The nerve of these tech people is simply astonishing.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and other leading tech executives will warn lawmakers that efforts to change a federal provision known as Section 230 could have lasting consequences for free speech on the Internet, according to a report Wednesday.
Dorsey, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai will virtually testify before the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday regarding potential changes to the provision. Section 230 refers to a portion of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 that protects social media firms from liability for third-party posts on their platforms.
“Eroding the foundation of Section 230 could collapse how we communicate on the Internet, leaving only a small number of giant and well-funded technology companies,” Dorsey said in written testimony obtained by Reuters ahead of the hearing.
Yeah, because right now we don’t have “a small number of giant and well-funded technology companies.”
Wait – what?
“We should also be mindful that undermining Section 230 will result in far more removal of online speech and impose severe limitations on our collective ability to address harmful content and protect people online.”
“If you try to stop us from censoring you… we’ll censor you even harder!”
President Trump and leading Republican lawmakers have called for the provision to be changed or repealed amid allegations that social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have engaged in censorship. Facebook, Twitter and Google have denied allegations that their content moderation practices are biased against conservative viewpoints.
— davidshepardson (@davidshepardson) October 27, 2020
Republican lawmakers have criticized Facebook and Twitter in recent days over their handling of a New York Post report on emails obtained from a laptop that purportedly belongs to Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Both Facebook and Twitter took steps to limit the spread of the report, prompting allegations that the social media platforms were engaging in censorship.
In his testimony, Zuckerberg will say that “without Section 230, platforms could face liability for doing even basic moderation, such as removing hate speech and harassment that impacts the safety and security of their communities.”
Everything is “hate speech.” We already know everything is hate speech. There is no definition of this term. Just like “Antisemitism,” it means “things Jews don’t want people to hear.”
There are six million ways that these companies could protect the feelings of people who are sensitive to mean words while also not trampling on the First Amendment.
Here’s an easy out: instead of banning people, put them on a list when they say something that hurts someone’s feelings. Allow people to opt-in to have the people on the list not show up in their user experience. Boom. Finished. Print it.
Except obviously, protecting people from having their feelings hurt was never the point of political censorship, and framing political censorship as “protecting people from having their feelings hurt” is actually insane. They are doing what censors always do: they are thwarting the spread of ideas and information that they believe are dangerous to their own political agenda.
But they can’t say that.
Congress should have spelled this out: “You say you are trying to protect people from having their feelings hurt. Have you been able to imagine no other way to accomplish this goal, save through mass censorship?”
The obvious answer is that instead of cutting the content off at the source, you shield the people with soft feelings from the content.
An opt-in safe space version of the site, with community-managed lists, is the single best and most obvious solution. Twitter already has the option to sign-up for ban lists.
Look, this is like a situation where instead of inventing shoes, we had a society-wide agenda to remove all sharp objects from the ground, everywhere. Or instead of inventing umbrellas, we used gigantic sonic weapons to make it so it never rains. Or instead of inventing boats, we drained the oceans.
This is basic physics: The obvious thing in any situation where something is uniquely fragile is to protect that fragile thing – not remove any and all potential hazards to the fragile thing.
However, the social media censors have never made it clear and frank what their goal is with censorship. The main anti-speech organizations are Jewish groups – the Anti-Defamation League and (not so much now, but before) the Southern Poverty Law Center. They claim that if people are allowed to talk about the behavior of Jews, it will lead to a Second (first?) Holocaust. However, even whilst the Jews are the driving force behind censorship, “we are preventing a Second Holocaust” is never the explanation given by tech companies. Tech censorship is almost always explained away as:
- Hurting people’s feelings
- Foreign meddling in elections
Let’s do one and then the other.
I will say: I was the first person to be heavily censored, and I was censored because I made several jokes about Heather Heyer, a fat woman who died of a heart attack at the 2017 Charlottesville right-wing rally.
It was just edgy humor. I’m trying to remember exactly what they were saying at the time. I think it was just “wow, just wow.” But the idea was that it was just too mean, and that no one should be allowed to be that mean. I can’t comprehend this mindset, at all, but okay – if people think my material is too mean, and it causes them emotional distress, then they absolutely should not be forced to read it.
I never forced anyone to read my material, and if someone was ever forced to read it, then I’m truly sorry.
With tweets, they are very short. So someone can accidentally read something that causes them a serious trauma.
- Create a system to label different “emotional threat levels” of content
- Color code the different content, with “I HATE NIGGERS LOL” being a “red alert” level content, “I think that a woman cannot have a penis” being “yellow alert” level content, and “orange man is not so bad” being “green alert” level content
- Give everyone the option of signing on to whichever level they are comfortable with – if they are okay with green and yellow content but not red, they can click that option; if they start to see too much content that causes them emotional distress, they can switch to blocking yellow content
- When people sign up for the site, or when the alert levels are introduced, give them the option of choosing an alert level
- With no content filter on, it’s the Wild West, and the only speech that is censored is speech that is illegal – i.e., violent threats
There you have it.
