Whether or not this is a good thing is a complex question. If you happen to be the target of this hatred and violence, and feel it is an existential threat to your livelihood, you might believe that it is a good thing to make it more difficult for those who are engaging in this behavior to enlarge their communities. On the other hand, if you believe eliminating communities by platform fiat is an existential threat to your livelihood, this may seem like a very bad thing.
(You might also think it's hypocritical, since you can access most of these communities via a browser. Google also controls the browser, and does make it difficult already to access some sites https://developers.google.com/safe-browsing/v4 . However, it does seem to have a higher bar for browsers than for social apps (e.g. malware, csam, iirc); some have suggested that there are legal reasons for this, I'm curious to learn more on this, but I have not seen any substantiation yet.)
This is grossly unacceptable. Apps need some safe harbor too. Apps can not be responsible for every possible use of the app.
I disagree about your comparison. This app can connect to arbitrary domain names. This is getting blocked because you are not filtering the list of domains a user can connect to proactively.
That's wild & I can think of zero precedent for it.
That said, if you don't want Chrome and Firefox to be content aware, then you should argue that safe browsing should be eliminated from Firefox and Chrome. That is a self consistent position, but it may not be consistent with e.g. avoiding dramatic growth in botnets, ransomware, organized crime etc.
So basically, Google only supports the Fediverse if, like itself, it engages in censorship. The Fediverse exists not to encourage hate speech, but to discourage censorship. Hate speech is the inevitable result of allowing humans to say what like they like. Some people will choose to be nasty. Many people believe the greater good is the free flow of information, and that adults are more than capable of filtering out and avoiding those information sources which make them uncomfortable. Instead, Google wants to treat everybody like children, and be the helicopter parent that swoops in and removes anything objectionable.
As you state, one can access these specific communities in a number of ways, including Google Chrome. If the community is the issue, go after the community, not an ActivityPub app that can access content from these and other communities.
Should Google also ban RSS reader apps that don't actively block RSS feeds from sites Google doesn't like?
In china. That is an important note that you left out to make Apple seem worse.
Safe browsing doesn't include sites for encouraging hatred and violence, etc. Only malware, social engineering, and "harmful"/"unwanted" applications. If they start including those sort of sites in their safe browsing lists, that would make your point here more relevant.
(Of course, some people get hit by safebrowsing unfairly. But I think in most cases, it is because someone compromised their site and used it for a malicious purpose, and then they struggle to get Google to remove it within a timeframe which is reasonable.)
There's a huge difference.
: https://github.com/tuskyapp/faq bottom of the page
The app is not the service; the protocol is not the platform.
There are ton of instances which much of the Fediverse blocks, but if you set up your own server and follow people on those instances, it's not 80% hate speech and racism as others would have you believe. Yes there is some of that, but there's also weebs, and anime and political discussion and weird gaming discussion and videos not posted anywhere else and memes and the great diversity of through we use to have on Reddit before it became a monoculture.
There are also straight up anarchist instances that justify violence and destruction of the state like Rage Love, Anticapitalist Party, and others.
It's a very big space, with new players entering and leaving every month.
Banning apps because they do or don't have block lists greatly misunderstands how the Fediverse works.
The problem is the fact that Google banning these apps borders on state censorship because of the monopolistic position Google has.
Busting up Google solves the correct problem.
Because if it's "user types in the server URL and tries to log in", blaming the app is ridiculous.
All these disparate media sources that we yearned for back in the cable-only days have finally turned to dogshit.
I’m indeed being threatened by various hate groups (one of them actually tried, and almost succeeded, to kill an acquaintance), but strangely enough they are never removed by Google or any other big corporations. Worst, each time I voice any slight complain about them, I am the one being censored. Some of those groups are even sometimes getting official support by the GAFAM. This is a really odd and unfair world.
If op is lying, he or she is lying.
But are some groups ok to threaten? Are some people ok to threaten?
It’s really unfortunate when someone fears for their life and I don’t want that for anyone.
However, lots of people fear for reasons that I don’t think are actually from threats of violence.
I had a friend explain how they literally feared for their life. When trying to console them I learned that the thing that was making them afraid was a friend’s Facebook post about a restaurant that supported some Bible group. Their reasoning was that the Bible group was anti-gay, and they might end up killing them for being an ally of gay friends.
Because of this they feared for their own life and wanted the friend to stop talking about it.
Now of course, there are multiple lame things about Bible groups being jerks, but certainly nothing to make this person think their life was in danger or directly threatened.
