Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Facebook announces policy changes ahead of 2020 elections (facebook.com)
375 points by DarkContinent 10 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 641 comments

Not sure if I have data to back this up but my theory around political turmoil and echo chambers is as follows:

- Before widespread internet use, say year 2000, all communities were local. News were local + nation wide, people still focused on their physical proximity of 20 miles that affected them the most. Today, none of my friends read local news. Local news outlets are being bankrupted left and right.

- Anonymity on the internet. People can say whatever they want without attaching their name, face and self-pride. This creates extremely unproductive conversations without consequences. Platforms such as Twitter propel this behavior to new heights. When it was local, you'd lose friends for being unpleasant, you'd lose credibility in your community for being inflammatory.

- Foreign interference - when internet use was not widespread, it was difficult to infiltrate a foreign election campaign and interfere with it.

- Data collection and manipulation - Targeted newsfeeds that feed these echo chambers could not possibly reach critical mass before the internet. Echo chambers were physical places to go to - Hells Angels or joining the Evangelical Christian church. No such limits exist now.

- Scale - The internet allows unprecedented scale to operate on. Echo chambers reverb into unimaginable self-resonance. Joe Rogan can say something and millions could hear it. +1M subscriber channels on YouTube span thousands. That was practically impossible unless you were on national TV.

The internet has lot of positives (free voice, commerce, sharing of ideas, services, etc.) and its drawbacks are now surfacing. I want to go back to 90's when we had healthy debates between republicans and democrats. We were one country. One voice. And people debated about issues and not about other people's clans.

We wanted internet to be the left/middle of the Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights [1] but ended up creating something thats not too far from the right side of the canvas. Total chaos and loss of decency and respect for each other.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hieronymus_Bosch#/media/File:T...

If you'd asked teenage me in the 90s if the internet I loved then was going to turn into this, I'd have thrown my computer in the trash. As a convenience tool its grown leaps and bounds, but as a "place" it's turned into a terrible neighborhood.

Yeah, also as a teenager in the 90s I distinctly remember thinking that the internet was going to make everyone smarter. The world's information at our fingertips! It'll unlock a new golden age for the entire globe!

Oh, how naive...

I always get sad when I think of the techno-optimism of the 90s and the early net. I think it actually was still present well into the 00s, which were a golden age in their own way (blogs, forums, communities). Then mainstream facebook hit like a ton of bricks..

Have people become less smart? I think more likely you’ve just been exposed to the reality than most people are not as smart as yourself.

I certainly think more people are aware of things they wouldn’t have otherwise been aware of. It’s become more difficult for governments to hide facts from their citizens, and that’s been good.

It’s been a mixed bag and I think we should be careful of judging the Internet by the behaviour of companies like Facebook.

We’re also learning. Ten years ago I can’t imagine anyone quitting social media due to concerns about privacy, manipulation, the undermining of democracy or the amoral behaviour of Facebook’s employees, but that happens a lot now. As PG said, it takes time for us to “develop antibodies” to these things.

No, I don't think I'm smarter. I think it's a mix of both things. There was a barrier to entry before, which was still significant pre-smartphone. This naturally selected the people that participated. In the early net, pretty much researchers, professor, university students. Naturally this had a selection effect. Like all utopias, it eventually ran into real people.

But secondly there's also the issue of social media mass manipulation, which MAKES (or strongly pushes) people to act like they do. This is completely separate to how "smart" the community is.

Facebook is AOL 2.0. AOL was equivalently vapid - and often just as toxic - in the 90s.

Yes, I remember joining KKK chatrooms on AOL as a kid and spamming them with "White Chowder! White Chowder!". Good times.

This. People are wearing rose colored glasses, but the scale has changed and the barriers to entry removed.

Hopefully FB goes the same way AOL instant messenger did.

2005 is where I place the beginning of the end

I should have seen it coming in 97 when I introduced an acquaintance to IRC or similar, expecting the same enlightenment I saw, and the first thing he did was start spamming channels with swears as a laugh.

Had exactly the same experience.

many of us place it a bit earlier. [0]

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

While I agree that was the end for Usenet. And it for told what would become of the wider internet. 2005 saw the creation of the modern social network and the start of the centralized services we have today. A move from 100's of niche forums and blogs to a few social networks. Which is where I place the beginning of the end of the wider internet

I wish all the internet was more like hackernews.

Going from the posts in this thread it seems like HN thinks "the internet" is all social media and ads. What you're wishing for is another type of misinformed opinion, one that you agree with.

If you’re forced to agree with something, might as well be hackernews IMO.

Just above your comment was a caricatural: “Is the internet I built bad? No, it must be other people who are stupid.” that made your comment take a colour very different from what you intended…

I have similar memories, in particular I remember thinking "well, people watch garbage on the TV because there's a relatively limited amount of channels, so you end up with dumb programmes that cater to the lowest common denominator. With the internet we'll all be able to find niche content that interests them and that'll be the end of that."

I guess I wasn't entirely wrong about having a lot more niche content, although in hindsight thinking that trash TV was a technological issue was very naive. If anything trash shows (be it on TV or the internet) are trashier than ever due to the increased competition.

The good stuff on TV today is far better than the best pre-internet TV.

(My parents wouldn't let me watch Green Acres, telling me it was trash. By the time I was an adult, it wasn't in syndication anymore. Eventually it shows up on Netflix, I watch it to see what I had missed. It's total trash. Didn't make it through a single episode. It's much the same for the rest, like My Favorite Martian, etc.)

There's an interesting talk about that by Jonathan Blow, using the common phrase 'The Medium is the Message'. The eventual topic is mobile game design but he starts off with TV and how commercial and other constraints influence show (and game) design.


To be fair, there is a lot of information available at our fingertips nowadays, much more than anything we could get in the 90s.

Information back then was scattered, the tools to look for it (Altavista, Yahoo, Archie, Veronica, etc.) were rather weak in retrospect. Wikipedia didn't exist in the 90s, nor did GitHub, Thingiverse, and so on. A lot of things like online banking, stock brokerages, bill pay, video chatting, online gaming, and so on weren't as good as we have it now. None of that was accessible without being tethered to a phone or Ethernet jack.

What has changed is the arrival of platforms that started optimizing for engagement, impressions, views, clicks, targeting, and eyeballs, because all of that can be monetized.

The people who would be glued to the boob tube now are glued to social media, and instead of getting content fed from Rupert Murdoch and other media barons, it comes from whomever does a better job of paying for ad impressions, gaming social media, and creating clickbait content to get their viewpoint heard.

I agree, yet I miss platforms like Geocities, where, with no intention of harm, you could create an anonymous site and just write about your hobby.

That's no longer possible nowadays.

The website counter was the like-button of those days.

There's still Neocities [0], and you can make things that look straight from the 90s [1][2] or upload things that look more modern.

[0] https://neocities.org/ [1] https://gifypet.neocities.org [2] https://neocities.org/browse

What is stopping you?

Having to choose where to host it, what blog engine to use, write your own static site builder or go with something prebuilt, which analytics solution, what to name the site, how to SEO optimize your content, picking keywords, using keywords, how to create a newsletter, how to moderate comments and filter spam, what CDN to use, how to build a responsive design for mobile, put a GDPR disclaimer, write a privacy policy, how to display tasteful ads, where to display social media sharing icons, which affiliate campaign provider to go with, gzip or br encoding, jpeg or webp images, what url structure to use, what meta tags, how to title a page, test the rendering in different browsers, picking a font, finding a fast font provider, polyfills, minimize JS file size, picking stock images for articles, promoting your blog post on HN, gaming HN to get some upvotes, coming up with things to write about... fuck this.

Such a strawman. Getting Geocities scale traffic is easier than ever - it's just a much lower proportion of total internet usage. Raw HTML still works, just like it did on Geocities.

As for advertising... well, if you're going to start making money then expect to brush against regulations. At the very least, you may interest the taxman.

You don't have to do most of those things if you just care about writing and creating a hobby site, which geocities was used for.

I think this is actually a little unfair. The internet has actually done all the things we hoped it would do. It has just also done some other things that we didn't anticipate. I'm still hopeful that these are basically just growing pains of novel technology and media, and as our relationship to it matures, we'll develop better patterns around it.

Maybe not naive... The internet hasn't created any new behavior, at most it has amplified a few existing human tendencies.

Not all of them bad ones. I suspect once we've finished adjusting to the new digital reality it will have, on balance, made us smarter.

If giving more people access to more information and a place in the cultural conversation doesn't improve things then the human race was doomed anyway.

I used to think that, but I don't think it's going to happen unless we criminalize some level of human impulse hacking.

At their base, social media platforms specifically engineer their desired behavior, powered by obscene amounts of money and technical effort, but largely independent of their users' own preexisting wants and needs.

Facebook et al. are the 21st century equivalent of a <blink> tag.

This is exactly the premise of Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise. Basically the internet has created an explosion of information, but it's become increasingly harder to actually find the right information. So the general premise that "we should be smarter because we have the world's info at our fingertips" is counterbalanced by "there's equally, if not more, disinformation we need to wade through to get to that info"

I don't think it's hard to find the right information. It's right up front. It's just very easy to walk past the right information in favor of attractive lies. Most of the time people aren't ignorant of the truth. They just dismiss it as a conspiracy.

Oh really? Example - just google "COVID hospitalization rates". You'll find hundreds of different sites/sources all varying degrees of accuracy. This is mentally taxing.

Because it's too simplified of a question. That's highly dependent on things like age, sex, and pre-existing conditions. Population wide numbers are in turn dependent on population structure and in turn who gets it.

You see similar problems in places like /r/covid19 on reddit where people argue about IFR with few accepting the meaninglessness of the question.

Complexity is hard, but I don't think the world is better if we oversimplify things.

Because the question is hard, and there are so many answers, you can twist those answers and that data to support pretty much any viewpoint, and ultimately this is the problem with having too much data at our fingertips.

It’s a complex subject. On the one hand you have someone normally healthy who contracts covid, tests positive, and goes in for breathing difficulties. On the other hand you have someone who has tested positive but gets in a car crash.

We used to pay people to take the raw facts and distil useful information. It was called journalism.

Clickbait and conspiracy pays more than actual journalism though.

I think the error is in mistaking knowledge for wisdom. Knowledge is a powerful tool, but without the wisdom to productively apply it, can be used for great destruction.

These days I see a lot of smarts without knowledge.

Do you not remember the wretched hive of scum and villainy that was Usenet?

Oh man, that was the best. It was large enough to have basically every interest. All while still having the basic functionality of reading and replying to text. Your "feed" was chronological messages, rather than a psychologist-engineered addiction engine.

So... Reddit?

you seemed to have missed the part where they said 'rather than a psychologist-engineered addiction engine'

What does reddit do based on psychology?

I do, but usenet's reach, as compared to current social media outlets, was minuscule. The broader world wasn't aware of it, nor did it care.

Arguably, it became that after the Eternal September in 1993, when the hoi polloi joined in via AOL.

Alt.wealey.crusher.die.die.die was an early example of cyberbullying. That group, and the people using the internet, used their power to really harm Wil Wheaton, and that was well before eternal September

For many of us, exactly that happened. I treasure the internet. My theory is that it just amplified the reality of who humanity really is, at our core. Part wonder, part beast.

The internet did and was sharing a wealth of knowledge and changed the world. Personally I saw a large change in both the online community and it's nature when FB, Google and other online conglomerates became more concerned about stock investors interests, Snowden revelations, and the 2016 election. Online communities changed as well as commerce. The internet can still be a beacon of learning and knowledge however, in my opinion initial motivations which brought it's golden age were not based on commerce. Now they are. The culture of the internet has changed. We lost the "initial internet culture", and since this change, it's nature has also changed along with it's initial purpose. We can bring it back only if we choose to do so.

It has made everyone, if not smarter then, better informed.

We are in a "eternal September". It will pass (not literally eternal)

I would not go back. It is brilliant

>It has made everyone, if not smarter then, better informed

I don't agree with this. While it's made it possible to be better informed, it isn't the case that everyone is, and in addition it's meshed with the bugs in our code (confirmation bias springs to mind) to allow disinformation to spread, and people to seek sources that confirm their beliefs rather than actually inform them of the truth.

The Internet is a tool that requires effort to use and derive value from.

Unfortunately, advertising companies built low-effort dopamine funnels on top and plugged everyone up. This has amplified the more basal animal instincts humans come pre-wired with. Outrage, lust, want, and envy are being micro-stimulated in all of us, constantly, all for the objective function optimization of engagement and ad revenue. Attention has been hijacked, fears have been stoked, and people have been made to hate each other.

We've evolved as individuals and devolved as a whole.

>I don't agree with this. While it's made it possible to be better informed, it isn't the case that everyone is

the now-informed go and inform the uninformed, affecting everybody in a slow and gradual manner -- regardless of the individuals participation.

One didn't have to read in order to be affected by the advent of the printing press.

I've never bothered to research it, but I've always wondered if there were groups that saw the printing press as evil.

In the same way that some thought about radio, TV and now the internet.

