Future

Don't Try To Fix Big Tech With Politics

I don't know the correct level of content moderation by Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Amazon, and neither do you.

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I don't know the correct level of content moderation by Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Amazon. And neither do you.

Sometimes I can pinpoint what looks to me like an obvious misstep: Facebook's decision to block a New York Post story about Hunter Biden's laptop in the weeks before the 2020 presidential election, for instance, or Amazon's refusal to carry a small number of books about trans issues without adequately explaining its decision. Tweets containing threats of violence left up indefinitely while mere tasteless jokes get swiftly removed.

But I also know deciding what and whom to allow on your platform is a hard problem. Scale is hard: I know I'm not seeing millions of pieces of spam eliminated, bots blocked, irrelevant content filtered, duplicates removed. Consistency is hard: I know sometimes what's in my feed is the work of a robot doing a good job following bad directions, and sometimes it's a human being doing a bad job following good directions. The application of Hanlon's razor is almost certainly called for in many cases of perceived bias: "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

The difficulty of this task hasn't stopped everyone from elected politicians to think-tankers to pundits from looking for ways to punish tech companies for doing it wrong. These folks disagree about what is broken in the status quo, but the calls to action are no less strident for all that.

For every person arguing against moderation on the grounds of ideological bias, there is someone else pushing for more aggressive moderation to control rampant hate speech or "disinformation"—which can mean everything from objectively false claims to arguments that some users consider subjectively offensive. There are those who find the profit-making aspect of the whole industry distasteful, and there are those who fret about the difficulties faced by would-be competitors due to the sheer size of the companies in question.

The push to crack down on Big Tech is both bipartisan and fiercely politically tribal—the worst of both worlds.

The proposed solutions are numerous, and nearly all involve aggressive government action: break up some or all Big Tech firms via antitrust, remove longstanding liability protections by rewriting Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, treat social media platforms as public utilities or common carriers with all the constraints that entails, reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, and much more.

The fact that a firm is large is not evidence that it is a monopoly. And as Elizabeth Nolan Brown details in "The Bipartisan Antitrust Crusade Against Big Tech", pushes to employ antitrust remedies against tech companies have a checkered history at best. They are too often expensive, time-consuming, and reactionary efforts that end up lagging behind market solutions while actively harming consumers.

There is one clear monopoly in this ecosystem, however: the state. Any legislative or regulatory restriction on Big Tech will not be a triumph of the oppressed over the powerful. It will be yet another instance of the already powerful wielding the state's machinery to compel private companies to do what they want, likely at the expense of their market competitors or political enemies. Such reforms are far more likely to be censorship than to reduce censorship, in the strictest sense.

It has become fashionable on both the left and the right to argue that Big Tech is now more powerful than a government or perhaps indistinguishable from one. Here is a list of things governments sometimes do if they dislike what you say or how you say it: lock you up, take your property, take your children, send you to die in a war. Here is a list of things tech companies sometimes do: delete your account.

Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, and Google do play a huge role in many people's lives. To be kicked off a popular platform can be deeply unpleasant and unnerving. But the notion that political interference will result in broader access to a better product is naive at best and dangerous at worst.

On platforms that do any moderation or curation at all—both functions that are necessary for a pleasant or even comprehensible user experience—there are going to be many thousands of borderline calls each day, by humans and robots alike. And those decisions get more plentiful and complex over time. That, in turn, generates more room for error, and more consumer demand for clarity.

It was human beings—not robots—who decided to bar then–President Donald Trump from Twitter and Facebook in the days following the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Months later, at press time, an elaborately convened Facebook Oversight Committee delivered a swift kick to the can by declaring that Trump's suspension from the social media site was justified while also noting that an indefinite suspension is not consistent with the company's term of service.

I see why the former president and his supporters are enraged. Facebook did a terrible job of communicating what it was willing to tolerate from its users. Still, it's not a First Amendment violation. It's not proof of a trust that needs busting. And it's certainly not a sign that Facebook is now more powerful than a government.

Ousted from Facebook and Twitter, Trump has set up his own site. This is a perfectly reasonable response to being banned—a solution that is available to virtually every American with access to the internet. In fact, for all the bellyaching over the difficulty of challenging Big Tech incumbents, the video-sharing app TikTok has gone from zero users to over a billion in the last five years. The live audio app Clubhouse is growing rapidly, with 10 million weekly active users, despite being invite-only and less than a year old. Meanwhile, Facebook's daily active users declined in the last two quarters. And it's worth keeping in mind that only 10 percent of adults are daily users of Twitter, hardly a chokehold on American public discourse.

Every single one of these sites is entirely or primarily free to use. Yes, they make money, sometimes lots of it. But the people who are absolutely furious about the service they are receiving are, by any definition, getting much more than they paid for. The results of a laissez-faire regime on the internet have been remarkable, a flowering of innovation and bountiful consumer surplus.

The question of the correct level of content moderation by Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon, and their would-be rivals is not a question that needs to be answered in the sphere of politics. We do not need to agree on a single answer. Which is good, because we never will.

NEXT: Brickbat: Just Asking Questions

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  1. > Here is a list of things tech companies sometimes do: delete your account.

    Also: Prohibit you from participating in the online economy. But hey, that’s not actually important in 2021, right?

    1. jUsT bUiLD yOUr oWN onLiNE eCOnoMy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      1. Yeah, and any American with internet access can out up their own website, just stick a server on the end of a wire, and assuming the ISP doesn’t decide to pull your connection, you can say anything you want to.

        Or, at that point, just build your own ISP, until your upstream refuses to connect to you anymore.

        So, on top of building your own online payment processing system, you need to build your own network backbone. Easy peasy!

        (I know you were being sarcastic, and actually, that randomized capitalization might truly *work* as the fabled “sarcasm font”, but it reminded me of the other stupid thing KMW said in the article, so I went with it )

        1. Hey whining crybaby… I pay (PAY! With MY money! I OWN!) for my own web site at Go-Daddy. I say some VERY sarcastic and un-politically-correct, intolerant things about cults like Scientology there (and Government Almighty as well). I am QUITE sure that a LOT of “tolerant” liberal-type folks at Google etc. would NOT be happy with the types of things I wrote! Yet, if you do a search-string “Scienfoology”, Google will take you STRAIGHT to MY web site, top hit! #1!

          https://www.google.com/search?q=scienfoology&nfpr=1&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjPzZqf0dXsAhUCT6wKHez9DNwQvgUoAXoECDEQKg&biw=1920&bih=941

          Your whining and crying is (just about ) UTTERLY without basis!

          1. What were your sales from your website last month?

            1. I imagine that they were greater than the amount that you were paid for your moronic lies written right here on these pages! What does that have to do with the price of Molybdenum on the Moon?

              1. So you can’t answer?

                1. How ugly are you? Has your photo ever graced the cover of Playboy or Playgirl? How much porn do you watch, and how many “snuff films”? Do you have both a clit and a dick? How often to your slowly eat the limbs of living, forcibly restrained pets that you have stolen from your neighbors? How badly are you addicted to “smart pills” from underneath the rabbit hutch?

                  So you can’t answer?

                  1. My question was a simple one about the topic at hand, regarding your website, that you brought up as part of the topic.

                    Is that too complicated for you to understand?

                    1. How much money my web site makes (having NOTHING to do with my intent in creating the web site) is TWICE removed from the topic of using Government Almighty to satisfy YOUR blood-thirsty punishment boner! Even ***IF*** my intent had been to make money, and I make ZERO, or am losing money, does that make your Government-Almighty-enabled punishment boner somehow just, fair, relevant, moral, or effective at doing ANYTHING good?

                      If you ever come around to wanting to work on your affliction, evil troll and servant of the Evil One, start here: M. Scott Peck, The People of the Lie, the Hope for Healing Human Evil
                      https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0684848597/reasonmagazinea-20/
                      People who are evil attack others instead of facing their own failures. Peck demonstrates the havoc these “people of the lie” work in the lives of those around them.

                    2. So you admit that you’re not even reading the other comments in the thread, just flinging your shit, as usual, shit eater.

                    3. I agree with SQRLSY here. He isn’t doing it for profit. It is a hobby. A personal expression. Yet he can and does. If he can so can anyone else.

                      If he wanted profit he could choose that. If he were fortunate enough he could be Ariana Huffington (founder of Huffington Post) or Rodger Simon (PJ media) or any number of enterprises. Profit level is not the issue.

                      Both of those websites are heavily moderated. This one is not. How long that would last if liability looms its ugly head. I do not know. No matter which party controls lawmaking now it will be the other next round.

                    4. The opinions of leftist simps are invalid and inappropriate

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        2. Has anyone actually been made to do any of this? I saw Big Tech’s enemy #1 Alex Jones on Joe Rogan recently (a few months ago maybe) and he seems to be doing well financially and is still running his show from his website even after his great de-platforming.

          1. Alex Jones is a major enough person in his own right to be able to do this. Big, household names can manage. Sargon of Akkad managed after he was not only deplatformed, but kicked off of Patreon for mocking a Clinton supporter (he actually won the copyright lawsuit so well that he got her to pay his attorney’s fees)

            Look at Parler. Not only were they removed from social media platforms, but they were taken down by their ISP and their bank accounts were cancelled. They managed to get back up again, but that was only because of how big they were.

            Anyone who’s not a household name can be successfully silenced. Even if they aren’t, the fear of the reprisal has much wider effect on quashing debate and speech.

            1. The irony here is you just mentioned some obscure person, “Sargon of Akkad”, as if that were a household name.

              1. I bet about 75% of commentators here know who he is. Same 75% that don’t use playing dumb as an argument technique.

                1. Is he playing tho?

            2. True but prior to Social Media if you were just a no-name somebody you’re options were far more limited, at best maybe you start a newsletter, then with the internet in general you may start a blog no one reads. Even with today’s content moderation/censorship, you are more likely to get your message out then anytime in the past.

              Asking the government to fix the moderation/censorship problem is not likely to increase the likelihood of an individual getting their message out but will stifle it. Nothing in our history, I know of, says otherwise. My solution is to stop using any service/product that doesn’t meet your satisfaction.

              1. Why can’t it be as simple as they’re either a platform/common carrier that allows all constitutionally allowed speech (within the parameters of existing case law), or they’re a publisher that moderates, restricts, bans, editioralizes (which is basically what the little fact check warnings twitter puts on people’s tweets are) etc but are also subject to the same laws as all other publishers regarding lible, slander, etc?

