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Ad Boycott of Facebook Keeps Growing (nytimes.com)
291 points by megacorp 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 294 comments





Am I the only person who has a problem with this headline, "Ad Boycott of Facebook Keeps Growing" am I overreacting here or others feel the same?

For me at the face of it's not incorrect, but it feels to me a certain deliberate wordsmithing is used to create a sense of growing momentum.

What we don't know if these advertisers represent 1%, more or less than x% of Facebook's ad revenue. I do understand FB will not provide that info, but some real journalism and follow up from said companies could have gathered us the amount this boycott means. After all this suppose to be NYT.

They do touch on this number, "smaller businesses that make up the bulk of its eight million advertisers have been considering their options"

However, again they are carefully crafting their words in a way that it's not inaccurate but showing a larger problem.

Instead of saying "one agency that manages 20 clients", or "we have heard from some advertisers" using "one agency", or "some advertisers" they are saying "advertisers" which to some readers will read as a lot of advertisers or a universal movement among advertisers.


What’s more, the NY Times has a strong business interest in convincing advertisers not to advertise on Facebook. I’m a bit skeptical of anything they publish these days about Facebook, Google, and other companies that could potentially threaten their access to clicks, just given their financial incentives to weaken these companies as much as possible.

My thoughts exactly, they have a clear conflict of interest when covering this story. Although, to be honest, all of mainstream journalism seems way more biased and blatantly slanted than I recall from 20-30 years ago. Perhaps I am just better at noticing it now?

You are not just better at noticing it. It really is more slanted.

Journalism 20-30 years ago was mostly funded on a subscription model. In this model they work hard to maintain their reputation, so that people will trust them as an accurate source of news.

Journalism today is mostly funded per click. Which means that the most important thing is a headline that grabs people's attention and causes them to click. The incentive is for the most outrageous and attention grabbing headline possible. With no incentive for being accurate - by the time you realize that the article is junk they've been paid and are looking for another sucker.

If you're interested in a book length exposition of how this change in dynamics has changed the news landscape, I recommend https://www.amazon.com/Trust-Me-Lying-Confessions-Manipulato.... The trends that it discusses have played out for another decade since it was written, but played out along the direction that it described.


The NYT operates on an online subscription model, no?

They do, and they therefore have an incentive to do better than other news organizations. But the general media landscape has become more biased and less reliable. Furthermore the fact that the public expects news to be delivered more quickly means that they have less room than they used to to hold a story for fact checking.

The result is that the NYT today is better than CNN is today, but they do not meet the same standard that they did 25 years ago. In fact they might not be better today than CNN was 25 years ago.


But I think the problem is that a lot of news publications have slowly become more and more biased, and they have cultivated specific audiences. Maybe because of the biases of their journalists, maybe because they are trying to cater to the outspoken, who might only be a small minority, maybe for some other reason. Thus the subscription model starts to fall apart when the people who want to support it shrinks, so you still might be engaged in clickbait and ragebait to try and grab people and bring them in to subscribe, or keep the people that like the type of clickbait and ragebait they publish. Unfortunately, you are likely getting more and more of one specific group.

I think this is a losing proposition because as you target a smaller and smaller part of the population, if you step out of line by publishing something that is against their world view, they will unsubscribe and take their money elsewhere. Look at what happened with the Tom Cotton oped in the NYT. The editor that approved that quit because of the outrage, and I wonder how many subscriptions they lost. If you think that oped was horrible, then why not post a rebuttal? Why is the mere act of publishing the opinion of a senator such a crime? I think this shows that the subscription model is not protecting against the degradation of the NYT in quality. If you had a wider user base, and appeal to a wide range of people, you could lose some subscriptions when putting out some controversial article, but it wouldn't cripple you.


Last quarter advertising made up about 27% of their total revenue (digital advertising was 13% of total), according numbers in this recent article - https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/06/business/media/new-york-t...

How much of a percentage of revenue is that subscription model vs ads, and how does that hold up to the historical split?

i heard somewhere it was 60% subscription 40% ad, though I'm not sure.

yes, but saying otherwise would hurt the narrative that only tech can critique tech.

Good to see more people calling out the sensationalism and manipulation tactics that publishers deploy...not just the Times either.

I've gotten to a point where if my spidey sense is tingling, I won't even click on link or read the content, the time to reward that behavior has passed.


And not only is that strong business interest, its also mixed with strong political agenda that's pushed on Facebook despite recent pointers* that FB internally moderates in favour of Democrats already.

* https://twitter.com/Project_Veritas/status/12756067933271736...


That's kind of a skepticism conundrum. If media can't be trusted about media...

I mean, I agree with you. They're vested. Even if it wasn't financial, journalists must have an insider's set of opinions about good & evil in the media industry.


Yeah, it is a bit of a conundrum, but I don't think I'd say they can't be trusted entirely. I mean, I doubt they're printing outright lies - unlike some media outlets. I think the bias would creep in more in the fact that they run this story at all (while potentially interesting, it's hardly world-changing news), and also in descriptive words used here and there. As long as one is aware of their inherent motivations I think it's possible to get worthwhile info from their stories on their competitors. Of course, who knows what stories about media they're choosing not to cover.

>the NY Times has a strong business interest in convincing advertisers not to advertise on Facebook.

How so?


For one thing, Facebook competes with the NYT for advertising dollars. If Facebook and Instagram are less appealing places to run adds for a company then maybe that company will spend more of its advertising budget on NYT ads instead.

More broadly though, they have an incentive to weaken companies like Facebook and Google, which are effectively gatekeepers for a lot of traffic to NYT articles. Clicking on an article shared on Facebook, or clicking through to an article in a Google search result are very common ways for people to land on the NYT website. Not only is this traffic valuable to the NYT for ad revenue it's also very valuable for selling subscriptions - people are more likely to subscribe if they have been seeing and reading free articles. I think it's safe to assume the people running the NYT are aware of this dependency on search and social media platforms and are eager to do anything they can to minimize it. I have no idea how much bias, if any, actually creeps into reporting - hopefully it's none! But the business incentives are enough to make me approach any article from almost any media company about Google or FB with a dose of healthy skepticism.


Do you prefer "Ad Boycott of Facebook Kind of Growing"? Or "Ad Boycott of Facebook Growing Slowly"? Or "Ad Boycott of Facebook: The Details"

It is growing, the details are accurate in the article, and I can't think of a headline that has zero editorial information in it. If they don't run any story, then they risk the opposite criticism: why didn't you tell us?!

You should worry more about the media that philosophically rejects the notion of objective reality.


I worry more about media that tries to create a reality that fits their ideology. A bunch of companies whose brand identity is tied closely with politics jump ship and NYT tries to paint that into a movement. Pardon me when I’m skeptical, especially when these companies are comparably tiny and when Facebook’s only crime is daring to defend free speech on its own platform.

Give it a year or so and companies like Patagonia will quietly come back to FB.


"why didn't you tell us?!"

Do you actually think anyone would notice if the Times did not publish this article? Couldn't the same thing then be said about any MSM publisher relating to all topics/content?

"You should worry more about the media that philosophically rejects the notion of objective reality. "

And...there is no such thing as objectivity in media, never was or will be. The act of deciding what stories to publish or not is a subjective decision in and of itself.


Yes, humans are biased. Sigh/Yawn. Still, there is a world of difference between trying to be objective and not trying to be objective at all. I think, generally, the Times is trying a lot more than most organizations and I respect that. Just because humans are biased doesn't mean all journalism is equally biased.

And yes, story selection is editorializing. Sigh/Yawn. I think choosing to run this story is a legitimate editorial decision as I believe enough people care about it -- in fact, I care about it.

I think there's only a case of bad journalism here if you catch the Time in a misrepresentation. The existence of the story is not, in itself, a misrepresentation.


Cool. I care about to also, though were this story published elsewhere never would I think 'gee why didn't the Times cover this?' Or the Journal, or the Chronicle, etc. - guess I am privileged enough to have bigger concerns.

> Do you actually think anyone would notice if the Times did not publish this article? Couldn't the same thing then be said about any MSM publisher relating to all topics/content?

I would. Because this "news" will eventually get out, and I would wonder why it was not covered by the MSM. I've seen a lot of anecdotal stories about things not being covered in the MSM, so yes, people will wonder why there was no news coverage about a boycott, instigated by prominent civil rights groups like the Anti Defamation League, the NAACP, and supported by well known companies like Patagonia, REI et al against a well known company and platform like Facebook.


What we don't know if these advertisers represent 1%, more or less than x% of Facebook's ad revenue.

Does it matter?

If two advertisers quit on Monday, and four more quit on Tuesday, and six more quit on Wednesday, that is growing momentum.

Is there a codified percentage of revenue where a newspaper is suddenly allowed (by Facebook?) to write about things? Can you provide a link?

HN-types like to jump on the mass media for not noticing trends soon enough. Then they jump on the mass media for noticing trends too soon. Make up your hive mind.


> If two advertisers quit on Monday, and four more quit on Tuesday, and six more quit on Wednesday, that is growing momentum.

Unless of course 10 joined on Thursday. Which the article carefully avoids investigating.


The article isn’t analyzing net advertisers, it doesn’t matter if 10 new ones join that’s not relevant to the statement that the number leaving is increasing.

“carefully avoids investigating” give me a break


I think the 2016 election broke the NY Times. They shifted from a mostly neutral, reputable news source to quasi-propaganda fairly quickly.

If you remember the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, you'll realize their "neutrality" has been suspect for quite some time.

NYT still has some real quality writing, but you should understand the motivation.


I think we've realized there is no such thing as a mostly neutral, reputable news source. What you choose to report on, what you choose to ignore, and what language you use to frame that information are editorial choices and they cannot be totally free from bias.

What exactly is the propaganda part? Can you provide a specific example, so folks have something concrete to agree or disagree with?

And, do you mean with their news reporting, as opposed to their editorials?


Most people, including people on HN, don't grok that there's a difference between news and editorials. Especially with everything getting mashed together in endless digital news scrolling apps.

2020: If it's something they agree with, it's news. If there's something they disagree with, it's propaganda.

It's not entirely new, though. When I worked in television news years ago, the average person didn't know the difference between the news and the entertainment programs. I was introduced to this one day standing in the supermarket checkout line and two women were talking about something they saw "on the news." They were talking about the Maury Povich Show.


Here is one example of a broad topic where NYT's bias is very clear - immigration. Articles on this topic over the past year: https://www.google.com/search?q=immigrants+site:nytimes.com&...

What I have observed is that NYT's coverage slants heavily towards supporting immigration, both legal and illegal. For illegal immigration, they run stories which tend to evoke maximum sympathy (DACA, impact on women / young kids / old people etc). Even for a story involving all sorts of people, they will use photos or anecdotes which will evoke stronger sympathies (example: [1]).

Also take a look at the kind of opinion columns they run - you will easily find someone supporting illegal immigration or asylum every few months. But you will rarely see them printing opinions from the other side of this debate, i.e. people opposing illegal immigration.

And this is an obvious slant on a topic where Americans are evenly divided, if not leaning more against illegal immigration [2].

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/29/us/asylum-migrants-mexica...

[2] https://news.gallup.com/poll/1660/immigration.aspx


That appears to be confirmation bias - the NYT also put out sympathetic articles on anti-immigration people of the "a day in the life of a friendly neighborhood racist" type.

> supporting immigration, both legal and illegal.

I'm not sure how to assess or interpret what you're saying. What does it mean to "support immigration"?

I'm pretty sure you're not literally suggesting that absolutely zero people be allowed to move to the U.S.

It'd be helpful if you could explain what "supporting immigration" means to you in this context.

Otherwise it's all too easy for people to make their own (usually negative, often untrue) assumptions.

For the record, I'll say that I don't think folks illegally crossing the border should be treated the way they've been - especially with regards to the inhumane and immoral, and probably illegal camps that both adults and children were (are?) put in.

Obviously that's only one part of a much broader conversation, and, I want to give you the opportunity to explain what you mean, and not jump to conclusions.

Lastly, my own belief is "the view from nowhere" is impossible. We're all biased, consciously or otherwise, and I believe it's valuable to aspire to a self-awareness of that bias as I think "removing it" is a logical impossibility.

What I think is important for news organizations which aspire to trustworthiness to do, is, provide transparency, accountability, fact-checking, and overall thoughtfulness. Obviously some of these things are not easily quantifiable.

But, the humanities have centuries of experience in assessing and analyzing texts written by people. Philosophy is an example of one humanistic field which has its own procedures for analyzing more "qualitative" works, for example.

I'm a big fan of valuing expertise. Just as you'd want an experienced software developer making decisions about application development, I think it's valuable to turn to experts in written discourse - humanists of all stripes, the oft-maligned liberal arts - for direction in how to analyze texts.

Basically what I'm saying is if we're going to do this, let's do this for real ;). Otherwise, it's not reasoned, informed discussion/debate/analysis - it's just a reactive sharing of beliefs.


While the NYT has always had its share of bias claims, since Trump's election it appears that even the facade of balanced reporting is taking a back seat to their editorial agenda.

You have editorialized headlines[1] that incorporate common liberal phrases to invoke outrage. Other "How to Raise an Anti-Racist Kid"

Any story that mentions Trump will have a negative headline, even mundane stories about disaster declarations and normal government business.

