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Voldemort, Alex Jones, and My Facebook Account

Thinking about social media bias.

For those who've been waiting (and maybe hoping) that I'd be suspended from Facebook after I linked to infowars.com, we have an answer.

I began the experiment when a guy named Brandon Straka, leader of the conservative #WalkAway initiative, announced that he had been given a 30-day account suspension for linking from Facebook to his upcoming interview on infowars. I couldn't believe Facebook was banning people for mentioning Alex Jones or his site, so I decided to put my own account at risk by doing the same. (If I were Cory Booker, I'd call it my "I am Spartacus" moment. But I'm not.)

A few hours later, with Straka getting a lot of clicks for his complaint, Facebook rescinded the ban, calling it a mistake. Straka claims Facebook didn't tell him the ban was lifted but did tell a hostile journalist, who then wrote a snarky article about the incident.

So that's where things stand. Facebook's messages to Straka clearly show that his link to infowars triggered a 30-day suspension. Then the suspension was quickly reversed. Why? Presumably, whoever pulled the plug on Straka was overruled. But we don't know who issued the ban, or who lifted it, or why. Facebook apparently hasn't said anything publicly.

Lessons? First, now that being censored on social media is a surefire way to win conservative clicks, it's fair to assume that claims of censorship will proliferate, and not all of them will be true. Second, that doesn't mean they're all false, either. When it comes to the right, Silicon Valley almost certainly suffers from what the Valley used to call "epistemic closure" before the Valley embraced it. In that climate, "Sorry, mistake" isn't likely to mollify anyone.

So the right has good reason for its suspicion, and no way to get good evidence that might rebut it. To see if Alex Jones had indeed been turned into Voldemort, I had to put my Facebook account -- and a bit of my reputation -- at risk. And even then, the fact that my account stayed up might simply show that the censors saw it as a trap that they were smart enough to avoid.

Bottom line: conservative concern about platform bias will continue to grow, and only radical transparency about platform standards and due process is likely to address that concern.

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  • Steponsnek||

    Try posting CodeIsFreeSpeech.com on Facebook.

  • regexp||

    Meh. See them linked from time to time. Facebook doesn't care.

    I'm always amused by their little website:

    is a publicly-available Web site for truthful, non-misleading, non-commercial speech and information that is protected under the United States Constitution

    Except for the name is misleading and the entire groups goal is extremist gun rights.

    Whenever someone bitches about being blocked from FaceBook - 99% of the time is because they threatened someone. Twitter is less consistent with this. But as they are both private companies - they can do whatever they want on their platform as far as I'm concerned.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    extremist gun rights

    Whoops, you just showed your extreme bias.

    99% of the time is because they threatened someone

    Whoops, you just showed your propensity to make up shit.

    Credibility shot, try again.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Scarecrow, you may have wandered so far in the direction of gun extremism, that you don't see that insurrectionist stuff as extremist, or construe as threats the more or less continuous remarks on this very blog that the time is coming when so-called "gun grabbers" will have to be shot. Maybe those aren't threats, under the law. But they are political intimidation with guns.

    There should be no place for that in American politics. I will remain appreciative of whichever private publishers refuse to give remarks of that sort currency. When I was a publisher, stuff like that would have found no place in my newspaper. But of course it never came up, despite the fact that I was publishing in gun-saturated Idaho. I was doing my own bit to help saturate it. But times were more civilized, and gun ownership and advocacy hadn't yet gone off the rails.

    And if you can't see my point about that, then I suggest you are indeed a gun extremist yourself.

  • James Pollock||

    The line between firearms enthusiast and extremist gun nut is thin and relative. It's a mistake to treat all the prior as the latter, about as offensive as considering anyone who favors any kind of limitation on firearm possession as a "gun grabber".

    A firearm is a tool, and like any tool, can be misused.

  • Naaman Brown||

    Alex Johnson, "Gun rights activists post plans for 3D firearms after judge's order blocking them", NBC News, 1 Aug 2018. NBC News article on Code Is Free Speech.
    So that is an "extremist gun rights group"? Well, Wacoize my compound under Ruby Ridge Rules of Engagement. My public library has reference works with schematics of firearms.

