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Parler’s de-platforming shows the exceptional power of cloud providers (cnbc.com)
420 points by BlackPlot on Jan 18, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 906 comments



I gotta say, recent events have left me shaken to my core. I thought I believed in free speech, to the point where I started a company dedicated to providing privacy and communications products that were not subject to control by any central authority (that turns out to be very hard!) But watching the events of the past few years unfold I am no longer convinced that this would really make the world a better place. I always thought that in the end cooler heads would prevail. But we've now done the experiment in a big way and the results seem overwhelmingly negative to me, to the point where they present a credible existential threat to civilization, on a par with climate change.

Maybe someone here can talk me down from this new position. But the evidence seems pretty overwhelming to me right now.


Free expression is chaotic. It always has been and it always will be. It will always have lies and misinformation, some people will even believe the lies. But this is also the beauty of free expression - it prevents anyone from using it to enact total control. Speech that is free will always seed doubt against ideas, regardless whether those ideas are true or false. It's an avenue that allows anything to be questioned.

Propaganda and misinformation have been around for a long time. Mark Antony and Octavius engaged in a war of misinformation.[0] People in those times had far fewer avenues of information. If somebody sold them a false story, then people were probably more likely to believe them. We're still here though.

I think what's been happening over the recent years is that people have finally started waking up from the End of History. The world is as chaotic as always.

[0] https://www.ft.com/content/aaf2bb08-dca2-11e6-86ac-f253db779...


> But this is also the beauty of free expression - it prevents anyone from using it to enact total control.

This is the really tricky part, though... absolute free expression only prevents people from enacting total control if it persists; however, free speech is not something that can’t be undone.

This is a form of the paradox of tolerance. If people use their absolute free speech to push lies and propaganda that allows them to gain enough control to then suppress future free speech and maintain their own power, we are no longer protected by free speech.

Even if you believe truth always eventually wins out if free speech is allowed, that doesn’t mean that we won’t hit a point along that path where free speech is restricted, and our meandering path towards truth suddenly stops.

Now, I don’t think restricting free speech is the answer, but we can’t pretend that it is impossible for people to use their power of free speech to prevent free speech in the future.


That is why you need an educated populace. By educated, we mean one that can think critically and independently rather than a college credential.


Germany in the early 1930s was one of the best, most rigorously educated nations in the world.

It was also crushed by weight of enormous economic crisis.

Smart people pushed to the wall will be more dangerous than stupid(ish) people who have something to lose.


It’s almost as if education is a proxy for being a social conformist. But people still think school cures groupthink. It does the opposite by definition.


We’ve got one of the most educated populations in the world. Europe is only recently catching up to is in e.g. the percentage of people with college degrees.


College degrees are not a relevant metric. What percentage of the population are being taught fundamental critical thinking skills? How many are taught how to evaluate the quality of data and the quality of sources? How many people have a good grounding of statistics? Or civics? Or logical fallacies? How many people can describe the scientific method?

I don't have many vivid memories of my primary school education but one of them was being taught how to be suspicious of claims made in advertisements. That one class stuck with me for a long time. (This was in Melbourne, Australia sometime around 1988.)


Very few people are being taught this anywhere. Even M.D.s (some of the most intelligent and educated among us) have so little statistical knowledge they can barely reason about novel type 1 versus type 2 errors.


I wouldn't put MDs on such a high pedestal. They're people who specialize, just like people in many other professions, and having little knowledge of statistics beyond an (oft-forgotten) undergraduate-level course wouldn't surprise me. It's a different story for doctors who go the research route rather than practicing medicine, of course.


My classmates who went on to become medical doctors were no smarter and possibly less ethical. What they had was the family circumstances to delay gratification. Sometimes this was family wealth to support them for years, other times it was the family pooling their resources for one chosen member of the family, other times it was the family wealth to support them going to a lower tier medical school, and lastly it was family members who got them positions. I really hated the guy who cheated in honors English and went on to become a doctor.

Turning your descendants into doctors and lawyers is one of the traditional ways families use to preserve their wealth. It isn’t because these people were smarter.


> how to be suspicious of claims made in advertisements. That one class stuck with me for a long time. (This was in Melbourne, Australia sometime around 1988.)

FWIW, advertising and to a larger extent advocacy in 1988 and what is today are entirety different animals.

Though I do agree with your point. The number of college graduates does not equate to higher critical thinking of a nation's populace.

I did attend a journalism class almost a decade ago. Even though the powerful effects of mass media on people were likened to a magic bullet [0] It would be correct to assume that social media tech today has transcended this very capability and in more powerful ways than ever imaginable by its inventor.

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


> FWIW, advertising and to a larger extent advocacy in 1988 and what is today are entirety different animals.

There certainly are more forms and techniques of advertising, but if you teach the fundamentals sufficiently well, the critical thinking skill set can adapt as advertising adapts.

An important fundamental is to recognise that you have a desire for a product or service and to know to be conscious of the chain of events that have led to that desire.


You mean tracking? Advertisements themselves didn't change. And you don't need any complex countermeasure, just knowing that the information not trustworthy is enough for all practical purposes and for all information sources. People who fall for lies have only one wrong assumption: that the information they receive is trustworthy, once that one is out, it stops working for good.


I think integrity might be what you're aiming toward. When people are taught to live integrous lives and manage to do so, they are more able to see a lack of integrity when it comes.


So if level of schooling achieved is not a good metric for education, what is?

Even if everyone experiences the same schooling, everyone isn’t going to be equally educated.


> We’ve got one of the most educated populations in the world.

Keeping children in school for 12 years doesn't mean they are educated.

Keep in mind that between 7-9% of school-age children in the US are homeschooled.

https://www.nheri.org/research-facts-on-homeschooling/


Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.

James Madison, The Federalist Papers


Education isn’t a panacea. Think about how there’s the stereotype of pro-Confederates as ignorant hillbillies but then look at who reacts whenever someone suggests not having an inaccurate statute in a public place or naming a U.S. military base after someone who fought against the U.S. military. You’ll find people with Ph.Ds arguing to protect that, not because they’re incapable of learning but because they were deliberately educated with incorrect information and, since the results haven’t harmed them personally, will use their critical thinking and analytic skills to mount as strong a defense as they can. Thinking “critically and independently” is also how people who believe in creationism, are anti-vaccination, climate change deniers, opposed to public health practices during the pandemic, etc. explain their beliefs, too, often sincerely.

I’m not sure how to break that cycle. It seems to require some kind of forcing function which pushes the topic into verifiable facts and logic but that’s hard to against opposition and only works when things are fairly clear-cut (e.g. you can show Robert E. Lee was a bad person from historical records but it’s not easy to objectively prove the causes of poverty or crime rates).


This is why the value of free speech needs to be protected. If enough people holds this value then it becomes difficult for anyone to change it.


Right, lies and propaganda only have to win once.


> only have to win once.

I disagree. If you notice with American politics both sides believe in strong dogmas. There is no middle ground.

They both have made their beds and they will lay in it.

Corporate Dems (control the Democratic Party) and the MAGA (control the GOP) have their own ecochambers. MSNBC, CNN, etc indoctrinate the Dems. Talk radio for the GOP.

The two cults will continue to clash. I wonder if the people will wake up.


I wonder if the people will wake up.

The "wake up" approach doesn't seem to be working, but we do need some way of reforming our society around the idea of the mighty middle that is not represented by the extremes.


Or we need to stop using words like fascism, tyranny, racist just because someone disagrees with us. That shift to cooler more informative language is just as difficult for educated people. Even on HN, so many threads devolve into Godwin’s law. I will say that one exception is education about human cognition. Trying to reason without a strong grasp of our own psychology and good ways of framing epistemological problems is like writing software without regard to hardware. Useful to some extent but prone to unforseen gotchas.


Or maybe a middle that's not dominated by dogma or ideologies. There's many pieces of truth located pretty far from the center of various political ideologies, but the ideologies taken as a whole also contain a stunning amount of falsehood and simplification.


I would hope we could have both. Honestly, I'm not a fan of the policy platforms of any politicians who have claimed to be in the middle.

Being left or right doesn't mean that you necessarily have to throw reason and critical thinking out the window. Being an extremist, sure; devotion to dogma is often a feature of extremism, but that's not the same thing.


having two strong parties seems like an inevitable artifact of first past the post voting (lesser of two evils thinking, "wasted" votes, etc.), and unless "the people" can constitutionally get something like ranked choice voting done federally, i'm not sure what the way forward is. any thoughts?


> any thoughts?

I'm an independent. I like some of the ideas of the Right that they believe that States are governments to experiment with. I'd suggest FPTP and other solutions to just attempt to do this locally and in a State or two. It will get traction, if it's worth it to the governed population. That's my suggestion, start small.


> I like some of the ideas of the Right that they believe that States are governments to experiment with

That's mostly feels like just all talk, though. A concrete example: California would love to do some health care experiments, including going single-payer. However, the state can't do so without permission from the federal government to use Medicare funding in different ways (obviously there is no way a state could fund something like that itself without state-level tax increases that would never get past the electorate). GOP-controlled Congress would never go for that, in part because they don't want to be seen by their base as "supporting socialism", and also in part (I'm conjecturing here) that they're afraid that it'll work and they'll be proven wrong.

From the GOP's perspective it more seems like "states should experiment... as long as they're experiments we agree with".


Nope. As long as there is potential for other powers to grow or counteract it, you have a chance to course correct. Isn’t that what a vote is good for?


Sure, but being able to vote is not guaranteed, either. If the propaganda wins out, they can stop allowing votes.


A vote isn’t good for anything if violent extremists can overturn an election.


I think it ends up being the pendulum swinging farther to the other side than really correcting whenever we see a switch.


> It will always have lies and misinformation,

The misconception is that there is a form of speech that doesn't have lies or misinformation. People seem to imagine that there is some perfect form of moderation that will only present us the unvarnished truth. That simply isn't the case. You're only limiting the lies to those that serve the interest of whoever controls the moderation.


Lack of free speech necessitates an over abundance of control, misinformation, lies, and overt propaganda in order to quell any free thought that would push people to ask questions openly. That is the distinct irony of people saying we must control free speech, thought, and information, in order to prevent misinformation from compelling people to violence or what have you. It doesn’t work that way, and it’s openly promoted on this website quite fervently.

The only speech that brings people back to the middle, away from the extremes, is free speech and open debate. That is it.


I think free speech is a very difficult pill to swallow when it's not convenient for your own agenda. As soon as one side makes an exception then the other side can, all the way to full censorship of each other's opposing sides.

This is fascinating to observe in political chat rooms and message boards where anyone submitting a dissenting opinion is called a spy or troll and will be banned until there are no dissenters left.


It is a difficult pill to swallow because convincing someone they are going down the wrong path where free speech reigns requires nuance, knowledge of subject, listening, empathy, and tact. All things people are too lazy to do now, especially politicians, teachers, media, and media gatekeepers, who are the worst offenders of this, and simply wish to drive eyeballs, create a monopoly for their crappy ideas, and rile up their bases. Simply banning something never actually makes it go away, especially ideas.

