Social Media Monsters

Representatives from social media companies are set to appear before Congress this week to be questioned about supposed Russian interference in our elections and, more importantly, about their censorship of conservative speech here in the U.S. (and probably elsewhere, too).

Social media companies and their extremely wealthy and powerful owners have been accused, quite credibly, of stifling conservative speech in the name of preventing hate speech, harassment, bullying, abuse, and trolling, among other (specious) excuses.

Typically, these companies respond, when questioned about their questionable censorship, by blaming their supposedly unbiased, mathematical, scientific, computer-driven algorithms, as if algorithms are not written and executed by human beings who have political biases, which can be inserted at many points in the process (e.g., when determining subjective variables such as “relevancy and authoritativenes;” whether something constitutes fact versus opinion, meme, or narrative; and even whether a user is a troll or a bot).

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will meet with the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday. The committee

plans to delve into Twitter’s powerful algorithm — and the way the company polices hate speech, harassment and other ills on its platform. 

[emphasis added to quotes]

With any luck the representatives on the committee will be tech savvy enough to know when they’re being gaslighted and respond appropriately.

Google, which is currently colluding with the oppressive government of China to develop a search engine that will return results for Chinese citizens that include only what their government wants them to see, apparently is not sending representatives to the hearings. Google is accused of selectively censoring search results for political reasons, mostly at the expense of conservatives. Although Google is skipping the public hearings, they may meet individually with various lawmakers.

Google seemingly prefers gaslight to sunlight.

How convenient. If their representatives explain their algorithm to naive, ignorant, and/or oblivious lawmakers behind closed doors, then nobody from the public who knows better can gainsay them.

Something must be done, and soon, to stop this blatant censorship of conservative speech and commerce. Either We the People will vote with our feet (or, in this case, with our computers and phones) and desert these social media giants for better, more open platforms (when and if any exist), or the government will have to step in to regulate these self-appointed speech monitors, or lawsuits will have to be filed to bring them to heel.

How can the government regulate private companies? Well, the government does it all the time. Would these same companies be allowed to discriminate against liberal speech? Black speech? Female speech? Of course not.

In addition,

[T]hese are actually public companies – at least technically. Remember that Facebook (FB), Twitter (TWTR), Google (GOOGL) (which again controls YouTube), and Apple (AAPL) each have their shares publicly traded on the stock exchanges. That status of being publicly listed and publicly traded comes with broad implications as well as specific responsibilities both to shareholders and for the public.

One argument that can be used to regulate these companies is their sheer size and the fact that they have monopoly power:

[S]ocial media platforms have demonstrated they are rapacious monopolies on the model of Standard Oil of the late 19th century. At a minimum, Google, Facebook, and Twitter need to be forced to spin off their advertising sales businesses and their tech development businesses into separate, independent entities. They also need to be forced to either act as platforms or act as publishers. They are either responsible for their content and are able to control itor they are free from liability for what is distributed on their platform but they can no longer make any judgments on user content or conduct.

Another argument is restraint of trade:

…  Apple, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify simultaneously “de-platformed” Alex Jones and Infowars. Twitter held out briefly, and then, in response to demands from liberals, also banned Jones and Infowars. … [S]imultaneous bans and suspensions across platforms can hardly be coincidental. The phrase “combination or conspiracy in restraint of trade” comes to mind. …

When individuals or organizations are censored by social media, especially when it’s done in seeming collusion among the companies (perhaps even with traditional media as well as with billionaire progressives and Democrat operatives), these companies interfere with interstate and international commerce, which is under the purview of the federal government.

Many now-censored sites depend upon income from advertising and subscriptions, or by selling paraphernalia or collecting donations from supporters.

Social media companies have entered into a contract with their users. The unfairly banned could, therefore, file lawsuits to explore whether or not social media companies are fairly applying their policies (contract terms) across the board, a question which has nothing to do with the First Amendment but which does involve business and contract law as well as the federal government’s mandate to police interstate commerce.

Social media companies enjoy protection from libel and slander laws, and from sanction when illegal content  is posted on their platforms, on the premise that they’re simply a tool that others use to communicate, not unlike the service you receive from a phone company, which provides the means of communication but which doesn’t police or censor what you say while using the tools they provide.

