they did, they would do a better job of enforcing laws. They are censoring because they love doing it.

      1. Right. What is the inherent danger of #walkaway?

  11. I have to imagine the FBI would prefer for terrorists to livestream their seditious plots, complete with location tracking and time stamps, on an easily accessed social media site.

    I remember when the FBI foiled the Randy Weaver and David Koresh plottings – they didn’t need no internets for those foilings. Hell, they didn’t even need a plot. Which is how the FBI usually works from what I can tell. The FBI couldn’t find their own asses with both hands and a flashlight.

  12. Sadly, there is always a Tim McVeigh out there. Now they made thousand’s. Way to go d-bags!

    1. Another left wing hero

  13. Law enforcement will have an easier time arresting and prosecuting criminals on Parler than on Telegram.

    Please don’t make the subhed argument that law enforcement can better monitor us if we don’t mass censor. It’s not a good look out of the gate.

    1. They’ve stopped caring about basic principles like speech and gun rights. Why stop at the 4th.

  14. Somehow I missed all the articles labeled “Minneapolis Riot” and “Portland Riot” and “Seattle Riot” last year.

    1. This is different. Those were 93%peaceful once you dilute it enough.

      1. Their cause was pure. It’s what protected them from the ‘rona.

    2. Note also that the afternoon’s Capitol breach/vandalism is referred to as “riots” plural, while a week of arson and looting is a protest.

    3. Don’t forget Kenosha and Austin

  15. There’s another reason to be wary of far-reaching bans and takedowns that have the effect of purging extremists from mainstream social media sites

    One man’s extremism is another man’s thoughtful testimony of why he left the Democratic party.

    1. Leaving the Democratic party is sedition. That’s why utter maniacs like the #walkaway folks had to be purged from the internet.

      …and always remember that it’s the Trumpies who are somehow cultish.

  16. Still ignoring the transparent incest between BigTech and the Democrat Party.

    BigTech is the Democrat party. These purgings are Democrat sponsored, and rewards are in the form of cabinet and other high level positions given to those in BigTech, so they can then write regulation and law for their own industry.

    When the fuck is Reason gonna stop dancing around this fucking elephant in the room? Even Robbie, who I generally like, has nothing but a pure statist, limp dick response of “purges might be bad, but what’s worse is it will make it harder for the government to find wrongdoers.” Fucking really? This is the best we get from a website with the mantra of “free markets”?

    This is anything but a free market decision, but Reason is still acting as if it were. If fucking libertarians won’t address clear collusion between the Democrat party and BigTech to erase the ability of non-party members to speak openly on the internet, what the fuck are you even doing?

    https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-tech-biden-insight/big-techs-stealth-push-to-influence-the-biden-administration-idUSKBN28V170

    1. They need to change their slogan to “Actually, the boot tastes pretty good.”

      1. Yeah, we live in a world full of people who can see five lights.

        1. ‘How about the insurrection on Wednesday, Winston?’
          ‘It was a protest that got a little silly.’
          ‘And if the party says that it is not a protest but an insurrection—then what?’
          ‘A protest.’
          ‘Was it an insurrection, Winston?’
          ‘Protest.’
          The needle went up to sixty.
          ‘Was it an insurrection, Winston?’
          ‘Protest! protest! What else can I say? protest!’
          ‘Was it an insurrection, Winston?’
          ‘Protest! Stop it, stop it! How can you go on? protest! protest!’
          ‘Was it an insurrection, Winston?’
          ‘Insurrection! insurrection! insurrection!’
          ‘No, Winston, that is no use. You are lying.
          You still think it was a protest.’
          ‘Was it an insurrection, Winston?’
          ‘Protest! insurrection! protest! Anything you like. Only stop it, stop the pain!’

    2. Boehm gets furious over a 5% tariff against a country actively committing theft… yet they seem fine with blatant market collusion to destroy a competitor.

