Saturday, August 11, 2018

But what gives them the right to decide ON OUR BEHALF?


The New York Times looks at Twitter's internal debate over whether, when, why and how to "censor" users' speech on its social media platform.

While Apple, Facebook and Google’s YouTube earlier this week purged videos and podcasts from Mr. Jones and Infowars — which have regularly spread falsehoods, including that the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax — Twitter let the content remain on its site. In a string of tweets on Tuesday, Mr. Dorsey said Twitter would not ban Mr. Jones or Infowars, because they had not violated the company’s rules.

In the aftermath, many of Twitter’s users and own employees heaped ire on Mr. Dorsey and the company. (Sample comments included “jaw dropping” and “pathetic.”) Several journalists also picked apart Twitter’s decision to leave up the posts from Mr. Jones and Infowars, pointing to examples of the content that appeared to violate the company’s policies.

On Friday, to provide more transparency about its decision making, Twitter invited two New York Times reporters to attend the policy meeting. During the one-hour gathering, a picture emerged of a 12-year-old company still struggling to keep up with the complicated demands of being an open and neutral communications platform that brings together world leaders, celebrities, journalists, political activists and conspiracy theorists.

Even settling on a definition of dehumanizing speech was not easy. By the meeting’s end, Mr. Dorsey and his executives had agreed to draft a policy about dehumanizing speech and open it to the public for their comments.

In an interview on Friday, Mr. Dorsey, 41, said he was “O.K. with people not agreeing” with his decision to keep Mr. Jones’s account live.

“I don’t see this as an end point, I see this as maintaining integrity with what we put out there and not doing random one-off interpretations,” he said.

But Mr. Dorsey also said that while Twitter’s longtime guiding principle has been free expression, the company is now discussing “that safety should come first.” He added, “That’s a conversation we need to have.” He said he was thinking deeply about human rights law and listening to audiobooks on speech and expression.

Karen Kornbluh, a senior fellow of digital policy at the Council of Foreign Relations, said Mr. Dorsey had mishandled the Infowars situation but added that dealing with matters of free speech on social media is highly complex.

“There is no due process, no transparency, no case law, and no expertise on these very complicated legal and social questions behind these decisions,” she said.

There's more at the link.

I wrote about this situation earlier this week.  The core problem remains the same, and is not addressed by the NYT's report or Twitter's internal debate.  It's simply this:  To what extent should a private company decide on the terms of public debate, particularly when its social media platform is, effectively, a widely-used public utility?

It's all very well for the company to look for "objective" or "universal" standards to apply, but it's doing so from within the political, social, economic, cultural and other biases held by its staff and common in the region where they operate.  If you look at the publicly known names of Twitter's "safety team", they're almost universally on the left (often the far left) of US politics.  They've already demonstrated that they're more than willing to allow negative speech - often amounting to so-called "hate speech" - directed against President Trump or conservatives, while banning the latter from using precisely and exactly the same language against their opponents.  Bias?  You bet!  (You want an example?  They're legion, but to cite the first one that comes to mind, see here.)  Yet here they are, debating (for the benefit of journalists from a left-wing organ) how to be fair to all concerned, when fairness is not their modus operandi.

This is little more than a powder-puff piece, designed to show that Twitter is bending over backwards to be socially responsible and ethical.  Don't look at what they say, or what reports like this try to convey.  Look at what they actually do.  That'll reveal the truth, much more than their words.

Peter

9 comments:

Rob said...

The 1st purpose of these "new" social media ...outlets... is to give the users a place to talk, to socialize and they allow the companies to gather all customer's personal information and sell it.
That & the ads is how they make money.

You (the individual) could just not listen to those folks you think are full of it, the means to block people is there.
But the companies have found that they can guide public opinion, push an agenda & block those who's voice they don't want to be heard by the general public.
They can do this because they are a private company and have no rules to follow.

We can, as individuals just opt out but that is not really easy to do in this modern world. I see pictures of my grand kids on facebook...

In this modern world we have a variety of "non-state" entries changing the world. Al Qaeda comes to mind, so do facebook, google & twitter.
They are all non-state entities that have changed the world I live in, changed it to more resemble what they want it to look like.

The reality these days is not pretty.

deborah harvey said...

they really overstep themselves.
it is like executives of the utility companies going house to house to decide whether the residents are 'worthy' to receive utilities. unworthiness could lead to freezing in winter, death from thirst, et cetera.
none of it is any of their business.
the internet is a public utility, essentially.
they apparently allow pornography to run wild, yet the same overseers want to foist their unbalanced world view on all of us.
they are manipulators in the sense that wizards are manipulators. evil.
there must be a stronger word than 'overstep' but it is all i can think of.

nono said...

By choosing what content can be uploaded by their users, in my opinion theses companies are voluntarily giving up the protection of Section 230.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_230_of_the_Communications_Decency_Act

Old NFO said...

Gotta remember, 'we' are not the customer, we are the 'product' to most of these folks. FB, Google, Twitter feed 'us' to their customers, who want to sell us stuff. They control the content just like they control our data.

C. S. P. Schofield said...

If Apple, Facebook, and YouTube had flat out said; "This man's a loon, and we don't like him. We don't want to be associated with his drivel" I would have no problem with them. My problem with them is the invocation of the totemic term "Hate Speech". Since (if you examine its history) "Hate Speech" is "That with which we the anointed disagree, and we want backdates and high fives for censoring" I have a problem with it. I don't expect or (really) want these platforms to be unbiased. For one thing, I don't think it's possible. What I want is for them to be honest about their decisions.

Go ahead; say it! "We're Progressive Lefties and we will only carry Progressive Lefty content". Then we can move on and watch the Right (and maybe even the Middle) develop their OWN platforms. It's not like it's graven in stone that Apple, Facebook, and YouTube must ALWAYS be the dominant forces in their markets...

JC said...

John C. Wright has a well considered piece on his site. http://www.scifiwright.com/2018/08/alex-jones-and-the-communications-decency-act/ I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the matter, which I guess would be everyone.
Captcha, did it have to be buses? I will track you down and whack you with my stick

bmq215 said...

JC, you know that Captcha doubles as training for machine learning algorithms, right? You just helped a Google self-driving car learn to see the world. :P

Tal Hartsfeld said...

If you don't like or agree with what another thinks or says
...JUST DON'T READ THEIR POSTS OR VISIT THEIR SITES!

froginblender said...

It's a conundrum. Used to be, if you wanted to share your thoughts with the world, you could climb up on a soapbox (and risk being taken in by police for creating a public disturbance) or you could publish your own newspaper (but that cost money, thus limiting circulation of extreme views).

Now, you can use the infrastructure of the Internet and of Big Social for free. Real-life constraints on connecting your ugliest, vilest thoughts, straight from your id, to untold others' brains have been removed. This one-to-many diagram is what sets Big Social apart from the phone company.