Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Twitter to ban political advertising (twitter.com)
2447 points by coloneltcb 12 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 1004 comments





In Denmark we have laws in place that hold news paper editors responsible for printing truth. They don’t always succeed, but they try to, and when they do fail they admit it and apologise.

This is what has kept our society well informed and critical thinking for a hundred years. It’s also allowed for different sides of things, because you can interpret things like socioeconomic statistics and facts differently and write about them as such, but you can’t make up things.

This died with Facebook, YouTube and the non-editorial entertainment “news” and as a result we have anti-vaxxers, flat-earthers and what not.

I have no idea how to regulate it though, but I think we need to do something.


The lowest level of truth telling is stating facts, but even stating facts can be extremely manipulative.

If I were to say:

"2x as many white Americans were killed by police as black Americans in 2018."

This a true fact.

If I take note of the fact that black Americans only constitute 13% of the population, then I can say

"A black American is 2.3x as likely as a white American to be killed by police."

This is also a true fact.

So not only are facts capable of telling a narrative, but it gets much more complicated once you start introducing conclusions.

If you say "A black person is 2.3x as likely as a white person to be killed by police in America. American police are being racially discriminatory when killing civilians."

This is a fact and a conclusion, and most news consists of facts and conclusions. Both the fact and the conclusion serve a particular narrative, and that's an issue. The problem is that a news organization with a different set of objectives, or simply operating under a different framework, would be entirely capable of coming to an entirely different conclusion, or introduce entirely different facts alongside it.

"A black person is 2.3x as likely as a white person to be killed by police in America. However, despite making up only 13% of the population, black Americans committed 36% of homicides, with an overall much higher representation in violent crime across the board. Only 5% of police shootings are with an unarmed victim, with the rest resulting from an armed altercation."

Different narrative.

In America, we understand that there is absolutely nothing more dangerous than an entity that feels entitled to control what is true. It might make things easier, and it might actually produce better results so long as the entity doing so is competent and benevolent, but nearly every structure in America is meant to serve as a bulwark for the cases in which the entity in power is precisely the sort that you do not want to be making those decisions. And to be frank, Europe should probably be more wary of that.


But these really aren't the type of lies that people consider fake news. Yeah, all the things you've written are facts, and their interpretations are what we call opinions. I agree with you that all of these statements, since they're true, should be allowed without a question. People still need to think and be critical.

I just took a look at a long list of lies by your current President. It has nothing to do with facts like the ones you've stated above. These are simply lies. You can't argue that it's some interpretation, or just half of the picture or anything like that. It's simply a bunch of words phrased as a fact but they never happened.

I can't see anything good coming out of this for any country. It ruins the ability to have a real debate in a society, and I think it harmed America (not only of course) greatly.

And one last thing - yes, it probably shouldn't be one person from one political side that decides what's completely false and shouldn't be published (or perhaps better, be corrected), but I don't think it should be so impossibly complicated to create a system in which representatives from all sides can do this together. America already has structures like this implemented.


This. The march to authoritarianism accelerates when people accept the meme that the truth is unknowable. So they simply accept the reality put forth by the autocrat.

The most basic kind of truths are facts. We at least need to agree on those as best we can first. And then apply critical thinking on the the squishier stuff on top.


> The most basic kind of truths are facts.

Except for that for a lot of "facts", according to Rousseau, we already have 4 truths: what you say, what I say, what we agree upon and what really happened.

So, while the pursuit of truth is important, I'd argue that respect towards each other even when we cannot agree is the most important thing.


Maybe we need to start teaching people to habitually attach provenance and confidence information to every fact (really: belief) they report, at least as much as practically possible?

"Iraq had WMDs in 2000s" != "I strongly believe Iraq had WMDs in 2000s" != "I find it plausible that Iraq might have had WMDs in 2000s" != "According to that UN report, Iraq had WMDs in 2000s" != "According to NYT, which quotes that UN report, Iraq had WMDs", etc.

A lot of problems are caused by people who say "X" when they should say "I strongly believe X", or "I think I read somewhere that X", or "I'm not sure, but I think X".


I generally speak like this and find it causes problems with others because they view this as a weak form of speech. It makes you appear uncertain, which should be a good thing, but our society seems to value undeserved confidence far above cautious uncertainty.

This is my experience 100%. Blatant lies, told confidently, are far more convincing than the truth with a source.

I find it helpful to spend a bit more cycles on keeping track of audience and a bit fewer on perfect conveyance of certainty levels.

Once you've set the bar re: certainty for a particular discourse neighborhood, you can just make claims at that level thereafter without feeling dishonest. As long as you're sensitive to cases where others may have joined without enough context to know that you're out on a limb.


Yes- intellectual dishonesty is at the root of this. When I was raised, the integrity of a "man's" word was a measure of the "goodness" of the person. Now, we hear things like "he said what he had to say" and a basic acceptance of lies if the person is on our side of the debate.

It's depressing.


I've tried to get into this habit. Qualifications are great too because when someone comes back to say "you said X! You lied!" you can remind them of how carefully you qualified your statement.

This is Circle of Competence applied[0]. It's admitting what you know you don't know so you don't make mistakes by being overconfident.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circle_of_competence


It's even more than that. By qualifying your statements, you let others evaluate them correctly.

So, for instance, if 'tptacek here says a factual statement about security (and there's no large thread contesting it), I'll treat it as gospel. But if he says he's unsure about it, or he read it somewhere, I know to attach less weight to it. I'll code in it my brain as "uncertain, but passed the sniff test of a relevant expert". Etc.

The same principle works in more mundane aspects of life. Whether a person believes something (and how much), or whether they're just reporting something they've read elsewhere, matters a lot for evaluating a factual statement independently.


The one thing with this is that you have to be consciously careful of who you view as an authority on different subjects, or whose opinion on something is relevant. For a simple, everyday example, it's easy to follow a friend's recommendation to eat at a particular restaurant, even if that friend has completely different tastes in food than you do (which, in all likelihood, will result in a poor dining experience for you). Likewise, I think even smart, educated people often make the mistake of treating the word of powerful individuals as fact even if those individuals have absolutely no experience with or authority on the matter.

> "NYT, which quotes that UN report, Iraq had WMDs"

You left out the last step,

!= Bush administration says Iraq had WMDs


That is a major part of the formal training program for professional intelligence analysts. Of course they still often get the probabilities wrong.

Let's just talk in Quechua then, evidentiality is engraved in their grammar!(https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quechuan_languages)

They are just 4 different angles of the same fact.

Lying and misreporting are two different things.


The world s autocratic countries (russia china turkey etc) don’t rely on fabricated news, they rely on hiding the truth and placing a biased spin on it. They know that outright lies will actually harm their image.

And killing journalists, and imprisoning political opponents, and controlling the media and, yes, straight up lying, because no other voice can be heard, so it's impossible to publicly fact check their lies.

That's a few autocratic countries. Such a statement is obviously not true in general. For starters you have dictatorships which have been based upon absurd and shameless lies. North Korea currently, Haiti under Papa Doc, Turkmenistan under Niyazov. In addition I'd imagine hiding news is the first line of defense, but if that fails none of these autocratic governments are not above lying (and I'd bet you find the dictators of those countries have lied many times when it suited them, if evidence is available).

I m talking about specifically “fake news” , lies that are generally obvious yet for emotional reasons persistent

What s different about autocrats is that they will unscrupulously plant evidence and kill everyone who knows


Autocratic countries like... ones that ignore and undermine their own judicial system and appoint family members to positions of power?

Any evidence to your words ? Or this is just a lie you made up to spread your FUD ?

What FUD?

Here s an article about typical media strategies https://theconversation.com/four-things-you-need-to-know-abo...

Such countries will usually fabricate stories by implanting evidence or killing witnesses, not just by repeating them


But if the truth is unknowable, how does the autocrat know it?

I've only met a few people who are skeptics about the existence of facts--but I find that they're likely to be skeptics about other things too.

I think that if it's a position you arrive at via honest philosophical inquiry, it's not a hazard at all.

The position to be wary of is where you still believe in the truth, but are so beleaguered by the cacophony of voices claiming to know it that you're willing to accept that somebody else has access to it if it means that you get to just peacefully be on their side and don't have to bother sorting through it all anymore.

That is too say: claiming to know the truth is often a proxy for being too intellectually lazy to bother forming a good argument, and I think that nihilism is preferable.


> This. The march to authoritarianism accelerates when people accept the meme that the truth is unknowable.

How do you know?


Sorry but no, the sides cannot work together to dispassionately purge only clear falsehoods.

Consider this case, hot off the presses. Yesterday Aaron Sorken wrote an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg in the New York Times in which he stated the following:

"And right now, on your website, is an ad claiming that Joe Biden gave the Ukrainian attorney general a billion dollars not to investigate his son. Every square inch of that is a lie and it’s under your logo. That’s not defending free speech, Mark, that’s assaulting truth."

Really? Sorken knows for sure that Biden was not self-dealing? Joe was totally not thinking about his son's half million dollar no-show job with a corrupt Ukranian firm when he ordered the Ukranian government to fire the guy who was investigating it? Wow, that's a really amazing level of access to the truth!

No doubt Sorken has heard and completely believes the mainstream narrative: the prosecutor was himself corrupt and all right-thinking people wanted him removed. (Never mind it's entirely possible that this narrative is true, AND Biden was self-dealing.)

My point is not to convince anyone that Biden was self-dealing. My point is that Sorken is calling objectively false something that is clearly plausible.

This is how it goes. Most people are invested in narratives, and they are keen to suppress ideas that counter their preferred narrative. The idea that they will somehow draw clean lines between facts an interpretations has always been a foolish hope.


Wait, but if I know the story well enough, Trump didn't say that Biden might have offered Ukraine $1B. He simply said that he promised. And as far as we can all know, Biden promising $1B to Ukraine isn't a fact. Is it plausible? Sure. Can Trump suggest that it's a possibility? Of course. But had Trump suggested that Biden might have given $1B, people could judge it for what it is - an assumption. Instead, he presented it as fact, which it simply isn't.

It seems to me that truth isn't so hard to find when one actually looks for it.


> People still need to think and be critical.

My theory is this is exactly the value proposition various news companies provide - they do it for you. "We give you the Abstract and the Conclusion".

If anything, that -hampers- critical thinking. It removes the need to apply logic and deduction to stuff that happens and just accept provided explanations of outcomes.

Would we trust a Scientist if they only explained background and results of their experiment, and didn't discuss the actual methodology and analysis of what they did and how they did it? How is that much different from being a Magician? Or saying, "Trust me, I know I'm right"?


>I just took a look at a long list of lies by your current President.

The idea that one side tells lies, and the other only truth is part of the problem here.

>You can't argue that it's some interpretation, or just half of the picture or anything like that. It's simply a bunch of words phrased as a fact but they never happened.

"Russian collusion" appears to fit this description, yet I still read about it every day.

The entire political game is composed of stretching the facts to control the narrative. If you see it as one-sided, you're not paying attention.


> > I just took a look at a long list of lies by your current President.

> The idea that one side tells lies, and the other only truth is part of the problem here.

This is just an observation about your current president, there is no "other side" to it.


> The idea that one side tells lies, and the other only truth is part of the problem here.

Your divisive thinking is the problem here. Someone said that Trump lies, they didn't say "Republicans lie and dems don't," but that was somehow your interpretation of the statement that Trump lies (which is true of any president, yet you and I both know in our heart of hearts that he lies more than anybody by an overwhelming margin).


I believe the parent was mistakenly interpreting "lies told by your president" (emphasis mine) to be a #NotMyPresident kind of attack from a citizen across the aisle as opposed to an observation from a non-citizen. It sounds like the parent thought gp was a democratic who was insinuating that the current president and his political party are the only president and party who've told lies so egregious compared to those told by any other president from across the aisle that they're the only ones of consequence.

That's what I assume, but you know what they say about assumptions.


That's funny, it didn't cross my mind at all. I said your president because I'm not from the USA, that's all.

I know trump tells a lot of blatant lies (I think most Americans recognize this), but if you’re a Trump fan you’ve been hearing Democrats calling Trump a traitor, a dictator, a Russian-pawn and colluder and a criminal long before any of those titles could be considered “facts” (they mostly still cannot be called facts, though the Ukraine call may have changed that).