    Federal ATF is OK with me making at home for my personal use any Title I handgun, shotgun or rifle that I can legally buy at a gun store.

    Anti-gun rights extremists remind me of our Dry Forces who imposed local option prohibition of alcohol 1953-1968

    "I think it makes little practical difference in the United States, because with a black market, people who shouldn't have guns are still able to buy them anyway," said David Kopel, professor at the University of Denver law school. (on 3D guns in NBC article)

    Bureau of Justice Statistics prison inmate survey
    Source of firearms possessed at time of offense
    11.3% Retail Purchase or trade
    _ 7.3 - Retail store
    _ 2.6 - Pawnshop
    _ 0.6 - Flea market
    _ 0.8 - Gun show
    37.4% Family or friend
    _ 12.2 - Purchased or traded
    _ 14.1 - Rented or borrowed
    _ 11.1 - Other
    40.0% Street/illegal source
    _ 7.5 - Theft or burglary
    _ 25.2 - Drug dealer/off street
    _ 7.4 - Fence/black market
    11.2% Other source

  • Martinned||

  • DjDiverDan||

    "It's just that the people listening to you think you're an a$$hole and are showing you the door."

    While I completely agree that it is not a First Amendment issue, this take by xkcd is not at all accurate. It is NOT that the people listening are showing you the door, it is that the self -appointed arbiters of truth, justice, and good taste at Facebook are acting as door keepers. The people who were listening to Alex Jones weren't showing him the door, and, even if they were conspiracy-theory tinfoil hat wearing lunatics, they wanted to continue listening. There are a LOT of wildly ignorant Facebook pushers on the left - pushers of idiotic memes pretending to show that Obama was solely responsible for all things good and wonderful - who I have no interest in listening to. But, unlike the arrogant and ignorant left, I see no need for Facebook to ban these groups and deny like-minded loonies the giggles they might provide.

  • bernard11||

    pushers of idiotic memes pretending to show that Obama was solely responsible for all things good and wonderful - who I have no interest in listening to. But, unlike the arrogant and ignorant left, I see no need for Facebook to ban these groups and deny like-minded loonies the giggles they might provide.

    Big difference between expressing opinions about current events, no matter how wrong-headed you think they are, and Alex Jones' garbage.

    Is FB banning the conservatives who just think, ignorantly, that Trump is doing a good job, or Republicans in general?

  • DjDiverDan||

    If FB is only banning the conservatives who think, quite correctly, that Trump is doing a good job (with the exceptionof his idiotic trade policy and idiotic and xenophobic immigration stance), by, among other accomplishments, a tax and deregulation policy that has managed to push economic growth to 4.2% annually (when Obama in 8 years NEVER had a full year ad high as 3%), then why would it not also ban left wing loonies who think, ignorantly and insanely, that Obama did a good, or even marginally creditable, job? Left-wing bias is real.

  • Sarcastr0||

    The people Facebook are banning aren't just 'I think Trump is doing a great job' so whatever is real ain't coming from your scenario.

  • M.L.||

    No, they only ban you if you go on to explain actual reasons for thinking Trump is doing a great job, if those reasons are disapproved wrongthink.

  • bernard11||

    Sorry I was unclear.

    I was asking whether FB was banning these people, not contrasting the two groups.

    IOW, what I meant was "Is FB banning group A or group B?" Not, "Given that FB is banning group A, are they also banning B, or is it only A?"

    Your comments on the economy are silly, maybe even ignorant and insane.

    We had one quarter of 4.1% annualized growth. The trailing twelve months figure is 2.8 to 2.9%, not 4.1%. And Obama had several quarters as good or better. See here for the figures.

    So maybe those "left-wing loonies" aren't so loony, and anyone who thinks Trump is doing a good job based on one quarter demonstrates a pretty hefty bias himself.