In any case any issues with digital media giants aren't the result of the internet, but rather late stage capitalism.

> I've never bothered to research it, but I've always wondered if there were groups that saw the printing press as evil.

You can safely bet money on that.

It's oft forgotten how much more uncertainty we lived with in the pre-internet era. Once you've gotten used to the memex it's hard to imagine life without one.

I was reminiscing the other day about the Encyclopedia Britannica set we bought when I was a child. Probably within the last 10 years dictionaries were sold.

A few years later, Microsoft Encarta [0] was available on CD.

And a decade later, that was gone itself because of the internet.

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encarta

Sometimes at work over lunch we have debates or arguments that could easily be solved with a quick google but it's just more fun to let it run its course.

To be fair, we've been alive at this point twice that long... kind of hard to blame 15 year old me for poorly predicting events more than 15 years out. ;-)

Yup, go figure, it made everyone dumber and more paranoid, just like TV. Who would have guessed, ads, tracking, nazis, thought police.

Yup it really felt like a stepping stone to a better place. Maybe it still is, just it has some slipper moss growing on it.

The reality is that it did. Do you distinctly forget having to go to a library to do research for a book report? Only getting the slice of news offered locally?

The internet is amazing!

Easy to forget when we're wired for extraordinary to feel ordinary in time.

I clearly remember sitting in front of the computer, web browser open, saying to myself "I better enjoy this beautiful technology now, before advertising and capitalism take over it." I imagined advertising everywhere. Sadly, I wasn't wrong.

Haha. Remember when we all thought that the internet was going to spread democracy, open ideas, and freedom? Good times, good times.

World Wide Web (www or W³): (between 1992 and 2042) Technological economic subsystem designed to monetize the intelligence of a few to produce ignorance in many more others. Internet is a fertile space for baseless or futile controversies (see "nihilistic relativism"), bad faith arguments (see "trolls") and personal attacks (see "DOTA 2"); it's been shown to warm up populations to authoritarianism and speech control (see "Xiism"), and to generate the cannibalistic stock-splosions of the early 21st century. It was eventually replaced in 2042 by radioweb, a quantum mesh network which ultimately spanned forty-eight thousand stars centered on the Sun by the year 4000. The only remnant of the World Wide Web in use today is Javascript. Replicas of the W³ circa 2020 are commonly used in airgap VR settings, to train soldiers to resist torture, or as horror depiction in movies. Psycho-history estimates that the human race would have gone extinct by 2145 at the latest if the W³ "experiment" hadn't been shut down prematurely by the Pixies.

The worst kind of satire is the kind that is dead wrong in its' own motivation.

The internet did spread ideas. The spread of ideas can bring certain philosophical freedoms. 'Democracy' is too loosely defined in this context.

The entire attitude is really offensive to me only due to the sheer fact that I am amazed at the accomplishments we've made as humans in the short time that I've been around -- and the internet is one of those huge accomplishments that leaves me in awe every time I stop to think about it.

Previous history was widely categorized and considered by the data storage methods thought of during that time, and the dissertation of that information over the world -- the internet blows all previous methods out of the water by many orders of magnitude, while simultaneously lowering the barrier of entry to these stores of information down low enough to where even the most destitute human can usually find a method to participate.

Did the printing press have as many detractors? Have humans always expected the tools to do the entire job, rather than facilitating it?

'Can someone call up The-Internet and mention that they're late to a 3 o'clock democracy spreadin' gig?'

I joke, 'the internet' is a tool, a network -- not an entity. To anthropomorphize the tool into a lazy being that hasn't solved the promised problems would be silly.

but, you're right, humans have done a lousy job using tools, like the internet, to create equality; thankfully we seem to have a long enough future ahead of us to remediate such laziness on our own part.

I still think it will, but its also created opportunity for other innovators less devoted to liberalism.

In my area, every spring as the days get longer and the frost subsides my yard springs up weeds. Within a month the turf crowds it out despite its slow start. Every year the same thing - the weeds are just quicker on the draw than the grass.

I think we're in the spring dawning of massive global connectivity - the nodes are online but they aren't good at resisting infection, the networks are vast but not resilient to abuse, truth struggles against the speed and virality and appeal of propaganda - but humanity's good at inventing approaches and institutions to improve on those things.

Asteroids, pandemics, and climate change on the other hand....

I hold a very similar view. It’s not a given however and we must fight tooth and nail for a good outcome.

Doubtful. Adoption of honest liberalism requires some baseline intelligence to understand the parameters. The internet has shown that most people are very very stupid.

Not to mention neither the right or the left which have the biggest voices seem to actually care about true liberalism. They both have very narrow world views that they want to force everyone else to behave by.

I agree with you - it doesn't seem like we're smart enough in aggregate to actually pull it off.

And the counterpoint of "but look how far we've come" isn't satisfying because we all advance due to the absurd excellence of the few (researchers, inventors, philosophers, organizers, etc...) and what you're talking about seems to require excellence from the many.

But I also believe that the internet can be the solution to that problem. A bigger bunch of the kids that come behind us are much much smarter than we are, and I think it'll be the same for them and those that follow.

Drowning in information, awareness, and interaction from such a young age is going to promote rapid and broader smartening and wizening. The nodes will have an opportunity to slide up the competence gradient now that its apparent and the resources to exploit it are abundant.

Youth won't be wasted on the young in an environment where the young are already wise.

> where the young are already wise.

Could you elaborate on this?

It's paraphrased from famous quotes that lament "when I had the energy/enthusiasm/optimism (of adolescence) I didn't have the wisdom/resources (of adulthood) to do anything consequential with it, and once I overcame the poverty of youth (in wisdom/resources) I was too spent/cynical/weary in adulthood".

It suggests a constraint on humans' impact - an inverse correlation between will & power that yields a flattened curve when plotted against time - and implies that we're restrained by nature.

But if that constraint were broken...

"The internet has shown that most people are very very stupid."

A extremely elitist and arrogant comment. Where is your evidence?

Witness the election of Donald J Trump, and his adulation by the Idiocracy.

You do realise elitism is one of the major reasons why Trump was elected, right? You guys are driving people apart by declaring them morons instead of thinking, critically about what drove them to a decision. Not cool.

I already know whay drove people to that decision. You have a guy who inherited his money so he doesn't need sponsorship, and thus doesn't need to worry about the repugnant things he says costing him his campaign. That means there's a candidate who's saying loudly on global television that it's okay to be a racist, sexist boor with no critical thinking skills. In fact he thinks people should be proud of that.

So of course the racists, the sexists, and those without the capacity for abstract thought voted for him in droves.

We're long past the point where there is benefit in pretending that all ideas are created equal, and that my uneducated belief is somehow on the same level as your educated, evidence-backed opinion. To support Trump is to support the anathema of civilized society.

If you believe that all of Trump's voters were racist and sexist, then you do not understand the plight of middle America.

I can see we're not going to have a productive conversation, here.

You're right I don't understand the plight of middle America, and I bet they don't understand a thing about the problems the coasts face. Maybe we should split up and go be separate countries. They can take the south with them while we're at it.

It's important to use inclusive language to maintain the forum where we learn and share ideas with one another, but if your shelter's erected on a tentpole of anti-intellectualism (whether a reaction to others' elitism or not), you've already aborted the dialectic, left or right.

Perhaps at that point it's more fruitful to name it and to confront it as a cancer on civil society than it is to recruit it or appease it.

If you're caught in a propagandist's net it would seem to do you better to reach your hand out to the folks who notice in hopes they could fight with you for your liberty rather than to compound your shame by insisting you're there for your own good.

Nonsense. People are not as stupid or illogical as you claim. The decisions the Trump-voting electorate made were not anti-intellectualism just because the end result (Trump being elected) wasn't a great option. From many people's PoV, he was the _least worst_.

The internet used to be difficult to get to, we were playing with a loaded deck.

It did, didn't it? Facebook and Twiter took credit for creating a few democracies in the middle east during the Arab Spring.

The Arab Spring lead to possibly one democracy (Tunisia), otherwise it lead to minor reforms, horrific civil war (Syria, Yemen, Libya), or a theocratic dictatorship and then a military coup (Egypt).

actually at that time almost nobody in those countries were using twitter/facebook

Syria is largely a result of foreign interference. Namely, Iran early on and Russia since 2015. Without them, Assad would've been done with 7 years ago. Libya, where international community did stop the dictator early, ended up infinitely better even with ongoing civil strife. It's like an A/B test for non-interventionism.

The coup in Egypt was so swift that there was no time for then hypothetical Islamist dictatorship to form.

>Libya... ended up infinitely better even with ongoing civil strife

Better how? In the 2 civil wars, tens of thousands of people got killed, millions got displaced, and oil production never recovered. Since the country is so fragmented, they can't do anything about the ongoing pandemic. Even Obama refers to Libya has his greatest mistake.

Libya is definitely not better after Khadafi... It was a reasonably stable place (despite the murderous despot, lesser evil etc) that was irrevocably fucked by the intervention. Surely you don't think the Western campaign was done out of the goodness of our hearts and love of democracy?

What makes one thing "foreign interference" and the other the "international community"? Besides that, I agree with you on Syria: many deaths could have been avoided if the US had refrained from sending billions of dollars of money and weapons to various armed groups there.

Lybia too the result of foreign interference. Europe and USA

Led by France.

Libyan prisons and camps have been called "concentration-camp-like" by Germany's foreign office. There are mountains of evidence of prisoners and refugees being subjected to systemic rape, murders, enslavement and forced participation to fight in the war. Ghaddafi's Libya was a terrible dictatorship. Libya now is in the middle of a gruesome civil war. Horrific human rights abuse is the absolute norm.

There is never going to be any major political upheaval without foreign intervention. Furthermore, foreign intervention is usually welcomed, it rarely just happens in a vacuum. Sometimes it's rebels, sometimes it's the incumbent government, it's usually both.

The fact is that a country undergoing a revolution or even just significant unrest is very weak, and weakness will be exploited.

It's tempting to be sarcastic here, so I'll just play it straight. The Arab spring turned out terribly for almost everyone.

Yes. I'm kind of pointing out how even that "positive" vision was naive because it actually did come true and it was still bad. Just creating democracies isn't necessarily a good thing.

I think the naive view is thinking that Arab spring was shaped by the internet and not plain old foreign intervention.

Build your own new neighborhoods on top of ubiquitous high speed global connectivity, and tune out the mega websites, or even the web parts of The Internet completely. That’s what I do.

Whenever I feel afraid I go ping some of my IPv6 addresses or measure the pond temperature remotely, or the current rainfall at school.

If you can’t shake yourself away from the web bits, GitHub with its sheer volume of creative expression (even as unpalatable as centralized monocultures may be) is something to love about this current moment in intarwebs history.

It would be cool have local "intranets", it sounds insane but hang on for a sec - social media can only exist in these small intranets, say max 1000 people. Everyone should be required to put their name and face to their profiles before saying anything. Sounds exactly like China though :( This is the problem and it's a pretty tough one democracies around the world will need to face.

We have that to a certain extent with Nextdoor. They take precautions on invites, neighborhoods you live in, and names. Yet, it's one of the messiest of clusterfucks.

That's a solid point and I wonder if the reason is simply because of the way its marketed and the initial userbase that sort of paved the way for the rest of the app. When I hear of nextdoor, I simply think of local Karens screaming about kids being too loud outside. Sure, there are some decent conversations happening too, but mostly its got that vibe. It's not really touted as a "lets chat about anything" tool, mostly just local neighborhood gossip (at least where I live, and I live in a "cool/hip" neighborhood, can't imagine how bad it is in the suburbs).

NextDoor is the way it is because they don't do any content moderation at NextDoor HQ - they depend on local "Leads" to do the work. Unfortunately, this model doesn't work. The same person that wants run your HOA and drive you crazy is the same person that becomes a Lead.

Once one Lead gets in, only they themselves can promote another person to Lead. In my neighborhood, we had one thoughtful Lead, and one insane Lead. The thoughtful lead carefully deliberated about adding more Leads, while the insane Lead picked her cronies - and then eventually "overthrew" the thoughtful Lead.

NextDoor has terrible content moderation and no penalties for infringing users. It's absolutely vile, amplifying the most minority of opinions with no consequences.

Huh, the moderation issues are one problem with it and now when you put it that way, sounds an awful lot like the moderation system of reddit. And we know how great that is. /s

Sure, but at least on reddit, if you don't like a moderation style, you can set up a competing sub-reddit r/fitness to r/advancedfitness, or r/weightlifting to r/powerbuilding to r/bodybuidling to r/naturalbodybuilding - the opportunities are endless.

No such alternative exists on NextDoor. Don't like the content or moderators? Your only choice is stop participating. I have no idea why NextDoor thinks that is good for their business model. Over time the site will just be populated with Karens.

It's terrible at least in my burbs.

The cynic in me thinks that Nextdoor is just proof that the fundamental thing that makes social media terrible - being a megaphone for egos, pettiness, and narcism - are not overcome by real identities and scope. In my group, there are people that like to stir the pot, and then there are people that love reacting to the stir.

