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EU Commission: ‘No longer acceptable’ for platforms to take key decisions alone (euractiv.com)
276 points by sampo 4 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 269 comments





It's hard to overlook that the political class is suddenly up in arms about this primarily because they suddenly perceive themselves as being under threat from it. Ordinary individuals and businesses have had to deal with the hegemony of the platforms for a long time and it hasn't really mattered until now.

I fear the outcome of this is going to be that it translates into massive regulatory overreach and splitting up of companies instead of what would be healthy - encourage competition through enforcing open standards and mandating interoperability and sharing of personal data. Those things would go a lot further to ensuring actual free speech as well as creating a healthier internet at the same time.


The hypocrisy of the political class is even deeper, at least in Germany. Just recently, laws were passed to make platforms like Facebook filter, censor and rapidly delete content that might be against some law. Not after a court decision or at least an official order, no no, nothing so formal. A user complaint is sufficient to trigger the need to check within a few hours, have the platform decide to delete and report. No due process, nothing.

Penalties for insufficient reaction by the platform are steep and of course set after the fact. Therefore platforms will err on the side of caution and delete far more than they would have to.

And people like Merkel who are responsible for that law have the gall to complain when something their censorship law stipulated is done to a fellow politician...

https://de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz

https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-trump-germany-twitter/ge...


I don't agree with her but her only argument is the government should make these calls rather then private companies. She probably even agrees with what they did just doesn't think anyone except the government should have that power.

Actually, the worst possible party to limit your free speech is government. The government holds an exclusive monopoly on violence and killing. Almost every government that has obtained power over speech uses their violence monopoly to enforce it.

The best party to limit speech that is considered bad is private individuals and companies in their own venues. If I own a comedy theater, I should be able to kick out obnoxious patrons or comics. They can always go somewhere else. The same principle applies online, only it is much easier for someone who is not welcome in one community to go somewhere else or start their own.

Never give the government control over what is acceptable speech, let each business cater to the crowd they want.


A functioning democratic government is accountable to its people, while a private corporation is only accountable to its shareholders. Depending what you believe politically either, none or both could be true. Ultimately free markets can work against societal good just as much as an overly stringent and unaccountable government.

Maximally accountable government and a moderately and fairly regulated market seems to be best of both worlds, but as we know it’s difficult. We’re looking at the extremes now in terms of speech - Parler has people literally planning attacks on the government in the open, that’s probably bad in terms of societal good.

Finally a reminder that the ultimate point of corporations existing is for societal good. As is our government.


The difference between a government and a corporation is that people can stop buying at any time and you can have plenty of choices.

A democratic government is elected every X years and you have a very limited set of choices. It's plenty of time to forget about mistakes and that's too little choice to have accountable candidates.


I don't think most people can stop buying comcast if they want internet, as a counterexample.

I would say this - there's a good argument that our representatives are WAY WAY out of touch, simply because we don't have enough of them. In 1790 there was 1 congressperson per 33,000 people, and now it is per 800,000 people. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_congressional_ap...

If you had a congressperson with 1/20th of the constituents, they'd probably pay a lot more attention to you.


Politicians are only accountable as much as they are subject to competitive pressure from other politicians. The same goes for corporations.

Just as you can have a healthy democracy, you can have a healthy, regulated market.

But unlike corporations, you can't really break up the government's monopoly on lawmaking and law enforcement. Governments can be some of the least accountable entities despite elections because they are natural monopolies that regulate themselves.


The accountability goes out the window when the government exerts influences over mass media and the "votes" are made based on a disinformation campaign.

I disagree, I'd rather have my own government decide what is acceptable rather than an American multi national projecting their own rapidly shifting cultural norms.

If a private party can use their monopoly on the limiting of free speech to control the government how is that any different than those private parties _being_ the government, and by extension enjoying the monopoly on violence?

If a handful of companies can influence the election of a government to such a degree then they would enjoy the best of both worlds: the freedom to censor as they please (because they aren't beholden to 1st Amendment / Free Speech), and monopoly of violence as they control who the government is (who gets more positive coverage in their algorithms, pagerank etc.)

I think a lot of people are worried that companies (Facebook, Twitter, Google) _do_ hold that kind of power over governments, and not just the American government.


> monopoly on the limiting of free speech

No private party actually has such a monopoly, so it's not a real current issue.


They are if they act in concert. That is what is really scary.

You'd need quite a long list of companies to work together at the social network level for that to be true.

If you go lower in the stack, like ISP's it becomes much easier.


What's the point of arguing if companies are able to limit free speech in theory when they just did so in practice?

> What’s the point of arguing if companies are able to limit free speech in theory when they just did so in practice?

Whether what they actually did is “limiting free speech” or not is, in fact, part of what is in dispute.

Obviously, if one grants the argument that that accurately describes the events that occurred, it becomes indefensible to argue that it is not within the power of corporations to do it. But that is very much not a point of consensus.


True, it might not be a monopoly, or even a duopoly, but I'm not sure it's much better. Do you think if a politician is banned from Facebook, Twitter, and Google they have even a small chance of being elected?

It wouldn't even take all 3. If Google decided to heavily promote pro-Trump articles in their SEO, and heavily downplay pro-Biden articles leading up to the election, do you think it would have gone the way it did? And if not, do you think that's OK?

Of course they can do what they like, it's their platform. And if Biden supporters didn't like it they could boycott and tell everyone to use Bing or DDG. But I'm not sure that's a realistic solution.

I'm not making any strong claims here, I certainly don't know the right answer or if this is as much of a problem as it seems to me. I'm just worried that a handful of companies control a significant amount of the discourse in not just their own countries, but internationally. It might not be a current issue, but I could see it being a future one.

Or I could be completely wrong, I'm just musing.


I found Merkel's comment interesting, because it really shows the cultural difference between the US and Europe:

-EU: Only governments should be allowed to censor speech, not private companies!

vs.

- US: Only private companies should be allowed to censor speech, not governments!


I think a big part is that the companies doing the censorship are American themselves, and can thus -if need be- be held accountable under American law.

For Europeans this is a lot harder, the companies are still American and mostly project their own cultural norms regarding violence, race, sex, etc, without being accountable to European governments.


This ignores the ordoliberal[0] perspective, which IMHO deserves som attention if we are discussing the German approach to these questions (which I believe differs/diverges from the principled view of these questions from the anglo-american/common-law PoV)

From my perspective, the real danger is the collaboration of state power and private capital power, because it inevitably leads to the death of any notion of democracy. Whether that happens in free market/social democratic/neoliberal/ordoliberal societies is irrelevant, when the result is a consolidation of the power of private capital and state mandated power. (We used to call this corruption, but the term feels irrelevant.)

I believe a healthy society (under our current paradigms) deeply requires an antagonistic relationship between state power and private capital.

(Just to be clear, I believe these are emergent issues, and I absolutely do not claim to possess any complete truth)

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


Ah yes, let’s just let open Holocaust-denial or Hitler-worshipping or white supremacy all be absolutely fine. Or what about doxxing or a focused effort to destroy a business online through lies and slander, on a social network that doesn’t have any rules? Is that allowed? It’s my free speech to tell lies of course.

Free speech without restrictions is a silly liberal dream that never works. It’s like capitalism in that it holds it own downfall within its internal logic.


You do realise that Hitler was the government when all the atrocities were committed? The road to hell is paved with best intentions (of the supporters of these governments)

It's not about what happens when Hitler 2 is in power, but to prevent that from happening.

For me the challenge becomes "which government?" Should 200 different national governments be able to decide how the platform is run in their country? Should different sub-regions be able to decide?

Makes me wonder what global governance would look like for this or even platform-specific governance could be. Maybe there's a play for users of specific platforms to unite and demand more representation over how a platform is governed, as workers united for more representation in companies.


There is a due process if the creator of whatever was complained about decides to do something about it.

Additionally, this is only a flagging process for plainly illegal content, it can (and is on FB and other platforms) be a separate process from normal reports.


100%.

Germany is so wrong about this, and this is not the way we should go.

We Americans needs to grow thicker skin and cherish our free speech more. If we don't, we're going to slip into a world with less liberty.

Libel, slander, and "yelling fire" are sufficient limits on free speech. Seeing or hearing people say things you don't like isn't going to kill you. Society already has the tools to shun those who act egregiously.

We have other legal mechanisms to quell the events that happened last week. Prosecute for politicians inciting violence, fine trusted news organizations spreading misinformation, jail those who destroy property, trespass, or assault another person.

We have ways to stop radicalization too: being better to one another and making sure people have their needs met.

I vehemently disagree with Voat, Parler, thedonald.win, /r/sino, J. K. Rowling, and many other communities and persons. But they have a right to carry on, and we shouldn't deplatform them.

If we didn't have free speech, we wouldn't have gotten to where we are today. I'd rather live in America than a country that has less free speech.


>Libel, slander, and "yelling fire" are sufficient limits on free speech.

>fine trusted news organizations spreading misinformation

How do these two statements go together at all? The government fining news organizations for reporting what it decides is misinformation seems like a huge overreach even to me, and I'm more on the pro-censorship side.


I was originally thinking that if people were upset at corporations for all the damage they do in the thirst for profit, we could take free speech rights away from corporate entities and enshrine those same limits as rights for the people.

But I think you're right. That's ridiculous and results in less freedom, and we should strive for 100% free speech across the board.

The way to fix hate is to make sure everyone's rights are protected and strive to meet everyone's needs. Hate arises from fear and discomfort. It's not an easy problem to solve.


That boat has long sailed once Big Tech banned Parler and everyone cheered it. America is no longer a country where free speech is paramount. Atleast in other democratic countries Censorship happens through the elected Government. As a citizen you can always remove the elected representatives if you don't like the Censorship implemented by your elected representatives for whatever reason. You can't remove/vote out Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon et all because of the powerful grasp they have over digital communications and media.

The very fact that Parler was banned by Big Tech and not by US Congress puts a very bad light on America. Why would any Government trust American Government's word if a Private Company can undo it or act unilaterally without Congress approval? What does it convey to the World leaders? Is there 1 power center in America or 2? We used to mock Pakistan for having dual power centers (the elected Government and the military since their military doesn't come under the control of the elected Government). It caused a lot of confusion for World powers to interact with Pakistan as no one knew who the controller was. Was it the elected Government or the military? I'm seeing the same thing happening in America. Why should my Government take US Government seriously if a private company can ban/censor US Government communications?

Deleting a sitting US President's account is not going to be respected by any Government. Period.


True, though the bad light is not that some companies and groups in US are limiting Free Speech, but because US government has lost monopoly on violence, judging others and dealing punishment. All they key components that holds together any state - with or without Free Speech(which exists only few centuries or so).

We do not know with whom we have to deal with - US government that is represented by People - including ELECTED President, or Thing that is not controlled by law and does not need to abide to it and can do as it wishes - just like terrorists. Essentially at this point US does not exist - when the Thing, that will arise in place in US will start to abide to law and make agreements with others, then others will be more relaxed, but currently Democracy citadel of the whole World has ended. No one is going to take US as an example anymore and it would take a lot of work to gain that position where US once was and usually there is no way to climb back after such actions.

Not to mention what this all is causing to current World Order, where no one is going to seriously take US - all the doors that are now opened for all the shit to pour out.


> The very fact that Parler was banned by Big Tech and not by US Congress puts a very bad light on America.

That you think a private company being shunned by other private companies, is worse for free speech than a private company being banned by the government, shows you don't really understand the american definition of free speech.


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I disagree, in fact it enhances my impression of the US government in the way that it exercises restraint on its immense natural power. It's quite easy for governments to flex their power and regulate anything and everything. This is common in third world countries and developing societies: edicts are the answer to everything. It is the language of dictators.