Yes Trump tells a lot of lies, but I also think each side of the aisle tends to ignore their own hyperbole (or at least fail to appreciate when the other side is hearing “lies”)


It's simple reciprocation from game-theory perspective: when the other party lies and gains advantage, you do it too. But I feel Republicans are way more untruthful than the Democrats and simply bring down the level of discussion for everyone.

And I don't know why is it, that majority of Americans are so accustomed to lying that they tolerate it from politicians. In Finland if politicians get caught with outright lying, it's career-ending if it's bad enough. Prime ministers have resigned over it, party leaders seen their polls slump. In US if Republicans are caught lying (Democrats too I guess to lesser extent), it's a simple distraction and meh from public. Their supporters don't simply care and I guess are not capable of criticizing their own party.

I've been recently thinking that what US has now isn't that far stretch from a single-party system since the parties in power don't really have to fear losing their support. There are no other options, so they can just pass the ball between each other, putting up a show and doing whatever since people can't really choose anything else. If your only option is picking between two assholes, which one you pick? And when the population doesn't know to demand change, what will happen? Nothing.

Yes there are advantages with two-party system, but what I see it has really rotted the political discussion and ideologies into two boxes that can't possibly overlap. In multi-party systems coalition governments can be bit sluggish but at least they offer people a real opportunity for change, and letting go of the old, obsolete power structures. For a country that is so keen on free-market and unrestricted competition, you are awfully restricted in your choice of political parties.


I know Trump is in a world of his own, but most often the “lies” are not lies to the speaker or the speaker’s fans. For example Obama’s “if you like your plan you can keep it” regarding Obamacare. It turned out not to be 100% true. To Democrats he was well-intentioned and over-optimistic and couldn’t deliver his promise (probably due to Republican obstructionism) while Republicans had always considered that a lie.

If 50% of the country believes something is a lie and 50% believe it’s mostly true, is it really a lie? The truth is most political “lies” are only considered lies by the opposite party.


From what I heard about Obamacare it seemed a quite crappy deal indeed, and not really criticized properly by the Democrats. It's sad that either party can't acknowledge their own errors and have to just tout their own version of reality to make it true for their supporters.

And about lying, there are degrees of lying that can be established. The earth is not flat even though some believe it to be so, to state the opposite is untrue. On the other hand, sure you could say eg that Americans have obesity problem (compared to the rest of the world) or they are just normal weight as "only" 1/3 of the population is overweight. But which is a truth or a lie?

I think the problem is largely a cultural shift in politics where the issues have become secondary to the rhetorical war between the two opposite ideologies. It's not about establishing a truth in a sense than it's trying to beat the other party. Yet there is a consensus that can be established, honesty that could be had when stating facts and acknowledging their up and downsides. It's not just black and white wordplay.

Perhaps we should just get rid of the politicians, have our best scientists (preferably chosen at random from a pool of candidates) run the government and people would just vote on things that they wished to improve (immigration, job-safety, healthcare etc). All results would be evaluated afterwards and their effects measured with meticulous statistics. I know that it could be abused too, but even that would be better than what is the current situation in US government.


Obamacare was hardly what Obama or the Democratic party wanted originally. They arrived on the final system only after two or three years of negotiation in Congress and intense corporate propaganda towards the American public regarding health insurance. I've only seen PR and advertising of that level previously during elections. So of course it wasn't perfect... It was very much a compromise with the powerful and well-funded healthcare industry.

The problem with the political culture in Washington isn't the rhetorical war. It's politicians obsession with being reelected. The culture is that no indignity is beneath you if it's for the sake of reelection. Lindsey Graham was once known alongside John McCain as being a RINO by partisans, 'Republican in name only'. Now he acts like Trump's dog on 99& of issues.

The reason? So he can be more influential on that 1% of issues he cares most about. If he doesn't get influence on that 1% (like we saw with Syria) then he breaks with Trump, because he has a bottom line: the set of issues he wants to influence. This is true for all politicians. They have a political calculus where they are willing to sacrifice legislation or points in certain areas for the sake of being able to affect legislation in most other areas. Functionally this means that politicians do things like accept big campaign donations in exchange for going easy on a certain sector. I believe most politicians want to do what they think is best for America, but that comes with a single constraint--that they're the ones accomplishing it. And that comes with a hefty cost.


I have a hard time believing Obama truly believed a plan could be kept. Given how it works, I just can't imagine how you could reform healthcare in any meaningful way without outright terminating some of the plans as they existed. I don't have a particular problem with it. Which is probably true for most -- they care more if their leader is acting ethically and trying to do the right thing, than how (pedantically) honest they are being. If Trump lied "I support Confederate statues" to get elected, and then led an effort to tear them down, I doubt history would have any issue with his lies.

> "Given how it works, I just can't imagine how you could reform healthcare in any meaningful way without outright terminating some of the plans as they existed."

I'm just spitballing here but... grandfather in all existing medical insurance contracts unless the individual chooses to terminate the contract. Let the insurance industry bank on the fact that the number of grandfathered contracts will only trend down over time.

Maybe it would hurt their profit margins, but how much hurt? Probably not enough hurt to knock down the industry is my guess.


America is huge, it has to rely on the states to fight back.

If we go by polifact (https://www.politifact.com/personalities/), the highest rated politician has a truth rating of 14%.

From personal experience the issue we have with fake news is not caused by a president. It was the polarization from the 2016 election, which has resulted in people valuing the narrative over facts. Nothing was a clearer example to me personally when later that winter as I was participating in a conference located in Stockholm, which had a track title "Fake News", with an invited keynote speaker who was a previous board member of the wikipedia foundation. The keynote talk was made to present a narrative that media had failed to present information to the voting population about trumps scandals, and as evidence there was a image from a study showing survey result about what people knew about each candidate and their scandals. The conclusion was that if media had done their job then obviously the election would had ended correctly rather than electing Trump.

The numbers were extremely biased against Clinton and fitted the narrative so perfectly that I got a bit suspicious. Looking at the recording of the talk afterward I noticed that the evidence had a reference printed inside it. A moment later I had the paper itself, and what do I find above the image? The researcher explicitly saying that anyone reading it should not draw any comparable conclusions about the numbers as the survey operated during a period of 9 months. The researcher noted that if they had done a new short survey closer to the election date then the numbers would look very differently. It pretty obvious that people can not answer a survey with knowledge of scandals that occur in the future.

Fake news will continue as long we try to make facts fit a narrative, rather than first looking at the facts and then construct a theory about the world.


I still run into people convinced "leftist infighting" turned the election rather than the handful of votes in three states that really did it. People need better civics education. They find out about the Electoral College and can't believe it exists, or that a handful of votes for one person can offset millions of votes for the other.

Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin are not leftist strongholds, where "infighting" might allow the Other to win, but people prefer the narrative that "Bernie Bros" ruined our beautiful democracy. Clinton got millions more votes, but it didn't matter. The Electoral College turning it doesn't fit the narrative they've been fed that people further to the left are responsible.

You're right about polarization though. Less than 100k votes wouldn't matter if the country wasn't divided right down the middle. Choosing the future of our country shouldn't be a matter of who can influence a coin toss more.


> If we go by polifact (https://www.politifact.com/personalities/), the highest rated politician has a truth rating of 14%.

My very first check of that assertion has a fully "True" rating of 20%[1]. And if you count the entire true spectrum it's 73%. And there is not a small sample size. I assume your statement is only regarding the current executive branch?

I also tried a spot check of the Congress, but my very first check also failed to meet your criteria[2]. The problem with this is that it undermines your entire point. The executive branch has the most strained relationship with objective reality, and that stems from the demands of the current president. They're basically forced to lie for political reasons because the truth is too damaging.

[1] https://www.politifact.com/personalities/barack-obama/ [2] https://www.politifact.com/personalities/mark-warner/


Aah, my browser addons blocked the lower list, so I only saw the 2 Executive Branch and the 4 Congressional Leadership.

Off the two democrats congressional Leaderships, Nancy Pelosi has 14% and Charles Schumer has 11% in the True category. This in contrast with the republicans that has 12%, 0%, 10% and 5% (trump).


Does a fact checking website really tell you how often a person is truthful? Isn't it more like the falseyness % of accusations?

Every president has lied; they have reasons to do it. Maybe it's to avoid revealing classified information, or to gain a political or geopolitics advantage. It doesn't matter; lying is an essential part of statecraft.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/the-history-of-lies-on...

Edit: I would appreciate if whoever is downvoting can please explain why they are doing so.


Yes, it does feel in large part that it's the crass and blatant nature of Trump's presentation that enrages, not just the actual content.

As a Canadian I 'preferred' Obama, who ran on the line "change you can believe in" -- but he led the US empire substantially the same as any previous... and so this "can believe in" line, it really expresses a truth. The substantial piece was not that America would change, but that you could _believe_ in the fact that it would change. Little actually changed in America, at least from a distance. And once people stopped believing in the change... one gets Trump.

Disgusting as he is, Trump really is "changing" America. And his lying is more transparent and blatant and crass, but also more theatrical and aggressive. It's weaponized.


>It has nothing to do with facts like the ones you've stated above.

I don't think I can agree with this. When dealing with one group who is using facts to push a narrative/conclusion you think is false, it can become quite easy to push back without outright lies. Once misleading facts have been introduced into a discussion, the level of civility drops. That opens the door for the further drop into outright lies. Especially if one side feels they are less versed in manipulating statistics.

I've spoken to many people who view lies of omission as being just as dishonest as outright lying, especially when done to manipulate someone (normally this involves when a child has lied to their parents and isn't related to anything political). As such, a lie of omission or selectively using facts has now introduced dishonesty into the conversation, making the other side feel like they are just using the standard that was already been set.

>It ruins the ability to have a real debate in a society, and I think it harmed America (not only of course) greatly.

I feel this occurs as soon as someone starts relying on presenting facts to push a certain narrative because it sends the message that it is now acceptable to have a dishonest conversation. At that point, any discussion changes into a matter of winning at any cost.


> In America, we understand that there is absolutely nothing more dangerous than an entity that feels entitled to control what is true. It might make things easier, and it might actually produce better results so long as the entity doing so is competent and benevolent, but nearly every structure in America is meant to serve as a bulwark for the cases in which the entity in power is precisely the sort that you do not want to be making those decisions. And to be frank, Europe should probably be more wary of that.

This is such blatant and obvious nonsense. You philosophize on basis of the assumption that central authorities ('government') by definition cannot be trusted, and we should therefore be wary of anything that reeks of centralized decision making.

That is a supremely American way of looking at the world.

Despite the good intentions behind the decentralization of power and the checks and balances that have been built into your system, you have ended up with a nation where the most powerful person has blatantly and publicly broken all the norms and all the rules, who regularly and repeatedly tells the most outrageous lies, and where a very large amount of people stand behind him nevertheless because of large scale & organized disinformation campaigns by the likes of (decentralized) propaganda entities like Fox News.

How does your system deal with that then? Not very well, it seems.

Wouldn't it be great if you would have a powerful centralized body that can say "Ehm, you guys keep on telling outrageous lies, we're going to forbid it and if you keep in doing it you'll be slapped with a fine that really hurts and your CEO might have to go to jail"?

What you don't seem to take into account in your comment is that centralized bodies can protect the weak from the powerful. If you only have decentralized entities, it's survival of the fittest – which is a nice way of saying that the weakest get eaten or die. I don't want to live in a society that has these values.


> That is a supremely American way of looking at the world.

It's based in European, and more specifically, British Enlightenment thinking, the apotheosis of which (with regard to freedom of speech) is On Liberty[0] by John Stuart Mill, an Englishman. To quote:

> THE TIME, it is to be hoped, is gone by, when any defence would be necessary of the "liberty of the press" as one of the securities against corrupt or tyrannical government. No argument, we may suppose, can now be needed, against permitting a legislature or an executive, not identified in interest with the people, to prescribe opinions to them, and determine what doctrines or what arguments they shall be allowed to hear. This aspect of the question, besides, has been so often and so triumphantly enforced by preceding writers, that it needs not be specially insisted on in this place.

It appears his hopes would bring disappointment were he still around.

[0] Chapter II: Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion https://www.bartleby.com/130/2.html

----

Edit: Fixing markup. If anyone knows of a document describing the markup rules, please let me know, it would save me an awful lot of edits ;-)


> ...document describing the markup rules

https://news.ycombinator.com/formatdoc


I thank you, good sir!