It's always easier to destroy than to create, and computers are great amplifiers of ideas; it makes sense then that as ideas become more common, more of them would be destructive.

Nextdoor is one of the best things on the internet. Easily the most constructive large scale BBS type things I've seen since early craigslist. If yours is nuts: it's because the people around you suck. I'm as misanthropic as they come, but the people around me are fucking great.

I'll admit it was awful when I lived in Berkeley, but so were the people around me.

"It's because the people around you suck." Isn't that the core problem with all social media? If people didn't suck we wouldn't be having this discussion about facebook.

FB is terrible as it puts your aunt Mabel, your 3rd collitch GF, some guy you bought weed off of in HS, and some dude you met at an industry mixer together with 100 of your closest pals and lets them fling poop at each other. You can quit; I did. Don't miss it!

Nextdoor is great; lets me know what the neighbors are doing and helps me pick out great local services. Some dudes above pointed out you need some common interest for it to work: being a good neighbor counts as a common interest!

Same. My nextdoor is pretty chill. No one talks politics too busy saving lost pets, recommending handymen and landscapers, and such, I guess.

I was on the social networks before facebook, we called them bulletin boards, or IRC back then, and one of the things you didn't do was write your real name. You could be closer to people that way, you could share things you didn't want people to know about you, and it worked.

The reason it worked, was that you would gather based on your interests and there was no giant company optimizing things for clicks - that is also why the original reddit worked so well: there is a small space for your niche.

Also, you could easily sign up under a new name if need be to start over (e.g., when you lost an argument or overreacted or something). Snowden mentions his in "Permanent Record".

I was on usenet before then and you did use your own name

A better approach than frozen mini-nets is just to require any company above a certain number of users to open its protocol like email. You could then get your access to the system via any ISP, and you would be the one who decided what opinions were allowed to reach you by who you subscribed to without the mandatory "safety service" provided by a single party. They could still offer that service as an option but wouldn't be able to mandate it.

Interestingly, the GDPR comes close to the requirement you suggest. It defines a "right to data portability"[0] saying that users "shall have the right to have [their] personal data transmitted directly from one controller to another, where technically feasible."

If this were interpreted by a court or regulator (perhaps as part of an EU anti-trust investigation) as a requirement to have new data automatically exported on an on-going basis, then that is very similar to requiring effectively federation between big services.

[0] https://gdpr-info.eu/art-20-gdpr/

Huge fan of making utilities out of the most successful services as a default modus operandi.

Yes, and it should apply to all online systems as they grow into the millions of users, because not surprisingly, network effects are pervasive on the network. So not just communications but commerce such as Amazon should be forced to transition (in stages) or stop growing.

They could do whatever they wanted with their customers (pricing, who and how to serve, terms of service, etc.) when they were small enough that users could in practice leave them for a competitor just as easily as they could cut off service.

But if they allowed themselves to grow to into the millions of users, they would have to gradually transition to purely uninvolved, invisible infrastructure, like an underground water pipe. Their users would deal with smaller middlemen instead of the background infrastructure provider. The infrastructure provider would have no way to impose terms of service or philosophical opinions or pricing controls or whatever, which only the middlemen would be allowed, and if the middlemen all conspire, the infrastructure provider wouldn't be able to deny service to a new middleman who offered an alternative.

Basically, the small players deal freely with small players, and the biggest players, instead of gaining leverage, would have to serve them more and control or compete less (or remain small and retain the full freedom of a small player).

If you want to fix most of the garbage of social media, and actually turn it into a marketplace of ideas, slow the speed at which information spreads through it.

Put a hard cap on a post's re-tweets/shares, and aggressively ban bots that try to copy&paste to circumvent this.

This is one of those ideas that sound good in theory but then immediately causes bad effects.

The problem with cutting and pasting isn't bots, it's people. Uncle Joe posting 5 links a day from <bad news source> is completely allowed under your system, and yet if there are a million Uncle Joes on your network (and there definitely is a large portion of the population like that), then you'd just be back to square one.

Uncle Joe is unlikely to have thousands of followers. And if he does, those followers are again, unlikely to each have thousands of followers.

Remember spam chain e-mails back in the 0's? There were a lot of stupid viral ideas going around in them, but their reach was rather limited, and they were, generally speaking, not very successful in breaking into the social zeitgeist.

"15 million people liked this" is a lot of social proof. "Uncle Joe + a few dozen other people liked this" is not nearly as much social proof... And viral ideas live and die by the amount of social proof they have.

It's quite possible that what I suggest may not be the best possible fix. In fact, I'll go so far to say that it's not. But I have a hard time imagining that we currently live in the best possible world, such that no amount of tweaking the parameters of these sites will result in improvement. The current outcomes are horrible.

I think some version of this idea has promise. It's kind of like social distancing and COVID-19.

Everyone wants to limit what other people can read and write because they want to impose their beliefs onto the rest of the world. No. Your ideas aren't the "correct" ones. Just censor your personal information instead. Stop looking at all the crap and it'll be as if it doesn't exist. Almost everything I see on Twitter or Facebook is either interesting technical things, advertising, real people's daily lives, and the odd cat video.

This is wrong on so many levels.

1. Bad ideas spreading does, in fact, harm me. For instance, bad ideas, in the vein of 'COVID is a hoax created by Bill Gates and Soros' and 'Wearing masks is tyrrany' are currently killing people, and are causing economic damage.

2. If speech is so meaningless that ignoring it makes it's impact on my life go away, why do people care about having free speech? How can it both be so meaningless, and so important at the same time?

3. It takes an incredible amount of privilege to ignore politics. Even if you don't care for it, politics cares deeply about you. When politics stops caring about me, I'll stop looking at 'the crap'.

This is easily one my favorite arguments against 5G. Why exactly do we need more mobile bandwidth? Is anyone doing anything useful with it?

Watching movies

Talking face to face with friends and family

That is anti-free speech. Not that social networks are bound by the First Amendment, but it's literally preventing me from saying something freely by my own volition if too many people before me already said the exact same thing. Hard pass.

It is my understanding that Telegram and Whatsapp are currently actively doing this kind of thing, to stop the spread of misinformation and disinformation, according to the companies. I still disagree with this practice on principle. The effects of free speech on free people is increased freedom. If those using free speech are not themselves free, less optimal results may occur; freedom is an inherent good; free actions are judged on their merits and their effects.

If you go to a bar or a park and play loud music over everyone, or amplify your voice loudly enough to try to have a conversation with everyone simultaneously, then they can kick you out. These locations can define their range of acceptable behavior, and that usually includes a lot of norms about socializing and letting people in their own subgroups be free from egregious distractions. Social media can similarly construct and define its own norms. No single location or specific social media site has a monopoly on speech. We have a large choice between them, and especially online, the barriers to creating your own space are low.

Already on Facebook, I generally can't make a post that's shown to other people automatically who are disconnected from my friend group. Is Facebook limiting my free speech by doing that already? Hypothetically, if Facebook did stuff like decreasing the volume, er, show rate, to far-away people if my post is re-shared from my friends and so-on to very far outside of my immediate friend group, is that then censorship?

On social media, people choose who to listen to so nobody can "play loud music" to those who don't want to hear it. Censorship is to protect people from wrong-think that they want to hear, not to protect them from what they don't want to hear.

We could have both. Opt in social networks with real ids for serious stuff and entertainment Social media Free for all Slike we have now for uhhh entertainment.

Neighborhood isn't the right metaphor; it is as big as the world now, and should be compared to it. There are many "neigbhorhoods" on the internet. Unfortunately, many of them are quite bad. There are still good ones. For example, I run an online event that brings people together hundreds of people from 6 continents who each write marathon style for 24 hours. That type of event is exactly the "positive" potential of the internet that I dreamed about when I was a kid in the 90s. Unfortunately, one thing is true: the bad don't just dominate, they're way overcrowded.

Please do not conflate giant corporate walled, censored outrage-farms designed for rubes with “the internet”.

You will find it is a very nice place if you block Facebook and Instagram at your router and build and cultivate communities yourself.

I am endlessly tired of antisocial people complaining about the modern internet simply because approximately 100% of their society uses it now.

If you’re antisocial, that’s fine: seek out smaller, cultivated communities and protocols. But don’t hate on the fact that anyone can talk to anyone else now. That’s a feature, not a bug.

I received my first online death threat in 1990. Had I realized then it was only going to get worse...

... then what?

I think you're implying you would not have used the internet, but that seems unlikely. Since you are still here, you must have decided that the benefits outweigh the death threats?

It's turned into what most people are.

Too bad that most people are a 'terrible neighbourhood'.

I agree with all of your points except for anonymity. Some of the most toxic internet battles I’ve seen were on Facebook, where everyone was using their real name, picture, etc. On the other hand, some of the most insightful discussions I’ve participated in were right here on Hacker News.

So I think there’s another explanatory variable in this case. What’s the big difference between HN and Facebook? HN is a self-selected community of people which has established a culture based on strong values of discussion, charity, mutual respect, and highly engaged moderation. Facebook, on the other hand, has only outsourced moderation in order to keep out illegal material. It doesn’t have any interest whatsoever in promoting healthy, engaging discussions.

I think people really tend to undervalue good moderation and related systems for shaping good discussion. It's extremely common on HN to see people write off all moderation as censorship and an absolute bad, but then it's really interesting to see that so many people repeatedly pick the very-moderated HN over places like 4chan. It's like fish, ignorant of water, proposing that it's universally true that decreasing the obstacles and material between each other improves the discourse, while ignoring that places like that do exist and largely lack that benefit.

It has to do with culture. Take traffic precautions. People stop speeding when you place speedbumps. You might need those speedbumps for 5% of traffic users, but it useful. Nobody has claimed that there is a speed dictatorship.

The same goes with moderation. You create a culture where you allow everyone there say, and add specific speedbumps (rules) where your community needs it. Otherwise you get the 5% that overruns the place, skewing the discussion disproportionately.

Source : was moderator for 5 years (not here)

Is HN "very-moderated" though? I've got my share of unpopular opinions but nobody has ever tried to shut me down over them - something that I've seen happen to myself and others relatively frequently on IRC.

Sounds like a good moderation. Why would you want to shut down unpopular opinion.

> but then it's really interesting to see that so many people repeatedly pick the very-moderated HN over places like 4chan.

Do they? HN seems small compared to 4chan and tiny compared to Facebook.

I’d say more than three quarters of my tech friends have never been on HN whereas they have all been on Facebook at one point.

Oh I wasn't trying to make a relative comparison, just pointing out that there are a lot of people here who repeatedly choose HN over 4chan.

I think it's possible to have good discussion on places that are very loosely moderated, but it's not as simple. And I don't think it can work on sites like 4chan where user have no identity

> highly engaged moderation

This in particular. It took me a very long time to recognize how important this was, but looking back the very best social spaces I've ever been in have all had reasonable standards of moderation with moderators who actually paid attention to the various conversations going on. That's not to say that all spaces with moderation standards are good, but I can't think of a worthwhile social network with hands-off or primarily user-driven moderation.

Trouble is, we haven't figured out a way to scale "good moderation" up to something like Facebook scale, and organizing a mass exodus from large social space is a lot harder to do en mass unless you have a Digg v4-scale unforced error.

Trouble is, we haven't figured out a way to scale "good moderation"

I’m not so sure we need it. Isn’t it okay if we have different, small communities with different interests? Like I’m not sure if society actually needs a community as large as Facebook.

Sure, Zuck believes in it, but I think he’s somewhat naïve for doing so. Different people need different spaces.

A karma system and/or paid accounts, which will discourage people from breaking the rules (because they now have something tangible to lose, either their high-karma account or the money they paid for it).

The karma system can also reduce the amount of content needed to moderate because low-karma users will be limited by the system (to limit the potential damage from a fresh malicious account) while the high-karma users are more or less trusted because they have much to lose by breaking the rules.

People tend to downvote posts with opinions they don't like. So eventually there'll be only one opinion in a given community. I saw it happening more than once.

On a good account, downvotes for unpopular opinions would still be balanced with upvotes from the popular opinions. I often post stuff that goes against the mainstream in here and my karma is still good despite taking the occasional hit.

I agree that the system isn't perfect (it would fail if you only post unpopular - but otherwise valid and within the rules - opinions), but wouldn't it still be better than the current situation?

> A karma system

Upvoting and downvoting can and have been gamed by users and groups of users. It's a fine distraction to drive engagement in a social media space, but you cannot delegate moderation to the crowd without it turning into hot mess.

> and/or paid accounts.

At some point this might have been a good idea, but it doesn't stop bad actors from joining or returning through credit card fraud.

- - -

Have you looked at tildes? It's a reddit/HN-style site, but with stronger moderation and no downvote button. But the most interesting feature is that you have to be invited to the site by somebody, and the chain of invites is tracked, so if there are a bunch of troublemakers that all seem to have a root at one individual, the moderators can get rid of the whole tree if need-be.