    Indeed, you yourself describe his trade policies as idiotic. How do you think they will affect growth from here on out? If the effect is negative will you concede that maybe he's not such an economic genius after all?

  • DjDiverDan||

    I never claimed that Trump was an econo ic genius. Just the opposite, in many areas he's an economically illiterate nincompoop. But in JUST as many areas, like regulatory policy, tax policy, health care, and others, Obama was an even MORE economically illiterate nincompoop. And while different in style, Obama was JUST as big an arrogant egotist as Trump. How do I think Trump's trade policies will affect growth? Very badly, though I lack either the data or the time to try to quantify the harm. A lot depends on just how far Trump pushes the fight with China before one or the other backs off. His NAFTA 2.0 with Mexico will limit the damage somewhat, though it was still a badly misguided negotiation that made NAFTA worse, not better. But, as bad as Trump's trade policies are, they won't do half the damage to the American economy that Obama's regulatory policies have done (especially with respect to the EPA's climate change idiocy), nor will the damage come close to the devastation that Obamacare wracked on the healthcare industry, or impose the unnecessary and counterproductive costs that Dodd-Frank imposed on both the financial industry and SEC-regulated companies.

  • bernard11||

    OK, DJD.

    We just disagree about many of these issues. We'll see how brilliant the tax cuts were, I guess, and whether climate change is worth worrying about.

    I do note that the claim about economic growth has disappeared. Do I take it you overlooked the fact that it was one quarter?

  • Leo Marvin||

    "[...]Trump is doing a good job [...] by, among other accomplishments, a tax and deregulation policy that has managed to push economic growth to 4.2% annually (when Obama in 8 years NEVER had a full year ad (sic) high as 3%)"

    You know perfectly well that's misleading. You're comparing Trump's single-quarter apples to Obama's full year oranges. As Bernard said, Obama had several (four to be exact) quarters >4.2%. And Trump has exactly the same number of >3% years as Obama: zero.

    I hope we do see >3% for the full year. It's the very least we should expect after Trump promised 4-5% growth, and signed an irresponsibly timed, regressive $1.6 trillion deficit-funded stimulus. Actually, it's less than the very least we should expect. But it's better than nothing.

  • M.L.||

    I take the reverse view of DJD. The tax cuts are just OK. He should have gone with his inclination toward higher effective rates on the very wealthy.

    Trump's immigration and trade policies are what got him elected, full stop. And if he succeeds in implementing those agendas, the economic benefit to Americans will be far above and beyond anything offered by tax cuts aka deficit spending. Deregulation is also high on the list.

  • James Pollock||

    "He should have gone with his inclination toward higher effective rates on the very wealthy."

    This would require him admitting that he isn't nearly as wealthy as he pretends to be.

    "Trump's immigration and trade policies are what got him elected, full stop."

    Not being named "Hillary" is what got T elected. Full stop.

  • M.L.||

    Sure, but immigration and trade were the biggest policy reasons -- practically the only policy reasons -- that he beat Hillary and also all of the other Republican candidates, which had nothing to do with Hillary.

    Charles Krauthammer, July 2015: "This is the strongest field of Republican candidates in 35 years. You could pick a dozen of them at random and have the strongest cabinet America's had in our lifetime and instead all of our time is spent discussing this rodeo clown."

  • James Pollock||

    "it is that the self -appointed arbiters of truth, justice, and good taste at Facebook are acting as door keepers."

    If you don't like the rules that the owners/operators of Facebook set up for using their stuff, stop using their stuff.

    If you want a website that operates under different rules, make your own site and you can implement whatever rules you want.

    "There are a LOT of wildly ignorant Facebook pushers on the left"

    And on the right. And in the center. And with no meaningful political affiliation at all.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    In the end the only real answer to FB's political bias is creating another platform.

    But that doesn't mean they're not dicks for claiming their platform is impartial, and then engaging on naked political censorship.

  • Sarcastr0||

    I disagree with your factual take, but this is the correct policy take given that predicate, right down to the dicks!

  • James Pollock||

    "In the end the only real answer to FB's political bias is creating another platform."

