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We need more than deplatforming (blog.mozilla.org)
109 points by TangerineDream 8 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 75 comments



Mozilla seems to go out of its way to make it harder for right-leaning people to back them with every move they make...

I can't help but feel we're in for a bumpy 2021.


Purely anecdotal, but I know a bunch of "right leaning" people who are completely done with the bullshit and share Mozilla's sentiment. You may be speaking for fewer people than you realize.


So, if both left- and right-leaning people are "completely done" with free speech, we're headed for good times, right?


You are very mistaken if you think the events of the last few months have done anything but accelerate the the gap between coastal cities and flyover country.


> completely done with the bullshit

I'm over and done with Trump, but it would have been a lot more effective for everyone if they had let him skulk meekly off into irrelevance.


Pretty sure that wasn’t his plan, given the months-long campaign to overturn the election: which culminated in him inciting a riot.


Trump definitely had a chance to remain relevant post-election. As someone that monitors "alt-right" type people, he did a very poor job capitalizing on any of that. The past couple months have basically been the losing team talking up a big game to make themselves feel better.

The riots have been going all year. It was a different crowd this time, but riots are old news at this point. It wasn't a good look for the MAGA crowd and more than anything probably would have cowed them into submission.

But then Big Tech had to turn around and give everyone a reason to be pissed off again.


At this point, it merely sounds like you've started with the conclusion that Big Tech is bad and then worked backwards to sound reasonable.

In particular since the "riots have been going all year" is demonstrably false nonsense. Parades and rallies, maybe. Riots? What?

And how are you even going to equivocate riots to an invasion of the physical center of the US government by whiny "patriots" who had no other plan except to waltz in and wait for the next cutscene to start?


> In particular since the "riots have been going all year" is demonstrably false nonsense.

Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland, Kenosha, DC, etc. etc. etc.

> And how are you even going to equivocate riots to an invasion of the physical center of the US government

It's just a building.


I really don't recognize the society that we are moving towards. People are welcoming censorship with open arms. Twitter and other social media are the public spaces of the internet. Deplatforming someone there is essentially as if the governments bans the public speech of someone in the "real" world.

It truly gives me shivers down my spine...


The Mozilla blog post you are replying about is suggesting increasing transparency, not suggesting more censorship.


You're being quite glib if you're honestly pretending not to see the glaring subtext there. The intention is obviously to increase transparency in order to stamp out unwanted opinions before they even spread.


If an opinion doesn't spread because people decide not to spread it after transparency reveals who is paying for advertisements and how platform algorithms are deciding which opinions to promote, isn't that just better democracy?

The Mozilla blog entry, subtext and all, does not say that they should decide what opinions are unwanted.


Yes. Unwanted opinions like "we should overthrow the will of the people using force".


Yes I agree unwanted opinions are the worst only wanted opinions should be allowed.


"Turn on by default the tools to amplify factual voices over disinformation."

Who gets to decide which is which? Why would I want to tell people they are wrong about how they experience the world when they disagree with the way I do?


A fact is a thing that can be objectively verified.

It is a fact regardless of a person’s experience. The word you’re thinking of is opinion. Which is how someone interprets a fact or a set of facts.


> A fact is a thing that can be objectively verified

The past four years of "fact checking" have demonstrated those are not the sort of "facts" anyone is talking about.


As you can see from replies, people do not agree on the meaning of "fact". To be fair this is because the word is used to mean different things, not just objective truths, even in formal contexts.

Unfortunately because people don't hold the same idea about what the word "fact" means, and some don't believe in the concept of objective reality at all, one person can talk of "fact-checking website" and be thinking of only objective facts, while another person hears that as "prevailing-opinion-promoting website" to be used for non-objective facts.

"Objective truth checking website" would be better. The intent is unambiguous at least. 1+1=2, pi is definitely irrational, and the Earth is not flat.

Unfortunately when it comes to things like "evidence of widespread electoral fraud sufficient to overturn the result", that doesn't apply perfectly. That type of fact cannot be known absolutely; there's always that bit of wiggle room of possibility which feeds conspiracy theories, especially in a population distressed about many issues and distrustful of institutions and each other.

Such things can however be known beyond reasonable doubt to the man on the Clapham omnibus (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_on_the_Clapham_omnibus).


Facts are just opinions we share with enough other people. Consensus reality is the only reality imo


> Why would I want to tell people they are wrong about how they experience the world when they disagree with the way I do?