      1. I wonder if he’d sing a different tune if Parler was a Chinese company…

  17. “Mistakenly” locked Ron Paul out of his account. I assume #walkaway was also a “mistake”.

    It’s funny how often battered wives like this author will go back to trusting the tech companies as they consistently and repeatedly go after anyone who’s not a lefty while allowing open calls for violence from anyone who is a lefty.

    1. Did you not realize how much harder their job would be without twitter?

  18. Limiting speech might not make people safer? Hey Robby, when are you going to publish “Why imprisoning people for thought crimes might not make us safer? Maybe you can be a little bit ahead of the trends for once.

    Where else do people on these boards go to post comments? I’m done. This is supposed to be a fucking libertarian site. They have seceded the argument to the left completely. Pure unfettered free speech is the default you twits. If anyone that worked at this outlet was genuinely worried about social media fanning the flames of political violence they had all summer to voice it.

    Free speech is your right, not something you have to ask for from the DNC and these big tech and social media tumors that they have growing out of their ass. The fascism you spent the last 5 years having daily aneurisms about is here. This is what it actually looks like. The government and all the companies (now de facto monopolies) that host the tools for speech (and can just as easily and gleefully take it away) are the same thing. They do each others bidding and if you don’t agree, you go away.

    Right now it’s just silence, but it will at the rate that totalitarianism has spread this year, it’s going to be cages and work camps. A year ago I would have thought that sounds crazy, but the establishment has realized that there’s basically nothing they can’t tell us to do and watch us dutifully line up and do as we’re told. Why would they stop? The excuse to do anything is just one boogie man fear campaign away.

      1. Yes, please go there instead. All the Trump cultists will be welcome there.

        1. Ways censoring, never thinking. Good on you WK.

  19. C’mon, Robby, there is no “might”. Certainty is OK now and then.

  20. It’s a real conundrum. Should libertarians support censorship or enhanced deep state investigations of wrong thinkers? And why can’t it be both?

  21. Think this guy is an extremist Robbie?

    https://www.zerohedge.com/political/pbs-top-lawyer-says-gov-should-build-enlightenment-camps-and-remove-children-trump

    BREAKING: @PBS Principal Counsel Michael Beller Incites Political Violence In Radical Left-Wing Agenda

    “Go to the White House & throw Molotov cocktails…”

    “Even if Biden wins, we go for all the Republican voters, Homeland Security will take their children away…”

    1. A good example of the sort of dumb national enquirer trash you people consume and BELIEVE.

      1. Except that PBS acknowledged it happened.

      2. Zero Hedge is run by a Bulgarian dude with KGB connections.

        1. The video is real and PBS fired him.

          God damn, stop clowning yourself WK.

          You’ve basically proven you try to live in an intentional bubble of lefty group think.

        2. And yet, the story there is the same as that of the Associated Press, with additional material from the video and some loaded words that show Zero Hedge’s bias. Of course, the AP’s article also uses loaded words to downplay the incident, when they use “right-wing sting operation” and “to reveal supposed liberal bias.”

          https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-entertainment-coronavirus-pandemic-8f586d687ab332777a7a059457ff818e

    2. Separating children from their parents is only bad at the border and when Trump does it…

  22. The disassociation from these entities and persons has everything to do with their behavior. You literally have to be in league with a defeated President while gaslighting the world and trying to overthrow democracy for people say, “no, fuck you, I’ve seen enough. You’re not going to use my property for your evil demented scheme.”

      1. “A good example of the sort of dumb national enquirer trash you people consume and BELIEVE.”

    1. However, if your evil demented scheme is of a leftwing flavor, you will be promoted and cheered. We know how this works. You’re just another partisan piece of shit.

      1. But what if you’re crazy and there is no leftwing evil scheme?

        1. Then your name is Lard of Strudel who believes everything she reads in Daily Kos and Jacobin mag.

        2. Then Parler would still be on Amazon and Trump would still be on Twitter.

  23. Robby!

    You are the only one we have left there! Time to step up your game. No more equivocation. Time for some full-throated excoriation of these assaults on our liberties. Go have a coffee with greenwald and his husband if you need someone to help you bolster your courage.