The US government can absolutely force Twitter and Facebook to do whatever it wants but it doesn't, instead it guarantees freedoms to enterprises and entrusts slow but deliberative bodies with the task of deciding when exceptions should be made. It creates courts and laws for companies to resolve disputes amongst themselves. These principles are upheld even at the government's own inconvenience.

I find that far more admirable than the hasty and impulsive exercises of power that characterize uncivilized authorities that aspire to rule instead of govern.


Freedom is not something natural.

In 100% freedom your stronger neighbour would have freedom to restrict your freedom and you would have freedom to resist, fail, and be sad about it.

So your freedom is dependant of how much the strongest entity around is willing to limit freedom of your neighbors of restricting your freedom.

US government showing restraint when major players on the market use their position to restrict freedom of smaller entity is reducing freedom not increasing it.


That's why the US government also sets limits on what private companies and their customers can do to restrict each other's freedoms. Under these democratically deliberated laws, Parler has as much freedom to use Twitter & Facebook as you have freedom to do use my lawn. The principle still holds even if every neighbor in your neighborhood hates you and denies you access to their lawn; The scope & scale of their lawn restriction is irrelevant because American society finds their freedom over their property to be more important than your freedom to use it.

There are things that the US government deems too important to restrict, but Facebook & Twitter is well outside that category. That's where American society has drawn the line, and it's a line that I agree with as well.


The thing I wrote about freedom has nothing to do with US or Parler or Facebook.

It's a general observation that restraint of locally strongest entity doesn't necessarily give you more freedom. It can (and often does) give you less.

And when it comes to Parler my concern was Amazon, not Twitter and Facebook. Why should hosting provider be able to choose whom he provides basic infrastructure? Was Parler illegal content they had to remove by law? Should they cut their electricity and water supply to the creator of Parler too because they don't like their content?


The US government does draw the line at what it classifies to be utilities like electricity and water. AWS isn't considered a utility but I think it's far closer to one than the other companies. I'm personally skeptical that it should be because AWS encompasses a whole range of products, many of which have decent competition and aren't really "basic".

The ability to host stuff yourself on the internet is, however, a freedom I consider to be basic and necessary, so I do support net neutrality and related legislation that classify ISPs as utilities.


> exercises restraint on its immense natural power

I would have agreed with you provided it was the Government that had to do the banning first and took it's time and exercised restraint.

This is different. Big Tech cut off US Government communication lines from the rest of the World. Now we will never know what Trump is thinking except if he does a press conference. We will never know what the White House is doing. This causes major network effects across the World as people across the World want to know what is going on in the White House and what is on Trump's mind. Before internet and social media all communications were between the World leaders/bureaucrats and the rest of the World was pretty much oblivious to what was happening unless it became breaking news. Everything was opaque. That is not what I want to go back to. Trust me you don't want to wake up one day to learn your country is at War with another nation because everything was kept under wraps till the last minute. If you had known earlier you would have rallied the masses and built public pressure.

It is a public expectation to know what their leaders are upto. I want our leaders to be in the spotlight at all times. Trump is not just the President of USA, he is also a representative of USA to the rest of the World. Cutting off Trump's direct lines of communication cuts off feeds to the rest of the World about what is going on in his mind and the White House. This does not bode well for America as a responsible Democratic power. You do not cut off the lines to the Head of the Country with the World. No matter how much you disagree with him. This is irresponsible with Big Tech allowing it and US Congress keeping mum about it.


It doesn't make sense to suggest that Big Tech is even capable of cutting off US government communication lines. Twitter & Facebook is not the US government's communication lines. The government can and regularly does publish communications on its own internet infrastructure it controls and regulates. The government also maintains continuous contact with a global free press that breathlessly and rapidly reports on anything the government and Trump himself wants to say.

Let's not misrepresent what this actually is: a private enterprise locking a political leader out of one of many communication platforms that the leader prefers. Twitter & Facebook are not and have never been critical requirements for the US government (or Trump) to communicate effectively.


There were US presidents before Twitter, you know that right?

Trump was the one who chose to keep using Twitter as his main medium of communication. He has a LOT of dedicated presidential communication infrastructure available to him. He is choosing not to use it.

The only thing that reflects badly on the US is trump.


> A company doesn't enjoy free speech rights.

Actually, it does according to Citizens United v. FEC.


Trade sanctions are a different thing to sanctions imposed for speech.

I'm not american either but if I'm going to comment on the USA, I'm going to respect their own definitions and culture. Meanwhile you're trying to make a point you don't fully grasp yourself. Sorry.


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Not being an American perhaps you should be even more concerned about what you say. This just doesn't change the US Governments view what what you've been up to, your government also will be taking a very dim view.

Parler banned Parler. They refused to take down material that was obviously detrimental to society. We would not put up with television stations planning to kidnap senators either. You don’t get to yell fire in a theatre. They were warned. They didn’t do anything. They banned themselves.

Why stop there? I'll add more to the list of Parler transgressions:

1. They live streamed NZ Mosque Shooter. https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/444349-christchurch-shoote...

2. They helped ISIS in propagating terror material for 2 full years. They allowed ISIS to post beheading videos and threaten the then President of the United States Barack Obama. They even got sued for it but took protection behind Section 230: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-twitter-isis-lawsuit-idUS... and https://money.cnn.com/2016/12/20/technology/twitter-facebook... and https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/11/war-goe...

3. It was used to incite Genocide of an ethnic group causing mass migrations: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/06/technology/myanmar-facebo...

4. They were party to toppling of foreign Governments: https://www.smh.com.au/technology/can-social-networking-over...

5. They were used by foreign Governments to censor Citizens and Oppositon: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/7/16/it-exists-to-demobi...

> They banned themselves.

Oh yes they banned themselves. The proof I have given above validates your point. I am wrong, you are right! Congratulations!


Is your point that Facebook and Twitter are just as culpable as Parler but held to a different standard?

Exactly. Thanks for getting my point. Let us assume that the entire US Capitol plot was hatched in Parler. Even then that is just 1 transgression. Compare it to the history of social media enabling violence and that list runs into hundreds if not thousands (if you factor in the entire World). I haven't even covered threats of school shootings and other stuff that often gets overlooked.

When regime change happens in Middle Eastern countries Twitter was lauded for being a platform for voice of the oppressed. As long as it doesn't happen in America we should rejoice social media playing a pivotal role. The moment the same "Arab Spring" like situation strikes home all hell breaks loose.


I think one big issue is the federal trade commission has been too shy about fighting trusts or anti-competitive behavior because they believe(d) tech is different.

They allowed FB and Google to gobble up competitors unimpeded.

Amazon is another. Their integration and breadth are a threat to businesses and consumers alike but we’re too busy enjoying next day deliveries to care.

You ask for competition but these behemoths either buy them out or smother them via anti competitive behavior; at that point breaking them up is very palatable.


Even with anti-trust, I think the EU comission is probably correct that social media platforms may need more direct lines of contact with platform regulators in exchange for being larger players, just because of the intrinsic network effects that exist in the space.

Your preassumption seems to be that centralised networks are somehow unavoidable in tech. I would argue otherwise - both Facebook and Twitter could exist decentralised - it would just be less profitable for the companies.

It being less profitable effectively makes it an impossibility without regulations.

When advertising revenue is involved less revenue does not mean poor. Look at how much money google and facebook have to waste!

I think the point is that no company will ever willingly choose to make less money unless they're forced to.

Now that we see what ad based, centralized social media / surveillance companies lead to, more and more people have reasons to take their business elsewhere.

Yeah, which is why it would be possible with regulations. If it wasn't enough to cover costs then it wouldn't be possible with regulations either.

What would breaking them up even mean? I feel we would be in the same situation as brexit - How do we split them without collapsing all the pieces? You can point to microsoft but modern american has brought an entirely different, much larger, more entrenched behemoths than what we've seen.

I agree, in the sense that "break them up" seems to be an undefined action left as an exercise for the reader.

I'm not necessarily against reasonable regulations, but it is hard to agree or disagree if there is nothing on the table other than "break them up". Some specific framework or principle or proposal is needed to have any sort of a cogent discussion.


This image doesn't cut things evenly, but illustrates the issue well.

https://mobile.twitter.com/finshots/status/12653067031861616...


I wish they'd go after the money and regulate not just social networks but advertising business instead.

What adverts and next to what contents they can shown.

You could keep right to free speech but you don't have right to monetizing any speech.


This comment doesn't make much sense given the announcement of the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act recently preceded this.

Interoperability can make a market more consolidated than it otherwise might be. Look at how GitHub dominates the DVCS hosting market.

Ben Thompson's idea that social networks shouldn't be able to buy other social networks would be better IMO for avoiding problems like Facebook having too much power from also owning IG and WhatsApp. Not sure what a good solution would be for other companies such as Amazon having so much power.


Agreed that regulatory overreach is on the horizon. Hell, pretty sure it's going to happen (or at least be full steam ahead) in the first 100 days of Biden's presidency. While I don't agree with sweeping regulatory practices and would like to see a thoughtful plan of trying to increase competition instead, I can't blame the political class' position. I find it even fascinating how far reaching this event has been and how anti-Trump politicians and organizations NOW finally see how dangerous Silicon Valley has become. In essence, Twitter went to war with the Office of President of the USA (not just Trump, but the position of USA president itself), right or wrong (I'm ignoring the moral/ethics going on for the sake of this debate, though, Trump did overstep his bounds... putting it mildly). This fact shows they can and will do it again and to lesser politicians.

"We took Trump's voice away, we can do it to you too. We pushed anti-Trump rhetoric and silenced pro-Trump rhetoric... do I need to replace Trump with your name if you don't do as we say?" If there is no fallout for Twitter, how far can they push it? What if Biden decides to do some policies that Twitter isn't in favor of? Does he get shut out too? The EU can see very well that the same thing can happen to them easily as well. Shit, even the ACLU threw an objection and concern over this and they hate Trump just as must as any other democrat. The big problem is, and you have to be fair, Trump put up a hell of a PR fight the past 4 years and did rather well up until the very end. Most politicians have crumbled from less pressure than what he experienced. Not many others will be able to hold out as long as he did. This extra weapon of social media and Silicon Valley taking down the public voice of politicians is really fucking dangerous, no matter the political spectrum. They're a handful of billionaires or near to billionaires who have direct control of what a large portion of the human population sees as fact and truth... and they have no one to oversight them.


Agree.

It is actually disturbing in that it seems by implication that many politicians are portraying what Trump was doing as legitimate speech - and in doing so they are effectively legitimising it. Whereas anybody I am sure in the big tech decision making on this was treating this as "shouting fire in a theater" exception to speech. I think it will be very harmful if the "legitimate speech" interpretation becomes the dominant view - in that case we are effectively setting a precedent here that inciting a riot to overturn your own government is legitimate free speech.


I didn't say I agree to regulations to free speech. I believe in full, unabridged, unbridled speech from all sides. I believe that full, equal speech from all view points squash the extreme stupid viewpoints by nature of evolution and competition. As a Polish-American with a good amount of my family being Jewish, yes, that means all sides of the argument must be heard equally and discussed equally. Even the sides I wish I could strangle. It's the willy-nilly censoring and suppression of certain viewpoints that amplifies that exact viewpoint's power to extreme levels. Historically, it's never worked to suppress speech. It has always backfired. Radical, violent viewpoints only gain strength and acceptance when they are suppressed. Let them air out their viewpoints and face an equal scrutiny in a public, fair battlefield of wit.