I’m not sure how to specifically help that person, but after several episodes like this, I don’t pay much attention to them when they say that they get death threats.
Maybe I’m just jaded but lots of people talk about death threats and I’m sure they perceive them as such. But having the details of the threat helps to differentiate the really dangerous people trying to kill others from the plentitudes of people saying “DIAF” who aren’t trying to kill, just being jerks.
To see how ridiculous this sounds, Google might as well completely take down the entire social media and internet browsing category on the Play Store since I keep seeing the same content from both extremes on all these platforms.
Just wait until you tell them to take down their own browser since you can find this "content" with a simple search. They will soon realise that "drawing the line on hate speech" is more tougher than solving leetcode CS questions.
Well, they're taking the address bar away, bit by bit; they have SafeSearch; and they have AMP. It's a very slow erosion, but there will come a point at which going outside of the list of officially acceptable sites will become more difficult - first with mandatory warnings, then maybe with mandatory reporting to law enforcement or whomever, and eventually not at all.
Yes, it sounds like a "slippery slope" argument, but we're a few steps down the slope now, and any argument that encourages us to climb back up has to point out where things may go if we don't resist.
It sucks that this requires us to defend the rights of people to speak whom we may intensely disagree with, but that's the crux of the matter. Either we become mature enough to understand that people will have discourse we dislike, and avoid it or engage with it as we see fit, or we continue to hide behind authority figures who will purport to keep us safe by controlling what we can say and think.
edit: Trouble in a sense that it is inconvenient for them.
Image if Google decided to just block certain websites on Chrome, or if big tech got domain registrars to drop 4chan, or whatever humor websites they don't find amusing.
This is justification to get rid of apps they don't like.
Any time anyone complains about censorship, roll out the excuse of holocaust denial, regardless whats actually being censored.
> You've flattened an extremely large diverse group of individuals into your caricature viewpoint.
I think you might've done that yourself.
There are lots of Christians who favor Israel but ultimately hold anti-Jewish opinions. This is weird, yes, but support of Israel should not be mistaken for support of Jews (the reverse is also, but only incidentally) true.
> Trump's son in law is Jewish.
So were Emil Maurice and Erhard Milch, at least according to German law. Didn't stop Hitler and Goering from making exceptions for them.
I have quite a few conservative friends. Most of them don't support Trump, because Trump isn't a conservative. He doesn't stand for God or individual freedom, nor does he stand for loyalty to the country. Don't conflate conservatives and Trump supporters. They're not the same thing, and trying to present a bait and switch between classical conservatism and Trumpism is a bad faith argument. This is why you see so many conservative politicians that are no longer in office supporting Biden over Trump. Because Trump doesn't extoll conservative values. Instead he represents a populist and proto-fascist wing with more than a couple white supremacist tendencies.
Trump isn't racist at all. He was friends with Michael Jackson, Jesse Jackson, Whitney Houston, etc. He actively tried to help Whitney from overdosing (https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/mike-love-to-t...). He calls as many victim's family members as he can, regardless of race. He calls every fallen soldier's family, regardless of their race or creed. He just pardoned a black woman who was put away for a non violent drug crime in the 90s. He signed criminal justice reform established opportunity zones in poor neighborhoods to encourage business investment. He supports school choice to help poor communities who are stuck with broken schools. He's got 11 members of his cabinet who are Jewish (Mnuchin, Friedman, etc).
He is pulling the troops out of Afghanistan: https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/26/politics/us-troops-afghanista...
There are more black Republicans running for office in 2020 than in 100 years. Trump has endorsed most of them, if not all of them.
Your tired talking points are just a symptom of a coordinated hit job and misinformation campaign.
Edit, found it: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23219427
And well, they should probably remove the apps of Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, etc as it's plenty of hate speech there too.
That was a mistake, presumably. It's likely this is too. The deep desire on the part of posters here to assume malice and scream CENSORSHIP is really off-putting.
I actually don't know anything about fediverse, but if it's like other pseudoanonymous obscure communications media it's probably filled with awful stuff. It's not that hard to imagine a naive reviewer who doesn't understand the architecture to be confused if they get a report showing screenshots of the app with the content available in it.
This is my concern. These apps are not content hosts, they are akin to Web browsers or RSS readers, but they are small, one-person endeavours that don't have the clout to get Google to notice the difference between the content providers (the individual Mastodon servers) and the ActivityPub client app that these apps represent.
I know one of the devs is thinking to not push the issue as he's worried about his other apps on the same developer account.