                1. I guess my point is some here are conflating those of us who want allowing constitutionally protected speech, as required for platform/common carrier, to actually be applied to the companies claiming those protections.

                  We want them to abide by the constitution IF they are platforms/common carriers. It shouldn’t require new laws or government force beyond verifying the already existing requirements for being a platform or common carrier. If they don’t, as Facebook etc clearly do not. They should lose that status and it’s legal protections.

              2. That doesn’t really address the problem of making fear of thoughtcrime reflexive within the population and mass communication a tool of The Party.

                You can really see this play out in sports media. Leftist narratives/opinions are thrown around freely, sometimes almost required, by those who are or seek employment in the industry while any contrary ideas/opinions, or even just skepticism, are repressed and not tolerated.
                Where the fuck do you think that leads?

      2. Oh, you mean like Parler, and have Big Tech take it down because of 230 immunity and privately “moderating” their services.

    2. ” Prohibit you from participating in the online economy. ”

      Yep.

      That the writers here cannot be remotely honest about the topic, but instead euphemise, minimize, and avoid multiple aspects says they are not worth being considered seriously.

      1. What kind of participation are we talking about?

        I know the libertarian answer is “it doesn’t matter”. But the old curmudgeon in me wants to know how many of these potential financially disenfranchised are whiny young brand-influencing bloggers and stupid video producers. In other words, exactly how much would the global standard of living drop if their “businesses” died?

        1. “… exactly how much would the global standard of living drop…”

          The libertarian response to this is: Fuck off Utilitarian collectivist.

          So, fuck off.

  2. Hang fauci

    1. To easy, to quick. Send him to Wuhan.

    2. Right next to Mike Pence, I suppose.

      1. Why? What did Mike Pence do?

        1. Why, he refused to unilaterally discard the Electoral Votes of the states that Trump so obviously won despite the certified vote counts! Nevermind that the Constitution didn’t give him any such authority. Remember that Trump told us that we had be strong or that we wouldn’t have a country anymore!

    3. If we hanged everyone in the COVID pandemic that deserved it, we’d run out of rope.

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  6. Privacy, Tech Policy, and Two Sorts of Libertarian

    When it comes to tech policy, then, we will remain at an impasse until our fundamental divides over political ends can be laid out and resolved. Part of the confusion is that the national freedom caucus or libertarian-leaning coalition that so loudly objected to the Patriot Act and similar security state antics in the past has broken apart faced with what are functionally DARPA projects turned into public utilities disguised as private companies. Based on the state of debate, the disguise is very good.

    The folk libertarian—or pioneer American? Perhaps just call her the populist—worries that she might be prevented from living a good life by powers arranged against her; there are ends to which her freedom is aimed, such as a family and health and religious practice, and freedom is that which permits, supports, and protects them. As if by instinct she knows the regime, or the man, is more than badges, guns, and written laws—in a world of cybernetics, distributed command and control, the borders between official agencies, NGOs, and multinationals are as porous as the nation’s. Her fear of tyranny does not distinguish between public and private, government and business, and so the populist makes a virtue of what some would call ideological inconsistency, for she will happily try to use local and national, corporate and political power alike to counter whatever she sees as an attack on a life worth living.

    Meanwhile, the elite libertarian of think tanks and industry astroturf, the ideological liberal—because she believes in freedom as an end in itself, and has made a binary distinction between the public and the private—sputters at the populist’s lack of principles. The free man is to this sort of libertarian what the monarch is to the monarchist. The libertarian believes in the free man as a matter of faith, seeks to emulate him in her pursuit of self-actualization, but she is not free, fulfilling fundamental human ends without regard for all the controls and influences that condition everyone else’s existence, and that is why she is a libertarian. In all her multiplication of choices, in all her deference to the supposed aggregate choices of others revealed by a supposedly free market (never free enough, however—epicycles abound), and her refusal to see power’s increasing indistinction, she condemns the common person, especially the populist, her folksy fellow “libertarian,” to be cut off more and more from the sort of freedom that leads to a life, public and private, worth living.

    1. > what are functionally DARPA projects turned into public utilities disguised as private companies

      I like that.

      1. Wait; what about Al Gore?

    2. I’ve said it before, the distinction between public and private is a red herring designed to keep you chasing your tail instead of pursuing the villains.

      The public and private sectors act in concert. It is a distinction without a difference. They are simply different divisions of the same organization.

      The libertarian assumption seems to be that the public and private sectors have a naturally antagonistic relationship such that each acts as a check against the other.

      The problem is, I see little evidence or that antagonism. They are as snug as a bug in a rug, and they are more than happy to do each other’s dirty work, especially in pursuit of a common interest. Hair-splitting about which organizations is technically public or private is entirely missing the point.

      1. The public and private sectors act in concert. It is a distinction without a difference. They are simply different divisions of the same organization.

        I’ve pointed this out several times as well, especially in regards to social media companies, who act in concert with government and large corporations to grow and consolidate their power.

      2. There is one slight difference between the public and the private sectors. One uses force and the other does not. As in one can kill you or lock you in a cage, while the other is trying to sell you stuff. One uses guns and the other uses advertising. But like you said, that’s a distinction without a difference. A minor quibble.

        1. Note how your response doesn’t actually address crony capitalism.

          1. Move the goalposts much?

            1. He didn’t move anything, you are just too stupid, or intellectually dishonest to connect the very close set of dots.

              1. That was about as interesting and thoughtful as the average post by Sevo. You almost set a new low.

                1. Sarc only discusses ideas, not people.

            2. Deflect much?

              1. What does crony capitalism have to do with the fact that government uses force while Facebook uses advertising? Talk about deflection.

                1. More proof that sarc is sqrlsy. They both are repeating the same responses to comments they’re clearly not actually reading.

                  1. R Mac & Red-Rocks-for-so-called-“Brains” thinking summarized: Because there exists such a a thing as “crony capitalism”, we are justified in dog-piling on, so long as we can garner 51% of the votes, we can randomly PICK A VICTIM TO PUNISH for the sins of OTHER people! Like, sue Facebook because Facebook’s moderation was not PERFECTLY to the liking of R Mac & Red-Rocks-for-so-called-“Brains”!

                    I’ve seen many-many conservaturd posters here lusting after punishing Facebook (for example) for Facebook having “published” a defamatory post (written by a user, not Facebook, of course). Classic “Punish Party A for the Deeds of Party B, and call it justice”.
                    Conservaturds lost in the recent POTUS elections, so let’s go take it out on Facebook!

                    My boyfriend treats me badly, but I can’t bitch-slap him, ’cause his dick is bigger than mine, he might beat me up some more, so I’ll go beat the dog or the little kid(s) some more!

                    Most of us can see that this is a power-pig, punk thing to do, in domestic relations. Why can’t more of us see that it is ALWAYS wrong to “Punish Party A for the Deeds of Party B”? Any answers from ye power-pig punks?

                    The law (Section 230) currently protects on-line “publishers” from being sued for what OTHER PEOPLE wrote! Now THAT is a simple and good law!

                    You know, hardcopy rags often publish editorials from “important people” (Senators, CEOs, maybe even the POTUS from time to time). The rag will preface (add) “not the opinion or stance of this rag”, hoping to fend off groundless lawsuits. GOOD LUCK to them, trying to be greedy-lawyer-proofed till such time that “Section 230 for Hardcopy Rags” is added!

                    So shall we sue the NY Times if they publish an editorial by Trump or by Biden? And Trump or Biden writes lies (libel)? Sue the NY Times, and NOT Trump or Biden? On what planet is that “just” or “fair”?

                    1. I see Republicans having a hissy fit because their political bs was censored and their God King got his ass booted, and now they want revenge.

                      Though we’re talking about people who honestly believe the election was stolen (just like the left never accepted Trump because Hillary got the popular vote or something), and who honestly believe in a coordinated effort between the Democrat party and social media (just like the left accused Russia of colluding with Republicans to convince Facebook users to vote Trump).

                      Anyone on the sidelines can see, clear as day, how conservatives are becoming what they hate. Well, anyone not wearing a Team jersey that is.

                    2. Sarc, If you can’t see that something hinky happened, or at least appeared to happen, last November, no amount of argument is going to convince you. And that would be fine, but you continue to collectivize and assume that anyone who does think that is a Republican Trump enthusiast.

                    3. “…. but you continue to collectivize and assume that anyone who does think that is a Republican Trump enthusiast.”

                      Trump enthusiast. That’s a new one. That’s like saying a Christian is a Jesus enthusiast. Funny.

                      Perhaps you’re right. Though in the case of the troll I was arguing with, he’s definitely a Trump enthusiast. Very enthusiastic. Like raw…

                    4. Man, it’s a good thing you never tell other people what they believe!

                    5. Sarc, If you can’t see that something hinky happened, or at least appeared to happen, last November, no amount of argument is going to convince you. [emphasis added]

                      It isn’t argument that is needed, but evidence. Saying that “something hinky happened” is not saying anything. Election fraud is a serious accusation that requires verifiable evidence that holds up to scrutiny from all sides.

                      The Trump side that is convinced that the election was “stolen” isn’t relying on such verifiable evidence. They are tossing in a whole Gish Gallop* of nonsense, where anything that might be worth looking into further gets absolutely lost amongst the rest of the garbage. That so many Republican officials said that the vote was accurate and secure is just proof of how deep the conspiracy runs in their minds, and those people need to be run out of power. That needs to happen so that True Patriots can be in their place to make sure that only the “pure” votes of Real Americans count.

                      *The Gish Gallop is a rhetorical tactic named for Duane Gish, known for challenging scientists to debates about evolution. He would list so many supposed “problems” with evolution that the opposing side would have no way to address even a sizable fraction of them adequately in a debate format. Try and explain why one particular thing he said wasn’t what he claimed, and he would simply switch and start another list. The goal was not to actually find something that would “disprove” evolution, but to give people a big enough list of reasons to doubt it that no one would ever be able to debunk them all in a reasonable amount of time.

                      The target audience is those that want to believe that evolution isn’t true, and the Bible is, so he knew that they wouldn’t take the time themselves to check everything he was saying. That is happening here, just like with creationism, climate change “skepticism”, and so much else. The goal is to shore up doubt of the other side among those that want to believe, not to provide real, verifiable evidence for their side that would persuade someone that is going to need convincing.