    Ffor most of history, nobody had access to Facebook, or anything like a Facebook account. Odd that you don't consider "doing without" to be a "real answer".

  • OldCurmudgeon||

    That's not so easy. For example, there is a free speech friendly alternative to Twitter galled Gab. Apple has banned the app, not because of any technical issues, but because of that free speech commitment.

    And, obviously, getting blocked on 1 of 2 major platforms is the kiss of death to any aspiring Twitter competitor.

  • James Pollock||

    "That's not so easy"

    It's amazingly easy. Take the service you disapprove of, and remove it from your devices. Done!

    "And, obviously, getting blocked on 1 of 2 major platforms"

    Apple makes the 3rd and 4th most popular families of operating systems used in the world today. And, stop me if this sounds familiar, don't buy Apple products if you don't like the choices they offer.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Wait a minute Dan. You correctly acknowledge it isn't a 1A issue. But then immediately go back to arguing as if Alex Jones fans have some kind of claim to get his stuff as a matter of right. They do, as a 1A principle, applied to the public square, and enforced against government. They don't, as a matter of any principle at all, applied against Facebook.

    Doorkeeping is what private publishers do. It's one of the defining characteristics of the activity of being a publisher. It is not for government, or for you, to tell private publishers they can't do it. Jones, or you, can doorkeep your own publications. Nobody can stop you. The operative principles are being applied alike to everyone.

  • DjDiverDan||

    Stephen Lathrop, you idiot, I NEVER ONCE CLAIMED that FB couldn't legally do it. If you read my post, you would see that the ONLY thing that I was claiming was that the xkcd cartoon was inaccurate and misleading for painting this as a case where the listeners were showing Alex Jones the door. Jesus, develop so e reading comprehension skills, will you? And YES, doorkeeping IS what publishers do. But HONEST publishers don't try to tell you that they are being fair and impartial while censoring everyone who cares to disagree with their political view. Sure FB has the legal right to be a doorkeeper. But Deceptive Trade Practices Acts might have something to say about holding yourself out to the public as a fair and honest gatekeeper when that was never your intent.

  • James Pollock||

    "But HONEST publishers don't try to tell you that they are being fair and impartial while censoring everyone who cares to disagree with their political view."

    Sure they do. As you admitted, in the paragraph directly preceding the sentence I quoted. For example, a half-hour TV newscast decides which 30 minutes (less advertising) of news is worth being telecast. Everything that doesn't get aired is "censored". As an example, the local TV stations went to wall-to-wall news late last week. 100% of the coverage was about hurricane-related events, and everything else... including political news... was suppressed.

    What you want is a publisher who's stated bias matches their actual bias equals your understanding of what should be covered and what shouldn't.

  • OldCurmudgeon||

    Wouldn't even go that far.... It's still a free speech issue, even if it's not a 1st Amendment issue. The latter just means there isn't a legal remedy.

  • Careless||

    Yes, that was an embarrassing moment for the comic. Free speech and the First Amendment are not the same thing. If I credibly threaten to shoot you if you post again, yes, you really will have had your speech rights diminished

  • James Pollock||

    " If I credibly threaten to shoot you if you post again, yes, you really will have had your speech rights diminished"

    Only if A) I actually believe you, or B) you actually carry out the threat.

    But that's not the point. You have "free speech rights" guaranteed by the US Constitution, and, to a lesser extent, by state Constitution and other sources of law. The right to say whatever you want turns out not to be one of those rights, nor to have anyone pay any attention or even be made aware of what you want to say.

    The old way of saying this was "freedom of the press only applies to those who have a press". If someone else has a press, and doesn't want to print your manifesto, your freedom of press is not useful to you in resolving that disagreement.

  • Rossami||

    re: "Only if A ... or B ..."

    That's pretty much exactly what "credibly" means in "credibly threaten". Are you just arguing for the sake of hearing yourself?

  • James Pollock||

    "That's pretty much exactly what "credibly" means in "credibly threaten"

    I read "credibly" as meaning "making a threat I can actually carry out." Or, working backwards, if you're threatening to do something I don't believe you can actually do, the threat isn't credible.