The discussion has veered off into censorship issues, but this is a simple 230-ish problem, these apps are not the Mastodon servers that (presumably) some people have had issues with. They are agnostic client readers of the ActivityPub statuses.
There is no way, nor any legal requirement, for a browser like these apps to be held responsible for the million possible bits of content it could consume.
The app is not the service.
It's not obviously in the Restricted Content policy page: https://support.google.com/googleplay/android-developer/topi...
The rules there are extremely general, and technically cover all sorts of things which are currently let into the Store.
We need a list of these lizards so we know when to throw tomatoes and rotten eggs at them whenever they give a talk or share feel-good posts on LinkedIn.
people should be ashamed instead of proud when they write "disclaimer I work at X"
Don't give Google ideas.
(throwaway since the former name searches themselves to find new targets.)
The far more likely reason is that they know we have an issue. They've been monitoring and they don't like what they've been hearing.
If this is the Google policy they may want to bake that policy into the way Chrome operates.
Various think tanks, NGOs, board members with multiple irons in the fire, foreign interests, and the government itself exert a lot of influence on large players to shut down harmful narratives. Most visible was when the deplatforming activity started with threats from lawmakers against outlets if they didn't remove certain content. You've also got various orgs with CIA connections acting as "fact checkers" on Facebook. The influence happens in subtle and many ways.
How was the narrative controlled by the powerful before the internet became a part of everyday life? Specifically, how was the narrative controlled in the US in the decades before 1993?
I'm asking for recommendations of books written by historians, journalists and other serious people. (Understanding the situation decades ago is probably a lot easier than understanding the current situation -- partly because the powerful will take pains to hide their controlling actions from the public.)
In the US I get the general sense that politicians and holders of government offices have never been able to exert a lot of control of the narrative with the result that journalists and the prestigious universities have so much influence that they are best thought of as essentially part of the government.
That suggests that the efforts of the establishment to rein in the big social media companies will prove largely ineffective with the result that Facebook and Google will probably join the New York Times and Harvard as parts of the de facto governing structure of the US.
EDITED: changed "rein" to "rein in".
That's exactly what "reining in" looks like. Instead of being an alternative to, e.g. the New York Times and opposing the next Iraq war, social media just becomes yet another rah-rah cheerleading mouthpiece of whatever opinion the "serious people" hold.
I don't know if you consider Chomsky to be a "serious person", but Manufacturing Consent does go into how the people actually in charge of the government (professional civil servants, corporate lobbyists, etc) manage to make it seem as if their opinions are infallibly correct and countervailing opinions are thinly veiled crankery. What social media did (at least in its early days) was give everyone the ability to manufacture consent at a scale that previously was only the domain of the large media corporations. The establishment media is obviously threatened by this and are working to ensure that the new media follows the same guidelines as the old, even if that means censorship.
Of course, that's not how the establishment media phrases it (and probably not even how they believe it). They see it as "protecting" the people from unsavory "Russian fake news". In reality, though, that's just a lie they tell themselves and tell us to justify their continued hold on the ability to decide which opinions can be held by "right-thinking people". If they were truly interested in "the marketplace of ideas", they wouldn't be pushing so hard to make platforms as centralized, controllable and censorship friendly as they are.
The censorship debate is an indicator of game-rule collapse in social media. The platforms are reaching for top down control because they can't cook up a better way to reduce fraud and (let's call it) low-quality behavior. Ironically this method reduces the overall authenticity of the platforms and counteracts the intent of the censorship, and thus you get game-rule collapse.
I'm genuinely curious, do you have any more details or sources on this?
It was an interesting situation because in some ways, I prefer the transparency involved? But it's sort of like any sale of an account, even if temporary - it seems disingenuous by nature. Almost like how an MLM makes you sell to your friends.
but does everyone agree on what hate speech is? That's the danger. You can just claim any opinion you don't like is hate speech. You can say endorsing a particular candidate is hate speech and those people can justifiably be censored; their views invalid (and in some places; justifiably killed).
It was once considered offensive, in many places a crime, to say homosexuality is morally okay or that the Bible should be translated into German and English or to say God doesn't exist.
There is no distinction between "Free speech" and "hate speech," because it requires you to qualify the former. There are exceptions in many countries, but they are for very specific things: child abuse and advocating specific violence against individuals.
I know you were referring to something else, but it got me thinking that we are already using the phrase. Our legal system just does not allow a lot of 'word damage' to be adjudicated.
*Note, the sub isn't interesting, I'm just demonstrating that the phrase is already in use.