> it doesn't stop bad actors from joining or returning through credit card fraud.

It still raises the barrier to entry significantly. Stolen credit cards are not free to obtain, either you buy them off someone else for $$$ or you obtain them for free through your own means but then you're losing $$$ by wasting them on spam accounts instead of selling them for actual money.

Good point. This is good then, we don't have to give up anonymity to be decent and we, the HN community, are a living example of that.

What if any social media platform is required, by law, to put up a banner and 20 minute delay before their voices are broadcasted. The banner indicates, just like Cigarette box warnings, "Please be courteous, introspect and assess your comments before posting it. Be be a decent human, talk about issues and not other people, and have a productive objective conversation." and allow people to edit their posts for 20 mins. This would be opposed by the shareholders so it needs to be a law and cannot be left up to the companies to do it as it reduces engagement and consequently ad-revenue.

It also would be nice to have @dang x 1,000,000 to do moderation on the internet scale. Honest, decent and positive "internet social workers". It would be a well paid job.

@dang does a pretty damn good job, and I'm surprised I don't see a lot more negatives about him 'censoring' things. Yet people even on hackernews blow a gasket at any censorship on fb, reddit, or twitter... I guess maybe because here is more topical and censoring is to keep things on-topic so they 'allow' that kind of censoring?

That's a good question. Lets say that we're mostly ok with the manifestation of moderation acted out by dang et al here at HN, and less positive about the moderation in other places like FB/reddit.

Given that as a backdrop, how would you characterize the important variables that affect the relative perception of these moderation approaches?

I'll start: 1. Well articulated rules/ethic. 2. Transparent moderation actions. 3. Few "hard lines": dang may step in to remind people of the rules as they approach the line. The precedence of rules is flexible and depends on the context.

4. The person interpreting the context and bending the flexible rules is good at perceiving the intangible essence of virtue.

5. There is a way to get in touch with the moderators, appeal any censorship and have a civil conversation to clarify any misunderstandings. Just like the good old forums in fact, where moderation was benevolent and tried its best to resolve issues.

Compare that to mainstream social media where moderation is a cost center, outsourced to people in atrocious working conditions with no good understanding of the subtleties of the language at hand or the topic being discussed, and has no incentive to make the platform better. The platform itself has no incentive to encourage good discussions and mediate conflicts, its only incentive is to keep people looking at ads and the mediocre moderation is just there to keep the law at bay. Any "good discussions" that arise anyway are just a side-effect.

Yeah, it's much harder to feel like you're being oppressed if you aren't being told your views are evil or stupid, but are instead being told that they're not relevant to the topic at hand. The lack of people posting views opposed to yours also means way less potential triggers for you to post your political views, which means things never spiral out of hand in the first place.

was thinking the same thing for the past few days! not going to rehash all that is going on, but, i came to realize that we needed good moderation on social medias. we needed it a long time ago.

now we blame the "cancel culture" because some are going into other's social media past to dig out stuff. but here's the thing. i saw most of these platforms grow. there were no good moderation.

instead ignorance and absurdity were often supported and even rewarded!

we wouldn't be here if good moderation had happened. now, we are struggling with who to hold accountable for the missed opportunity for moderating what went on social media. the damage is done.

we needed more moderation like we have here on HN!

The other day I when I saw different people were criticizing @dang alternatively for being a communist and a racist nazi, I knew he did a great job.

The problem is that people sometimes want to be nasty, hurtful or obtuse. This warning will not do anything because 1) people explicitly want to be noxious and 2) there is no consequence for breaking the rules anyway.

> I agree with all of your points except for anonymity.

I think the result is well-identified but not the cause:

> This creates extremely unproductive conversations without consequences. Platforms such as Twitter propel this behavior to new heights. When it was local, you'd lose friends for being unpleasant, you'd lose credibility in your community for being inflammatory.

In real life, if you accidentally invite a local Karen to your party, they show up and screech at everyone and don't get invited again. Karen is thereafter stuck at home alone screeching at her cats. Problem solved.

On the internet, the local Karen screeches and other Karens from all over the world retweet it. Karen is thereby emboldened by the attention and joins a roving band of Karens who blanket the world in screeching and hatred like a plague of angry locusts. Which can happen even if Karen is her real name.

What prevents this in real life isn't the lack of anonymity/pseudonymity, it's the lack of equally deranged local compatriots providing a support network and validation for ridiculous anti-social behavior.

Presumably what's needed is more localized communities. It shouldn't be Twitter and Facebook but rather separate communities based on interests or locality and moderated by people who are themselves members of the community being moderated rather than some unaccountable corporate monopolist.

Who's paying for HN?

I have follow up question:

- How much does it cost to run HN?

If Facebook and Twitter wanted to make good on the mantra of "making the world a better place", they could do it today simply by disabling things that are reinforcing echo chambers, rewarding anger and generating outrage.

e.g., Disable algorithmic feeds, remove sharing/RTing and stuff like Trending.

Engagement metrics would plummet, yes, but they would literally make the world a better place.

So, what would a feed consist of then?

Posts by your friends in chronological order?

That would do nothing to fight echo chambers.

What exactly do you think causes echo chambers? When algorithms inSocial networks reward bad behaviors bad behaviors will dominant. One of those bad behaviors is lazily espousing the dominant viewpoints in pursuit of social acceptance. Another is avoiding broadcasting certain beliefs out of fear of holding the unpopular opinion. Who disagrees with a highly comment? These are the behaviors which create mono cultures and echo chambers.

I don't think echo chambers are necessarily as maliciously or narcissistically inspired as you do. They are a natural result when people have complete control over what they hear and they primarily seek to hear things that reinforce their existing worldview.

It would stop amplifying them.

Yes, you'd get natural echo chambers of the type we've had since antiquity, but not the hugely accelerated toxic meme spread enabled by news feeds.

But we didn't have natural echo chambers of that sort and magnitude, because we didn't live in a global village.

I believe that the ideological self-segregation is mostly because you can choose who to interact with. That's also why it's primarily online, because you cannot choose to a similar degree offline, and the physical distance between you and your near-duplicates is too large for echo chambers to form, unless you make an intentional move to bring them together (e.g. sects moving to a certain location).

What facebook needs is a dislike button and making it invisible to other users when it reaches 3 dislikes. That's how an organized society work. In facebook they only started with likes that's why bad post are amplified because there are engagement even if lots of people dislike the post.

Isn't that how you end up with echo chambers? I think something obviously needs to change, but giving the majority a button to hide posts they don't like from everybody on the site won't lead to more meaningful discussion.

I agree with everything you say, but I have a more positive interpretation of where the current shitshow is going. We’ve found a new Wild West of opportunity in the internet and the first people to understand how it works and build something to take advantage of it have won the game. The winners we have now are incredibly simplistic - twitter’s model propagates attention and consequently hyperbole and controversy. Facebook’s model propagates bubbles and consequently groupthink and a lack of critical thinking. However, there are other models. Reddit and hackernews aren’t perfect but they do foster valuable debate. People as a majority group are starting to appreciate the benefits and disadvantages of the models that their platforms represent. Previously the major platforms succeeded because they were the first, or the most powerfully viral. Now that we have more mature platforms, I think the choice people are making between them is more reasoned and we’re getting better results. Facebook is losing mindshare to platforms like niche publishers, balanced news organisations, and forums like Reddit and hackernews. The internet had such potential, and what we’ve got now is not living up to it, but I think that we’re just slowly getting there and that dream is still a possibility.

Reddit has been accelerating censorship recently (so many shut down subs...), becoming increasingly left wing and echo-chambery, so I'm not sure that's a good example.

I have two thoughts:

1. Facebook uses real names and people still say the nastiest things, sometimes to their own family.

2. Maybe you have forgotten that the political debate in the 90s was not healthy. That was the era of the Clinton impeachment, and Newt Gingrich brought us to a whole new low in dirty politics.

Cults (which I'd define as groups that respond to criticism/mockery of their sacred cows with action instead of argument) aren't new. They've been rising, taking over huge territories and then falling, since the dawn of history. It's just a bug in human nature. The early internet was anti-cult and insisted on actual arguments, and I thought it would endure, but it's over now.

While reading your comment I had this weird sense of Deja Vu - I've been reading a book about the problems brought on by globalized trade, and there's a surprising number of parallels. Local companies shuttering. Transfer pricing. Tax havens. Moral hazards when company owners live across the globe from customers and employees. Shell companies and fraud. Connecting the world globally in communications and trade has created enormous new opportunities - both good and bad. But we're only now starting to understand the enormity of the latter, and we're pretty much still at square one when it comes to dealing with these new global problems.

One data point in favor of your theory is that local elections and laws - sometimes down to the city level - are now national news stories. It never used to be like this, and now we’re in a situation where resentment builds for people you’ve never met, live 1000 miles away, that you’d have no idea even existed before all this. Some my say this is a good thing, but I flatly disagree.

One thing that people need to keep in mind as well is that people who are obsessively online are going to have a much greater presence than those who have a more balanced life, and people who are more judicious about there output are going to have much less of a presence than people who throw out content without any thought.

A lot of people assume that online content is representative of the majority of the community, when it's likely representative of a very small but very active minority that very well might be mentally unstable. The 1% rule of internet culture is well known, but there's evidence that things are even more skewed than that[1].

It's likely that the design of much of the current web ends up greatly amplifying the voices of some of the most unhealthy people in the community, to the point where they end up driving the discourse.

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/9rvroo/most...

But Internet has also centralized a lot after the 90s from the infrastructure side. With a modem it was a no-brainer to expose a service on the open internet, now with DSL Routers being standard it's a bit more difficult - of course this has good reasons also. So people would just try out various server software and run it, today only few people would do that. Even among the tech-savvy population, most would resort to SaaS. Especially P2P software had a hard time, nowadays popular P2P networks seem to be just there to do stuff that would be too risky otherwise instead of actually democratizing information. I mean in the 90s it was normal that people would build a homepage with content they like, now it has to have cutting edge design and be super entertaining for the visitor. So what happens is, only professional Content creators create content like before the internet. (I wouldn't count Twitter messages as content, that's barely enough space to voice a differentiated opinion...)

With the local news that's of course a thing, on the other hand my parents and other people of that generation used to usually read a local newspaper and a nation-wide magazine or newspaper. I don't think the group of people actively engaging in local politics has ever been really large. Not sure whether to count sharing political "artifacts" on Facebook should be considered actively participating in politics. It's just clicking one button.

Another facet of this phenomenon is American political discourse spilling over into countries where it doesn’t make any sense. I see it in Ireland for example.

I suspect that this is owed to the fact that the US is an empire, albeit not an explicit one where it's clear who is a province and who isn't.

I believe that people realize that American politics is much more important to their future than local politics, and that their countries will follow whatever way the US go, with some delay but little choice. The US political conflicts form the US, and that then forms it for everyone in the provinces.

There is definitely an aspect of that but some of the stuff doesn't make any sense. The Irish were colonised and slaves themselves for example.

Honest questions here:

A. Why does Facebook need to change anything ahead of the 2020 elections? Why can't they just run themselves properly all the time?

B. Why is Facebook overly concerned with the US elections, but not overly concerned with the Taiwanese, German, Indian, or any other elections? As a global platform it seems sad that they are paying so much extra attention to the US than democracies everywhere else.

I might digress but those who would want to understand the beauty behind Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights , I would recommend this basic and insightful documentary without the usual background mysterious/sassy music:


> I want to go back to 90's when we had healthy debates between republicans and democrats. We were one country. One voice. And people debated about issues and not about other people's clans.

"Make America Great Again", huh?

I actually do have a point: I 100% agree that the spot we're in right now is appalling (in America and in some other countries as well). But there actually have been times in America's history when the debates were unhealthy.

Go back to the 90s, you say?

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newt_Gingrich

> Political scientists have credited Gingrich with playing a key role in undermining political decorum in the United States, and hastening political polarization and partisanship.

The Internet has added fuel to a fire that had already started.

Your politicians sold you out to big business and the internet showed the majority of population that they are being deceived by the elites and the population is feeling the deception because they are now becoming poorer because of the decisions of the business that owns the politician. It will take time to get back to good USA again because it took decades to destroy it.

>- Before widespread internet use, say year 2000, all communities were local. News were local + nation wide, people still focused on their physical proximity of 20 miles that affected them the most. Today, none of my friends read local news. Local news outlets are being bankrupted left and right.

I think this is generally true, and don't want to downplay the enormous role the internet has played in demolishing local communities. However, technology has been chipping away at this problem for a long time:

- Radio

- Auotomobile

- Television, then cable & satellite television

All of these have served to break down local barriers and expand a person's sense of community.

I've heard this a number of times, and agree strongly: the internet is the worst of a small town, and the worst of a big city combined: moralizing busy-bodies, also filled with the sort of dregs of humanity you only encounter once the population is large enough to reveal the uglier outliers.

That’s about right. I’ll add that, on big platforms at least, nothing exists to enforce social norms. If you talk like an internet commenter in real life, you will have no friends and people will avoid you.