This to me seems not far from ayatollahs quoting scripture to justify their positions and policies. Surely thought has progressed in the last two hundred years?

Unlike ayatollahs, not only did your parent not suggest the person they were quoting was right, they actually suggested the person they were quoting was wrong: "It appears his hopes would bring disappointment were he still around."

You're confused about the point your parent was making. Let me try to explain the context to you:

Top of thread: we think this way in Denmark (a country in Europe)

Reply: we think this way in America

Reply: "This is such blatant and obvious nonsense. ... That is a supremely American way of looking at the world."

Your parent: actually this way of thinking comes from Europe

Your parent is not saying this way of thinking is correct, only that your grandparent is silly to call this way of thinking "supremely American" and imply that it's inferior to European thinking.


> Surely thought has progressed in the last two hundred years?

Nope, that’s not how it works. People consistently keep retrying ideas for government and economics over and over because they get tempted by promises while ignoring history because “this time it’s different”.


"This time it's different" was exactly the answer the liberals gave when propounding their system. It is also the answer mathematicians gave every time they tried to prove Fermat's Last Theorem. Contrary to popular belief, "this time it's different" is a very good way to go about progress, so long as there is good theoretical reason to believe there could be a difference in application.

It has, but due to the orthodoxy of thinking in terms of the liberal conception of human rights in the US Constitution, other voices aren't listened to much - their views are different to the orthodoxy such that they are considered heretical and against liberty.

It's a circular argument in the sense that because liberty and freedom are defined for the mainstream framework, any outside framework, in order to be accepted by adherents of the mainstream framework, must provide a vision compatible with the existing framework.

We're stuck in a hole in terms of what can be done outside academia in the real world.


I'm curious as to why this comment is being downvoted; if anyone could offer an explanation I'd be grateful to learn where I went wrong.

Downvoting is not being wrong, it is being disagreed with. It is a win in my book if you ruffle some feathers in your opinions, it means you’re not just restating the majority belief.

In terms of a graphical model, voting is dependent on not only opinion but also motivation. Somebody that thinks you’re wrong is more motivated to downvote than someone who thinks you’re right - one has an ax to grind, one does not.


I learned this principle early on (and I think it's an unfortunate facet of HN as compared to, say, Reddit where Reddiquette is that one does not downvote for mere disagreement) though I also learned that HN is a place with a great deal of intelligent people who enjoy to think about problems - presumably, there would be some reason behind the disagreement. HN threads are known for pessimism and critique, so it's curious when a HNers feathers are ruffled they don't say anything.

Though, you're right - I think a lack of reason given for disagreement itself can reveal something interesting - not only that they may not have a reason, but that they can't articulate the reason well enough. In real life we often don't voice disagreement for either of those reasons. In my view, HN is no different.


> and I think it's an unfortunate facet of HN as compared to, say, Reddit where Reddiquette [...]

You are not supposed to downvote when disagreeing. You are also not supposed to complain here about mod votes. You should read HN netiquette and email them instead.

Btw, down voting based on disagreement happens on Reddit just as well. Reddit is a bunch of smaller, semi autonomous communities where quality differs. You could even say quality differs per HN thread.


>You are not supposed to downvote when disagreeing.

Both pg and dang have expressed that on HN you really can downvote if you simply disagree.

>You are also not supposed to complain here about mod votes.

Although I was more annoyed at the time, I wasn't trying to complain, I really just wanted to know what problems people had with my post.

>down voting based on disagreement happens on Reddit just as well.

It happens, but at least it's against the etiquette of the site as set by the admins - various subs may have their policies, true.


> Both pg and dang have expressed that on HN you really can downvote if you simply disagree.

Where?

I admit I didn't find either way at https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

I did find this:

> Please don't comment about the voting on comments. It never does any good, and it makes boring reading.

> Please don't submit comments saying that HN is turning into Reddit. It's a semi-noob illusion, as old as the hills.

The former obviously applied.

As for the latter, while you didn't comment about HN turning into Reddit, I'd say comparisons in general fit this rule.

> It happens, but at least it's against the etiquette of the site as set by the admins - various subs may have their policies, true.

AFAICT it happens rampantly, and far more than it does here. That is my very subjective experience, I'm sure everyone has their own, which is why such a discussion leads to no good. It isn't objective/unbiased, nor intellectual.


This has been discussed extensively on HN over many years:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16131314


Where exactly ayatollahs talk about people rights and free speech? Comparing J.S. Mill to a bunch of religious maniacs is a bit far-fetched.

The fact that Mill wrote those words 200 years ago does not mean they are incorrect. We stick to the rules of Roman law in many aspects, although it was written pretty long time ago. Pythagoras formulated his theorem quite long ago too, yet we still learn it at school.

There are certain ideas that seems to be universal, that just make people lives better. People tend to challenge them and thanks to that we get goodies like Communism and Nazism.


>The fact that Mill wrote those words 200 years ago does not mean they are incorrect

It also does not mean they are correct or meaningful, at least not in every case they are applied or quoted...


[flagged]


If you're looking for quotes from smart, dead, non-white guys I have this one from Frederick Douglass:

> To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.

Not that their being smart, their ethnicity, nor their being alive or dead has any relevance to the content of their speech.

Aside from the obvious rebuttal already given by pointing out it's not American to think the press should be free, further "payload" was in the link provided. I'd encourage you to read, what is in my opinion and of many others, the greatest work on freedom of speech.


> Wouldn't it be great if you would have a powerful centralized body

No. It wouldn’t. When that kind of power (arbiter of truth) is placed in a single point, that point will become the highly contested point of control. Eventually, inevitably, the body would end up turned to some ruthless power of the day, and would serve as the most phenomenal propaganda machine.

“The Ministry of Truth is pleased to announce that bootlace production is up a thousandfold this quarter, due to the heroic efforts of the King. You may now cheer.”

Total decentralisation is the only sane route - you build a bulwark out of billions of human minds, and you build inertia into your system such that emotional volatility led by events or propaganda efforts is smoothed out.

This is basically the concept of democracy and electoral cycles - group consensus on what reality is and how it should be responded to, with a temporal buffer (the election cycle length) to smooth out rash decisions.

Our systems need amendment to better smooth our inherent volatility, which has been provoked by our exponentially growing sphere of information - but this can’t come at the cost of handing control over something as fundamental as the idea of truth to some technocratic committee. That’s how you end up with gulags.

Edit/addendum:

Further musing on temporal smoothing of volatile and labile humanity led me to recall the idea of Concents in Anathem - groups are sequestered away for a year, a decade, a century, or a millennium, and are allowed only at those intervals to interact with the outside world. This monkish dedication to record preservation minimises informatic drift within the group, and provides a continual negative feedback factor to the unstable curve of truth, thus preventing the rewrite of the past, and therefore the present and future.


Ok, so a centralized system is as smart as the people working in the Ministry of Truth, but also creates a highly contested point of control. It's not guaranteed that it'll be smart, but ideally it can get as smart as possible for human beings.

A decentralized system is not controllable directly, but can only be as smart as the mean of the population[0]. Also, it also has a mechanism of control - propaganda. It's not all that effective, because you can have competing groups countering one another, but the side effects of that are relevant here: people take sides and reason by soundbites, while facts and critical thought get crowded out. Which means the more competing propagandists you have, the dumber the system becomes, even if all propaganda attempts cancel each other out.

So, on one hand you have a system with a very good quality ceiling but easy to manipulate; on the other hand, you have a system more resistant to direct manipulation, but consequently with a much lower ceiling that that also goes monotonically down as attempts to manipulate the system increase. Or, in other words: good results with high risk of bad results, vs. consistently shitty results.

Can't we do better? Are we doomed to choose between only those two?

--

[0] - Assuming a normal distribution, by the central limit theorem. If that doesn't hold, things could get even worse.


Machiavelli said something similar about principalities vs republics. Its hard to kick down the door of a principality but if you do, you are now in charge of a system designed and accustomed to keeping you there. You can always find a way to grab some power in a republic, but the entire system is designed to unseat you at the first sign of unrest.

Regarding your [0], in my experience larger groups of people tend to behave somewhat less smart than their mean intelligence ...

The issue is that influence matters more than the average or median in themselves - although oversimplified and "catchy" ideas tend to be favored more. This doesn't neccessarily mean dumb is favored per se - promoting say eating criminals would be an overwhelmingly unpopular idea even without constitutional limits.

They aren't guaranteed to be smart or just (sadly there probably isn't anything which qualifies) but they are are stable in a "not likely to piss off everyone into an insurrection" way.


We had total decentralization 9n Usenet. People went away from it. Mastodon split due to Japanese porn.

> This is such blatant and obvious nonsense.

Calm down. This isn’t productive to discussion.

> that have been built into your system, you have ended up with a nation where the most powerful person

For being the most powerful person, he doesn’t get much done and is in the process of potentially being impeached. Sounds like an argument in favor of the checks and balances and an argument in favor of less power being concentrated at the federal level in general.

> publicly broken all the norms and all the rules

Publicly broken “all the rules”, really? Methinks you’ve been drinking some koolaid.

> Wouldn't it be great if you would have a powerful centralized body that can say "Ehm, you guys keep on telling outrageous lies

Absolutely not. A ministry of truth that dictates what people say and answers only to politicians is about the worst and least imaginative solution to the problem.

> What you don't seem to take into account in your comment is that centralized bodies can protect the weak from the powerful. If you only have decentralized entities, it's survival of the fittest

False dichotomy. State-level governments in the US are very capable of handling many of the responsibilities that have amassed at the federal level.

If you think more centralization is better, why not have a single world government that decides what is true? The government choosing what is true is working pretty well for China, why don’t we just let them take over control?


I'm sorry this comment is being downvoted so hard. I think it's excellent, apart from the "koolaid" bit.

> You philosophize on basis of the assumption that central authorities ('government') by definition cannot be trusted, and we should therefore be wary of anything that reeks of centralized decision making. That is a supremely American way of looking at the world.

Literally every government and civilization in the history of the world has eventually failed or been corrupted.

Given this inevitability, how is it not better that citizens have protections against a failing government abusing that power? Avoiding centralization of power is one such protection. This is not an "American perspective", it's a simple conclusion reached after looking at history.


Why do you think the centralized body would say that to fox and not to cnn? After all if there are about 50% people thinking that fox spreads lies and 50% people thinking cnn spreads lies the decision of centralized body could go any way.

It is better to let everyone speak and everyone to make their own decisions


> It is better to let everyone speak and everyone to make their own decisions

Majority of the people simply trust the media they like or get used to. They usually assume news from these channels have been fact-checked or are trustworthy but we all know messages can be crafted in different ways.

In other words, the media can potentially/likely manipulate how people think and make decisions.


>They usually assume news from these channels have been fact-checked or are trustworthy

I think this is irrelevant. People will listen to what they like to hear or what matches what they already think. NOBODY is exempt from this, I dont care how smart you think you are.


One of the great ironies of the state of media in America: almost everyone agrees that Fox News is extermely biased and sometimes dishonest. Yet CNN, ABC, CBS, NYT and MSNBC are bastions of truth.

I mean, just a few weeks ago ABC posted a video from a Kentucky range and claimed it was fighting in Syria[0]. Is that simply horrible journalism, or a lie?

[0] https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/15/media/abc-news-error-video/in...


I think you may be in an echo chamber. Most of my coworkers watch fox news. Its even playing on tvs at work in the hallways and cafeteria. People chat about their latest dose of truth and the outrageous lies of cnn etc. I listen to npr on the way home to get the sam facts in a different light/bias and then resolve to ignore everything but local races. I wish high offices were still elected by lower offices down to the lowest of offices where all the voters actually know the people they are choosing between.

Not sure if you're referencing the constitution's original intent for state legislatures to elect senators. If you are, here's a good reference for anyone interested in the topic:

https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing...


People who pay attention know that fox news is fine and sticks to the truth (perhaps a selective truth, but still truth). It's the editorial panels that run around it and look like news that are a pile of made up lies.

Why would you expect someone calling for tighter regulation of the media to give a free pass to CNN? I would expect regulators to be a thorn in the side of any commercial television network. They're in the business of selling entertainment for profit, not upholding community standards of truth, decency, etc.

>Why would you expect someone calling for tighter regulation of the media to give a free pass to CNN?