It's not hyperbolic at all, or have you not seen the "Silence is Violence" rhetoric everywhere? It could literally come from Orwell's world of "War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength"
The book, The Coddling of the American Mind, does a great job of showing how the goalposts for what is and isn't violent have been moved considerably in the past few years in academic circles.
Finally, violence is okay, so long as it's against the "wrong people," like the professor who was put on probation for assaulting an opposing party member with a bicycle lock, or the guy in Charlottesville who was fined $1 for assault:
> I don't think anyone would say that words literally murder people
There are people who are literally saying that now.
I’m aware of the “silence is violence” slogan. It means that inaction in the face of injustice is tacit support for the status quo. It doesn’t literally mean, for example, that all people are being violent while they are sleeping, or that people who are unable to speak are being violent. I’m sure there are some people who use the slogan in preposterous ways, but that’s true of all slogans. You’re looking into this way more than necessary. There’s a pretty clear reasonable interpretation of the slogan if you’re willing to look for that interpretation in good faith.
This is not an extreme example. The expression has always been used (at least in the current climate) to mean, you agree with us, verbally and visibly and loudly, or we attack you.
Edit: If you think the above example is not an example of what "silence is violence" means, by all means, explain why rather than just flyby downvoting.
It's not just a slogan. That is the actual end result of such an ideology.
Silence is not Violence. Silence is the opposite of violence. Silences is stopping, thinking, looking at all the evidence, carefully evaluating and coming up with a sound decision.
This slogan says: "Be outraged immediately without knowing any real facts about the situation"
It's literally DoubleSpeak. You are literally, right now, using DoubleThink.
I interpret the quote "silence is violence" to mean by not speaking out against violence, you implicitly support or contribute to it. People may disagree if this is true, but it certainly doesn't feel Orwellian.
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
I don't think there's a generous way to interpret that expression. Silence is de facto not violence. Violence requires physical action.
Have you Googled the term? Apart from the first page or so being dominated by that very recent event of the crowd intimidating people and many other people conflating that event with that slogan, you'll find plenty of articles about what it means: that choosing to not speak out about an issue helps support the status quo. In fact, I've generally seen it used to try to persuade people who don't want to support the status quo that staying quiet or trying to "not be political" is in fact supporting the status quo.
I mean that's just fine, and a perfectly fine point to make - and one with which in fact I agree; I have railed against police and prosecutors' offices for years, having been on the ass-end of their horror myself.
But if that's what one means to say, then say that; because the word 'violence' has a specific meaning not captured by "don't support the status quo".
This is a long way of saying I generally don't like slogans :/
The forms which have little agreement? Probably.
For example, some say that meat is murder. I don't think we should be outlawing meat, and thus in the eyes of the ones making such a statement, I'm supporting some forms of murder remaining legal.
The subject of murder is not an appropriate analogy here, really.
Such as steak.
However, when most people talk about censorship they're using it not in the strict sense, but rather as a shorthand for someone violating their first amendment right. In this case this is really only a crime when it's a government entity doing it, although people don't typically differentiate between the government and any large organization, which technically are legally allowed to censor you on their platform or property.
There's a larger discussion that needs to happen with regards to censorship. There are two extremes at play here, on the one hand there's the absolute freedom stance of literally nothing censored (only example I can think of for this is maybe the dark web, but really everyone censors if only a little), even shouting fire in a crowded theater or posting child pornography. On the other extreme is the absolute censorship of someplace like China, where only permitted thoughts and expressions can be posted. The US and most of the rest of the world tends to fall somewhere in the middle.
The big struggle right now is that everyone has recognized that there's clearly some kind of problem. We're seeing unprecedented levels of misinformation, and a frankly weaponization of social media both for profit, and for international politics. I don't know that anyone has a good solution for how to address that problem, but the pendulum seems to be swinging towards a more censorship focused response.
It's like other countries only exist as rhetorical devices for most of HN. If you actually used the fediverse you'll see that there are plenty of Chinese users on it criticizing the state. It's the Western fediverse users being censored for wrongthink this time. Even the creator of Mastodon straight up doesn't believe in free speech wrt. to certain far right beliefs.
As an extreme example: Do you really think the KKK believe hate speech is bad? Even if they do agree, do you think their definition looks anything like your own?
I find it hard to believe that someone who has lived through the last four years can say with a straight face that everyone agrees hate speech is bad. One would think the last US election cycle would have gone differently if that premise were true.
That sounds like an unjustified premise.
_Note to the casual downvoter not critically examining my argument: I am not saying that I personally do not think hate speech is bad._
Free speech is that they shouldn't be a law by a government to punish expression of ideas or opinions.
citizens or companies should be allowed to host and not host whoever they want.