The few web communities that stayed decent found ways to enforce their local norms.

if you talk like a news anchor in real life you will have no friends and people will avoid you.

Facebook is where the antivax/5G/Bill Gates/anti-mask/etc movements flourished so it seems people don't care about anonymity any more.

Conflating anti-mask with anti-vax or the notion 5G caused a virus is an absurd straw-man. Refusing to vaccinate a child is a little different than not bothering to strap a spit-covered rag to their face and acting like it's a panacea for Covid-19.

It's actually not an absurd straw man, because, similar to getting a vaccine, a big part of wearing a mask is demonstrating respect for others. I certainly don't think it's some sort of panacea, but unlike shutting down businesses the cost is virtually nothing. The fact that the tiniest of inconveniences, in order to show respect for your fellow humans, is met with cries of "my freedom!!" is incredibly sad to me.

And talk about a straw man: "strap a spit-covered rag to their face". Most people wash their clothes. I certainly hope you don't "strap a shit covered rag (i.e. underwear)" to their bottom.

Sorry, but I have to agree with GP. Anti-vaxx/5G/etc.. movements were anti-science. Anti-mask is not anti-science so long as there is no reasonable standard of evidence/data for people to discuss. As it stands, the WHO is against wearing masks, but in London where I live, it's required by law on public transport (lest you get fined). So... which is it?

"Foreign interference" is as old as the hills.


>I want to go back to 90's when we had healthy debates between republicans and democrats. We were one country. One voice. And people debated about issues and not about other people's clans.

i came here only 20 years ago, so can comment only indirectly - recently watched a Bill Maher standup from something like 91 - and pretty much the only difference was clothes. In particular it was somewhat eerrie how he was talking about Anita Hill while short before me watching it there had been Kavanaugh story.

I agree with all your points, except, as a others have noted, the point of anonymity. I have seen a number of incomprehensibly violent (verbally) threads in my town FB group. These are people who live here, who's kids go to the same schools, shop at the same stores, etc. It's incomprehensible, to be honest.

I used to think this had to do more with isolation from the potential for immediate physical violence, and yet even that seems to have been invalidated by what people seem to be willing to do to each other in real life.

I don't think the root cause is the internet. It's optimization algorithms. From my perspective we have reached a moment in time when regulatory control might be the only solution. I am definitely a small government guy. That doesn't mean no government, just the judicious application of the massive power government can wield.

Over the last several years we have watched two loved family members diverge deeper and deeper into ideological pits of hatred, all fueled 100% by Facebook. One of them on the ideological right and the other on the left. I only use FB to keep in touch with close family. It has been very painful to deal with these two. I've had to snooze them for months at a time in order to not have the walls of hatred they produce pollute my life.

What's sad is that we all watched this happen in slow motion over several years. In speaking with other family members from time to time, comments like "Did you notice that uncle Steve..." (made-up name). Once the problem was obvious it was too late, they won't reason with anyone and logical arguments are pointless.

This process is a familiar one from another domain: Self radicalization of terrorists.

The fact that the FB algorithm (and, to be fair, others) will almost instantly send you full-tilt into a narrow corner of the universe, keep you there and dig deeper and deeper into that hole is the problem. The algorithm has no "return to normal" functionality.

Try it. Go to FB and watch a video you would not normally click on. Within a few clicks you are trapped in that general class of videos. I ran a test on this a while back. Getting out of the hole they dig for you takes significant effort. Which means people will tend to continue clicking on the things that drop them deeper into the hole.

I understand the utility of this when wanting to learn about how to remodel a bathroom. However, there are a range of topics or areas that should never descend into these gradients and should have a strong automatic reset function. The easy one here is politics. Do not facilitate entry into resonant chambers in any subject related to politics. I know it's hard to define this but it is hard to argue that these algorithms have not caused harm.

On your point about communities, news, etc. being mostly local at some point in the past, you hit it right on the nail. Politico did a great article on this that opened my eyes many years ago and helped me understand why things have been so terribly screwed-up. Here it is:


It seems lately as though Facebook has finally found the optimal way to suck me in and keep me scrolling... show me things that piss me off.

I think it’s time to just delete my account. Facebook was supposed to be a means to stay in touch with family and old friends, and for a while it was.

Now it’s just... evil.

I only use Facebook as an ICQ substitute and for a couple hobby groups, for these kinds of reasons. Sanity: Not found.

I completely agree with your point about the algorithms. Anecdotally, the point at which Facebook became an unbearable mess for me was when they defaulted the newsfeed to "top stories" in lieu of the chronological feed of posts. Perhaps government regulation could address the big platforms' ability to prioritize the display of user-generated content through algorithms? Forcing chronological sort to be the "default" seems like something that could be advantageous, as the volume of social media posts would naturally prevent posts from gaining momentum in the way they can when they get "prioritized" by a content curation algorithm.

The oldschool forum thread organization model of "bumping" seems more prescient by the day.

I also think it might help to stop showing posts in the main feed just because friends liked or commented on them. I see a lot of inflammatory posts that aren't even originally from anybody on my friends or likes list, just because one of my friends commented.

Yes, something like that. Almost anything would be better than nothing.

A simple example from my experiment: I decided to click on TikTok videos on FB. I never watch videos on FB other that those my family might post about our family. In other words, if it isn't about family I don't ever click on videos on FB.

I click on one TikTok video and watch it till the end. More TikTok videos surface. I click again and again. I did so about five times in a row. Maybe fifteen minutes total video play time.

From that point forward it took a significant effort to go back to less TikTok videos shown to me.

I had to click on other stuff, like hate Trump videos. OK, that meant that within a few clicks I was being led into "Trump is the devil" territory. BTW, the TikTok videos didn't disappear from the list either.

So now I am in "hate Trump" hell. OK, let's try the other extreme. After much scrolling I found a "hate Democrats/Biden" video, a mild one at that. Once again, within a few clicks I am being offered more and more hateful videos aimed at democrats.

So, now my choices became: Hate democrats, hate Trump or watch young girls being stupid on TikTok (what are they thinking?). Because the "hate democrats" was the last category I had more of that than the rest. Yet the point is that FB "fingerprinted" me as wanting to live in those caves. If I touched ANY of them the algorithm instantly flung me deeper into that domain. It quickly becomes a no-win situation.

How do you leave any of this? Well, you can't. I can't erase the hate Trump/Democrats stuff from my list, nor am I able to do anything about the dancing TikTok girls. It's hopeless.

Well, no, you have to pick something else to obsess over and hope that it buries the other stuff. The problem is that it takes a massive effort once you've told the algo that you want to watch a certain category with just a few clicks. You just can't escape it.

I have been clicking on anything I can find that is engineering related. A good source of this are FB groups covering Arduino experiments and other technical hobbies. Even with that, the hateful Trump/Dems caves and TikTok are still there, and they are not there in the noise, they show-up all the time.

I did this consciously, and so I knew what I was getting into and, more importantly, I was not using idle time to get sucked into a deep dark hole of hatred without knowing it. In the case of my older family members, well, they had no hope. Once the algorithm grabbed onto them it was over. Of course, it didn't help that they already mildly resonated with their respective corners of the political spectrum. Facebook took that resonance and added enough energy into it to, from my perspective, damage their brains and personalities. I am not kidding when I say that. Nobody in the family wants to talk to either one of them because the minute you get them on the phone they will always go into the most vile hate Trump/Democrats rants. One can only take so much of that crap.

No, Facebook needs to be really introspective about this and understand just how much harm they are causing by having shitty algorithms that anyone with a little bit of sense would understand to be wrong. This needs to change. If they don't do it, government will eventually get to them.

For all the technical/AI/ML prowess these organizations purport to possess they sure do a shit job of developing technology or algorithms that anyone with one bit of ethics or decency would recognize as counterproductive at best, and maybe even criminal at the extremes. It's only a matter of time until someone who self-radicalized due to FB does something horrible. There is no FB path OUT of self-radicalization, it's a one way trip.

> "For all the technical/AI/ML prowess"

Turns out the paperclip maximiser isn't a runaway Star Trek replicator, but a positive feedback rage loop.

The documentary "The Brainwashing of My Dad" might be interesting to you. It's pretty cheaply made but it's about this very topic and offers some hope of how they got him to change.

I'll check it out. Thank you.

> This process is a familiar one from another domain: Self radicalization of terrorists.

I kind of wonder if it's the same thing as being susceptible to religious zealots.

A pre-internet version (and still happening today) would probably be nutters going door to door to "spread the word".

eg looking for people in a bad place in their life (vulnerable), and attempting to take advantage of that

I have experienced this with groups. I like joining various facebook groups, because I think the general idea of them could help make facebook a healthy experience. The other day I joined what looked to me like a fairly "vanilla" philosophy group, and all the sudden every single suggested group was for a bunch of anarcho-capitalist-primitive-whateverism fringe nutjobs. It's actually very scary just how fast the algorithm adapts to pull you into the fringe echo chambers.

I think you are right. I like to compare moderation to speed bumps in streets. Not even the crazies on Facebook have claimed there is a speed dictatorship. Or that it is a left or right wing conspiracy. That’s because it is a very useful tool.

We need those speedbumps on the internet, ie moderation. Most people are not well versed in discussion or engaging into critical thought.

One speedbump could be we don’t allow for recommendation algorithms anymore.

I am starting to think we need to shutdown both Facebook, Twitter and maybe others for six months. At the end of that period, in order to be allowed back on the air, they have to demonstrate technology that does not allow positive feedback loops of hatred to develop on their platforms (as well as other metrics). If they can't demonstrate this functionality they stay off air. We truly don't need the resonant chambers of hatred they facilitate through crappy technology.

The world ran just fine before Twitter and Facebook. Some of the things we are seeing today were made possible by these platforms and were impossible before they existed. Food for thought.

Indeed, the platforms are binary affairs still, up/downvote, algorithms choosing what you see, instead of gosh, how about letting the actual user decide?. The race to maximize ad revenue they ‘stole’ from newspapers. And the list goes on.

"We were one country. One voice". No you weren't.

We've got PR spooks citing Hieronymus Bosch for why we all need to broadcast our identities on the internet, and that's the top comment.

In that picture, there is a cat eating mice and a bird eating frogs. If you look close, it's not just peace and harmony.

The nice thing on the internet is that you don't have to listen to the indecent people. It's just that Facebook doesn't offer a comfortable way to filter the input stream. If indecency were a problem, people would move to Mastodon and implement their filters.

> - Foreign interference - when internet use was not widespread, it was difficult to infiltrate a foreign election campaign and interfere with it.


I reckon discussion used to be moderated by the elites. Ideas too radical (anti-vaxx, etc) would not have received widespread coverage, people who are too extreme would not either. Editors and network owners could apply prejudice and moderation. This is all gone now, instead we have people flocking into extremes in endless feedback loops (some intentional, some psychological, some algorithmic).

I'm sure new mechanisms for self moderation will grow out of this. The generation growing into these platforms as their only known reality will need to take the lead and set up new rules which would allow society to keep existing. This is a work in progress.

I think this comment is too easily conflating "the internet" with "the web". Specifically, gigantic billion-page websites that people now call "platforms". The architecture and capacity of the internet we now know allows for them, but they are not an inherent property of the internet.

Web != Internet

All that existed during the 90s, just on a much smaller scale. There were toxic corners of usenet and BBS echo chambers. It's just much faster and more efficient (for some definitions of efficiency...).

Before widespread use of the internet, protests and riots due to police brutality were waved off as "those people acting up". Progressive candidates never got any traction. No one had any real sense of what was happening on the other side of the country, let alone Europe or Asia. Information was controlled and broadcast by a few small entities that were mainly interested in propping up the establishment. Look up operation mockingbird. Let's not be Pollyanna-ish about pre-internet times.

Where do you see anonymity on the internet now? People constantly get doxxed or lose jobs for what they said on social networks.

My theory is that the echo chambers have always exists, they are just much more public now and happen at a slightly faster pace.

I think what happened was that once the internet became widespread and ubiquitous, it empowered a lot of people who were otherwise unable to acquire a massive audience and spout nonsense propaganda and narratives. In the earlier days of the internet, there was a larger portion of sane people because the barriers to get onto the internet were higher. Also, many crazies didn't understand the power of the internet until in the last decade.

Nah, the crazies definitely existed in the “old” internet (I’m looking at you, time cube guy!) You had to seek them out though. The Excite or Yahoo! homepage definitely didn’t “suggest” them.

When it was local, you'd lose friends for being unpleasant, you'd lose credibility in your community for being inflammatory.

If the Internet is making it easier to be unpleasant, then that's great. I don't think we could have the kind of discussion that we are having as a result of George Floyd's killing if we insisted on being pleasant. The United States was founded by unpleasant and inflammatory people.

We could do without that kind of "discussion". I've mostly just seens people shouting at each other (or preaching to their choirs) about that here on the internet. Lots of sharing of little anecdotal stories and selective stats with lots of cancellations and insults hurled.