There's also a question of general ethics when it comes to the conversations in the public sphere. As an example, I believe we can all agree detention, concentration and reeducation camps are evil, anyone who promotes them in a position of power should be made publicly aware of and face the backlash. Let's take literally yesterday Michael Beller, a PBS attorney, was saying children of Republican supporters should be taken from their families and be put in reeducation camps. While PBS is distancing themselves and he resigned, major media is silent on the matter. Hell, Washington Post mentions it, but their super short article focused on the fact this was a supposed sting operation orchestrated by conservatives. It doesn't matter! The dude is videoed saying he's okay with abducting children, reeducation camps and having large swaths of Americans die from Covid because he doesn't agree with their politics. But because it's despicable actions against "the other tribe", it's okay. If a republican said the exact same thing about democrats, word for word, what kind of uproar would there be? Hate to say it, anyone who says that the media and big tech are suppressing their speech, you can't dismiss it at all. At this point, the cat is out of the bag and there is no turning back. To argue against extremism is now harder because of the childish games these companies have played.

In the end, I can appreciate the international political class' response. Their power is threatened. Who wouldn't freak out if they find their voice is easily undermined? Who wouldn't cry foul when their opinion is not equally heard in public discourse, when arbitrary rules are applied to them? Then the opposing opinion has free reign to say and do what they want, along with get artificial inflated publicity. It's just funny now because the politicians are more in line with the populace more than ever, all because the "do no evil" brainwashers of Silicon Valley are showing their true colors. Big tech wasn't the savior to humanity that we were all told the past 20 years. Time to give up that ghost.


In 2019 Court in NY in final instance denied Trump rights to ban twitter users(even the ones, that did not belong to US citizens) based on the The First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is guaranteeing Free Speech.

I assume, that he was not allowed to ban people who were simply toxic and posted death threats - all the things that are considered norm in twitter(but other users are able to ban at least some of them to maintain healthy discussion). Also, it is not consistent with how just recently twitter allowed all those death wishes, when it was announced, that Trump had covid.

And I am even more curious about banning of other key Republican politicians - on what grounds? Were they also inciting violence?


> encourage competition through enforcing open standards

Big Tech destroyed this hope the moment it banned Parler and everyone cheered this ideological censorship.

Big Tech crossed every line in launching a coordinated attack on a rival. The damage this has done cannot be quantified. The ideal way to have gone about this is involvement of Courts/Legislature to decide if Parler should be banned or not. Not a group of private companies deciding to fuck a competitor. It is a horrible horrible precedent which has absolutely zero excuses.


I think the EU understands the precedent this sets.

The tech giants have established that if they disagree with something (using their preferred value system), they feel they have the right to take action.

Let’s say the an EU minister proposes something that’s antithetical to US principles but is lawful in the EU, now tech giants feel emboldened with the right to take action _unilaterally_ without the right to an appeal.

I believe this is what the EU fears and wants to avoid.


That is certainly what they're worried about.

Here's a less flattering angle on the same worry. Europe is caught pants-down. They are realizing how weak they are in tech and scrambling to fix it. The facts:

- None of the 20 most valuable companies in the world are European. Most are US or China based, and many are tech.

- A tiny number of successful startups are European. I think their biggest in the last 20 years is Spotify...

- This is a sad showing for a continent with a $20t GDP and 500 million citizens (EU + UK).

- Software is eating the world. This was a lukewarm take when pmarca wrote that famous essay a decade ago, now you could almost restate it past-tense.

Europe is simply not participating in that process meaningfully. Sure, there have been vast shifts in many aspects of life--Europeans spend just as much time on their iPhones as we do, on Twitter, no FB, on Insta, on Gmail. But they neither invented nor control the development of any of those things.

So yes, European world leaders are belatedly realizing that a guy in SF with a footlong beard could ban them from Twitter at will. But that is the tip of the iceberg. They have developed deep dependency on US tech in all kinds of ways. If GSuite or O365 went down tomorrow, how many EU governments would be able to get any work done?

This situation mirrors the (more extensively discussed) military situation. Europe has complacently decided that the US can manage it for them, and are now experiencing a rude awakening.


If EU doesn't have valuable companies and cannot produce valuable products how come that EU is not much different for living standarts than the US then? Is EU a petrostate? Where the money comes from if USA makes all the good stuff and EU none? From pumping out the Bulgarian crude or mining the Spanish rare earth metals?

The thing is, Europe missed out on the Software&Internet and the reality is, it is not the only tech or only high value product out there. However, software creates enormous monopolies, therefore when you do a top list USA has everything.

If you can look further than the toplists, Europe is doing strong on the long tail and that is how you got your 20T economy with no single unicorn in the charts.

Europe's biggest problem is its demographics - People are getting older and dying, not enough young people replace them. That's why it's percentage on the world economy is shrinking, it's not because Europeans can't code.


> If EU doesn't have valuable companies and cannot produce valuable products how come that EU is not much different for living standarts than the US then?

I think you need to turn this question around: if the USA has all these valuable companies and all this amazing innovation, how come our standard of living is the same or lower than that of Europeans? What's all that stuff for? Just making a bunch of people very rich?


The inequality doesn't just exist between nation states. It also exists within the US. It's making Californians rich.

That's what people forget. The US is a large country with states that have a land mass as big as entire nation states. It's entirely possible that one or two states are doing well while the rest are doing very poorly. There is an obvious economic split between those who went to college to move to the growing places and those who didn't and had to stay behind in a stagnating community.


You can have an okay economy without tech heavy hitters, but the point is that being dependent on US internet tech or Russian natural gas or whatever can be a significant vulnerability.

Sure, just as US is dependent on Chinese manufacturing.

That’s why the respective actors are taking actions to fix it.

Another argument is that not having heavy hitters but more evenly spread diverse businesses is a better thing.

US’s economy is tied to extremely large consumerism. An argument is that as humanity we should reduce consumption anyway.

That’s why I would stick with quality of life indicators instead of top list and charts of the economic indicators.


Out of curiosity which tech heavy hitters would Europe be vulnerable to losing? I assume they could live without Facebook for a few days.

If by "vulnerable to losing", as in it would hurt their economies and put people out of work or hurt livelihoods because the EU in their infinite wisdom decided to excise one or more of them from the continent, it's pretty much name a non-European tech company.

Even Dell, HP, IBM, Oracle. Service contracts have to be fulfilled, and making a living off of social media like Instagram, YouTube and Twitch isn't just an American phenomenon, actually come to think of it, most of the YouTubers I follow aren't even American. They're mostly in Europe or Australia.

And don't assume they'll just be fine without Facebook either, as far as digital advertising goes, Facebook and Google are pretty much the only game in town. Some small businesses do depend on being able to get business through advertising referrals.

Europe is a rich continent, it's not like they would be destitute if the rich wonders of American tech companies just evaporated from their part of the world tomorrow, but you're not replacing most of them overnight either, so Europe instead is trying this thing where they can at least try to control them.

I mean, I don't see it working out in the long run but in the short term they've shown some muscle, because after all: Europe is a rich continent. Australia, Canada and New Zealand are market-wise, about the size of three US States put together, which is nice, but Europe is pretty much the only large and rich viable market for most tech companies outside of the United States and Japan without putting yourself in a position of having to kiss Chairman Winnie the Pooh on the ring.


That's what I'm trying to wrap my head around. Facebook and Google have value because they have gained monopoly power in markets that they created themselves. The need for unlimited personal data and targeted advertising didn't even exist until they came along. Now they have become so integral to everyday life, that access to them is being framed as an entitlement.

How do you manage a utility that tends towards monopoly, but that is also recognized as an entitlement? The answer is to create a state-run monopoly. What does the Ma Bell for advertising even look like?

Could the Europeans have attracted those monopolies to their shores? What did they do wrong?


First movers tend to have an advantage. That’s rarely permanent so getting concerned and trying to preemptively regulate is just bound to create more problems than it solves.

If Facebook/Google went away from Europe tomorrow, Europe would adapt around their absence just as they adapted to their presence, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t hurt and hurt actual people. You don’t need state monopolies, you just need to let hungry entrepreneurs continue to look for opportunities just as Facebook and Google did at one point in their existence and exploit those opportunities.


Indeed, and I think that a basic safety net can smooth out the roughest of rough edges. There's no reason why a person needs to starve if their platform vanishes.

To be fair, it’s not likely their platform will vanish overnight as long as Google and Facebook are making money in Europe unless the EU really does drive them out. Market shifts can be fast but there’s at least usually some leading indicators when a small business might no longer be viable.

>most of the YouTubers I follow aren't even American. They're mostly in Europe or Australia.

Ok, if that is the case then why would those content creators want a country locked market place to publish their content on? If I were in the shoes of a European content creator I would publish on the platform with the most reach. I don't have to care about which nation the platform is hosted from.


I agree.

I almost want to see it because I'm really curious to see what happens if you remove Whatsapp from a population where it's very ingrained.

Do they riot? Do they just download an alternative? Does the disruption in business communications cause such a negative impact that it reflects in GDP?


They will download an alternative. The interesting part is that they will very quickly converge on a single option.

Of course. The value of having a messaging app that nobody else uses is very limited. Most people will roll their eyes every time some sports club, parents ascosiation, knitting circle, wathever will want you to install another niche app. It is a winner take all due to inherent network effects.

You can also predict that wathever emerges will be based on direct or indirect add revenue, and require massive sustained investment for years, thus making it again most likely to be US petrodollar backed, or, if not, petrodollar bought or else just brought to heel or extinguished.


I think the last part is a deep concern and if it’s not should be.

Google, Salesforce or Microsoft should not be able to wake up one day and say, you know what, I don’t like those people in Czechia, let’s cut their GSuite/O365 Access with no time to migrate.

These companies have too much heft and influence. And democratic governments have not caught up to that.

Authoritarians know the deal and that’s why they control them. They know how they can sway elections, not through ‘bots but via their algorithms and suppression or promotion of narratives as they see fit.


I have similar observations and concerns in regards to the United States’ overdependence on China as its supplier. I believe COVID-19 has revealed how dependent we are on China for even the most basic of supplies. America’s inability to domestically manufacture simple things such as masks is deeply worrisome. Think about it. We are unable to manufacture basic things at scale to fulfill basic needs of the country. We are no longer self-dependent. America’s generals have voiced concerns for years about how the majority of rare earth metals are derived from China. Metals of which are used in all of our sophisticated technology, such as computers, missiles, jets, satellites, etc. But COVID has revealed that these concerns span far greater than just technology and weapon systems. Similar to how the tech conglomerates can unilaterally erase the president of the United States in one fell swoop, China can also pull the rug from under us when it comes to supply chain. It’s a national security issue. We shouldn’t make ourselves so vulnerable.

This is an entirely different issue. Europe can never compete within the 'western' sphere as long the US wil just gobble up every EU software company that threatens to become relevant with unlimited free petrodollars.

Be careful what you wish for. The Europeans might decide to import the GFW technology from China, and grow their own social media inside the new walled garden.

If the EU doesn’t like it, they should make their own platform. This isn’t a public park, we are talking about privately owned property.

If EU countries don't like it, they may also ban US tech companies as they're sovereign countries that don't need to bow to foreign corporations.

The point is to regulate social media for European citizens. They set the rules. If facebook or twitter cannot follow them they will pull out of that market allowing space for a local platform to take over.

It would be interesting to see how that pans out for social media, since they tried with Google News and that, if I was correctly informed, hurt local publishers rather than helped.

In the short term, sure it would. If you tear up one field in the middle of planting and plant another, it'll hurt short term; 10 years later it'll be a funny story.

Markets love a vacuum and it would be an opportunity for local players to dive in.


Sure but the EU, like China, like Russia are different jurisdictions with different laws. Their countries, their rules.

In an internet ruled world, were mass communication was now possible, existed a company who became so powerful that the product in which they developed was treated as important as a telephone, electricity, or the internet itself. As its power and influence grew, it aligned itself politically and ideologically. Those influences meant that individuals who expressed beliefs contrarian to those aligned with the organisation were met with digital ostracism. At first it was just normal individuals, but as time went on even world leaders were having their communications silenced or interfered with.