By censoring content, social media platforms act as publishers, assuming responsibility for what’s being said. Why, then, should they be immune from slander, libel, or other laws?

As one writer explained:

[I]t’s been tenable to hold traditional media organizations accountable for what they publish because they can and usually do exercise pretty tight control over the content which they disseminate. However, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and iTunes would face a nightmare scenario if they could be held liable as publishers for the content which their users post through their services. Just imagine if Facebook the company could be sued for any post made by any user on its platform.

Further, the sheer number of posts and audio and video recordings being constantly uploaded to these sites 24-7-365 makes it impossible for humans to review them all before they are distributed to other users.

Which is why social media has been immune from legal consequences.

The idea clearly behind Section 230 [the law that confers their immunity] is that these websites are more like a public park where someone might get up on a soapbox with a megaphone and speak to whoever happens to be within earshot, and no one would hold the groundskeeper of a public park liable for what someone, unbeknownst to the groundskeeper, said to a crowd from atop a soapbox one afternoon with a megaphone.

Based on this concept, Facebook cannot be held liable for what its users post on its website, and indeed without such protection it’s unlikely that any company would provide such a service for fear of losing lawsuit after lawsuit.

Currently, it’s more economical for these companies to pretend to be simple facilitators of content publishing, not only because they don’t have to worry about defending themselves from accusations of slander and libel, or copyright violations, but also because it costs far less for them to simply allow free and open use of their platforms instead of hiring an army of people to police content in real time.

But the companies are nevertheless trying to censor (or, to put it more kindly, moderate) on the cheap, by using machine algorithms to enforce a wholly subjective and non-transparent “community standard”, while still maintaining immunity from legal consequences.

Either social media companies must go back to the Wild West system where all they did was to provide the platform, or they go whole hog and moderate everything that goes onto their platforms, based upon a wholly transparent and equally applied set of criteria, which will cost them a lot more than it costs now to simply run their algorithms and fix alleged “glitches” or “mistakes” after the damage has already been done to the censored.

Then there’s the issue of campaign law. Some social media companies are now apparently taking sides in elections, deliberately shadow-banning candidates or even (illegally?) banning political candidates’ communications and advertisements.

That Facebook and Twitter can pull a candidate’s campaign ad and demand they edit it before it can be distributed should terrify everyone and demonstrate to us all just how fragile the ability to use social media is for those with unpopular views.

Talk about interfering in an election!

Selectively censoring the campaign ads of one political party at least arguably constitutes an in-kind donation to the other party, unless the value of the donation is duly reported, or provided that the social media company can prove that it’s not deliberately singling out certain candidates’ messages for censorship. (It’s worth tying them up in court to make them prove that they’re not doing this deliberately.)

Is it possible that these companies, which are staffed mostly by left-leaning progressives, are not deliberately or at least subconsciously discriminating against conservative points of view? That seems unlikely.

Sketchy behavior could be inadvertent, depending upon what happens when some users of a platform report, block, or negatively critique comments, posts, and pages of other users.

Do their automated systems ban first, and ask questions later? It appears to be so, but their systems are hardly transparent, so it’s hard to know for sure.

Do their automated systems take into consideration the distinct possibility that a well-funded army of paid political trolls might misuse their system, working overtime to report anything with which they disagree, just to get opposing views off the Internet?

In fact, that’s exactly what seems to be happening and so far they appear to be getting away with it. Consider, for example, that Twitter decides who is a “bad faith actor,” in part, by examining

who mutes you, who follows you, who retweets you, who blocks you, etc.

Who mutes you and who blocks you. Get blocked and muted enough, and Twitter blocks you, because suddenly you’ve become a “bad faith actor.” See any problem with that system?

Have you heard Dorsey say that Twitter doesn’t censor speech or ideology, it moderates behavior? But apparently not necessarily your behavior. Also apparently, they may punish you based on someone else’s behavior.

In 2014 a study from the Pew Research Journalism Project found that “liberals are more likely to block or unfriend someone online because they disagree with something they have posted.” Without diving into the merits this kind of ideological blocking, let’s just examine the effect.