                    6. @JasonT20

                      You apparently have a reading comprehension problem as this thread has nothing to do with the election results and no one was discussing them (except you).

                2. You’re the one who thinks that Big Tech only wants to sell shit and doesn’t benefit at all from crony capitalism, so you tell me.

                  1. “You’re the one who thinks…”

                    Do I tell you what you think? No. Why? Because I’m not a dick. Stop being a dick.

                    1. Do I tell you what you think? No.

                      I see Republicans having a hissy fit because their political bs was censored and their God King got his ass booted, and now they want revenge.

                      If you’re going to lie it helps if you tell the lie in a different thread at least.

                    2. he’s definitely a Trump enthusiast. Very enthusiastic. Like raw…

                      Follow sarcasmic’s example in this post and stop telling other people what they believe!

                    3. Sarc’s a hypocrite.

        2. This is even more amusing considering Tuccile’s article that was just posted, which involves a private company filming New Yorkers’ every move. I’m sure it’s for nothing more than data-mining to find out which bodegas should be advertised directly to their smartphones, but perhaps we shouldn’t be praising Big Brother when it comes wearing a “I’m from the private sector and I’m here to help” sign.

          1. What does that have to do with Facebook and Twitter? You know, the subject of the article.

            1. The article is Big Tech, which encompasses far more than those two.

              1. So you change the context rather than respond to my comment.

                1. Your failure to grok the context was the source of your comment. Clearing that up for you was for your benefit. But as usual you’re totally fucking mindless and blame your failure to understand something on everybody else. Because you’re the perpetual gigavictim.

                  1. Go back through this thread. The words “Facebook” and “Twitter” aren’t even mentioned once until sarc cries about Red Rocks not talking about Facebook and Twitter. He just made it up so he could cry.

        3. “Wooosh!”

          The whole point is, the private sector doesn’t need to use force. They have the public sector to handle that on their behalf. Likewise, the public sector doesn’t need to censor, when the private sector is handling that on their behalf.

          The point is, the public and private sectors operate in tandem. A prohibition on an activity by the public sector simply results in it being outsourced to the private sector. And vice versa. Look up the term “extraordinary rendition” sometime.

          1. The whole point is, the private sector doesn’t need to use force. They have the public sector to handle that on their behalf.

            That explains why government agents are in my office pointing guns at me and telling me to buy products advertised on Facebook. Whew, I was starting to wonder about that.

            1. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered this level of density outside of a particle physics laboratory.

              1. What bidding is the public sector, as in the people who use force, doing for the private sector in the context of Facebook and Twitter?

                1. What bidding is the public sector, as in the people who use force, doing for the private sector in the context of Facebook and Twitter?

                  Preventing lawsuits against Facebook and Twitter that are fully valid in 4 centuries of English common law jurisprudence for just one tiny example. Directly “investing” government money into those companies through In-Q-Tel and other public-private partnerships. Oh and you may have heard about this little flap called warrantless NSA spying. Shit, that was going on clear the fuck back when Bush was in office and you still pretended to care about civil liberties.

            2. If they’re colluding with a major political party to drive public policy and influence elections, they’re certainly relevant. Considering you don’t believe crony capitalism exists, it’s hard to take your stupid argument seriously, however.

              1. Oh, you know what I believe now? Well then there’s no point in having a conversation. Go ahead and type what I think, then what you think, then what I think…. No need for me to be involved.

                1. No, there’s no point in having a conversation, because you’re having a conversation with yourself.

                2. You typed it up for everyone to see, what are you complaining about?

                  1. I said you were shifting the goalposts. Heck, you may as well have said “The red herring did it!” and accuse me of not believing in fish.

                    1. I said you were shifting the goalposts. Heck, you may as well have said “The red herring did it!” and accuse me of not believing in fish.

                      The topic was Big Tech in general, and you implied that it was only about Facebook and Twitter. I didn’t shift the goalposts, and your pathetic attempt to deflect by trying to limit it to Facebook and Twitter shows the shallowness of your position.

                3. Go ahead and type what I think, then what you think, then what I think…. No need for me to be involved.

                  Coming from the guy who accused everyone who believes there is collusion between the private and public sectors of being irate Republican Trump supporters.

            3. Nemo’s point about them working in tandem is valid. In the early days of the pandemic, ER doctors and private practitioners were posting all over Facebook and Twitter about their successful uses of ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, interferon A, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, etc. in combating the coronavirus. Not only were their posts deleted; they were also sent nasty letters from the FDA threatening to revoke their medical licenses. This goes way beyond simply blocking political speech that offends a particular party. This is, to use an unfortunate word, collusion. The aim is to stifle all independent thought that doesn’t conform to the official narrative.

        4. Ever hear of good cop bad cop? I don’t often see much difference between that and oh public-private partnership.

      3. Exactly. This “public/private” distinction libertarians are so concerned with is just that and no more: “Something libertarians are concerned with.”

        The forces endangering freedom are no more concerned with the dichotomy than they would be with “Are you pachydermous or polysyllabic? Predicate or pancake?”

    3. And where is the boundary between the folk libertarian and her folk socialist partner, who wants to use political power not to prevent the overlords from inhibiting the good life but to provide the good life (as she defines it)?

  7. “Facebook did a terrible job of communicating what it was willing to tolerate from its users. Still, it’s not a First Amendment violation.”

    It is a violation of the principle of free speech, which is something this magazine used to defend with passion.

    Twitter and Facebook are places where a lot of discussion about politics and culture happens and for these platforms to declare that entire topics are verboten, especially ones that are make the Democratic Party look bad and seem to be forbidden on that basis is not a good situation. Amazon banning books that mildly poke Woke sacred cows like trans activist ideology limit our ability to debate these subjects reasonably. And again, the pox on both their houses mentality when the Democrats mentality in regulating the platforms is suppression of speech and the GOP’s is in defense of open forums as bipartisan is disingenuous.

    1. And Amazon controls 80% of the book market. As the author of When Harry Became Sally – a best seller removed from Amazon – said, with that market share Amazon can essentially control what gets published. No major publisher is going to publish books that can only be sold to 20% of the market, and they’ll probably air on the side of caution, not publishing anything that might be banned by Amazon.

      1. Yeah but he can’t be thrown in jail so who cares?

        1. Yeah, it’s a PRIVATE ENTERPRISE so who cares?

      2. Or, mindless, lazy people who only shop for books on Amazon control 80% of the market. And publishers are reluctant to produce books these people will not buy.

        We should break up the monopoly of the stupid and lazy!

        1. There is a huge difference between believing in this politics/law methodology of changing Big Tech v actually defending Big Tech by demonizing people who don’t go along with Big Tech as ‘stupid and lazy’

          FUCK YOU .

          1. You missed the point. 80% of the people–stupid and lazy, or otherwise–are happy to buy books from Amazon. In other words, a free market enterprise is giving people what they want, and want to spend money on.

            So, fuck you.

    2. Thanks for bringing up free expression. Those who try to argue that this is somehow a 1A issue are generally dishonest, and not particularly interested in civil liberties.

    3. That is backwards. The principle of free speech is that private parties (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) get to decide what speech they want to allow on their sites.

      1. You might have a point, if Reason writers were also standing in open and public opposition to the Civil Rights Act, all of it’s tacked on edifice, and every other sort of public accommodation law.

        But they are not.

        So go bake the fucking cake.

      2. yes fakebook has the right to moderate as they see fit, but it isn’t right. social media has become a primary place where many people go to discuss issues, read news, share opinions, etc. when platforms like fakebook decide that they get to decide what topics we’re allowed to discuss, what words we can use, what opinions we can share freedom of speech is suppressed. these platforms with their “fact checkers” know nothing of the truth and recent events show how little they know of the truth. what they’re really doing is enforcing their ideology and not allowing discussion of anything that is contrary to their narrative. is that the world you want to live in? i believe it would be better to have these platforms free of any moderation. i am an adult who can decide what to read and what to ignore. i know where the delete key and the page down key is on my keyboard and i know how to use them. the answer to bad speech is always more good speech.

        1. All perspective has been lost in these discussions. Facebook is a social site meant for sharing pictures of your cat, and what you ate for dinner. Twitter is totally fluff that humanity would probably be better off without.

          Why is there a perceived need to discuss politics on Facebook? Or Twitter? If you want to express your political views, start a website or something.

          1. And yet you keep white knighting for a “journalist” that constantly uses Twitter as a source here every morning.

            1. WK can’t help himself, it’s in his DNA.

          2. It’s OK for social media sites to arbitrarily deplatform people who say things they don’t like even when they haven’t violated a single tittle of their terms of service because cytotoxic doesn’t think you should be discussing politics online anyway.

        2. Do you know where the SHIFT key is? Jk. 🙂

        3. So, is the solution to:
          a) get the government invoked in forcing the social media sites to be “neutral”?
          b) seek out or start a new social media site?
          c) get together and talk with people in person?

          1. The people who tried option b were denied hosting services, domain registration, banking and payment processing services.

            Maybe the solution is simply to remove a total liability shield enjoyed exclusively by just one class of businesses in this country so that their users can sue them for damages when they violate their terms of service, or fail to perform, or restrain trade, or illegally discriminate.

            1. They’re not interested in this discussion. Now just say you want the government to force social media to do what you want so they can get back to their regularly scheduled argument, or they’ll accuse you of shifting the goalposts.

          2. d) GFY

      3. The principle of free speech is that private parties (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) get to decide what speech they want to allow on their sites.

        And then change their minds about what speech they want to allow mid-stream, without notice to the users, and arbitrarily ban people from their platform, and dozens of other platforms at the same time in collusion with other market participants with dominant market power. That’s the principle of free speech baby! The Pinkerton’s at Homestead Mill were just private actors enforcing their speech policy!

    4. Note too that literally no one has ever suggested that it IS a first amendment issue. Now ask Reason if they support users being able to sue Facebook for doing “a terrible job of communicating what it was willing to tolerate from its users” and arbitrarily enforcing their terms of service in the same way that one can, say, sue their HOA for abusively arbitrary rule enforcement or changing the terms of the HOA without notifying the members. Big tech gets to have it both ways. A private company able to write unconscionable contracts and practice restraint of trade with complete legal impunity, and if you suggest maybe we should remove the legal impunity and allow tech companies to operate in the same manner as every other private business in the country, you are literally a Nazi fascist who wants to destroy free speech.