Those who were on the receiving end of this censorship were often forced to form alternative means of communication, but often it was the case that these powerful groups colluded to ensure this was not possible.

What does it mean when the only objective voice to comment on matters originating within the borders of the USA comes from outside of those borders.

Silicon Valley has become so powerful and moneyed that they believe they are supra government.

Tristan Harris comments that the laws that are designed to protect us, don't exist within the realms of social media.


Assuming that a company's terms of service are deemed fair and legal, why would it be "no longer acceptable" to apply them? I couldn't care less how high profile someone is, what public office they hold; if they break the agreement they made with a service provider, they should be subject to the consequences they agreed to.

What I would like to see is a company being obliged to enforce its terms of service promptly, and not allow profitable rule-breakers to continue. Especially when their abuse of the service also breaks laws.


Because terms of service are vague and, more importantly, selectively enforced.

Selective enforcement of private contracts is totally legal, and the EU('s executive branch) is uncomfortable with the public policy implications of that when it comes to social media and would like new laws passed to add extra regulation on uniformity and specificity of moderation policies.


The selective enforcement - particularly when it's overt - really grinds my gears. When they are finally applied that doesn't make said application invalid or incorrect.

I think that some cases whereby $importantperson isn't banned because they're important are valid. It helps to have a public and verifiable record of a public office holder making provably false claims, particularly when a warning is then slathered over said bullshit. But the thought of a government body deciding when a company may and may not enforce its rules is chilling.


> But the thought of a government body deciding when a company may and may not enforce its rules is chilling.

In general I agree with you; I only consider this kind of thinking valid at Twitter/FB/Google/AWS scale - where one decision affects populations the size of entire nations (or larger). It's a problem less than a dozen companies would ever face and any reasonable law would need to make that abundantly clear. I wouldn't favor opening that door for smaller companies.


Well, laws are selectively enforced, too. How many company-crippling GDPR fines have been collected so far?

The idea behind the fines is to get compliance and not to destroy the company.

Selectively enforced laws grinds my gears.

I think we need to acknowledge that a lot of what these agreements outline is, to a large degree, subjective. If human language, or expression in general, weren't contextual and up for interpretation, then I think this would be a viable way of looking at things, but that simply isn't the case.

So long as there is room for interpretation, and the consequences (politically, economically, etc.) of those interpretations are potentially far reaching, leaving it up to private companies with no oversight isn't a good option.


So you have n companies each applying their own subjective judgement over their own networks, or you have 1 government applying its own subjective judgement over all networks in that country.

It's highly unlikely that the latter is more friendly to fringe or extremist views (setting aside whether or not that's a good thing).


Many authors have speculated on how modern society would work if rather than 1 legal system you would have large companies that each have their own laws and enforcement. Usually the world is made into a dystopia.

I think a 1 government is in general more friendly to fringe or extremist people. Not that the laws are better, but government legal system must in its core treat everyone similar where same act done by two people are punished similarly. This aspect of law make people feel safe against arbitrary enforcement and that benefits both people of fringe as well as non-fringe views.


I don't think we can enter science fiction stories into the evidence for this debate. They are fiction.

The events in these books don't even necessarily reflect the beliefs of the authors. An author might simply write what would be entertaining to read, or what has been written in the genre before. Even if these fictional megacorps do reflect the widely held belief of genre authors, that doesn't serve as any kind of factual basis on which to base public policy.


That is true, through we do have historical evidence during the colonial times where large shipping companies were large enough to rival nations and had their own laws and enforcement. Later we also have large mining companies with their own towns, laws and enforcement.

As far as I remember my history, companies that are larger than nation with their own laws and enforcement have not much nice things written about them.


The key difference is a government is decided by the people. n companies (let's be real, 2-4) have no accountability.

There is potential for an antitrust issue - two companies having immense control over the most popular way to access the internet, your phone. At least for now, it's really more of a convenience thing when app stores remove apps; limiting the feature set of your product offering to apps only may make sense, but it is an educated risk. If you feel you want the most people to access your content, you make it work on mobile and desktop computers without requiring a specific app store gatekeeper.

If you disagree with Apple removing something from an app store, you buy an Android compatible and enable side-loading, or you buy a Linux compatible phone, or if all else fails, you connect through a web site.

When I used Windows Phone, it was annoying that I couldn't download an app for my bank, inconvenient that I still had to use ATMs to deposit checks. And disappointing that I couldn't hop on the Snapchat bandwagon. But I was still able to communicate with friends and family, read the news, do research, learn things, and make use of the internet.

Allowing just a few companies enough control over the internet to take away your ability to choose how you use it is an antitrust issue.


> It's highly unlikely that the latter is more friendly to fringe or extremist views

This is empirically false though, at least in the the USA.

In the USA there are extremely strong protections for free speech.

If it was required that platforms followed the existing way that the government is allowed to ban certain speech, then platforms would be much less restrictive, because our laws of what speech is allowed is very pro free speech.


One government is optimistic in this case. This is the EU talking, they'll gladly deliberate for months before any action is taken.

Furthermore, wouldn't this worsen an authoritarian or Trump-like scenario? We are expecting the government to moderate itself? Wouldn't a yes man/crony just sit in that seat ala William Barr and let the tweets go unchecked?


Yeah, in the US, depending on which dystopia you think we're living in, it's very easy to envision either some Trump crony making sure nobody was disrespectful to him on Twitter OR some "deep state" agents starting to censor him way back in 2015 to try to prevent his getting elected in the first place.

I've yet to see a realistic proposal for what should replace Twitter's ability to choose its own TOS that isn't either a worse situation like that, or isn't some "only illegal stuff should be taken down" that probably results in far fewer open places on the internet accepting user-generated content for broadcast in the first place.


"No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." [0]

-- Winston Churchill

For any kind of platform that allows arbitrary users some level of control over the content that will be hosted, the options for ensuring that content is not harmful are:

* Community Moderation: users control contributing and moderating content. The platform chooses moderators, or enables voting for them. This gives users and all people (i.e. citizens) the most power, but has the most potential for abuse of the system to enable using the platform to host, spread and share harmful content.

* Platform Moderation: wholly moderated by platform chosen moderators. This is probably the most common system. The platform will use its own set of values and policies to decide what to moderate, and will likely target the most popular content deemed harmful. Per platform, this gives platforms the most power, but platforms much compete with each other

* Government Moderation: moderation likely by the platform, but with oversight from government - policy and values may be defined by the government; failure to moderate according to the government legislation could result in penalties or termination of the platform. If the government has sufficient checks and balances and citizen influence, this may be a desirable system, but if the government is not "of and for the people", it could also be used by the government to moderate opponents of the government as decided by that government. Anyone opposing the absolute power of the government may find their content "moderated" away. This is the stuff of nightmares for the founding fathers.

"When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny." [1]

-- Thomas Jefferson

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

[1] https://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/whe...


That's a fair statement but as long as a company is not found to be applying bias to their application of their rules, again I see no problem. In the instances we're discussing though, there has been clear violation of terms over a sustained period of time.

this argument seems well & sound to me, if I replace "private companies" with "private monopolies". right now I don't think we know how monopolistic these companies are & i don't think we've tried doing much competing. so yes we are under the seat of a few big entities. it's our fault. athe failure of us, our unwillingness to compete, does not give the nation's of the world preimminent domain. the rights of the private entities to converse as they would is to be respected, including excluding unwanted voices. if you have something to say find your own places to say it.

these garbage fire bonanzas ablaze with calls for violence & insurrection with the flimsiest fakest of fabricated basis underneath are unfortunately really bad tests of how monopolistic big tech is, because they doom themselves, seem rankly incompetent, destined to self immolate. competitor platformsust follow some law, which is in many cases what companies do when they kick people off: protect themselves & the rest of the platform from grave risks. i believe companies should be encouraged to find their own ways to remain safe, that nation's ordering them around to control speech in certain governmentally dictated ways would be horrific. cyberspace doesn't deserve this infringement, people don't, even big tech, sucky g useless as it is, doesn't. this isn't china. we don't do that here.


Yeah, so, basically, and I can't believe I have to spell this out, the EU Commission is saying "we need new laws".

Please, continue to spell this out. Laws that forbid an organisation from applying its rules because that organisation is popular? Laws that compel an organisation to allow users to perpetrate abuse if they're important in one country? Where does liability now fall when say, incitement to violence end up with someone losing an eye, a life?

Don't misunderstand me - I absolutely think that those who allowed Trump to directly incite violence for years have blood on their hands. They absolutely have liability for this. They disgust me. But now suddenly the conversation seems to be that Twitter, for example, should have been forbidden from kicking Trump off now or years ago when they should have. So who would share the blame now?


> Where does liability now fall when say, incitement to violence end up with someone losing an eye, a life?

Courts? The US is a bit weird in that one person is excluded for the normal legal system of judges, and instead replaces it with the congress, but regardless that is where the crime of "incitement to violence" and "conspiracy" is settled.

As with all other conspiracies, we also have the persons who committed the act of violence. If they are not dead they will hopefully end up in court and have their case brought up by the legal system.


Yes, because, in different parts of the world, laws are different. EU is saying these orgs are to powerful. How is that bad? They are planning on crafting laws to limit the abuse potential of these companies.

If a company rules are illegal in an area, then it should 100% be followed. Look at how the NYtimes for a while did not allow California residents who signed up online, cancel online. Ironically, also a media company.

How about ethics in general then? Facebook has been implicated in assisting genocide, the methodological execution of people in Myanmar - yet, people are focused on one recent event that, when you compare the effects of assisting a government in executing it's own people, to people using it as a platform to come together and raid the capitol - it seems to fall quite flat. Yes, humans lost their life in both examples, but how, why do we come together now that it is in our own backyard, vs happening in a distant part of the world? How do you quantify humanity value/loss of life or allow these social media orgs, that operate as an outlet, a communication platform, that bond "networks" together this unlimited power?


I wonder if there is a conflation (or I am misunderstanding) that the big social media orgs have some sort of duty to uphold freedom of speech but are at the same time vilified by some for banning abusive users. My criticisms align with yours it seems - that they have been complicit in perpetrating abuse for some time, including spilling of blood, and have only now, now the "optics are bad", decided to act. I guess my argument is that they should be allowed to ban any user for breaking their rules - as long as those rules are deemed fair and legal - and no organisation that does so should be decried by lawmakers or citizens for suppressing speech.

Your point is fair and valid, but Europe has long been wary of US Tech's incipient power and they see Trump's permaban (warranted as it is) as a warning.

A corporation is an abstraction, an artificial person created to pool resources and do business at scale. It's a good, useful abstraction --- but like all abstractions, it's leaky, and sometimes the abstraction does more harm than good. Governments are run for the benefit of natural people, not artificial ones, and when the latter behave in ways detrimental to the interests of the former, there's nothing wrong with setting rules.

For someone whose username is 'quotemstr' (quote master), that post is a great, short explanation of that idea and very.. quotable.

Because we have articles 10 and 11 of the Charter of fundamental rights of the European Union, and the EU does protect these rights.

https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:12...

--- https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CEL...

Article 10

Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or in private, to manifest religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

2. The right to conscientious objection is recognised, in accordance with the national laws governing the exercise of this right.

Article 11

Freedom of expression and information

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.

2. The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected.


Does that mean, in the EU context, that the EU (whatever EU organization that may be), or the individual EU nations can compel private companies to publish certain speech?

Are all EU citizens entitled to publish on Twitter for instance, and can the EU force Twitter to publish?

Is that the EU version of freedom of expression and information?


Very good question.