The line between editorial and news content has grown increasingly blurry: scrolling through their app you'll need a second look to determine whether a storing is news or opinion - they're mixed together, often without delineation. For example in the app today you'll find an opinion piece calling for slavery reparations sandwiched between an analysis on Trump's reelection campaign and a story about a problem police officer.

As a long-time subscriber (and no fan of Trump), it's both frustrating and worrying to see the "paper of record" of my country begin to parrot leftist talking points in their daily reporting.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/13/health/trump-health-care-...


> "How to Raise an Anti-Racist Kid"

So, actually, I think it's interesting to examine the above headline empirically.

1. I think we all here agree that "anti-racist" is a good thing to be. Even if we're annoyed w/how the term itself may be used sometimes for effect.

2. The United States has an extremely well-researched and well-documented history of deep, systemic racism, which persists to this day. Redlining in Chicago is one example of less-obvious or less-known ways in which racism has been baked into the system.

3. Item 2) is also reflected in U.S. media and culture. It's getting better but mass media/culture industry portrayals of people of color (especially black men) are extremely problematic. I'd like to emphasize none of this is entirely unique to the U.S., but, the U.S. is the focus of our discussion right now.

4. I'm pretty sure research in social science and psychology proves (even taking into account all of the replication issues found w/studies in these fields, and in medicine, over the last several years) that we all are strongly and unconsciously affected by our environment, especially in our formative years.

4. Therefore all of us who grew up in the U.S. - including people of color - unless we were incredibly lucky w/regards to our family and community in our youth - have internalized racist outlooks and beliefs to one degree or another.

I think this is an extremely important point. Anyway ...

5. Therefore it makes perfect sense that, once we acknowledge the empirical truths of points 1-4, that people would be interested in raising anti-racist kids.

Sure, it's of-the-moment and eye-catching. On a deeper level, it's super-relevant to our current moment, and something important for people of conscience to think about.

Whether the article is any good or not, I have no idea and it's not relevant to this discussion ;)

So I don't think that particular phrase is a good example of an unhealthy bias for a news organization to have.

BTW I too have issues and concerns around politicized language at times. More so an irk or knee-jerk reaction that it serves more to virtue-signal than do good.

That said, I've been trying to examine my thoughts and feelings around politicized language (in this case what you're calling "leftist language") more analytically.

In part I think the immediacy of my reaction is itself an interesting signal. I wonder if that's true for you too, but of course I have no idea - just projecting here.


It's not even leftist. The NYT confuses reality with semi-classical liberalism. Trump is allowed to push their buttons (and, their readers') in the news articles. But they haven't grappled with the illiberalism of the average American, nor is there editorializing really for anything. It's purely reactionary.

There was a John Stuart interview recently where I was pleasently surprised he got this. NYT now calls lies lies, but they get so titillated from this departure from both-siderism they forgot they

a) Most people are used to being lied and gaslighted by authority constantly and no longer have that emotional reaction

b) the emotional reaction to lieing caused them to stop their analysis from going deeper, so we miss out on a complete picture of the reality vs the message

c) the emoting is the exact biases tone the both-siderism was supposed to prevent. The calling a lie a lie bit was something we all wanted because it wasn't actually in conflict with objective reporting.

Basically, they sound like they are miming the intercept's voice without the coherent ideology that makes reading the Intercept worth it.


Ben & Jerry's spent less than $5k on Facebook and Instagram ads last month. They'll get more publicity value from joining the boycott vs. paying to run ads for a month or two.

Keep in mind, the author of the article is usually not the same person that writes the headline. An editor was looking for a punchy title for the piece.

It’s a spark, of the sort that didn’t exist a while ago.

Could turn into a real fire.

I hope it’s not an overstated headline, and I’m willing to wait, and help if I can, make it a firestorm.


Related: check out @nyt_diff on twitter.

I don't know the best way to put this, but for me the anectodal evidence i've seen, consisting mainly of tech articles and Elon Musk tweets, seems to point in this direction. Albeit facebook's data might probably show that their ad use is growing despite these setbacks.

In my opinion this all stems what I think is a lack of "emotional intelligence" on the part of facebook's CEO. They clearly don't have the ability to judge correctly how people will feel about many of their decisions, nor do they seem to have any remorse from damages they cause ( i.e. how facebook was used during the genocide in Burma)

They have a superb ability to predict changes at scale on the technical side and I think their role in the company should be restricted to this.


So, what you're saying doesn't really matter does it?

If you add another boycott participant, it's growing.

The headline is completely factual, and you're too busy missing the point because you're bringing assumptions to the table.


I find it so funny that Facebook hides behind "freedom of speech" when in fact what they do is the exact opposite.

When everything you saw was cronological, you could make that argument. I write a message on my wall and everyone who follows me can see it if they scroll down far enough. Most importantly, the only criteria used was the time it was submitted which I think everyone can agree is fair.

By prioritizing certain posts based on what the algorithm thinks will make you stay on the site longer, they are prioritizing, thus interfering with free speech. When I post something, my message will have a lower chance of reaching some of my followers. How can facebook justify tipping the scales for one type of message over another and call it free?


I find it so funny how people think "freedom of speech" protects them from private enterprises. The first amendment protects your right to freedom of speech from the GOVERNMENT, and only the government. "Congress shall make no law..."

Their algorithm is not interfering with your free speech because you have no right to free speech on THEIR platform. Facebook can manipulate you, shame you, ban you, etc. from their platform and you have (practically) no recourse. They don't owe you anything, you chose to use their service and abide by their rules. No one is forcing you to use them or any platform (whether or not you feel social pressure to do so is another matter). I choose not to engage with most social media and am much happier for it.

All that said, I DO think some social media platforms have overstepped their Section 230 protections and are dipping their toes into publisher territory. They want their cake and to eat it too.


The First Amendment, as you correctly point out, protects freedom of speech in certain cases that are not really relevant here.

However, people might support a higher standard for freedom of speech, and might wish businesses also concur in protecting it.

This is not in the law, but very often people have moral standards that are stricter than the law.

Therefore, I don’t see any contradiction here.

Myself, I full acknowledge that Facebook is not bound to grant freedom of speech to its users by the First Amendment, but I still wish it did so.


This. Human rights are universal rights regardless of who attempts to exert control. Government is in particular interesting because of its monopoly in violence, but other powerful actors and groups need to be responsible and accountable as well.

The (legitimate) argument is that freedom of speech extends to facebook getting to decide what, and in what order, information is displayed on facebook.com.

To dictate a chronological order, or to demand that they publish every single thing that is submitted to them, is a restriction of their freedom of editorial expression on their own website.


I don't think the parent is contesting that. It is true that Facebook has a right to moderate the contents posted to their site, but also true that by prioritizing some content they undermine the "neutral platform" objective that they use to justify not moderating the content (beyond extreme situations).

Facebook has the right to moderate, edit, prioritize, deprioritize, delay, republish, voiceover, or whatever-the-hell-else content posted to their site.

My statement about Facebook's right to editorialize is not limited in scope to moderation. Facebook has the right, for example, to hide all posts by a certain ethnic minority group if they so choose, or to publish only racist posts and nothing else, if that were their policy. It's their website.

I think there should be additional regulation restricting this, but only for DMs and perhaps small, private groups, where the platform is serving as a communications tool. Censoring those types of communications is actively harmful to society.

Facebook deciding what is or isn't in your news feed is Facebook's freedom of speech.

Ultimately, I support Facebook "erring" on the side of leaving content up. I would even support free expression restricting regulation regarding their legal ability to censor DMs; that is to say that, when functioning as a person-to-person communications medium, they should not be permitted to arbitrarily suspend accounts or censor messages. When your Facebook account is otherwise suspended, you should still be able to log in and send and receive messages from your contacts. Imagine if the telephone company stopped your ability to send or receive SMS if you said things on the phone that they didn't like!

That said, for the part of Facebook that is closest to "web hosting", it's their show, and their rules. It's entirely up to them if they wish to editorialize in the feed, although I agree it's harmful to society and that the state should educate and train people to avoid Facebook, the same as they do with alcohol or gambling.


I think you've completely missed my point. None of this is about what Facebook has the right to do.

I will try to reiterate as clearly as I can.

1) Facebook is criticized for the content it hosts

2) Facebook claims that it is simply a platform, and that it does not want to moderate, editorialize, or otherwise modify the content as such, erring on allowing content

3) Facebook actively modifies content in terms of how it is displayed, which makes (2) seem like a really stupid argument

Again, none of this is about what they are obligated to do, it's just about the hypocrisy of trying to say you're a content agnostic platform while actively grooming your content. It's made worse by the issue of that grooming prioritizing engagement, which almost always means that the most controversial content is what you see.


Yes, but Facebook clearly wants you to believe that it is the user's freedom of speech being restricted, not their own freedom being restricted. At the same time, they want to be a "platform" and claim they are not legally responsible for what is being said, they just promote it.

Unless there's some other context that I'm missing, the current boycott appears to be caused by Facebook's unwillingness to delete a (non-sponsored) Facebook post by a world leader.

If they were to do this, they would 100% be restricting the free speech of the leader in question, as well as that of the audience to read that speech. Facebook empowers its users to block / mute speech that individual doesn't want to read. It does not, however, empower you to prevent me from reading something that I, personally, have no issues reading.

This seems consistent with the principles of free speech, non-chronological feed notwithstanding.


Yes, I think this is an important distinction to remind people of.

On youtube for example, what's "inside the frame" is speech of the uploader. All the stuff around it, especially recommendations, is Google's. Google have the right to not reccommend fascists if they don't want to.


The (also legitimate) argument is that freedom of speech should extend to privately-owned de facto commons, and is a concept beyond the enumeration in the American Bill of Rights.

I agree there is a problem with private corporations that control publishing platforms with such a large reach. Twitter and Facebook are really the only ones at the moment with that power (in the "anglosphere" at least).

However, for laws to be created that force them to publish posts that fall under "free speech" their algorithms must be fully open and auditable. Otherwise they still hold the power to sensor, or their algorithms could be covertly gamed by those in the know.

Otherwise your speech might not be the same, or as free as mine, but who would know?


As clear a way to put it as I've heard.

But all companies seek to become monopolies for purposes of profit, while avoiding being seen as monopolies for purposes of responsibility.


That may be the real intent of facebook when they defend freedom of speech, but it is not what they are claiming it to be. They claim to be defending their users' rights.

Facebook has a right to free speech. They can moderate and curate content on their site.

Their commitment to your free speech is "free as in beer" -- as in, you're giving them content and they don't pay you a dime for it.


Agreed, and companies are free to boycott

This got flagged? Yes, freedom of association is still relevant in 2020.

Of course they have a right to free speech

What they do not have a right to is the claim that they should be treated as neutral carriers (like TelCos) when they in fact constantly exercise editorial control for the placement each item.

(If they merely posted a chronological list, they would have a valid claim for free speech and no exercised control)


lol, this thread almost entirely gray. I'd love to hear from the downvoters about what is so intolerable about this very mild, respectful, and on-topic conversation...

I don't think Safe Harbor is the same as net neutrality with ISPs.

So Twitter is a private company and can do whatever it wants but when it comes to FB making decisions about free speech we need to force them into submission?

If you don't like it, move to another platform, isn't that what you guys always say? :)


the person you responded too didn't mention anything about twitter and you seem to be chasing straw men.

I was pointing out the hypocrisy and the double standard.

Twitter has been in the news cycle for censoring/manipulating tweets of Trump. On HN I see a lot of people defending this decision by noting they are a private company and you can switch social media services if you want.

It seems you cannot switch services, the mob will always find you and push their "ethics" and "facts" onto you.


Listed corporations are not "private companies."

They gave up privacy when they sold stock/bonds on public markets.


Twitter is a publicly listed corporation as well (since 2013) so that argument makes no sense:

https://thenextweb.com/twitter/2013/11/07/twitter-just-becam...

Either way, that's a strange moral line to take on all of this, whether a company is public or not.


Yes, they are.

There's nothing strange about it at all. If you want to sell securities on public markets you have to abide by certain rules. It's completely reasonable, and I know that corporations and their apologists like to throw around "private" as a buzzword and pretend like they should have free reign, but they do not.

There is no such thing as a "private" publicly traded company.


American free speech is a legal concept from the late 1700s, before germ theory, trains, antibiotics, flight, or even the Civil War to end slavery. Free speech is a concept from the time where a majority of US power was in the hands of slaveholders...when "speech" meant what your mouth or printing press could produce.

Can we really expect this antiquated legal concept to neatly interact with technology from 2020? Did the founders think it a good idea to allow incendiary and dangerous communication to millions instantaneously? We can't know, they didn't have that debate.

Edit: Someone want to comment and explain why this is downvoted to -2?


Your argument is ad hominem, a logical fallacy where one attacks the character or motive of the person making an argument rather than the substance of the argument itself.

Furthermore, free speech is a natural human right, to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being, not an Americentrist historical accident.


Serious questions: Are the people that work at Facebook proud to work there? What is morale like inside that place? When someone asks you what you do, and you say "I work for Facebook," what is their typical reaction?

Not trying to be snarky. I'm genuinely curious how these perceptions/feelings might have changed over the past few years.


I too am curious about the internal motivations of people who work for Facebook. Something I've noticed about myself is that I would be okay with working for a US defense contractor, ie a company which makes machines that literally kill people, yet I could not picture myself working at Facebook. I struggle to square this morally, because I also believe that defense contractors have a greater net negative impact on society than Facebook does, but there is something "icky" to me about Facebook.