      1. Its Qualified Immunity for Oligarchs

  8. Facebook/Twitter clearly colluded with the Biden Admin on the Lab Leak theory, the moment the Dems signaled it was ok to talk about it FB/Twitter stopped banning/flagging posts on the subject.

    Something needs to be done.

    1. “Something needs to be done.”

      Absolutely. Write them a nasty email. Cancel your account.

      1. Squawk like a bird.

      2. You really do have a death wish.

        Be a man for once in your life and do it yourself, Mike.

        1. Nadless Nardless the Nasty NAZI, drinking NAZI Kool-Aid in a spiraling vortex of darkness, cannot or will not see the Light… It’s a VERY sad song! Kinda like this…

          He’s a real Kool-Aid Man,
          Sitting in his Kool-Aid Land,
          Playing with his Kool-Aid Gland,
          Has no thoughts that help the people,
          He wants to turn them all to sheeple!
          On the sheeple, his Master would feast,
          Master? A disaster! Just the nastiest Beast!
          Kool-Aid man, please listen,
          You don’t know, what you’re missin’,
          Kool-Aid man, better thoughts are at hand,
          The Beast, to LEAVE, you must COMMAND!

          A helpful book is to be found here: M. Scott Peck, Glimpses of the Devil
          https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1439167265/reasonmagazinea-20/

  9. I know sometimes what’s in my feed is the work of a robot doing a good job following bad directions, and sometimes it’s a human being doing a bad job following good directions.

    I think I see the problem. Delete your accounts and never visit Facebook or Twitter and the problem will take care of itself.

    1. Words of wisdom from Jerryskids! I wish more people would really THINK about what Jerryskids just wrote! But instead, they just emote!

      Mostly, they emote about… Someone did something I don’t like! They must be PUNISHED!!! My punishment boner MUST be satisfied! Even if we must punish “Party A” for the writings of “Party B”!!! PUNISH-PUNISH-PUNISH! And who better to use, to beat and punish innocent and guilty alike, than Government Almighty!?!?!

      What have very varied thinkers through the years said about this?
      “Beware of all those in whom the urge to punish is strong.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
      “Mistrust all those in whom the desire to punish is imperative.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
      “Let he who is without sin, throw the first stone.” – Jesus
      “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while there is still a beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Jesus

    2. Note that most of the issues we’ve seen surrounding this didn’t really start cropping up until after smartphones were invented. There were certainly complaints about cyber-bullying and misinformation and the like, but you could always just turn off the computer and avoid engaging in it entirely. The niche personalities, mental cases, and weirdos confined themselves to places like Tumblr, but were never out in the open and demanding tolerance.

      Smartphones and Facebook/Twitter’s ascent at roughly the same time changed all that. Now, people are online almost constantly–the phone dings and people engage with it like Pavlov’s dogs; the niche personalities are basically running corporate marketing and mainstream media (look how many Gen Zers, the liberals in particular, have been diagnosed with some kind of mental illness, and even more act as if being a complete nutbag is something to be proud of because it means they belong to an oppressed class), and engaging actually provides neuro-biological incentives through dopamine releases.

      Nuking social media entirely would be a big step towards actually mitigating the worst of these social trends, particularly the massive ramp-up in atomization, but as long as smartphones are around the incentive to employ them towards nefarious ends by the public AND private sectors will remain.

      1. Agreed. It would be nice if some enterprising young conspiracy could redirect some destructive youthful energies towards hackers going Mr. Robot on Facebook, etc.

      2. One of the only rational things you’ve ever posted

        1. Those who are willfully blind hate being told they can’t see.

    3. 100% agree with you there. Utter cesspools.

    4. That’s what I did.

    5. Not joking. The last social media I ever used was AIM. Even in high school in the early 2000s when personal computers were just becoming widespread and computer classes in high school were the most basic shit ever, I knew once something was on a hard drive, it’s basically there forever unless you physically destroy it. Once I hit college I grew weed and knew I never wanted that shit on my computer, let alone on an internet server in whoknowsfuckistan. So I avoided social media like the plague, also making it impossible for me to ever be tagged in anything.

      1. You don’t think this counts as social media but AIM does? Interesting. AIM was direct messaging to specific people, not something you’d post for everyone to see. Anyone that visits this site can see what you post here, though.

  10. I don’t know the correct level of content moderation by Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Amazon, and neither do you.

    Actually I do know, it is zero.

    1. Another VERY simple fact that the uber-moderators and lovers of always MOAH Government Almighty forget: NO ONE can be all things to all people! Regardless of exactly HOW you try your best to moderate, SOME whiner somewhere will be pissed off! Who really wants to tie up their tax money and jury duty micro-managing all the crybabies and their hurt feelings?

      Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Amazon shouldn’t be allowed to moderate? What if users post so much hateful, disgusting shit, that most users and advertisers boycott said companies? Will Government Almighty then have to prohibit boycotts, to protect our economy?

      1. Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Amazon shouldn’t be allowed to moderate? What if users post so much hateful, disgusting shit, that most users and advertisers boycott said companies? Will Government Almighty then have to prohibit boycotts, to protect our economy?

        Good questions. Not that those that want government to force these leftist companies to leave conservatives alone care about the answers to those questions.

      2. Facebook, Twitter, Google and Amazon are currently hosting hateful, disgusting shit that calls for genocide against white people, that coordinates live-action violence in the streets, that scapegoats Jews and encourages violence against them based on their race and religion, that coordinates religious terrorist attacks, and that distributes child porn, and it seems they’re still doing OK for advertisers. The fact that you and Facebook’s, Twitter’s, Google’s and Amazon’s executives consider open discussion among professional scientists about topical public science policy, or pro-life messages, or Christian bible study groups, or immigration restrictionists more disgusting and offensive than ISIS beheading videos, communist guerrilla groups, Jews getting beaten in the street with baseball bats, and videos of adults fucking little kids says a lot about you.

    2. Oddly enough it’s the same as the correct income tax level

      1. What do you propose as the correct amount of property taxes, sales taxes, etc.? Should those be zero as well, so that you can live your anarchist dream?

        1. Usage taxes and terrifs are allowed by the constitution. Property tax should be 0%. It is impossible to have private ownership of land and property tax.

          1. Income tax is allowed by the constitution as well, in case you didn’t know. And what is it about property tax that makes it “impossible” to have private ownership of land?

        2. I love that people like you shill for literally punishing me for working my ass off.

          1. You are being “punish[ed]” for “working [your] ass off” when you pay income tax, but you wouldn’t be punished for needing food if you had to pay sales tax at the grocery store or for wanting to watch TV when you buy one at Best Buy?

            Taxes are the bills we pay in order to get services from government. If you are an anarchist that doesn’t want any government, then not wanting to pay any taxes would make sense. Assuming that you aren’t an anarchist, the real argument, then, is about the most effective way to raise the needed revenue that also meets other economic goals. Is that kind of technical analysis what you want to discuss, or just to rant about having to pay taxes?

            1. Taxes are the bills we pay in order to get services from government. said the 7th Grade Government teacher.

    3. I have been to a lecture at Google, where they talked specifically about what a mess their site would be if they were not constantly adjusting their algorithms to guard against the multitudes out there trying to spam and game their systems. So, no, zero moderation would be a disaster.

      1. You mean like how they allowed the top search result for “santorum” to be “A frothy mixture of lubricant and fecal matter as an occasional byproduct of anal sex” for about a decade without any “adjustment” to the algorithm and blamed it on a “google bomb” that took place 10 years earlier?

        1. No, she means when the official Google description of the California Republican Party included “nazism” in the description.

        2. Or how they blocked every story of someone dieing or having adverse reactions from the vaccine. Specifically that doctor in Florida who died early in the vaccine rollout from anaphylaxis within hours of getting the first shot. As mentioned by Joe Rogan on his podcast numerous times, he/us had to use duck duck go to find the articles because Google blocked them from showing as the top results.

          1. I found plenty of articles about a doctor in Florida dying after getting the COVID vaccine very quickly. However, the case I found was not about anaphylaxis “hours” after getting his first shot. https://www.local10.com/news/local/2021/04/08/coroner-south-florida-doctor-who-died-after-vaccine-died-of-natural-cause/

            The autopsy and research listed complications of ITP (Immune thrombocytopenia) as the cause of his death. This is a diagnosis of exclusion of other factors, as there is no test for ITP itself. He first noticed symptoms three days after getting the shot – broken blood vessels in his feet and hands. He died two weeks later from a stroke as a complication of the condition.

            ITP is described as the immune system mistakenly attacking the body’s own platelets, which are what allows blood to clot. The article from April I linked was regarding the announcement of investigative results that stated that there is “no medical certainty” that the vaccine was the cause of the disorder. Medical articles about ITP do note that children sometimes develop ITP after receiving the MMR vaccine, so it is certainly possible that he developed ITP as a result of being vaccinated, but generally, medical articles I read state that it is currently impossible to identify specific causes of ITP conclusively in particular cases.

            Basically, maybe he was an extremely unlucky person that has died because of getting a COVID vaccine out of over a hundred million that have been vaccinated in the U.S. Are there any confirmed cases of people dying from the COVID vaccine in addition to this one possible case? Are you suggesting that people shouldn’t get the COVID vaccine because maybe single digit numbers of people out of hundreds of millions will die from it compared to the ~.5-1% of people that die from actually getting COVID?

            Vaccination can seem like a tricky risk assessment problem, but it really isn’t. Any disease that will kill even 0.1% of people infected is one where it is more than worth the tiny risk of a severe reaction to a vaccine. And that is both for oneself and to protect others, especially those few people that can’t be vaccinated for various reasons.

            1. Fucking idiot – the conversation was about Google moderating or not moderating b ased upon their political views – not whether the vaccine is dangerous (as it likely is for at least a small percentage of people who are likely allergic to it – just like some people are allergic to penicillin).

  11. “Don’t Try To Fix Big Tech With Politics”

    I’ll get right on that, as soon as they stop trying to fix politics with big tech.

    1. And public health, and corporate boycotts, and people’s understanding of history…

    2. “…as soon as they stop trying to fix politics with big tech.”

      Are they? Did any of the major social sites, like Facebook, Twitter, etc. start out saying, “We want to build a world-class political discussion site!”

      The answer is no. Politics snuck into the tent on social sites that were focused on sharing pictures of one’s cat.

      1. Actually Facebook started off as a way for college guys to objectify women. That’s got nothing to do with what’s going on now.