It has been tested in court before and the test failed

https://globalfreedomofexpression.columbia.edu/cases/hans-bu...

> The Court first acknowledged that Mr Nix’s conviction for having displayed a picture of Himmler with a swastika armband in his blog post amounted to an interference with his right to freedom of expression. Then, it went on to analyse whether this interference was prescribed by law, in pursuit of a legitimate aim, and necessary in a democratic society. On the first two parts of this test, the Court noted that Mr. Nix’s conviction had a legal basis (Article 86a of the Criminal Code) and that it pursued the legitimate aim of the prevention of disorder.

> The Court went on to say that, “[i]n the light of their historical role and experience, States which have experienced the Nazi horrors may be regarded as having a special moral responsibility to distance themselves from the mass atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis”. [para. 47] Furthermore, it considered that the “legislature’s choice to criminally sanction the use of Nazi symbols, to ban the use of such symbols from German political life, to maintain political peace (also taking into account the perception of foreign observers), and to prevent the revival of Nazism must be seen against this background.”

> The Court concluded by reiterating that the historical experience of Germany was a weighty factor to be taken into account when considering cases involving Nazi symbols, and whether there exists a pressing social need for interfering with an individual’s right to freedom of expression in this context. ... Therefore, the interference was found to be proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued and “necessary in a democratic society”.

Sounds like wishy washy nonsense to me


Just realised that this charter contains a rule against double jeopardy:

"No one shall be liable to be tried or punished again in criminal proceedings for an offence for which he or she has already been finally acquitted or convicted within the Union in accordance with the law."

which slightly surprised me, as the UK has allowed this for about 10 years, (I think). (I guess "finally" may be a getout.)


How are Germany's Nazi laws permitted under this framework?

The power imbalance means companies can use all sorts of crazy leverage to do all sorts of things that wouldn't really be fair in a free market, and certainly not a free market of ideas etc..

I'll bet $100 that companies would love to wash their hands of a lot of this stuff, and just be able to 'comply' with some regulatory things so they can't be blamed or get into trouble one way or another.


I'd take that bet. Leaked conversations from Twitter and Google insiders show that the platform owners are well aware of the power their platforms give them. That's a power that can't be accurately measured in dollars, and speaking purely selfishly on their behalf, one that they'd be fools to give up.

Twitter tanked 10% on the Trump ban announcement.

Trump pushed very hard to dump legislation that favours them.

Angela Merkel, Macron and the EU Comission have spoken negatively about the ban.

i.e. the most powerful people in the world are speaking up, against you. Bad.

Parler - their 'evileenemy' was the #1 download (!) on App Store before the ban.

There is serious talk of breaking up those companies and issues of 'free speech' are top spot in the headlines.

Empathically - no - those companies do not want to be in that position.

I think you're misinterpreting those leaks.

It makes certain individuals feel powerful, gives them the influence to 'stop Trump' - but in the end, it's a massive distraction for their business.

They will be fighting these fires daily for some time.

From a business perspective - they just want to make money. They don't want to be fighting political wars because if they're taking on the US, the EU and other governments, they're going to lose somewhere.

They don't 'make more money' by being able to ban Trump and Bannon under their own guise - they risk it.

But if an independent board acting according to government regulation bans Trump, well, then it's 'not their fault'.


Well, for one, democratic countries are supposed to be governed by representatives elected by people, not by corporate boards.

Ability to selectively enable or disable people from being able to access voters is tantamount to having a huge influence on election results.

While in the past you could avoid using social media, today this is THE way to reach most of voters. Most people no longer pay substantial attention to what happens on television, forgot what radio is (it is a little bit of noise your car gives so that it is not quiet) and don't read printed papers.

Now, this time it happened for Trump and we can discuss whether this was or was not a good decision, but the question is who is going to wield the power like that in the future and whether it is even permissible do to something like that.

On one side you have the idea of free speech, but then added to social media you have inevitable disinformation as anybody can get amplified and amount of information is such that it is not possible to verify and vet it.

In the past you would have handful of news-generating organizations and it was easy to spot and call false information. But this is forever gone, there seems to be a need to find out some kind of new equilibrium that will allow detect and filter misinformation without anybody having power to singlehandedly "vanish" people from public life.


You discuss governance, access to voters, wielding of power and free speech but not the meat of my comment: a customer not playing by the rules they agreed to, and the implication that they should be allowed to break the rules they agreed to simply because they're important. An organisation must now allow people to flaunt their rules, helpless to remove them despite the abuse that they perpetrate?

I don't think you can square that circle.

Let's say it's 2024, and the dominant social media platform is called Witted[1]. They have their terms of service, but the terms of service have some ambiguity. In fact, Witted deliberately left some ambiguity, for two reasons. First, you can't absolutely codify human interactions - human communication is too complex. Second, Witted wanted the ambiguity, because it gave Witted more power.

Now President Harris is running for re-election, and she is aware of how much power Witted has. She wants to rein it in. Witted therefore finds some grounds for declaring Harris to be in violation of Witted's terms of service, and kills her account. That leaves the Republican candidate, Romney, a channel to voters that Harris can't adequately respond to. Romney wins the election. (There's talk about Witted being biased, but that resonates less with voters than what Romney can do with a Witted feed that Harris can't answer.)

Now, you say, that shouldn't be allowed to happen. I agree. But how are you going to stop it, without giving the exact same power to someone else? And who are you going to trust with that power? The government? Absolutely not. The EU commission? Equally not. But who?

I assert that there is nobody that you can trust with that power. But the power already exists, and we've just seen it used. Now what do we do? (Preferably before 2024 rolls around...)

---

[1] Actually, Witted would be a pretty good name for a social media platform.


The power a media company has is derived from its market share, which starts with zero for a startup, and grows with the successful performance of the company.

Similarly, the effect a company has by withdrawing access to its services is proportional to the power it has earned through its performance over time.

Thus, the power and influence a media company has is not arbitrary. it is a function of its social relations i.e. the percentage of society it has converted into customers, patrons, and followers.

To directly address your example - it already exists. One example: Fox News is selective with its choice of guests. Some types of guests get more access than others. The way the system deals with this is to allow other vendors besides Fox to operate competing networks.


Democratize it: put government in charge of that company. (And also campaign finance.)

Thank you for clarifying the nuances at play. You've given me food for thought.

I think it's easy to say the rules are vague, a statement I agree with. In my understanding of how the big social media players have finally applied their rules against Trump it was for inciting violence and spreading disinformation. I'd suggest the latter is pretty clear-cut, with the former being somewhat more challenging. Trump's tactic of inciting violence while calling for peace is the pinnacle of examples. Even in this case, however, the fact he calls for peace doesn't nullify his call to arms.

In your example however, Harris surely has other wide-ranging channels to spread her message. She would also likely be able to bring a legal case that her alleged breaking of the terms was not the case - but I'm sure this would be decided on much to far down the path to be relevant. The damage would already be done.

Witter would likely already be known to have an axe to grind against Harris or her politics - would she even deign to engage on the platform at all?

Perhaps I'm splitting hairs and/or cherrypicking. It's not my intention to discuss this in bad faith. Just the thought of an organisation not being allowed to apply its rules really does shock me.


I think normal people have enough trouble sifting through the noise.

Having the noise additionally filtered by corporations with potentially strong, unclear interests, being able to arbitrarily decide who can or cannot use their platform is going to make the process of getting at truth impossible.

You are not able to tell what happened because you were not there. Most things that are discussed are things that you did not witness or have no expertise in.

To be able have some chance at telling the truth you need to listen to arguments presented by BOTH sides and decide which arguments you think are logically stronger. That ability to tell truth is compromised when you are not allowed to listen to one of the sides.

I personally believe people should be allowed to say whatever they want and be responsible for what they say according to the law. There are existing laws that can be used to determine whether something is incitement, libel, fraud, etc. and those should be used to prosecute in a court of law.

This rather than preemptively remove the possibility of committing a crime by deciding to block an account by a private company.


>Just the thought of an organisation not being allowed to apply its rules really does shock me.

It shouldn't. Think about this - hierarchically these organizations (companies) exist because of charters authorized by the government. The less your company impacts the greater society to the negative, the less likely you are to be regulated. As your company amasses power, influence, and data, your activities may be regulated by the government as they have a greater impact on how society works.

Your organization is only authorized to exist because of the government. Tomorrow they could remove your leadership, shut it down, or break it up - the only thing that is needed is a plausible justification and reason for social acceptance to overcome resistance.

This is all new territory for the human species, in many ways.


The point is that writing the rules should to a large extent be taken out of these organization's hands, because they control vital infrastructure. The new, regulated rules will probably look pretty similar to the existing ToS except without the "the company is allowed to do whatever it wants" clauses, and with actual appeals processes.

Simple, how about just like a store is not allowed to refuse service, an online platform also not be allowed to refuse service? Is someone misbehaving, great, inform the actual authorities of their jurisdiction.

Actual governments, with the people's mandate, are the only ones with authority to set the laws. Not tech monopolies.


>Simple, how about just like a store is not allowed to refuse service

A store is absolutely allowed to refuse service. You're not allowed to walk in to Costco without a Costco card. Plenty of restaurants and clubs have a dress code. Most places have "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service" rules.


> A store is absolutely allowed to refuse service.

No, that is not true for all private services.

For example, common carriers have strong restrictions on their ability to refuse service to others. Common carrier laws aren't particularly controversial.

These existing common carrier laws could be expanded to apply to other things.


Common carriers are a tiny minority of businesses. Plenty of other exception exist too, but they are exceptions. Because the default is that businesses do reserve the right to refuse service.

They are exceptions yes. And people are advocating for additional exceptions to be made and they are giving justification for it.

So you cant just straight up dismiss the idea that we should consider requiring a few more businesses to fall under our existing and uncontroversial laws common carrier laws.


It's not just as simple as you make it sound. What this Censorship has done is conveyed to the World that American Government cannot be trusted. That America has 2 power centers not 1. The two power centers being American Government and Big Tech.

Any ban or removal should come from the elected Government. In this case it is the US Congress. This is what the World expects as this is how all Democratically elected Governments all over the World function. It is the Government which has a final say.

Now when Big Tech unilaterally decides to censor a sitting US President and bans a rival competitor this will cause every World leader and Government to sit up and take note. Everyone will ask themselves: are we now supposed to trust US Government for its word? What if tomorrow a private company decides to censor the US Government? If they can ban the US President's account they wield more power than even elected representatives. Why then should we liaison with US Government and why not directly talk to Big Tech as they seem to hold the power over even the US President.

Then it goes further than that: how do we trust that the incoming President won't be censored? Since all communications happen through a digital forum where one of the Big Tech companies is an intermediary in relaying such communications what is the guarantee that the communication is not tampered with? When Big Tech enjoys so much power in US, that it can censor the Government itself, then why can't this also be possible? If Big Tech can attach disclaimers to a sitting US President's content then why can't they tamper with the messaging too?

This sort of confusion existed for countries like Pakistan which has dual power centers: the elected Government and the military. You won't know whom to talk to as one can override the other. Which is why you have so many successful coups in Pakistan. What Big Tech has done is set a very dangerous precedent. Now no World leader will trust the word of the American Government at face value and will double/triple check every communication.


I know this is a heated topic but I really don’t understand what the other options are. Having businesses dictate who they want to serve seems like censorship but having the government dictate it seems way worse. I’m not sure how to decouple or balance the freedom of will as a business, freedom of will as a person and the societal mandate of the majority (which is how democracy works? It’s always about the majority values).

The problem is these companies are too big and powerful now. If a small business refuses someone its no big deal, go to another business. But when these titans join together to make an action that affects you and there are no alternatives left, thats a different case.

If both Apple and Google ban your app when the app is legal and useful, is it good for society that there is no way around this?