I used to commute with a group of folks from Facebook, Oracle, and Amazon, and none of them seemed to have any moral qualms about their employers. My buddy from Oracle invited me to apply to work on his team, and in explaining why I couldn't consider working at Oracle, I mentioned some recent terrible thing Oracle had done in the open source community. His response was that Amazon contributed even less open source (which I believe is true). So I think in the end, the internal justification is "Yeah, maybe I'm contributing to something immoral, but it's less immoral than X & Y".


> I would be okay with working for a US defense contractor, ie a company which makes machines that literally kill people

The thought of working for a company like this makes me feel physically ill. Soldiers can at least feel like they are working to defend a country they believe in. Weapons companies will sell killing machines to anyone with money. Few things in the world make me feel the visceral disgust that these companies engender.

By contrast Facebook is icky ... In the sense that there's one naive greedy idiot pulling the strings and he refuses to accept the damage he's causing. Weapons companies and the people who work for them know that their killing tools are sold indiscriminately and will end up in the hands of tyrants and terrorists across the world.


> The thought of working for a company like this makes me feel physically ill. Soldiers can at least feel like they are working to defend a country they believe in. Weapons companies will sell killing machines to anyone with money. Few things in the world make me feel the visceral disgust that these companies engender.

Not really. Even if I had the money, I don't think I would be allowed to buy a fully-armed F-16.

Even (foreign) governments typically have to get their purchases approved for export, and that approval is not automatic (e.g. https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/denmark-suspends-saudi-we...).

IMHO, there can be little moral distinction between being a soldier and a weapons maker. If it's OK to be a soldier to defend a country you believe in, then it's OK to make weapons to allow those soldiers to destroy enemy forces as effectively as possible. If the former is OK, but the latter is somehow not, then you're basically condemning your soldiers to defeat and possibly unnecessary death.


What damage is Zuck causing again?

Damage to society by denying the role - via inaction, if nothing else - the company he leads plays in coordinated campaigns of deceit and disinformation aimed not just to undermine public discourse but also the functioning of democractic government itself (via targeted political advertising and misinformation).

Which isn't to say that moderation at Facebook's scale is an easy problem - it's not. And balancing freedom of speech with some degree of accountability and acknowledging empirically verifiable truths is difficult.

But, buy the ticket, take the ride. He's a billionaire. FB makes oodles and oodles of money. They just don't want to do it because it would cost them money.

Eventually laws will catch up, in one way or another, and the same way other media outlets are (imperfectly) regulated, new-media outlets such as FB, Google, etc, will be as well, IMHO.


>> I would be okay with working for a US defense contractor, ie a company which makes machines that literally kill people, yet I could not picture myself working at Facebook.

Maybe I can help clarify because I share that view. Making weapons for defense contractors keeps you at some distance. Presumably we need to be at war (or today's equivalent) and engaged with an external enemy to use those weapons - at some level the use is justified by serious issues or threats. What facebook does is not justified by anything other than pure profit motive. Would you work for a company making weapons that indiscriminately kill people in your own country just for profit? Probably not.


Clear definition of mission is important. For external and internal consumption.

The US military has a pretty clear mission, however you feel about it.

Facebook: "Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” [0]

I'm not sure what actionable guidance I'd be able to draw from the above.

[0] https://techcrunch.com/2017/06/22/bring-the-world-closer-tog...


>none of them seemed to have any moral qualms about their employers.

Should they be expected to?

In my opinion, there's little morality, let alone shared morality, left in society. I'm not personally going to place expectations on people's morality with regards to their employment when almost everything has become a moral quandary at this point.


There is shared morality, just not universally shared morality. The people marching right now share some morality. As do the folks complaining about mandatory mask rules. We may or may not agree with them, but there is shared moral logic.

I am. Morale is good, took a minor hiccup recently but has pretty much recovered by now. When I tell everyday folk that I work for Facebook, the reaction is usually, "wow, cool!" and if they're tech minded, they might ask a few questions about the tech stack we use.

Most people at Facebook believe that FB is good for the world, Zuck is a good leader, and that we are working to address dubious ethical decisions made in the past. Sure, FB itself may be a bubble, but HN is even more of a bubble :)


I wouldn't trash someone's employer in a mixed social setting. That would be rude, including on social media, regardless of what common behavior is these days.

I might have interesting questions for a sibling or close friend though, assuming we had that kind of relationship.


Most people aren't hyper-partisan ideologues that boycott companies based on their political censorship policies, that's why.

Also, by boycotting FB as a developer you're reducing your earning potential considering FB is the top of the compensation pile.


For better or worse, this pretty much confirms what I expected.

"The Kool-aid here sure tastes great!"


Funny you should ask - I just saw this:

> You don’t realize the heavy conscious and mental burden that comes with being a Facebook employee until you quit

https://twitter.com/sebmck/status/1275363680767537154


Probably could replace "Facebook" with just about any company in that sentence. Having to uphold "company values", live by some boss's petty rules, take HR initiatives seriously, etc, is pretty much universally frustrating.

>>> You don’t realize the heavy conscious and mental burden that comes with being a Facebook employee until you quit

>> https://twitter.com/sebmck/status/1275363680767537154

> Probably could replace "Facebook" with just about any company in that sentence. Having to uphold "company values", live by some boss's petty rules, take HR initiatives seriously, etc, is pretty much universally frustrating.

Eh, I don't think so. This is the second tweet in that thread:

> Imagine not being complicit in social disorder and political interference. It’s pretty nice. Imagine not being ashamed to tell people where you work. Even better.

I work for an (old, non-SV) company with a pretty decent workplace culture, while I don't like some things about it, the company's products and values are OK and eye-rolly "HR initiatives" can be pretty much ignored if you choose. I don't feel any "mental burden" or shame for working here.


I can attest to the difference. I've worked in consulting and directly for companies, both more and less evil.

There is a palpable difference from company culture to culture.

If you work at a place where (a) you disagree with your company's ethical and moral standards and/or (b) you feel purported standards rarely influence actual decisions, then there are absolutely companies not like that.

Sure, you still have to deal with HR stuff, anti-union posturing, and sharp business practices. But fundamentally, it feels different.

I'd say most companies can be binary classified into "value their values" or "ignore their values".


Nah, most companies just want their employees to do their jobs. It's only these Silicon Valley cults that expect everyone to drink the koolaid about "values" and center your personal identity around your job.

If you don't believe this, go get a job at a lumber yard or a warehouse or something.

Related reading:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/558867.Disciplined_Minds

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34466958-bullshit-jobs


>It's only these Silicon Valley cults that expect everyone to drink the koolaid about "values" and center your personal identity around your job.

I can't understand why you're being down ranked for what is objectively the truth.

I've a long career inside and outside tech and this is consistent with my experience. Tech companies are uniquely toxic in the sheer volume of koolaid you're expected to digest to merely maintain your job there.

A tech company not filled to the brim with HR crap would be a breath of fresh air at this point.

Maybe many here simply haven't worked outside of tech?


You don't think there's a severe mental burden associated with having to clock in and out, reprimands for being 6 minutes late, only being allowed to visit a doctor if it's on the health plan's list, few opportunities for advancement, work quotas, can't leave early to pick up a sick kid from school, etc etc?

Not to mention most warehouse workers don't make nearly enough to have the luxury of quitting.


Not all companies equally, though, and I think that's the point here.

There was a comment here from someone working in a company (strongly hinted that it was Google or Facebook) where they described that basically most people are aware that lots of what they do is terrible for the web and humanity in the long term, but they have a culture of pretending they are creating something good for the world and patting each other on the backs. And since their pockets are being lined with good money, medical, etc, it's hard to leave.

I have answered part of your question before: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19036507

Happy to answer more.


Thanks for your perspective here.

Can you explain why you think FB's products are good for the world? Do you think Donald Trump would be President without FB?

Edit: Apparently someone downvoted this comment within 60 seconds...this seems contrary to HN's ethos. I asked a general question with a specific example; is someone triggered by the words "Donald Trump"? This is pushing a legitimate question about FB's effect on the world down into the gray...is that a good thing?


I am an immigrant in the US. My family uses FB products (FB App, WhatsApp, Portal) to stay in touch across the world. It really improves our lives.

It doesn't mean I believe everything that's done on our products is good for the world, but I do believe the good outweighs the bad by a wide margin. A big part of my job is to make sure that this margin increases.


It's great that you get to keep in touch with your family! Is there not any other product, owned by a more ethical organization, which could do the job? Also, more generall, is it even possible today to have such a product developed, if FB will just use its lobbyists and power to ensure it can buy that competitor and bend it to Zuckerberg's will?

How do we weight and balance the damage done by FB to our social discourse and elections, vs the benefits your family and many others have enjoyed?

HN commentary: Is anything I'm writing downvote worthy? Do you think my original comment (or this one) is incendiary or doesn't make the dialogue more nuanced and developed?


I really don't see how by a wide margin Facebook products can be a net positive to the world. They are a net NEGATIVE and probably by a huge margin (if you could quantify it, probably destroying more lives than a lot of defence contractors). Facebook:

- Disrupt democracy all over the world,creating divisive political lines between us.

- Destroys the mental health of millions of teenagers that spend hours on Instagram comparing their lives with the fake lives of other people. An epidemic of mental health is directly linked to Instagram/Facebook

- Make us lose Billions of hours scrolling through a feed of nonsense just to display some ads.

Facebook is a huge net negative to the world. The only justification that I can see working for them is selfish money. Call it what it is, don't come up with some nonsense Koolaid around the product being a positive to the world.


I'd rather people get their political news from other people on Facebook or WhatsApp groups than highly corrupt hyper-partisan news organizations that serve the interests of their billionaire founders exclusively.

Mainstream media has done more to disrupt democracy than Facebook. Whether it's:

- Lying about Iraq WMDs that eventually lead to tens of thousands of casualties (New York Times)

- Lying about Russian hacks of critical US infrastructure (Washington Post)

- Lying about the standards of immigration facilities (AP)

- Lying about innocent victims of assault during the riots (NPR)

- Threatening to ruin someones life through doxxing over political GIFs (CNN).


You have to understand that the average FB user's experience is

- log on

- see pics of niece/family

- message their buddy about that thing this weekend

- see funny cat video

- log off

To that person, FB provided a lot of value with none of the downsides you're talking about. I don't think I'm friends with a single person who even follows DT's page, so this whole ordeal means nothing to them.

Could people communicate via other websites? Sure, but it's easy enough to just use FB.


Is that the average FB user's experience? It seems to me there may be a bi-modal distribution, I'm sure many people you know use it like that...but many others are pulled into bad habits and negative thoughts due to prolonged exposure.

"The average US adult spends 38 minutes per day on Facebook. 16-24-year-olds spend a median of 3 hours a day on social media. Internet users spend an average of 2 hours and 22 minutes per day on social networking in 2019.May 19, 2020"

Source: https://review42.com/how-much-time-do-people-spend-on-social....


I know a couple. The answer is simple: Money. Facebook pays way above what other tech companies pay (a 6 year of experience senior engineer in Menlo Park can easily make 600k/year). There is also a sense of pride coming from back in the days when Facebook was still seen as a very exclusive and wonderful place to work at.

600k/yr seems a bit far fetched for six years of experience. levels.fyi is one source that I think would contradict the easiness of that goal.

Facebook pays in line with what other top big public tech companies pay. You could go to Google or Netflix and expect similar comp.


It is far fetched, but Google and Netflix cannot match FB. FB beats Google at every level, on average.

Not being facetious, but what to the devs do all day to earn that?

Their core functionality, Find a Friend, is pathetically limited and naive. Why can't I search for ( cohort of near my age who went to my school ) or ( everyone called Bob who is one or two hops from Alice and lives in Bigville )?

Or even search a friend list by some criteria instead of scrolling through 1200 names.

Frankly it sucks.


> Why can't I search for ( cohort of near my age who went to my school ) or ( everyone called Bob who is one or two hops from Alice and lives in Bigville )?

They had this feature a couple years ago. It was called Graph Search and did exactly what you're suggesting (and even more impressive than that). They shut it down fairly quickly because it was a huge privacy and security issue as well as an incredibly abusive feature at their scale.

Building products in a system as complex as FB is not as straightforward as adding features just because you can or have the talent to do so.


Most devs in bigTechs micro optimize very little things (ie, cogs in the machine). It makes sense only at a scale where those micro-optimization can pay for themselves.

I'm not sure how you stay sane working on those micro-issues though.


I don't want to excuse anything facebook does that's bad and do take some effort to be less tracked. I have FB blocked in one browser profile and I have all but FB blocked in another and many other things.

That said, my experience using Facebook is mostly positive. I see what my sister is up to, my mom, my aunt, several friends and acquaintances. Facebook messenger is by far my most used communications service.

I have taken step to keep it that way. I get no news of facebook. I've joined almost no groups. I unfollow anyone who gets too political, that has included a couple of close friends who I want to follow but they jsut can't stop posting politics several times week or even day so "unfollow".

I run FB Purity in the browser can block a bunch of stuff but I don't have that option in the FB app and for the most part I don't notice too much crap in my feed.

In other words, AFAIK it's mostly a positive in my life and the life of my friends. If I worked at Facebook I'd certainly be proud of how helped people stay in touch and organize group events.

I'm not excusing anything bad they do. Just suggesting I suspect many people have a mostly positive experience or they'd quit.