We can assume this behavior demonstrated on Facebook carries over to liberals on Twitter, and there’s some pretty compelling anecdotal evidence to back it up given the popularity of Block Together.

Block Together is a tool that was developed to prevent harassment on Twitter by creating mass blocking lists. An individual can create a list of Twitter users they block, then share that list so others can easily upload it to their profile and block those individuals. Some of these lists include hundreds of thousands of Twitter accounts. This ability to share and upload blocklists can be abused by those on the left side of the political spectrum, perhaps unintentionally.

Consider this situation as reported by one Twitter user:

And right now with almost 50,000 followers, 8,000 people I follow and millions of impressions monthly, I only block 11 people.

But many people block me and other conservatives, and they block early and often. That blocking and reporting of accounts leads to more conservatives being sidelined by Twitter – and that’s just not right. 

For example, I regularly encounter tweets that are missing when quoted by people I follow. This either means the tweet was deleted or the user has blocked me.

When I check I often find that a user who has blocked me is someone I have never interacted with. So why the block? Often, it’s due to being on a block list created by a liberal activist group. …

But Twitter now uses factors such as the number of people who have blocked an account to determine whether to classify it as “low quality” content. The company also uses the number of complaints or reports on the account. If the number of these exceeds certain thresholds, an account can be deemed low quality and access to tweets from that user are severely diminished.

Given the propensity for people on the left to block content more than those on the right, Twitter ends up with an inordinate number of conservative accounts being affected.

This collection of block lists, combined with the excessive number of complaints lodged, has resulted in folks on the left being given a veto over content they dislike. …

If that’s not bad enough, Twitter also engages in what one writer calls

Guilt by Association

Rating accounts based on their interests and connections creates viewpoint discrimination.

  • Using “who follows you”, “who you follow” and “who you retweet” creates a guilt by association.
  • It takes a small number of accounts with a low quality rating and extends that shadow to others who have interactions with them.
  • This generates a dynamic that constantly increases the number of affected accounts based simply on an affinity for conservative ideas.

Again, while the intent may have been to improve user experience, some of these metrics had an easily predictable outcome of disadvantaging right of center users. There is a well-documented tendency of left of center users to report and use blocking and reporting tools considerably more than the right, up to three times as much. This has created the situation now where Quality Filter Discrimination (QFD) is de facto viewpoint discrimination.

Doesn’t this all seem to constitute some rather serious flaws in their process, especially during elections, when every day counts?

In a very comprehensive overview of the issue, this article also names a number of government agencies that may have to act to reverse the censorship of conservatives on social media:

  • Federal Election Commission– By providing an advantage to one party in election communications, Twitter may have made an in-kind contribution. This could extend beyond individual races if the advantage is found to have been systemic in nature.
  • Securities and Exchange Commission– Public statements claiming a content neutral platform, while operating one that is biased in outcome, could be deemed violations.
  • Federal Trade Commission– Due to the monopoly-like nature of Twitter in the marketplace and the need for its services by almost all public entities, Twitter could face anti-trust scrutiny.
  • Federal Communications Commission– Twitter could be reclassified as a publisher to remove exemption as an internet provider under the Communications Decency Act.

Shouldn’t these companies, at the very least, suspend their use of these moderation systems until the mid-term elections are over?

Astoundingly, instead of being concerned about the potential impact government action may have on his company’s bottom line, today Twitter CEO Dorsey and his lawyer actually threatened to censor President Trump, should he violate Twitter’s amorphous, biased standards!

Twitter said Tuesday that not even President Donald Trump is immune from being kicked off the platform if his tweets cross a line with abusive behavior.

The social media company’s rules against vitriolic tweets offer leeway for world leaders whose statements are newsworthy, but that “is not a blanket exception for the president or anyone else,” Twitter legal and policy chief Vijaya Gadde told POLITICO in an interview alongside CEO Jack Dorsey. …

Dorsey, who’s due to testify before two congressional committees Wednesday about his company’s content practices, said he receives notifications on his phone for Trump’s Twitter account. But asked if he would weigh in personally to remove Trump from the platform, he declined to get into specifics.