"Legal and useful" are but two criteria Apple uses to approve or refuse apps. They also care about safety, performance, and design.

https://developer.apple.com/app-store/review/guidelines/


They also care about squashing competition which prevents many apps like real web browsers, game streaming and alternative stores which can not pay the 30% fee.

IMO its fair for the app store to remove whatever it wants but there needs to be an escape hatch where apps blocked by apple can be manually installed. Since the API apps have access to is secure, this should not be a significant issue.

Apps like Parlor may be full of ToS violating content but users should still be able to sideload the app and the government should be the one to shut them down if the content is illegal.


They have that, it's the web browser.

No. iOS doesn't have a decent browser. iOS Safari is a seriously buggy and feature lacking browser.

Coincidence? Probably not.


And what do you do when your webhost becomes your moderator and deplatforms your site, on the exact same day?

We can take this all the way to fabricating wires to build computers to make our own servers; at some point we have to discuss the actual issue: where to private and public rights intersect and what is the role of government in resolving the conflict.


If the web browser was actually a replacement for apps there would be no apps in the app store because it would be easier and far cheaper to run a website.

It’s not always about majority values.

Large part of the bill of rights exists to protect individuals from the majority.

Anti-discrimination, fair housing many other laws exist to protect against majority.

Democracy is not autocratic rule of the majority. It is rule by compromise.


An unrestricted democracy can be exactly that. But hopefully, a country has sufficient guardrails in its constitution to prevent it from becoming a mob rule.

> Having businesses dictate who they want to serve seems like censorship but having the government dictate it seems way worse.

Leaving B2B aside, for B2C it is basic consumer protection laws common in EU. If a service is offered to a general public, then provider may not arbitrarily exclude someone from using it. If a provider excludes someone for violating ToS, then the excluded one may dispute that at appropriate authority / state office.


Well do we have anyone here with locked google account who went that route?

Surely there is a middle ground: let businesses operate how they please so long as they follow the law, and have the law require them to act in a way which is considered reasonable. If you’re a business trying to sell something then you are required to be somewhat honest in how you represent the thing, especially if you are selling some kind of food. If you’re a bank then you are required to be fair to a certain extent in how you choose the customers you serve and what services you offer them.

I don’t see why a business that presents itself as a quasi-public space that is generally open to all at no cost should not have some duty to be faithful to the way it represents itself and to treat its users fairly.


"reasonable" is to my mind exactly the question; who gets to decide what reasonable is?

All the leverage is in the margins. Are the people we're kicking off arguing for a change or are they supporting people arguing for violent change?

You want to make that call? Or more honestly would you like _me_ to make that call for you?


> Surely there is a middle ground: let businesses operate how they please so long as they follow the law, and have the law require them to act in a way which is considered reasonable.

A lot of people would argue that is the situation we have now.

The government wasn't against twitter because they were looking like they were going to remove right wing stuff, they were angry because they were being fact checked.


If we are going to attribute emotions to governments, my bet would be fear. Political leaders and political parties rely on multiple international companies to handle daily operations, and the risk that they could be cut out at any time is being demonstrated.

People can try to convince politicians that there is no risk and that only obvious bad people will be targeted.


No freedom is absolute. As a society, we choose where to draw the line for the common good. We can choose to make whatever laws we want to regulate business and technology. Indeed, we already have made many, many of them.

Tech benefited enormously from moving fast and being mostly unregulated as a result. Looking at the finance industry though, every new law was written in blood or tears over the course of centuries. Now blood has been spilled by social media in the US Capitol and the world has taken notice.

It's not going to be easy or fast, but good policy can help keep Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg from controlling the political outcomes of every democracy in the world.


We have other more democratic models of handling this in distributed social networks that aren't under centralised corporate control. Email, telephone system, Mastodon... Federation and regulated platforms, and some other ways of organisation let you have localised systems of censorship that aren't all-powerful in the network.

They could bring those issues to courts. It takes time but it is normal in almost every other context.

An option is the government makes their own social network to compete with the private networks. Then the government can make their own rules.

It doesn't have to be a system where the government can pick and choose who they want to ban/keep, but rather a system where businesses must go through a legal government process to ban someone themselves. That platforms need to be held to the same freedom of speech standards the US government is held to.

No, just have certain businesses operate just like utility providers do which means they can't decide who they provide service too as long as it's within their service area.

You local electrical company probably can't shut off the power even to a meth lab as long as they are paying their bills, and even if they do not you are usually required to go through a rigorous process before you can take action.

This isn't really about freedom of will, this is about the bottom line and companies trying to score cheap points. If it was pretty darn clear that no amount of pressure that does not go through the courts could make Amazon or Twilio cancel Parler there wouldn't be as much noise about it.

There's a reason why no one is tweeting at the power or water companies to cut off their services to the Trump campaign, it's not because there aren't people that would like to see that happening, but because even the most deranged of them know that it cannot happen.

You already have precedence for this, back when corporate towns were a thing that's where the public square concept emerged despite the entire town technically being corporate property it was deemed that people cannot be silenced on the streets or in the town square.

The issue here is that the Internet isn't treated as a public square but as solely corporate property and yes sadly without a bunch of corporations the internet doesn't actually exists.

You cannot get to the point that you need to essentially become a global Tier 1 ISP before you can put on a service that does not break any laws but that would essentially be immune to being canceled, and if you want to monetize it you probably need to become major payment processor if not an an acquiring and and issuing bank too because as we've seen in the past PayPal/PCI can easily prevent you from taking any payments.

We do not have an open and distributed network a handful of companies can block any content they want at any time, TOR, VPN's or anything else won't save you and won't help you your ISP can block anything it wants with a single line in a config file and if it's not on Google it might as well not be accessible. Your hosting options today are rather limited especially for a platform that needs to have a global reach and that you couldn't take down with a single 5G connection.

Amazon, Google, Microsoft and a tiny handful of others are the only ones who can provide you with that infrastructure, if you are going with a smaller or more traditional hosting provider then there are only a handful of CDNs that can provide you with content distribution and DDOS protection/mitigation services.

If you want to grant companies the same freedom you grant to people when it comes to making decisions you need an actual free market for that, but globally the internet isn't a free market and no one can make the argument that it is free yet alone a free market when in order to provide a legal service (regardless of how distasteful it is) without any of the existing market players being able to completely shut you down you have to build a Bank of America, a Visa,a DeepOcean and a Cloudflare first.


> what the other options are

add political views into the list of non-discrimination laws and let the courts decide, if it's important enough to have to be legislated, that's the closes framework upon which to model it.


> Having businesses dictate who they want to serve seems like censorship but having the government dictate it seems way worse.

That's what judges and courts are for. Neither government nor platforms should be able to make these decisions unilaterally.


Judges and courts are part of the government. In particular, they apply laws (including the constitution) that were written by the government.

Yes, but that's not the government dictating something.

It is, if the government bans fact checking because they don't like it, then that IS the government dictating something.

This last year SHOULD be a warning on why government control is a bad plan, do you want each government just outright banning stuff from the other side?

Because that is the path which is before you.


I'm impressed that the EU is taking action in this case and I hope they also look into the shutdown of Parler under antitrust legislation.

Parler was the number one downloaded social media app in the app store after all. According to BBC the most popular accounts on Parler were people like Sean Hannity and Ted Cruz, who each had followers in the millions.

Of course Parler had a problem with some - maybe even many - violent people, like the Washington rioters, but it seems to me that the vast majority of Parler users were not violent people, but fairly normal republicans of the kind that are still not banned on Twitter and Facebook (like the two persons I mentioned).

Removing the hyperbole on each side, I think it'd be interesting if the EU looked into this to conclude if the shutdown of Parler was ok or not.


I think EU doesn't have an opinion on Parler, that's a business relationship gone wrong.

The leak of the Parler content shows that they were actively moderating the platform to push it on the far right side, using millions of fake accounts with admin privileges.

So Amazon terminated their account.

The ban of Trump from social networks is a different topic, I don't think Trump has a big fan base in EU, but it's the perfect excuse to demand what many have been advocating for years now: political control of the social network decisions, given that they can influence the public opinion (Facebook admitted today that their platform was used to spread violence in Myanmar)

I have personally advocated for putting social network under public scrutiny or close their operations in EU.

I am glad that the European Union is finally taking steps in that direction.

EDIT:

source -> https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25731121


> they were actively moderating the platform to push it on the far right side

Do you have a source for this? I tried googling it for ~5 minutes, but my google-fu is too weak.



You’ve got that wrong. Europe want to push for takedowns to be enshrined in legislation. It’s not the free speech panacea push you’re looking for.

Where did you read that? The article doesn't mention it.

> According to BBC the most popular accounts on Parler were people like Sean Hannity and Ted Cruz...fairly normal republicans of the kind that are still not banned on Twitter and Facebook (like the two persons I mentioned).

The two persons you mentioned as "fairly normal republicans" had their contact information carried by an armed terrorist who invaded the Capitol on the hunt for "bad guys": https://twitter.com/johnkruzel/status/1349061894418685953


That was a disingenuous quote, you merged parts of two different sentences as if they were one.

I used an ellipsis for brevity. Explain how that changed the meaning of the quotation into disingenuousness?

No it's not. The ellipses in the middle are sufficient to denote that there is a trimmed portion of the quote, especially as this is a threaded post and you only need to scroll slightly up to see the unmodified original.

There's no misapplied meaning created from the cut either, as the final parenthetical unambiguously clarifies that the subjects of the former sentence were part of the group of subjects in the latter sentence.


I see the argument the commission is making, but when it comes to the question of inciting violence on privately owned systems, is it really the right idea to move it to some sort of public committee when the target is "too big to censor?"

Remember that Facebook and Twitter only acted after the fact. For them, Trump was too big to censor too. They only took action days before he is out of office when it was guaranteed he would leave.

That's not altogether true. They've been footnoting his posts where there's been a mismatch with reality.

FB and Twitter didn't deplatform Trump because he was a nasty bastard who was inciting revolt. They did it because the Democrats won and they want to suck up.

They didn't deplatform him until he crossed a line in terms of violence; they didn't deplatform him right after the presidential or even the Georgia races were called.

Yes that's exactly what I'm saying.

Is it me or have we come full circle on this? I remember a not long ago when internet companies were told they were publishers and liable for their content and then Zuckerberg asking for more regulation. I can’t keep up.

This is a mess. Something I just thought about, there’s been a lot of talk about the US regulating the social networks, but will there be first amendment issues if the US tries to create rules or laws for how social networks can regulate communication? Seems like it might be a catch 22

There will absolutely be, but at least then restriction of speech in the public square will be driven by some sort of legal process. Not everything is subject to first amendment protections, and inciting riots clearly falls into the category that isn’t.

The danger is that almost any difficult decision has some kind of danger associated with it. Disagree with Covid restrictions ? Dangerous. Challenge the efficacy of a vaccine? Dangerous.

But I think we’d be better off if the decisions on takedowns and censorship of those positions were legislated in courts of law that yield clear guidance, not decided arbitrarily by a select few members of an oligopoly.


This is the same issue that faces newspapers, publishers and TV stations. At some point the scale of reach and influence come into conflict with public policy and governance.

Newspapers are horribly regulated and most TV stations can say what they like within reason - especially in the US where being fair and balanced is no longer a requirement to run a news service.

This jurisdictional problem affects all media and isn't just limited to social platforms.

The difference with TV and Newspapers is that they can have their licenses revoked. So there is a degree of power wielded by the government over what is acceptable locally.

In contrast, social media infringes on sovereign power by existing and influencing on a global scale without being regulated on a local one. A great example is name suppression during trials, it might be illegal for a newspaper in France to publish a name, but that doesn't stop one in the UK from doing it, and because the paper has a website, that foreign paper inadvertently breaks local law in France because anyone can look it up, but it can't be held accountable.

