Internet

How To Fix Social Media and Democracy

The creator of "Godwin's law" about Hitler analogies has a bold new vision for free expression, online and off.

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It's a rare week when a major politician doesn't threaten social media with censorship or other legal action. President Donald Trump regularly inveighs against Facebook and Twitter, claiming that such platforms minimize the reach and influence of posting by him and conservatives. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) has promised to break up tech giants using antitrust law if elected president. Meanwhile, talking heads and experts routinely blame social media for mass shootings, rising suicides, and all sorts of social maladies.

Is any of this true? If it is, what should we do about it? And if it isn't, why are we so freaked out? On today's podcast, Nick Gillespie interviews Mike Godwin, whose new book, The Splinters of our Discontent: How to Fix Social Media and Democracy Without Breaking Them, is a richly researched and remarkably panic-free discussion of how Facebook, Twitter, and other social media actually operate and influence public discourse, including elections. Currently a "distinguished senior fellow" at the think tank R Street, Godwin has a long and legendary history when it comes to cyberspace. Back in the 1990s, he was the first staff counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and helped craft the legal arguments that ultimately struck down government control of online speech in The Communications Decency Act of 1996. He also codified what's become known as "Godwin's law," which holds that the longer an online discussion continues, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis, Adolph Hitler, or the Holocaust approaches 100 percent. Godwin has served as general counsel for Wikimedia Foundation, is the author of Cyber Rights: Defending Free Speech in the Digital Age, and longtime Reason contributing editor (read his Reason archive here).

Social media, argues Godwin, isn't broken at all, although both tech companies and users need to clarify their terms of engagement. On the other hand, he says, democracy is in deep disarray, for reasons that go back to the very founding of the United States.

Audio production by Ian Keyser.

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  1. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) has promised to break up tech giants using antitrust law if elected president.

    It will be fun watching Reason break its own back siding with Trump over Warren.

    Of course, we all know they’ll choose the shitty LP candidate, even if he’s worse than Bill Weld, because both sides. But it will at least be funny to watch the writers stumble over each other as they forget who’s against breaking up tech companies and who’s still suffering from TDS.

    1. It will be fun watching Reason break its own back siding with Trump over Warren.

      It will also be fun watching the commentariat siding with Warren.

      1. It will also be fun watching the commentariat siding with Warren.

        OBL’s been siding with Warren for years. That’s nothing new.

        1. I read that as sliding with Warren. I immediately started to wonder what kind of sliding you are talking about. Harmless slip’n slide with some organic olive oil, or sinister interdimensional travel?

          1. Well, let’s also not forget the slippery slope that leads from defending so-called “free” Internet speech, to attempting to justify criminal speech directed, most importantly, at respectable members of the academic community teaching here at NYU. Anyone who uses inappropriate “speech” to accuse a respectable academic of plagiarism or some other form of malfeasance, belongs in a jail cell, pure and simple. See the documentation of our nation’s leading criminal “parody” case at:

            https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

    2. “It will be fun watching Reason break its own back siding with Trump over Warren.”

      LOL

      The fundamental, non-negotiable principle of Koch / Reason libertarianism is open borders. No Democrat could possibly be worse than Drumpf from this perspective. I’m positive Reason’s best writers (Dalmia, Shackford, Boehm) will enthusiastically endorse Warren if she gets the nomination.

      #ImmigrationAboveAll

      1. I’m positive Reason’s best writers (Dalmia, Shackford, Boehm) will enthusiastically endorse Warren if she gets the nomination.

        You’re right, I’m a fool. I was being optimistic that Reason would stand priniciply on libertarianism or for the libertarian cause with regard to any given pet issue(s) and face a juxtaposition. Abandoning all principles and selling out on all fronts didn’t occur to me.

  2. Social media could have prevented this problem by simply taking no sides, and only banning illegal material. Implement user rating systems. People who want to see only PG-rated stuff approved by their favorite organizations could limit their world view.

    But no, they decided to dumb down their content to offend as few people as possible, thinking that Disneyification was the route to universal favor. Thus terms of service. Thus banning firearm advertising. Thus banning nasty people.

    Thus offending everybody. Plenty of people foresaw it, plenty of people said so, but they wanted 100% of the possible audience, not 99%, and screwed the pooch.

  3. Social media could have prevented this problem by simply taking no sides, and only banning illegal material. Implement user rating systems. People who want to see only PG-rated stuff approved by their favorite organizations could limit their world view.