It’s easier to declare them as an enemy of the state, communists, nazi’s, right wing, left wing, formenting insurrection, compelling violence, or whatever other set of buzzwords that sound dangerous enough and catchy.

Then you feel morally justified in silencing them, although you really haven’t silenced them, now they simply go into the dark recesses of society and simmer for years or decades, sometimes a generation or two, until it spills out in actually violent and chaotic ways.

I just wish people would actually sit down and talk again in real life. I wish online forums would stop driving engagement with votes and likes, and would stop downvoting and silencing for actual opinion or thought and drove real healthy engagement that cut this sort of behavior off at the knees.

I feel like a dinosaur at this point watching the comet come in.


Yeh this feeling of watching a comet resonates. I have a theory that we arrived at this point because sadness, anxiety, and loneliness in the world has increased due to social media and people's reward systems being messed up. People will usually rage when there is something else in their life that is not going quite right. Anyway, just a theory. I love reading back stories of those who have ventured from the center to a further right/left position and why. Honest accounts including other things going on in their lives. Because these stories aggregated are the reason why things are the way they are.

So yes, more face to face, less social media / news addiction.


We're also waking up to the fact that free speech is an incredibly difficult ideal to uphold. Hate speech, fake speech, etc are testing the limits. Other ideals like religion are much easier to uphold in a mostly secular society until a new religion threatens the place of a dying incumbent. Really all these ideals are great when we're on the same page, until we aren't.


> But this is also the beauty of free expression - it prevents anyone from using it to enact total control.

This ignores all the historical events where groups leveraging said chaotic nature of free speech succeeded in establishing totalitarian regimes which enacted total control over the entire population, including it's supporters.


Well, actually ... one of the best lessons from the interwar period is that political parties must be forbidden from keeping their paramilitary units.

Because at the moment of the coup, well-organized paramilitary units (SA or Czechoslovak People Militias or Italian Camicie Nere) were always the crucial factor in success, and not just a mob of random rabble aroused by someone's speech.

All the later hotspots on the European map (North Ireland, Basque Country, Corsica) broke this rule and the local irredentist parties had a "political wing" and a "militant wing".


> Free expression is chaotic.

The founding fathers(FF) knew this. The FF created a system of government that acts as a society consciousness. Allowing for passion (the House) but having frontal lobe mechanisms (the Senate guards against the mob mentality).

The recent insurrection happened specifically because of the laziness/apathy/intentional (take your pick, I'm certain one is true) of the Congress. It was their job to protect DC and with a rally on the same day nonetheless, yet the law enforcement was gravely lacking. Also the DC mayor and even the POTUS, yet none took the responsibility.

As for Parler, they acted like little children. Whining and not doing much. They attack a hornet's nest then cry when they get stung. They should've been prepared instead of telling Tucker Carlson's audience their entire system of weaknesses.

Peter Kolmisoppi, one of The Pirate Bay co-founders, criticized their behavior as well [1]. (Not being prepared, whining, etc)

Society is starkly divided between the rural and urban elites. There will always be bad eggs. BLM/Qanon are equally screwed up. But the kicker is two major things. We need better discourse and more civic engagement. No change will happen without our engagement (for either side).

Ultimately, I welcome the fourth turning.

[1] - https://twitter.com/brokep/status/1348224123592437760


> The founding fathers(FF)

Nitpick: why define a new acronym that you only use once? Just remove the acronym definition and change the single instance to the full word.

Also, comparing BLM to QAnon is an... odd choice.


> BLM/Qanon are equally screwed up.

Can you please elaborate how a movement against police brutality and racism is in any way comparable with a group that supports a conspiracy theory regarding a cabal of satanic-worshiping cannibals?


> Can you please elaborate how a movement

American society tends to not like riots. 'Moral purity' doesn't justify physical wrath and destruction [1]. The collective society tends to benefit with using our Republic government as an instrument of recourse/change.

Using a small microcosm to judge any movement is a psyop by someone trying to reduce your critical thinking skills. Please figure out how to understand the grievances of 'the other side' because it's blinding you to a destructive discourse environment. Dare I say 80% of Americans would actually enjoy many 'other' people, if they were open and less hostile that mutes any chance to fixing mutually agreed upon problems.

[1] - I understand I'm opening myself to many historical counter arguments. But please understand that today isn't the 1850s. Nor the 1960s...etc.


The only people who still believed in the End of History in these past few years were the elites and the well-to-do knowledge workers that serve them


> But this is also the beauty of free expression - it prevents anyone from using it to enact total control.

Yeah, right up until you're talked into electing a dictator.

It's just as well that's never happened!


And now he's out. The system's not about preemptively stopping theoretical bad acts per se (although if it actually stops real incoming threats, great), but rather, about being able to evaluate and change course when human fallibility inevitably leads to bad policies, bad choices, and bad outcomes. It's a work in progress, particularly as to how we can properly disincentivize future attempts and hold those who actively attempted to overthrow the Constitutional state by force without resorting to Minority-Report style overbroad invasions of privacy, but at least we can do that. These things are such non-starters in China and Russia that the former more or less acquiesced to a corrupt state and the latter has an economy that was so thoroughly disposessed by the few from the people that its GDP is on par with New York City despite 60 times the population, and with no recourse. Change is never easy nor always correct, but at least that opportunity exists here. It doesn't in many places that purportedly have "order" over "liberty" as the central value, as they end up with neither.


You don't think USA achieved that by being the best ones? See for example history of relationships with Cuba, the same goes for pretty much everything, not only Cuba.


>> Yeah, right up until you're talked into electing a dictator.

> And now he's out.

Trump was never a dictator.

> bad policies, bad choices, and bad outcomes.

Got any examples?


I think free speech ends at specific threats or calls to violence. Call me the n word all you want. But if you threaten my life you should be stopped. Either by the police or by me.

I think free speech is necessary, but not free speech to harass or threaten violence. Free speech including the vile and negative won't make the world a better place. Arguing against the bad ideas will. But I do not think it's the burden of society to court speech that falls in the category or harassment or threats of violence.


> I think free speech ends at specific threats or calls to violence. Call me the n word all you want. But if you threaten my life you should be stopped. Either by the police or by me.

Then what about lies? The real problem of the last few years is that really blatant lies have been remarkably successful in the "marketplace of ideas" and quite hard to effectively argue against (if you disagree, try using facts and reason to convince a QAnon believer that the world isn't run by Satan-worshipping pedophile Democrats who Trump & Muller are secretly preparing to defeat in a blaze of glory). Those lies are fuel for those "specific threats or calls to violence."

I think a lot of the conventional beliefs around free speech make assumptions that may not be as true now as they were in the past (e.g. most of the participants will act in good faith (or at least have some shame) and act reasonably, and that any participants that don't will be quickly identified and ostracized). The error is sort of like classical economics theories incorrectly assuming people will be rational economic actors when they often aren't.


And what of the lies which led us into the Gulf War and the Iraq War? Hundreds of thousands of people are dead because of those lies, and they were broadcast from coast to coast by every credible news media organisation in existence. The same organisations now being lauded as the bearers of ultimate truth.

When the next set of lies is rolled out to land us in another unending conflict, I would quite like the internet to be a place where information can freely flow. My fear of governments is far greater than my fear of kooky people on the internet.


> And what of the lies which led us into the Gulf War and the Iraq War? Hundreds of thousands of people are dead because of those lies, and they were broadcast from coast to coast by every credible news media organisation in existence. The same organisations now being lauded as the bearers of ultimate truth.

What "lie" led us into the Gulf War? Are you claiming that Iraq did not in fact invade and conquer Kuwait?

And what about the stuff about Iraqi WMDs? I'm obviously not claiming that lying was invented in the last few years, so pointing out some lie that gained traction in the past doesn't really challenge anything I said.

> When the next set of lies is rolled out to land us in another unending conflict, I would quite like the internet to be a place where information can freely flow. My fear of governments is far greater than my fear of kooky people on the internet.

There's a good chance that the kind of freely flowing information I'm talking about will likely just lead you to a different lie. If the truth (or interpretations approaching the truth) is a needle in a haystack, it's unlikely that many people will actually ever find it. That's a problem.


> Are you claiming that Iraq did not in fact invade and conquer Kuwait?

I am claiming that the Nayirah testimony helped manufacture consent for US military involvement.

> I'm obviously not claiming that lying was invented in the last few years, so pointing out some lie that gained traction in the past doesn't really challenge anything I said.

You claimed that the problem of the last few years was blatant lies gaining traction in the marketplace of ideas. I am pointing out that lies have forever gained traction in the marketplace of ideas, while also being co-signed by authoritative news sources and politicians.

> If the truth (or interpretations approaching the truth) is a needle in a haystack, it's unlikely that many people will actually ever find it. That's a problem.

I agree, but I don't believe that restricting speech or massively censoring information is the correct solution. Or a solution at all.


>> Are you claiming that Iraq did not in fact invade and conquer Kuwait?

> I am claiming that the Nayirah testimony helped manufacture consent for US military involvement.

Oh, I see. I think the difference is that wasn't really the casus belli for the Gulf War (the Wikipedia entry doesn't mention Nayirah at all, for instance), while the WMD lie was the literal casus belli for the Iraq War.

> You claimed that the problem of the last few years was blatant lies gaining traction in the marketplace of ideas. I am pointing out that lies have forever gained traction in the marketplace of ideas, while also being co-signed by authoritative news sources and politicians.

I think we're using different definitions of "blatant." I'm talking about stuff like QAnon or Stop the Steal. In comparison, the lies you're talking about are far more credible and believable.


> What "lie" led us into the Gulf War?

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


You did claim

> The real problem of the last few years is that really blatant lies have been remarkably successful in the "marketplace of ideas" and quite hard to effectively argue against

so I think it's fair to point out that this is not in fact a new problem, and that private companies probably aren't going to solve it.


> so I think it's fair to point out that this is not in fact a new problem, and that private companies probably aren't going to solve it.

The new problem is is not the successful spread of lies, but the frequent successful spread of lies at massive scale that fall apart at the slightest inspection. Basically: bonkers conspiracy theories becoming mainstream consensus in large segments of the population.


> bonkers conspiracy theories becoming mainstream consensus in large segments of the population.

I think the only new thing is "bonkers conspiracy theories", when beforehand it was more like "state sanctioned lies". Pick your poison, I guess?


Truth will be unknown in any case, but free speech can at least expose lies as such, which can't be done in controlled propaganda.


We do have some limits on lies. There are libel/slander laws.

These limits are usually very weak, though. They vary from place to place, but tend to have a high bar, are expensive to pursue, and have many exceptions.


Those don't cover other dangerous types of lies, like telling people drinking bleach will protect them from COVID, or telling them COVID is a hoax and they shouldn't wear masks, or the whole antivax thing.