The side doesn't really matter, what matters is giving that power to government will lead to one side winning and entrenching themselves via said power. I believe it's better to let free citizens learn wrongly on their own than to pretend government can teach the so-called right things.


I strongly prefer what we have now to the authoritarian "society" you have described. It sends shivers down my spine to think that there are westerners advocating such things. You can always move to China, they have everything you sound like you want

> Wouldn't it be great if you would have a powerful centralized body

No. And i'm from Europe, the supreme "nanny state".


And Europe isn’t “one” thing. Finland works quite differently than Greece. I am very happy where I am in Europe.

> Despite the good intentions behind the decentralization of power and the checks and balances that have been built into your system, you have ended up with a nation where the most powerful person has blatantly and publicly broken all the norms and all the rules, who regularly and repeatedly tells the most outrageous lies, and where a very large amount of people stand behind him nevertheless because of large scale & organized disinformation campaigns by the likes of (decentralized) propaganda entities like Fox News.

Have you ever considered the option that you might be the one who is disinformed? European media have a tendency to "group-think" and to extrapolate certain narratives to the extreme. For example, I observe that even reputable German news outlets like "Der Spiegel" put a negative spin on every single story about Trump. My guess would be that the Danish media is simiarly biased given your views. And apparently, your laws did not prevent that from happening.


Well, if you read factcheck.org or any other fact checker, or just read transcripts of Trumps speeches you can see that the negative spin is usually there for a reason.

The problem is that a centralized body immediately becomes too powerful. The body itself would need to be limited in scope with other outside checks and balances.

SCOTUS is close to one of these centralized bodies you speak of, and they purposely only deal with cases that have gone through every other avenue. And even then, they are not trying to determine truth, but only fit the verdict within the existing body of law. I would prefer less decisions being decided in this manner.


I prefer giving power no secrecy to hide behind and limiting it by democratic control. I dont know why the assumption is always that a central power has to be some opaque inscrutable beurocracy.

I don't know why the assumption is always that a democracy is incapable of tyranny. Gay marriage had been illegal for most of our modern democracies' histories under the tyranny of democracies. Prostitution and drug usage are currently illegal under the tyranny of democracies. In England the manner in which you discuss large scale immigration or transgender issues, or what pornography is acceptable to watch is subject to review under the tyranny of democracy.

Trump has been able to do very little, and this is a good thing. However, what he has done is effectively demonstrate that the executive branch has too much centralized power, not too little.

In regards to whether or not it would be great if we had a powerful centralized body that could determine what constitute outrageous lies worthy of a fine, no, for the reasons I've already stated, I do not think that this would be a good thing. I have no problem with European and Asian countries granting their (very often highly competent) governments greater authorities than what is afforded to the US government, but I think it's supremely important that there remains at least one superpower fundamentally predicated on a mistrust of a central authority.


Trump has accomplished much more than you think he has. He has done a good job of using controversy to divert people from a great deal of the significant changes he has made via executive authority to the various government agencies under his control.

> Wouldn't it be great if you would have a powerful centralized body that can say "Ehm, you guys keep on telling outrageous lies, we're going to forbid it and if you keep in doing it you'll be slapped with a fine that really hurts and your CEO might have to go to jail"?

no.


I mean his arguments is the basis of the the separation of powers. It's only American insofar as American democracy was inspired in it's founding by the enlightenment thinkers.

Ask the Uighurs in China how well a centralized authority is "protecting" their speech and beliefs as a minority.

We do have libel and slander laws, you know.

Yes but that only works if they say something bad about someone or something. If they only tell positive lies or completely make up things it's hard for anyone to prove standing, much less show damages.

But it still has a negative effect on public discourse. It's like information pollution.


Would this centralized body extend to regulating bloggers and YouTube personalities? It's tricky to draw a line based on scope - influencers and personalities will grow ever more popular, and conspiracy rabbitholes will only grow more decentralized.

How would you deal with foreign media that violates the laws? You'd either have to permit them - which opens up the country to foreign meddling, since they can and have spread propaganda - or sanction/block them, like Russia and China (and Australia.)

Also, suppose despite your best efforts, Trump still gets into the White House. He's installed loyal yes-men in many departments already - if they defy him, they'll resign under pressure or be fired. He'd easily gut this Ministry of Truth and weaponize it to quash CNN/NYT or even climate scientists.

I'm quite on the left and not averse to regulation or centralization, but it's wishful thinking to assume this "powerful centralized body" is going to do the right thing.

See, for example, the use of corruption taskforces in many countries to purge political rivals or even honest bureaucrats who won't take your bribes. Corruption should be illegal, allegations should be investigated but things can go very wrong and these checks perverted against their intended function.


Media regulations do exist, and are more robust outside the United States. Usually the answer to your question about bloggers and YouTube personalities is that they are ignored by the regulators of the professional media, but may attract police attention in extreme cases under anti-vilification laws that would likely be unconstitutional in the U.S., eg. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Meechan (UK), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blair_Cottrell (AU).

I don't see the problem with subjecting foreign media to the same or even stricter laws. Yes, it's difficult to enforce the law against foreign nations, especially your friends, so enforcement often doesn't happen. That doesn't mean that foreign meddling ought to be made legal, which would be a step backwards in view of laws like the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Countering_Foreign_Propaganda_....


Is it easier to corrupt one institution or five?

Looking at how fast the Republican Senate became supplicant to Trump, the separation did not turn out so "separate" after all due to the concentration of parties.

>>> This is such blatant and obvious nonsense. You philosophize on basis of the assumption that central authorities ('government') by definition cannot be trusted, and we should therefore be wary of anything that reeks of centralized decision making.

This should be basic assumption of the all laws. Remember early 20th century and legal takeovers of governments by warmongering maniacs in Europe?

It was legal, there was trust toward government. All it took was a single group to take over Germany and start WW2.

Even if no one will abuse the law currently, you have absolutely no guarantees(as democracy is popularity contest) that no one will try to abuse them in future.

>> That is a supremely American way of looking at the world.

Not really, it is very prevalent in Europe too - especially Eastern Europe which suffered under Russian communist occupation. Mostly because it was the case in those countries - the populace still remembers government actively working against people.

>> Despite the good intentions behind the decentralization of power and the checks and balances that have been built into your system, you have ended up with a nation where the most powerful person has blatantly and publicly broken all the norms and all the rules, who regularly and repeatedly tells the most outrageous lies, and where a very large amount of people stand behind him nevertheless because of large scale & organized disinformation campaigns by the likes of (decentralized) propaganda entities like Fox News.

>>> How does your system deal with that then? Not very well, it seems.

It works perfectly... for those in power. From citizens perspective it is a nightmare.

>> Wouldn't it be great if you would have a powerful centralized body that can say "Ehm, you guys keep on telling outrageous lies, we're going to forbid it and if you keep in doing it you'll be slapped with a fine that really hurts and your CEO might have to go to jail"?

What prevents this centralized body from making politically motivated decisions? If we go to the extremes we have examples in history - heresy trials, censors in communist Russia, and even current example - China.

One could argue for centralized body of such power in only a single case - system transition by force with benevolent ruler that will dissolve itself after transition.

Good Luck with that.


> What prevents this centralized body from making politically motivated decisions?

An established institutional culture of apolitical service, reinforced by respect for those who uphold it and consequences for those who violate it. The kind of thing that the U.S. still expects of its military, judiciary and public service, and the kind of thing that is corroded by political leaders showing contempt for it.


The US works by checks and balances. You can't point to, for example, the US military and say "see, we have the expectation with the military so it will transfer." You have to say, "See, the world holds respect for <$Centralized_Power>'s military despite centralized power."

Finding the value of $Centralized_Power might take a while.


> In America, we understand that there is absolutely nothing more dangerous than an entity that feels entitled to control what is true. It might make things easier, and it might actually produce better results so long as the entity doing so is competent and benevolent, but nearly every structure in America is meant to serve as a bulwark for the cases in which the entity in power is precisely the sort that you do not want to be making those decisions. And to be frank, Europe should probably be more wary of that.

I'm not trying to be snarky, but in all honesty, how do you feel this is working out for the US at this very moment?


There is obviously an upside and a downside. The platitude that "freedom isn't free" is something that seems to be lost on critics of the effects of liberty.

I don't think the free speech absolutism present in the US was ever meant to suggest that there isn't such thing as undesirable speech, but rather that the potential for tyranny under regulated speech is a danger well worth avoiding at any cost.

In addition to that, America is a country that works forwards from principles much more often than European nations, which very often work backwards from objectives. To frame the right to free speech in regards to whether or not it is "working out" is not a particularly American frame of reference. The principle that individuals should express themselves as they see fit, and that this is the foundation for a free and open society, is essentially square one.


>In addition to that, America is a country that works forwards from principles much more often than European nations, which very often work backwards from objectives.

Have any examples to back this up?

I dont even necessarily disagree with your original argument, but can we get away from the Europe vs America debate that always pops up on this board as if they can be compared in a reasonable way? Europe is made up of a bunch of independent countries alot of which have objectives and principles that conflict with other entities within Europe, let alone outside of it


The "America vs Europe debate" only ever pops up when an American comes into a thread telling everyone how wrong they are. As you say it is ironic because the position that there is one "Europe" to compare the US to is one that can only be formed in an environment of ignorance. Asking why was at some point useful, but given the pernicious nature of these discussions and the vehemence with which they are repeated we have to assume they are not going to go away (unless perhaps we ignore them).

> The "America vs Europe debate" only ever pops up when an American comes into a thread telling everyone how wrong they are.

European posters do this all the time in health care discussions.


Because US healthcare suck.

It's a fact.


It sucks for most, it is amazing for the rich.

Free speech.

What about it?

>>In addition to that, America is a country that works forwards from principles much more often than European nations, which very often work backwards from objectives.

>Have any examples to back this up?

This is an example to backup the statement. The US starts from a strong principle of free speech. European countries generally don't value this as highly, and will censor speech if they feel it is necessary.


It should go together with respect

Ideally, yes.. but it shouldn't be a condition for it.

> To frame the right to free speech in regards to whether or not it is "working out" is not a particularly American frame of reference. The principle that individuals should express themselves as they see fit, and that this is the foundation for a free and open society, is essentially square one.

When I said "working out", I wasn't talking so much about which effects free speech is having (although that is a question well worth asking) but more about whether speech in the US really is as free as it was ~4 years go.

Could being attacked on twitter by the president for something you say not be construed as a very real retaliation by the administration and thus a curtailment of free speech?


You aren’t being thrown in prison or “disappearing” for saying something counter to the president’s point of view. Even with free speech rights there are still limits though. I can’t go around making violent threats to people without some repercussions.

> Could being attacked on twitter by the president for something you say not be construed as a very real retaliation by the administration and thus a curtailment of free speech?

No, someone talking to you in a public forum, even in a hostile fashion, is not a curtailment of free speech. It’s just free speech.

Free speech isn’t the right to not have your feelings hurt.

If Trump attacking people worked on Twitter, there wouldn’t be any democrats left in office at this point.


Being attacked on Twitter by the president would be the best thing that ever happened to me, or to any blogger or news site.

> I'm not trying to be snarky, but in all honesty, how do you feel this is working out for the US at this very moment?

Great. We still have many of the rights others have been stripped of. We haven't faced any invasions or domestic warfare in over a century, we have the worlds strongest economy, etc etc. Best of all, we can say pretty much whatever we want and not go to jail for it.


>>> In America, we understand that there is absolutely nothing more dangerous than an entity that feels entitled to control what is true. It might make things easier, and it might actually produce better results so long as the entity doing so is competent and benevolent, but nearly every structure in America is meant to serve as a bulwark for the cases in which the entity in power is precisely the sort that you do not want to be making those decisions. And to be frank, Europe should probably be more wary of that.

In my honest opinion - every law should be made with assumption that in the future, or even now, an actor will exists that will abuse it to the utmost limits.

One of reasons i am vehemently against article 13 in Europe, or anti-hate speech laws(as those can be abused to basically turn into censorship laws - while doing absolutely nothing but hiding the symptoms of systematic problems).


I'm really surprised that _this_ isn't a more popular take-away among Trump detractors, particularly with regard to things like privacy and government surveillance. "Finding the right balance between security and privacy" sounds a lot different depending on who's mouth it's coming out of and who controls the levers.

This is a strawman argument. You don't have to define truth absolutely to ban news from spouting outright lies. The US seems to have a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater. And to be frank, the US should probably be more wary of that.