So should ISPs be allowed to not deliver a website (say Netflix's) content to you unless you pay extra?
I wouldn't like it but it's their network, i would hope that that wouldn't be a good business decision and their competitors would not do that.
The first amendment would like to differ!
Anyway it's meaningless to believe hate speech is bad, because hate speech is an undefined term. It just means something someone somewhere would like to punish someone else for saying.
We have two things to unpack here. First, hate speech. What is it? Who gets to decide what the word means and what is their procedure for deciding? Is the definition stable or fluid (or even very fluid)? Is hate speech universally wrong, or only wrong when issuing forth from certain speakers? If we all agree that it's wrong, then why are people engaging in it, even unintentionally?
Second, censorship. Is self-censorship not censorship? Why must the state be involved in order to censor? We're TV networks that for decades voluntarily forbade their programming from portraying homosexuals being censored or not? What is unique about state authority versus corporate authority as it relates to censorship?
"Hate speech is bad" is a very abstract statement. The sentence conveys almost no actual concrete meaning. It seems like a rational or sensible statement, but it delegates almost all of the actual work to feelings and emotions, and highly subjective ones at that. I don't find "wanna grab a cup of coffee" terribly hateful, but apparently some people do.
I get the overall sentiment of your post, and I think I mostly agree. Nevertheless, the way we stop this nonsense is to say at the beginning that it is an abstraction over extremely subjective feelings and emotion, and thus has no basis other than eventual mob rule authoritarianism.
This doesn’t seem very sensible to me, I would even say it seems to be the opposite of sensible, probably because I am not American.
I think there's a good conversation to be had as to what in particular makes physical harms so special as compared to others, and how existing law in every country (including the US) can constitutionally include some non-physical harms within its legislation (such as laws against sending threatening letters, or child pornography law, or fraud).
Such harms can be reliably detected, with stringent enough criteria.
Mental harms, and the very notion of "normality", are much more nebulous.
Mental harms, in many cases, can also be detected by competent professionals; besides that, it is entirely possible for physical harms to heal and for supporting evidence of their infliction be used to convict. Further, many physical harms depend at least partially on the victim's characteristics or situation; a concert pianist is arguably harmed more by someone cutting off his finger than a schoolteacher would be, for instance. Many physical harms that are rightfully legislated against often require the testimony of the victim for the case to succeed. For a wide class of 'mental harms' it is accurate to say that they are indeed physiological responses - from PTSD to lethargy and insomnia. This is in contrast to the caricature that mental harms are necessarily merely 'hurt feelings'.
I also have concerns that the difficulty or the fact of sometimes being nebulous features of mental harms should necessarily rule out such lawmaking. At best, the minimum for proving such harm should at least be set out by the legislators or judiciary, if the standard of evidence is the roadblock to legislation.
It's also worth remembering that we're talking about harms here, not mere hurts. Harms are much harder to fabricate than hurts are.
Accusations of physical harms can also be concocted as bullying tactics too, in which the harm was suffered as a result of either a self-inflicted injury, or inflicted by somebody else. Such cases can be thrown out due to insufficient evidence. I see no reason why the same cannot be said for a subset of mental harms, in which there are equivalent doctors available to use their expertise to judge the harm.
What is the process to dispute it? You can’t just take a blood test to say this isn’t really a problem.
If a schizophrenic parent has in the past harmed someone, should a court ignore this when determining custody. It is unfair. If you err on being too lenient some people will be harmed. If you err on being stringent some people will be harmed.
Complex problem cannot be solved with ideology and maxims. All solutions will fail some people sometimes.
> If a  parent has in the past harmed someone, should a court ignore this when determining custody.
There you go, no need to place restrictions on people based on mental 'health', just their actual actions.
I agree, the sliding scale only strengthens whomever is in power. In Florida, the baker act is used like this.
I'm paraphrasing what was here a few days ago:
Our banking partner is uncomfortable that the realistic sex toys modeled after magical creatures have the colors that strongly represent human organs. You will either have to change the colors or we will not be able to continue providing you with our services.
Lately I've been imagining it along with the slowly boiling frog story and the crab-mentality too. As in some people can't tell we're headed to hell because it's coming so slowly, and some people will actively stop others from escaping hell or trying to fix the situation.
 So O(0) means x causes itself. O(1) is y causes x. O(n) is n causes y causes ... causes x. This is just a simplified framework and not meant to be taken too seriously.