Furthermore these laws almost exclusively apply when speaking about specific people. QAnon people can be sued if they say "Hillary Clinton drinks the blood of children". However they are safe saying "Democrats drink the blood of children." I don't understand why these two should be treated differently from a moral, ethical, or legal perspective.

Also these are largely viewed as civil issues and not criminal so Hillary Clinton needs to take them to court and not the State. These two issues combined basically give Americans free rein to make up whatever lies they want about whatever group they wish to defame.


'Threats of violence'

'Threats of coordinated violence'

'Satire with violence'

Are all part of a type of information wherein we can make rules and try to apply them fairly.

Saying 'Twitter allowed this but not that' is besides the point - it illustrates that Twitter is either inconsistent or hypocritical or both ... but it doesn't abnegate the notion that policies can be crudely made to work.

If you straight up threatened to murder someone on Twitter, they'll take it down.

The problem of 'mass mistruth' is much more complicated, because of course, making the stupid claim that 'the COVID vaccines kill 50% of it's recipients' probably would normally be within the realm of protected speech - but when 100% of Americans are subject to such lies, 25% of them refuse to take the vaccine, and 5% of them want to get violent an overthrow the CDC & murder Fauci because he's 'killing children' - well it becomes a problem.

One key thing to understand that nobody here in HN wants to contemplate is that the 'commons' is utterly not a clearing house of information wherein the truth rises to the top. This is totally the opposite. The commons is an arena of populism where we plebes act on instinct and emotion, we chose the information we want to hear, we buy into the lies of groups and ideologues.

The truth is almost irrelevant, because it can only ever be contemplated in the context of legitimate authority, which is why we 'mostly trust' the CDC, Homeland Security, our Judicial system etc. etc..

'Coordinating Violence' is a problem that can be dealt with in all but the eyes of those wanting 'absolute free speech'.

But 'Lies and Misinformation' we must understand is actually a serious problem, and worse, there's no clear path to how we can solve this.

There's no doubt we don't want corporations, and not 'Tim Cook' making these decisions, probably not individual bureaucrats or ideological politicians ... we're all going to have to work hard to find something that works and that is fairly transparent and fair. FYI Apple doesn't want the headache of deciding who speaks and not - they just want to make money and not get into risky scenarios.


The difference between a lie and a mere falsehood or even a mistake is intent and knowledge. The legal system is perfectly capable of determining intent and knowledge (when including not just actual but cases where knowledge was recklessly disregarded). We also already have laws that in certain contexts outlaw such lying. The most common examples are perjury and lying to officials either FBI or immigration, the latter specifically in the context of one's status. The laws, particularly the first two, lost a lot of their punch because of rampant misuse by authorities - the latter overused by federal agents to buy time to build cases they can't otherwise Constitutionally establish legally, the former was found to be so common among police testimonies that it had both a term - 'testilying' and hundreds of academic papers on the subject leading to no reform and little added enforcement. We also have laws against defrauding - which usually just adds onto a specific intent to gain something of value. It's not that we can't keep free speech as the Constitution sets it but still regulate particular instances where the state can prove a case of bad intent and knowledge, but the long history of applying these laws not for justice but for coercion, to fill quotas, carelessly, and unevenly have eroded the erstwhile authority prosecutors have in using them without creating a political issue for him or herself. I think restoring integrity in the system so that these cases can be taken as nonpolitical is arguably an even more difficult task, but certainly if done right, would have the most legitimacy and be the most narrowly targeted.

But outside of that I'd much rather have corporations than bureaucrats handling such matters, because at least they can be incentivized to do the right thing. After all, corporations are ultimately voluntary entities formed and owned by average people, and when their conduct fails to match societal expectations, they lose customers and revenue, which is at least some incentive. Furthermore, they're protected by the constitution to do the moderating. They are allowed to keep the undesirable off their platform. No matter how much Josh Hawley wants to nationalize big tech to make America into White China, he can't actually do it without an armed mob. In contrast our administrative laws and particularly those with enforcement powers have effectively been turned into the Constitutional backdoor that through sheer luck Trump was unable to realize as the easy and if not legal, at least unchallengeable way to stage a coup, just as their suppression and kidnappings over the summer resulted in no real consequences, it's by design, and one that circumvents much of the Bill of Rights with essentially no oversight, judicial or congressional, the former by doctrinal custom and the latter by negligence. They pose a much greater danger, because they not only get into risky situations, legally they're effectively immune from almost all responsibility in a way that even puts qualified immunity to shame. I hate to pose these not as hypotheticals but as actual comparisons, but Apple haven't kidnapped me for all the complaints I made about the shitty 2017 MacBook keyboard yet, while federal agencies with militarized regulatory enforcement powers have, supposedly all through mistakes, "deported" over a thousand American citizens to random countries they have no connection to. They're the backstop we should never lean on.


> But outside of that I'd much rather have corporations than bureaucrats handling such matters, because at least they can be incentivized to do the right thing. After all, corporations are ultimately voluntary entities formed and owned by average people, and when their conduct fails to match societal expectations, they lose customers and revenue, which is at least some incentive.

Those are some awfully large assumptions. We know that incentives are not trivial to structure, companies choose not to comply (think about how companies like Facebook just write fines off as a business expense), or actively attempt to interfere with the processes which manage those incentives.

Similarly, your definition of companies is unsupported by evidence. Few average people create them (it costs too much), and they're only completely voluntary in a few areas where entry costs are low, consolidation is uncommon, and the services are voluntary. In computing, for example, what percentage of people have a realistic choice other than deciding whether they prefer Apple to Google, or Apple to Microsoft?

A better approach is to stop assuming sweeping properties inherent to the sector and look at the incentive structures. Almost all organizations do exactly what they’re setup to do and need outside visibility and oversight to make sure that aligns with the larger needs of society. Both government agencies and companies produce bad results when the incentives don’t align — as we can see in this very case where it’s easy to ignore problems when the alternatives cost money.


To your first para:

Lying, in the context of FB posts etc. is not illegal, so

To your second post:

Companies have no incentive to honour your rights, and as a side note, they will pursue their personal, petty squabbles to their own ends.

Google, FB and Apple systematically have leaders who prefer 'one side of the political aisle' and could easy tilt the scales in that direction.

This is an abomination really wen can't allow that.

I think we probably need some decent legislation.


Should we ban hyperbolic exaggerations? phrasing things in way that makes it seem like its a Biblical battle between good and evil, should be allowed in my opinion. I think its questionable how many literally belief in those things. But exaggerating things has been part of story telling forever.

Its also not that off to call someone a witch, that literally brags about staying youthful by applying a cream made from baby foreskins. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BY2aOHQlAco

And referencing Epstein island, which many elites did go to, is not really a conspiracy theory anymore. Its a documented fact.


In this instance I don't think calls to violence are really the problem at hand. Specifically, what is the difference between getting on a box on a street corner and calling for the death of so and so and saying the same thing on the internet? The difference is the speed at which the message propagates and the breadth and targeting of the audience that hears it. The technology and its unregulated use are the problem not primarily the speech it facilitates. Facebook and Twitter in how they are designed are the problem. They are the equivalent of giving everyone an information machine gun with infinite advertising backed ammo and then asking everyone to abide by the honor system. We don't do this in the physical space and we shouldn't in the digital space. We are currently in the process of learning all of the old lessons of society building the hard way when it comes to the internet. Thats because Twitter and Facebook didn't intend to build societies they intended to make money. They did both but only really cared about the latter.


Do you mean like when Kathy Griffin was holding up the presidents bloody head with no recourse? Or the summer riots which were heavily coordinated on Twitter? Twitter is still in the app stores. Extremism is on Twitter, Facebook, and all platforms, yet they came together like a mob and eliminated the one they didnt like.


Yes, I agree. Iran's supreme leader is still on twitter. But a counterpoint is that that ISIS was driven out of twitter and FB systematically. Correct me but you're implying in your statement is they "eliminated the one they didn't like [because of political views]" but that's not necessarily the only reason

EDIT: Given your other responses, we're at an impasse. Bowing out.


ISIS and other islamists are very much still on twitter.


I forgot the other reason: to give a gift to the new party in power in hopes of stopping the anti-trust cases. The dems were nudging some of them, ill be interested to see if we get a magical 180 degree turn.


It was a stupid gesture on her part and she paid a step price for that act, so it wasn't so free.

When talking about the riots that happened it important to acknowledge all the players. Most of the protesters against police brutality were peaceful and exercising first amendment rights of the first degree -- complaining about government abuses.

There are recorded cases of agents provocateur, e.g., https://www.startribune.com/police-umbrella-man-was-a-white-...

And the police themselves were not passive in these regards, at least in the case when the protesters were not about white nationalism.


No platform recourse and they didnt even ban the material, even today. You could say the capital protestors were “mostly peaceful” as well as the vast majority did not storm the building. Even those on the capital steps were a tiny minority of who showed up. Im really not here to argue case by case and combat mental gymnastics for why one sides extremism is ok but the others is not. Im simply pointing out that all platforms have extremism and calls for violence but only one was banned swiftly.


So you're saying that she didn't have a right to post that picture at all?

Again, what she did was stupid and tasteless, but if you think that it was intended as a call for violence then you're venturing into Rorschach test territory.

The capitol "protest" was designed to lead to the attack on the house. Perhaps many present were just there to just "speak up" but the breach itself was no accident.


She posted it again with impunity, so it basically was free, seeing as she was not deplatformed after the first or second time doing it.


She lost a lot of work over it -- therefore she did pay a price.

As stupid and tasteless as it was, to make it into a call for others to cut off his head is specious at best. And that's a key issue in play: the intent of the the message.

You're engaging in weak whataboutism.


> You're engaging in weak whataboutism.

One of the major threads of the political discourse is that right wing businesses, representatives and protestors are being treated differently than left wing ones. How would you - even theoretically - make that case without drawing comparisons?

There is little room to argue that if any figure associated with the right was waving a mock severed head around that would be cause for extreme social, business or potentially legal consequences and/or people losing faith in basic civil liberties. There would be panic.

The standards are too visibly different for the gap to be dismissed.


Left wing protestors were protesting against police brutality. And violence occurring at those protests must be recognized as having outside agitators intent on derailing the peaceful protest.

The right wing protestors at the capitol were trying to overturn the results of the democratic process, and were prepared to do so by force.

There's a difference there.


I don’t see how this can be dismissed as “whataboutism” to discuss examples of how the specific policy under discussion should impact different types of speech.

It’s literally the topic of discussion. You could say, two sides of the same coin, but it’s not even really that.

Where do you draw the line for violence and inciteful speech? If you’re willing the draw a different line depending on the policy goals of the person speaking, then you’re taking a political position not a moral one.


What do you do when people simply want to spew emotional tirades and mindlessly copy memes, and won't argue in good or any faith? What is that worth really?