Let’s hope that very, very soon the representatives of We the Conservative People get into some very real specifics with Dorsey and the rest of the social media Mechagodzillas. 

One would think their shareholders would be interested.

Either these companies are neutral platforms or they’re publishers. They can’t be both. From that same story:

The Twitter CEO said he was reluctant to appear solo without the other internet giants, Facebook and Google, which have also been accused of anti-conservative bias.

“We’re happy to have a conversation with our peers, because we don’t think this is an issue focused on just us alone. So we were attempting to get our peers up there as well and be joined by them, rather than be singled out,” Dorsey said.

“We don’t think that’s fair.”

Consider the irony.

#####

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180 responses to “Social Media Monsters

  1. Each was Certain to bring an End to the crazy & evil …. Drumpf,
    once & for all. …. ha’ … WTP will VOTE the SAME …TRUMP!!!

    Russian Collusion
    The Special Counsel
    The Marshal of the Supreme Court
    Michael Flynn pleads guilty
    Obstruction of Justice
    Rick Gates negotiates a plea deal
    The 25h Amendment
    George Papadopoulos pleads guilty
    Stormy Daniels
    Michael Avenatti
    Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury
    Omarosa’s book Don’t Monkey Around
    Paul Manafort convicted for tax evasion
    Annulment of the 2016 election
    Bob Woodward’s Fire and Fear
    The anonymous op-ed in The New York Times

    http://www.michellesmirror.com/2018/09/deep-quote.html#.W5c2OuhKiUk

  2. Pelosi: ‘If Judge Kavanaugh is Confirmed…Communities of Colors…Are All on the Chopping Block’

    (CNSNews.com) – At her Thursday press briefing, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi presented a list of issues and groups of people she believes will be “on the chopping block” if the Senate confirms Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. ….. ha’ SURPRISE – SURPRISE >NANCY!

    • Of course they will pooh-pooh it. They’re FAKE NEWS. They don’t cover ANYTHING that reflects badly (and yet truthfully) on the progressives and if they must report it, then they just lie, distort, and/or deliberately mischaracterize and mislead. THIS is exactly why this very week Barry was out there ACCUSING TRUMP of what HE DID–and that is politicizing the DOJ. That way, if the public DOES take notice, they will then point to Trump and say, “he does it, too.” False equivalency and accusing others of what you do yourself. It’s their M.O.

  3. Slavery was an institution supported by Democrats in the South. Jim Crow laws were written by Democrats. Evils may have been committed in the name of Christ, but not at the urging of Christ, who preached peace & love
    & mercy to one’s enemies.

    It is Barack Hussein Obama who divided America & incited paranoia, attacking cops, Christians, & clingers, just to name a few.

    https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2018/09/obama_vs_the_nation.html#ixzz5Qpo8TG4M
    Follow us: @AmericanThinker on Twitter | AmericanThinker on Facebook

  4. YEP ! …as the TRUTH HURTS .. IT looks LIKE A CAR-TOON about
    B I G …B A D …. BEHAVIOR …. BBB’ ha… NOT much MORE …really
    & ….HIS FAMILY has gotten THREATS??? REALLY ? Oh thanks O’!
    https://www.3aw.com.au/herald-sun-cartoonist-mark-knight-internationally-slammed-as-racist-for-serena-williams-cartoon/

    • He’s really hit the big time now. Imagine being an “international” racist. OMG. This is insane. Cartoonists have been caricaturing celebrities for ages. WHY is SHE (or he) EXEMPT from being cartooned about? Is she analogous to mohammed or something? I read something ridiculous yesterday, where it was said that it’s not okay to “punch down,” the gist being that a white male is “punching down” when he criticizes a black woman. Oh, so even though she’s a MILLIONAIRE many times over (we’ll skip the argument that it’s arguable whether she’s a she in the first place), even though she’s way more famous than the cartoonist and way RICHER, it’s “punching down” for him to caricature her? How crazy is that?