This is about facts, not experiences of the world, or opinions.

Factual statements can be wrong. If you don't believe in telling people they are wrong when they are plainly wrong, what are your criteria for telling people anything at all?

Granted, the relationship between facts, truths, experiences, opinions and voices is a complex one, but somewhere in there are still the underlying concepts of true and false, right (correct) and wrong (incorrect).

More pragmatically, pertinent to the recent USA election, unfounded ideas that are hypothetically possible but unlikely, investigated by many independent minds of good standing, and found to be lacking anything approaching adequate evidence have to be treated as settled for the purposes of moving forward on an issue. As "no, seriously, we have looked at this hard enough now that we have move forward treating it as a checked truth even while acknowledging the now-unlikely possibility that we are incorrect".

People disagree about how much effort to put into investigating such things and how to assess evidence (or lack thereof), but for democracy and social stability (safety) to continue, most of them need to agree that sufficient process has been followed at some point. The quality of process and conclusiveness are essential. This is one of the hallmarks of effective democracy.

If you want to be especially respectful of people who you believe are wrong about key significant facts, then I think it best to acknowledge their facts are not literally impossible, but have been investigated and are looking strongly unlikely as a result.


> "amplify factual voices over disinformation."

First, to be clear, that's not censorship, and it is entirely compatible with freedom of speech because it is not proposing to prevent speech, only to direct emphasis. Freedom of speech means you are free to speak and people who choose to listen are free to listen, not that you get equal airtime.

Second, we already have amplification taking place of non-factual voices. It's not like we can just not amplify once kind of voice systematically over another, because anything we do results in that, including doing nothing. It's just inevitable.

A well-intentioned free-for-all in communications leads immediately to the uneven amplifications we see now. There is increasingly justified concern that it is becoming dangerously unfactual lately, perhaps due to an interaction between human instincts and rapid changes in information technology, leading to a breakdown of society and democracy, thus the suggestion to promote factual voices.

> Who gets to decide which is which?

Something inevitably decides.

If by that question you are providing the implicit answer "nobody should", then you are favouring the current system of biased amplification, where things like outrage culture, economic incentives promoting polarisation, and widespread avoidance of good-faith reasoning about basic concepts is looking rather evident.

So we already have a system deciding which is which, even if we don't want one. It is impossible to avoid having one, even in principle. Let's acknowledge that hard reality, and discuss how to make a better system than the de facto one that emerges otherwise.

I don't know the answer of how we decide, but I think it is worthwhile to investigate the question in more detail than dismissing it outright, given what we see at the moment.

I suggest ways to determine facts and factual voices could echo systems that have been developed over thousands of years for this. We have a long history of developed legal, justice, political, journalistic, academic and scientific systems with a variety of methods for finding (or deciding upon) facts, to cope with the problem when people dispute about what is true and false.


> First, to be clear, that's not censorship

It's long-term censorship because if you can control speech for long enough you can control the range of ideas people have the possibility to be exposed to, the overall opinion consensus changes over time toward just the allowed range of ideas, and after enough time this changes the facts in consensus reality.


I think shifting the emphasis and amount of representation of different kinds of speech and different prevailing opinions, without actually blocking speech, is not censorship as it is classically meant.

Otherwise you might as well say that every form of debate, persuasion and promotion are censorship, because they have that effect.

Calling that censorship is to miss the point of the more serious thing that is widely disliked, which is the bright-line distinction between opinions that are merely rendered unpopular, compared with opinions which are actively blocked from being expressed or heard at all.

However, the point isn't to quibble over the meaning of the word. The point is, would it be harmful to functioning democracy and people's freedom of thought to "promote factual voices".

By all means argue against doing so, and be concerned that it would result in long-term censorship effects but:

I've tried to make the argument that the absence of "promote factual voices" also results in long-term censorship (the way you are meaning it), because we get a de facto biased spread of opinions anyway as a result of social media dynamics and all the dodgy actors in them.

There's newsfeed algorithms, advertising, optimising for hits and clicks and engagement, nefarious actors, paid shills, all sorts of things. And though I'm loathe to say it, a lot of low-quality trolling and thoughtless opinions which get amplified easily. But even without all those, social media has system dynamics which must inevitably result in something that governs the consensus towards an allowed range of ideas versus ideas which are discouraged.