Can you imagine a "the problem is black culture" right wing conservative trying to have a civil discussion with a BLM protestor in the current climate?

they used to do that sort of thing on jerry springer. actually, now i think of it, oprah did it too. how the hell else can a conversation between those two go productively? ever? unless by discussion you mean ordering food or some necessary social intercourse, which does in fact still happen even to this very day.

- Before widespread internet use, say year 2000, all communities were local. News were local + nation wide, people still focused on their physical proximity of 20 miles that affected them the most. Today, none of my friends read local news. Local news outlets are being bankrupted left and right.

talk radio was popular in the 90s and is the same sort of echo chamber that you'd find on facebook.

- Anonymity on the internet. People can say whatever they want without attaching their name, face and self-pride. This creates extremely unproductive conversations without consequences. Platforms such as Twitter propel this behavior to new heights. When it was local, you'd lose friends for being unpleasant, you'd lose credibility in your community for being inflammatory.

okay, but if the conversation has no consequence then why does it matter? does twitter matter? i know it seems to matter, but is that not just an effect of every individual person who comprises the media being on twitter representing their company or promoting themselves personally?

- Foreign interference - when internet use was not widespread, it was difficult to infiltrate a foreign election campaign and interfere with it.

this was the point that prompted me to comment. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_electoral_intervention

- Data collection and manipulation - Targeted newsfeeds that feed these echo chambers could not possibly reach critical mass before the internet. Echo chambers were physical places to go to - Hells Angels or joining the Evangelical Christian church. No such limits exist now.

i really don't understand this. is the idea that all the time you're not in church or at the hells angels club you're soaking up some stuff from the surrounding culture? wouldn't that balance out given how weak of an influence the internet is on one's identity compared to being physically at a place with other people who are physically there, literally forming an actual group of people?

- Scale - The internet allows unprecedented scale to operate on. Echo chambers reverb into unimaginable self-resonance. Joe Rogan can say something and millions could hear it. +1M subscriber channels on YouTube span thousands. That was practically impossible unless you were on national TV.

you're opining that now there are more echo chambers compared to when there was one? first, that's questionable on its own, but that wasn't how things were before the internet was pervasive.

the democrats and republicans as they are now were not different in the 90's. there was a time that there were liberal republicans and conservative democrats, then the democrats veered away from the legacy of the new deal, and the republicans congealed around neo conservatism. now we have two homogenous brands that are competing with each other. this all was in place during the clinton admin, which is why he got impeached for getting a blow job. perhaps your memory is fuzzy on the 90s.

This comes from such a place of profound privilege. The Internet has given voice to extremists, anti-intellectualism, conspiracies, echo-chambers, etc.

It also largely enabled the movements that have liberated the rights of LGBT and also brought to light the extent of racist police brutality. Trans people as a minority group practically did not exist before the Internet allowed them to interact - because their numbers are relatively few to the total population (something like in 1 in 100) - and because their condition is so heavily stigmatized and persecuted - and now something like 1.5 million people in the US have at least a chance not to be part of a ~66% suicide rate because they can actually figure out what is wrong with them in ways the so great "90s" never would have offered them in the siloed and managed culture prescribed by local and national homogeneity.

The 90s were a time of untold ignorance of the masses. The camaraderie of ideology was only in a bubble of white entitlement. It was the decade of mandatory minimums following up the decade of drug war escalation following up the decade of said drug war. The 90s were a time when the totally unchallenged and unaccountable military industrial complex was still nation building around the world, from the Middle East in the first gulf war to American involvement in Cuba, South America, Africa, Asia. A continuation of behavior dating back almost a century since the US became a world power.

The people of the US were allowed to be blissfully ignorant of all of this by being consigned to only an approved narrative via increasingly state colluding cable networks. The rise of cable predated the Internet but precipitated partisanship. The election of Reagan was hugely partisan, it was considered an expulsion of socialist and leftist thought entirely from the states as a near climax of the cold war, where as physical tensions waned the ideological coup de grace was being cast by radical globalist capitalism. It nigh enshrined the US as a formal Christian nation.

This was all during continued unabated mass murder of minorities. There is a reason all of Martin Luther Kings contemporaries didn't live to see 40. Just the white children of the 70s and 80s were allowed to grow up surrounded by Hasbro and Nintendo in blissful ignorance to injustice around them than be put in a stadium with every other person screaming where you can't help but overhear the oppressed voices those in power would rather prefer be muffled.

The Internet is a tool. It can, and has, and will be used for evil and good. It is more a reflection of our culture that being given what is fundamentally both the decommodification of information in material concerns and the total abolition of distance as a restriction on the transfer of information between any and all persons who can afford it that it is treated as a failure for making people accountable to form their own coherent and rational ethics. We, as a society broadly, chose the centralization and gamification and psychological exploitation of Facebook et al because they represented economic growth over social wellbeing or individual happiness. It is a choice we can reverse, collectively, but we likely won't because we as a culture worship money above all else. And Facebook (sec. centralized algorithmitized social media) is very profitable, both in monetary and power dynamic value.

Your first two paragraphs really show the strength of your filter bubble.

To you it has "brought to light the extent of racist police brutality". To others it has "brought to light the extent of black savagery".

Different bubbles are exposed to very different things, for the vast majority of people they haven't been exposed to all these wonderful things you go on about. (As a side note, you might want to double check that 66% figure)

You be who you are.

Disregard the regardless.

Bring it on!

Web 2.0 was a mistake :/

Actually, quite a number of places around the world still engage in healthier politics than America. Want to know why America suffers so much from such partisanship and extreme ideologies?

It’s your non-mandatory voting.

Don’t blame the internet, which serves other countries well. Blame your special political system for incentivising the rise of extremes over the rise of politicians who “have” to care about the majority.

There's only about 10 countries in the world which have enforced mandatory voting, and a couple more where it's on the books but never enforced.

And plenty of those are not exactly examples of good governance or non-extreme politics. (Ex: Brazil).

So I don't feel your claim is very well supported by the evidence.

> It’s your non-mandatory voting.

Erm, no. What actually kills voter turnout is lack of polling venues. If voting were a quick, painless process on a national holiday, we would see much higher turnouts.

As it is, the current situation is so bad one can't help but think it was purposefully engineered to be that way. Voting should not have to take hours due to lack of venues.

Hopefully mail-in ballots will become the norm, allowing people to vote easily without having to go to a venue.

FPTP voting is a the problem, sure, but mandatory voting solves nothing.

This is the one sentence that is going to come back to haunt Mark: "To clarify one point: there is no newsworthiness exemption to content that incites violence or suppresses voting."

In the next 6 months, there will surely be a post or series of posts from one or many politicians where their choice of what is deemed "inciting violence or suppressing voting" will be, mildly put, controversial. These situations are not clear cut, and Facebook will be in the unenviable position of having to decide what is a political "truth" in a fraught political environment.

The fact that making certain decisions can be hard in some cases is not a good reason for simply refusing to make those decisions at all.

It’s hard in some cases to determine whether someone murdered someone, or stole from someone, or committed fraud, etc. That doesn’t mean we just throw up our hands and say it’s foolish to ever try to determine whether any rules have been broken.

Fraud is a particularly good example here, because it literally involves making reasonable interpretations of someone’s speech. And I’m pretty sure you can’t weasel your way out of a fraud conviction because of technicalities with the way you phrased something.

Making those decisions should require either extensive training (judges) or some random selection (juries). Not the same people from the same subculture making all the decisions.

Elected judges? Juries that have the same biases as the general population? (See how many cops are/were acquitted of assault.)

I'm not saying FB and it's completely opaque outsourced subcontracted byzantine soulless lowest-bidder sweatshop moderation system is better (or somehow will be better), but it's not like the US criminal/justice system is flawless.

Yup. They are painting themselves into a corner and they're going to be the one blamed in the end. Not a good move.

Mark should have either said "we will only take down illegal content" or "we're going to do what we want to maintain appropriate content".

The first would be much easier because, with the 2nd, they will be the decision maker on everything and will get dragged into every decision that's political (all of them?).

Hard to do that when they've given millions the Republican party. I know they like to think they play the middle, but Facebook as a company has favored Republicans, historically. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

That is really, 100% not true. They got less involved with the Dems than Google did, which helped, but apart from Joel Kaplan, they really never had any inroads with the Republicans.

And corporations are immoral fuckwits only concerned with survival, regardless of the ethics (or lack thereof) of the people involved.

This already happened on Twitter, where Trump said "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!" and he was warned for "inciting violence". Presumably, this post about law enforcement using violence against unlawful behavior would just be deleted on Facebook under this new policy.

To read Facebook's policy literally, police departments warning about unlawful behavior would be "inciting violence" because they of course have the monopoly of violence behind them. Even posting the law, and saying that someone is violating it, would be "inciting violence" under Twitter's definition. They don't draw any distinction between lawful and unlawful violence, and every law on the books, whether it's re-selling loose cigarettes or catching too many fish, carries the threat of an officer with a gun using force against the alleged violator.

This is all an interesting thought experiment but in practice, I'm sure this policy will be used to punish people the moderation team doesn't like, and will be ignored for people that they do like.

Absolutely. I’ll note that nobody reposting Beto’s “we’re going to take your AR-15s!” line was blocked, even though I’m pretty sure Beto wasn’t planning on sending social workers to do the confiscation.

I’m not one of those “taxation is theft” people, but the state’s monopoly on violence is a real thing, and violence is implicit in every government law. When Warren proposed to create a wealth tax, implicit in that assertion is that the government would collect it from people by force if necessary.

Facebook’s policy on violence, applied to government speakers, is like people who eat meat being squeamish about hunting. Where do you think your food comes from? Likewise, what do you think is the basis for all these things you think the government should make people do?

At no point was there ever a threat of force from Beto, especially not with armed police.

Maybe you should read up on how the Australian government handled gun control: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_law_of_Australia#2017_Nati...

Hint: their campaign poster said "Now's the time to hand it in without penalty".

You're comparing two very different things here - disingenuously. One in which the president _literally threatens force_, the other which says the government will take ownership of guns.

Beto said the government would “take” peoples’ guns. That word “take” (as opposed to all the other words he could have used, such as “buy back”) clearly was meant to emphasize the threat of government force. (Watch the video and substitute “buy back” for “take” and see if the tone still works.) The assertion relies, for its rhetoric effect, on the threat of government violence against lawbreakers.

I disagree that the average person can genuinely believe that "take" is a strong word of force and should be banned from twitter. It's definitely not equal to "they'll be met with serious force" in terms of threat. This is the original point: "We'll take your guns" isn't inciting violence anywhere near the level that trump does. The comparison doesn't stand.

If you can make that argument with a straight face, I take my hat off to you.

Watch the video: https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2019/09/13/beto-orourke-....

Listen to Beto’s tone and the crowd’s reaction. “Hell yes, we’ll [accept your AR-15 in a buy-back]” would not have had the same rhetorical impact because that’s not what he meant. The crowd cheered because they knew what he meant.

Bro, 1-800-JUNK is going to say they'll "take" or "not take" things from you when you phone them up. Are they inciting violence to the same degree as trump here too?

Except if I say no, and they try to take it anyway, they are breaking and entering. When the government says no, and it’s in violation of a law written by them, we have to revolt to have them step down.

Further listen to his definition of a gun he’ll take. First off the AR-15 is not and never has been used on a battlefield, it’s a civilian gun. Most people don’t own M16’s due to the licensing required. Second is they want to take guns that can be used to kill people, this is all guns. He is frothing at the mouth to take guns that look scary.

No-one is forcing entry to take guns! If the time comes:

1. You'll be asked to hand in guns

2. You can choose not to. You can say it's in the trash. You threw it away. Whatever.

The US gov't will need a warrant to come in and search property. All for a gun that you might own? But that you now know is an "extra" crime to use? That's not going to happen. Manpower, cost, trouble, the chance of escalation - it's not worth it. So yes, keep it locked away if you so choose.

I get your point, but it's an assumption to say that the police are going to _force entry and remove everyone's guns_. That will not ever happen.

I just want to disclaim that I genuinely don't care about guns whether people keep them or not. After being in the UK with acid attacks, keep em. No horse in this race. Just do not understand why people are so determined to say that you'll have them forcefully stolen from you, when just a tiny bit of thinking - and precedent! - shows you that it's not going to happen.

But the US federal gov't already forcefully takes guns away from people when they are breaking the law.[1]

If that law is changed to include guns that are now legal, why would you think the ATF won't seize those guns too?

Not long ago the ATF determined that certain airsoft guns were "machine guns". They pretty quickly asked the seller for a list of customers, followed up with each and seized them.


Drugs are currently (mostly) illegal in the US. If the police have good reason to believe that you have illegal drugs in your house they can and will force entry and take the drugs. And arrest you. Sometimes while doing this they end up killing people. Happens all the time.

Why would you expect laws making guns illegal would be any different than the laws we already have making drugs illegal?