A lot of emotionally unstable people will probably not put a filter on, because they actually like being offended, but no one can ever again complain about seeing content that hurts their feelings. Everyone had the option to opt-out.
This is very similar to the issue of pornography on the internet. While I can’t really put myself in the position of someone who gets “triggered” by people saying mean things, I am a man and all men are agitated by pornography. I understand the need to block pornography on the internet, while also allowing that pornography exists on the internet. (Note: I do believe in banning pornography under traditional obscenity laws, but that’s a separate issue that doesn’t relate to the internet itself.)
If you’ve ever used an image search, you know how good they are at censoring pornography. It is basically 100% at this point. I used to sometimes turn the image filter off when I was looking for content, and it would be maybe 60% porn. I would also occasionally see a pornographic image during safe search. Now, if you turn the filter off it is 100% porn and you never see a pornographic image while on safe search. That is machine learning for images, which is much more complicated than for words.
No one ever demanded that pornography be banned from the internet simply because it was impossible to block it on image searches. They learned how to block it.
You can protect the feelings of the emotionally unstable AND allow for free speech. This isn’t rocket science. People claiming that this is complicated and difficult and the only solution is mass-banning are lying.
Here – I just went ahead and made the thing.
Let’s move on to dumber matters.
Foreign Meddling in Elections
The whole thing with “hackers” posting “fake news” is just something that has to be allowed to exist, or you have a situation where someone is playing the role of “arbiter of truth.”
This entire concept that you have to shield people from certain ideas or they will think the wrong thoughts is absolutely poisonous and is a recipe for creating a totally controlled society.
The New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s laptop was classified as “foreign election meddling” by the social media companies. There is no evidence that it came from Russia. Much the opposite: there is documentation showing that it was given to Rudy Giuliani by a computer repair shop guy. So, we already know that these companies, and the political establishment and media, will label something “Russian hacking,” even when it obviously isn’t.
We have this idea that Twitter and Facebook are somehow “private companies,” despite the fact that they own the entire public space of the internet. But imagine if they were government-owned, and they were saying, “we will decide what is truth and anything that we decide is not truth, you will not be allowed to see.”
I wrote a famous article on all of this a while back: If Fake News is a Problem for Democracy, Then Democracy is a Problem.
If you have a situation where you’ve decided that people should choose how the government is run, but you’ve also decided that those people are incapable of determining reality from fiction, and so you’ve had to create a body to determine what is reality so that people vote the right way, then you need to sit for a long time and decide exactly what kind of society you are running.
The question becomes: if social media companies are allowed to determine what reality is, and feed it directly to the voters, then why don’t we just cut out the middle man and allow social media companies to choose politicians?
What they are doing is working. I don’t think the election is going to be as close as they’re saying it is, and I definitely don’t think that Joe Biden is leading Donald Trump right now, but the reality is that this is somewhat close. The reality is also: if me and my people had not had our speech taken away from us, Trump would be winning by a 15-20% margin, and would have one of the greatest electoral victories in history next week.
For one thing, the coronavirus hoax would have been impossible if we had free speech. That’s just a fact. The only way they were able to force this on us was through mass censorship. The media and the social media wrote their own narrative, they created their own reality, and they presented it as the only existing reality and people accepted that, because they had no other choice.
This mass censorship that has been implemented over the last three years has made it so that the media is literally the Ministry of Truth. They singlehandedly decide what reality is. When there was free media on the internet, they had to contend with that, and they could only go so far.
We’re entering now into a situation where every piece of information that any person is exposed to will have been pre-approved by the censors. That is a shocking and frightening thing.
We have created a hell that is just going to keep getting worse and worse. Anyone who cannot see this whole thing unfolding right now, before everyone’s eyes, is stupid or actually blind.
We cannot allow these totally unregulated private companies to decide what is truth and reality. Three years ago, people were not dying because of things they saw on the internet. Despite what Hillary Clinton continues to claim, we now know that the entire Russian hoax was a hoax.
For the first time since this censorship began, I am now hopeful. The wheels are in motion. It’s technically possible that we might get our speech back.
Probably we won’t, frankly. Probably, all of these congresspeople are totally bought off by the tech companies and won’t ever allow free speech. But the mere fact that this thing has been narrowed down to Section 230 and that we’re having congressional hearings about that specific thing, gives me some hope.
We will have much more coverage of this congressional event throughout the week. We will be analyzing all of the interviews.