The folks I know there don’t have issues. The adtech folks would otherwise be at other adtech companies. The product managers would otherwise be at other large tech companies. Nobody is 100% clean, and I don’t see many folks in Silicon Valley struggling with their conscious.

In Singapore, most of them are actually proud. I've been to their office a bunch of times and in fact, people treat it as something super prestigious, especially considering the office space is really nice with a beautiful view of the Marina. Sometimes, their employees will sound extremely arrogant and even look down upon you if you don't work for another equivalent giant (like Google Singapore).

I guess different parts of the world have different moral standards. It is the way it is.


Singapore itself employs a surveillance apparatus against its citizens so I'd expect the cultural norms there may be affected by that.

Culturally, yes, prestige and a known company is probably more helpful in Asian countries.

Another perspective is that I take the money, help support my extended family and community and feel like a net positive contributer.

Concerns with how social media is affecting relationships and corporate bullying are less real to me personally than the people I meet day to day who I can support.

Again, not arguing about which perspective is right, but yeah there are other ways to look at one's situation.


In terms of not moderating public conversation, I would /absolutely/ be proud of Facebook's stance here.

Compare this to Twitter, where a similar large amount of political discussion takes place, but mentioning that the law will be enforced is considered a 'threat' whereas actual death threats and doxxing are not.


You can ask this question about most of the for profit businesses. Apple (Foxconn), Amazon(Warehouse issues), Microsoft(ICE), just a few examples. How many of those who are against Facebook are still using Apple products or buying from Amazon. You can't pick and choose your ethics.

> You can't pick and choose your ethics.

Yes you can? I think X is OK, I think Y is not OK. I can even be a hypocrite about it, because X and Y may be fundamentally related, or share a source.

The ethical issues with Facebook could easily be seen as independent from the ethical issues with those other companies.


I have quite a few friends who have worked and still do work for Facebook. I used to know someone who worked on their "security" team that truly had some frightening powers re: privacy, but with the excuse that it's ok because of stories of saving some kidnapped child's life, or helping track down someone with terrorist connections because they had Facebook messenger on their phone so they could pinpoint their exact location and report it (along with message history) to the police.

I know a guy who worked on a content moderation team and has been severely psychologically affected as a result. Like, he's not the same guy anymore. But he still works there and doesn't seem to consider taking any other job. I think it's because once you've seen all sorts of horrific images and have knowledge of heinous acts going on in the world after you're put in a position of policing them, you feel like the problem is bigger than yourself and your needs are secondary. It's sad, though.

I've never heard any of the people I know talk negatively about Facebook in any way, especially not a "wow, I can't believe I work for these people." There's always a focus on the good they're doing, and how the good outweighs the bad. After Trump got elected, there was all sorts of talk about how Facebook is bringing people together with feminist and anti-trump groups, ignoring the other facts. When Zuckerberg was testifying to Congress over privacy issues it was all about how he's being misrepresented and Congress doesn't understand the internet.

Only recently have I detected some small dissatisfaction from someone who has worked at FB for 7+ years, but instead of jumping ship entirely they switched to working for a different Facebook owned brand.

But I hear the pay is great, benefits are great, stock options are great, and the Facebook kool-aid is a mighty potent drink.


Here's some info about favorability ratings of Facebook and its changes:

https://www.axios.com/exclusive-poll-facebook-favorability-p...


I saw a more snarky comment on this topic which still makes me smirk: "Hopefully one day they will see the little skull icons on their hats and ask the question 'are we the baddies?'"


I could ask the same about working for the NYT.

https://slatestarcodex.com/


New York Times: Lied about Iraq WMDs and helped get tens of thousands of people killed.

Facebook: Won't censor your political enemies enough.


Why would they be unhappy or ashamed? Not everybody shares your views of politics.

Because ethics =/= politics and I think it's a pretty universal judgement that Facebook has done some ethically dubious things in the past, and not much has changed from the policies that led them there in the first place.

Okay but ethics isn't universal either. There is no objective moral framework.

"Not everybody shares your views" == "Not everybody shares your ethics".

Let me try and steel-man this for you: if you believe in classical liberal principles of free speech, then you might probably be "proud" to work at FB, as well as of Zuckerberg's stance.

Here's a better articulation of that: https://stratechery.com/2020/zuckerbergs-choice-zuckerbergs-...


Ethics and morals are not the same thing. Morals are not universal.

Ethical frameworks were created specifically to be an objective standard.


> Ethical frameworks were created specifically to be an objective standard.

Yes, and there are many ethical frameworks. You and I may subscribe to different ethical frameworks, and that's entirely a function of our morals.


Facebook and the like have directly driven a huge increase in worldwide division and polarization. And faced with that fact they've continued their course full-steam-ahead. I don't know of any moral framework where that isn't a negative for society. Some on the economic-right might argue it isn't Facebook's problem to worry about because something something The Market. But even they wouldn't say the full picture is a good one, and wouldn't deny the logic that working for the company, in practice, ends up contributing to that outcome.

I really encourage you to try and construct the strongest counter-argument to yourself so that you might at least be able to empathize with why someone might be sympathetic to Facebook's current stances without jumping to the conclusion that they are cartoonishly evil. Remember that everyone is "the good guy" in their own story.

The moral framework where Facebook "isn't a negative for society" is the one that says that a free society should be able to openly express itself, and insofar as there is a high degree of polarization/division, it's because society itself is divided, and the free expression simply exposes that. In other words, how do you know that Facebook caused the polarization? How can you definitely conclude that Facebook isn't simply a mirror on society, and that society was already divided to begin with?


> the conclusion that they are cartoonishly evil

> The moral framework where Facebook "isn't a negative for society" is the one that says that a free society should be able to openly express itself

I wasn't making any such grand claims. I intentionally scoped my argument to "Facebook has increased division in the world" and "increased division is bad", in an effort to keep it as non-subjective as possible.

> In other words, how do you know that Facebook caused the polarization?

I didn't have to look very far; Facebook did the study itself, internally, and executives directly chose to ignore it: https://www.theverge.com/2020/5/26/21270659/facebook-divisio...


> I didn't have to look very far; Facebook did the study itself, internally, and executives directly chose to ignore it: https://www.theverge.com/2020/5/26/21270659/facebook-divisio....

While this is indeed a compelling data point, I want to point out 2 things:

1. We have no way to verify the validity of the methodology, since the study is opaque to us.

2. We have no way to verify the veracity of the results, since the study is not peer reviewed.

And while you didn't have to look very far, perhaps if you look even a little farther, you'll find that there are conflicting studies (in published peer reviewed research):

"We combine nine previously proposed measures to construct an index of political polarization among US adults. We find that the growth in polarization in recent years is largest for the demographic groups least likely to use the internet and social media. For example, our overall index and eight of the nine individual measures show greater increases for those older than 75 than for those aged 18–39. These facts argue against the hypothesis that the internet is a primary driver of rising political polarization." [1]

"Contrary to conventional wisdom, my analysis provides evidence that social media usage reduces mass political polarization."[2]

"After conducting a detailed analysis of recommendations received by each channel type, we refute the popular radicalization claims. To the contrary, these data suggest that YouTube's recommendation algorithm actively discourages viewers from visiting radicalizing or extremist content."[3]

So this is by no means conclusive, and very much debatable. To repeat: the most charitable argument for "being proud" to work at FB is if you believe in classical liberal principles of free speech, and don't believe that social media itself creates polarization/division, it simply reveals it.

[1] https://www.nber.org/papers/w23258

[2] http://rubenson.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/barbera-tpbw....

[3] https://arxiv.org/abs/1912.11211


Facebook is in Silicon Valley and I'm willing to bet most of its ranks are very liberal.

Maybe I'm cynical, but I would think this has more to do with the cost of ads going up so much. If you were already thinking of reducing spend on FB, why not get a little PR out of it?

Also, since the cost of FB ads has been going up over the last several years, that means there is no shortage of demand for ads on FB.


Yeah, pretty much all the big DTC brands (Allbirds, Away, Warby, OV, etc.) all have retail store fronts and "showrooms" now across the US. I always just assumed if they were spending $1mm+/month on FB ads, it wasn't a very difficult decision to move $20k/month to a store in a big city and see what kind of lead gen and brand awareness that yields.

Personal anecdote - stores resulted in a much better conversion but not a huge uptick in acquisition.

Can you explain this a bit further, long tail which was better ROI

Possibly, but advertising is one of the first things companies cut in a down economy. I want to believe these companies have good intent, but it could also be construed as opportunistic: "we were already cutting our advertising budget, so this just gives us a way to capitalize."

To show they believe in what they're doing, they should donate what they would have spent on Facebook ads to causes which promote voter registration and improving minority representation in tech.


Nice. I like that companies are putting their money where their mouth is, and not just doing cheap virtue signalling, like posting a black square on Instagram.

I think, and hope, however, that Facebook will come out victorious; (1) freedom of speech is important, (2) it's not up to Facebook to be the arbitrer of what's allowed or not (it's up to the law), (3) advertisers need Facebook more than Facebook needs them, and (4) sooner or later companies will learn that SJW-ing is at worst negative (each company could easily come under attack itself) and at best irrelevant (did Pepsi suffer any long-term consequences for the backlash against it a year or 2 ago? Did Gillete gain a lot for publishing its anti-toxic masculinity ad? I doubt it.)


Having the law as the sole arbiter of what is allowed or not would be terrible for free speech.

The problem is that we have an overwhelming amount of information being produced, so that people have a hard time evaluating all they are exposed to. Furthermore, we have a lot of people who are just too trusting, or too naive, or too gullible, or perhaps just even stupid. Finally, on top of that we have many information producers who are trying to cause harm ranging from people just doing it for fun to countries trying to undermine each other's stability.

A society must find some way to prevent or at least limit those who are intentionally trying to harm people from taking advantage of the overly trusting, naive, gullible, and stupid.

The law is a monopoly. Using it to try to address that problem will tend toward overly broad restrictions on speech, with little or no recourse for those whose speech should not have been included.

It's far better for it to be handled by Facebook, Twitter, and the rest. If Facebook won't let me talk about some particular topic I do have alternatives. They might not reach as far so I might have to go to some serious effort to contact like minded people and get them to agree to discuss my topic on some other platform--but I can.


> Having the law as the sole arbiter of what is allowed or not would be terrible for free speech.

Given the first amendment specifically says that the law can't abridge freedom of speech, I'm not sure I understand why you believe this.


You're conflating a few issues. Facebook is being boycotted ostensibly for failing to combat hate speech, whereas your comment is mostly written as a argument to censor fake news. Classical mote-and-bailey fallacy.

Twitter deleting bots claiming that Obama was born in Africa? Fine. Twitter tagging Trump's warning that any squatters in Washington DC will be treated according to law as "promoting violence against specific groups" or "abusive"? That's quite transparent political bias.

Sure, you probably wrote your comment because you oppose Trump on political views and you support Twitter acting against promoting those views, but at least be transparent about it; don't claim that tech giants are just trying to protect the "naive, gullible, stupid" is gas-lighting.

Last but not least, do you have any evidence for this? IMO it's mostly just used for journalists to discredit people they disagree with (e.g. Trump or Brexit voters).

> we have a lot of people who are just too trusting, or too naive, or too gullible, or perhaps just even stupid.


> You're conflating a few issues. Facebook is being boycotted ostensibly for failing to combat hate speech, whereas your comment is mostly written as a argument to censor fake news. Classical mote-and-bailey fallacy.

I didn't realize that when you said the law should be the arbiter of what speech is allowed, not Facebook, that you were just talking about hate speech. I thought you were making an argument about free speech in general.

> Sure, you probably wrote your comment because you oppose Trump on political views and you support Twitter acting against promoting those views, but at least be transparent about it; don't claim that tech giants are just trying to protect the "naive, gullible, stupid" is gas-lighting.

Actually, none of the examples I had in mind had anything whatsoever to do with Trump as far as I know. I was thinking of flat Earth people, Scientologists, the people who feed kids bleach to ward of autism, and similar.


> Trump's warning that any squatters in Washington DC will be treated according to law

What is this law against peaceful protest that you cite?

And under what statute is the use of violence against those protesters sanctioned by the law?


Squatting + Vandalism != peaceful protest

If a group of people peacefully protest on my lawn, they are not Constitutionally protected to do so, no matter how "peaceful" their assembly. If I call the cops to forcefully remove them from my property, I would be acting within the bounds of the law.

If a group of people spray-paints my business, and I call on the police to reprimand them, that is again within the confines of the law.

The President tweeting about doing the same is a simple extension of this. You may disagree with the law in question (as is your right), but it's a bit silly to suggest that tweeting about enforcement of the law (no matter how unjust you think it is), should be considered beyond the pale on a global platform.


> Squatting + Vandalism != peaceful protest

Agreed that vandalism is not peaceful protest.

> If a group of people peacefully protest on my lawn, they are not Constitutionally protected to do

But occupying a public space (not a private lawn) in protest - what you refer to as squatting - is absolutely peaceful protest. Lafayette Square is not POTUS' private lawn.


> Lafayette Square is not POTUS' private lawn

But St Johns church is not a public space, and vandalizing it is not legal. Even in public commons, vandalizing/toppling public statues is currently not legal.

Trump's tweets/posts are strictly about reprimanding this behavior. Again, there is a growing orthodoxy that holds that this behavior should not be reprimanded, but tweeting about enforcing those existing laws is well within the realm of reasonable discourse, especially for a political leader.