It's not a strawman for multiple reasons. For one, you have suggested that pointing out outright lies does not suffer from many of the same issues as asserting truth.

"American jobs are being taken by illegal immigrants from Mexico."

Is this a lie? No. But is this disingenuous and misrepresenting much more significant contributors to job loss? Yes. Is it a lie then?

"Transgender women are women."

Is this a lie? Depends entirely on definitions and presuppositions.

Secondly, I think the more important takeaway is that the vast majority of the issues we're having in regards to political discourse have absolutely nothing to do with us not agreeing on facts. Neither side for most of the hard issues are relying on outright incorrect facts.

So not only do I not think that identifying outright lies is as simple and free from bias as you suggest it to be, I also think that the cases in which this could be universally agreed upon would contribute very little to the majority of serious political discussions happening today.


You don't have to capture every biased statement and bending of the truth to counter outright lies like "Obama was born in kenya" or "Trump was endorsed by the pope"

Both of which are believed by huge amounts of Americans.


> You don't have to capture every biased statement and bending of the truth to counter outright lies like "Obama was born in kenya" or "Trump was endorsed by the pope"

You do if you want to make some kind of law about it. You are correct, there are plenty of instances where a story is blatantly false and could be taken care of by some kind of preventative action. But the distribution of possible lies is extremely long tailed. For every one of these instances, there are dozens where it is not entirely a lie, but not entirely the truth, or is biased, or a half-truth, or editorialized, or an extreme conclusion, etc. Libel and slander laws already exist, but are rarely invoked because of this reason. It is nigh impossible to create any kind of system or legislation that does more than what these laws already do, while also properly dealing with all of these edge cases.

I mean, even your examples could easily get around any kind of preventative measures by couching their language. Instead of "Obama was born in Kenya", it could be phrased "rumors have begun to circulate that Obama was in fact born in Kenya". The desired effect of planting this lie in people's minds is still successful, but with a few words there is now no way to create a framework that legally prevents people from spreading lies that way, that is also consistent and not overbearing.


That is also a much weaker statement that will be taken less seriously.

Sometimes, all you need is to get people to say "hmm.." and you're off to the races.

again, this isn't about preventing every possible case of media being misleading.

This is the most important comment. Whenever i hear about someones saying that "XYZ should do something about fake news" i understand that they really dont understand the depth of the problem. Solving "fake news" is a non-trivial problem and no single arbiter of truth can tackle it, Facebook, twitter etc are claiming about "cracking down of fake news" but all that is just hogwash.

People seem to forget that the initial problem that led to the term “fake news” being used was actual fake, completely made up out of thin air, news.

“Pope endorses Donald trump” being the classic example

Not lying with statistics


Every example you provide is legal, what isn’t legal is telling people that the moon is made of cheese in a non-satirical news article.

Would the following statement be allowed?

“Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire its prosecutor. The prosecutor said he was forced out for leading a corruption probe into Hunter Biden's company.”


Yeah Why not? It’s pure narrative without conclusion.

another source, in this case the ny times, would be equally free to publish the statement:

“Vice President Biden was overseeing American policy toward Ukraine at the time, and he did push for the removal of the country’s top prosecutor, who was seen as corrupt or ineffectual by the United States and Western European governments. But there is no evidence he did so to benefit Hunter Biden or the oligarch who owns Burisma, Mykola Zlochevsky.”


That’s a quote from the ad that people wanted Facebook to disallow for being a “known lie.”[1] Just pointing out that the policy that people are pushing for on Facebook is quite a bit more aggressive than whatever law you’re referring to.

[1] https://mobile.twitter.com/ewarren/status/118301988086768025...


You guys are disagreeing on facts, or at least entering muddy territory.

> The prosecutor said he was forced out for leading a corruption probe into Hunter Biden's company

> there is no evidence he did so to benefit Hunter Biden


In addition to the point made by the sibling comment, these facts are consistent with an attack on Joe Biden for having an apparent conflict of interest, even if there was no evidence that he intentionally, corruptly used his power to benefit his son. (If he did, would you expect there to be any evidence?) Ethical public officials are expected to avoid apparent conflicts of interest.

“The prosecutor said” something.

It’s entirely fair to report what the prosecutor said provided it’s clearly attributed as it was here.

You’re free to draw your own conclusion that the prosecutor is possibly lying.


This is a perfect example of something I have been thinking about. Facts are funny things: Consider that if the media was pro-Trump for example, they would have omitted the "But there is no evidence" part. The opposite is also true. Since the media is nominally anti-trump, they must sway the story by including the no evidence part

It's indeed true that the prosecutor said that. Whether what he said is true, is another thing.

The problem is that it doesn't only matter that stated facts are correct; it matters also that people reading them interpret them correctly. Natural language is messy; people jump to conclusions also because often we do communicate intentionally by hiding meaning between the lines.


That's kind of besides the point though. He was showing that even when printing things that would be considered legally truthful, you can still maintain a narrative.

But that was part of my origin point, with:

> It’s also allowed for different sides of things, because you can interpret things like socioeconomic statistics and facts differently and write about them as such, but you can’t make up things.

But maybe my English wasn’t good enough to carry it through.

I don’t think narratives are a problem as such. People are allowed different opinions in a free society. Our laws are there to prevent people from printing things that are outright false, but these laws are being circumvented on the modern media platforms because they apply to editiorial staff but not private citizens.

Which is a problem in a world where influencers have more viewers than news papers.


Just because it doesn't completely solve the problem doesn't mean it's not an improvement.

But "narratives" about actual facts it's just bringing on your view of the world, and that's perfectly normal (even if I may not agree with it). The big problem here is spreading information based on invented, not actual facts.

Obviously you can still manipulate real facts and tell a lie (like the classic photo cropping example): that should be prohibited as well.


I don't disagree with most of what you say, but I do disagree with your implied conclusion.

Setting a baseline of limiting/banning provably false information is a good thing. Yes, it doesn't stop all forms manipulation of people towards any given agenda, but it certainly doesn't make it easier, and means things have to be at least slightly anchored to reality.


You can frame facts in different ways, but you can also tell things that contradict known facts - ie, lies. It's the latter that shouldn't go without consequences.

Consider phrases like:

"Some people say [lie]." (Fox News favorite)

"According to some theories, [lie]"

"Doctor Ganz Rechts Rassenreinheit says [lie]"


I'll be curious to learn how you define a known fact with emphasis on the 'known' part.

In Austria we have a body that regulates this and it kind of works. We still have various levels of quality, but flat out lying is far less common than in the US or UK.

The body consists of a board of all media agencies and they self-regulate their behaviour and adhere to their commonly agreed principles (e.g. if you get facts wrong, people can demand follow-ups with a correction etc).

In my eyes the US has a ideological perspective on many issues, that are basically "solved" in other democratic nations (with gun-law beeing the most shining example). I accept that you cannot directly apply solutions that work in one nation to another without reflecting the differences in culture and law, but it happens all too often that Americans claim something can't be solved, while it works perfectly fine somewhere else, without having sacrificed neither democracy nor freedom.

When it comes to media regulation, it is a question of law and enforcement. If you don't trust your own courts to objectively judge what accounts to a violation and what does not or is ambiguous (like in your examples), then you have a problem with your justice system beeing influenced by politics and the principle of the seperation of powers is broken.


> but even stating facts can be extremely manipulative

Another thing is the choice of facts you decide to state. All media have a bias in what type of news they decide to cover. Usually they pick stories based on what their audience wants to hear. I don't think there's a solution, besides trying to be more critical about medias in general.


And all of this is unfortunately actually hate speech in Denmark because you can’t have stats on races.

The naïveté of - in particular Western Europeans - with regard to an ultimate truth handed down by ‘official’ bodies is mind boggling. Getting closer to the truth is a process not a static decree and accepting and dealing with the exact opposite viewpoint to your own - especially when it hurts - is part of adulthood nurtured by free thinking individuals in a free society. Learning about deception and lie, manipulation and propaganda is an extremely important and never ending learning process. (Disclaimer: I am a Western European living in the US)

But from what I've been taught in school, news articles should always aim to state only the facts as they have happened without trying to draw conclusions, show only one side of the story or inject the bias of the reporter. As long as you have journalists and editors able to do their jobs, stating facts doesn't become an exercise in pushing your narrative as you describe but simple reporting of "what happened" or "what has been said". In your specific example, you would report only on the actual statistical figures released, without trying to inject probabilities or percentages which are pushing your analysis and view of the data.

News outlets are then free to print articles containing opinions, studies and conclusions, but this are called editorials and not news articles, and by definition they do carry the opinion of the writer and his/her innate bias on the matter. Even in this case, saying something false is different from interpreting the data or facts at hand. For example, you could write and publish an editorial examining the same statistics as before and come up with the conclusion that there might be a racial bias - some people might agree, some people might not, but it's still an opinion based on hard data and doesn't contain a lie. If you, however, started saying that it's all a plot orchestrated by the reptilians running society to make you think that there's a racial bias, that would indeed be a lie with no factual basis and should be punishable.

There are facets and sides to every story you tell, but reducing everything down to the point where you conflate news reporting, opinions and lies is, imho, stupid.


News is a lot like statistics. Just by which facts I show (and don't show), and how I show them I can push the reader to a certain conclusion. Even the wording matters. A great example is reporting on the stock market. "Market plunges 500 points!!", but the reality is that's ~1.8% and barely a blip.

> So not only are facts capable of telling a narrative, but it gets much more complicated once you start introducing conclusions.

"start introducing conclusions".

So not just stating facts after all?


I think OP is saying that facts alone can be used to spin a narrative. Inserting conclusions makes it even worse.

> If you say "A black person is 2.3x as likely as a white person to be killed by police in America. American police are being racially discriminatory when killing civilians."

> This is a fact and a conclusion, and most news consists of facts and conclusions.

Journalists usually quote somebody else for the conclusion, they don't use themselves as a primary source. And if they're good they get multiple quotes from different people to give a view of the differing opinions.


I like your insight. Narrative is fine.

Narrative with conclusion is challenging to deal with for large swathes of the population, myself included.


In Europe we understand the difference between being biased and lying.

> In America, we understand

American understanding birthed a society that openly fosters fascism. It should only be used as an ironic example, not as some sort of highroad ethical argument.


Is fascism a uniquely American ideology now? Which part of the world are you from that hasn't fostered fascism at some point?

How is american society 'openly fostering fascism' ?

This is just whataboutism. Banning political ads does not affect whether people can misrepresent truths. Preventing lies does not affect whether misrepresent truths.

However, banning political ads on Facebook does ban political ads on facebook, and banning lies does ban lies.

Tech is not some magical playground disconnected from reality. Time for SV to grow up and engage with society and politics - they’re not an “optional, inefficient” part of life.


Danish lawyer here. We have rather usual defamation laws regarding libel and slander. I am not sure they differ from other European or American laws in any way that hold Danish media to higher standards. Even publishing true information can be a violation of our criminal code, for example certain information about private life or about past criminal convictions.

All in all, though, I believe we have wide freedom of press and freedom of speech not unlike what they have in the rest of Europe and in reality not that different from what they have in the US. Yes, we do have a media liability law which makes the editor (or even the journalist or the publication) liable for defamation in the content and for publishing certain information about a person's private life. The effect is that Danish publications are forced to worry about defamation against persons or corporations, or groups of people such as certain statements regarding religions, ethnicity etc or about information regarding persons' private life.

But apart from what I describe above, newspapers can publish more or less whatever they want without fearing criminal or tort liability. They mostly have to fear ridicule. A Danish editor will not be held liable if his newspaper writes wrong facts about the unemployment rate, crime, business climate, taxes or just about anything else that is in the news.

I believe the answer to why Danish media still have a decent standard despite free online news and Google and Facebook getting the ad money, is found in the subsidies. Virtually all large media in Denmark are either public entities or private entities that are heavily subsidized. By far the largest Danish media is the national radio and TV station. All the large newspapers receive huge subsidies. They simply still have budgets to pay for journalism.

Here is a list of the recipients with amounts: https://slks.dk/fileadmin/user_upload/SLKS/Omraader/Medier/S...


That's veeery different than having a law that obliges news to say the truth!!!!

It is very easy to print things that are true but still have a bias. For example, printing things that are true but good about one political party, while printing things that are true but bad about another, is a bias. Almost every news medium has some kind of bias this way, and I think it affects their impact more than if they simply tell lies or not.