    1. You can say that again.

    2. I originally would have agreed, what’s sort of horrifying is that you see stuff like Gab, that took that approach, get removed from App stores and denied services from internet infrastructure providers. I think now that people have been trained to freak out unmoderated spaces and associate them racists and Nazis it’s actually very difficult to realistically offer such a platform, just because you will be doing good to maintain your website, let alone get a social network app on the App Store.

  4. Social media, argues Godwin, isn’t broken at all, although both tech companies and users need to clarify their terms of engagement.

    One could argue that government is OK, too, if only the users would clarify their terms of engagement.

  5. Social media, argues Godwin, isn’t broken at all, although both tech companies and users need to clarify their terms of engagement.

    The terms are very clear; speak for the socialists, and speak against the individual, or don’t speak at all.

  6. Pretty sure the “problem” with “social media” is that people expect them to be something they aren’t, and then get very upset when their expectations aren’t met.

    If you want something that “doesn’t take sides”, then you want something that doesn’t curate content… which doesn’t describe any of the social media companies y’all are complaining about. It’s like adopting a puppy and then being disappointed it doesn’t act like a 20 year old cat.

    1. If only the social media companies could be potty trained as easily as my dog was.

      1. If only we could swat the social media companies on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper when they piss on the rug.

  7. “Social media, argues Godwin, isn’t broken at all, although both tech companies and users need to clarify their terms of engagement. On the other hand, he says, democracy is in deep disarray, for reasons that go back to the very founding of the United States.”

    More bullshit from another progressive idiot.

  8. Social media, argues Godwin, isn’t broken at all, although both tech companies and users need to clarify their terms of engagement.

    I’ll have to listen to this because this sounds like Godwin might just be getting at the problem. Without calling out any specific channels or creators that are being marginalized by Youtube et. al., it is 100% verified that said platforms are “punishing” their creators and violating financial agreements with them for things which they (the platforms) expressly admit do not violate their own terms of service.

    The TOS with the tech companies is being used as a one-way contract, which the said companies treat like toilet paper which, in my opinion violates the rights of the users. And by ‘rights’ I’m not talking about constitutional rights, but the rights in regards to the agreements that the users themselves signed onto when they created their accounts.

  9. I think that there is a better way to use social media.
    for example, you can you LinkedIn to find a job or build your network. As I explained in this article:
    https://www.prceg.com/2019/07/linkedin-for-students.html

    1. Can I call you a Nazi on linkedin or write a long-drawn out post about someone that fingered me 20 years ago and how I suddenly feel bad about it?
      If not, I don’t think many people will use it.

      1. Can I call you a Nazi on linkedin or write a long-drawn out post about someone that fingered me 20 years ago and how I suddenly feel bad about it?

        It’s not as good as grubhub, but you can find lots of women willing to make sandwiches.

  10. Breaking: Bernie Sanders hospitalized for a heart attack. Pulls all ad money out of Iowa.

    1. Could it be the result of excessive cocaine use in the 70’s and 80’s? I have absolutely no evidence of this being the case and I am almost positive it is not the case, but now you can say that you read it on the internet.
      Do your thing journalists.

  11. Walter Williams: The word Democracy is found no where in the US Constitution..
    The Founders saw Democracy as another form of Tyranny.
    They condemnded the idea of a Democracy.

    1. Section. 4.

      The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence.

  12. The greatest danger to American freedom is a government that ignores the Constitution -Thomas Jefferson, Third President of the United States.
    Politicians and media that refer to the US as a “democracy” are ignoring the US Constitution. I don’t know about you but I feel we are at war. Not with guns but with words. Forced PC, censorship, accusations without evidence, lies, are all designed to silence any opposition to the Communist/Globalist ideology. Only time will tell. But one thing is certain, the Communist/Globalists will never give up. In 2020 you will choose… Before you do, ask yourself, “Who is America’s Enemy?” The Constitution or Communism? The Constitution states that our Rights are granted by our creator. Why?

    Believing in a higher power takes human rights out of the hands of man. Our rights, granted by our creator – a higher power- can never be denied or replaced. Unless we of course we give up or power and change the constitution. Communism flips control by man under the direction of G-D in order to instill control by nature directed by Government.

    Remember: Whatever government grants, Government can legislate away. Communists are ATHEISTS – who worship SATAN, GAIA (Mother Earth) and believe in the Collective (the common good for all), with the Government owning and controlling YOU.
    “I envisage the principles of the Earth Charter to be a new form of the ten commandments. They lay the foundation for a sustainable global earth community.” –Mikhail Gorbachev, co-author of The Earth Charter.