My current thinking led me to conclude that we don't have sufficiently good tools for modelling O(n) problems with n > 2. Particularly when (what your simplification doesn't capture) there are feedback loops involved.
Take this O(2) problem: x causes more y, y causes more z, z causes less y but much more x. Or in a pictorial form:
| (-) |
\ / ^
(+) v | (+)
I argue that we lack both mental and technological tools to cope with this.
Speaking of global warming, a year ago I presented this problem: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20480438 - "Will increase in coal exports of Poland increase Poland's CO₂ footprint?" Yes? No? How badly?
The question is at least this complicated:
| [provides Z coal to]
| [needs α*X = A kWh for coal]
Mining coal <---------------------\
| [provides X coal to] |
Coal power plants |
| | |
| | [γ*X = Y kWh burning coal] |
| v |
| Electricity --------------------/
| [burned coal into β*X = N kg of CO₂]
Why aren't we talking about climate change in these terms with general public? Why aren't feedback loops taught in school?
 - Or, if they exist, they aren't sufficiently well known outside some think tanks or some random academic papers.
> I argue that we lack both mental and technological tools to cope with this.
I do think we have the tools to solve these issues. I do not think the mental tools are in the hands of the average person (likely not even in most of your above average people because the barrier to entry is exceedingly high and trying to model any problem like this is mentally exhausting and it thus never becomes second nature). Many of the subjects broached here aren't brought up until graduate studies in STEM fields, and even then not always. An O(aleph_n) problem is intractable but clearly O(10) isn't. We should be arguing about what order approximation is "good enough" but ignoring all the problems that arises is missing a lot of fundamental problem solving. Good for a first go, but you don't stop there. I think this comes down to people not understanding the iterative process. 0) Create an idea. 1) Check for validity. 2) Attack and tear it down. 3) If something remains, rebuild and goto 2 else goto 0. I find people stop at 1 on their own ideas but jump to 2 (and don't allow for 3) for others ideas.
> Why aren't feedback loops taught in school?
I think 3 other things should be discussed as well. Dynamic problems (people often reduce things to static and try to turn positive sum games into zero sum. We could say the TeMPOraL component), probabilistic problems, and most importantly: an optimal solution does not equate to everyone being happy (or really anyone). Or to quote Picard:
> It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.
The last part I think is extremely important but hard to teach.
(I should also mention that I do enjoy most of the comments you provide to HN)
A skill honed in deep procrastination :).
> I think 3 other things should be discussed as well.
Strongly agreed with all three.
> Dynamic problems (people often reduce things to static and try to turn positive sum games into zero sum.
That's what I implicitly meant by talking (again and again) about feedback loops; problems with such loops are a subset of dynamic problems, and one very frequently seen in the world. But you've rightfully pointed out the superset. I think most people, like you say, try to turn everything into a static problem as soon as possible, so they can have a conclusive and time-invariant opinion on it. But it's not the proper way to think about the world!
(I only disagree with the "try to turn positive sum games into zero sum"; zero-sum games also require perceiving the feedback loops involved. And then there are negative-sum games.)
> probabilistic problems
Yup. Basic probability is taught to schoolchildren, but as a toy (or just another math oddity) rather than a tool for perceiving the world.
(Thank you for the kind words :).)
 - Unless your problem has a fixed point that you can point out.
This is an often snipe I make to people talking about economics (I do agree with the lack of mention of negative sum games, but they also tend to be less common, at least in what people are about). Like the whole point of the economic game is to create new value where it didn't previously exist (tangent).
> Yup. Basic probability is taught to schoolchildren, but as a toy (or just another math oddity) rather than a tool for perceiving the world.
I think this is where we get a lot of "I'm not good at math" and "what is it useful for" discussion. Ironically everyone hates word problems, but at the heart of it that's what it is about.
Worse, someone motivated to shape the story one way or the other can create a just-so story where they emphasize only one feedback path or the other, depending on what conclusion they want their audience to draw.
I think the best antidote, although by no means a cure, is to teach clear and specific examples early on so that everyone at least can have a mental category for this class of problem, if not the tools to work through them.
Jevons paradox is a great example of one which is both clear and counterintuitive: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox
Taking the carbon exports example I pasted, the model presented structurally tells you that carbon footprint is going to grow with exports. We can haggle about "how much", but - under this model - not about "whether". You can tweak the parameters to mitigate impact, you can extend the model with extra components and tweak those to cancel out the impact (and that automatically generates you reasonable solution candidates!). Or, you can flat out say that the model doesn't simplify the reality correctly, and propose an alternative one, and we can then discuss the new model.