> But St Johns church is not a public space

Lafayette Square is a public place, and that is where POTUS cleared peaceful protectors with force, so that he could walk across it for his photo op at the church. If it were an issue of protecting St John's Church property, they could have cleared just that property, and brought the president in with a helicopter. But the whole point was to demonstrate the show of force against the protesters.

You appear to be focusing on St John's Church's private property with the goal of distracting attention from the public place where the actual use of force against peaceful protesters took place: Lafayette Square.

One doesn't need to be a liberal to call out the shamefulness of that incident. In fact the hardly liberal James Mattis did exactly that, as did the other general who was caught in the photo op.


I think you have that backwards. The "photo op" incident occurred weeks ago, and James Mattis rightfully condemned it.

The current spate of boycotts appear to be in response to Facebook's refusal to remove a post by Trump directly referring to the "Black House Autonomous Zone". That's why the focus is on St. John's church and statues — it's what is currently happening right now. I will include the text of Trump's post:

"There will never be an “Autonomous Zone” in Washington, D.C., as long as I’m your President. If they try they will be met with serious force!"

This has nothing to do with the photo op incident, and the willingness to focus on it distracts attention from the private place where actual vandalism and squatting is currently taking place. It's a valid (if crass) expression of a willingness to enforce the law, no matter how much people may disagree with it.


Yes, it sounds like we were talking about different incidents.

I personally support Facebook's ability to make the decision to either allow or disallow president's posts - within the parameters of the law - regardless of whether I would agree with their decision.

The question is whether the parameters of law allow for a public official to issue credible threats of violence again citizens over mass media channels, and under what conditions.

The actual use of force by this president in his shameful photo op incident in front of the church has clearly demonstrated without a shadow of doubt that his threat of disproportional violence against protesters - even for trivial purposes - is credible.

The legality of all this is not a settled issue, and is something the courts may have to decide.


The courts have already decided. The Brandenburg v Ohio precedent establishes the "imminent lawless action" test.

Issuing threats of (legal) force against citizens that they perceive to be breaking the law fails the "imminent lawless action" test, and is currently within the parameters of the law.


From the Brandenburg v Ohio wiki page:

> The U.S. Supreme Court reversed Brandenburg's conviction, holding that government cannot constitutionally punish abstract advocacy of force or law violation

Brandenburg was an individual private citizen advocating "abstractly" for violence against black and Jews as a representative of his private organization (the KKK). His speech rights were protected then by the case.

However, we will almost certainly have court cases in the near future that will test the protections of hate speech, which is what we would more readily call Brandenburg's speech today.

POTUS is a public official and in this incident was speaking in his role as a public official with the power to use force, and issuing a concrete threat against a specific target. He is speaking as the government itself because he is invoking the government's powers.

It's not at all clear that Brandenburg v Ohio protects this sort of speech. There is plenty for the courts to still consider.


> POTUS is a public official and in this incident was speaking in his role as a public official with the power to use force, and a concrete threat against a concrete target.

Yes, but that use of force is not lawless. Police use of force against vandalism is currently legal. Calling for that is also legal, because it fails the "lawless" portion of the "imminent lawless action" test.

Similarly, if POTUS calls for war against a specific nation (or group), it is within his rights to do that, no matter how violent or deadly war may be. War isn't a lawless action (for better or for worse). As such, the Commander in Chief declaring the intent to call on the legislature to approve a war is also protected, for the same reason.


> Similarly, if POTUS calls for war against a specific nation (or group), it is within his rights to do that, no matter how violent or deadly war may be.

Calling for war against a foreign adversary, yes. But for violence against domestic protesters - not clear that Brandenburg v Ohio protects that, regardless of whether the violence is lawful, and to what degree it is lawful. The use of violence by public officials is not a blanket right, and courts will likely consider the types of situation where particular levels of violence are legal or not.

Also, there are specific legal prohibitions against using the military against domestic targets, which is one of the things Mattis was so incensed about in the photo op incident. The administration would like to claim they have the option of the Insurrection Act, which will again have to be tested in courts. Calling protests insurrection, even those that commit vandalism, is false on its face.


> The administration would like to claim they have the option of the Insurrection Act, which will again have to be tested in courts. Calling protests insurrection, even those that commit vandalism, is false on its face.

We're not talking about classifying anything as "insurrection" here.

Given the context of the tweet in question, we are strictly talking about vandalism and trespassing, and we're talking about classifying it as "obstruction of the law", which is explicitly carved out in the text of the Insurrection Act. I'm not sure if you can make a strong case that vandalism and trespassing are NOT an obstruction of the law. If a mid-20th century Arkansas school refusing to desegregate can be considered an obstruction of the law, so too can vandalism/trespassing.

The POTUS declaring the intent to call on the legislature to approve the Insurrection Act against those that are objectively obstructing the law is protected by the Constitution, and you'd have to really stretch yourself to suggest that this fails the imminent lawless action test.

And this is also all assuming that POTUS is talking about using the military. He could also be talking about just calling on the police force to just enforce the existing laws. The statement is vague enough that it's legal on its face, but even in the non-charitable interpretation pretty clearly fails the Brandenburg test.


> The actual use of force by this president in his shameful photo op incident in front of the church has clearly demonstrated without a shadow of doubt that his threat of disproportional violence against protesters - even for trivial purposes - is credible.

No matter how "credible", Brandenburg v Ohio's overruled Schenck v US and Whitney v California, the latter of which held that speech that merely advocated violence could be made illegal.

Hess v Indiana further clarified that speech that amounted to nothing more than advocacy of illegal action at some indefinite future time is protected by 1A.

And finally, just because violence is disproportional, doesn't automatically make it "illegal". The threat of the use of legal force against vandalism, while "disproportionate", is entirely a valid use of speech for a politician, advocating a legal use of the police force.

Your problem with this appears to be that police force is, today, legal. This is orthogonal to Trump's proclamations, and even more orthogonal to Facebook's platform.


> And finally, just because violence is disproportional, doesn't automatically make it "illegal".

Yes, actually, it does. Specifically, police force that is not “objectively reasonable” in the circumstances in which it is used constitutes an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment [0], and is therefore directly prohibited by that Amendment for the federal government and prohibited by the Fourteenth Amendment, which has been held to fully incorporate the search and seizure provisions of the Fourth, for the States. It is, also, when done under color of law a federal crime (in certain cases, a capital crime) under 18 USC § 242 and a federal tort under 42 USC § 1983, both prohibiting deprivation of Constitutionally protected rights under color of law.

> Your problem with this appears to be that police force is, today, legal.

I don't know about the grandparent, but my problem is that federal officials, including law enforcement officers, are committing violations of the federal Constitution which are also federal crimes against people who are merely calling for accountability for what are, among other things, a systematic pattern of similar federal, including capital, crimes and Constitutional violations that federal (and state and local, which have concurrent jurisdiction) law enforcement have been a mixture of actively complicit in and non- and mal-feasant in failing to prosecute.

[0] Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989)


Yes, but we are not talking about an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment, we are talking about the use of police force to prevent vandalization, which is the topic of the current tweet/post in question. That's hardly ambiguous.

> Yes, but we are not talking about an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment, we are talking about the use of police force to prevent vandalization,

If it is objective unreasonable (which disproportionate force is) in the circumstances, use of police force is an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment; that's the holding of the Supreme Court case I cited.


Yeah there's no precedent for the argument that "use of police force against vandalism is objectively unreasonable".

If the "war on drugs" can be considered a legal/reasonable use of force (even though I personally disagree with it), you can make the same conclusion re: the war on defacement of public/private property. My point is that policing vandalism is not unreasonable, by any measure, and this is hardly ambiguous at all.


> Yeah there's no precedent for the argument that "use of police force against vandalism is objectively unreasonable".

Yes, pretty much every lawsuit that has been won (as many have been) with police use of force in protests has involved (1) the argument by police that the use of force was justified by the need to prevent an imminent threat of injuries to persons and property by arson, vandalism, etc., and (2) the determination by the court involved that the use of force involved was objectively unreasonable in the concrete circumstances that actually existed because it was disproportionate to the thrat that existed.

I mean, since Graham v. Connor that's literally the standard that has to be met, and it has a number of times, so there is certainly precedent.

> My point is that policing vandalism is not unreasonable

“policing vandalism” may be reasonable, that doesn't make the particular use of force in any particular incident automatically reasonable just because vandalism is threatened or occurring. Disproportionate use of force is specifically what is generally the source of a finding that force is objectively unreasonable.


> (4) sooner or later companies will learn that SJW-ing is at worst negative and at best irrelevant

I think this is pretty plainly untrue.

If you mean at best irrelevant for the company, that’s certainly not true — friends of mine (and myself!) absolutely make purchasing decisions based on the moral reputation of the company.

If you mean for the world, this also seems patently false to me. You can’t tell me that constantly seeing ads featuring gay couples as happy families doesn’t have a measurable impact on normalizing and aiding acceptance.


If you mean at best irrelevant for the company, that’s certainly not true — friends of mine (and myself!) absolutely make purchasing decisions based on the moral reputation of the company.

Sure, but people like you may make up a small or negligible part of total revenue. And, like the Hollywood actress who was astounded that Nixon won because "nobody I know voted for him", you may overestimate how many people are like you. I've heard the phrase "go woke, go broke" thrown around.


It seems the pandemic and unemployment is finally causing voodoo economics (trickle down economics) to reverse course and perhaps cause trickle up economics, where the multi-billion dollar corporations and rich alike will begin to feel the pinch of poverty on a massive scale trickle up.

Unfortunately while taxpayers got their $1,200 Checks they were robbed blind of over $4T to the FED which went directly to stabilize the publicly traded companies. If it weren’t for that, we would have already seen bankruptcies on a massive scale from publicly traded companies...instead the markets are back where the were pre-covid. But at some point they will have to admit there can’t be a recovery when there are no consumers left.


I'm frankly flabbergasted by what's going on with the markets. If anyone thought stocks were still somehow a projection of reality and an indicator of expectations on the future of a company's performance, well, that's clearly not the case anymore. I am really scared that a real devastating collapse is still looming, but I frankly have no clue of when that could happen and what could actually trigger it.

It is baffling, and I've been expecting a crash for a decade... which is the problem. The market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent.

Right now it's kind of persistently slightly irrational. A quick-and-dirty measure of its sanity is the P/E ratio: how much money are the publicly listed companies actually making? Right now, the number is around 22[1], meaning a dollar invested in the market takes 22 years to pay itself back purely in terms of corporate profits.

That's a return of about 3%. Numbers over 20 are generally considered a sign that the market is overheated. They peaked at around 45 and 65 right before the 90s and 2000s crashes. So there is revenue there, and not entirely out of line with stock prices, but not entirely line with them either.

None of that takes coronavirus into account; that's current price with last quarter's earnings. But if you assume that coronavirus is only temporary (it may not be, but let's be optimistic for a second) it means that long term the numbers are calling for a crash... eventually. One of these days. Longer than you can remain solvent while shorting it.

Probably.

In other words, I've got no idea what's going on. The markets have been weirdly stable (in price-to-earnings terms) for the past decade, at a number that's too optimistic, before coronavirus. Surely the inevitable at-least-short-term loss of earnings should have corrected that, but it hasn't. So either people are thinking very long term, or they're just nuts.

[1] https://www.multpl.com/s-p-500-pe-ratio


I've started ignoring P/E because , among other reasons, it doesn't account for cash reserves. If you have two similar companies, but one is sitting on more cash, it should be worth more, but its P/E makes it look overpriced relative to the other.

People have been writing stuff about short-termism being the bane of the economy for a long time; maybe it's worth reconsidering the idea that prices reflect estimated total future profits and not the next quarter? Could short-termism be a myth?

> I am really scared that a real devastating collapse is still looming,

Eventually it will because businesses will never recover without consumers recovering. That said I don’t think it’s looming...again congress gave over $4T to the FED to stabilize the market. To put that runway in perspective consider how in 2008 we were on the brink of a total financial collapse, yet with only $1.6T used to stabilize the banks the financial collapse was turned into the longest bull market in history (over a decade) and record high markets. We are talking 2.5x that bailout this time around.


Fed has flooded the market with cash like never before. Buying up debt to the point that they're picking up junk bonds.

Once Q2 earnings hit next month you'll see a massive market correction.


I was listening to a great American poet recently, the lines "The buying power of the proletariat's gone down/ Money's getting shallow and weak" really stuck with me.

What can that much money in the markets really buy when there's no economy being served by it any more? Eventually the winners will find they've been playing the wrong game.


I wonder how much of the elephant in the room, which is "ad-tech kind of doesn't work so great", people are going to be willing to say out loud.

Based on some personal experience from perhaps 7 or 8 years ago, it can work for driving sales.

However it required quite a lot of effort.

It wasn't just throw some money into the ads and wait for the returns - you needed to basically spend a full-time job pulling levers and prodding buttons to find out where the "sweet spot" was and then make sure you keep up with the moving target over the following days weeks and months. If you were lucky and your business was selling the "right" things (i.e. large margin items) you could do quite well. E.g. it might cost you $15-20 in ads to make one sale - that is net-positive if the margin on your items is large. So some fashion, furniture, holidays etc a $20+ Cost-per-acquisition is a bargain as you just paid $20 to make a $150 profit. If you are competing for common ad space/keywords and you have a low-margin business then you're probably not going to do so well since you might be paying $20 to sell something that costs $9.99 or whatever.