  5. EGO’s ….. Can talk about THIS 4 DAYS!!! nothin’ MO’…so SAD!
    https://mychal-massie.com/franklin-mccain-funerals-pathetic-display-of-immorality/

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/tennis/2018/09/08/serena-williams-vs-naomi-osaka-us-open-2018-final-live-score/ …..
    I here she threw her FIT? due to the SHEER FORCE of NAOMI …SKILLS?

    • The ending of the first link is priceless:

      “The first rule of insults is to make sure the person you are attempting to insult remotely cares what you think or have to say. The second rule of insults is to make sure you are a better person than the person you are attempting to insult. In the case of those who tried to insult President Trump, the only thing they accomplished was to prove unequivocally that they are the most shameless, the most reprobate, and the most pathetic groupage of fecal matter gathered in one place since the parties Michelle Obama hosted at the White House.”

      As for the second story: I don’t understand tennis scoring very well. iow, she would have lost even had he not penalized her that point?

  6. SPILLING OVER …. SPLASH – SPLASH … as WTP BREAK-O U T ?

    Williams’s sister, Venus, has a history with Ramos too. At the 2016 French Open he accused the elder Williams of receiving coaching during a match, the same offence he penalised Serena for on Saturday. Like her sister, Venus denied she had cheated. “I’m 36 years old,” she said. “I play fair.”

    Although it is impossible to prove whether Ramos was being pedantic or sexist during Saturday’s final, it is true that he has never penalised a player
    a game in such a high-stakes match. For former US Open champion Billie Jean-King there is little doubt where the blame lay. “When a woman is emotional, she’s Hysterical’ & she’s penalized for it. When a Man does the same, he’s ‘O U T – Spoken’ & there are no repercussions,” she wrote on Twitter. “Thank you, Serena Williams, 4 calling out this Double standard. More voices are needed to do the same.” ? OK !!!

    https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/sep/09/carlos-ramos-serena-williams-tennis-umpire-us-open

  7. Finally, need I even discuss what Occurred during the Judge Kavanaugh confirmation hearings? Denial is in Full Force! In the name of social justice for all, these women bellow in our capitol against a superb candidate who follows the Constitution. Their so-called peaceful message sounded like anything but. As usual, the Left, Especially the Women, expresses umbrage about women’s reproductive rights being jeopardized. God forbid they think about thinking & taking responsibility for their actions & escapades. Oh, No! We must continue this moral relativism in order to Feed a Pathological Denial.

    There are no easy answers to Remedy this cultural Break-Down, but I do believe that women are the ones who need to lead the charge. If they take responsibility, maintain stronger boundaries, & honor the equal-but-different position, a slow but steady change may begin to unfold. ???? O’

    https://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2018/09/leftist_women_are_in_denial.html#ixzz5QqTGmVGv
    Follow us: @AmericanThinker on Twitter | AmericanThinker on Facebook

  8. “He can claim until the cows come home that he didn’t intend this to be racist – maybe that wasn’t his intent – but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t,”
    Dr Johnson said on 3AW Mornings. ??? WHY B-cuz she IS BIG BLACK
    & TOSSING HER WEIGHT A- ROUND …. IT LOOKS fine 2 ME ….
    R you saying U ONLY SEE RACE …OVER MEANING?
    BIG HIPS BIG LIPS ….THAT is the TRUTH ….get used 2 IT! COOL OFF

    https://www.3aw.com.au/american-political-editor-explains-why-he-found-the-serena-williams-cartoon-highly-offensive-and-problematic/ …. silly U

    • Every time any cartoonist caricatures someone of another race, do we get to scream RACIST!!!!!!? There must be black cartoonists, and Asian ones, and Hispanic ones, etc. So is it now a no-no for any cartoonist to make fun of anyone of another race, or is it only the people who share the skin color of a certain group of people (not all, mind you, just a tiny, tiny minority) who were victims of a certain terrible social ill (slavery) but which happened during a few specific hundreds of years, who get a special dispensation from criticism or ridicule? Mind you, Jews aren’t being exempted, even though HOLOCAUST. Other people and races have been victimized throughout the millenia. Catholics in Spain (by muslims). Irish in Ireland (by British). Scots in Scotland (by British). Italians, Poles, Irish, Germans, Japanese, Chinese in the USA (by Anglo-Americans, mostly). Women everywhere. Christians in muslim lands. Irish, Norse, British by muslim slave traders. The world is full of atrocities and the descendants of those who experienced them or share skin color with the victims. But why is it that only (and now internationally) blacks (even if never slaves or not even descendants of slaves) and even if rich, privileged, and famous, are somehow immune from ridicule, especially when they behave abominably and in a racist, sexist, and unhingedly rude manner themselves?