That's their right to spew whatever they want. Just because it's worthless doesn't mean we should stop it. I personally think every single conversation in Twitter is absolutely worthless, maybe even has negative value. Does that give me the right to shut down Twitter? No. I value free speech so if people want to waste their time spewing nonsense, that is their right.


I think this point of view neglects the emergent properties of a society where millions of people can spew nonsense all at once, at the speed of light, using AI assisted audience targeting. Crackpots and liars have existed since the beginning of time but never before has a technology been designed to so readily amplify and reenforce their nonsense. Never before has a technology been so adept at hiding from you that the speaker is a crackpot or liar.


I think the issue is rather the visibility of the nonsense, as a global species we are still adapting to this new communication medium


This is because we use 'votes' and 'likes' along with non-transparent algorithms to amplify certain voices over other.

Nothing to do with the medium, but how we structure social media.


It’s not even just the visibility, it’s the direct harm the actions of these people cause. Whether it’s to their own personal relationships or nation states. QAnon should make a lot of people nervous about the state of unfettered free speech and the idea that the counter to bad ideas is more speech.


"At the speed of light" isn't the problem. We also used to communicate at the speed of light through MySpace, text messages, and so on without these specific problems.


No, it's twitter's right to carry it or not. AFAICT there's no right to tweet.


You bring up a good point. I don't engage with folks like that. I assume they're already indoctrinated or an influencer from outside of the country or a troll. If I'm feeling empathetic I might try to appeal to the human in them.

Edit: If you're asking me as if I were the host of the free speech platform. I guess I would allow everything except anything that violated criminal law. And would keep a law firm on retainer to field complaints and give the final say to our legal department. It's a tough question.


It doesn't matter who you engage with.

If 10% of Americans are convinced that QAnon is behind the scenes running the show, and they believe that, and act on it in a variety of ways, then it's a huge problem.

I suggest with the election, COVID and QAnon together we are probably already feeling the results of mass misinformation.

It's an ugly problem because none of us really want to suppress people for saying something not technically true. I mean, who doesn't like a good alien conspiracy theory? Until it gets out of hand ...


QAnon is as successful as it is because it is tapping into the cognitive dissonance created by things like federal mishandling of the Epstein case (slow walking allegations made since the 90s, the 2007 sweetheart deal which granted immunity to any unnamed co-conspirators, not having raided Epstein's New Mexico ranch to this day, etc), as well as the fact that wealthy and powerful elites continued to associate with him long past the point his predations had become an open secret, and they have suffered no professional or legal repercussions whatsoever.

The mainstream media says "he killed himself and was a one-off and all these rich people just wanted to solicit charitable donations and there's nothing more to see here," and anyone with two skeptical brain cells to rub together can see that's a lie and (if they are actually moved by the horrendous circumstances of the Epstein case to find out the truth) they go searching for alternative sources of information, at which point they're often easy game for disinfo merchants of various stripes who gain a foothold simply by not insisting they're crazy for even asking the questions in the first place.

The insistence that this is purely a problem of "mass misinformation" seems almost belligerently blinkered to the broader context and reasons why our society's institutions have lost credibility and trust.


It's as successful as it is because it is KNOWINGLY tapping into the cognitive dissonance, for the purpose of inciting domestic terrorism and the collapse of Western society.

Basically, look at the things you cited as the reason such an attack could be effective, even unanswerable. If the rich people, etc etc, behaved better and weren't awful, it would be a lot harder to mount such an attack. But it was made easy to do, and for that reason the whole 'freedom of speech' thing is nothing more than an attack vector at this point. We've lost that. There is no way it's sustainable the way some people would like it to be sustainable. There are powerful interests, state actors, weaponizing every little shred of freedom to destroy Western society, and I don't see any good answers at this point.

It was a weakness. We could have freedom of speech as long as it wasn't being weaponized on a massive scale against us. We could have freedom of speech so long as massive calculated lying wasn't a primary tactic, so long as people could be taken at face value. That's simply not true anymore.


The Epstein case and QAnon are separate things. If QAnon decides to include Epstein as a part of their fiction, that doesn't make QAnon real.

My suspicion is that QAnon is an alternative reality game created by imageboard trolls. But then foreign adversaries saw in it a potential to subvert the US and they decided to amplify it as much as they could. This suspicion is not based on any hard evidence, but I think it is plausible.

Foreign adversaries from troll farms spend their entire day finding ways to cause harm and troll farms are a cheap way to inflict that harm. Unlike the cold war era, they don't have to pay operatives to travel to the US, they just need social network accounts. Remember when Russia interfered with the US election by buying ads in social networks? Those ads are available here:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2018/05/10/thousands-rus...

All these ads have the objective of amplifying any narrative that is against the best interest of the US. Make everyone angry, make people fight each other, cause economic harm, amplify dissent, diminish governance. And everyone is falling for it, again:

- Foreing trolls amplifying antivaxxers and antimaskers have the objective to make everyone sick and stretch lockdowns forever so that the US economy is ruined.

- Foreign trolls amplifying racists and race baiters have the objective of divide the US into groups and make them fight each other, as well as diminishing trust in the government.

- Foreign trolls amplifying anti-science discourse also have the objective of make people skeptical about science, drive people away from science, with the added bonus of making people fight each other, incentivize pollution, demoralize the population, etc.

However, those foreign adversaries could not be successful if it wasn't for one person: Trump. Foreign adversaries love Trump because he is the person that promotes division and infighting. Trump denies climate change. Trump said vaccines cause autism. Trump said you should inject yourself with bleach, and downplayed the coronavirus. Trump uses racist dog whistling... Trump is the wet dream of any foreign intelligence service, he did more harm to the US than the KGB could ever do throughout the entire cold war. If you voted for Trump, you are not a patriot, you're a giant chump... and if you cannot see it now, there's no hope for you.


QAnon has almost nothing to do with Epstein.

QAnon exists because 10-25% of the US population will believe total fantasies, especially those that are biased towards their worldview.

It's about 55% in uncivilized countries.

We are animals, trying to be human. Most of us aren't fully with it. Rationality is a new concept.


In the world of micro-aggressions, there needs to be a very strict definition of what we mean by violence.


I hope this is sarcasm...


In the United States we’ve always understood free speech does has its limits: slander/libel, “yelling fire in a crowded theater” — I feel like calls for violence and genocide already fall well out of our boundaries of free speech. But it’s always been understood political speech is unrestricted.

I do think people have cynically exploited this understanding by trying to classify calls for political violence as merely political speech, arguing that as long as the calls for violence have a political angle it’s free speech. And arguing moderating such things censorship.


> I thought I believed in free speech

You do. But the idea of free speech has been twisted and warped to mean speech without social or economic consequences and that is where it goes wrong.

I doubt you believe that speech should be more criminalized than it already is. I think most of us agree that having an opinion, no matter how outrageous or evil, should not be a crime. We agree on exceptions to this for outright threats of violence.

The expectation that speech should be free-as-in-beer. That you are entitled to a platform. That you should be free of all consequence. This the problem.

Providing privacy and communications produces not subject to control of a central authority isn't a bad thing! But we also shouldn't just be mindless cogs in the free speech money machine.


I wrote about why free speech is still important here: https://gavinhoward.com/2019/11/recommendations-and-radicali... .

Basically, the problem is not free speech. It's the social media drive for addiction.


But that is exactly the problem: how do you separate the two? Once someone figures out a way to profit from "free speech" the profit motive takes over and infects the whole system. I don't see any way around that without compromising freedom.


I think banning online advertising causing these sites to charge their users for the service would right a lot of wrongs automatically, when the free market can start to kick in and do it's job.

It makes it so Facebook's product becomes online photo sharing, instead of it's current product which is manipulation and addiction.

https://www.wired.com/story/why-dont-we-just-ban-targeted-ad...


Thanks for this link, it was a great read - and compelling.


>I think banning online advertising

So you want to limit speech in the name of protecting free speech?


Limiting corporate speech in the name of protecting individual speech seems like a reasonable proposal to me.


Corporations aren't the only ones that advertise. Completely eliminating advertising would restrict speech for both corporations and individuals.

Maybe I want to create a charity and am looking to raise awareness for a fundraising event I am having.

Maybe my dog ran away and I want to get the word out about a monetary reward I am offering for helping to find them.

Maybe I am a touring comedian and I want to advertise my next show.

Maybe I am an amateur photographer and want volunteer subjects to help hone my craft.

The list goes on and on for potential non-corporate uses of advertising. If we want to treat corporate speech and individual speech differently, I think there is a much more important place to start: Citizens United v. FEC.


In all of those cases you can just say what you want to say, you don't need to pay for special treatment to put your message in front of an unwilling audience. Restricting advertising isn't restricting speech, it's restricting the ability to pay for special treatment for your own speech.


> Restricting advertising isn't restricting speech, it's restricting the ability to pay for special treatment for your own speech.

That isn't the way it works in the US. There are some restrictions on advertising, but is fundamentally protected speech in the US and therefore can't be banned outright.


Limiting corporate speech seems quite a nice fix to the problem of corporations limiting individual speech


Don't worry, it's only other people's speech.


I think you are somewhat correct here, but I do think there's a solution.

As a sibling says, I think changing social media to where users are the _customers_, and not the _product_, is the answer.

I wrote about doing that here: https://gavinhoward.com/2020/07/decentralizing-the-internet-... .


Freedom is not absolute and boundless.


> echo chambers, are the very epitome of lack of free speech [...] since members of echo chambers only hear one argument, echo chambers are radicalizing, and they are radicalizing because they don’t have free speech

Thanks, that's actually a really insightful way of looking at the problem.


I think there's something to be learned by comparing our current situation to WW1 and the Cold War. In short, we in the present can identify the root cause that will lead to a major crisis (powder keg), but we don't know if that crisis will actually happen (spark).

For WW1, it was clear to at least some involved that the war was the twins of extreme nationalism and imperialism coming home to roost. We judge these factors very harshly in hindsight because of the devastation WW1 caused. For the Cold War, we avoided complete nuclear Armageddon in the Cuban Missile Crisis only because of a few sets of steady hands. Since WW3 didn't happen, I think we judge the root social issues of the Cold War less harshly. Both situations were obvious powder kegs to their particapants, but one was lit and the other was not.

I think it is clear that our present age's powder keg is being filled by the near cost-free and instantaneous point-to-point communication enabled by the Internet. The ratcheting societal polarization, erosion of trust in traditional sources of authority and institutions, and the metastasizing of pseudoscience and conspiracy theories are all products of self-reinforcing filter-bubbles and people becoming untethered to their real life communities. Like with the Cold War, we may get lucky, but like WW1 we also may not. Should we abandon the ideal of free speech to try and mitigate a future major crisis? Or will we make it out the other side as circumstances change?