(Counter to the current worry, it seems to me that outright lies in mainstream publications are actually somewhat rare. When they happen they are generally corrected. Though there is a recent trend of rushing to publication to appease an overly emotive audience, getting things wrong, and then having to correct days later, after everyone's already been influenced. NYT especially.)

This used to be somewhat addressed in the US television segment by taking it even a step further, and requiring news shows to not only be truthful, but represent both sides of controversial issues. It was called the Fairness Doctrine [1], but it was revoked in 1985.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FCC_fairness_doctrine


> and when they do fail they admit it and apologise

We have those laws in Poland too. They lie on front page and apologise with small font on the last page.


Interestingly enough, in Germany you are forced to use the same page and layout, leading to sometimes very visible retractions...

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/de/9/9c/Bild_Gegendar...

If you ask me, that‘s a good thing. If the stakes of an ad campaign with fake news or hate speech would be having to run a disproval campaign of the same size, on the same audience (if you are proven wrong) — I‘d be fine with it. Political ads weren‘t the problem. A complete and utter lack of regulation for the medium was.


Or you know, keep the lie because "publicly apologize for using the inaccurate “Polish Death Camps” phrase does not apply in Germany as it would curb freedom of speech." https://polandin.com/38606816/apology-for-polish-death-camps...

Hey, count me in for solving this one gracefully!

https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&u=https...


This is German copycat of Onion you linked :)

I wonder what happened if the apology had to be as prominent as the false fact. Imagine a newspaper saying "WE LIED YESTERDAY" on the front-page :D

Oh wow we could have avoided the entire Iraq war!

Sounds like insurance companies with fine prints.

> They don’t always succeed, but they try to, and when they do fail they admit it and apologise.

Sigh, I wish news could work out in a level-headed, respectable manner like that.

Instead we have “news” reduced to opinions-of-the-day, fat middle fingers shoved in faces to rile up attention (figuratively speaking), and clever ways of turning current events into enticing blockbuster rollercoasters of reporting with crafty “news-scaping”.

(Not all news is like this, FWIW. When information has to be reluctantly peddled for a pittance, like news media is stuck with begrudgingly trying to get people to buy their holiday fruitcakes, then the etiquette of pride in truth gets tossed).


I can twist that, and indeed I do, by quoting somebody telling a lie. I'm positive infotainments do it all the time: such and such people said that the Earth is flat because so and so.

People are so gullible, and some would argue that if they fall for things like that, it's on them. In my opinion, Twitter is getting into a muddy situation with this: what is "political", what is "advertising"... and what is "paid", are all terms that could have different interpretation.

One could argue that Twitter may have just said "hey you, if this is illegal, send a court order and will take it down, otherwise everything stays", forcing governments to actually define what goes and what doesn't, instead of relying on for-profit companies to tell us what we can see and what we can't.

But that train departed so long ago.


You can present facts differently to manipulate opinion - even simple things like percentage vs percentile, or increases chances by vs to - and even if they lie, the correction won't be reach everyone who read the original article.

Then there are opinion pieces - which by definition are opinion not facts.

I seriously have no good idea how to regulate that: international or national certifications are bound to be abused(lobbying in case of former, national interest in case of latter) and current system is absolutely dogshit.

Honestly it is because all news outlets optimize for one thing only - money - and money nowadays comes from one thing mostly: selling ads, or to be exact - selling access to serving ads to people with specific interests.

As long as selling ads en masse is the most profitable options the current system will exist. Clickbait/Yellow journalism will thrive as long as it's only purpose is to attract attention.


The idea that we can mandate people telling the truth is laughable. The reason it seems to work in Denmark is probably because honesty is a social norm there.

Secondly, there is no absolute, objective truth and there never will be.

The best we can do is to individually strive for telling the truth and hope for the best.


You accept that honesty could plausibly be a social norm in some countries, yet you think it's laughable that the law might play a role in establishing and upholding that norm?

That's exactly right. I'm not contesting laws playing SOME role, but in the grand scheme of things they don't uphold norms.

This sounds like a nice, but dangerous idea: who decides what the truth is? Obviously some statements are blatantly false (2 + 2 = 5), but those don't need to be forbidden by a law: just ignore it, or laugh at it, and let the paper editing this lose its readership (or reduce it to the community of 2+2=5- believers).

The actual matter is for controversial statements. I very much prefer those statements to be allowed, discussed, debunked if needed, than outright forbidden. In liberal democracies, the press is generally considered to be a needed counterpower (along with the establish executive, legislative and judicial powers of the state). Putting it under the control of the judicial power kind of weakens it.


Truth. Yes. Problem is that sometimes the truth is very, very inconvenient for someone (important), then it is forbidden, called lies or conspiracy theory or hate speech.

Before Snowden we had some conspiracy theories that NSA is spying on everyone, but those who claimed that were ridiculed.

Before the communism fell the truth that Polish officers were murdered in Katyn forest by Soviets was considered a lie (official "truth" was that Germans did that) - this truth was so annoying that for a long time (until 1980ties) even Western countries official policy preferred lies only to maintain good relations with Soviet Union.

For a quite a long time (till 1960ies) people thought that this is a good idea to check if shoes fit using X-rays. The truth of that times was that X-rays used in that way are safe.

And I can go on like this for hours.

People lie, people make mistakes, people have shady interests and motivations, human knowledge is restricted. If we enforce official "truth" we never learn the truth. Maybe this will help to keep societies in peace (in the Orwellian way).

Communists tried that, luckily they failed. Chinese half Communism half Confucianism tries that now, we will see how it will end up.


If you can't back up your claim with hard evidence, it's hardly an objective truth. Hence NSA spying being "conspiracy theory" before Snowden.

The definition of truth is quite a complicated one because truth is substantially a social construct. I wonder how this law works in practice. The main problem about social platforms, IMHO is not rubbish information, that's everywhere including printed press. The problem is plurality. Internet was supposed to actually solve this issue, but centralised, obscure and algorithmically controlled echo chambers have reintroduced it. The problem is, as always, when you put too much power into the hands of one entity...

The Guardian has the motto: “Comment is free, facts are sacred”

During the rush to digital a section was launched “facts are sacred”

Hahhahahah

No it was “Comment is free”, that is what generated clicks and ad revenue


Well they can print a full page lie and then the day after print a "sorry" at the bottom of the page. At least that's what they do here in Sweden.

> I have no idea how to regulate it though, but I think we need to do something.

Why should it be treated any differently than other media?

What we need is a return of the Fairness Doctrine in the US (and something similar to the EU) and application of the policy to social media advertising and news outlets. It won't stop foreign psy-ops, but it will stop a lot of the internal-originating lies and deception.


Information flows freely across borders. I'm not sure it can be regulated unless the borders stop mattering as much.

The question is always if the cure is worth than the disease. It is easy to fall into the Politicians Syllogism, and wind up adopting a terrifyingly bad policy out of a sense that something must be done*.

Choosing to wait and observe is always a viable choice, to be considered alongside all forms of intervention.


Can you talk more about how those laws work in Denmark?

I’m extremely interested in the idea that a society has incentivized both a robust free press and accountability to speak the truth...

If that is the case it seems like those lessons would be very useful to democracies the world over.


> This is what has kept our society well informed and critical thinking for a hundred years.

i assume this is sarcasm, as society has historically been mostly illiterate and unschooled.

right now is when we are the most informed in the history of humankind.


for people downvoting, the great "schooling of society" started in the 1940s-50s: https://ourworldindata.org/literacy

till then most people around the world didn't know how to read and write.

my own eastern european country had an illiteracy rate of 95% in 1920.


The recommendations algorithms have access to all our past interactions with these sites. They know exactly what we like and dislike. In order to keep us hooked they keep recommending content that we will continue to watch. There needs to be regulation of this both for news and mental health reasons. What happens when a recommendation algorithm in order to increase ad revenue keeps recommending depressing videos to a depressed person?

We also get politicians which the one who gets the most attention wins elections, because internet is an attention economy. It does not mean that getting as much attention as a possible for a politician means that you have good intentions. Never in our past have companies have had access to information which keeps us mentally hooked to their services. There need to be some kind of safety standards.


This is the tip of the problem.

What if new science tells us that seeing certain types of news results in X condition, 20% of the time ?

Social networks are stuck.


> I have no idea how to regulate it though, but I think we need to do something.

Why doesn't the laws apply for Facebook? Ads are something they are profiting from, therefore implying involvement and thus

Has Facebook reached the point where they could be fined for simply hosting untrue content? They curate and don't show everything so the argument of being just a "market of ideas" rings untrue.


> In Denmark we have laws in place that hold news paper editors responsible for printing truth. They don’t always succeed, but they try to, and when they do fail they admit it and apologise.

The problem is, who gets to define what's truthful and how do you quantify the bar for "truthfulness"? This is a deep philosophical question that doesn't really have a satisfactory solution at this point. Some cases are "obvious", but laws shouldn't be written with just the easy cases in mind.

> This died with Facebook, YouTube and the non-editorial entertainment “news” and as a result we have anti-vaxxers, flat-earthers and what not.

This is incorret. Anti-vaxxers and anti-vax protests have existed since the inception of vaccines back in the 1800s [1]. Flat earthers for longer.

It's a convenient narrative that the internet somehow created these anti-science movements, or somehow spread them, but that's not really supported by facts. Celebrities like Jenny McCarthy arguably spread that message far more than people talking with each other on Facebook.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaccine_hesitancy


> This died with Facebook, YouTube and the non-editorial entertainment “news” and as a result we have anti-vaxxers, flat-earthers and what not.

Are you literally blaming YouTube for flat earthers in Denmark?

The issue is that all regulators are human, and all humans have biases. No man is fit to play the censor.


> Are you literally blaming YouTube for flat earthers in Denmark?

Given the modern flat earthed movement was essentially grown on YouTube why wouldn't it effect people around the globe?

Is YouTube banned in Denmark?


Many of the flat earthers I have interacted with are actually doing it tongue and cheek as performance. It is a meme/troll many levels deep if you look into it.

The UK have self-regulating press.

sigh


“This is what has kept our society well informed and critical thinking for a hundred years.”

Ironic.


You do realize that saudi arabia, china, russia, etc all have laws in place to hold newspaper editors responsible for printing "truth" right?

> This is what has kept our society well informed and critical thinking for a hundred years.

What makes you think you are a well-informed and critical thinking society? Don't most danes think alike just like most saudis, chinese, russians, etc. Don't most danes think and believe whatever news/propaganda tell them to believe just like saudis, chinese, russians, etc?

> This died with Facebook, YouTube and the non-editorial entertainment “news” and as a result we have anti-vaxxers, flat-earthers and what not.

And? Did the world end?

Do you realize that there was a time when it was "truth" that the earth was flat? Do you realize that there was a time when "pro-vaxxers" were ridiculed as much as anti-vaxxers are ridiculed now? If people like you were in power, we'd never have any progress.

I'm not an anti-vaxxer or a flat-earther. The easiest way to discredit them is with speech. More speech, not less. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. And free speech is the best antidote to falsehoods.


Except that

(1) The Danes who wrote those laws were elected by the citizens in a fair and open democracy.

(2) The enforcement (presumably) falls on their judicial system. One that is transparent, progressive and highly respected around the world.

(3) That Denmark has one of the lowest rates of corruption in the world.

(4) That Danes are free to pursue information elsewhere (as in the entire internet) if they don't like whats available locally.

But besides those things, you're right. It's just like the situation in Saudi Arabia, China and Russia. /s


Denmark has a population of 6 million people with a homogeneous culture, ethnic composition (87% Danish descent, [0]) and physical location. Many problems are going to be faced to all Danes simultaneously.

It is much easier to construct a shared agreement on what is true in such an environment. That they are a democracy is less of an issue than the fact they all face a very similar environment and can probably agree with each other on what the truth is because they are all looking at the same thing.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Denmark


There's no requirement to have a "homogeneous culture" or specific ethnic composition in order to have a working democracy. Facts are facts, and with a free press, can be seen by anybody, of any race or culture. The real problem is with authoritarian cultures (which are an aspect of humanity, not specific ethnicities) imposing themselves on ordinary people.