Of course, there is then the question of would you have made that $150 profit without spending the $20? Or did you actually make more than one sale from those $20 worth of ads (e.g. in-store sales etc in addition to purchases made online). I am not involved in online advertising now, but at the time that was the trillion dollar question that everyone was trying to answer... no idea if it is solved now.


Given what they are trying to do to Scott Alexander, it's hard to take NYT's reporting angle seriously.

[flagged]


If you were going to comment on the general style of the blog, why wouldn't you take any time at all to gather data beyond literally "guessing"? What does this guess-based comment actually add?

1. You are guessing wrong. The blog wasn't about that and Damore said nothing about "determinism" just "average preference".

2. You seem to be under the impression that this site is visited by "San Francisco app developers" and you.


Scott writes long thinkpeices about things like SSRI effectiveness and the role of neutrality and enlightenment values in healing America's cultural divide. As far as we know the NYT was not even planning to knife him, the issue is that they want to threaten his patient-doctor relationships by publishing his full name in a place where his mental patients could read it. (He's a practicing psychiatrist with hundreds of patients.)

Your guess is wrong

Yes, it does indeed have some articles about that, but more focused on race and upbringing than gender.

> Can someone explain why this kind of material is so popular with San Francisco app developers?

It is not. But for those who identify themselves as "libertarians", it is definitely appealing to think that nothing but themselves have influenced in their success, of which being a highly paid engineer is part.


This is a poor article. It mixes up several different issues and lumps them together as if they were one thing. Strongly ideological companies aren't going to behave like the bulk of their customers.

I read this as yet another shot from the NYT against tech in general. It's propaganda.


After the SSC debacle, NYT is likely to learn itself a thing or two about boycotts.

If we punish respected organizations (of any kind) for every gaffe, we would not have any left.

In an era where the journalists are more under attack than ever, we might want to remember it is easier to tear things down than build them up.


What about gaffes like the 1619 Project, the shortcomings and errors of which the NYT steadfastly refused to correct in the face of criticisms from historians. At a certain point, when the gaffes all line up in one direction, one might reasonably suspect an underlying motive.

What were some of the issues with the 1619 Project?

The main thesis of the 1619 project was that the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery. This is categorically false according to actual historians, and so the NYT had to issue a correction (some 7 months later). None of the leading scholars of the whole period from the Revolution to the Civil War were consulted on the project, yet now it is being taught in some public schools

Thanks. I guess I could have spent a few minutes reading the wiki, which has a pretty good section on it.

>The 1619 Project has been criticized by some American historians, including historians of the American Revolution Gordon Wood[6] and Sean Wilentz,[43] and Civil War experts Richard Carwardine[5] and James McPherson.[7] McPherson stated in an interview that he was "disturbed" by the project's "unbalanced, one-sided account, which lacked context and perspective on the complexity of slavery, which was clearly, obviously, not an exclusively American institution, but existed throughout history." McPherson continued, "slavery in the United States was only a small part of a larger world process that unfolded over many centuries. And in the United States, too, there was not only slavery but also an antislavery movement."[7] Historian James Oakes criticized Hannah-Jones's assertion that "Anti-black racism runs in the very DNA of this country."[44]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_1619_Project#Criticism


> yet now it is being taught in some public schools

That's the real problem. Newspapers get things wrong all the time. There's a conversation, people put forth their views pro and anti, and everyone makes up their own mind. But making a newspaper story that has come under fire from a huge number of respectable scholars part of the school curriculum for children is nakedly ideological.


I think/hope everybody recognizes that mistakes happen. In this particular case I think it goes beyond a mere mistake. Some points to consider: The 1619 Project refers not merely to "a newspaper story". Originally it was 100 page magazine with ten essays, a variety of poems and stories, etc. It has since become an ongoing multimedia project. Secondly, as mentioned above, the NYTs has not been particularly responsive to criticism from actual historians.

> In this particular case I think it goes beyond a mere mistake.

I think that supports another point made above:

>At a certain point, when the gaffes all line up in one direction, one might reasonably suspect an underlying motive.

The NYT seems to be beyond "gaffes" at this point, and be entirely focused on promoting their ideology.



That's a great read. Thanks.

Curiously, the World Socialist Website has some of the best content about this:

- https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/11/28/wood-n28.html

- https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/11/18/oake-n18.html

Glenn Loury and John McWhorter have spoken about 1619 shortcomings at length:

- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hWQmzgiKXQ

- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xym3kFuBX3Y

As have many historians of the period:

- https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/174140


A “gaffe” is an unintentional mistake - oops, silly me. The New York Times outing people isn’t a gaffe, it is a hit job.

How is NYTimes different than any for-profit business? They write what they write to get eyeballs. Just because they say "news media" doesn't mean they write truth. Some journalists may be under attack because they write lies and half-truths. Of course, they will portray it as the whole press is under attack.

These are not journalists, mostly blogger and quite likely just twitter addicts.

Nobody has talked about punishing respected organisations, just the New York Times.

Since absolutely no one, in either numbers or social importance, knows about or cares about “the SSC debacle” and none of those who do are likely to be subscribers the NYT is unlikely to be concerned.

I don't know ... gawker pissed off the whole world and got away with it.

It needed just one tiny Peter Thiel to bring them down burning ...

If some billionaire gets pissed off at woke organizations and outlets they could inflict substantial damage.


I don't think this will be widely heard-about.

Do you have a take on which companies or maybe kinds of companies that are likely to boycott the NYT over that?

I wonder how much of it is Facebook being unwilling to be editorial and how much of it is then being unable to moderate a couple of billion users.

Either way, they might not get a choice. The EU is going to regulate them more and more. My own country is passing a law to force platforms to remove child pornography within 24 hours of it being reported as an example of where it starts. Won’t be long before we make enabling nazi groups planning hate crimes illegal either.


No one has a problem with anyone making nazi groups planning hate crimes illegal. My biggest concern is Facebook deciding who is a "nazi" and what constitutes a hate crime. My belief (backed by scientific fact) that biological sex is real and immutable is enough to have me branded as a "nazi". The statement "males are not females" is enough to be considered hate speech. Saying, "males are not females" could be a hate crime.

As usual, context is everything in communication.

"Males are not females" may be accurate when referring to biological sex, but in the context it is most commonly used (as harassment and as a neoconservative tribal signifier) it is referring to gender, and is roughly equivalent to saying "the gender you have now should match the gender you were assigned at birth, or your gender identity is illegitimate".

It's similar to saying "all lives matter". Of course they do, but the context in which its said indicates that it's an opposition to the explicit statement about black lives mattering, a de-focusing and dismissal. "All lives matter" or "males are not females" are not incorrect statements, but in the vast majority of the times they are used on the internet, they are used to express hatred of a group and the active dismissal of that group's efforts to achieve equal human rights. The context in which they are used makes them hateful. Hiding behind the "but it's scientific fact!" is simply a deflection from the fact that it is an expression of hate in the context in which it is used.

I shouldn't have to explain this, honestly. Please stop acting like a jerk to people online.


Since when does the truth need context? If I tweet "males are not females" on Twitter with no context, they will ban my account.

Also, if I want to say "the gender you have now should match the gender you were assigned at birth, or your gender identity is illegitimate", that's precisely what I'll say, but I tend to speak directly. Have you considered you might be projecting if you can read the literal words "males are not females" and conclude a person intends to say, "the gender you have now should match the gender you were assigned at birth, or your gender identity is illegitimate"? That seems like quite a leap.


I'd say the truth value of any possible statement is entirely derived from context. Any possible statement could appear on a sign from nowhere in an infinite empty universe purely out of quantum fluctuations, but it would have no meaning without the context of a universe like ours. Every statement has a context in which it expresses the truth, and many others in which it is false. And people get into conflicts about the meta-issue of whose context is right.

Mach's principle is kind of an analogy I'm thinking of.


One thing to consider is that this is largely a self-correcting problem for Facebook due to the auction model for ads.

As money leaves the pool, price per conversion will tend to go down automatically for everyone else.

If you think other advertisers will leave money on the table to make a point then you haven't worked in business very long.


I wrote about it here and I stand with it "Paid Ads are a Trap" https://medium.com/@franz.enzenhofer/ads-are-a-trap-80df01d2... (Medium free to read link)

The ad system of Google and Facebook is obviously not created to benefit the businesses which book ads, but Fb and G. The business should be at best held at minimum but viable profit, highest cost for ads. At worst "burn through all your money with us". I by now came to eh conclusion that "paids (ads) growth" is scheme with only Fb and G as the profiteers.


I hope government gets on-board.

I frequently see government of Ontario and Canada advertising on Facebook and its poorly targeted and it makes me mad


I have mixed feelings about Facebook. I was one of the first people in my friend group to boycott Facebook back when it really wasn't cool to do so: back in 2008 or so. I did so for reasons of privacy. As someone who works with data for a living, I know full well the risks people are taking by using Facebook and I also see how little the general public understand about this. So I boycotted them.

But nobody talks about privacy any more.

The current backlash against Facebook seems to be due to them not wanting to censor the platform in quite the way that users want them to censor the platform. It seems everyone is happy with the censorship---because like anyone who has ever been happy with censorship they don't believe the readership is intelligent enough to read certain words---but they are unhappy that the censorship isn't being conducted in a way that benefits them.

Back in 2008 I thought it was simple: just don't use Facebook. Maybe it was that simple back then. But not now. This internet thing really seems to be turning into the great problem of our time and I fully expect it to cause several major crises before we figure it out.


For better or worse money talks. Advertiser pullouts have been an effective change mechanism in many other cases. TV personalities doing controversial things were typically done in when the advertisers pulled their money. Until then nothing happened.

Facebook does a lot of cool things but it’s only sustainable as a business if the advertising dollars keep flowing. Shut that off in any appreciable quantity and things will get ugly there real quick.


While it might affect Facebook’s bottom line for a short while, until users start moving away from FB nothing really will change. Advertisers will come back.

>"While it might affect Facebook’s bottom line for a short while, until users start moving away from FB nothing really will change. Advertisers will come back."

Counterpoint: users already have moved away, and that's why advertisers are able to do this without hesitation now. FB is still growing in the third world, but I don't know a single person in the US under 30 that still uses it.


As a Uni student, I still see people use Facebook, but it's a select group of people. It's the same < 5% of the people I interact with regularly. Most people I know use Facebook just for events so you can invite someone to a fundraiser or party.

On the other side, I see Instagram doing fantastic among my friends, and it gets way less hate from them, despite being very openly owned by Facebook (it says it on the splash screen).


Yes, but they use another "social app" that happen to be owned by Facebook the corporation. Even though I don't like Facebook and its founder, I have to say he was clever enough to avoid the fate of MySpace, which just stopped to be fashionable and died. Even if Facebook.com will start going down there is still Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp that are still "cool".

Speculative: Before enough users start moving away maybe Facebook will figure out how to make it a legal requirement for us citizens to have a Facebook.

You laugh now ... you can buy me a drink in 10 years or so.


Legal requirement for citizens to have a FB account seems highly highly unlikely to me, but perhaps I’m not paying sufficient attention.

Why do you speculate that? Specifically, do you see signs of changes that could likely lead to that outcome?


My signals for suspecting this Or something like it being a near future outcome are a result of not connected observations.

1) the amount of sharing we already do. 20 years ago my family / social interactions would find it nearly impossible to even bother entertaining the current status of privacy. The idea you basically HAVE to have a cell phone and email to get any decent paying job, traffic cameras everywhere, and now corporations pushing their black box ML and hardware into municipalities / vetting with police support

2) volunteering approx EVERY biometric a person has to skip a line at airport screening (Clear, the company facilitating this)

3) political adversity to privacy and encryption

4) hacker news. Where I hope and aspire to participate in the best most curious and supportive manner. I held the conversations here in high regard and told outsiders of how productive and intelligent the conversations are (they are). Yet I frequently find many downvotes when I comment in opposition to Facebook, slightly less common re google etc.

5) in takeaway I have observed cultural changes, market, political and security practices changing... all in a direction of - whatever this possible, seems not good, and seems highly unlikely but valuable to entities in power - might actually happen.

Thanks!


Reminds me a bit of The Circle movie from netflix (https://www.netflix.com/cz-en/title/80098473), where a similar idea comes up.

So because Mark Zuckerberg won't censor people with different opinions he is complacent in spreading fake news and hate?

Wow, that kind of rhetoric is dangerous imo. For once I actually think Facebook have made the right call. Censoring people is wrong and Facebook should refrain from doing it.

Let me decide what is true and false, I don't need Facebook or other people to decide that for me.

Good job Facebook, thanks for standing up for free speech.


The problem (among other things) is hyper-targeting of people who are specifically vulnerable to extreme points of view. One of my friends is an expert in tracking ads on Facebook and has found that white nationalists micro-target people who are susceptible to that ideology [1].

Similarly, they have refused to fact-check (not remove) climate science denialism, because they consider it opinion and thus exempt from their fact-checking process. [2] As you know, because of a lack of consensus on climate change, little action has been taken, causing an existential threat to everyone including yourself.

Facebook is accused of spreading “fake news” because they are in fact spreading debunked or misleading stories to a large number of their readers, who have the mistaken assumption that Facebook would prevent incorrect stories from circulating on their platform. They are accused of spreading “hate” because Facebook has long been a breeding-ground for white nationalism, the consequences of which are evident for all to see.