      2. Facebook spent half a trillion dollars providing personnel and financial support to place left-wing activists directly in charge of elections in a dozen states in 2020. Remind me which cat picture forced them to do that again?

        Also, remind me which clause in the Facebook terms of service stated that the service was intended for the sharing of cat pictures and no other purpose? The TOS has been revised thousands of times, but I’m sure you can find at least one of them that supports your idiotic contention, right?

        1. Facebook spent half a trillion dollars providing personnel and financial support to place left-wing activists directly in charge of elections in a dozen states in 2020.

          Hyperbole much? And what did they actually provide local election offices with, actually, rather than your rant about “left-wing activists”?

          This is the problem with political discussions on the internet. So many people rant about bullshit that they make up rather than actual facts.

          1. lol – so you’re one of those people, where anything you think isn’t true must not be true, right?

            Idiot.

      3. GFY, lying shitbag

    3. standing golf clap

  12. “Don’t Try To Fix Big Tech With Politics”

    That would make more sense if the Big Tech firms were apolitical, but they aren’t.

    1. So, what? There are a multitude of other places to engage in political speech and discussion.

      1. Have any of those other venues for political discussion been deemed by the judiciary branch of the United States to be a public forum where it is impermissible for elected officials to use the basic site moderation tools?

  13. “Sometimes I can pinpoint what looks to me like an obvious misstep: Facebook’s decision to block a New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s laptop in the weeks before the 2020 presidential election, for instance,”

    The fact this obvious bullshit story never got more airtime was one of the more welcome aspects of the election and sound tech moderation.

    1. You do realize that everything in the story was verified

      1. “Not in Big Lie World, where I live, buddy.”
        ~raspberrydinners

      2. not an honest actor here…
        your incredulity is wasted

      3. Shitlunches has no interest in the truth.

      4. You do realize that everything in the story was verified

        That is what I hear.

        Conservative relative: “It was all verified!”
        Me: “Well, what specifically was verified, and how and by whom?”
        Conservative relative: “All of it! It is all true!”
        Me: “Okay, but how do we know it is true?”
        Conservative relative: “Because it IS!”

        1. Time to go to the psychologist then lib.

          1. I need to go to a psychologist because I want to know what the actual evidence for something is, rather than just believing what I am being told. Gotcha.

  14. remove longstanding liability protections by rewriting Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act

    THIS is “aggressive government action”? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. 230 itself was “aggressive government action” in that it prevented private actors from suing other private actors (yes…in a government operated court…fuck off, wanker). 230 is a good idea gone horribly off the rails.

    The answer, as other have pointed out, is to rewrite the 230 liability shield such that an online entity has no inherent filtering right. Filters should be public and user controlled…which is something that would likely naturally evolve once sites no longer have the 230 liability shield while still acting as editors.

    1. The liberaltarians at Reason and in the comments seem to think that 230 is something that occurred naturally in the free market.

      1. Conservaturds think that the main purpose of Government Almighty is to PUNISH-PUNISH-PUNISH all who (in their eyes) are “bad” in ANY way!

        1. Irrelevant to my comment.

          1. EVERYTHING is irrelevant to your comment! Nothing from nothing leaves nothing, and one unreality has no definable relationship to another unreality. Making the world a better place by “punishing Party A” for the writings of “Party B” is an unreality, and an EVIL unreality at that!

            Find yourself a reality check somewhere, Evil One Junior, for your own good!

            1. But it was completely irrelevant to his comment. Or do you consider the removal of a law a punishment?

              1. Punishing “Party A” for the freely chosen actions of separate “Party B” is ALWAYS an injustice! Section 230 prevents this injustice. That is why evil people dislike Section 230… It gets in the way of their punishment boners! Would YOU like to be punished for what I have written?

                1. Punishing “Party A” for the freely chosen actions of separate “Party B” is ALWAYS an injustice!

                  So you oppose vicarious liability? Good. Work on upending 400 years of English common law then.

                  1. Just FYI here is a case that is internet-related, obliquely related to the main topic here…

                    https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2021/06/1-billion-piracy-ruling-could-force-isps-to-disconnect-more-internet-users/
                    from there…
                    First, vicarious liability requires proof of direct financial benefit to the defendant from another’s copyright infringement. But since all subscribers (including infringers) pay a monthly fee for Internet access, courts have agreed that an ISP’s receipt of such fees is not sufficient to meet this burden. Instead, the plaintiff must show in addition that the customer was “drawn” to use the defendant’s Internet service (as opposed to any other Internet service) because of the availability of infringing copies of the plaintiff’s works.

                    SQRLSY back now… “vicarious liability” mentioned in this case, but OMG, are there ever some way-tight constrictions in the use of it! And I do believe the laws and the courts are getting it about right, as shown above, in this case at least. “Vicarious liability”, OK, then, but VERY-VERY little of that, please!!! (Stuff gets complicated as usual).

    2. Its Qualified Immunity for Proģgy oligarchs

  15. And as a user of some of these platforms I have every right to have an opinion on their obscure and malleable TOS policies and how they are implemented. The basic problem here is that Facebook, Twitter and the rest have no expertise on determining what legitimate “misinformation” is and therefore their attempts at moderation are always going to be ill informed and prone to manipulation even if (and that is a big “if”) their attempts at doing so are in good faith.

    The right amount of moderation is as little as possible on subjects that are not advocating outright crimes.

  16. “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

    – Ronald Reagan.

  17. How close do we have to get to a pseudo-fascism where every major corporation and tech platform is controlled by Democratic political operatives for Reason to drop the “but they’re private companies!” argument?

    1. The answer is “When Reason is told to drop it by major corporations and tech platforms.”

    2. I dread the day when conservaturds can simply make these kinds of wild accusations (as you just did) and therefor have Government Almighty TAKE OVER private properties of all such accused parties! NO respect for private property from many conservaturds any more! Right-wing Marxists is what you are!

      1. I’m not advocating for a government take over of any private companies. I’m simply asking for Reason to acknowledge the issue, which they seem to go out of their way to avoid. And steps like amending 230, depending on how it’s done, are not a government take over, if anything it would be lessening government interference in the market.

        1. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. Sqrlsy only has so many responses, and above is a variation of his most common one on this topic. It’s really as deep as he can think on the topic.

    3. It ain’t pseudo-

      Read the history if Italy in the and around the 1930s.

  18. I don’t know the correct level of content moderation by Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Amazon, and neither do you.

    You’re right. I don’t. What I do know is that the level of “content moderation” applied by the social media giants is wildly inconsistent. And it’s applied inconsistently in a clear pattern showing bias. And that’s why so many apologias for the social media giants fall flat on their face. If you’re the person being censored for your views, you aren’t going to be terribly bothered by the possibility that having the social media giants face liability for what they choose to keep up might lead to more censorship of the other side’s views. You’re already censored. It’s not that the social media giants “did a terrible job of communicating what it was willing to tolerate from its users”. It’s that they treated the same user behaviors differently where the only identifiable distinction was the politics of the user. Unless conservatism itself is what they won’t tolerate.

    1. “Unless conservatism itself is what they won’t tolerate.”

      They should really just come out and add this to their TOS and get it over with.

  19. “I don’t know the correct level of content moderation by Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Amazon. And neither do you.”

    Actually, I do.

    The correct level under the section 230 ‘free pass’ is to remove only illegal content. And the proof it was illegal content would be that the corporations reported the crime to the police and assist in the apprehension of the criminal.
    Not gonna happen.

    More realistically, the terms of service should be explicit, and uniformly applied. Any customer who has their service reduced or eliminated should be given the specific rule violated.
    Also not gonna happen.

    1. “The correct level under the section 230 ‘free pass’ is to remove only illegal content.”

      Not true.

      https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20200531/23325444617/hello-youve-been-referred-here-because-youre-wrong-about-section-230-communications-decency-act.shtml

      From there:

      If you said “A site that has political bias is not neutral, and thus loses its Section 230 protections”

      I’m sorry, but you are very, very, very wrong. Perhaps more wrong than anyone saying any of the other things above. First off, there is no “neutrality” requirement at all in Section 230. Seriously. Read it. If anything, it says the opposite. It says that sites can moderate as they see fit and face no liability. This myth is out there and persists because some politicians keep repeating it, but it’s wrong and the opposite of truth. Indeed, any requirement of neutrality would likely raise significant 1st Amendment questions, as it would be involving the law in editorial decision making.

      Second, as described earlier, you can’t “lose” your Section 230 protections, especially not over your moderation choices (again, the law explicitly says that you cannot face liability for moderation choices, so stop trying to make it happen). If content is produced by someone else, the site is protected from lawsuit, thanks to Section 230. If the content is produced by the site, it is not. Moderating the content is not producing content, and so the mere act of moderation, whether neutral or not, does not make you lose 230 protections. That’s just not how it works.

      SQRLSY back now: Important out-take out of THAT out-take:

      It says that sites can moderate as they see fit and face no liability.

      1. 1. Under the heading “I never said that”
        If you said “A site that has political bias is not neutral, and thus loses its Section 230 protections”
        My post says nothing about political bias.
        2. “It says that sites can moderate as they see fit and face no liability.”
        What it actually says in section (b)(3) is “(3)to encourage the development of technologies which maximize user control over what information is received by individuals, families, and schools who use the Internet and other interactive computer services;” Please note the specific use of ‘user control’. This section is mute about the provider control.
        section (c)(2)(a) says “(A)any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected; or” So good faith is required, not ‘as they see fit’.

        In case you would like to see the full section 230, not just (c)(2);
        https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/47/230

        As a final note, I would like a lawyer’s comment on the constitutionality of a law that says to ignore the constitution; (c)(2)(A) concludes with the phrase “whether or not such material is constitutionally protected;”

        1. “So good faith is required, not ‘as they see fit’.”

          From the same source:

          If you said “Section 230 requires all moderation to be in “good faith” and this moderation is “biased” so you don’t get 230 protections”

          You are, yet again, wrong. At least this time you’re using a phrase that actually is in the law. The problem is that it’s in the wrong section. Section (c)(2)(a) does say that:

          No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected

          However, that’s just one part of the law, and as explained earlier, nearly every Section 230 case about moderation hasn’t even used that part of the law, instead relying on Section (c)(1)’s separation of an interactive computer service from the content created by users. Second, the good faith clause is only in half of Section (c)(2). There’s also a separate section, which has no good faith limitation, that says:

          No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of… any action taken to enable or make available to information content providers or others the technical means to restrict access to material….