I choose option 3, try and take it. It's in direct violation of the second amendment. They do not have the power and if they attempt to this will most definitely turn ugly as there are millions in the US that will not stand for this. You need to understand that one of two reasons we have the second amendment right is protect us from a government that could turn totalitarian or not "for the people". So when a politician says they want to take guns, this is step one of totalitarian regime stepping in and this one act alone has the power to start another civil war.

because the BLM and ATF totally went in against Cliven Bundy with guns blazing (oh wait...)

The word has a lot of history. Those with guns actually fear them being “taken” and wave an old american flag that says “come and take it” (meaning I will defend my rights). For Beto to say “Hell yes, we will take” is playing in the same rhetoric. He lives in TX and knows exactly what the word meant & so did his voters. Your argument is silly

So the government bans private ownership of firearms, and I refuse to turn mine in. I assume some series of fines accrues, which I ignore. Does the government simply allow me to keep them because I'm refusing to comply?

> At no point was there ever a threat of force from Beto, especially not with armed police.

"In that case, I think that there would be a visit by law enforcement to recover that firearm and to make sure that it is purchased, bought back, so that it cannot be potentially used against somebody else," O'Rourke told the Morning Joe co-hosts. [1]

I certainly wouldn't expect we'd be sending unarmed law enforcement to a recalcitrant gun owner's home to force him to surrender his firearms.


And what if you didn't hand it in at that time -- if you didn't comply with the law? The answer is that you would be subject to arrest and imprisonment for up to 14 years: https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/#/view/act/1996/46/part3/...

I think there's a large difference between threatening arrest and threatening direct violence. For one thing, arrests ostensibly may lead to review and double-checking of the case with lawyers and judges and the chance to defend yourself. Mistaken or invalid arrests may be undone. Direct violence can not be reviewed and then taken back.

If someone threatens you with arrest, they are threatening to send a group of armed men to your house. If you don't let them in, they will break down your door. If you don't let them physically restrain you with handcuffs, they will grab you and perform pain compliance holds, pepper spray you, or tase you, then chain you up with handcuffs or other restraints. If you resist to the point where you threaten their life, they will shoot you. Then they will physically remove you from your home and put you in a cell. Is this not violence?

With this logic, there's no difference between "our cops will enforce speed limits by pulling people over or sending fines to later" and "our cops will immediately beat or shoot anyone on-sight that [the cops say] are breaking the speed limit".

In the first case, if I choose not to resist (which I definitely won't if I believe I'm in the right and I trust the review/court system), there's much less risk of direct bodily harm, permanent injury, or death, even if I get jailed. If violence happens during the arrest, presumably that will be considered unusual and the cops will be at risk of being in trouble from that, so they have an incentive to not be violent. In the first case, if I'm wrongfully accused, I get to have my day in court, have a professional represent me, and present my evidence to a judge before anything more irreversible happens to me than losing some time. In the second case, I have no recourse if a cop abuses their power because they're reckless or have it out for me specifically. In the second case, it's already established that direct violence is expected, and because it won't be seen as unusual, the cops have little need to restrain themselves.

No threat of use of fore?

> Now's the time to hand it in without penalty

What do you suppose is implied?

It really doesn't matter, anyway, because there a regular and frequent shootings at the Chapel Street clubs.

I wonder how you would have it. Do you propose disallowing use of force entirely? If so, how do we deal with noncompliance?

The rationale for having a monopoly on violence is not "let's make people do stuff" because that would be, y'know, slavery. It's the obvious fact that the only alternative to a stable monopoly on violence is an all-out war, so a monopoly is very much the lesser evil.

> When Warren proposed to create a wealth tax, implicit in that assertion is that the government would collect it from people by force if necessary.

Strictly speaking, as a government, you won't need to collect a wealth tax by force. The government's monopoly on violence is inevitably bundled with provision of some privately-valuable services, such as managing and enforcing property rights. People selfishly want their rights to be enforced in a fair and predictable way, so they will find it in their interest to pay up.

I’m no anarchist, so I don’t disagree with that. But we shouldn’t forget that violent coercion is ultimately what makes the rule of law possible. I’m also no vegetarian, but for the same reason we shouldn’t forget that mass slaughter of animals makes steaks possible.

This is an argument that I think too often goes unexamined. Yes, the state obviously depends on a monopoly on violence to sustain itself, but that monopoly alone is not sufficient. After all, in order for the state to exercise violence, individual people need to agree to exert violence on the state’s behalf. The authority to deploy violence in a culturally sanctioned manner can’t come from violence itself. For people to agree that the state has the sole right to deploy violence, there must be a more fundamental source of legitimacy.

For example, you could argue that the murder of the Gracchi was the beginning of the end for the Roman republic: once it became clear that the government was no longer playing by the rules and might really did make right, the republic’s legitimacy was fatally weakened. Before long you get a generation of civil war and the end of the republic.

> For people to agree that the state has the sole right to deploy violence, there must be a more fundamental source of legitimacy.

Having a stable monopoly on violence is generally in the involved parties' shared best interest, so a Schelling point (perhaps weighted by some expectation of shared future benefits) is as much of a source of "legitimacy" as anyone needs. When that process of agreeing on a single Schelling point fails due to excess ambiguity - well, then you might have some real trouble on your hands.

Agreed, but an issue with a game theoretical explanation like that is it doesn’t account for the way that the kind of government people will agree on is highly culturally contingent. In other words it explains why people will get around to forming any government, but says little about how specific governments function (or fail to). To stick with Rome for example, it doesn’t explain why Augustus could rule as Princeps but would’ve lasted five minutes if he’d tried to rule as an eastern style despot.

My real point, rather than trying to articulate a complete theory of statehood in some cockamamie HN post, is to push back against the common formulation that finds the source of state power in state violence. The real story is meaningfully more complex.

What you’re missing is that violence itself is an enforcement of state power. There is a reason why people carry weapons in CHAZ. In a power vacuum, the group that has the most weapons will be the de facto ruler of the area. For instance, Somalia does have a formal government, but without violence such a state does not exist in reality. Another way to phrase it is, in the words of Bret Weinstein, police brutality is a feature, not a bug.

Police brutality is a bug, at least most of the time. The best de-facto rulers are quite aware that it's enough to speak softly and carry a big stick. If you're brutal to others for no real reason, this will be seen as a reason to deter you from exerting that brutality. It's a good thing that we have robust institutions that allow people to do that peacefully.

No, I’m not missing that. To quote myself: “the state obviously depends on a monopoly on violence to sustain itself.” The point is that violence is not the source of state power, but its instrument. This is a real distinction, not just word games, and it often gets elided when people talk about the state as a monopoly on violence. You said it yourself: “In a power vacuum, the group that has the most weapons...” Violence reigns in the absence of state legitimacy. Governments that forget this tend to fall into chaos, lawlessness and corruption. For example, Somalia. Or read Fire in the Lake for an examination of the way all the violence in the world couldn’t make up for the lack of legitimacy of the US-backed South Vietnamese government.

When Weber is talking about the state being defined by a monopoly on violence, he’s talking about the definition of the modern state as opposed to the pre-modern, not an inherent feature of all human organization and government. The medieval king, for example, certainly didn’t hold a monopoly on violence.

> The medieval king, for example, certainly didn’t hold a monopoly on violence.

He did indirectly, through the concept of divine right. This power was so immense, that a single king could wage war against an entire religion, as in the Crusades. If that isn't monopoly on violence, I don't know what is.

No, it’s far from a monopoly on violence in Weber’s sense (or any, really). The king had to manage a whole bunch of aristocrats who had their own armed forces and could pursue their own ends.

Anyway, not sure what you’re arguing against: the divine right of kings is exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about when I say legitimacy.

I think I see legitimacy as being inextricably tied to the monopoly on violence. That is to say, the monopoly on violence is not only sufficient for legitimacy, it is necessary.

They are linked, but not inextricably, and the relationship is more complex than something like “the state is defined by a monopoly on power” may lead us to believe. After all, the modern state (ie one that has a monopoly on violence) is a fairly recent development: in the west, somewhere around the 1600s. And yet governments existed before then, so there has to be something more going on.

We hear something like “the state is a monopoly on violence” very frequently, but without the idea’s original limited context as part of the definition of the modern state. It helps it go unexamined that our personal experience is only with modern states, so it seems intuitively fundamental. We take it to mean that the legitimacy of the state derives from the power of the army (and police, etc). It feels like hard-eyed realism, seeing through the masks to the coercion beneath. But the real situation is reversed, and historically governments without a strong enough story of legitimacy are unable to create or sustain a monopoly on violence. (Note that violence may be an important part of that story, as with the American revolution).

To go back to Rome as an example of how this kind of “realism” can fail us, power in the republic being reduced to who could muster the most swords or the biggest mob wasn’t the true nature of government revealed, it was the end of the republic.

I’ve written way more than I intended, but I really enjoy talking about this stuff. I’m not saying that the monopoly on violence line is wrong exactly, but that taken too simply it can be misleading.

(I’m aware that the Rome example is fraught—after all it isn’t a modern state so we shouldn’t apply Weber’s terms. But for this purpose I think it works: it’s arguably the closest thing to a modern state in the pre-modern western world, and goes to my point about how power and authority are more complex than a “realistic” view that reduces it to violence.

By your logic, a government official saying "you can not kill your neighbor" is inciting violence because there is an implicit threat of the use of force if you do not comply. A government official ever referencing the enforcement of any law would be inciting violence.

Your interpretation of the phrase "inciting violence" is not remotely useful or common. Humans are not machines and language is not the same as computer code. There is social context implicit in the interpretation of the words we use.

Indeed there is such a social context. However it's very subculture specific. Something a person from culture A says might be interpretted as an incitement by someone from culture B even though people from culture A wouldn't read it that way. And if the deciders are chosen by culture B are using rules written by culture B and are from culture B themselves...

> Beto wasn’t planning on sending social workers to do the confiscation.

No, but he needn't have sent people with guns at first. The first step in enforcing any law is just asking people to comply with it. The next step is putting fines on them. Only the last step involves the threat or at the very end, the use of force.

Given the common attitudes of those who purchase and keep AR-15s, perhaps the chance of them complying with any future legal ban on assault weapons is small, but in that situation, by not complying they would be committing a criminal act.

> if necessary.

Yes, if necessary. A lot of issues we treat as law enforcement problems can be resolved without bringing violence into the picture, but that's only possible if the systems are set up that way that encourages non-violent intervention first. Unfortunately, our current law enforcement systems treat many situations as having a high probability of requiring violence.

> Only the last step involves the threat or at the very end, the use of force.

The use of force is certainly the last step, but the threat of force is present at any step. If the government sends you a letter asking you to do something, they're not "asking" you like your neighbor or your friend might ask you. They are telling you to do something, and it's clear to everyone that, if you don't convince them or a court otherwise, they absolutely will use force if you don't comply.

I don't mind the monopoly on violence (though I do believe that the state must enforce it much more: it can absolutely not tolerate challenges to that monopoly, and it must absolutely crush any violence against citizens), but it's not helpful to pretend that, there isn't a gun at the end of the line that gives the nicely worded letter its weight.

> but it's not helpful to pretend that, there isn't a gun at the end of the line that gives the nicely worded letter its weight.

I also believe that the monopoly on violence is the least worst option we have for not having a society at war with itself.

But it's also blindingly obvious that it is the backstop for everything, not just enforcing weapons bans, but even things as mundane as speed limits. When the sign says max speed 55mph, that's asking. When the highway patrol pulls you over to give you a ticket - that's fining you. If you don't stop and they need to run you off the road and arrest you - that's the violence stage.

It's also sitting there behind every right we enjoy in free societies. Everything from property rights to civil rights are backstopped by the monopoly on violence. However, that doesn't mean we bring the visceral threat of violence into every property or civil rights dispute.

Just as important as the underlying threat of the use of the monopoly on violence is the judicious and restrained use of it only in the cases where it truly is proportional to the situation it is facing. Otherwise we get situations like the murder of George Floyd for merely using a counterfeit bill for payment at a convenience store.

> When the sign says max speed 55mph, that's asking. When the highway patrol pulls you over to give you a ticket - that's fining you. If you don't stop and they need to run you off the road and arrest you - that's the violence stage.

The "asking" implied "we will give you a fine if you don't", and the fine implies "and we will come to your house and get you if you don't pay".

> However, that doesn't mean we bring the visceral threat of violence into every property or civil rights dispute.

Of course we do, we just do it via the state. I sue you with the knowledge that, if the court rules in my favor, the state will make you accept that ruling.

There is no pacifist society, and hiding the violence under a veil will do us no good. It's useful to be aware of reality, to know how the sausage is made, because it's much too easy to decide things if you close your eyes to these facts. Similar to starting a war that will not be fought by your children, deciding on a policy that will "ask" people to do something, adding "it's not like we're going to kick their door in..." is a problem: because that's exactly what is going to happen if they don't "voluntarily" comply. It's "hey, could you do me a favor? Please move your car, or else..."

> There is no pacifist society, and hiding the violence under a veil will do us no good

I never suggested hiding violence under a veil, or claimed that there is a pacifist society, and I agree that we would all do well to understand the concept of the monopoly of violence and how it is the least bad way we know of to backstop all the rights we enjoy.