I applaud you for being smart and above influence, but you’re ignoring the very real effects of this policy, which have been extensively documented both in academia and in the press.

[1]: https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-46083026

[2]: https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-to-create-fact-checkin...


We shouldn't give up our freedoms because you think some people can't think for themselves.

They can think for themselves, you just don't understand their thoughts & perspective through your bias/bubble.

Censoring is wrong, period. Win your arguments on merit, not by silencing the other side.


> Win your arguments on merit, not by silencing the other side.

In the wild world of unmoderated social media, "merit" at scale reduces to "the most salacious information that feeds what the audience wants to believe, regardless of whether it is grounded in evidence". It's just a propaganda rally, ultimately underpinnned by the old ominous maxim "might is right", with the target being a group who is not present in the conversation.

People don't have as innate a desire for intellectual rigor in deconstructing untruths as you or I would like. Even you and I don't always have that rigor, even though we probably both strive for it. If anything, many people want to be lied to if the lie dovetails with their feelings and agendas. Is it wrong to want to be lied to? I don't know - it's hard to judge another person's deep desires.

It's a real problem from the perspective of the social fabric and the shared narratives that hold it together, although the alternative - the government regulating non-violent speech - is arguably even more worrisome.


> People don't have as innate a desire for intellectual rigor in deconstructing untruths as you or I would like.

This is an elitist point of view, and I don't think you are as good at deconstructing untruths as you'd like to believe.

> If anything, many people want to be lied to if the lie dovetails with their feelings and agendas.

> I don't know - it's hard to judge another person's deep desires.

So you think you can mindread people and you know what "many people" want?

You just admitted it's hard to judge another persons desires.

This all misses the main point. This mob agenda targets Republicans and hoists Democrats and their tech CEO/shareholder puppets to the position of Ministry of Truth.

It's incredibly obvious that the other platforms fell into line and Facebook is receiving the mob's attention until they submit as well. This isn't about the wellbeing of people or you knowing best, it's about power-grabbing, corruption, and censorship.

I'm glad Zuck is taking this stance and I'm glad he has a majority.


> This is an elitist point of view, and I don't think you are as good at deconstructing untruths

You seem to have ignored the sentence I wrote immediately following that:

"Even you and I don't always have that rigor, even though we probably both strive for it."

I count myself as "people" here.

> So you think you can mindread people and you know what "many people" want? > You just admitted it's hard to judge another persons desires.

No, but I know that targeting peoples basest desires and resentments is a very effective propaganda technique. You don't need a PhD in history to concluded that.


Yes I did read your next statement and many people do have that rigor, this is not something you can mindread. If you don't check the news you read then it's on you.

It's certainly not so bad that we need to censor politicians because SO MANY people can't think for themselves.

We had 8 years of Obama, I didn't hear anything about anyone needing censoring, only when we have a Republican in office do we need to think about censoring...

When they start censoring the Democrats constant lies then I'll believe you want a legitimate debate. Don't worry the Dems will provide you with their very own fact checker!

I wouldn't assume, especially when it's assuming about 327 million people's ideology and thought process.


It's ironic that that the parent comment has been flagged, leading to censorship of a valid opinion.

>Censoring people is wrong and Facebook should refrain from doing it. > Let me decide what is true and false...

Yes.

But...

Facebook's algorithms do not give you both sides of the story. You may end up being presented with only ads, statements, opinions, etc from one side of the isle. Now, if you don't mind being inside an echo chamber, then you're good. But a lot of people can't tell that there inside an echo chamber and this ... is problematic.

I don't think the answer is censorship. I don't think there is a correct way to fix this without someone getting their who-ha tied in a knot. But leaving it as it is is just not healthy.


Facebook as a bastion of free speech? That's not something you hear often. I don't even even want to dig up the old examples of Zuckerberg bending over backwards for China, here's a recent example from Vietnam - https://in.reuters.com/article/vietnam-facebook/exclusive-fa...

Exactly, I wrote "for once". I don't have a facebook account but I may even create one in the future if they continue down this path.

They only censor when the government forces them to. In other words they do the minimum to comply with the local law. Isn't that what we were looking for?

If they were only complying with court orders / subpoenas that's what would be called doing the minimum to comply with the law. They have done way more than that in the past - giving out tools to governments to enable mass surveillance and takedown of posts/accounts. Whatever content any government agency has a problem with is taken down immediately.

Don't be mistaken. This is not Facebook standing up for your rights. It's them not wanting to stop fake news from spreading on their platform because that would hurt the bottomline.


Most reputable media outlets will not run ads, especially political ads, that contain false information. There’s enormous latitude in this area. It hasn’t stopped attack ads or misleading information from entering political discourse.

Facebook is refusing to apply any standard of editorial control over these ads. It’s their platform, their decision. I think it’s harmful to society and will happily talk shit about Facebook because of it.

They control ever byte if content on the platform and censor and surveil their users with alacrity. Choosing to allow deceptive campaign advertising does not make Facebook a leader in free speech.


Liberal society is ending, and you must swear allegiance to the People's Party, comrade. Otherwise, we will publicly denounce you, and will not permit you to engage in any business activity.

There will be an ideological examination. Study hard!


It surely feels like it at least when every single major javascript framework has a #BLM header. Nothing that don't matter or are relevant to me since I live in northen europe.

As an European myself, I really hope we will not succumb to tyrannical movements so easily. It is super scary to see what's happening in the USA at the moment with leftists' unquestioned total domination.

>As an European myself, I really hope we will not succumb to tyrannical movements so easily.

Europe has seen a surge in anti-EU, anti-globalist sentiment since 2015. We've seen Britain leave with the support of a Conservative landslide in the last election. The V4 group emerge with its own agenda. Other countries postulating about whether being in the EU is the right direction for themselves, and more.

European leaders should be very careful, and I believe they will be, about letting Marxist sentiment like we're seeing in the US go unchecked there.

Now is a great time for Europeans to take a close look at US "society" and "culture" and decide for themselves how much more of it they're willing to tolerate being imported.


... leftists' unquestioned total domination.

lolwut? Surely you jest? 2.5 of 3 branches of our government are led by regressive, obstructionist conservatives (Trump in the WH, McConnel and the GOP in the Senate, and a 5/4 majority of SCOTUS).

Additionally, 26 of 50 state governors are conservatives. And 29 of 50 state legislatures are conservative.

There is no "liberal domination" of anything in the US.


You are being severely misinformed. Nothing even close to that is happening right now. The movement is decidedly not tyrannical and certainly does not have unquestioned total domination. But the ideas behind it are very popular to be honest. People are sick of the current socio-economic arrangement, the abuse of authority and race relations on many levels.

When people lose their jobs if they make fun or just question certain group's behavior, what would you call it?

Now I’m confused, are you describing the police or BLM?

The fact that you think it matters which one is the problem.

I am confused because to me it doesn’t seem like OP is describing either.

One group has heavy weapons, heavy armour, a de-facto presumption in court of being justified when they use even lethal force, and a powerful lobby group that fights to prevent them losing their jobs.

The other group is at risk of losing their limbs, eyesight, liberty, or lives, by having the audacity to complain when the former kills one of their friends or family.

Neither of these groups matches OPs description.


Because those are your descriptions, which not everyone agrees with, especially since you're lumping huge groups of people together.

Either way, talking about a group should not get you fired, period.


People disagree that the American police are routinely armed? That’s the first I’ve heard.

Does anyone actually disagree that the police have a presumption of justification for lethal force? Because literally every time I’ve seen this conversation, for longer than I’ve been online, the argument from those opposed to the protesters of the moment and in favour of the police response has been that they should have that presumption not if they have that presumption.

Does anyone disagree that the protestors face the prospect of injury or loss of life? Despite, to use one of far too many salient examples from this year alone, the video of a pensioner being knocked to the ground by one cop and bleeding from the head as the rest just walked around him without even attempting to offer first aid?

As for what ought to be acceptable grounds for firing… how many states are “at-will” or whatever the correct term is? In those places, anything goes.


You seem to have a distorted view of America.

You should probably live here before you pass judgement.

Listening to the echo chamber here and the mainstream news that comes out of America is not the full picture.


I’ve had four one month long trips to the USA, three east coast, one west. I’ve walked from San Jose train station to Cupertino, from South Ferry Station to Broadway, seen the earthworks demolishing the mountains around Salt Lake City, and visited houses in Boston and Providence that are utterly alien to what I’m used to as a European.

One of the places I visited was UC Davis. The incident there has its own Wikipedia page.

In Newark, I got to see things which don’t make it into international media, like an African-American outdoor market with banners pleading the readers to treat the humans with, at a minimum, the same respect as is shown for these people’s cultural contributions to the USA.

All of this is because my ex is actually an American citizen. Heck, because of her, I’ve met Jill Stein twice.

Now, can you actually provide me with a reason to change my mind?


Change your mind of what? That police aren't all evil people?

I live in a small town of 6,000 people with a 1/3rd black, hispanic, and white population and everything is fine here.

It's only poorly run Democratic cities with these policing problems, because of the police unions and lack of funding/leadership.

Despite your travels, your view of America is incomplete.


Can you change my belief that the police have weapons and armour, or a de-facto presumption of being justified even when they use even lethal force, or that even “bad apples” tend to keep their jobs?

Can you change my belief that the protesters are at risk of losing their limbs, eyesight, liberty, or lives?

These are not a question of “are all cops bad?”, it is a question of “is this even a remotely equal situation?”


The police do have weapons and armor, that's not disputed nor inherently bad. Citizens can also have weapons and armor for self-defense per our Second Amendment.

Police here need those tools because there are cartels like MS-13 and other dangerous criminals they have to face on a daily basis.

Bad cops with lots of complaints are protected by police unions, that's the main problem. Get rid of those and you'll be able to fire the bad apples.

Protesters may get hurt, many of them bring it on themselves by not dispersing after a few bad apples stir things up by throwing rocks/bottles of cement/etc.

We need to call out the people disrupting the protests, not the cops trying to protect the protesters from the rioters.


That’s better :)

However...

> Protesters may get hurt, many of them bring it on themselves by not dispersing after a few bad apples stir things up by throwing rocks/bottles of cement/etc.

I recommend you avoid this type of reasoning. After all, I’m explicitly not saying “Police may get hurt, many of them bring it on themselves by not disciplining a few bad apples who stir things up by sitting on someone’s neck until they die“, which would be an equivalent statement.

I think you and I would agree about the current police unions, although I do think there are at least two other possible solutions than getting rid of police unions entirely.

I definitely don’t agree that police need to be armed, because although I’m no longer living in the UK, I grew up there — UK cops are not only not routinely armed, their unions are mostly opposed to becoming armed.


Yes, thank you for clarifying your sweeping statements so we could have a conversation :)

> I do think there are at least two other possible solutions than getting rid of police unions entirely

There is no other solution, it's the corrupt union leaders protecting these cops.

The cop that killed Floyd had 17 complaints, his union protected him from being fired. The unions essentially killed Floyd.

There aren't cartel wars going on in the UK, but there is terrorism so I'm not sure whether or not UK should or does have swat/armed police.

It's not feasible to take guns away from cops here, there are too many criminals with guns, all major cartels are in Houston for example. MS-13 operates in at least 30 states.

I understand everyone wants to feel like they need to argue about this, but no one is saying these specific cops that do harm shouldn't be punished.

No group, including the police, are the problem, individual humans (including union leaders and specific politicians) are the problem.

tldr: get rid of the police unions and replace the local Democratic leadership in the cities that these events happen in to solve the issue.


Craven appeasement.

> It surely feels like it at least when every single major javascript framework has a #BLM header.

Isn't that expressing free speech? Or do you believe those headers have been coerced, and they feel forced to post one? I'm dubious that's the case, and I doubt it'll affect the frameworks future success whether they post one or not.


If a majority posts a banner, and one doesn't, it will be understood as opposition. As we've been hearing a lot of late: "Silence is pro-racist" and "Silence is violence". Under those conditions, not posting a banner would be to risk being considered a racist organization. This is not quite coercion, but nor is it possible to decline to post a banner without substantial and probably unjustified cost.

That's just other people using their free speech to call you a racist. Does their speech have a cost to you? Do you want them .. censored? Or should we be allowed to put "Veen is a racist" in all our javascript headers?

As the British version of the Miranda warning says, "You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court".


We often object to people's speech when it is harmful: lies, slander, slurs, incitement, and so on are considered harmful and within the realm of what can be reasonably morally condemned. When I object to a lie, I am not asking for the liar to be censored, I am asking them not to lie. When someone calls an organization racist for specious reasons, I am not asking for them to be censored, I'm asking them not to slander people. Why? Because I believe it is harmful: in the short-term, it's a useful rhetorical technique to achieve a goal. In the long-term, widespread acceptance of lies and slanders is corrosive, divisive, and harmful to our society.

OK, there may be some pressure (which I still doubt the long term effect of - Twitter is a great way to amplify things that extreme views that aren't particularly real world), but as those are expressions of free speech and the free market reacting to those forces, I'm still confused on how this leads to some sort of dystopia where liberalism is dead and the people's party decides how everything happens. It seems more like public opinion has shifted and people are wailing against the changing times. It's not as though a "Red's Communist Emporium" would have flown in the 60's.