Sovereignty and global digital media do not intersect well without an interface - and that just doesn't exist.

Expect more balkanisation of the Internet in the future as govts take back some control over media within their borders.

And no, I'm not advocating for dictator-like suppression of free-speech, but a mechanism of accountability for foreign firms breaking local laws.

It's a shame that the real-world example has to be Trump, if this had happened to Malala, or Thunberg, or the Pope, the advocacy for oversight and accountability would be a lot easier to digest.


Balkanisation of the internet is a feature not a bug and those companies are already too big for too long.

I'm not really surprised that governments (or similar, such as the EU) are starting to become suspicious of the issue that private companies—who primarily profit off their users' data—have somehow anointed themselves as arbiters of speech.

It should have happened sooner, really. Hopefully this leads into ways to foster innovation (such as with decentralized networks) and competition, to break these giants' monopolies on the flow of information.


Let’s observe the rest of the quotation in the headline: ... key decisions alone “without any supervision, without any accountability, and without any sort of dialogue or transparency for the kind of decisions that they’re taking.”

I don’t know what the content of the bill in question is, though I would guess it is well meaning while somewhat missing the mark.

I don’t think the statement is particularly objectionable. I feel like dialogue and transparency and accountability are pretty good things to have. But maybe dialogue and accountability are really just ways for politicians to have these platforms bend to their will. To me, it still feels better than these issues being decided as part of @jack’s part-time journey of self discovery[1].

It seems to be less extreme than requirements that certain broadcasters produce balanced coverage or that banks do not decide loans based on protected characteristics.

I sympathise with the argument that private companies should be allowed to do what they like within the bounds of whatever contract they have with their users. But Twitter and Facebook position themselves as quasi-public spaces welcome to all, and I think if you’re going to act more like a (classical) forum, you might need to be treated by the law like one. In the U.K. if you set up a path open to the public across your back garden and leave it accessible for long enough and consistently enough then it will become a public right of way and you’ll have to keep it open and accessible.

[1] there’s two other arguments here: one is that it’s a savvy political calculation to reduce the threat of legislation from democrats. The other is that it’s due to growing pressure from employees. I think I’m not cynical enough to believe the first alternative—Twitter seemed to be trying to act in the public interest after it was obvious who would win Georgia and before putting trump in Twitter jail, and if they want to curry favour with the new regime, why not make it obvious? I find the second alternative quite compelling but this is countered by the relative inaction for the past 5 years and the fact that it seems these companies are rarely subjected to more employee pressure than seeing a few memes being made about how awfully they are behaving. But maybe Twitter employees saw Twitter as appropriately trying to act as a public forum and we’re satisfied with the status quo until the events in the capitol.


They should create state owned platforms for the public as a competition to the private ones. But instead they will just produce so many regulations that only the biggest companies can follow all these messy rules. This will in effect prevent any competition for the biggest companies by smaller companies making the situation worse for everyone.

You really have to walk a censorship tight rope as a social media. You need to remove content that targets minorities and hate speech or face consequence, but only when it applies to the bottom 99% of society - apparently.

The fact that the EU seems to want control over who gets to express themselves freely, is even more troubling than the inconsistent rules applies by the media themselves.


I've run a niche "social media" site for 12 years. There is no tightrope. The problem is that these large platforms want the benefits of scale, without being responsible for dealing with the problems of scale. It is imminently possible to build a thriving social media site that enforces standards of behavior. HN is a good example. However, it is work to actually enforce those standards. It takes leadership. Facebook, Twitter, etc, are not interested in providing that type of leadership, and would likely require both a huge economic investment, and a significant change in business strategy.

Exactly this. They want both control, and ability to wash their hands, while running their operations at scale. There is the famous saying, "time, quality and cost, choose two". There is a similar "social media law" I believe, that is yet to be stated, but where scale is one parameter.

What would happen if Trump was on your site and constantly violated your standards of behaviour?

Can't speak for the grandparent, but here he'd be warned several times, then banned.

The point is who gets to decide the standards of behavior?

There are tons of laws restricting what standards can be. Fair housing act. Education, phone service are examples of things that can’t be arbitrarily denied because people providing disagree with who you are, what you belief, or what you do (excepting illegal activity).

Many argue the Internet and some of these services should be added to that list.


Exactly this. The problem lies in the power to control expression lying in too few hands. Just having the same media system, but with the government directing who they ban is just passing the buck.

I've been wondering how much of all this is an (over?)reaction to the threat of the repeal of section 230. How many of the people making these decisions have reciently had meetings with legal where they learn what changes they would need to make to not risk lawsuits. Allowing governmental oversight, with legal protection, would sound pretty good in comparison.

We clearly need to understand what rules and algorithms are OK, what are their side-effects and potential for abuse.

To get governments into moderation business sounds like an idea that simply won't scale. We already got laws to cover the legal aspects.


Suddenly it is very easy for the powers that be to see the threat these platforms pose. Deplatform little people? Fine with us. Deplatform a head of state? Can't have that!

Facebook, Twitter, et al are going to regret the pandora's box of unintended consequences they just opened up with this move.


Frankly, facebook, twitter et al. really didn't have much choice. They've been as tolerant as they can be.

It was parler that screwed things up. It was meant to be a right wing equivalent to the left wing social media companies (who, coincidentally, are incredibly anti-union, anti-corporate tax, and anti-workers right, or as was previously known incredibly right wing). Instead they produced a platform that was rampant with death threats, resulting in the only (overtly) right wing platform collapsing.


The EU would be the first to ban all discussion by its critics.

I'm paying taxes so that they can daily serve me Youtube and Twitter ads of how wonderful the EU is. I can't imagine such propaganda in the USA.


> I can't imagine such propaganda in the USA.

In USA they still make most kids recite this every day in school:

> I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all

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


If the EU would like to do so, why hasn't it done so a long time ago?

This is so funny. It's like two people in a sword fight. But the sword handles are actual blades as well. So whenever someone draws his sword to cut the opponent, he also cuts himself. What a way to kick off 2020 vol. 2

Twitter is a private company enforcing their terms of service. They are not required to give you a platform to express your speech.

> Twitter is a private company enforcing their terms of service.

Being a private company has never meant you're allowed to rule as you wish on your turf. I believe the history of company towns in the US provides plenty of reasons for that.

While platforms can't really be compared to company towns, social networks now constitute an essential part of where public discourse happens, and I don't believe it would be too hard for Europe to make a case that public interest requires regulation and oversight.


Not too long ago there was an article on CNN about regulating the social media platforms. Author said: "It doesn't really matter whether these platforms are biased towards liberals or conservatives, the real question is why have we given them this power in the first place."

That was well said. Too bad after Biden's victory, CNN or no one on the democratic side cared about this anymore. Some surely do, but at least it's not being discussed anymore as much as before.

Lots of people ask "But Twitter is a private company, shouldn't they be allowed to do whatever they want with their platform?"

Well, unless we live in a complete anarcho-capitalism, no they should not. They need to follow the law and laws can be changed to match with the current situation.

The core issue is that Twitter, Facebook etc. are defacto information sources and platforms for most people on Earth. These companies are managed by radical leftists in Califonia and when they start to decide what information should be visible and what information should not be visible, they create an existential threat to democracies and societies all around the world as well as freedom of speech, politics, religion etc.

Government/Union regulation is not the solution either, but better than this.


I'm left wing but I despair for the future of the left.

If the right had control of the tech companies it would have removed left content years ago and never blinked or even thought twice about it.

The right never agonises over its own strong decisions, whereas the left, if it takes strong action , wrings its hands in agony about whether it has done the correct thing or not.

That's why in the long run the right will beat the left because it is utterly shameless in taken any action it can to assert power, whilst the left is reluctant to take any strong action.

The left scores a knockdown on the right via social media restriction, but soon enough, the left will offer a hand to help the right back up so they can win the fight.


Your analysis is not useful because no such entities as "the left" and "the right" exist. It's not remotely helpful to lump complex and differentiated phenomena into binary categories so you can attach simple motivations and behaviors to them.

I agree, but will offer a supplementary idea to:

> It's not remotely helpful to lump complex and differentiated phenomena into binary categories so you can attach simple motivations and behaviors to them

It's not "helpful", to the general populace, but it is extremely useful to existing power structures to divide the populace up along various dimensions and then "attach (via sophisticated media narratives) simple motivations and behaviors to them". Advertising and marketing does just this, and it works quite well, and is there not plentiful evidence that at least suggests the same may be happening to some degree in the realm of politics?

https://americanmind.org/salvo/the-clear-pill-part-1-of-5-th...

When people hear one story, they tend to ask: is this true? When they hear two stories, they tend to ask: which one of these is true? Isn’t this a neat trick? Maybe our whole world is built on it. Any point on which both poles concur is shared story: “uncontroversial, bipartisan consensus.”

Shared story has root privilege. It has no natural enemies and is automatically true. Injecting ideas into it is nontrivial and hence lucrative; this profession is called “PR.”

There is no reason to assume that either pole of the spectrum of conflict, or the middle, or the shared story, is any closer to reality than the single pole of the one-story state.

Dividing the narrative has not answered the old question: is any of this true? Rather, it has… dodged it. Stagecraft!

This is even better than supposing that, since we fought Hitler and Hitler was bad, we must be good. These very basic fallacies, or psychological exploits, are deeply embedded in our political operating systems. Like bugs in code, they are invisible until you look straight at them. Then they are obvious.


The sad thing is that this is exactly how the right sees the actions of the left. and it's even worse, as they (the left) are now winning. Their eyes are not blinking - they don't care about freedom of speech or fair game.

In the long run, both sides start to see this modus operandi as completely normal. Censorship and vengeance to the other side are completely acceptable.

As a libertarian, I am utterly horrified.


This. We don't have civil discourse anymore...people just yell and call people names. You don't like what the other person says they are a "libtard"...or a "racist". You don't like what they are doing online, get them kicked off or dox them to your friends. Justify online bullying like it's a sport. Now it's escalated to not just banning them from social media...but a coordinated effort to destroy the alternative platform they had.

When did speaking truth to power become "bullying"? And anyway, removing those who spew violent rhetoric is how civility is restored. The fact that the response to Twitter bans is so violent proves somebody needed to be silenced.

> When did speaking truth to power become "bullying"?

It _can_ become bulling when people will arbitrarily claim that the victim of the bullying is the one who "had power" while the mob that got them fired, say, was just "speaking truth". Which maybe they were and maybe they were not.

Not every incident of a bunch of people attacking someone on social media is "bullying", but neither is every incident of such "speaking truth to power", but a lot of the incidents of the former sure do try to pretend to be the latter.

I suspect that you're thinking of a specific set of incidents and that j_walter is thinking of a quite different set of incidents, for what it's worth.


When every corporation agrees with you and amplifies your message, can you really call that "speaking truth to power"?

I used to be a libertarian until I realized my ideals would lead to my own party's censorship and demise.

This meme sums it up: https://imgur.com/a/DZJoWKa


Yes this is mostly my feeling to. A central part of libertarianism seems to be insisting the governments give up power, which is all well and good until someone worse steps in to pick it up.

Until you realize that big government is what keeps monopolies in place and what forces them to act politically.

What is the proper libertarian response to current events? Asking in good faith, honestly curious.

To be fair, I'm curious about what the response would be to BLM riots+politician involvement, MAGA riots+president involvement, and big tech censorship in response.


- Corporations have the right to censor whatever they want. But that's not moral (what they are doing currently). We should abandon these instances and find better ways to communicate - less centralized.

- Store owners (and property owners in general) should be able to defend their property with firepower (or pay for such services) freely, without fear of repercussions. This stands both against BLM and MAGA. Of course, this luxury is not allowed in the current world.