    This is a long-way-around way of saying that I reject your attempt to redefine "credible", in particular your argument that a "credible" threat is one where the threatened act has actually been carried out.

    "Are you just arguing for the sake of hearing yourself?"
    No. but it sure sounds like you might be.

  • GabrielSyme||

    Seems like a good time to remind you that the First Amendment and Free Speech are two distinct things. Free Speech is a principle, not a law:

    https://goo.gl/images/zLcZDZ

  • croaker||

    Imagine the phone company cutting your phone because they don't like what you and your friends are saying.

    That's Facebook and Twitter today.

  • James Pollock||

    Imagine that the reason the phone company can't do that is because of government regulation.

  • jdgalt1||

    More likely, Baker's experiment didn't prove anything except that lefties don't notice (or disagree with) his Facebook posts enough that they go looking for things they can complain about to FB management. Which is how every suspension begins. Leave the reference to Jones up for a week or ten days and it would happen.

  • Kristian H.||

    "Bottom line: conservative concern about platform bias will continue to grow, and only radical transparency about platform standards and due process is likely to address that concern."

    While true, it should be a universal concern. As we have seen, the tech lords while support truly horrific regimes if the market is big enough.

  • James Pollock||

    "the tech lords while support truly horrific regimes if the market is big enough."

    Not just the "tech lords". Businesses, particularly corporations, are implemented to make money for investors, and will actively take on opportunities to do so. This is why the ability to write regulations for businesses is important, and blindly repealing regulations can have horrid side effects. Yes, pulling regulations often allows them to make more money. But sometimes, they're making money in ways we'd (big picture) rather that they didn't.

  • PoxOnBothYourHouses||

    V. I. Lenin: "When it comes time to hang the capitalists, they will vie with each other for the rope contract."

    Apocryphal (but strangely true)

  • Nick Gillespie's Jacket||

    The Dude:
    It's like what Lenin said... you look for the person who will benefit, and, uh, uh...

    Donny:
    I am the walrus.

    The Dude:
    You know what I'm trying to say...

    Walter Sobchak:
    That f***ing bitch...

    Donny:
    I am the walrus.

    Walter Sobchak:
    shut the f*** up, Donny! V.I. Lenin. Vladimir Illanich Uleninov!

  • bernard11||

    conservative concern about platform bias will continue to grow,

    I'm sure it will, whether justified or not, because it's one more thing for the grifters like Limbaugh, Hannity, Carlson, etc. to get people riled up about.

    ...and only radical transparency about platform standards and due process is likely to address that concern.

    Nothing will address it, because the charge is very valuable to the above-mentioned individuals, not to mention Trump, so his fans will soak it up regardless.

  • James Pollock||

    I concur. If the gullible continue to buy it, the outrage-peddlers will continue to sell it.

  • KevinP||

    Speaking of grifters:

    Class Action Complaint against Google for Workplace Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation


    Actual quotes from Google managers and employees:

    George Sadlier ("Sadlier"), a Director, sent out a mass email condemning James' essay as "repulsive and intellectually dishonest" and promising an HR investigation into Damore. Damore received a late-night email from Alex Hidalgo, a Site Reliability Engineer at Google in Sadlier's organization: "You're a misogynist and a terrible person. I will keep hounding you until one of us is fired. F*** you."

    Adam Fletcher ("Fletcher"), L6 SRE Manager stated in reference to conservatives as "hostile voices," "I will never, ever hire/transfer you onto my team. Ever. I don't care if you are perfect fit or technically excellent or whatever. I will actively not work with you, even to the point where your team or product is impacted by this decision. I'll communicate why to your manager if it comes up."

    Kim Burchett ("Burchett"), L7 SWE Manager, proposed creating an online companywide blacklist of political conservatives inside Google.

    Another manager, Collin Winter, posted threats ... and stated: "I keep a written blacklist of people whom I will never allow on or near my team, based on how they view and treat their coworkers. That blacklist got a little longer today."