          So, again, even if (c)(2) applied, most content moderation could avoid the “good faith” question by relying on that part, (c)(2)(B), which has no good faith requirement.

          However, even if you could somehow come up with a case where the specific moderation choices were somehow crafted such that (c)(1) and (c)(2)(B) did not apply, and only (c)(2)(A) were at stake, even then, the “good faith” modifier is unlikely to matter, because a court trying to determine what constitutes “good faith” in a moderation decision is making a very subjective decision regarding expression choices, which would create massive 1st Amendment issues. So, no, the “good faith” provision is of no use to you in whatever argument you’re making.

        2. Some lawyers and politicians seem to think that phrases like “good faith” and “reasonable” are like magic. They are too vague to be useful or practical, and the courts often say as much! If they were as magical as people seem to think that they are, we need just ONE law: “Everyone must make reasonable, good-faith efforts to love one another, the Planet Earth, the trees and the bunny rabbits, etc., and the human future.” All human-caused trouble-making is now outlawed! One law, and we now have all the laws that will be needed!

          As James Bovard has documented long ago, such “reasonable efforts” laws (for handicapped employment) that have been willy-nilly, grandiosely written by Congress-Critters, and thrown out to courts and regulators to define and enforce, have not worked well. What did we get? Enforcement must be OBJECTIVE, of course! All safety handrails must now be 39 inches, and not 38.5 or 39.5 inches… Feeding frenzy for lawyers finding violations, and immense compliance costs!

        3. Imagine if in the context of self defense “reasonable fear for life” were interpreted the same way “good faith” is interpreted for the tech oligarchs

  20. “I don’t know the correct level of content moderation by Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Amazon, and neither do you”

    Nor does a single congress-critter.

    1. Nor does Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Amazon.

      1. Alternate universe; they know, but don’t care.

  21. The social media were granted protection from lawsuit on the pretext that they were more bulletin-board than newspaper. If they would limit their take-downs material that was illegal, that would be fine. But they have chosen to exercise editorial oversight. Fine. Their prerogative. But now they are acting like newspapers. So they should lose the lawsuit protection.

    Not be broken up. Not be subjected to regulation. Simply opened up to suit.

    1. This.

      End Section 230.

      Simple.

      1. There is at least one post above, and I won’t say who, would have the author arrested in most places.

        Threat against the life of a government official. This website went to bat once when a certain AG tried to get it to reveal identity of posters here. I do not know how deep are the legal pockets here.

        Be careful what you wish for.

        https://reason.com/2015/06/19/government-stifles-speech/

        1. The people calling to end 230 could care less about the long term repercussions. They simply want revenge for censoring Trump and his followers. The don’t care what happens next.

          1. Oh, repercussions do concern me, but newspapers report crank letters that rise to the level of true threat, and if the social media are going to act like newspapers (what were NEVER politically neutral; that’s a Progressive Left fantasy that they sold to us, and BOY has it paid dividends!) then they get to deal with the headaches of newspapers.

            And if they don’t want to deal with those headaches, they can pull the hell back on the editorial control issue.

            1. Do you see, though, that there is a massive difference of scale between the number of editorials a newspaper prints vs. the number of user-provided posts that a social media site hosts?

              Section 230 helps sites deal with the sheer, massive volume of user-provided content they host. A problem unique to computerized, networked publishing.

              1. In 1996 when the Communications Decency Act was passed the “sheer volume” of user-generated content was minuscule. Most websites were static and the vast majority of the usenet and BBS systems used for community discussions had, at most, a few tens of thousands of users.

              2. Also, if you need an exemption from the law in order to scale your business, perhaps it’s better that the business never scales.

        2. “Be careful what you wish for.”

          Oh go fuck a mackerel.

          “Arrested in most places” is a stupid and meaningless shibboleth. Because most places are repressive shitholes. That does not mean we need to avoid one form of repression by accepting another.

          More importantly, as with most things, you are talking out your ass.

          The woodchipper threats were never credible, and certainly not criminal. What that DA was doing was oppressive statism and political grandstanding.

          You are literally grasping at straws.

          1. And, to be perfectly clear. Section 230 didn’t ‘save’ Reason or the commenters. That the whole thing was a farcical overreach by an out of control AG is what stopped it.

            1. And who will save us from the next farcical overreach? Levine, Sullivan, Koch, & Schulz are not inexpensive.

              What a boon to the plaintiff lawyers if you can sue me and Reason for “talking out of my ass”. They won’t go after me as much as the deeper pockets.

              I do not own, nor even go to Facebook, Twitternets, whatever. The government, and we know this, can trace where you are right now from that stuff.

              So if you don’t like it don’t go there.

              1. I do not own, nor even go to Facebook, Twitternets, whatever. The government, and we know this, can trace where you are right now from that stuff.

                Facebook has substantially more information about you than a credit rating agency does even if you have never used their service, or even if you’ve never connected to the internet or used the worldwide web. It might be better if you just didn’t discuss thing you have absolutely no fucking clue about.

    2. I don’t know why this is so fucking hard for people to understand.

      1. They don’t want to.

    3. They are open to lawsuits for any original news reporting that they do. We already have what you are asking for.

      1. “They don’t want to.”

        Way to prove him right!

      2. We already have what you are asking for.

        So then section 230 is redundant and we can get rid of it, right?

  22. If Reason writers think “big tech” should be left alone then maybe they should stop taking their money.

  23. We must seize the means of production komrades! The capitalists have taken control of the system from the people. The only solution is to centralize more power in the state in order to battle the corruption!

    1. n00bdragon is a Kulak and a wrecker! Gulag time! The right-wing Marxists must be OBEYED, and all non-conforming capitalists and properties assigned to the tender mercies of Government Almighty! All Hail the Collective right-wing Hive, comrades!

    2. I like this commenter a lot! They make sense.

      1. Are you a parody or something?!

    3. It’s hilarious that you don’t realize that’s exactly what’s already happening, with Reason’s and your deep throated support.

  24. Let’s assume that I am starting up a new social media platform, and sell advertising to support it. Let’s also assume that the following constitutes my “terms of service.” (with apologies to Reason.com)

    “I invite posts, topics, and comments from anyone on any subject and request that they be civil. I do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments or subjects of the topics posted, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent my own views. I reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.”

    So, tear it up.

    So who is unhappy about this?

    1. Only whiners and cry-babies, and outright criminals, whose posts MIGHT be taken down, once in a blue moon! Services FREE OF CHARGE aren’t good enough for the greedy uber-moochers!

    2. That kind of TOS allows SQRLSY One.

      1. Only if I, as the owner of the platform, allowed it: “I reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time.”
        I could delete any and all posts by SQRLSY One, or by LONGTOBEFREE. For whatever reason I want.

        1. If you read the ToS for any of the major social media sites, they do say this. Their lawyers dress it up in more language, but they all basically say, “We can remove your posts or delete your account, and we don’t have to give you any explanation.”

          And, of course, people accept this because, why not, the accounts are free-of-charge. Now, the contracts/ToS they have with actual paying customers (i.e. advertisers) is a different thing. Paying customers have some negotiating power.

          1. Yep. And I shouldn’t have to give an explanation, either. Newspapers certainly aren’t obligated to print (on the web or on paper), unsolicited articles, letters to the editor, or opinion columns. So why should my platform be different?

            And, certainly, “business arrangements,” such as advertising, is completely different.

            1. If you want to exercise all the power and discretion of a newspaper or broadcaster over what appears on your interactive computer service, I am perfectly happy for you to do so . . . if you accept all the legal liability of a newspaper or broadcaster for what you’re publishing.

              If you want to exercise all the power and discretion of a newsstand, bookstore, or library over what third-party content your interactive computer service makes available to others, I am perfectly happy for you to do so . . . if you accept the same legal liability as a newsstand, bookstore, or library for what you provide.

              If you want the immunity of a common carrier like a telephone or telegraph company for liability over what content your interactive computer service makes available to others, I am perfectly happy for you to have that immunity . . . if you accept the responsibility of a common carrier to refuse to discriminate against legal content.

              But if you want to claim that you should have privilege above those of any other entity because you’re an interactive computer service, no, I don’t have any respect whatsoever for your demand to combine maximum discretionary power with minimum responsibility.

              Section 230 should be repealed.

              1. Sooo… Your “fix” to all of this is to punish “publishers” (web sites) for the content generated by OTHER people? Those who post?
                SOME people here have argued that, since there has been at least one (several?) case(s) of hardcopy rags (newspapers) sued FOR THE WRITINGS OF OTHERS, namely letter-to-the-editor writers (it was all well and good to authoritarians that SOME people got punished for the writings of OTHER people), then the proper fix MUST be to perpetrate / perpetuate this obvious injustice right on over to the internet domain!
                This is like arguing that the “fix” for a cop strangling to death, a black man (Eric Garner) on suspicion of wanting to sell “loosies” is, not to STOP the injustice, but rather, to go and find some White and Hispanic and Asian men as well, and strangle them, as well, on suspicion of wanting to sell “loosies”! THAT will make it all “fair”!

                WHEN will authoritarians see and acknowledge their power-pig fascism?!?!

                NY Times can be punished for what someone ELSE wrote in a letter-to-the-editor in their hardcopy rag! An injustice, to be “fixed” by punishing Facebook for the same kind of offenses!

                In 1850, I imagine that perhaps some people in the USA were saying it isn’t fair that white folks hold black folks as slaves. Let’s “fix” it by having a bunch of black folks hold white slaves, too!
                What kind of EVIL person fixes injustice by widening the spread of more injustice of the same kind? HOW does this “fix” ANYTHING?!?!

                You either love animals, or you eat meat… You can NOT do both! All pet owners who eat meat? Their pets will be slaughtered and their pet-meat distributed to the poor! Because I and 51% of the voters said so! And because we are power pigs, and LOOOOOVE to punish people!

              2. “…if you accept the same legal liability as a newsstand, bookstore, or library for what you provide.”

                I am most curious: exactly what “legal liability” do you have in mind for a bookstore or library?

                1. I am most curious: exactly what “legal liability” do you have in mind for a bookstore or library?

                  The exact same level they currently have, and have had for decades, under current case law. I’m not proposing any change in their liability at all.