What I said is that we shouldn't start the process of day-to-day law enforcement with the use of violence, unless the individual being apprehended is demonstrably violent or threatening to be violent. I'm talking about the actual procedure of law enforcement, not debating theories about pacifism.

Actual violence should be reserved as a last resort only, not just for unarmed black men like George Floyd, but even for the people who refuse to surrender illegal firearms. They should all be given a chance to comply with the law without escalating things to an actually dangerous situation.

And this needn't be a partisan issue by the way. Sen Rand Paul(R) has introduced legislation to ban no-knock warrants [1], which are prime example of how police often use violence upfront in circumstances that don't require it.

1. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/06/11/rand-paul-bill-end-...

> and the fine implies "and we will come to your house and get you if you don't pay".

Well, it depends. Maybe you've declared bankruptcy in the mean time, and the fine might be wiped out as a result. And if you're unwilling to declare bankruptcy, doesn't that mean you have some valuable property in your name? So the state is exerting violence on your behalf just as much, by enforcing your rights to that property.

> If you don't stop and they need to run you off the road and arrest you - we are at the violence stage.

If you're speeding and won't even stop when police tries to pull you over, you're putting other users of the road at severe risk. From those other users' POV, you were being violent to them, and running you off the road is the lesser evil.

> Everything from property rights to civil rights are backstopped by the monopoly on violence.

Even that is not so clear to me. ISTM that humans have an inherent desire to defend their possession of whatever they regard as their property, as well as the social standing ("civil rights") of people they care about - including by force. So even the basic government function of managing and enforcing property rights need not involve any initiation of violence, compared to the possibly-chaotic and unregulated violence that was already inherent in the basic notion of property, or civil standing/honor, or whatever.

> running you off the road is the lesser evil.

I think we're in agreement here: the use of violence must be proportional to the actual threat, so running you off the road is justified here. If we're not agreeing, then please explain what I'm missing.

You two are in agreement, but have different levels of trust in the government. One of you feels that the government will use proportional levels of violence to reduce the number of firearms in this country, and the other thinks the government won't. One of you is envisioning an Australian gun buyback, and the other is thinking Waco/Ruby Ridge.

Not at all. The government could fine you for having a gun. Don't pay the fine? Maybe it's the same as an unpaid parking ticket. Or they could ask you to hand it in if you have a license. Same thing occurs.

Or they could simply add a charge to your conviction if you shoot someone, because guns would be illegal.

Just because they're illegal doesn't suddenly mean they'll be taken by force. That is such a huge mental jump.

> Not at all. The government could fine you for having a gun.

What do you think happens when you don't pay that fine?

More fines? When not paid, confiscation of financial assets, deduction from your pay, loss of access to government benefits. There's a lot of ways to encourage compliance with the law without a sworn officer pointing a gun at you.

If you don't pay fines, if you don't pay the government-deemed-appropriate deductions on your paycheck, you will be arrested.

You will be jailed for whatever you want to want to call it -- contempt of court, tax fraud, whatever, but EOD, if you don't pay the cash, you end up in jail. And putting you in jail (if you do not wish to comply) will be armed police.

I don't understand how this is complicated.

Right, right, and if you don't comply, what happens? This feels like "hey, that's meat, you know where that comes from, right?" - "yeah, from the fridge" - "no, I mean, before that" - "The Supermarket?"

At some point you'd have to start understanding that not complying is the cause of your problems...

You're right, but I think it actually reinforces the OP's point.

How do you make the adamantly noncompliant comply? You can ask nicely, you can threaten, you can stomp your feet, and if that doesn't work...then what?

I hear you but... nothing. We can't force drug users to not own drugs. If you have a gun, keep it, don't comply, rebel! There's no need to force it from you. Forceful removing comes up a lot but gun control isn't about eradication, like polio!

The point about gun control is that it's not owning the gun, it's _using_ the gun. There'd be additional penalties if you shot someone!

>We can't force drug users to not own drugs

Sure you can, and we do all the time, we lock them in cages.

I have no idea what your point is. The monopoly of violence stands behind literally every law on the books. Going down the rabbit hole on the particular example of fines is missing the forest for the trees. If you have an issue with the monopoly on violence being behind ultimately behind the government fines, then you have an issue with organized society itself.

But we have a whole set of other measures - fines, penalties, negotiations, loss of benefits - and institutions to enforce them before ever calling upon the actual violence provided by the monopoly for a reason: so that most common societal infractions never need to escalate to the point of violence.

You're fighting against a lifetime of upbringing, indoctrination, redefinition of meanings and conditioning. It allows us humans to exist in a state where something as simple as "do not take from others" can be made so very different to "pay up or go to jail" just because.

The brain gets wired to accept and try make some sense of the contradictions , where there are none. That is why we argue about every single little thing in the public sphere: Because there is no base set of morals or axioms that we can use to derive more complex ones to address complex situations.

> No, but he needn't have sent people with guns at first. The first step in enforcing any law is just asking people to comply with it. The next step is putting fines on them. Only the last step involves the threat or at the very end, the use of force.

None of this is any different from armed robbery. Of course the bank robbers just ask with a note first. The threat of violence is still the same, which is why there is a huge burden on the state to prove it’s necessary.

>I’m not one of those “taxation is theft" but I think a wealth tax is theft

This comes across as wealth apologism. If a wealth tax is theft through a monopoly on violence, then all tax is theft through a monopoly on violence.

Singularly applying this concept as a the negative of a wealth tax, while ignoring the rest of taxes, is biased towards the wealthy.

Your mistake is assuming that taking property through the threat of violence is theft. That’s incorrect. Theft is an illegal taking of property. Taxes are a legal taking of property. But collection of the wealth tax, like all taxes, is premised on the threat of violence. It’s legal violence towards a legal end, and therefore justified, but it’s still violence.

> Facebook’s policy on violence, applied to government speakers, is like people who eat meat being squeamish about hunting

Do you feel a cop's post threatening to beat the shit out of someone in a plausibly legal fashion stays up, but not that same post from a non-cop?

An elected legislator is not the government in my mind. This whole personification of the government done by Americans puzzles me. Government holds the monopoly on violence, not Beto. He shouldn’t imply such a terrible thing.

> An elected legislator is not the government in my mind. This whole personification of the government done by Americans puzzles me. Government holds the monopoly on violence, not Beto. He shouldn’t imply such a terrible thing.

The government is comprised of people. Pointing to individual actors in that group seems sensible since "government" is not some autonomously system but a system composed of individuals who direct the actions of the group.

Yes, there is an implicit asterisk in all of this about "state violence under the law is okay".

I think you are being disingenuous to equate something talking about a "we're going to change the law" with "will be met with serious force."

Yes, the use of force is implicit in all law, but the other is a direct explicit threat of force.

Is proposing any law a threat of force? They're all backed the same way.

Isn't it a bit hypocritical for you to call them disingeneous when you had to use a fake quote to argue that it isn't as bad as what Trump said?

If the mayor of a small town threatens on Facebook to murder people, should that be left alone, since, after all, violence is what government does?

Yes, because the public has a right to know that their mayor is threatening to murder them.

Taking the threat itself down from Facebook in no way violates the public’s “right to know”.

> Taking the threat itself down from Facebook in no way violates the public’s “right to know”.

How can we even do journalism if we are deleting the sources quoted?

That’s the insidious side of censorship. If you censor the original source, you can claim that the original source said literally anything.

How can we do journalism about things people say to journalists that aren’t even recorded?

You can, but if you actually start from those recordings and then delete them and claim that it's too dangerous to publish actual evidence that somebody said X when journalists keep claiming that they said X, that's a little suspicious.

That doesn’t make sense in this scenario. The person making the posts that Facebook takes down isn’t trying to hide that they said those things — they want that message conveyed. Why would they deny it when asked?

Also, it’s trivial to take screenshots or otherwise archive the page even if Facebook takes it down.

False. In any scenario where a censor can claim Person A is saying X while also censoring Person A, anything Person A says that conflicts with the censors’ narrative will itself be censored.

But all narratives would be consistent. This is the scenario we're talking about:

1. Person A says X on Facebook.

2. Facebook removes Person A's post.

3. Journalist reports that Person A said X and that Facebook removed it.

Why would Person A suddenly disclaim X? They want X to be heard, which is why they said it on Facebook in the first place.

And again, there are ways to archive digital content even if its original source has been taken down.

> 3. Journalist reports that Person A said X and that Facebook removed it.

Alternative: Journalist claims that Person A said Y and that Facebook removed it. Person A is unable to disclaim it because every time they repeat X it gets taken down and misreported as Y. The public are none the wiser.

How did a private company deciding to regulate speech, become a strawman about how all government is violence?

I think what is implied is the inciting of people to commit unlawful acts of violence.

> I’ll note that nobody reposting Beto’s “we’re going to take your AR-15s!” line

How about you quote that line instead of paraphrasing it (like the grandparent did for the Trump tweet), and you'll find that there are some significant differences between literally threatening violence and announcing a regulation policy entirely in line with existing policy and a ton of proposed legislation.

1) This part of the policy has not changed. 2) State actors warning about use of state force is likely not going to be taken as incitement of violence (incitement of violence is “someone should go and beat those people up”, not “the police, who are under my command, might go and do something” - the latter isn’t inciting anyone).

State actors warning about use of state force is likely not going to be taken as incitement of violence

How do you know Facebook will not do that, when Twitter has already done exactly that?

It’s not clear to me that the Trump precedents were incitements of violence by that standard.

It's clear to me that they weren't, by any standard.

He had already used violent force to stop a legal and peaceful protest for no legal reason and was threatening to do it again. That sounds exactly like “someone should go beat those people up”.

No, it doesn't.

"Someone should go beat those people up" is an incitement to violence because the intended message is to encourage the listener to go beat those people up.

"If those people don't stop misbehaving, I will send the police to stop them" doesn't incite violence; it merely warns or threatens the use of one's legal power to directly order violence.

Government officials make these kinds of statements all the time. For example, consider this tweet from NYC mayor Bill de Blasio (https://twitter.com/nycmayor/status/1255309615883063297):

> My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.

Or, for another example, consider President George H.W. Bush's statement during the 1992 LA riots (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KD_3NOIEk-0). In the statement, he discusses the thousands of federal law enforcement and military personnel that have already been deployed to the LA area before saying:

> And let me assure you: I will use whatever force is necessary to restore order. What is going on in L.A. must and will stop. As your President, I guarantee you this violence will end.

An incitement to public violence can be censored in the interest of preventing violence, but censoring statements from government officials does nothing to stop them from issuing orders to government personnel. Furthermore, if a government official states that they intend to exercise their official powers in some specific way, there is always a legitimate public interest in receiving that statement.

It's not the proper role of social media to provide commentary on whether an announced or threatened use of official government power is legal, moral, or practical. Facebook and Twitter are not in the business of deciding questions of constitutional law.

You seem to miss something important: law enforcement does not require violence.

When a govt official threatens violence for inherently nonviolent acts (even if they're illegal), that is a threat of violence that has nothing to do with law enforcement. It is assuming a crime and that the crime requires violence to be stopped.

In fact, the core concept of the protests in the US right now is that violence is not legal solvely because law enforcers commit it in the pursuit of law enforcement.

> Even posting the law, and saying that someone is violating it, would be "inciting violence" under Twitter's definition.

Isn't this only the case if the response to a violation is violence?

> carries the threat of an officer with a gun using force against the alleged violator.

Yes. This appears to be the observed reality.

> They don't draw any distinction between lawful and unlawful violence

Sounds correct. It's still violence. Advocating for it is still advocating for violence. Maybe if those with this power of lawful violence showed themselves responsible in its application, we wouldn't be here, but they didn't, and we are.

Sure they'll have to deal with defining that line regularly. This is far better for them than taking an extreme position in either direction.

They also have the middle ground option of putting a warning on things and leaving them up.

> warning and leaving up

That will work for some time, but eventually there will be posts that will be so egregious that they'll be pressured to delete/hide them.

That's why I said there is a middle ground. In theory they could go further, and have options to make it increasingly hard to read the posts (i.e. you have to click through multiple warnings). But I'm not saying that they should never outright delete things if they are bad enough. They probably should never completely delete Presidential posts/tweets.

The nice thing is that then they aren't censoring. People are able to see what is being suppressed or hidden if they are interested. I think it is good to have nuance built into the tools.

Facebook is used as the public square for a third of the entire world’s population. They have used this platform to extract value to the tune of billions of dollars, making Mark one of the wealthiest individuals in the world. They have more influence over society and more resources than many world governments.

This degree of power doesn’t comes without strings attached. They have a responsibility to society at large. At this scale, you don’t get a pass because you are a structured as a corporation.*

The very least is to prevent Facebook being used as a tool to amplify violence and genocide. Honestly, given the atrocities that have been effected through their platform [1], this seems like a very timid step.

* If they don’t start to accept this accountability, it will ultimately be forced upon them by society and governments across the world.

[1] https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/2018/11/06/tech...

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