The good thing is, at every point in the above considerations you're dealing with models and reality and somewhat strict reasoning, instead of endlessly bickering about whether A causes B or the other way around, or whether arguing A causes B is a slippery slope, or whatnot.
I strongly agree with teaching examples, both real (serious) ones and toy ones, to teach this kind of thinking.
Jevons paradox is indeed great to dig into and I suppose offer some sort of counterexample to what I'm talking about. The nature of the phenomenon is in a feedback loop, and whether it'll go good or bad depends on the parameters (the increased use can reduce the value of the intervention, cancel it out, or even make it worse than doing nothing). But from what I hear, people sometimes pick one of the possible outcomes and use it as thought stopper (e.g. "we shouldn't do X because obviously Jevons paradox will make things worse!").
Are you familiar with Judea Pearl's work regarding graphical analysis of causal problems? If not, he'd probably interest you. While he mostly falls in the category of "random academic papers" (and academic books), but he has also co-authored a very readable (and enjoyable) popular science book. A review of that book is here: http://bostonreview.net/science-nature/tim-maudlin-why-world. And a more technical overview of his graphical approach is here: https://www.timlrx.com/2018/08/09/applications-of-dags-in-ca....
Censorship can be conducted by private institutions, governments and other controlling bodies.
In reality, it's not state sponsored censorship at all, and it doesn't lead down any slippery slope.
These claims of censorship are extremely selectively applied, to only certain types of political speech. I wonder why that is?
Yes, Google and Apple are big. You can say well, it’s different because in this world there’s only two boards for the entire country, that’s true! But it’s not a censorship problem, it’s an antitrust problem.
regardless of wheter we agree with what's being removed or not, this can't be healthy.
i am not american, so my interpretation may be off, but here is how i understand the problem:
many people would like hatespeech to go away. jet the US constitution prohibits government censorship, so the government can't do much about it. instead they rely on companies like google and facebook to do the work for them.
the companies are also compelled by public pressure to do what the government can't.
contrast that to germany, where hatespeech like the promotion of nazi ideas is outright illegal.
while i haven't verified this, this puts less pressure on companies to censure anything that isn't mandated by law.
public demands for the control of speech can also more easily b etranslated into law, so that the public doesn't need to resort to pressuring companies. on the contrary, they expect the government to protect them from companies that act in bad faith.
it is hard to say which system is better. if there were many small companies each making different decisions about public discourse, then things would be fine.
the problem is not so much the removal of outright hatespeech, but the more subtle influence in for example what is allowed to be posted about the covid epidemic, or other sensitive topics like political opinions, fact checking and all that.
as it stands, i prefer that decisions about what speech is allowed is controlled by law such that we can use legal means to combat abuse.
many places have cultures and also law that for decades has worked perfectly fine reigning in the very worst forms of hate speeech (say holocaust denial in my country) while not descending into a sort of activism that starts to get silly.
There's no automatic mechanism that turns sensible rules into insensible ones, and it's also need not be the case with sensible hate speech rules.
With cases like Google's play store the issue seems more concrete. On the one hand it's the overwhelming power and lack of due process that large firms have over software. Decentralise this and put authority into the hands of people who know their networks and the situtation will imporove. Secondly it also seems to be a very activist employee base at companies like Google that's gone somewhat overboard. Again, an accountability issue. If these things were decided publicly, it would moderate to reasonable levels.
The problem is the political spectrum of journalists is wildly biased compared to the average citizen. This also apparently shows up with censorship of phone apps.
I feel that when it comes to Google its not about if it is hate speech or not, but who controls it. I.e. Zuckerberg is fine although there are multiple long-lasting Facebook groups that have been used to incite crimes, but Aaron Swartz would not be (today). It is quite amusing how Facebook is not shut down in Europe even though many European countries would shut down any local company being so lax and arbitrary with moderation as Facebook.
What are you doing? Are you trying to ban speech you don't like? What body determines what is "fake news" and "hate speech"? It can't be done, which is why the only sane policy is free speech.
We have laws against violence, and it's a very clear line.
I think we are in agreement on Google's case in particular being a little more straight forward.
The only mechanism which exists I can think of would be to nationalize the corporate entity and have the folks controlling it be elected positions. That seems pretty extreme though as a response to a corporate entity becoming successful and growing enough that it influences the zeitgeist.
Section 230 was about child pornography and became used as a safe harbor for anything.
I am not usually agreeing w the Trump admin but they do have a point there.