Sorry, no takeaway from me, but I think that's the situation were in. :(


The trouble is when people conflate “free speech” with “absolute prohibition on any societal, cultural, or personal means of making any value judgment about any speech, as well as any mechanism whatsoever to encourage any type of speech and discourage any other type of speech.” It’s this “speech agnosticism” version of “free speech” that worries me.


> The trouble is when people conflate “free speech” with “absolute prohibition on any societal, cultural, or personal means of making any value judgment about any speech, as well as any mechanism whatsoever to encourage any type of speech and discourage any other type of speech.” It’s this “speech agnosticism” version of “free speech” that worries me.

And that "speech agnosticism", ironically, is actually a rejection of free speech. Free speech only really can work if the members of society act as a filter for bad stuff.


That’s how I’ve come to think about it too. Free speech is vital to allow ideas to be expressed and criticized, in the same way that the methods of science are about conjecture and criticism. The ability to challenge orthodoxy is vital in science, but so is rejection of “bad science” and even more so rejection of the notion that there can be no discernment of any qualities of scientific claims.


Honestly I think the legal status quo is pretty close to ideal: governments may not limit speech, but platforms can clamp down on anything they want. The only problem with the platforms is that they still somewhat cling to the idea that they won’t censor speech, which is frankly ridiculous. Of course they will censor, they should just admit it and clamp down any speech they find abhorrent. Allow the marketplace (and marketplace of ideas) to work.


The status quo has brought us to today. The platforms only act when they see that the political winds have shifted. There were precisely zero “profiles in courage” among the platforms until after the election. We can expect nothing more - they’re businesses beholden to investors and regulators above all else.


I'm surprised at the lack of recognition that Google and Apple banned Parler as soon as the dems gained all 3 branches of power. It could not be more clear what the motive was. Extremism and violence are on Twitter and Facebook all day long. They're still in the app stores.


Could it be because, I don't know, extremists seized the Capitol that same day?


What about DNS? ISP?

There must be some line. Sure you can build your own server and connect it to the internet, but if you're handing out cards with an IP address, marketability is limited.


IP address connectivity should be a universal right. DNS is trickier, but the root level companies that provide names should be required to host your NS records (not your DNS servers themselves).

After that I don't believe the internet owes you anything.


That's where I come out too.


1.1.1.1 disagrees with you, but that's an aside.

ISPs get common-carrier status - I think platforms should be able to have this protection and requirements too, if they want it. For ISPs this protects them from things folks do with their service, meaning they don't have to completely monitor your use.


> they don't have to completely monitor your use.

Where is this coming from? I don't need any monitoring... not ISP, not government...

What happened to life and liberty?


I'm with you; pretty sure tHinK-oF-tEh-chIldRen and general fear based culture is what happened.


The problem is the amount of power held by just a few "platforms." The government may not legally be able to censor what they don't like, but if they can influence the platforms that can it amounts to the same thing.


> cling to the idea that they won’t censor speech

What about the cost of moderation?

Right now, the savings outweigh the liability.


> But watching the events of the past few years unfold I am no longer convinced that this would really make the world a better place.

One hard truth: it would have been enough to look at European laws made after WWII, and adopt them in the US as well in the first place.


"In Europe, Speech Is an Alienable Right: [the European Court of Human Rights] upheld an Austrian woman’s conviction for disparaging the Prophet Muhammad."

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/10/its-not-fr...

Is this really what you want?


Here's the actual judgement from ECHR: [1]

It is an interesting reading - it gives a very different impression than the article.

According to the document, she claimed Muhammad was a pedophile in a series of seminars "Basics of Islam" that pretended to be objective courses but were organised by a far-right political party.

The judgement also mentions that saying something offensive or untrue on purpose and then claiming "it was just my opinion" doesn't protect you from repercussions, that you are allowed to criticise current practices of religion but not on bases of what someone allegedly done hundreds of years ago when societal standards were different, and that fine 480 Euro is on the low end of a range and not disproportionate.

So as I understand it, a far right person was deliberately shit-stirring in a propaganda seminar and got slap on the wrist (fine of ~ 15 % median wage) to be more careful next time.

[1]: https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng#{"itemid":["002-12171"]}

EDIT: the link doesn't seem to work properly, you'll have to copy-paste it.


> but not on bases of what someone allegedly done hundreds of years ago when societal standards were different

Guess we can't legally criticize people for owning slaves now.


Oh I'm sure you can. The ruling doesn't say that.

The ruling says that when you do it in context of pretend-seminar that's far right propaganda, and you do it mostly to to anger and hurt people to divide society - then when you get fine of 480 EUR your human rights are not violated.


> The ruling doesn't say that.

Your post does however.


"She held “seminars” in which she presented her view that Muhammad was indeed a child molester. Dominant Islamic traditions hold that Muhammad’s third wife, Aisha, was 6 at the time of their marriage and 9 at its consummation. Muhammad was in his early 50s. The Austrian woman repeated these claims, and the Austrian court ruled that she had to pay 480 euros or spend 60 days in the slammer. The ECHR ruled that Austria had not violated her rights."

So it appears that she set out to attack Islam and then received a relative slap-on-the-wrist for it. Neither of those affect the principles, but still....


There should be nothing illegal about “attacking” a religion with words, all the moreso if those words are factually accurate.


Going out of your way to piss other people off is a poor idea.

You may feel that it should be legal (at least until it affects you). Other people may feel otherwise.


She said Muhammad was a pederast, which is correct, according to the Quran.


According to the Bible God "came over" a 12 year old Mary, sneaking into her bedroom at night like some creepy uncle, to "pop her cherry" before her newly wed husband Joseph could.

The child of that came to be known as.. Jesus.

Which should be a stark reminder that all Abrahamic religions have their roots based in such absurd and ancient practices that none of them hold up much to scrutiny under modern standards except when framed solely around an entirely fictional "Good guy miracle making baby Jesus".


Out of curiosity, what do she plan to do with that information? Why did she say it?


All of those things are true and are common knowledge among those with even a modicum of knowledge about the religion.


All religions are frankly horrific at one point or another. And all of the countries (that I'm aware of) that are officially atheist are rather unpleasant, I think you might agree. Everyone's family tree is not an acyclic graph, and contains some ugly people. All of this up, in detail, is true, and everyone knows it. Having "seminars" on it simply makes it a club to be used to beat on someone you don't like. (Doing that here will likely get Dang to rough me up, perhaps even before I have pissed you off. And rightfully so; see the guidelines.)

The bottom line is, the Moslems I've known have been better people than anyone I've met who believes rights and truth are the only limits on what they would say.


Interestingly, "typical European Free Speech laws" are both more and less restricting than you would see in the US - there's more limits on harmful ideologies and violence but less restrictions on sex and nudity, for example.

Of course it's not just constitutions and laws - movie ratings are not de iure laws but work that way de facto - and EU limits other things, like advertisement of pharmaceuticals.

Comparing the different approaches needs finesse and not just "free US vs non-free Europe".


> there's more limits on harmful ideologies and violence but less restrictions on sex and nudity, for example.

Also more mindful about privacy, in many EU countries one can't just doxx people, not even criminals.

A popular example is this story about a Swiss parliament secretary who got fired for posting nudes from her workplace.

EU outlets censored her face and left the nipple [0], US and AUS outlets showed her face but censored her nipple [1], while the British Mirror pixelated both [2].

[0] https://images05.xn--sterreich-z7a.at/sex_01.jpg/rl2015_arti...

[1] https://www.9news.com.au/world/swiss-secretary-posted-nude-s...

[2] https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/secretary-working-s...


What about the lessons of Europe before WWII? The lessons of fascism and authoritarian communism arising in heavily censored states without the right to free expression? The lessons of fascists and communists enacting further censorship and surveillance as a means of enforcing their power? The lessons of fascism and communism corrupting well-meaning laws, laws initially curtailing civil liberties for the safety of society as a whole?


What do you mean by “European”? And what laws are you talking about?

Does this include the laws made in East Berlin or other communist countries? Do you think Le Pen didn’t get into power because of free speech laws? It seems to me like she just didn’t have quite enough support to get in.

What about the laws made in post-communist countries like Poland or Hungary or Belarus? (Or Lithuania or Latvia?)

Perhaps you mean countries like Sweden or Norway? It does at least seems to make the news there when some neo-nazi is punished for what American prosecutors would have to consider free speech.


I thought it's obvious from the context, but examples include denying the holocaust being a crime.


I don't see why a future collapse into tyranny of a country in Europe would have to involve a revival of the symbols of any particular defeated regime. If they needed symbols for propaganda purposes, they'd draw from legal symbol pools, like Roman culture. (It "worked" once...) More likely, they would draw from contemporary symbols that already had positive sentiment associated with them.

The point being, it's not clear whether German speech laws are frosting or cake. If the German people wanted to destroy Europe and themselves, that would be enough whether they did it with the symbols of a defeated dictator or not. People point to European speech laws as examples of reasonable protections, but I'm not sure if they're stopping anything. The real bar against the collapse of liberal democracy is the fact that the people living in those countries don't want it to happen, and understand why it would be bad for them.


> I don't see why a future collapse into tyranny of a country in Europe would have to involve a revival of the symbols of any particular defeated regime.

In the US, at least, the current (seemingly unsuccessful) slouch towards tyranny definitely does involve the revival symbols of a particular defeated regime: the Confederacy (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/14/us/Kevin-Seefried-arreste...).

Though it might not really be a "revival," since the symbols were never really killed off in the first place. A lot of the flashpoints building up to this one involved removal of these symbols.


It might also be worth pointing out that those flashpoints were originally put into place deliberately, in a mostly failing attempt to bring the country back together, and then left in place until they went off.


> More likely, they would draw from contemporary symbols that already had positive sentiment associated with them.

Yes I think so. In fact, that's precisely what the nazis did with the swastika.

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


Symbols retain power for a long time. That's why we're not seeing a swastika revival in interior design or anything like that, even in places where the Nazis did not exist. Another good example is the U.S. confederate flag, which only existed officially for a few years and was decided against by a bloody and brutal military loss. However, it's retained enough significance that someone just pranced through the U.S. Capitol with it. If it doesn't have power as a symbol, why not pick a new flag?

Obviously banning a symbol is not going to prevent future violent movements by itself, but it also seems wise to not leave still-hot embers of symbolic power lying around for the next would-be demagogue to fan back into a fire. People trying to pick up those old symbols are giving a very strong signal about their ideology.

I agree that the main bulwark of a society against falling into fascism is its people's memory of the past and willingness to prevent recurrence of such episodes though.


> I don't see why a future collapse into tyranny of a country in Europe would have to involve a revival of the symbols of any particular defeated regime

It wouldn't have to. But having watched Hitler sell the idea that Germany was being unjustly punished for Jewish lies a generation earlier, they drew the conclusion that [West] Germany was quite likely to see would-be tyrants rallying around a Lost Cause narrative and that vulnerability to this was a bigger problem than a lack of diversity in holocaust historiography. Or more straightforwardly, they figured German democracy faced a more imminent threat from neo-Nazism than a slippery slope towards an Official State Version of History. A view which seems to have persisted even after reunification with the East which had considerable recent experience with the pervasive censorship involved in promoting its Official State Version of History.