> The Danes who wrote those laws were elected by the citizens in a fair and open democracy

Not really comforting to a slightly smaller minority that didn’t vote for them. A democracy is not a panacea and that’s why the US has the bill of rights to raise the bar on changes to fundamental rights.

> One that is transparent, progressive and highly respected around the world.

By whom? People in other countries don’t give two shits about judicial interpretations of laws in another country.

> That Denmark has one of the lowest rates of corruption in the world.

Corruption is orthogonal to government structure. Massively oppressive regimes can operate entirely inside their own laws and not be corrupt.

> That Danes are free to pursue information elsewhere (as in the entire internet) if they don't like whats available locally

Are they allowed to spread said information? If not, that’s not significantly better than the arrangement in China.


1) Right. And the holocaust was perpetrated by germans who were elected by citizens in a fair and open democracy.

The extermination of the native americans were perpetrated by americans who were elected by citizens in a fair and open democracy.

You seems to have a naive understanding of democracy. People always forget that the nazis won elections. People forget that the greatest evils ( genocide, atomic bombings, etc ) were all perpetrated by democracies.

There is a reason why democracy is called tyranny of the mob.

2) Just because you say they are "transparent, progressive and highly respected around the world" is meaningless. There is nothing inherently good about being "progressive". Once again that is a naive understanding of progessiveness. There was a time when nazis, communists, etc were viewed as progressives. But most importantly, just because they are "competent" today doesn't mean they are eternally competent. You do realize governments, judiciaries, etc can change right?

3) That's because they are filthy rich due centuries of european colonization.

4) Are they?

> But besides those things, you're right. It's just like the situation in Saudi Arabia, China and Russia. /s

It is just like that. Do you know how I know? Saudi, chinese, russians, etc all "self-congratulatory" excuses for why they need censorship. Just like you did.

To you, denmark may be heaven on earth, but to me denmark is nothing but a nazi collabotor who got off easy after ww2. Also, if denmark is so saintly why are the inuits in greenland ( the land you stole from them ) doing so horribly?


>Do you know how I know? Saudi, chinese, russians, etc all "self-congratulatory" excuses for why they need censorship. Just like you did.

First of all, I'm not Danish. I don't know why you assumed that.

Look, the OP simply said they have a system whereby proven falsehoods need to be corrected in the newspaper. That's all. They just have to correct mistakes that can be proven demonstrably false.

It seems perfectly reasonable, but don't take my word for it. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech_in_Denmark -

> In 2004, 2005, and 2009 Denmark received a joint first place in the Worldwide Press Freedom Index from Reporters Without Borders.[5] Since 2011, Denmark has consistently been in the top-10 out of 179 countries in the index and it was fourth in 2016.

People in Denmark have literally risked their lives exercising freedom of the press. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jyllands-Posten_Muhammad_carto...

For some bizarre reason you equated that record with the Saudis, Chinese, Russians and (most hilariously) with the Nazis. Your hyperbole is lazy and ill-informed.

And no, Denmark isn't perfect. No country is. I never claimed otherwise. So don't bother the straw men. The topic was freedom of speech and freedom of the press. A topic for which modern Denmark has an outstanding record.


>> Do you realize that there was a time when it was "truth" that the earth was flat?

This is a bad argument that ignores the concept in the GP post, that of intent, and instead addresses an unchallenged point that humans don’t know everything yet.


> You do realize that saudi arabia, china, russia, etc all have laws in place to hold newspaper editors responsible for printing "truth" right?

Yes, and Denmark too. Also, the United States has laws about lying in print as well, see for example libel laws.


But we don't. The Russian government does not need such laws to cause trouble.

Boris Nemtsov got shot in broad daylight in the centre of Moscow.


> And? Did the world end?

No, but people died needlessly.


> You do realize that saudi arabia, china, russia, etc all have laws in place to hold newspaper editors responsible for printing "truth" right?

We don't have any laws on the books in Russia that forbid newspapers from telling lies I am willing to bet neither does China or Saudi, because that's not needed for authoritarian censorship.

Boris Nemtsov got shot in broad daylight in the centre of Moscow. They don't need laws


You don't discredit anti-vaxxers with speech. Same with flat-earthers. Same with fascists. You know what works? De-platforming them. Not giving them a voice in the public discourse. Not taking anti-vaxxers seriously and placing them at the same level as doctors because ''both sides'' and ''free speech''.

What has been proven again and again is that bad information drives out good, because it's so, so much easier to write bad information. So you need to keep a tight lid on people who spread actual bad information. If not you might end up as the US, with a reality-tv star as president.


>You don't discredit anti-vaxxers with speech. Same with flat-earthers. Same with fascists. You know what works? De-platforming them.

I would like a source on that. Dont take it personal, but I dont see how this is anything but tanky signaling to feel better about yourself. Here in Germany people were rather active in making sure the new far right party AFD wasnt given a platform. By now they are very close to being the strongest party in multiple states. All that deplatforming did there was giving them a quicker rise. You cant deplatform a large sections of society, you are only creating a stronger echo chamber for them by trying. And i have to remind you, the echo chamber only exists because we didnt want to talk to these people. Deplatforming attacks the people not the ideas behind them. Nothing good can (or ever did) come of that. On the contrary, it only strengthens the community under attack and gives them an enemy to connect over. The only reason its attractive again as a tactic is because its easier. Convincing people through a discussion is hard work. I am very much afraid of the day when people are no longer capable to have a discussion because they have forgotten how due to living in echo chambers their hole life. I dont have high hopes that large parts of the left still know how to convince people with arguments, which in turn doesnt give me high hopes for the future. So yes, pls dont fuck us all over I am really not interested in another Reichstagsbrand because people liked how they viewed them self when working on deplatforming.


In summary, if you don't explain to people what the flaws are in their ideas and arguments are they may not ever discover them.

Deplatforming makes it look like their is no logical or moral counter. It is not an explanation of why the ideas are bad. Platforming and debunking is reasonably likely to expose bad ideas as weak.


Too many words to convince that guy. It is funny how one can tick people in thinking high of themself. For instance, they usually don't have a clue about vaccination, AI or climate but they know that there is a trend and as long as you keep the currently popular opinion, you will be on the right side. Up to them, the rest are dumb fucks and should be deplatformed. Obviously, most of them never worked in science and have no critical thinking which develops while reviewing hundreds of papers where people (mostly) lie in order to get things published.

Somewhat tangential, but there is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_tolerance.

In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.


Why do people constantly evoke this these days? People quote it like its scripture. Is there supposed to be some self-evident truth in there? Because I don't see anything that counters the ideas of person you are replying to.

Hear Hear!

I can source it.

I worked on modding a political forum from its laissez fairs days to its current operating philosophy.

Bad speech regularly frowns out signal, and in times of crisis, will overwhelm the channel with emotion.

It’s easier to make vague funny one liners which reach the top of the page, drowning out that 8 page report on the telecom industry.

Bashing a political candidate? Channel crusher.

Once the channel is overtaken, crazier philosophies start opening up - nationalism, religious cleansing, minority targeting.

Start moderating to keep the demons away?

The banned users start forming their own sites and attacking you. Bread crumb arguments are spread to lead new users down a dark road and create more enemies.

Eventually what works is banning all known bad actors and mention of those sites.


The people are still the same and they are still around, all you did was keeping your livingroom analog clean and your existing userbase from being replaced by racists. We dont have that luxury with society at large. These people dont just vanish once they are no longer on your site.

Nope - those people now don’t have a larger platform to indoctrinate people with cult arguments and mind hacks.

We’ve also isolated them, so it’s obvious to anyone objective who goes to their corner of the world what their priorities are.

Because once they are isolated, they create their own boards - and on those boards the metastatis of arguments is obvious.

Clear calls for ethnic cleansing, “the minorities did it.” Etc. were rife.

And here’s the kicker - even the mods on that sub forum started banning users.

So when the actual nazis have to ban nazis, is it counted as a win for the model?


Thats a theory which I dont see much evidence for. Let me give you another theory about its effect. I would propose, that at least since the rise of the internet deplatforming leads to people getting pushed into far right echo chambers. I think its not just ineffective, its highly counterproductive. This unreflected feelgood nonsense is fueling the growth of the far right.

Since you brought it up, lets look at the topic of ethnic cleansing and how deplatforming would treat different people and what the result is. Say someone was never interested in politics or isnt that old and has some naivete left traveled to an area with extreme ethical or religious conflicts witnessing it first hand. An intimate view of decades old conflicts where parts of the civilian population are at each others throats and in some places even the threat of massacres is still very real if it werent for massive police or military presences. Take your pick from northern Ireland to some places in the Balkans to the variety of African conflicts with an unimaginable level of hate in some areas. Picture school children needing a police cordon on their way to school to escort them through screaming protesters because they have the wrong ethnicity or religious affiliation. Once people are personally affected or witness something they find atrocious they get motivated to think about it. How could the situation be improved? Talking with the people in the region he hears a specific mantra very often. As long as we still live door to door this conflict will continue. So the persons asks himself what could be possible solutions? The current situation is clearly intolerable to anyone with a sense of empathy. The person reads up on the conflict and its a decades or even century old issue. Quite alot was already tried, you can read books upon books of articles how the situation might be improved and about the numerous campaigns that were already completed. And still here we are today. So what were other regions that had the potential for ethnic conflicts but which are now resolved peacefully? A short look into the history books and you learn this was often achieved by deportations. You might not even have to look far, the formerly German provinces in Poland or Czechoslovakia dont have a any conflicts today, on the contrary. So apparently moving one of the groups is the solution. Sure this was often accompanied throughout history with atrocities, but back then horrible regimes and dictatorships were in power, now we have a properly functioning governments, those atrocities are a day of the past. Just horrible stories from the darkest days of humanity. We never had such a peaceful period in Europe and everyone knows we reached the end of history. So why not relocate one group and ensure permanent peace? So he asks, why dont we just deport every xyz in zyx?

My worry is, how many people on the left are still capable to explain to him why deportations and ethical cleansing are not just not a reasonable thing to do? Why his conclusion is wrong? Instead of just screaming Nazi and publicly shaming him? Could you? With deplatforming he is told that what he is talking about is called ethnic cleansings and he is a horrible Nazi for even mentioning such a thing. So he gets banned and has to look elsewhere for a solution to the problem he witnessed. He finds one of the isolated fringe boards. They are the only place to talk about it. While granted there are alot of Nazis, who cares, you find morons everywhere and they get banned on the platform as well, so he is obviously not in a Nazi board himself. He talks a while and finds some people who agree with him, who tell him that the mixing of inherently different groups is the core issue. He saw it himself after all. You just have to look as far as the Identitarian movement who put a lot of effort into discussion guidelines on how to convince people. Believe me if i tell you, they do know how to debate with someone, you cant cling to the cliche of the drunk skinhead.

That is of course a rather unbelievable story, who witnesses one of those conflicts after all? They are often shitty holiday destinations. But how many have had negative personal encounters with people who fit the role of a migrant or Muslim? The story is the same everywhere with every topic, we dont live in a perfect world and the far right is readily available with easy convenient answer for perceived or real problems. Are you still able to convince someone in a discussion about refugees and womens rights? And with convince I dont mean explaining someone why it is wrong to say something. What deplatforming is is peer pressure. You dont convince anyone with that. You just convince them that you have no answers yourself and to keep their mouth shut till an opportune time arrives. Before the internet that meant never being able to talk with anyone about that in your village or town because the neighbors might find out, with the exception of maybe a more extreme pub round. Your only real option was to look for a straight up Nazi Kameradschaft in the wider vicinity. That was a big step to take. Today they can easily look for more "reasonable" people or even join a major party. Deplatforming at its core leads to people getting targeted for what they say. The people get combated, the ideology behind it stays untouched. If we want any hope for the future that doesnt include a civil war or living in a fascist dictatorship we should look hard at switching that. Combating the ideology and convincing the people. Granted those debates are difficult and furthermore, a horrible past time. Most people dont want to talk about such atrocious things and dont want those discussion to happen in their living room. Just not having these discussions and excluding people who want to talk about it is much easier. Especially if you can feel good about yourself by going the easy way. The person vanishes from your view and becomes someone elses problem. Until they are all our problem.