I think we have no choice on that. The only choice is which kind of systemic bias shall we opt for.

I favour whatever structures lead to certain types of thinking (not the same as particular opinions): higher quality debate, eduction, knowledge and wisdom in society (which sounds like healthier democracy to me), as represented by a broad spectrum of people, open to all, and designed to protect diversity of thought while promoting quality of thought. I'm avoiding saying what leads to that, because I honestly don't know the answer, only that "don't promote anything" is not necessarily the answer or unbiased, especially when there's plenty of other dodgy promotion going on behind the scenes already.


Eumemics


Nice. Upvoted by me, because that's an interesting word I haven't seen before, it's interesting to see people argue for and against it, and I think your point of view is a reasonable thing to argue for even though I think it's weakly argued because it doesn't appear to weigh up consequences of alternatives.

Put in eumemics terms, the argument I've presented in this subthread is that you can't avoid it, you can only pretend to avoid it and/or decide not to be deliberate about it, thereby having the effect of eumemics anyway but with different parameters.

That might be the better decision, to commit to not being one of the actors significantly influencing global dialogue, but there's no point pretending it isn't a decision or that it doesn't have consequences, or that the outcome is neutral, or that the outcome is what most people actually want. (Or that it isn't a paradox.)

One way or another there are powerful actors in the system, and if there weren't it would create them. I suppose if you commit to the underlying principle of respect for people in a democratic manner, you might want to be neutral about which consequences "the people" can pursue, for example if they want war than war it is, if they want peace then peace it is. However by and large what most people say they want at large, and what they actually get as a result of their actions, are quite disconnected due to very complex chains of consequences. This is well known and people complain about it all the time.

As a result, even if trying to be neutral and respectful towards all people with regard to what the people want, it is not clear (to me anyway) that neutral communications platforms lead to what people actually want (collectively, democratically) any better than non-neutral platforms. Perheps we should build things that are designed to find out what people actually want, in a robust and evolvable manner (collectively, democratically) and choose the biases that then provide it.

A well known example is moderation: Unmoderated platforms end up causing many people to leave them or to avoid speaking up, with the result that any unmoderated platform is dominated by highly unrepresentative viewpoints of the collective of people.

Moderated platforms are accused of censorship, "view-promoting" platforms are accused of censorship in your meaning of it (as long term bias), yet unmoderated and un-promoting platforms are also censorship by that meaning because they also quiet so many voices in a systematically biased fashion. There is simply no escape from this dilemma and no honesty in pretending it doesn't exist.


These are the kind of misleading takes that are more dangerous IMHO, because they play into the good faith of most people, and their fears of being placed on "the wrong side". Classic postmodern word games.

It's not censorship, that's bad: it's Transparent Deplatforming™


Yes and that's good. But it's also very much pro censorship.


Let's not forget how this started: with people attacking free speech because they felt they had a right to be offended by things they didn't like. That's when censorship became mainstream again.


The shift started at least months, if not years ago. At least one could laugh at the internal contradictions of the people championing for this, since they're mostly also "pro privacy". At least they think so.

People can really fluidly go between "yay E2E encryption" and "Facebook needs to make sure only 'truth' is allowed". Ban the lies!

Funniest thing was the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where Facebook was booed, nearly universally, because they had an fairly open API (which enabled people to consent to share their data with CA). Few tech-illiterate news articles later, and everyone is convinced that Trump won the elections because of Facebook evilness (and, of course, CA had 'magic algorithms' which could change peoples' minds en masse just by showing them few targeted ads; that's completely undeniable; "trusted journalist" said so).

Eh.


> Additional precise and specific actions must also be taken:

> Reveal who is paying for advertisements, how much they are paying and who is being targeted.

> Commit to meaningful transparency of platform algorithms so we know how and what content is being amplified, to whom, and the associated impact.

> Turn on by default the tools to amplify factual* voices over disinformation.

> Work with independent researchers to facilitate in-depth studies of the platforms’ impact on people and our societies, and what we can do to improve things.

*go to the article for the link

Short, clear, and forward-moving (I think).


Transparency in how ads are targeted would go a long way.

Personally, I would appreciate a legal mandate that every targeted advertisement must include a link explaining which demographics or criteria are being used to target the ad.

Ideally the ad would also need to identify which criteria were applicable to the individual who was shown the ad, and where that information came from. That requirement might be onerous to implement, but maybe it could kick in at a certain revenue threshold for the ad network.