  • Sarcastr0||

    Haha, I don't think taking labor's side is too on brand for the right, but any port in a storm, eh?

  • bacchys||

    It's an algorithm making the decision on what gets banned.

  • AmosArch||

    People like those from Facebook and Google speak a lot about unconscious bias and bias in algorithms. If you're not off the hook when your algorithm is 'racist' you shouldn't be off the hook for other forms of bias. Also we don't really know for sure who's responsible because the social media companies have purposely remained opaque about their rules and mechanisms despite years of criticism because they clearly like the deniability it proves and the ability to change it at will. They keep stuff like shadowbanning in place even though its hard to see a legitimate purpose for stuff like that.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    "People like those from Facebook and Google speak a lot about unconscious bias and bias in algorithms."

    What what this really means is that the algorithms are operating as designed, and simply turn up real correlations that are politically inadmissible.

  • bernard11||

    Brett proves my point.

  • Careless||

    lol

  • GabrielSyme||

    It's just part of the eternal "tech will solve everything" cycle

    "The algorithms will save us!"

    *a few months later...*

    "The algorithms have failed us!"

  • BigHands||

    "Then the suspension was quickly reversed. Why? Presumably, whoever pulled the plug on Straka was overruled. But we don't know who issued the ban, or who lifted it, or why. "

    More likely, the algorithm used to determine who should be put on time out wasn't fine tuned enough to differentiate between those who are deliberately violating FB's terms of use and those merely tangentially connected. I doubt that FB has a person who oversees the community and "pulls the plug" just because someone links to Jones' site. Probably just a less-than-fine-tuned AI doin' what AI's do, oppressing mankind. "Profiling" in the digital age.

    "And even then, the fact that my account stayed up might simply show that the censors saw it as a trap that they were smart enough to avoid."

    Amusing tongue in cheek there but you're leaving out the larger threat. Namely that the embracing of Big Data, AI, etc. has allowed FB and other companies - and not just social media companies - to create intimate profiles of individuals and to "tailor the experience" of not just the Intertubes but a great deal of everyday life.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Look, Google doesn't do everything by algorithms. That's their goal, sure, but at this point they have an extensive staff updating multiple white and black lists, to deal with cases where they don't like what the algorithm does.

    And, if a biased person writes the algorithm, it just systematically implements their bias.

  • bernard11||

    And again, Brett proves my point.

    The paranoid right is incorrigible.

  • M.L.||

    Incorrect. Behind each act of censorship is a Little Eichmann, a soldier in the armies of them at Facebook, Google and Twitter.

  • James Pollock||

    "Look, Google doesn't do everything by algorithms."

    Google doesn't do anything at all to Facebook's algorithms.


    "And, if a biased person writes the algorithm, it just systematically implements their bias"
    If you find that Google isn't providing the search results you prefer, stop using it. But quit whining that they aren't implementing the bias you'd prefer.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    I find google works quite well for subjects that aren't politically charged, but, yes, on some occasions I resort to other search engines because Google pushes the result I'm looking for many pages down, and forces me to wade through pages of irrelevancies to reach it.

    Like looking for an article you know was published on Bob Woodward's record of inaccuracies, and you just can't find it on Google unless you've got a phenomenally specific search string, an actual quote from the article to search for. While on DuckDuckGo, (an otherwise inferior engine for ordinary searches.) it comes up in the first page, because they're not trying to convince people Woodward is trustworthy, and just deliver up responsive results.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    I find google works quite well for subjects that aren't politically charged, . . .

    If you could put paranoia aside for a moment, you might consider what that could be telling you about the way you regard subjects which are politically charged.

  • croaker||

    The bias I would prefer is no bias.

  • James Pollock||

    "The bias I would prefer is no bias."

    There's no such thing as "no bias".

  • AmosArch||

    The social media/hosting platforms are oligopolies like the ISPs and are similarly almost necessary for access to the internet. What good is an open ISP if you're simply blocked downstream? I'm surprised this isn't part of the 'net neutrality' debate. Okay maybe not that surprised since this is a convenient way to selectively drown out voices by ideology.