    Somebody has to be the voice of freedom. Might as well be you!

  24. The social media companies’ treatment of both Tump and Parler has prompted furious criticism from conservative pundits and politicians.

    And Mexico, France, Germany, the aclu, actual libertarians, classical liberals…

    1. Well, except for the classical liberal par excellence called JFree.

    2. Well, they’re wrong. People have the right to boycott fascism.

      1. And the left’s abuse of words continues unabated.

      2. You are the fascist sweetie.

      3. Not according to the progressives

    3. And perhaps the most prominent progressive voice in America (Brazil, but you know what I mean).

      1. If the left can declare Cubans in Florida white they can declare the ACLU conservative i guess.

        1. I’m talking about Greenwald, who’s already spoken out, and is all in on the authoritarian nature of this collusion not only between companies, but between these companies and the Democrat party.

          The war on terror is about to be brought home, and used on Americans. Again.

          And Team Blue rejoices in bringing Bush era tactics to use them against their fellow citizens.

          Social media has not only been corrupted, but weaponized.

  25. Of course it is imperative that we track down and imprison anyone who would steal Nancy’s gavel. But even thesr guys think thee might be a lager issue here.
    https://www.zerohedge.com/technology/aclu-warns-unchecked-power-after-facebook-twitter-suspend-trump

    “We understand the desire to permanently suspend him now, but it should concern everyone when companies like Facebook and Twitter wield the unchecked power to remove people from platforms that have become indispensable for the speech of billions – especially when political realities make those decisions easier,” the ACLU statement read.

    1. Yeah, when an outlet dedicated to free minds can’t find a way to say anything beyond the most tepid criticism possible, they need to hang it the fuck up.

    2. “Are you now, or were you ever, a member of the Republican Party?”

    3. Let me make a suggestion Gaear. While one may read about something first on Zero Hedge (or Wonkette, or some other heavily biased source), it’s a good idea to spend a few seconds to try to find the same story on an older, mainstream media outlet, because there are people who won’t believe anything that comes sources on the outer edges of the Ad Fontes media bias chart. It’s a lot harder to dismiss something that appears in media sources that preexisted the internet without looking like a conspiracy theorist or other nutbar. For example, on the first page of Google results, I found the same story on Newsweek’s site.

      https://www.newsweek.com/aclu-counsel-warns-unchecked-power-twitter-facebook-after-trump-suspension-1560248

  26. https://greenwald.substack.com/p/how-silicon-valley-in-a-show-of-monopolistic

    It looked as if Parler had proven critics of Silicon Valley monopolistic power wrong. Their success showed that it was possible after all to create a new social media platform to compete with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And they did so by doing exactly what Silicon Valley defenders long insisted should be done: if you don’t like the rules imposed by tech giants, go create your own platform with different rules.

    If one were looking for evidence to demonstrate that these tech behemoths are, in fact, monopolies that engage in anti-competitive behavior in violation of antitrust laws, and will obliterate any attempt to compete with them in the marketplace, it would be difficult to imagine anything more compelling than how they just used their unconstrained power to utterly destroy a rising competitor.

    It is hard to overstate the harm to a platform from being removed from the App Store. Users of iPhones are barred from downloading apps onto their devices from the internet. If an app is not on the App Store, it cannot be used on the iPhone. Even iPhone users who have already downloaded Parler will lose the ability to receive updates, which will shortly render the platform both unmanageable and unsafe.

  27. Many people are intentionally obnoxious and offensive on Twitter in an attempt to get banned, and they wear their past, dead avatars as badges of honor. Their goal is say, “We no longer have free speech so must resort to violence.” It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. They often hide behind a pet issue such as anti-porn, anti-usury or QAnon that they use as a pretext to be contrarian and stubborn. That way they can say, “I was censored for my beliefs” even though they violated the terms of service in other ways (which they won’t show you).

    Another hypocrisy is that they often have huge block lists. Well if you can block others then of course Twitter can block you, and for the same reasons. I was blocked by the “Stop the Steal” guy for gently advocating basic libertarian principles. If you block me online then don’t expect me to listen to you when you storm the capital. You’ll only earn yourself a one-way ticket to the gulag.

    1. You are the problem.

  28. You don’t purge social media to be safer.

    You pure social media to feel safer.

    1. If ‘pure’ wasn’t a typo, I applaud your word choice. If it was a typo, I applaud your fingers for choosing the word despite your brain’s attempts to type ‘purge’ again.

  29. Why Purging Social Media of Extremist Speech Might Not Make Us Safer

    On the contrary purging social media including the broadcast and cable news of extremist speech WILL make US safer. Now the term EXTREMIST SPEECH needs to be defined. Extremist speech is speech which is out of line with what is socially acceptable. In to days society that would be any speech which is not politically correct. By purging media of this kind of speech would make any who tried to use this speech an outlier and would caused them to become an outcast. Becoming an out cast would cause the person to no longer be able to get a job nor if they tried to run a business the could not get any customers. This would make the person if they are wise to rethink their extremists speech and soon they would become like other people and not use the speech.
    Now if the person may use that speech at home but if they have a child and that child used that kind of speech away from home that person would lose his/her child(ren) because they would be unfit parent. These measures would soon cause this extremists speech to be forgotten for the betterment of all of the population.

    1. The Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses have been designed to help people develop a relaxed attitude to danger. They follow the principle “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” and turn completely dark and opaque at the first sign of danger. This prevents you from seeing anything that might alarm you. This does, however, mean that you see absolutely nothing, including where you’re going.

  30. No worries; If Biden is as great of a president as Obama — Prosecuting Criminals will be ANY American who pays any respect to the U.S. Constitution.

    1. Ironically; It was one of the teller-sign of a domestic terrorist cult member on the FBI webpage when Obama was President – Might still be; I haven’t checked since then.

  31. Oh, NOW you’re worried. Fuck, Reason, why have you gobbled so much Beltway cock that you’ve turned into Republicrat-lite?

  32. “Consumer Voting” – how you spend your dollars is far more powerful than electoral voting.

    If you don’t like online censorship, defund online social media and buy a “paper” newspaper, paper magazines, etc. Stop funding their advertises and fire the censors!

  33. I regularly participate in several message boards related to my hobbies … mainly metal working & shotgun sports (trap, sporting clays, etc.). All of these boards … maybe 10 that I’m active in … have “off topic” areas that are mainly discussions around politics.

    I’ve been involved with most of these for at least 5 years and a few a lot longer than that. in the last year leading up to the election the volume of msgs has exploded. S

    Shutting down parler or kicking ppl off mainstream platforms will not have any effect at all. In fact, all it’s done is push these conversations into the darkest of dark corners where’s there’s no dissenting voice at all. These sites are echo chambers on steroids and they’re not going anywhere. Unless, of course, Amazon (AWS) looks into every recess of its infrastructure to find and ban “objectionable” speech. And if they take that approach we’re a mere baby step away from penalizing thoughtcrime.

  34. If these platforms become the default organizing centers for the kinds of right-wing political extremists currently threatening to unleash more violence on Trump’s behalf

    Then let’s ban ALL THE THINGS because you can be damn sure that Twitter and Facebook and a bunch of other methods were used to organize the kind of left-wing political extremists who absolutely unleashed a bunch of violence against ordinary Americans all last summer for… reasons…

  35. It’s not making us safer because those whose voice is squelched, First Amendment rights are restricted may well decide to defend those rights with force. If censorship continues we will reach a tipping point where it is not violence but freedom loving Patriots fighting an oppressor.

  36. Purging social media of the trash is fun to watch. That’s for sure. It’s like draining the swamp.

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