                  What does that mean? Under current law, it is accepted that newsstands, bookstores, libraries, and the like have no obligation to check the content crated by third parties that they transmit to the general public in advance. But, since they do exercise control over what they carry, they become liable for that content after being notified in a specific instance and choosing to continue to provide that specific content.

                  In the case of Facebook choosing that model, for example, they’d not be expected to check posting in advance for defamation (the way a publisher is before spreading something). However, if Facebook was contacted and told a post was defamation, and then they continued to leave it up, they would then (and only then) incur liability (from that point forward) for defamation by continuing to distribute it. This would be their responsibility because they have reserved the right to choose, like a library, bookstore, or newsstand, what content to make available through their interactive computer service, and have chosen to continue to make allegedly defamatory material available after being informed about it.

                  This would, in fact, just match the same liability rules for content that all interactive computer services already face in cases of alleged copyright infringement (which is one of the explicit Section 230 exceptions), and which they all already endure just fine.

                  And if they think that is too much liability, my proposal allows the interactive computer services to avoid it — by choosing common carrier status and ceasing to exercise choice over what they carry.

                  Their legal liability for what they transmit would be scaled to match the amount of discretion they choose to exercise over what they transmit. No discretion, no liability. Limited discretion, limited liability. Extensive discretion, extensive liability.

                  1. Question: is there any penalty for someone who floods Facebook with thousands of false claims of defamation?

                    1. Yes. If they lose in court a judge could order them to pay Facebooks legal fees etc.

                      You do realize a court would be involved in a defamation lawsuit don’t you?

                  2. “… But, since they do exercise control over what they carry, they become liable for that content after being notified in a specific instance and choosing to continue to provide that specific content.”

                    Okay. I can see that in the case of defamation, for instance. But it appears that the lawmakers arguing for more “control” of the the internet are more concerned about what they call “misinformation,” which is a much grayer area. And, as you are aware, it is very difficult to “defame” a public figure, particularly a politician.

                    I don’t believe for one minute that the folks blustering about all this and calling for whatever controls they think they can dream give a crap about anything but preserving or increasing their power and doing the exact opposite to their foes.

    3. The OTHER major category of not-happy-about-this? People with YUUUUGE punishment boners, lusting after punishing whoever they say are “bad” people, for what OTHER people have written! Google “scapegoating” and “displaced aggression” for details. These kind of people are NOT ethically or morally decent people; they are frankly EVIL!

    4. The first person who gets taken down for being uncivil, who believes they were not being uncivil but your real motive is you don’t like the content of what they said.

      1. Yep. And I would feel the same way when the local rag refuses to print my letter to the editor. One thing, for sure, is that someone, somewhere, will be upset about anything I do. Or, anything I don’t do.

        1. Well stated! You’re batting 1,000 lately, Jefferson’s Ghost!

  25. Anyone who relies on a social media “feed”, and expects it to be produced for free and in their best interests, is a moron. It might be better if some sci-fi scenarios came true, and encoded digital content really could make brains explode.

    1. You’re also a moron if you think it’s free…

  26. Dear people who want to regulate social media companies:

    Now do guns.

    1. OK, challenge accepted.
      The second amendment (supposedly) guarantees the natural right to keep and bear arms. No business open to the public should presume to infringe on that natural right.
      The first amendment (supposedly) guarantees the natural right to free speech (and religion etc. focus here is speech). No business open to the public should presume to infringe on that natural right.

      (Libertarian aside; wanting to remove regulation favoring a company is not the same as wanting regulation impeding that company.)

    2. In which vein?

      Having fewer guns and speech or having more guns and speech?

      1. Well guns kill lots of people and aren’t central to my concept of liberty ( I don’t own a gun) so I’m basically apathetic on gun laws and don’t really care whether governments declare open season or completely prohibit private gun ownership outright.

        I am a little more convinced that getting the government unduly involved in what private companies do with their tweets from QAnon Racist Guy is a bad idea. I’m not for the government compelling speech.

        1. Cars kill lots of people too. I say lets ban cars.

          Or is it suddenly the driver who kills when a car is involved? And with guns, would it be… Batman?!

    3. Yes, guns, good point!

      https://reason.com/2020/12/18/the-bipartisan-push-to-gut-section-230-will-suppress-online-communication/#comment-8646584
      From the article:
      “Section 230, which is a liability shielding gift from the U.S. to ‘Big Tech’ (the only companies in America that have it—corporate welfare!), is a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity,” the president recently tweeted.
      There’s your “logic” from Der TrumpfenFuhrer, and MANY conservaTurd commenters on these pages.
      By the EXACT SAME logic, ANY laws shielding gun and ammo manufacturers and-or sellers (Remington for example) need to be held accountable for the shootings of crazy users of their products! Remington, exercise better editorial control of your bullets!

      Hey conservaTurd assholes-commenters! Ye moochers off of a “liability shielding gift from the U.S. to ‘Big Guns and Ammo Tech’”…
      You ready to pay $90,000 per gun and $15 per ammo-round, or pay out the ass for insurance, for your guns? No? Then you are hypocrites ass usual!

      1. If the points you would like to make weren’t marred with all the capitalizations and confused insults, you could probably get them across sometimes. Just some feedback. Because I really don’t know what you are trying to accomplish here. It’s not our responsibility to read and filter through what I would call really messy rants.

        1. Summary: Punishing “Party A” for the freely chosen actions of separate “Party B” is ALWAYS an injustice! It NEVER brings good long-term justice, fairness, peace, or stability! Smart people see and recognize this, while evil people just keep right on speaking and doing their scapegoating and displaced-aggression evil words and deeds! You can take that to the bank!

          1. That’s an odd way to deflect feedback. Also, you assume way too much about the people here.

            1. I assume that about 33% of them are arrogant jerks, totally full of themselves!

            2. I thought my “rant” might have been too long or confusing for you (and others?), so I simplified and summarized.

              A LOT of the “feedback” I get around here can be more fully parsed and understood by reading the link provided below! Psychology, sociobiology, and anthropology may not be THE most firmly data-driven of the sciences, but they ARE sciences! Those are what the link is about… WHY do the power-mad, greedy, and dishonest people constantly “put down” real libertarians, and other honest, benevolent, live-and-let-live types of folks? Read on!

              http://www.churchofsqrls.com/Do_Gooders_Bad/

  27. I don’t know the correct level of content moderation by Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Amazon, and neither do you.

    Neither does Facebook, Twitter, Google or Amazon.

    1. So if nobody knows for sure, why get the people who use force involved? It’s not like the last word in violence gives them divining powers. Just means they can tell you to shut up and hurt you if you say no.

      1. And further, it is yet even more clear that the Government is behind Big Tech’s censorship efforts. It’s just been outsourced.

    2. They know they bought the ability to dictate, and that’s all that matters to them.

  28. Outside of that moron who charged a cop while she was rioting in the Capitol building how many people have been killed by posts on Twitter?* Compare that to the ~10,000 people killed by firearms in the U.S. Shouldn’t we regulate guns first?

    *Bad example. Ultimately, she was killed by a gun too.

    1. Firearms are very highly regulated in the USA — background checks for most purchases and all purchases made through a dealer, limits to where and how weapons are carried, limits to who can own, purchase, and possess weapons. And that is just the more common regulations — when one looks closer at the State level, firearms are, usually, subject to many more regulations than those listed. Firearms may just be the most regulated product in the nation.

    2. Well played. Keep that up and you’ll be up there with Rabbi and OBL.

    3. A vast majority of gun deaths are suicides and thug on thug violence.

      What about more than 10,000 people saved by guns, because they were able to self-defend?

      What about more than 300 million people saved by guns because their presence deters a government from becoming perfect tyrants? (they try hard though)

      What about more than 10,000 people killed by cars (drunk drivers etc.) in the US? Shouldn’t we just ban cars?

      Someone using a gun to attack innocent people is the equivalent of a careless drunk driver or a terrorist who runs a car into a crowd in Europe. Both don’t use the device as intended. They are offenders. Offenders will find ways to offend. Difference is, in the US, offenders have to expect backfire. Still a great country. I will fight to keep it that way.

      I conclude: You are really not that bright. Grow up.

      1. Just stating the obvious, because someone has to do the chores.

      2. “What about more than 300 million people saved by guns because their presence deters a government from becoming perfect tyrants? (they try hard though)”

        Your naivete is showing. Governments don’t become tyrants by stealth. Readily available black-market guns didn’t save those who were disappeared in El Salvador. Governments become tyrannical with the consent of the governed (at least a lot of them). They aren’t going to face you and your friends down with rifles in a large-scale standoff. If an government wants to take you down, it will be with the help of a gang of volunteer brown-shirts (or the equivalent) who will be legally armed and find you when you are alone. Your little pistol won’t help you unless you go around in a gang of your own all the time.

        1. https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/34787-germans-who-wish-to-use-firearms-should-join-the-ss

          “Germans who wish to use firearms should join the SS or the SA — ordinary citizens don’t need guns, as their having guns doesn’t serve the State.”

          ― Heinrich Himmler

          Fuck that shit! Live free or die!

          1. Himmler was wrong. In the hands of Americans guns are the ultimate pacifier. They give Americans the illusion of security and power.

            1. It’s not hard for a Nazi to be wrong. Also, you are wrong if you think it’s an illusion that a public as armed as Americans isn’t something that makes politicians consider their steps much more carefully. Check out any other country in the pandemic. In Germany, people literally have to make appointments beforehand to go to any non-grocery stores and bring all their little covid credentials. That’s government mandated.

              I know leftists are butthurt because we are armed, but that just contributes to the amusement of the rest of us.

        2. Your naivete is showing. You think most of us only own a little pistol.

        3. Hey Lester

          Guns are obviously a deterrent, unless you live in a little bubble of naivete. Check out sqrlsys example. It’s not a coincidence that a fascist like Heinrich Himmler would argue that the average citizen doesn’t need guns. Go figure and come back when you’re less naive. If you think a massively armed public doesn’t make a difference, I can’t help you.

        4. Also, google my handle and tell me about my “little pistol” again, dipshit. LOL 😀

  29. As private businesses, “Big Tech” platforms (Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter, et. al.) should be able to moderate content to their heart’s content, subject to the SAME legal rules (re libel, tortuous interference, etc.) as newspapers, magazines, AP/Bloomberg/Reuters/etc., and radio/TV content moderators (regarding libel, tortious interference, etc.).

    Behaving as an impartial platform should be PREREQUSITE to the protections of Section 230.