  • James Pollock||

    The difference is that it is at least theoretically possible to build a competitor to Facebook. But ISPs often have exclusivity deals with municipalities, in addition to the huge cost of startup. As a result, for broadband access, most Americans have their choice of the one provider willing to lay cable in their neighborhood, or satellite service that isn't directly comparable to wired access.

    The IT industry has a history of market leadership being wrestled away from entrenched powers. CP/M was once the dominant operating system. WordPerfect was once the dominant word processor. Lotus made the dominant spreadsheet program. Netscape Navigator once ruled the web browser market. (Of course, some of these market transitions were caused by reasons other than real dissatisfaction by the existing market.)

  • AmosArch||

    If you were offered a billion dollars to come up with something that would take down one of the major sm and content delivery platforms and if you succeeded you could keep everything but if you failed you'd have to pay it all back with more interest than you'd be able make by embezzlement to invest in the stock market would you feel comfortable taking that wager?

  • James Pollock||

    Do you not understand how free enterprise works?

  • OldCurmudgeon||

    >But ISPs often have exclusivity deals with municipalities,

    Usually not... Most places have multiple wireless providers, one ore more DSL providers, and a cable company. And, fwiw, unless you are streaming lots of video, wireless plans are plenty large.

  • James Pollock||

    "'But ISPs often have exclusivity deals with municipalities,'

    Usually not... Most places have multiple wireless providers"

    A technicality. Wireless providers have their exclusivity deals with the FCC rather than the local municipalities.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    If you are ready to object to the big social media platforms as monopolistic, I join you. A remedy for everything the right wing objects to would be at hand if policy was chosen to replace those monopolies with a profusion of diverse, smaller competitors, scattered among markets across the land.

    Problem is, before that can happen, the right wing has to give up any ambition to use monopolistic tools to saturate giant markets with its own weaponized speech. You guys are at cross purposes, and apparently don't know it. Since your own purposes seem to be turning against your own ambitions, maybe you ought to think it over.

  • James Pollock||

    'A remedy for everything the right wing objects to would be at hand if policy was chosen to replace those monopolies with a profusion of diverse, smaller competitors, scattered among markets across the land."

    You're assuming they won't find anything to complain about in a market of the type you advocate for.

    A remedy for everything the right wing objects to exists now. Don't like the way these companies run their operations? Don't use the services the companies offer. Amazing as it seems, it is entirely possible to live without a Facebook account.

  • James Pollock||

    "Bottom line: conservative concern about platform bias will continue to grow, and only radical transparency about platform standards and due process is likely to address that concern."

    I suggest as the alternative that people who are prone to conspiracy-theory-type paranoia will believe that their preferred viewpoints are being suppressed, regardless of the actuality or fantasy of the claims of suppression.

    You might guess that such people (conspiracy-theory-type paranoia) predominate on one side of the political spectrum based on various conspiracy theories that are already popular... global warming is a conspiracy of scientists, news coverage is all biased, hurricanes don't actually kill people, mass shooters don't actually kill anybody, and probably a LOT more that I don't happen to be aware of.

  • bernard11||

    Yes. But you left out a few things.

    Not just a conspiracy of scientists, but a "Chinese hoax." Mass shooting survivors are "crisis actors." Pizzagate.

    These are things that many on the right actually believe. We have to deal with the fact that 30-35% of the country is out of touch with reality.

  • James Pollock||

    Leftists have had their pet delusions, as well.

    The point isn't that people on one side of the political spectrum believe wacky stuff. It's that people believe wacky stuff.

    I believe that the real problem is the prevalence of "outrage-peddlers" who sell this stuff, knowing how bovine-excrement it is.

  • PoxOnBothYourHouses||

    bernard: "We have to deal with the fact that 30-35% of the country is out of touch with reality."