The slippery slope argument is old; I ran across it when looking up "poor white trash" to find a southerner opining in 1860 that if rich Bostonians allowed people to attack slavery, they'd wind up with (literal) communism soon after.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23599419

> "For (and mark well our words!) you, Sir, half priest and the other half demagogue, wearing the surplice and wielding also the secular arm of power, have been for a long time preaching a crusade against the rights of property--have taught men every where, that to deprive their neighbors of property valued at millions and millions of dollars, instead of being an infraction of the Divine Law and therefore criminal in the sight of God, on the contrary would entitle them to receive praise and honor in the present life, and insure to them in the life to come rewards imperishable. And upon what pretense, forsooth? Because your neighbors, as you claim, can possess no rights of property in men and women--in human flesh, and brawn, and blood, and brains, to use your own vernacular of cant. And so in truth they ought not in foro conscientioe, without making an equivalent return, either in the nature of protection, food, shelter, attention in sickness and the like; the most of which the Southern slaveholders are constrained by law to grant in return for the service exacted of their bondmen. But, you clamor, they do not return an exact and equal account--they charge too much for their kind superintendence and benevolent regard! Ah! Sir, it is just here that you have trodden upon an adder, which will in time turn and sting your Reverence. For, truly, the poisoned darts you have so resolutely hurled against the South will, rebounding, yet find a mark the archer little meant, and one close to your own hearthstone.

> Unconsciously to yourself, you have been advocating all this time only a new species of agrarianism. Unconsciously you have been sowing the wind, and sooner or later will surely reap the whirlwind for your pains. Already your laborers, your operatives, your journeymen mechanics and others, secretly moot the question: How it happens they remain so poor, while their employers are constantly growing richer and richer; build their marble palaces, educate their children in idleness and dissipation, and besides spend half their own days tuft-hunting and toad-eating upon the continent of Europe. Already, we repeat, this terrible question is being mooted in secret conclave; and should the time ever come when it shall be mooted openly--when loudmouthed and earnest men, fresh from the people, shall bestride Faneuil Hall, bawling for an equal and exact distribution to every mechanic of whatever craft, to every operative of whatever mills, to every laborer of whatever grade--bawling, we say, for an equal and exact distribution to the workmen of the net proceeds of their combined labor; and denouncing in the same breath pampered capitalists, as so many lordlings growing rich on the earnings of the moiling and toiling poor, reaping where they have not sown, and gathering where they have not scattered; upon what plausible pretext will you, Sir, then seek to gainsay them? You will have none. Dumb and quaking with fear you would be constrained to acquiesce in their logic; for they would only use in their own behalf the identical arguments you have assiduously tried to impress upon their minds for ten years and more, in order to persuade them to interfere in the affairs of their neighbors."

They must've had a bit more time to write rants in the nineteenth century. With the benefit of hindsight, we can also see the naïveté of times which apparently expected consistency as a measure in political arguments.


> do you believe those headers have been coerced, and they feel forced to post one?

https://twitter.com/aweary/status/1267893460423462912

https://twitter.com/aweary/status/1267895488205869057

Not taking any sides here.


I'm not aware of the who's who in the JavaScript world - is Brandon Dail of considerable influence? Because it looks the same guy asks questions twice, and in your second example the top comments are rebuking his insistence. I didn't see the original post as the user has limited who can see their tweets.

> is Brandon Dail of considerable influence?

Yes, he is from react team.

> Second example the top comments are rebuking his insistence

There are quite few agreeing too though.

I just remember this example because brandon got fired over this since both people worked for facebook. I disagree that there is no pressure to add a BLM banner but that's it.


And that guy is still calling people out for being racist because of “complicity” wowzers..

> Isn't that expressing free speech?

Sure it's free speech but it is also a mob mentality and a mob speak. What is the relevance for a javascript framework used world-wide to spam a specific american politics?

Seriously, most european countries have a very small minority that is black and basically very little racism. No police brutality against any group etc. What is the relevance for us?

What is the relevance for let's say an african programmer who live in a place where there basically aren't any whites?

What is the relevance for an Chinese person living in a smaller city in which basically never meets any other race than asians?

This kind of thinking that's coming from american movements is that the entire world depends on what the situation is in america. I don't really know what it's like to be either black or white in america and I don't really care either. I'm just getting pissed off by the virtue signaling bullshit and the agenda to make every country like america.

I have ended every subscription service that panders to BLM, I stopped using Vue because of it. American politics rarely should impact technologies in my opinion, only when it is about said technology.


> Nothing that don't matter or are relevant to me since I live in northen europe.

Everybody knows there are no black people in Europe! Problem solved!


definitely no history of racism there.

Actually no.

Do you think humanity and empathy ends at a geographical border? You don't feel that the plight of people living under oppression is anything to do with you because they're far away?

The reason why everyone, everywhere is saying BLM is important is because we live in a globally connected world now, and ignoring people due to borders and distance is no longer reasonable. We are all citizens of the world.


It's not a question of whether people have empathy. It's a question of whether they're going to fire you from your job or boycott your business if you aren't actively celebrate the cause de jure in the approved manner.

That's nonsense. No one is going to be fired and no one is going to be boycotted for not joining in.

People might be fired for being against BLM, but that's only right. If you get up and say a group of oppressed people should continue to be oppressed then you absolutely should be fired.


> No one is going to be fired and no one is going to be boycotted for not joining in.

I suspect if this were true this letter would not have been needed. http://hillsdalecollegian.com/2020/06/on-the-college-and-sil...

> People might be fired for being against BLM, but that's only right. If you get up and say a group of oppressed people should continue to be oppressed then you absolutely should be fired.

Black Lives Matter, as a movement generally, is riddled with Marxists. I have seen signs from the Marxist wing at every protest in the city, calling for the end of capitalism, free subway rides, and the immediate removal of Donald Trump without recourse to an election.

Marxists sent my family to Siberian labor camps, and I have a beef with them. I expect free NYC subways would be economically inefficient. There are many other parts of BLM to which I object. I object to the charge that silence is violence. I object to the destruction of property, and to the statement that destruction of property is not violence. I object to those who have pulled down certain statues, like Grant and Washington. I object to the march slogan, which I have heard at half a dozen protests: "No cops! No KKK, No Racist USA"; the KKK are more than abstract bogeymen, but are real, and sometimes dangerous, and I have family who have been targeted by persons who I reasonably suspect to be bona fide members, as one of their other objects of hate: Roman Catholics. Perhaps this chant would be powerful in the American south, but I respectfully doubt that the half-white protest crowds of New York City are qualified to know the first thing about such matters. I further object to those who, in the name of BLM, head on to Twitter to solicit allegations of racism and names of people to doxx, harass, and get fired.

All of these have taken place under the banner of Black Lives Matter. Perhaps some of them shouldn't have. Perhaps the brand should be more protected; in what I have witnessed, it's not.

I have not previously raised these matters in any venue whatsoever, because I do not wish to undermine the reform of police impunity underway. My objections are typically not a matter of general interest, and I would not impose on people to subject them to such things. But for the purpose of this conversation right here, that I may rebuke you vigorously, I will freely admit to you: I am opposed to Black Lives Matter. I am opposed to them as a specific reification of needed reforms. I wish to be outside the group of BLM supporters. I have not blackened my profile picture, I have not used the hashtag anywhere in particular.

You suggest this is sufficient to merit firing — or at least, your suggestion of what merits firing is not structured so that I might infer that my position ought to be safe.

How dare you? How dare you presume that you or anyone like you are entitled to pass any judgment on my employment whatsoever? What right have you lot to threaten me, or to threaten anyone, like this? How fortunate for the world that your dreams of ideological tyranny should be thwarted! How fortunate are those of us still sufficiently blessed by liberty with the privilege to ignore those of like persuasion, to dismiss your empty screed, to cast you all down off the high horse of self-righteousness and be rid of your moralizing. Let all people strive to keep you from power. Let us never mistake loyalty for righteousness. Let us work instead to extend such blessings to all the world. (I hear, for instance, that black people often experience barriers which keep them from such blessings. Let us reach out to them in brotherhood.)

I will further add that my CEO is African-American. I am proud of him. He's spoken out about racism in America, giving interviews to major news outlets, penning articles for high-profile publications. I dare not say that I speak for him, yet I would guess that if it you asked him to fire me, showed him what I have written here, that he would rebuke you: for I know he has passed through the fires of ideological scrutiny firsthand, and I think he has experienced personally these forces which your lot aspires to channel — seen how little they care for mercy, or even decency.


Like everything else in life, blanket rules don't hold up to the messy reality of the real world.

"Free speech" doesn't mean you should enable people to say literally anything.

At the extreme: direct credible physical threats on peoples' safety. These are explicitly illegal.

A bit less extreme: statements in indirect support of physical threats on groups of people, e.g. neonazis. The USA chooses not to govern these legally, but instead the responsibility becomes that of the people.

For example, many would argue (rightly) that it's Facebook's responsibility as a de facto news platform not to distribute/publish that kind of speech.


> Let me decide what is true and false, I don't need Facebook or other people to decide that for me.

Let's not pretend. Facebook and other social media already do that for you by deciding what content ends up getting surfaced and promoted. If what's true never ends up in your feed, how can you decide?


I'm not sure exactly how the facebook feed works since I am not a user, but I assume I can "follow" people and orgs that interest me and not follow those who don't?

Do you really think I would start to believe the state media in my country for example even if they promoted it as truth? I would simply just ignore it or use it as proof as why they are spreading fake news.


So you’re saying that we should promote fascism to our children?

...obviously you did not say that- it’s a ridiculous straw man. As is your first paragraph.

This whole area is rife with complexity, nuance and extremely difficult trade-offs. There are bad actors to contend with, extreme asymmetries of information, and asymmetries in the effort required to produce and to police misinformation. No analysis as simplistic as your comment is going to cut it.


Well that's good and well that you are independent, but the sad fact is that on average misinformation works, especially at scale. We don't really have a good grasp on the issue. It's in our culture to not regulate entertainment and media, but we're coming to terms with the fact that this can be turned against us.

It's in our culture to not regulate entertainment and media

I disagree with that statement. For whatever it is worth, we (both the government and private sectors) have a long history of putting "explicit lyrics" stickers on CD's, censoring lyrics for the radio, editing scenes out of movies on TV, threatening to prevent movies from release if scenes aren't taken out, adding age ratings on videogames and films, see also the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005.


Exactly. The right demanded those "parental advisory: explicit lyrics" be imposed, and then complain when people voluntarily put "trigger warnings" on their material.

(the originator of the campaign was actually Tipper Gore, wife of Al; reminder that the US Democrats mostly operate as a center-right party roughly corresponding to Merkel's Christian Democrats)


Why would advertisers want their ads to run next to content they don't support? Free speech means they are free not to advertise if they don't like the content. Facebook is allowed to avoid censoring posts if that's what they want to do, but they don't have a right to advertisers' money.

Censorship only applies to the extent that public authorities are willing to actively curb free speech through law enforcement.

That's not what's happening here.

Regardless whether you're Facebook or an administrator of a small time forum, it's entirely up to you to decide how you are going to moderate whatever people want to host and share on your own very private (!) infrastructure. And the private choice to host a public forum for other people does come with it's own special set of consequences.

Both Facebook and a small time forum are very much comparable to private Saturday night parties. It's the host who decides to get in and how they respond to their guests' behaviour is their personal responsibility.

Now, if some of those guests end up espousing questionable opinions which sour the overall mood of the party, the host can respond to that in several ways. One way is to step in and moderate or even kick out those guests at the behest of the others who simply want to chill and enjoy themselves. Another way is to excuse their behaviour and simply leave them be because of the host's whatever many personal motivations, intentions and beliefs.

Facebook - or any small time forum admin - choosing for the latter option is entirely their prerogative. Freedom of speech means they are free to ignore whatever and state that they don't want to step in. It just so happens that this keeps on souring the mood at the party they host to the point where some guests will simply leave out of themselves - these companies - and that other guests leave only to return with cardboard signs voicing their disdain in front of the door of the venue.

Facebook can't stop that kind of criticism from happening either: that's free speech too. It just works both ways, as intended.

Nobody bats an eye if a small time forum administrator with 100 users ends up doing a shoddy job at moderation to the point where half their users end up leaving the forum disgruntled. Plenty of groups or private individuals break up over disagreements all the time.

Literally the only difference between a small time forum administrator and Facebook is that the latter hosts a very private party with 2 billion attendees.

It just so happens that at that scale, the way you moderate debates and behaviour of guests at your party decides the fate of entire nations and tugs at the bedrock of all kinds of important values and principles up to and including, ironically, free speech. It's not unreasonable to point out that the management of Facebook does carry a certain measure of personal responsibility in that regard.


Facebook censors a thousand different thing before it presents your feed.

But FB will.

There was a story where a random FB user copied Trump’s posts verbatim. The user got censored. Trump didn’t.


I don't know what FB's content moderation policy on plagiarism is. To give them the benefit of the doubt: perhaps the user was censored for plagiarising a celebrity's post? There's a cler distinction between parody and plagiarism.

No, they were censored for hate speech (IIRC). In the case of Trump, FB claims the president's words are newsworthy, even if they qualify as hate speech.

I don't necessarily disagree with that premise. However, I do believe a Twitter-like "this is biased" or "this is hate speech" label is appropriate. I have no idea if that's the "correct" solution, but at least it's an effort.


[flagged]


And they get rewarded in dopamine and influence for doing it.

Facebook basically sells this drug unregulated.

Its basically a drug cartel defending the right of the peddlers to push the drug.


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