That's an interesting fact that puts the issue into a light I hadn't considered. Fortunately, the literal "lost cause" language of the American Civil War has already run its course, caused its damage (up to and including a presidential assassination), and the country has survived. Would banning confederate symbols have prevented the assassination of Lincoln? Probably not, to be honest. I wonder if it would have prevented anything.


I don't see it preventing Lincoln's assassination, no. Jim Crow laws? Possibly not, and there were better ways of preventing them. But we wouldn't be seeing angry mobs fighting over statues today if they'd never been put up and we wouldn't have seen a mass membership second Klan if the first one hadn't been ruled constitutionally protected shortly after it had been forced to disband

The post Civil War US is an experiment in taking the precise opposite stance to postwar Germany: positively encouraging the losing side to romanticise their cause so long as their revisionist history downplays the slavery bit. Some northerner presidents even paid tribute to General Lee. I think it's difficult to argue reconciliation and race relations have been helped the resulting counter narrative that it was actually a pretty noble thing to defend their way of life against other states who only pretended to be concerned about negroes though.


The best example is that right after the holocaust and "never that again", half of the western political spectrum turned a blind eye to the various genocides and crimes against humanity happening in the communist block. Clearly no lesson was learnt. The two great totalitarian ideologies of the XX century have a lot in common. These laws that target one but ignore the other are I think at best misguided if not cynical. The French equivalent of those laws was proposed by the French communist party...


I guess my question is really what the effect of such laws was? Obviously there has been general prosperity and peace between the Western European countries but this may have been due to other reasons.

There doesn’t seem to be much more resilience in the population to the kind rhetoric we’ve seen recently in America. Indeed, there seem to be many parallels. Maybe the laws helped but we see less difference now as Europe after the war started “further behind”?

It’s certainly true that holocaust denial is illegal in Germany. It isn’t, for example, illegal in the U.K. (there was a libel case lost by David Irving against someone who called him a Holocaust denier where he tried to prove he was a legitimate historian however), and there are surveys showing that some percentage of the population don’t really believe it (but maybe this is the fact that for even seemingly trivial survey questions, some proportion of people give the wrong answer). I suppose here I would just point out that Europe is a big place.


Recent events such as the BLM riots or the riot at or nation's capital? I don’t agreer with either though I find it troubling that the politicians seem to be a lot more concerned with their safety than they were about private citizens safety or property during the BLM riots earlier last year.

About free speech making the world a better place.. those last 2 words are very subjective. It seems the only voices that were silenced were those with opposing opinions of our corporate ‘masters’.

Also is a better world - whatever that is - a required outcome for free speech? I think it’s a basic tenant of freedom and a free world. Being oppressed either by a corporation or a government is still oppression.


law makers always take care of themselves first, and protect their powers.


9/11 shook many to their core which lead to the Patriot Act. Now — almost 20 years later — every conversation is tracked, every packet intercepted, 19 years of war overseas, millions killed or displaced, extrajudicial detainment and torture abroad, unaccountable secret government entities.

Time will only tell whether the existential threat of free speech is real, but my best guess in “no”: people are still in shock of recent events, but over time it will be clear that giving up our freedoms in a rash reaction to a crisis is not the right decision.


The "experiment" is not one of free speech but of ever-increasing state power. The benefits of control and the costs of losing it are growing ever-larger, so each side will fight harder to get the power. Politics got us here. Voting got us here. It will not get us out.

Now that the social media companies have played the card of deplatforming the ideological opposition, the power structure of the establishment will expect that behavior going forward. When the pendulum swings, you might find some of the now-loud voices being silenced.

We can't rely on "the right guy" holding that much power, since power corrupts. There will be no "healing" until the power of the central government declines, unless you think we should start building the Gulags / re-education camps to simply silence the wrong-thinkers.

But what should you do?

Keep building tools to empower the individual against the surveillance apparatus of the state and of giant corporations! Build in ways to communicate even if large ISPs start blocking your traffic or are taken offline. Build ways to transfer value between users to circumvent financial censorship. Technology can overcome the dystopia that we face, since politics does not offer any hope of a better tomorrow.


Do you forget the lies that got the U.S. into the first and second Gulf War? The cover-up of the NSA surveillance state? The Vientam War? The Church and Pike committees? The lies covering up the excesses of the USSR (including the Holomdor)?

I do not subscribe to the notion that authoritative sources always lie, but the lies they do tell are by far the most damaging in terms of their cost in human life.

The only way to fight that is with freedom of speech. Yes, people will abuse it, but the cost is still absolutely worth it.


That's the problem with absolutist positions, they rarely survive contact with the real world. I commend you for having a principled position on this, and I'm sad that you ran into this particular bug. But human nature treats absolutism like loopholes, it gives a person the opportunity to ignore the spirit of what is given and take the letter instead leading to all kids of nastiness.

Free speech would be a great thing to have, in a society where people are not hell bent on destroying each other and their own societal structure given half a chance. Memes are very powerful and the wrong meme has the power to wreck much more than good memes can help repair due to the asymmetry between destruction and creation. Destruction is far easier than creation.


My first instinct is to think, that you never believed in free speech in the first place, however I'd like to hear some examples of what shook you to the core.


I imagine he's referring to right wing extremists storming the capitol building to overthrow a democratically elected leader and imprison and perhaps murder members of the house of representatives. Just a thought.


That wasn't even close to successful though and didn't have any consequences in the end. If this is the worst that can happen then shouldn't that strengthen his views that free speech is just fine? Free speech has given us gay rights, abortion and many other things, having a few bumps on the road like this isn't a problem, the problem is if we argue that we can no longer accept bumps in the road and therefore must no longer maky any progress.


Depends, are you setting the goalpost for "believing in free speech" as far as tolerating the President of the United States using social media for spreading the idea that the elections were stolen from him and that people should fight the results?

Way before that you could see that people became radicalized by consuming conspiracy theories far, far faster than any individual or organization could pull them back to sanity.

There's people making a living out of spreading dangerous lies to millions and millions spend their waking hours consuming them and not researching the opposite, the culmination was an abortive coup on the US Capitol, in between literally hundreds of thousands died in a pandemic where whole geographical regions were convinced that it was a hoax and that attempts to control it were a power grab.

If that's too little for you to accept someone's faith in unhindered free speech to be shaken, well, hard to find an angle to argue from, it's a hard absolute you're presenting.


If you have any evidence that Trump called for violence, come forward with it.

PS.: And also how Parler is responsible for any of this would be interesting.


It doesn't matter if he told them or not to grab the zipties and make the pipe bombs, he was riling them up about how their country was being stolen from their dear leader, the only politician who cares for them, right before their eyes, and to take that sentiment to the ceremony of ratification of the elections he lost.

Parler was a place where people discussed these things leading up to an abortive coup or revolution, however you want to call it. The US clearly doesn't have the means to control these things as of now, Big Tech taking the matter on its own hands is merely symptomatic of the lack of legislation preventing the spread of radical fascist ideology.


I've reconciled my newfound disinterest in the principle of freedom of expression like this:

Lies and threats are already illegal if you lie about a person who has the power and standing to use the court system to enforce that.

If harmfully you lie in the legal system, it's perjury or filing a false report.

If you lie to trick somebody into giving you money (and they can show damages and standing), it's fraud or false advertising.

If you lie to hurt somebody, it's defamation... again, if they can show damages and standing and they have the money for lawyers

And threats of violence are theoretically illegal but basically you need a good lawyer to get that enforced.

But now, we have vicious rumors about objective facts. Threats against reality itself. Global Warming can't sue for defamation. BLM and Antifa activists aren't even members of a real organization - could they even sue about the vicious lies about them, if they had the money to do so?

If a thousand loosely affiliated people push information about a vague cabal of vampiric pedophiles and one of them snaps and "heroically" kills somebody, who is liable for speeding the defamatory information that led to that death? If it was one, clear person, it would be a clear crime with a clear defendant.... But if it's thousands of anonymous trolls, does that make it legal, or does it simply make the laws judging it illegal impractical to enforce?

I think Dominion Voting Systems is one of the few orgs trapped in this web of deception that is actually a clear legal entity that has standing to sue and can show real damages from all the slander about them.

Basically, harmful lies are theoretically illegal but defacto legal. So I'm okay with finding alternate means to close the gap between theory and practice, in the absence of a proper legal framework.


> BLM and Antifa activists aren't even members of a real organization

Aren’t there “real” BLM organizations? Aren’t there “real” antifa groups?


The meaning of that is that there is no central authority nor uniformity for antifa or BLM groups.

Everybody can start their own antifa group because all that takes is opposing fascism, that's the only unifying factor there.

It's the same with BLM: It's not some kind of ideology with international governing institutions, it's a call to a cause very much like antifa.

It's simply opposition to fascism/police violence without even much unity on with what to replace it.



I'm going to go one step further. Anyone can be antifa, even the facists. Same with blm and racists. There's absolutely no governing body, and from what I've seen, there's at least a visible portion of the antifa who care little for facism opposition and more for wrecking shit.

That's the catch with these movements. Any description of them is by necessity a generalization.


It is a challenge. Giving people a voice means that good and bad (depending on anyone's personal view) voices are amplified. Hate is strong and it takes time for people to "have enough", only then do cooler heads prevail.

The main issue is the ability to amplify and spread so easily. Social media is built upon addiction because addicted people view more ads. How different would social media look with just a few changes like no ability to repost/retweet/copy&paste/etc and what if you never saw who liked a post and what if you weren't show things that your networked liked? These things are what creates the echo chamber. People are lazy. Most wouldn't take the time to gather information and create original posts.

I think privacy is another issue. We should always have some expectations of privacy. Regardless of which party you favor, what if the government bans your way of thinking? The ability to share a counter message is crucial to any stable system. If there is only ever one message, all is lost and you see things like North Korea.

I think there are ways to do communications applications that are freedom empowering and not subject to a central authority. The question comes down to support. Will people pay for that or use the free ones that abuse them with ads and manufactured outrage? I'm curious on what your product vision is, could you give an elevator pitch?


I disagree and here’s why: in a free society you have to convince participants to act in good faith by showing good will towards them. No amount of trying to control someone by censoring them will stop them from pursuing their beliefs. Instead, you need to hear their needs and use the public discourse of opinion to formulate a path forward that benefits all members of the society.


One of the things that was burned into my mind during my college years (math) was the notion that instinct and intuitiveness is only pattern recognition, and you should ignore it when you're on uncharted territory. Without past experiences to tune it, intuition is useless.

We're in uncharted territory now. Our ideals and principles of speech and communication weren't created in times when you could reach millions from your home, or manufacture opinion, or create alternative narratives. So those principles don't necessarily apply to current times.