    • Tell me why they raid Manafort’s home and Cohen’s premises like jack-booted thugs, and yet this woman who apparently committed a crime (I find it hard to believe it’s NOT a crime to record the president of the U.S. without his knowledge) has not had those tapes and other things she may have purloined taken from her by the authorities. Why is she NOT being investigated? Why have these items not been seized but instead are being allowed to be played on national TV? This is not only unethical and an invasion of privacy (of everyone present in those meetings) but it’s also at least arguably illegal. Those must be “presidential records,” that SHE should have turned over to the government when she left the administration. She was on public time when she made the recordings. She was on salary paid by the U.S. taxpayers. She was sitting in our chairs, in rooms in our White House, using our electricity, and maybe even using equipment supplied by the U.S. taxpayers. Did WE supply her with the recording device, even if it was only a cell phone? I do believe they used to supply Blackberries to government employees. So the question remains: Did she violate the president’s trust using equipment bought and paid for by US? Is this work product WE the PEOPLE own? I wish someone would ask and answer these questions.

      • Why doesn’t Judicial Watch file a FOIA request for all of Omarosa’s emails, texts, and documents? They’re ALL public record, aren’t they?

  9. TALK 2 the HAND ….you worth-less worm … WTP don’t give A CRAP!
    With authoritative reporting honed through eight presidencies from Nixon
    to Obama, author BOB Wood-ward??? reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House & precisely
    how he makes decisions on major foreign & domestic policies. Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files & documents. The focus is on the explosive debates & the decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One & the White House residence. ….O’ REALLY …???????

    Fear is the most intimate??? portrait of a sitting president Ever? published during the president’s first years in office. WOW WOW WOW dumb DOWN

  10. http://bobwoodward.com/ & LOTS of UN- NAMED SOURCES .. ha’???

  11. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/201
    Post Politics
    Transcript: Donald Trump interview with Bob Woodward and Robert Costa
    By Bob Woodward and
    Robert Costa
    April 2, 2016

  12. ~Avatar666 ….. 4/3/2016 5:42 AM PDT
    Ted Nugent said “At this time I do not endorse Donald Trump anymore than I endorse Ted Cruz as I admire both gentlemen. But these points are SO damn special!
    Obama is against Trump
    The Media is against Trump
    The establishment Democrats are against Trump
    The establishment Republicans are against Trump
    The Pope is against Trump
    The UN is against Trump
    The EU is against Trump
    China is against Trump
    Mexico is against Trump
    Soros is against Trump
    Black Lives Matter is against Trump
    MoveOn.Org is against Trump
    Koch Bro’s are against Trump
    Hateful, racist, violent Liberals are against Trump
    Bonus points

    Cher says she will leave the country
    Mylie Cyrus says she will leave the country
    Whoopi says she will leave the country
    Rosie says she will leave the country
    Al Sharpton says he will leave the country
    Gov. Brown says California will build a wall
    Sounds like ….. the kinda PRE-sident …..the US Needs!

  13. ~ Avatar666
    But if you Compare Trump lies to the master of all liars, Hillary,
    where does that leave you? ….. I’M with TRUMP … 24/7

  14. ~ Avatar666
    But if you compare Trump lies to the master of all liars, Hillary, where does that leave you?
    But if you compare Trump lies to the master of all liars, Hillary, where does that leave you?
    But if you compare Trump lies to the master of all liars, Hillary, where does that leave you?
    But if you compare Trump lies to the master of all liars, Hillary, where does that leave you?
    But if you compare Trump lies to the master of all liars, Hillary, where does that leave you?
    SO .. I’M W I T H …. DONALD JOHN TRUMP ….. 24 / 7 !!!

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