In general our thinking about freedom of speech is itself idiosyncratic in the same way. Human FREEDOMS means doing what you want. It’s not the same as a right to a megaphone maintained by thousands of employees and infrastructure of large corporations to give you a platform to say anything unfiltered to 5 million people at once. I would argue that such interpretations of the First Amendment have been detrimental to society. Speech on giant platforms should be vetted like on Wikipedia’s Talk Page, where mutually distrusting people engage in responsible fact checking BEFORE the crowd sees the main page with these claims.
But hey I also argue similarly that the supreme court’s Heller decision similarly obviated the Well Regulated Militia clause into irrelevancy, so now anyone can have a gun no matter whether they are part of any well regulated organization or not. No checks on individual action that can affect others.
Now we reap what we sow as a society. Yes FREEDOM of speech is important but what we call freedom today has greatly expanded even to unlimited political donations by super PACs and so on. Again a supreme court decision where expanding freedoms in Citizens United harms democracy. A win for ideologal purity I guess, but is socity better off?
PS: before someone objects with “who will be the factcheckers/watchers I will say it will be self selected and self policed like on Wikipedia, as long as there is a healthy mix of views, it’s better than one wacko with a megaphone. Who does this celebrity culture help? It further divides us. And that’s why we can’t have nice things!
What? It most certainly was not!
The CDA as a whole was an attempt to regulate indecency and obscenity on the internet. Think "pornography that might be seen by minors". (Remember, this was the 90s.) Most of it (with the exception of section 230) was struck down in court for obvious first-amendment reasons. Section 230 was added later during the process by the House, after the bill had passed through the Senate, and was more about defamation than anything else.
 https://www.congress.gov/bill/104th-congress/senate-bill/652... - search for "This title may be cited as the ``Communications Decency Act of
That's the "slippery slope" fallacy. There's a knee-jerk reaction in America that any censorship is bad and will somehow always lead to more censorship. But there area places where censorship has been implemented in small ways and it hasn't led to some sort of free speech apocalypse. In Germany or Israel, for instance, it's illegal to deny the holocaust. That's a pretty sensible limit considering their history. All these years later, they're still free an functioning democracies.
It looks like letting people say anything they want on major social media platforms is only having one major positive effect: a few advertising companies are becoming very rich.
The negative effects include:
- incited violence (gang-oriented gun crime in Chicago is often fanned by social media posts for example)
- bad medical decisions (vaccine/COVID misinformation)
- cancel culture/political manipulation (people taking other people's posts as facts when they are not)
I would like to uphold the principle of free speech and forcing social media providers to be free speech agents even though they are private companies, but it's starting to get hard to defend. I am losing faith that strict adherence to free speech is going to result in a smarter, happier humanity. It might be better if less people speak their mind.
But I also think it's obvious that I shouldn't trust you to make the decision of who needs to shut up. And definitely not the government.
Well right now social media companies seem to have that power. How is that better?
I hear this point all the time. Is there a better response than this?
It's not; we're attempting to fix that, and TFA is about Google maliciously attacking one such attempt.
Is it even necessary for free speech to directly result in a happier humanity? What if it simply preserves the conditions that we need for progress, or merely keeps us from sliding backwards? Would that be enough to make it worthwhile for you?
Journalists and news media, bound by the respect and principles of their profession, fulfilled this function in the past. There seemed to be a time in the past where division between reporting and editorials were more separate. We've destroyed the institution of news media without a good replacement; now people are taking editorials (people's social media posts) as the equivalent of news.
> Is it even necessary for free speech to directly result in a happier humanity?
If not then what is it worth?
> What if it simply preserves the conditions that we need for progress
I'm simply not seeing how social media after a good 10 years of it is progressing anything other than the profits of its owners.
It is nonsensical to claim social media destroyed the news media. It was already dying before the internet let alone social media. To put blame on it is a blatant lie from the losers of the old era who got regularly dunked on by bloggers and forum posters in basic fact checking.
Early wikipedia "not suitable for reports" clearly did a better job. They didn't catch up with the internet until it got basic enough for them to follow it with Twitter.
No, you completely against that principle.
And yet today, despite decades of "censorship" by Facebook and Google, you can see whatever porn you want, snuff films, terrorist propaganda, hate speech, libel/slander spread by instigators like Glenn Beck and Alex Jones. Just not on Google or Facebook.
Different private entities and people have different levels of tolerance. If you want filth, use Gab or 4chan/8chan. If you want forums that are partially moderated, use Facebook/Google/Reddit. If you want forums that are fully moderated, join a private or niche board like HN.
Browser seems to be an exception.