    Oh please stop the hyper-partisanship, or someone will strike back with the parable of the mote and the log. The Right isn't alone in all this. The Left has its fair share of unreality. What we really have to deal with is the fact that two-thirds of politically-minded people have taken one or the other partisan position and refuse to relinquish it under almost any circumstances.

  • James Pollock||

    The real problem is not that lots of people find agreement about a wide range of issues. The problem is that some of those people are intolerant of people who have different opinions. In many cases, the friction is greatest when people are closest to agreement. (Look at the history of violence between Catholics and Protestants, for example, or ruminate on the fact that Christians, Jews, and Muslims all worship the same deity... but THEY do it wrong, so violence is justified somehow.)

  • Eddy||

    By the way, thank you for recommending The Practicing Stoic - I got it from the lib- I mean bookstore, and it's great stuff.

    Although reading some of the unexpurgated sources I think The Practicing Stoic is kind of like a Jefferson's Bible, with the God parts cut out.

  • santamonica811||

    "If X happens, the other side is corrupt."
    'If Not-X happens, then this is due to an improper motive and suggests that the other side is corrupt."

    I can always appreciate someone--in an effort to prove something--who comes up with a win-win (or, in your case, "Heads I win; tails you lose") scenario.

  • PoxOnBothYourHouses||

    It's hard to know who is being eliminated the most. I hang around a bit at Medium, which is /mostly/ a Lefty echo chamber. People I know there complain about Right-thinking people getting kicked off, and I know of some of the cases. But they're not alone. ThinkProgress got kicked off as well. I can find my comments on some of their articles, but the original articles have vanished. At their own site, TP complains about being silenced when it asks for money, and it appears they have been.

  • apedad||

    "Bottom line: conservative concern about platform bias will continue to grow, and only radical transparency about platform standards and due process is likely to address that concern."

    Mr. Baker, there's some guy, Prof. Volokh (I think he's in California somewhere), who often writes about First Amendment issues (e.g. freedom of speech, press, etc.).

    Why don't you run that statement past him and see if he agrees with you--or laughs in your face.

  • ||

    Time to start treating Facebook, Google, Amazon, and the like as common carriers and call it a day. If a small baker shouldn't be allowed to deny a "wedding" cake, then huge oligopolies like these should not be allowed to discriminate. Period.

  • apedad||

    In other words, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

  • Sarcastr0||

    Start with making the ISPs common carriers and maybe I'll think you're intellectually consistent enough to talk about content providers.

  • ||

    Aren't ISPs are already treated as common carriers? I don't believe Comcast or Verizon can refuse to set up a connection to your house because it disagrees with your politics.

  • Sarcastr0||

    From ze wiki:
    FCC classified Internet service providers as common carriers, effective June 12, 2015, for the purpose of enforcing net neutrality....
    On December 14, 2017, under a new presidential administration, the FCC reversed its own rules on net neutrality, essentially revoking common carrier status as a requirement for internet service providers.

  • OldCurmudgeon||

    You don't even need to go that far. Just a simple clarification that companies that use curate content / apply their independent editorial judgment to content aren't "interactive computer services" within the meaning of the Communications Decency Act. Instead, they are publishers, like newspapers.

    It would be simple rule-making - it's the correct interpretation of the statutory text anyway.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    "FCC classified Internet service providers as common carriers, effective June 12, 2015, for the purpose of enforcing net neutrality...."

    But deliberately ignored a bunch of other regulatory requirements that the law would require the FCC to impose on ISPs if they are considered common carriers.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    conservative concern about platform bias will continue to grow

    . . . much like birtherism.

    Carry on, clingers.

  • Eddy||

  • ScottK||

    How does one achieve "radical transparency" of an unwilling host without "government regulation?"

  • James Pollock||

    With, or without, "government regulation", you get transparency only voluntarily.

  • James Pollock||

    With, or without, "government regulation", you get transparency only voluntarily.

  • Eddy||

    "Voldemort, Alex Jones, and My Facebook Account"

    Name three things or people which only have one nose among them?

  • Eddy||

    "Voldemort, Alex Jones, and My Facebook Account"

    Name three unreliable sources of information?

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