    When they deplatform an individual or enterprise, they should be required to unambiguously identify the user agreement provision supposedly violated.

    In addition, because these Big Tech unilaterally write those user agreements, ANY/ALL ambiguitities they created when they wrote those user agreements/rules should be resolved in favor of the user (the little guy, the powerless party), who did NOT create the ambiguity.

    1. Yep. The shorthand for achieving what you describe is “end Section 230.”

      1. Are you a lawyer? Won’t this solution simply clog up the courts with frivolous law suits?

    2. When you think about it, having limited liability plus the ability to ban inciters of violence seems like, if not the absolute ideal situation, better than most alternatives.

  30. As an aside – social media and tech companies have absorbed all the knowledge humans have acquired about how to manipulate people with none of the prior ethics of restraint or empathy. None of that is going back in the box.

    I don’t think politics can fix big tech for a lot of reasons. But what actually can? As far as I can see, the things we know are:

    Humans don’t really have free will. It may be a necessary fiction but it is a fiction and always has been.

    As is the hubris that we are ruled by our rationalist frontal cortex. Which doesn’t even develop until our mid-20’s and, by that time, people will have had 20 years of the habit of being manipulated.

    The manipulation arises from the realization that we are an animal. We’ve known how to manipulate animals via fear/bright lights/swiping right/etc since forever. Formally and more organized since Pavlov’s dog and psychology conditioning and such.

    It is ludicrous to demand that people just quit. Social media is not some ‘if you don’t like it leave society’ development.

    No future competitor will arise naturally on the basis of better more restrained ethics or more ignorance about how to manipulate. Though I suppose that sort of competitor can emerge out of highly coordinated disgust about the existing. But not just blather about ‘markets’

    What is the answer to fix big tech?

    1. What is the answer to fix big tech?

      For social media it’s blow it up or dilute the profit motive. If FB was restricted to say 5M accounts, or if their revenue-generation side was decoupled from their data gathering one then the problem would largely work itself out.

      1. How about giving FB etc users the ability to export their contact lists to other some other social media software? As far as I know, it’s not possible at the moment. This would encourage more variety from the monopolistic hold these companies have over their respective markets.

        Another unrelated idea I’ve come across, (Jaron Lanier) was micropayments from FB etc for users when the company avails itself of the user’s data. At the moment FB etc can use the data without paying the users anything.

    2. “social media and tech companies have absorbed all the knowledge humans have acquired about how to manipulate people”

      If so, why does Amazon’s suggestion algorithm regularly suggest to me totally bizarre products that I would never want to purchase: seriously, they once recommended a 50-pound bag of grub worms.

      OK, part of that is that I have sometimes purposely browsed completely random topics in my web browser. In fact, I have been thinking of writing a browser plug-in that does nothing but browse random stuff on the Internet expressly for the purpose of throwing off advertisers efforts to profile people’s interests.

      1. Why bother? Existing tools already suffice.

        I’m extremely proud of how irrelevant my targeted advertisements are. It’s like browsing in 1998.

        1. I have to admit I haven’t looked if there are already browser extensions that do what I describe. If there are, that’s great.

        2. Just looked. There’s an extension for Chrome called Noiszy:

          Noiszy is a browser plugin that creates meaningless web data – digital “noise.”

          It visits and navigates around websites, from within your browser, leaving misleading digital footprints around the internet. Noiszy only visits a list of sites that you approve, and only works when you turn it on. Run Noiszy in the background while you’re working, or start Noiszy when you’re not using your browser, and it sends meaningless data to these sites for as long as you let it run.

      2. they once recommended a 50-pound bag of grub worms.

        You’re lucky you’re not Mike Trout

      3. “If so, why does Amazon’s suggestion algorithm regularly suggest to me totally bizarre products that I would never want to purchase”

        The algorithm as I understand it, lets advertisers bid for certain key words that users have accessed.

        ” In fact, I have been thinking of writing a browser plug-in that does nothing but browse random stuff on the Internet expressly for the purpose of throwing off advertisers efforts to profile people’s interests.”

        Sounds rather wasteful. Why not a browser plugin that makes your browsing opaque to Amazon etc? Perhaps the same could be accomplished by refusing all cookies. (Though this I assume would make browsing a lot more tiresome and inconvenient.)

        1. It’s more fun to pump false interests into Amazon’s recommendation algorithm and see what crazy, random stuff it recommends to me.

          1. I find Amazon’s recommendations for contemporary fiction useful. It’s not necessary for classical or modern fiction as I feel I have a good grip on that. But I need a helping hand with the stuff written today.

            “random stuff it recommends to me.”

            It’s not random. The recommendations are determined by certain key words advertisers bid for:

            “Way, way back in 2011, when the world was young and fidget spinners weren’t yet a thing, there was lore floating around in the search marketing world that “mesothelioma” was the most expensive keyword to bid on in Google Ads (at the time, known as Google AdWords), costing upwards of $100 per click. But was it true?”

            I’ve read it was true. Apparently there was some class action law suit involving “mesothelioma” and ambulance chasing lawyers were desperate to place ads before those who searched the word.

            1. Targeted advertising doesn’t feel automatically more annoying than random shit thrown at your face, as in TV commercials of yore. At any rate it’s inevitable, absent regulation.

              Loving Big Brother turns out to be as banal as it was envisioned. If everyone has no privacy, all you have to be is less weird than average.

            2. Try goodreads for reading recommendations.

      4. seriously, they once recommended a 50-pound bag of grub worms.

        Maybe this should tell you something about yourself. Seriously.

  31. Oh I don’t want to regulate social media. I want it gone for good and their execs jailed for sedition.

    1. Well, power-pig punk is at least honest!

      Who all else do you want to sacrifice to your punishment boner, power-pig punk?

      Very soon now… Our Dear Leader the Great Whitish-Orangish Pumpkin-Father Der TrumpfenFuhrer will FOREVER DEFEAT voter fraud, and RISE from the political dead!

      Soooo sad for ye, it ain’t happened yet! So now ya gonna go beat up Facebook for revenge… Ya gonna go beat your cats, your dog, and some innocent little kids, as well?

    2. ” I want it gone for good and their execs jailed for sedition.”

      Have they painted their faces, draped themselves in fur and wearing bison head gear? If not, forget about it.

    3. Somebody needs to be jailed for sedition.

      If there’s ever a time for deterrence.

  32. Every time some right-wing moron calls me a murderer responsible for 100,000,000 deaths a part of me thinks to myself: well, WTF, someone has to organize these fucking Kulaks and capitalist leeches.

    But then I come across these types of threads where conservatives are perfectly fine with using government force over the flimsiest pretexts to regulate social media companies. Then I get sad because I recognize I’m losing my touch. I think I’m not the one that should be regulating kulaks and wreckers. It’s you guys. {sniff, tears} I’m losing my touch to a bunch of Trumpian Dear Leader wankers. So sad. Where did I go so horribly wrong in not wanting the government to do stuff? And how did I lose the argument to a bunch of rubes from Arkanistan? I think I may need some {sob} therapy.

    1. There, there, now (pats American Socia1ist on back). Here, borrow my TOTALLY fresh “clean” (heh-heh) booger rag!

      (That was pretty funny actually. Right-wing Marxists are now out-doing left-wing Marxists, lusting after taking over private property! All Hail the Collective Hive, Cumrades!)

      1. Marxism and power lust are not synonyms. Every swinging dick has power lust. Especially the libertarians.

    2. The trouble with leftists is that we eliminate vast swathes of opportunities to exercise power because we believe in shit and have morals. Democrats have a 15 point disadvantage because they have to talk about facts.

      World War 3 will not be fought over resources or economic policy, it will be fought over [Mr.] Potato Head.

      1. The trouble with leftists is that we eliminate vast swathes of opportunities to exercise power because we believe in shit and have morals.

        LOL at this goonfiction. There isn’t anything you believe in that wasn’t previously deconstructed or dialected into pudding.

        1. We’re all just farts on the cosmic wind. The concept of truth is itself a fiction.

          I just like it when smart people are in charge instead of apelike morons, because global political instability stresses me out.

  33. The major problem created by the emergence of internet social media is the propagation of violent fantastical cult behavior. Anyone who understands how humans work could have predicted it.

    First Amendment fetishism will probably prevent us from regulating content in a helpful way, but at some point we have to understand that an infinite effusion of information will not be equivalent to a social good automatically. People still go to churches because they believe in Sky Grandpa. People are fucking morons, and they will nuke the planet over a Facebook meme. It’s the only thing that will do that, in fact.

  34. The first corollary to Hanlon’s razor is “Never attribute to malice alone that which is only explained by both malice and stupidity.” Like a certain website I won’t mention.

    Having said that, no level of censorship by Big Tech is appropriate. By your logic, the power company would be justified in closing my account if I used “their” electricity to post Unapproved Things on the internet.

    1. The issue is that there is a veritable slew of topics on which libertarians would need to reexamine their beliefs about government interference in private market decisions, if they start now.

  35. This is a very informative piece. I would like to follow itsprogress progress

  36. By definition, section 230 is political. Remove it and you’ve got a consistent position. Keep it and everything else you say is moot

  37. I know the right amount of content moderation. It’s absolutely zero.

    For things that are expressly illegal, like death threats or child porn, etc. the government can press charges against individuals who post these things. Facebook, Twitter, etc are not law enforcement and should only host the platform, that’s it. Here’s an analogy – if someone is running an illegal enterprise from his apartment, the authorities don’t expect the apartment building management to police that behavior or shut it down. Same thing should apply here.

  38. Here is a list of things governments sometimes do if they dislike what you say or how you say it: lock you up, take your property, take your children, send you to die in a war.

    And the government has to follow due process to do all of these things. And you get your day in court. Big Tech has no such restrictions or checks.

    Here is a list of things tech companies sometimes do: delete your account.

    And:
    * cancel your credit cards
    * terminate your bank account
    * turn your data over to intelligence agencies
    * unilaterally withdraw from their contract with the user under ill-defined terms of service

  39. “I don’t know the correct level of content moderation by Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Amazon. And neither do you.”

    This could apply to many things. Just because we don’t know the optimal level of something does not mean there isn’t one nor does it mean we should not come as close as we can. The real issue is how far wrong it might be and whether the potential consequences outweigh the potential benefits.

    1. How about actually you sit this one out. Discover the virtues of socialism on some issue that is not so obviously in your direct, naked, shameless political interests.

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