David Auerbach looks at how classification of content affects social networks and observes three characteristics:
- In any computational context, explicitly structured data floats to the top.
- For any data set, the classification is more important than what’s being classified.
- Simpler classifications will tend to defeat more elaborate classifications.
Why should I make an investment both in time and emotion in a service that actually cares so little about its users — and, in fact, about the health of the society it now influences? The excuse that Twitter holds up a mirror to wider society is hogwash: it has consistently and with an outstanding level of ill-judgement given a platform to and cultivated people with utterly reprehensible views.
If you’re an out and out vile individual, like Alex Jones, Twitter gives you a free pass. If you’re a conspiracy theorist who wants to get traction for your lies, Twitter is your friend. If you’re a racist, Twitter will defend your “free speech rights”.
But if you’re a woman getting vile, violent and consistent abuse, Twitter will do precisely nothing to stop it.
Without Twitter, the insanity that is QAnon couldn’t have gained the traction it has. Confined to 4chan, it would have been yet another crackpot piece of tomfoolery. Amplified unchallenged by Twitter, it becomes a series of signs held up at Trump’s rallies, and a truck parked across a highway. It won’t be too long before it becomes a death.
In the end, I decided that Twitter doesn’t deserve my attention. I couldn’t, in good faith, support a service which cares so little about the culture around it, that does nothing to be a positive influence on society, which which sees the rights of little lost boys to abuse women as more important than the rights of women not to be abused.
A 410 error means “gone.” In Google’s terms, “the server returns this response when the requested resource has been permanently removed. It is similar to a 404 (Not found) code, but is sometimes used in the place of a 404 for resources that used to exist but no longer do.”
Vulture interviews Penn (the one who talks). Interesting guy.
The next day on the Hannity show, Dorsey elaborated. “We do believe in the power of free expression, but we always need to balance that with the fact that bad-faith actors intentionally try to silence other voices.”
As has often been the case with Twitter’s haphazard enforcement, it is difficult to reconcile this with the fact that Jones is a bad-faith actor by his own admission — or at least the admission of his lawyer during a custody battle. “He’s playing a character,” Jones’ attorney Randall Wilhite told the judge during a pretrial hearing, claiming that Jones should be held no more accountable for his actions than Jack Nicholson would for playing the Joker in a Batman movie. Rather than a fiery iconoclast telling controversial truths, he’s simply “a performance artist.” What, if anything, does it mean to say that you are concerned about bad actors when you also vociferously defend providing a megaphone to perhaps the most extreme bad-faith commentator in political discourse?
Twitter, which once identified itself as “the free speech wing of the free speech party,” has long listed toward the sort of free speech absolutism that says absolutely anything goes, so long as it isn’t overtly criminal. It’s a popular idea among the Silicon Valley cyberlibertarians who hold some the most powerful positions at tech companies and, not coincidentally, a founding principle of the internet itself.
There lies, within this absolutism, an often very idealistic and sincere belief: if we simply allow all speech to compete in the free marketplace of ideas, then the best, most productive, and most truthful ideas will win out. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and the best answer to bad, shitty, and sometimes even abusive speech is simply more speech.
Dorsey echoed this belief in his thread defending Jones as a legitimate and not-at-all-in-violation-of-Twitter-rules user: “Accounts like Jones’ can often sensationalize issues and spread unsubstantiated rumors, so it’s critical journalists document, validate, and refute such information directly so people can form their own opinions. This is what serves the public conversation best.”
The article has a good roundup of studies showing that the truth is no match for a well-judged lie.
Scott Galloway again in fine form:
They [Mr. Zuckerberg or Ms. Sandberg] wrap themselves in First-Amendment or “we want to give voice to the unheard” blankets, yet there’s nothing in either of their backgrounds that hints at a passion for First Amendment rights. Zuck’s robotic repetition that their “mission is to connect the world” at the congressional hearings in May was an appeal to pathos that flies in the face of abundant research of the human propensity towards division, tribalism, and violence. Getting a Facebook account doesn’t magically melt users’ hatred for groups they are convinced are inferior. Instead, outrage spreads faster than love. And that’s the goal: more clicks. Reactions equal engagement — a model Facebook could change.
As it is, Facebook doesn’t remove fake news (they call them “false news”). Fake news still spreads, just to fewer people. (No one knows what “fewer people” means, in percentages, ratios, or numbers.) So Infowars claimed to its 900,000 followers that Dems were going to start a second Civil War on the 4th of July. That wasn’t seen as inciting violence, and it wasn’t removed — neither for inciting violence nor for being “false news.” Unclear if it was “shown to fewer people.” Neither, apparently, was Pizzagate seen as inciting violence, though it involved real-live violence. Facebook has turned to their playbook of delay and obfuscation, and refuses to cool the echo chambers of misinformation, as it profits from them.
It would be nice to believe that the third-wealthiest person in the world and an executive who’s written eloquently about work-life balance for women and personal loss would have more concern for the commonwealth, and society writ large. But they have not demonstrated this. Their defensiveness is dangerous blather crafted by the army of PR execs at Facebook. To be fair, they’re no better or worse than tobacco executives claiming, “Tobacco is not addictive” or search execs professing, “Information wants to be free.” They have all lied to buttress their wealth, full stop. This is an externality of capitalism that’s usually addressed with regulation. Usually.
This will continue to happen unless we, American citizens, elect people who have the domain expertise and stones to hold big tech to the same scrutiny we apply to other firms. We don’t even need new regulation to break them up, but just to enforce the current regulations on media firms.
Which. They. Are.