    Under sustainability – aka Green New Deal – non believers can be coerced into believing in the religion of environment. According to wikipedia.org the new millennium and the modern ecological crisis has created a need for environmentally based religion and spirituality called Ecospirituality

    In a One World Government everyone must think the same and have the same things. Competition must be eliminated at all costs.
    Your career will be determined by algorithms – your choice is the one the computer provides. Mother Earth is crying from being overpopulated. Code for depopulation = less people to control.

    1. “Not with guns but with words. Forced PC, censorship, accusations without evidence, lies, are all designed to silence any opposition to the Communist/Globalist ideology.”

      Well, if that’s the case and Trump is the president then it is an easy war to win. Repeal CDA section 230. Social media won’t allow you to post without verifying everything to avoid liability and people won’t be able to share the information. They would have to go site to site to get the information and outrage mobs would lose all power and be as effective as a group of teens in the food court at the mall. CNN and MSNBC will be happy because cable subscriptions may go up. It’s not ideal by any means, but it would be a low-blow followed by a pie in the face.

  13. If You Don’t Know Your Rights You Don’t Have Any..
    Benjamin Franklin famously told an inquisitive lady that “this is a republic if you can keep it mam.” Yet today most people refer to our beloved republic as a democracy. Almost every time I hear someone call the United States a democracy, I cringe. It is mind boggling that people believe that our liberties and freedoms are sustained via democracy, or mob rule. Democracy is an open door to long term tyranny. That is why Thomas Jefferson stated “If you don’t know your rights, you don’t have any.

    http://newswithviews.com/if-you-dont-know-your-rights-you-dont-have-any/

  14. Isn’t this the guy who Godwinned himself when he agreed with that illiberal twat that there are concentration camps on the border?

    Yeh, totes gonna listen to this.

    ‘Fix’ nothing.

  15. Democracy Versus Liberty.. Every time you hear any politician or the controlled media (FOX included) refer to the US as a ‘democracy’ remember them for their lie.. The word “democracy” appears nowhere in the two most fundamental documents of our nation — the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Our Constitution’s Article IV, Section 4, guarantees “to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.” If you don’t want to bother reading our founding documents, just ask yourself: Does our pledge of allegiance to the flag say to “the democracy for which it stands,” or to “the Republic for which it stands”?
    Or, did Julia Ward Howe make a mistake in titling her Civil War song “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”? Should she have titled it “The Battle Hymn of the Democracy”? John Adams said, “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself.
    There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” Alexander Hamilton said, “We are now forming a Republican form of government. Real Liberty is not found in the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments. If we incline too much to democracy, we shall soon shoot into a monarchy, or some other form of dictatorship.”

  16. 2 simple lies, making a huge impact:
    Calling America a Democracy: Our founders were very careful to create a representative republic using our US Constitution as the contract of laws applicable to ALL Americans. (They purposely us words like ALL to eliminate class distinction.) Article 4 Section 4 guarantees that each American will have a republican form of government.

    Money is thrown around by the government, publishers, NGO’s and non-profits as grants to “help” teach the new modern education. Control is done through standards – in 2013 under the Obama administration a $350 million grant was given to Pearson Publishing to make all its texts Common Core compliant. Pearson supplies about 80% of America’s texts.

    Education is local and it is the one area I believe that we the people can have control. The Florida Citizens Alliance in 2017, helped get a bill passed CS989, that gives any Florida resident the right to challenge the texts for accuracy, bias, errors and omissions. Does your state have a bill like that?

    The Alliance is offering help to form committees and challenge the texts. It is important that we use their words and framework. Therefore, under the current guidelines that demand equality we must demand they offer a traditional education as well. Teaching socialism only “is not fair and equal.”
    https://newswithviews.com/give-me-one-generation-of-your-children-and-ill-transform-your-country/

  17. “Social media, argues Godwin, isn’t broken at all”

    1.) Godwin gets accused of sexual assault by a rando on twitter
    2.) Outrage mob assembles
    3.) Gets called a Nazi and people throw shit at his house
    4.) Loses publishing deal
    5.) A side shot of him using a public urinal surfaces on reddit
    6.) Can’t track anyone down to sue for defamation
    7.) Keyboard Cat has racist tweets towards Siamese cats dug up from his past

    Not broken at all.

  18. Well, someone has to do the honors:

    You know who else wanted to fix democracy?

  19. Democracy is the best to do any bussiness
    visit my site – https://www.pinkimishra.com/

  20. For years Mr. Sayed Jumaa Salam has defrauded the community and violated California Labor and Employment Law. After consulting with California Law Firms, We suggest that he should resign from Islamic Center of Reseda immediately.

  21. He’s way too Progressive! His views on the electoral college and the Senate are the giveaways for me. He really has to have been living under a rock to not see blatant discrimination against Conservatives on social media.

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