So we have to find find better ways - don't stand in the way of a moving train, but find ways to survive and prosper no matter. We move to greener pastures, find jobs that are better paying with less risks, learn to be adaptive and prepared.

For me personally, this means that I did not move to the USA when I had the chance. I prefer not to work for US companies (especially the SV commie bunch), I don't travel to the USA any more. And I try to be vigilant with regards to the dangers that come from there (and will inevitably become worse, at least in the near future).


Thank you for the thoughtful response. I mostly agree - we can criticize corporations for their current actions from a moral perspective but not a legal one.

To your second point - isn't the U.S. one of the only developed countries where you kind of can do this? I regularly see armed guards in front of private businesses, from Walmarts in the middle of nowhere to dispensaries in downtown SF.

(FWIW I think calling SV tech 'commies' is off the mark - Marx would find little in common with the SV tech industry, I think.)


Yeah, the US is better than many countries with regards of laws that allow you to stand your ground. That's exactly the reason that made me consider moving there. Not any more :-(.

I might have overplayed the 'commie' part a little. Still what I see there is quite in line with the practices of the former Eastern Block - I am from Bulgaria and I had "the chance" to live in a communist society until I was 8. The witch hunting is copied basically 1:1, and also the "witch profile" is surprisingly the same - evil capitalist "pigs", presumably white and presumably racist/nazi.


This is a very contemporary American view.

Look at the situation globally, over the 20th century and it doesn't look quite like that.

China, Soviets, Cuba, Venezuela, Poland, Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong etc. etc. there's a long list of various kinds of 'authorities' of every kind.


Spoken like someone that only sees right and left. In fact many people on the "right" were tired of seeing FB and Twitter control so much and they were constantly told it's a private platform so go make your own. They did so, and then those same companies worked in tandem to destroy Parler. Signal and WhatsApp are used to coordinate violent and destructive riots...we don't see anyone trying to take them down. The opinion is they do more good than bad...despite the ability to use them for either purpose.

There are people on the left and right that are power hungry and make decisions only to benefit themselves...however some people actually care about freedoms and fairness. Bad and illegal behavior will happen in any system with freedoms...banning those systems is not the answer.


This is the paradox of tolerance, which says for a tolerant society to remain tolerant, it cannot tolerate intolerance.

Many people need to learn the difference between de-platforming and censorship - in this case Parler is essentially being de-platformed by private businesses who no longer wish to do business with them, which is their right. As a free speech advocate, surely you must accept that that extends to a company of people, be that 1, 1000 or 10000 people, otherwise you're advocating for double-standards (see above). Forcibly compelling businesses (which include sole-traders or individuals) to conduct business with anyone that wants to avail themselves of their product, which is what the EC is advocating, if far more worrisome for free speech.

Moreover, there is nothing stopping the "silenced" organisations and people from creating their own platform. Blocking organisations and individuals from accessing the internet is problematic, but in this situation somewhat ironic. The side cheering the bans (no, not leftist, America doesn't really have left-wing politics) were pushing net neutrality and the internet as a public service while those being de-platforming were adamant that this would be a bad thing.


What makes you think that these platforms are actually taking action for "the left?" Is silicon valley actually a leftist paradise full of leftist megacorperations?


They are certainly aligned with the US Democratic party, but I think it's a mistake to equate the Democrats with "the left" unless you're only speaking in that total American context where "Left=Dems, Right=GOP, end of story."

Where I live, US Democratic Party policy positions would be held by unelectable right wingers. I agree that confusing some kind of left alignment with the US Democratic Party is not advisable, even in parts of the USA.

the Democratic party of the USA is center-leftish at best.

For example they don't openly support

- unions

- universal free healthcare

- strong workers' guaranteed rights (paid holidays, paid sick leave, paternity/maternity, limited working hours - e.g. max 40 hours per week -, overtime pay etc. etc.)


> they don't openly support

What's the definition of openly support you're using? Going off the party platform, it seems like they do:

> unions

> strong workers' guaranteed rights

https://democrats.org/where-we-stand/party-platform/building... see the section "Protecting Workers and Families and Creating Millions of Jobs Across America"

> universal free healthcare

Except for the word "free", https://democrats.org/where-we-stand/party-platform/achievin... makes their position on universal health care clear. Exactly how the cost gets shared by society is something that's a bit more nuanced (there's no way for it to be completely free; the question is how much is funded by taxes vs other fees).


that's interesting.

thanks for posting it.

My knowledge of their program was evidently not updated with their latest propositions.

I hope they'll make it this time.


I believe you're projecting a picture you'd like to see. One that is painting the side you consider yourself to be a part of as morally clean and just, while the other side is reprehensible and shameless.

It has little to do with reality, and it's obvious that you haven't spent time with conservatives. It's not useful to only learn about those who think differently from yourself by listening to what those who think like you say about them. Your perception seems heavily based on shrill far left voices. It's essentially a mirror image of what somebody on the far-right thinks about progressives after hearing about what they do/did/want to do by listening to shrill far-right voices.


You probably should say the "center" instead of the "left". Or maybe the "liberals". That's because the "left" historically has been as assertive as the "right" if you look at the extreme communist parties VS fascists/feudal parties.

I do think you have a point though, but you can't be liberal and authoritarian at the same time. So to push for liberal ideas and laws/rights, while also pushing to enforce it through anti-liberal means is pretty contradictory, and so it makes sense most liberals don't do so.

Also remember that liberal societies are the exception in human history, not the rule. Almost never have people rallied around the idea that each man has a natural right to life, liberty and property and governments must not violate these rights.


It's rather infantile to think forcing millions of people you disapprove of off a platform would make them magically disappear.

Does closing your eyes make the monsters under your bed go away?


I don't think the left could be reasonably construed to be in charge of social media. By output there's a lot of socialists online, for example, but they're not in charge.

Maybe some hyper-partisan American concept of leftism.

I absolutely agree that the right is partly successful because it isn't afraid to punch down from the status-quo. I'm a centre-right liberal democrat (UK), so I'm no socialist - although I firmly believe that most right-wingers are of the "capitalism for you, socialism for me"-type in practice.


> I don't think the left could be reasonably construed to be in charge of social media. By output there's a lot of socialists online, for example, but they're not in charge.

You could just split it into socially and economically. The social progressives are in total control of social media, search, and academia and are closing in on control in traditional media (think newspapers, TV, Hollywood). They're not economically left wing though, they're economically libertarian.

The capitalists used to work with the socially conservative, but have switched and are now aligned with the socially progressive. Might be because of a generational change, might be because they found to be able to make more money in a more progressive environment.


The right says "all of us are together, and we have to keep those guys out."

The left says "we're all together, but we should convince everyone to come to our side."

FUD and tribalism are easier to win with.


Future of the Left btw. is one of the best bands ever and are very helpful if you need a distraction from all this BS.

I fully agree on the notion that the right wields every power it can get, while the left doesn't.

We now have two years ahead of us where the Democrats are in full power of the US government. Let's see what they do with it. I'm especially interested if they are going to make sure to help themselves for the next election, by combating the voter suppression tactics that the Republicans use.


My guess is that the Democrats will be unlikely to make radical changes needed to fix all the things that need to be fixed.

I see the left side of politics generally as weak and unable to take strong action.

The left likes to listen - an admirable trait, but listening and collaborating too much dilutes outcomes.


> The left likes to listen - an admirable trait, but listening and collaborating too much dilutes outcomes.

Who on the left (or any pole/dimension) has actually sat down and made a serious effort to understand in high detail the various grievances and world views of the type of people who stormed the Capitol, or conspiracy theorists?

I'm not asserting that no one has done it, but I have never encountered anyone who has. The best I know of is the Jubilee YouTube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/c/jubileemedia/videos

What I have encountered though, in very large quantities (essentially, the entirety of journalism and social media comments on the matter) are people who make detailed claims about what these sorts of people say, or believe, or want to do - and typically, they state these beliefs not in the form of opinions, but in the form of facts. But to be fair, I doubt that they even realize that they aren't facts, that's just the unfortunate way that our minds perceive reality.


I think an awful lot of Americans have family members on "the other side" even if they mostly associate with their own kind otherwise. So people know something first hand, completely apart from "journalism and social media".

At this point, the people I know who are on the right seem to be basically "waiting for the rapture", i.e. when the global conspiracy of literally everyone in the world against Trump will be revealed. While denying that they are a fan of the President, but both sides are criminal and bad, etc.

Discussing current events ends up being like watching Clint Eastwood argue with a chair. It clearly isn't fun for them, nor are they having any real dialogue. So it feels bad, and you try not to talk about politics any more.

I tried repeatedly with someone I know to propose that, if you don't trust anything in the "MSM", why don't you read the documents that are making news, the primary source when it's easily available? I rephrased it three times or so and it didn't stop the rant.

And I'm talking about someone who is really not that dumb, has a decent job, and is fine to talk to on other things than politics. But I just can't envision what a "serious effort" to break through would even look like.


I too know a few of the stereotypical "beyond delusional" types on the right, they do exist. But then I also know several onm the left whose take on things is "rather inconsistent" with a serious reading of the primary sources, and some reasonable, unemotional compilation. I imagine they are less crazy, and they are certainly better spoken (better vocabularies, etc), but I'd be interested to see an omniscient being's tally of the true distributed craziness out there.

Also, one shouldn't overlook things like confirmation bias - for every highly visible crazy you or I see, on either side, how many non-vocal people with reasonable ideas are there that the mind doesn't see, and therefore perceives to not exist (depending on the mode of thinking?

And then for those that do appear batshit insane - are they really as deluded as their words suggest? Your experiences seem to suggest so, but my question is: how do we go from the brutal discourse we've got going on now, to somewhere more reasonable? What actions do we have to take as a society, and as individuals (whether we "like to" or "should have to", or not), and what changes do we need to our social media platforms and media?

> But I just can't envision what a "serious effort" to break through would even look like.

I think both the way we report the news, and the way we discuss it, need a serious overhaul. The current approach of "news event/article --> social media argument --> go to bed -- > wake up --> (slightly updated) news event/article --> social media argument" is just an endless loop of outrage. I believe if we instead had some sort of a persistent model of each issue, showing all of the important attributes (with citations) and various and conflicting perspectives that we could refer to during debate rather than the latest news article, I think the conversation would be very different.

Compare how we discuss and analyze the complex matters and news of the world (which typically involve systems of some kind), versus how we do the same for complex systems at work - do the two approaches resemble each other?


Edit: to all those downvoters, I've seen how socialism/communism simply doesn't work long term, how it ruins society and decent people living in it, first hand, as much as possible. So its a bit more personal than anonymous internet ninja philosophers so popular not only here these days.

What you write doesn't make much sense. The world isn't black and white, and left and right have whole spectrum. The ultra (left or right) never overthink their decision, always feel righteous even if heading straight to hell. If you think moderate left (ie EU from US perspective), it might be a correct assessment from certain point of view (not a big fan of EU here, I like the theory but not many things in practice).

Moderate right/centrists could be described exactly same things as you say about left.

Why right might beat left, at least in theory, is because it gives people more money directly. People like that. tey like to have some control over such an important thing. Instead of massive taxation, that in ideal world isn't stolen in some way (in reality much/most of it is, or at least very badly mismanaged) and spent in social, health, education, infrastructure etc.

Once folks see real money, they have at least some control/choice over it. Even if kindergardens cost a fortune (there are other options in some cases), and paid maternity leave is shorter (you can stay longer but unpaid). And health care might cost something (but apart from US its not a bad idea generally, works great in Switzerland for example).

Oh and don't forget the lean state aparate, very attractive unless you are actually some semi-useless otherwise unemployable state bureaucrat. And so on.


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