Insisting in the old views will get us the same result as those battles where soldiers would march following the old ways in perfect classical formation against the first automatic weapons. And I don't want to be shredded.


I can offer no defense of the opposing point of view right now in regards to purely anonymous distributed unstoppable peer-to-peer communication.

I can offer this review of what was wrong with Parler in particular: https://mattstoller.substack.com/p/a-simple-thing-biden-can-...

"In other words, we have what should be an illegal product barred in a way that should also be illegal, a sort of ‘two wrongs make a right’ situation."

I think this is why so many of our choices seem tough right now: We made the wrong decision to get to present state, now any decision we make also looks wrong.

We need to go back and rethink some things...


Okay, it's been a while, more data is available now, and I can provide a counter argument:

This whole event was planned on social media in the open, and still that did not help anyone prevent it. Had it all been planned on Signal the exact same result would have occurred.


I'm afraid I have to concur - in the face of mass communication, the marketplace of ideas that underpins free-speech idealism has failed.

Better ideas do not push out worse ones. And no, I'm not even talking about political viewpoints here - we see ideas based on fantasy, utter unreality, repeatedly winning substantial support and spreading amongst people.

Conversely whenever platforms do allow totally 'free' speech, we see that they degenerate into hives of hate and moderate voices tend to leave entirely.

I don't know what the answer is, but just having public forums made to allow everything, and screeching about free speech when they take a stand, is demonstrably not working.


Curious, do you see value in democracy? Because it seems pretty obvious to me that you can't have democracy without freedom of speech.

Otherwise you do not get the true will of the people, only will of the purveyors of acceptable opinion.


The consequences of unfettered freedom to propagate lies on mass communication platforms under the banner of "freedom of speech" has directly endangered the democratic proces in the US, less than a week ago.

So to throw your own phrase back at you - it seems pretty obvious to me that democracy is threatened by what we currently think of as freedom of speech on mass media platforms, just as much as you think it would be threatened by any challenge to free speech.

It annoys me that you can look around at the world and decide I'm talking about limits on "acceptable opinion" when we're seeing phenomena like Q, which is based on abject fantasy. This is not a difference of opinion, this is a wannabe coup based on motivated lies.

Further, I specifically mentioned free speech idealism as something that was failing, in the context of people running internet services promising to carry absolutely everything (as the OP was talking about). "Freedom of speech" and "freedom to use other people's infrastructure to bullhorn your hate to millions" are not the same thing. You're still allowed to speak your mind in your local park, or email your weird-ass opinions to your family, even if I decide I don't want to carry your bile on my service.

Why is it that you think any limit imposed on such mass communications is a democracy destroying limit on ideas? This appears to be an absolutist way of looking at things, in a world where we don't currently have absolutes anyway. It's not like we have unfettered free speech, even in the US. Is Germany no longer a democracy because it outlaws holocaust denial? Are you going to throw accusations at them of being purveyors of 'acceptable opinion' ?


Not the person you replied to but I have seen an echo of this sentiment multiple times on HN in the past few weeks. In the end, if you believe that the population at large has to be shielded from what is now a large volume and range of types of speech, it means that you implicitly don't trust them to make the right choices on their own. And if you don't trust them to do that, then it never was about democracy to begin with. If you consider opinions you disapprove of to be illegitimate in democratic terms but opinions you approve of to be the result of the proper process of the exchange of ideas, then you implicitly recognize that it is about technocratic management of that exchange of ideas and the influence of the population rather than the actual exchange among free individuals.

It has little to do with absolutes but actually the basic underlying concepts. For the record, I agree that technocracy is generally a better idea. But the word democratic ought to be employed to actually mean something.


Again, it's not about opinions when outright lies and fantasy have lead to an actual attack on democracy and democratic institutions in the US last week.

Couching this in terms of disagreement with opposing or unnaproved viewpoints is to (wilfully?) miss the point.

Democracy apparently cannot function when demonstrably false information flows so unstoppably and in such quantity. This is not theoretical. To repurpose a quote from Ben Goldacre, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts.

I'm not proposing a solution here, more pointing out a failure mode in the curre t setup. But I disagree that having unfettered lies abounding is the only way to execute democracy. Again I would ask - do you consider Germany undemocratic?


This is a misunderstanding of the argument I'm making here. To break it down in more direct terms:

Premise A: For something to be democratic, the population has to wield power directly or indirectly by electing representatives. Premise B: we cannot let just any type of speech or information propagate, because certain types of information are liable to make the population do bad things and harm democracy.

The premise B immediately runs into problems with A for a number of reasons:

1. We are implicitly agreeing that there is a caste of people that knows better than the population at large, and we count ourselves within that group when arguing about the topic (the "I'm stuck in traffic" instead of "I am the traffic" conclusion)

2. The flow of information and speech must be controlled so that the population is only exposed to certain things.

If the information or speech flow the population is exposed to must be controlled lest they do the wrong things, and that this control must be exercised by some vaguely defined group of reasonable people that includes the arguer, then in this scenario the population cannot be said to actually wield power and the arguer cannot be said to actually believe in democracy but presumably in some form of technocracy.

You end up with a paradox in which people claim to want democracy while arguing that a control and screening of the population is absolutely necessary for democracy.

To be clear, I am in general agreement with you that unfettered lies pose an existential risk. But it is not in any way a democratic sentiment: it is a technocratic one since in this case you do not trust the population to wield supreme political power on its own, without guidance.


I fundamentally disagree that placing some limits on speech is necessarily destructive to democracy or implies the removal of power from the people, particularly as the people have the power to elect those that could change such a policy.

Yelling 'fire' in a crowded theatre is not protected speech, yet we don't challenge the democratic credentials of a nation that prevents that, nor is such a rule considered beyond the reach of democratic governments to change or alter, it is not an untouchable decree handed down by a group of bien pensants. Nor do we say such things about criminalisation of incitement to violence. Perhaps something in this mode of thinking is more appropriate.

And I'm also going to have to say again - this is not something I'm proposing as a solution. I am not even proposing a solution

I am identifying a failure mode in the sort of absolute free speech idealism that is common and particularly in the "marketplace of ideas" concept. I don't know how to fix it but it is clear that it is a threat to democratic principles in and of itself in the face of mass communications. And I disagree that taking steps to address it would necessarily be undemocratic, depending on what those steps are.

By your A and B premises, Germany is undemocratic, even though their rules on holocaust denial could be democratically removed were there the will to do so.


The thing is, the argument I outlined earlier wouldn't have been very compelling a decade ago. As you have shown, there are examples of speech restrictions that aren't that big a deal. Some people might indeed debate the finer merits of free speech such as genocide denial in such and such countries but in the end it rarely affects the entire fabric of society beyond a few individuals getting convicted here and there. So to answer your question, I do think Germany is still democratic despite my own argument because whatever restrictions currently exist aren't that important in the bigger picture of how the state functions.

But now with social media misinformation, we are moving from the tutorial of shouting 'fire' in a theater to the boss level whose final form we can only speculate on. That's what in my opinion ought to motivate some fundamental questions about what democracy is actually supposed to be moving forward.

Essentially, I'm totally on board with your failure mode idea: it's just that we diverge on the definition of what democracy is. If the future of society consists in heavy manipulation of information feeds for the purpose of maintaining a specific equilibrium, I believe it is better referred to as a technocracy especially if that manipulation will mostly be done by tech companies and other unelected officials. In this case, if Germany were to regularly curtail certain forms of speech with fundamental consequences on how the broad masses of voters behave (a path it is already on in my view) then it will eventually cease to be meaningfully democratic as the years go by. But I accept and understand that there are other ways of evaluating the situation.


Twitter and Facebook aren’t “free speech,” as the wags remind us all the time. In fact, they’re machines for hyper-self-reinforcing echoes of the national id.

More speech leads to truth, unless you can choose to wall yourself off from all critical speech that offends you. Then you just self reinforce and self radicalize. The Twitter/AWS response is a larger version of the same American reaction that got us here.

I’d like to see social media designed to get at truth, not just dopamine. It makes no sense to me that you can’t get a retraction tweet sent to THE SAME people who view a false tweet. And yet you can’t.


Is the speech really the problem, or the echo chambers within which it is spoken?

The marketplace of ideas can't really function if people are only ever presented with a carefully tailored safe/comfortable subset of ideas.


But what’s the solution then? “We are going to forcibly expose you to speech you’d rather not see, for the greater good” is no less dystopian than just banning people.


In the old days of the Internet, you carefully selected the newsgroups and websites you wanted to read. This worked pretty well.

There were places where heated arguments about politics and religion took place, but it wasn't forced into your face as soon as you logged on. You had to choose to look for it. But if you just wanted to read about coding or sci-fi, discussions generally stayed on-topic.

We weren't in this crazy world of 'everyone's an activist'. We were in a world of 'Don't feed the trolls', and that was wise advice. Now you're essentially encouraged to bait the trolls to score 'likes' and 'karma points', bonus points for getting an opponent banned.

We can't uninvent social media, but maybe we can learn some lessons from the rather-less-destructive Internet of the past?


It's better than forcing ideological tribes of people in to their own ghettos (platforms), which create monocultural cesspits.


> The marketplace of ideas

It would be great if we had a marketplace of ideas. One where offering arsenic-laced produce got you booted from said market.


People have to understand that this is what free speech actually looks like. Some people want to say some things, and other people don’t want to say them, so the latter choose not to help the former. In this case, the people running Amazon decided not to help the people running Parler anymore.

And it is decentralized. No central authority told Amazon to drop Parler; Amazon decided on their own.

I think a lot of young people came up thinking that “free speech” meant no one ever gets shut down for any reason. And they grew up thinking that tech platforms are like the government; neutral and inalienable. Neither was true and IMO it is very good in the long run for people to now understand and accept this.


> And it is decentralized. No central authority told Amazon to drop Parler; Amazon decided on their own.

Actually, Amazon didn't decide on their own—which is why none of us are surprised by their "decision". It was made for them, somewhere else. But where? By who? How?

You'd think on a site supposedly interested in computer science that people would be aware that distributed consensus is a thing. You don't need a literal monarch (or a conspiracy—same thing), there are many ways to achieve consensus in a distributed fashion that are extremely robust.

In fact, distributed consensus (as everyone here already knows) is substantially more robust overall. (Cockroach is more robust than Postgres, etc.) With a monarch, you can simply replace them—it's no harder than swapping in a new CEO. But with distributed consensus, the entire apparatus has to be torn down simultaneously. Yikes!

So ask yourself, what institutions are involved in forming consensus in the US today? Are they government, private, or both? Are they democratic or oligarchic? Etc. We know it can be done, the only question is: where are the nodes? How do they communicate? What's the protocol used? Etc.

The US today runs a distributed consensus algorithm that made Amazon's decision about Parler for them, i.e. the values and decisions made by that consensus filter down to supposedly "independent" businesses like Amazon, who implement them. And if Amazon disobeys that consensus, everyone else in the system (especially the press) will gang up on them until they do….

tl;dr There's nothing independent about what Amazon did, distributed political decision making in the US decided their actions for them.