Imagine if people had to be told that they kept seeing embarrassing ads because their bank sold their interest in [product category] to a marketing agency. Or if you could inform your aging relatives that they shouldn't trust ads which target them based on their past multilevel marketing purchases. I can dream...


The link worries me the most.

I mean, apparently the solution is social networks running a private list of "authoritative" news sources and making sure the feed is weighted towards them. The three listed have a clear left-wing bias. The alternative was Breitbart, and some other network I haven't heard of, but was probably included to try and balance it out.

So it's really not "transparency" since there's no objective news ecosystem quotient out there to be audited, its just the reverse of what was used to promote fake news, now its just promoting what they think real news it.


I would prefer left-wing biased factual reporting over right-wing biased lies.

The equation is pretty simple from my perspective.

Most of my Facebook time is pointing out to family members that the “news” they are sharing is lies and misinformation, such as “cosplay guy at the Capitol invasion was Antifa” — the evidence was pictures of certain individuals being on an Antifa web site, despite the pictures clearly being part of an article identifying the fascists.

Then there are the articles trying to twist “tracking vaccine recipients” into “surveillance vaccine recipients” and other such nonsense.


And many others would prefer right-wing biased factual reporting over left-wing biased lies.

See the problem here?


Left wing lies don’t come from people looking to hang the Vice President or kill my friends for not being the right shade of white.


This is probably an unpopular opinion on this forum, but it seems like repealing section 230 would accomplish this just fine. Then large platforms would either have to:

1. Completely relinquish any editorial controls (which means advertising money goes bye-bye).

2. Completely sanitize things.

Smaller platforms are at lower scale and can manually moderate (as they often do currently thanks to trolling and spam)

Sounds like a win-win to me!


Now you know exactly why they were willing to do anything to keep rule 230, including overriding a Trump veto.


I think Trump's obsession with 230 was clearly retributive. In top of that he spent very little effort trying to gather consensus.

I'd like to see it debated on its own merits, but that seems unlikely in the current climate


Here I thought helping Mozilla by using their browsers was any good.

So long! Glad to see your tiny market share approach 0 a bit quicker.


Well maybe they are forced to bark every time the ring bells or have Google money pulled from them.


Man posts like this (and their updates which always remove features I use) are why I switched to Brave. Mozilla has been circling the drain for a while now, kept alive only by googles grace.

Despicable call to arms from a zombie company coasting off its earlier innovation.


Same, I got very tired of Mozillas woke bs so I stopped my financial support and switched to Brave. Basically no one uses Firefox anymore anyway, so this just cements it.

At work we don't even care to support firefox since no one uses it lol. Sad af, but true.


This just shows how terribly wrong it was to let a very small number of browser developers steadily increase the complexity of browser standards and lock out all independent competition. It's more urgent now than ever before to throw away all this baggage and start a WWW2 without these politicized entities and with lean clients maintainable by small groups of people.

If you disagree, please consider being in the same situation with the political inclinations reversed, or just in another country where you disagree with the government but Mozilla doesn't.


Yes. But there was so much money to be made and so much control of society to be gained, it was hard to prevent this.

> It's more urgent now than ever before to throw away all this baggage and start a WWW2 without these politicized entities and with lean clients maintainable by small groups of people.

Yes that would be great. But if we want libertarian world-wide network with services and rules that cannot be attacked by the establishment, it has to be either small and uninteresting to them, or it has to completely infeasible for them to attack it. Some new ideas are needed, because free software and open standards are apparently not enough to keep liberty alive on the internet.


> By all means the question of when to deplatform a head of state is a critical one

Indeed. Maybe communications platforms, even private ones, should be carved out of the general ability to deny service. We have similar notions already, e.g., libel plaintiffs who are public figures must prove malice.

Even if one disagrees with whatever that communication is, we should recognize that stifling it, even when done by a private entity and not the state, sows distrust.


This will definitely get more people to use firefox

RIP Firefox

It was good knowing you. Look at what they did to my boy...


History shows clearly that such mass demonization of normal citizens ends very badly, with millions killed for no good reason.

The rhetoric used portrays an evil which speakers want to exist so they can oppose it, with no room for clarification by those targeted.

Please stop.


This is terrifying.


Wow that's a hot take from Mozilla.


From the article: 'But as reprehensible as the actions of Donald Trump are, the rampant use of the internet to foment violence and hate, and reinforce white supremacy is about more than any one personality.'

I am no fan of Donald Trump but this scares me to death. I mean that in the most literal sense.


Does this means they are going to add ads censorship plugin in the browser by default?


This thread is a joke. Mozilla is putting forth some great ideas to fix the internet without overt censorship. A plan that can work in the long term to improve the internet.


The blog post also explicitly advocates in favor of deplatforming.

It doesn't just get to walk away from that, even if it has additional recommendations.


I support deplatforming. Private companies and such.

Twitter should never be a public forum unless the US government feels they need the existing user ecosystem when they turn it into a utility.


You originally said this "some great ideas to fix the internet without overt censorship".

This statement is false. That was my point. Mozilla explicitily was supporting censorship. So, therefore it is not "without censorship".

It seems like you are walking your original statement back though, and instead simply saying that you personally support censorship.

So great. Glad that you agree that your original statement was false, and that Mozilla is actually supporting deplatforming.


Deplatforming isn't censorship.


Yes it is!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship

"Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information, on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or "inconvenient." Censorship can be conducted by governments, private institutions, and other controlling bodies."

Anything that "suppresses" or controls speech is censorship, no matter who does it. That's the definition of the word.


He's still able to speak. If this is censorship then I should be able to force any publisher to produce my ramblings and drawings.


> He's still able to speak

Does not matter. This is still the definition of censorship, according to the relevant authorities on definitions of words.

Basically every definition that you find will agree with me that private companies can censor people.

> should be able to force

Who said anything about force? I am just saying that private companies can censor people, according to basically every definition of the word. You can have whatever opinions that you want on if censorship is good or bad.


I'm not arguing that private companies can't censor people. An employer can definitely censor an employee. A group of publishers can embargo an author. Twitter and Trump had a consensual relationship and Twitter ended it. That's not censorship.


Competent censorship does not cut the tongue. It limits and controls the communication. Twitter service is close to a public utility at this point, capability of any one ideological group to control it should be limited.


[flagged]


If there's one person you don't have to be pursuing trendiness to criticize, it's Trump.


Yes I sure hope a lot of new legislation comes out of this moment of rage. Rage-based legislation usually ends up being very wise.


Yes, social media is responsible for radicalizing a small group of alt-right folks, but I don't think de-platforming Trump really fixes the problem, and it acts a local minimum that detracts from solving the actual problem. De-platforming the alleged figurehead is just going to make the problem worse. Big tech is playing a really risky game, and I'm not alone in that opinion. It is a popular opinion that Trump "incited" the siege, but I must respectfully disagree. Most people realize there is a deeper cause, and humbly believe that using Trump as a scapegoat is a short-term bandaid and will only allow the wound to continue to fester.

I hate to say it, but I think that big tech feels responsible for radicalizing folks, and Trump is the perfect scapegoat. Is it really crazy to believe that tech wants to continue using their algorithms (known to cause radicalization) and are using Trump as a scapegoat?


You are most probably right, there are some naive believers here and there in those companies, but for the most part C suite cares about being aligned with the establishment to keep their revenue streams and their control intact. Trump is just a useful tool for them at this point - "see we are your ally/servant, we fight the Trump movement".


Uhh, Mozilla should maybe not be posting if this if they want to be The Privacy Company(TM)?

I'll be switching my VPN to straight Mullvad instead of to a group that sold it's soul to Google. Same tech, less baggage.


What is your beef with Mozilla’s statement?


We don’t need a company to decide what’s “harmful” to me. Especially not one out of the SV monoculture. I need them to be a browser that advocates for my privacy.


We need Russians - or people outside of the progressive bubble of Europe and North America - to create an alternate internet, please. Starting with browser, Twitter, Reddit, Facebook replacement. Then onto OS - mobile and desktop.


Yandex Browser, vk.com. There’s Yandex flavour of Android, Alt Linux for desktop. Russia got you covered, comrade, join, they love Trump and hate democrats.


In a perfect world no platform would be able to collect enough information about any given conversation to either be liable for it or fact check it.


Pushing people off Twitter is liable to just send them to the fever swamps of voat, parler, gab, 8chan, etc.


This has been litigated many times. That’s still better than polluting the agora, as Reddit found when banning r/fatpeoplehate and others.


It doesn't take a very large number of exiles from the agora to cause a large amount of damage if they are determined terrorists.




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