You have a hypothesis, that deplatforming stops the spread of far right ideology. Thats a hypothesis we can easily test, we dont have to rely on your gut feeling how your policies affected the rest of the world around you. I think we can agree that we are just witnessing for the past few years an extreme rise of the far right across the globe. We are faced with openly far right parties which have made unbelievable rises in parliament and are in quite a few places on the way to becoming the strongest party and with that, will someday likely be the government. They already are the government in some places. Openly authoritarian politicians get elected and unthinkable thinks are happening like separating children of migrants from their parents and putting them in prison camps. And children dying due to lack of care in those facilities. I am sorry if i have to burst your bubble, but the current situation is a fucking emergency, the house is on fire and what we are currently doing is clearly not working. That leaves us with the question why deplatforming, exclusion and public shaming currently doesnt work? There are basically a few options as i see it (shamelessly stolen from a infamous German blog for people who are bored at work).

1) The strategy is valid and would work if it wasnt for those traitors in our midst who dont go along.

2) The strategy is valid and would work we just have to convince more people to join in.

3) The strategy is fundamentally broken and does not work.

4) The strategy is working, we just have to wait to see results.

If you see more options, please do share. I mean it. The situation is to damn severe for 4) we cant go on pretending like everything is fine and the situation being no different from combating the emergence of a Nazi youth club in small towns in the 80s or moderating a voluntary association in form of a board. If you have hopes for 1 or 2 i have to disappoint you. As an anti authoritarian myself let me tell you I sure as hell wont rally behind censorship. There is no authoritarian solution to the problems we face. While my view of the state of the world is granted horrible, I am sure i am not the only one who thinks this way. While the divide in the left between authoritarians and anti-authoritarians was not really a topic for the generation after the fall of the Soviet Union it is very real.


So you are mistaking my facts for a hypothesis, it is not. I’m a moderator on an active forum and have been for a while. This is what happens in reality.

Your hypothesis On the other hand is worth following if you have substantiating facts that back it up.


You are describing facts related to maintaining a walled-garden specialist community. And there are no particular consequences for anyone who is excluded from it. This is very different from real-world polities where excluding someone doesn't mean that they go away and get silenced.

Basically; your experience is interesting but it isn't clear it applies here. Moderating a forum is not the same as maintaining real social cohesion when people genuinely disagree with each other.


This is the approach that all sub forums will apply.

When you have a single specific mechanism that can be applied to “real world polities”, then perhaps this discussion could work.

Otherwise you are talking about a federation of forums and the state of the art when it comes to effective moderation models.

I also recommend volunteering as a mod in one of these forums.

It’s a great place to see what’s going on at the point where the rubber meets the road- grounding your future ideas in tested experience.


Lets not sugarcoat it, its an echo chamber where you and your peer group are in power to say what goes and what doesnt. You arent testing anything but getting slowly used to a position of power. Which seems have given you the wrong idea about just being able to tell people how we should do things. I am sorry to burst your bubble but moderating a discussion forum is not that big of life lesson as you make it out to be. I have been there. Our state is not a federation of forums, please take a step back and take a good look at society at large instead of your tidy echo chamber.

edit: Since we came to recommendations, I would suggest you actually talk to some Nazis to see what they are all about. Not some troll on a board but people who show up to a rally of a far right party. Ask their voterbase why they are there.


While roenxi explained it already, let me add to that. A forum is a voluntary association where you can easily exclude people. Its the equivalent of your living room. Keeping your livingroom or your peer group free of Nazis isnt difficult, you just tell them to leave. Children in kindergarden manage to do that, "you are stupid go away". A state is not a voluntary association. We are all stuck with each other and somehow need to get along. There is no real "ban" option. If you are talking about anything remotely comparable in real life you are talking about a military struggle. I dont think we really need to have the discussion why this is a bad idea?

>It’s easier to make vague funny one liners which reach the top of the page, drowning out that 8 page report on the telecom industry.

>Bashing a political candidate? Channel crusher.

I see this all the time on Reddit in subs like /r/politics and /r/news, sarcastic quips get thousands of upvotes and dominate the discussion with no room for any dissenting opinions. Makes it real hard to find out who's being genuine in their approach and who's towing the party line for upvotes. Reddit isn't great for discussion though.

I suppose my question is, what stops your forum from becoming an echo chamber? Are "vague funny one liners" and "Bashing a political candidate" considered bad speech even if they're not leading to crazier philosophies? Would the hundreds of one liners about Trump in /r/politics be considered bad speech? Where can I find genuine discourse?


No where.

Recognize that political speech is too valuable for political actors to leave to its own ends.

They will create tools and ways to influence it, and the internet allows for maximal influence and personalization.

I suggest an entirely more radical approach in future.

Make a prediction on a topic of your interest. Ask others to do so as well. Put it up in a public location. Set a time limit.

After the time limit see who’s prediction came true.

Talk through action and proof. Any idle political conversation represents a poisoned pool or a soon to be poisoned pool.

Right now maximize for threat awareness and not for open conversations, because the bad actors have the bigger guns.


> The banned users start forming their own sites and attacking you. Bread crumb arguments are spread to lead new users down a dark road and create more enemies.

> Eventually what works is banning all known bad actors and mention of those sites.

How do you reconcile these two? Because it seems like the first defeats the second.


> You know what works? De-platforming them. Not giving them a voice in the public discourse

Many people (me included) find this approach very unpalatable because of how inherently authoritarian it is. (Ironically, this suggestion often comes from the same people who are concerned by how underrepresented some groups are in the public discourse and how the voices of those groups are not heard, and want to artificially amplify those voices). If you have studied history of any repressive regime where dissenters were deprived of any conventional platform and were reduced to circulating their ideas in the underground, you might empathise.

It's absolutely fine not to take certain groups seriously. But it feels (to me) deeply unfair to undermine their very ability to speak.


Wait, de platforming is very different than censorship.

Examples: Should climate change deniers be given the same space as actual science?

Should communists (to not only focus on far right) be invited to every serious talk about economy?


> Should ... be given the same space

> Should ... be invited to every serious talk

Of course not; but "inviting to every X", or "giving the same space" is very different from disallowing X to share the same space (especially if said client change deniers or communists are prepared to have a conversation using roughly the same epistemological tools as actual scientists). There is no onus on platform providers to ensure that every opinion gets the same attention as others; my argument is that they merely let others be.


That's been proven? Where? Because at least anecdotally, I recall reading so many stories of people who were talked out of a cult by having better information presented to them.

I think if you're pushing back on the GP to ask for evidence, it is intellectually dishonest to go ahead and make your own un-founded statements. Can _you_ link to some of these stories to reinforce your point?

Yeah, fine.

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leah_Remini#Scientology

- https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/i-used-to-be-opposed...

- https://www.self.com/story/from-anti-to-pro-vaccine

As far as challenges of the put your money where your mouth is kind, this one was pretty easy. So easy in fact, that you should take a moment to reflect on why you were so quick to get on a moral high-horse of burden of proof.


It was a reasonable request. You appear to be upset about being asked for supporting links, despite having made the same request yourself. I genuinely don't understand that. I'm concerned that we're drifting too far away from the orignal topic though, so there may be limited scope to explore this aspect of things here.

>It was a reasonable request.

Was it though?

Let's break down what happened.

A: Claim X. B: Can you support X? Claim not X. C: Can you support not X. You should provide support for not X before asking for support of X.

Is it really reasonable to call out B for not providing support and not call out A for the same? B was the first to ask for sources, but A made the claim without sources. It also seems like if B only made the claim not X and didn't ask for sources, they would have been less likely to be called out themself.

So is asking people who ask for sources to provide sources really reasonable when we don't make the same request of people who are making claims without any sources? It seems to give a first move advantage and thus wouldn't be reasonable.


Sorry, I've only just seen this. Your breakdown doesn't reflect what happened here. You would be correct if all B had said was "Support X".

What we saw above was:

A: Claim X

B: Support X, I've observed Y.

C: Support Y too, please.

In this particular case, Y was arguably the inverse of X but it was nevertheless described as having been observed many times, but without any sources.


You just provided anecdotes, so stop attacking the other person and consider that he is right.

You would have to prove effectiveness. i.e. out of 100 anti-vaxers, 90% stopped believing in bullshit. If it works on 1 person out of a million, that's pretty useless.

But it is well known fact that piling on more information does not change entrenched belief, it has been subject of peer-reviewed research for decades. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/02/27/why-facts-dont...


I was the first to point out that all I have are anecdotes. I did so under the perspective that I am sceptical of their claim.

I do not have to prove anything. As I have already said, the burden of proof lies with the person making the claim, i.e., not me.

Even as a child in primary school, I learned in science class that theories are rarely proven, because it is so easy to disprove a supposedly proven theory by providing counter-evidence.

This is all somewhat tautological anyway. If you don't believe that people ever change their mind when presented with better information, then why are you even bothering to comment? Isn't it futile?


> why are you even bothering to comment? Isn't it futile?

Haha, quite possibly. I mean, even with the best will in the world, can you file commenting on HN under 'useful activity'?


> You don't discredit anti-vaxxers with speech. Same with flat-earthers. Same with fascists. You know what works? De-platforming them.

This isn't necessarily true. I was listening to a podcast about conspiracy theories and how misinformation spreads (the name of which is failing me right now), and in one episode there were some scientists who were dealing with a particular subsegment of the conspiracy theory crowd who would make wild claims about their scientific field. Trying to blackball them or shut down their voice was often all that was required to add fuel to their fire because "obviously these scientists were trying to suppress them because they didn't want the truth getting out".

What ended up being much more effective was inviting some of the conspiracy theorists to speak at one of their scientific conferences. It ended up completely taking the air out of their claims, because none of them were willing to get up and try and defend their ludicrous theories against a bunch of trained experts.

Short of creating an iron grip on all interaction with information a la China, deplatforming people is temporary, as creating and finding a new platform is easy and simply leads to a more concentrated echo chamber for their ideology to fester in. Voat, Gab, Hatreon, 4chan, 8chan, etc. There will always be another platform that opens up in response to other platforms shutting them down. And soon instead of having the original fake news or hateful ideology in the public, you now have a distilled, more extreme version of it leaking into the public.

I don't know what the perfect solution is, but simply deplatforming people isn't going to be it. It will likely be something more like drowning out conspiratorial ideas with high volumes of truthful ones, rather than simply trying to cutoff the oxygen of the conspiracy theorists.


>You know what works? De-platforming them.

Evidence seems to suggest that the current attempted solutions are not working.


[flagged]


We've banned this account for using HN primarily for ideological battle. Doing that destroys the intellectual curiosity the site exists for, so we ban accounts that do that, regardless of what they're battling for or against.

If you don't want to be banned, you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com and give us reason to believe that you'll follow the rules in the future.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


printing truth?

So they print blank pages?


A bit too dramatic. Most places have libel laws, denmark is no exception. Twitter is not a newspaper but a platform. Most news are commentary on tweets anyway. After banning political paid ads (the burden of truth of which falls on twitter, since they are the ones doing the publishing), twitter is even less a publisher and more a platform.

Denmark? You mean one of the least feminist countries in the developed world? Not to mention the openly racist narrative about immigrants in public media. Compared to other Scandinavian countries the Danish media is extremely toxic so not sure about portraiting it as a role model in "well informed and critical thinking".

Not sure what "least feministic" means but it's also the 2nd best place in the world to be a woman [1].

[1] https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/best-women



"just one in six Danes consider themselves a feminist"

"The Best Countries for Women is a perception-based ranking based on the responses of nearly 9,000 women who filled out surveys for the 2019 Best Countries rankings. The ranking is derived from a compilation of five equally weighted country attributes: care about human rights, gender equality, income equality, progress and safety."

Combined they make the statement that you can label yourself as non-feminist and still care about human rights, gender equality, income equality, progress and safety.


Here you have a perfect example of how truth is socially constructed. Keep discussing and hopefully some consensual truth will emerge... Maybe... And not for long...

Labelling yourself a non-feminist and truly caring about gender equality is a paradox unless you have an incorrect view of what feminism is.

Or maybe you have incorrect view of what equality is.

You seem to be confusing lack of polically correct lies with anti-feminism and racism.

That's the thing. Danish media hates political correctness, for good and evil. It doesn't hesitate to publish numbers that indirectly fuel undemocratic narratives, even if they are true. I personally think we should be PC in those cases and think about what effects it will have on society.

"It doesn't hesitate to publish numbers that indirectly fuel undemocratic narratives, even if they are true. I personally think we should be PC in those cases and think about what effects it will have on society."

I'd love to see an example


Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: