Reason Roundup

Democrats Demand Social Media Users Talking Politics Disclose Certain Foreign Connections

Plus: The era of sovereign influencers, a new experiment in universal basic income, and more...


The lingering effects of "Russian influence" hysteria are still being felt. While Facebook is ending a ban on political advertising that was enacted amid moral panic about overseas influence in U.S. elections, Democrats in Congress are still pushing regulations and restrictions based on the idea that simply seeing foreign people's speech about U.S. issues and elections is bad for feeble-minded Americans and dangerous to our democracy.

Russian bot operations undoubtedly tried to stir up mayhem and inflame partisan passions during the 2016 presidential election, but the effects of that attempted chaos-sowing are way less clear (and less common) than Democrats—incredulous that Hillary Clinton could've lost to Donald Trump in a fair election—liked to pretend. And apparently, this delusion is still driving Democratic policy proposals in Congress. On Wednesday, the House passed a measure to require all politics-related social media posts from "an agent of a foreign principal" to bear a disclaimer saying as much.

The Foreign Agent Disclaimer Enhancement (FADE) Act of 2021, introduced by Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D–Va.), passed the House yesterday as part of a larger voting rights and election-related bill called the For the People Act (which only one Democrat and all Republicans in the House voted against).

The FADE Act states:


The era of the sovereign influencer. The latest Pirate Wires, a newsletter by Founders Fund's Mike Solana, has a really interesting section on "the new class" of social media and the rise of the "sovereign influencer." Solana posits that platforms are enabling a certain sort of "cancel-proof" and transferable social media experience:

Over the last decade, companies that focused on things like creator monetization, creator control, and certainly any kind of alternative, cancel-proof social media all generated trivial amounts of revenue by comparison to the social media giants. They still do. But companies focused on the dominance of sovereign influencers are riding the most important trend in media, while social media incumbents are almost incapable of capitalizing on the trend without disrupting their own dominance. In the technology industry, the dynamic at work here is legendary. A decade ago, when I first learned "Silicon Valley" was an actual place, rather than a metaphor, and began my journey with Founders Fund, I picked up a book called the Innovator's Dilemma. Long, fascinating story short: large and powerful companies are pressured by the market into obsessive focus on their core business, even when leadership is cognizant of new and important technology trends just outside their company's core competency. A few of these trends become tidal waves that reshape our world, and smaller companies better equipped to capitalize on new trends ride the waves to new and more significant markets. By the time a dominant incumbent fully commits to the new game in town — because it finally has to — it's too late. Congratulations, you're the foremost purveyor of film in a world of digital photography.

Patreon and OnlyFans, subscription services for creators, represent the first wave of companies that meaningfully monetized influencers, and decoupled them in some critical sense from the dominant social media platforms. But Patreon loves a wrongthink cancellation, and OnlyFans is a platform as well as a tool for monetization. While losing either monetization or a platform will harm a creator, the ability to distribute is critical. Substack, with email subscription baked into its DNA, represents the cancel-proof second wave. With a slight hiccup while they find a new tool for monetization, a writer could conceivably leave Substack and continue sharing content with their followers. In other words, we trust Substack because we don't have to trust Substack. Elsewhere, Discord walked so Clubhouse could run. Interactive voice chat may not be helping creators monetize (yet), and Clubhouse has way too much attack exposure to ever cancel-proof a user — though they've admirably resisted the New York Times thought police — but these are mixed social platforms. Partly they enable groups of people who know each other to chat, but they're also broadcast platforms for sovereign influencers. This is the future. Every successful new company in media and social media exists in sync with this future.


The results are in for a two-year experiment with universal basic income (UBI) in Stockton, California:

After getting $500 per month for two years without rules on how to spend it, 125 people in California paid off debt, got full-time jobs and reported lower rates of anxiety and depression, according to a study released Wednesday.

The program in the Northern California city of Stockton was the highest-profile experiment in the U.S. of a universal basic income, where everyone gets a guaranteed amount per month for free.

More here.


• The House of Representatives yesterday passed a bill to ban police officers from using chokeholds and to reform the qualified immunity process. Called the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, it had the support of all House Democrats and only one Republican, Rep. Lance Gooden (R–Texas)—who said afterward that he voted for it accidentally. The measure now goes to the Senate, "where it will need at least 10 Republican votes for passage," notes NBC.

• Here's a good explainer on Twitter Spaces, the company's attempt to compete with Clubhouse in the audio chatroom sphere.

• "Safe injection sites are a proven method for reducing overdose deaths, but the Department of Justice has been using a 1986 law that President Joe Biden championed in the Senate to prevent their operation," notes The Appeal.

• Shikha Dalmia dissects the U.S. Citizenship Act, noting that while it contains many good provisions, "the administration is primarily helping immigrants stuck in America's broken immigration system, not fundamentally fixing the system to ease future flows. Indeed, the bill as written will set the country up for yet another immigration war, just as happened after President Ronald Reagan's immigration reforms."

• It's time to repeal the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, writes Radley Balko.

• David Shor on why the Democratic Party has been getting more liberal, and how it could hurt the party's electoral prospects:

There's a narrative on the left that the Democrats' growing reliance on college-educated whites is pulling the party to the right (Matt Karp had an essay on this recently). But I think that's wrong. Highly educated people tend to have more ideologically coherent and extreme views than working-class ones. We see this in issue polling and ideological self-identification. College-educated voters are way less likely to identify as moderate. So as Democrats have traded non-college-educated voters for college-educated ones, white liberals' share of voice and clout in the Democratic Party has gone up. And since white voters are sorting on ideology more than nonwhite voters, we've ended up in a situation where white liberals are more left wing than Black and Hispanic Democrats on pretty much every issue: taxes, health care, policing, and even on racial issues or various measures of "racial resentment." So as white liberals increasingly define the party's image and messaging, that's going to turn off nonwhite conservative Democrats and push them against us.

Puerto Rico statehood may be up for a vote again soon.