So your theory is that the U.S. is a distributed consensus system but for some reason the company of Amazon.com, Inc. does not participate as a node?


Let me put it this way: I can give Amazon zero attention and still know what they are going to do, simply by paying attention elsewhere.

Can you? I suspect you could too. We all can, none of this is a secret.

So…is Amazon a node in the political decision making apparatus if you can ignore them entirely and still predict their behavior? I would argue that is strong evidence Amazon is not a decision node when it comes to political decision making, they are a follower node. I would argue that all mainstream US businesses are follower nodes.

Non-political business questions? Sure. I agree US businesses like Amazon are mostly free to act independently. Shutting down Parler, though, was a political decision. An expression of power. In that realm, Amazon was not the one in charge.


I think your attempt at categorizing political vs non-political decisions is arbitrary and harming the utility of your computing analogy.


Perhaps you are right and there is no political solution.


Eric Weinstein discussed this overall topic on The Realignment Ep. 70: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbSLMtZi2dc

Specifically around the 33 minutes mark.


Always question everything you are told, especially by central authorities, mainstream popular media, etc.

Seek out information from variety of sources and discern the truth from fiction.

What you may think is evidence may be completely opposite of what it actually is.

Especially any narratives that are pushed to convince people to voluntarily give up privacy and freedoms.

Just look at all the regular people going around screaming at other people to put on masks. What happened to make these people go screaming at other people?

If you're on this board and worked on tech projects, you should be able to spot propaganda in process.

Good luck.


What makes central authorities and mainstream popular media inherently more suspicious?

I disagree that having worked on tech projects would help you spot propaganda. It is illogical to assume you're an expert on the stock market just because you know how to code. (There's a fallacy name for this one which is escaping me)


> What makes central authorities and mainstream popular media inherently more suspicious?

I'll take a stab.

Central authorities tend to be and to become political in nature. Their incentives include, among other things, maintaining their funding and not looking bad (eg: maintaining a purpose for existing, excusing their own misbehavior, making any political benefactors happy). What they say will probably align with those institutional incentives first, before truth. It can also stop them from saying things they ought to.

Mainstream popular media does not exist to be an objective arbiter of truth but instead because enough people want to consume it. It's a business, albeit a business that has an incredible amount of power over not only the public's opinion, but what they should care about, both through what they report and what they don't report. They will push as many emotional buttons as they can to keep you coming back. Because they have a lot of power over the public they are targets for actors wishing to advance their own goals. Individual journalists are not a-political and you shouldn't expect them to be. Assume all reporting is tribal (especially if you agree with it), and that not only is the story as presented probably biased towards their own view of the world but that they've probably also left inconvenient things out. Political creatures tend to associate with those they agree with, and are in turn controlled by the group. Potential ostracism from their in-group is another source of bias.


This makes sense. It's hard to find the truth given extreme polarization. I don't trust individual posts on social media. My reasoning for trusting mainstream news outlets was that maybe they have more journalistic integrity than the newcomers who have a lot less to lose. I guess I must rethink.


First, high frequency trading is using code to gain alpha in stock market trading. Tech expertise is more important than reading balance sheets in this arena. It may be illogical, but it works and are used by many high profile Wall Street firms.

Most people working in tech have sense of awareness, that things are not quite what they seem. That's why there are so many people in tech heavily involved in decentralization, crypto, etc.


While I agree in principle, the easiest way to fall for propaganda is to believe yourself immune to it.

I would advocate for a two-track solution where you keep a healthy skepticism but try to be aware of your own pareidolia and possible lack of understanding of certain topics, and accept the idea that we are just jumping from one bubble to another (notice how "question the narrative" people tend to speak and think along the same tropes?)

I don't mean total skepticism of everything for its own sake, but the idea that a person ought to pick their battles carefully and keep reminding themselves that they can't understand the world as easily as they think they do. It's important not to confuse skepticism for insight or critical thought.


> Always question everything you are told, especially by central authorities, mainstream popular media, etc.

This is how conspiracy theories start.


May I ask your definition of "conspiracy theory"?


Trump is a central authority and fox news is a mainstream popular media. I don't think that questioning them amounts to conspiracy theories or that doing it should get you banned.


What exactly is "Free Speech" are we talking about the constitution or some hard to defend philosophical idea?

There hasn't been any legal free speech issues here. Fundamentally, if you make a platform, you can (mostly) enforce whatever policies you want about the type of speech you allow. This is why Parler is trying to chase this from an anti-trust angle, not a 1st Amendment angle.

If you are talking about the more general philosophical idea, keep in mind we are talking on Hacker News. Here, right now we are moderated. Much discussion on Parler which caused Apple, Google, and Amazon to hit them with the ban hammer is banned here as well. Likewise, most online forums ban talk of murder, rape, death threats, etc.

Parler itself has policies against this kind of content, if they didn't, Apple at least wouldn't have allowed them on the App Store. Parler does not enforce their own Terms of Service. If they did, we wouldn't be here now.


Your commitment to free speech was likely never very deep or thoughtful if these events are enough for you to do a 180. Could it be you have fallen into a filter bubble so well insulated you don't realize it? Such a realization might also shake a person but it has the virtue of proximity to truth and the possibility of being corrected quite easily.


What happens when nobody is allowed to talk you down from this position?


I think everyone would benefit if we stopped using the phrase "free speech" because it consistently derails the conversation into a 1st amendment vs private companies argument. Which is a very tired argument at this point.

A better word for what's happening is "censorship" and society's willingness to allow organizations to censor their customers.


I think the real problem isn't around free speech, but the lack of consequences around falsehoods.


I know it's a video game, but I really think Hideo Kojima nailed it in MGS2 (2001):

https://youtu.be/C31XYgr8gp0?t=99

Or the transcript: https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/95454286


> I thought I believed in free speech, to the point where I started a company dedicated to providing privacy and communications products that were not subject to control by any central authority (that turns out to be very hard!) But watching the events of the past few years unfold I am no longer convinced that this would really make the world a better place.

I've gone completely the other way. At one point my thinking was that private companies running these platforms weren't a problem as long as there wasn't a monopoly. So government censorship is a problem (monopoly on force), Apple and Google are a problem (duopoly / two "regional" monopolies) but there is no reason to criticize Twitter for removing anything because they actually have competitors.

Recent events have led me to believe that removing central control from the distribution of information is an imperative.

Because having more alternatives only matters if the alternatives are actually different. Uniform obsequiousness to the party about to be in control of the government isn't a marketplace of ideas.

If I want to try to be ideologically consistent, there is still an antitrust argument to make. Uniform behavior when the alternative would attract a large contingent of users implies collusion, or government censorship via capitulation to some not so veiled threats from legislators. But one way or another this is a threat to democracy.

MSNBC is now arguing that Comcast et al should stop carrying Fox News. Comcast is the parent company of MSNBC.

The answer has to be disintermediation. Which also solves the real problem, which is centralized platforms purposely promoting controversial content to increase engagement. QAnon came from Facebook, not Parler.


Do recent events make you confident that you can trust every government administration not to abuse a hypothetical power to regulate speech?

Freedom of speech may have great value in helping to prevent (or reduce the probability of) totalitarian dictatorship and democide. If so, this value will only be realized infrequently, and only speculatively (e.g. when a politician comes close to taking power and fails, we can speculate that perhaps they would have succeeded if they had been able to regulate speech).

It's possible that freedom of speech makes society worse in various ways, but that this is outweighed by the positive value of even very infrequent averting of totalitarian dictatorship or democide.

One question is, does freedom of speech make totalitarianism more or less likely?


What is "a credible existential threat to civilization" to you? The recent riots seem to be more than adequately handled through existing law enforcement procedures. Obviously the police can't prevent every crime, but in this case investigation and prosecution seems to be enough to remove bad actors. We know what the consequences of free speech are, and even if the downsides are amplified 1000x by its enemies, the downsides are still manageable by existing institutions.

What are the known consequences of not having free speech? Is there a large country where this hasn't resulted in the death and/or oppression of millions? Even Mao's China had the Cultural Revolution, which was more destructive than the BLM and Capitol riots combined. Clearly not having free speech prevents neither civil unrest nor insurrection against the lawful authorities.

If you're looking for a dream solution where the world becomes great, than free speech will never get you there. You will probably be attracted to the unproven promises of some ideology or another due to lack of alternatives. If you're looking for a comparison of real-world consequences where one imperfect solution outperforms another, then so far free speech has yet to produce a Holocaust, a Holodomor, or a Three Years of Great Famine. The lack of free speech has.


>What is "a credible existential threat to civilization" to you? The recent riots seem to be more than adequately handled through existing law enforcement procedures.

The crowd (who had previously been chanting "hang Mike Pence") came within about 30 seconds of being face to face with Vice President Pence and some large fraction of Congress (source [0]). They came very close to being overrun before the building was evacuated.

We can't know what would have happened. But we know what might have happened. And it very nearly could have happened.

I'm not ready to call that "more than adequately handled".

[0] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/pence-rioters-capito...


For context, I don't expect any government to be able to prevent violence and conflict. The best we can hope for is to keep conflict to a manageable level. We've had numerous assassinations in this country in the past, and it held together. The threat of a possible assassination of a right-wing figure absolutely does not rise to the level of "existential threat". If you don't want to call it "adequately handled", fine, I'm not going to argue those semantic distinctions especially as it's not necessary for us to have the same perspectives here. I'm just saying that society is still intact, and would still be intact even if Mike Pence had been attacked.

Other than the personal tragedy to Pence and his family, the worst outcome of an assassination would be people struggling to reconcile their ecstatic glee that Pence had keen killed with their furious rage that right-wingers attacked someone. If anything, division and conflict within the Republican Party only seems to strengthen their opposition. These events lead to less power held by the right, not more. Republicans shooting themselves in the foot is not an "existential threat to civilization".


Law enforcement has been failing to take the threat of right-wing extremism seriously for a long time. I think that's what we should be focused on addressing instead of clamping down on speech. The situation at the capitol should never have been allowed to escalate to the point that it did.


> What is "a credible existential threat to civilization" to you?

For example: a delusional or demagogic leader who promulgates lies about the outcome of an election in order to fire up a mob and incite them to attempt to violently take over the seat of government of a country with nuclear weapons.

Not that such a thing would ever actually happen. I guess I'm just a worrier.


What's the worst-case scenario if they had succeeded? That they take some people hostage and have a stand-off until the FBI takes them down? There was no path to them attaining any actual power. Their actions were violent and bad, but had no actual effect on anybody outside of D.C. That is not what I call an "existential threat".

Again, you have to compare the downsides of free speech vs the downsides of censorship. If you only look at the cons of free speech, then of course you will hate it. But if you compare one impotent riot to the tens of millions dead as a result of suppression, then free speech seems much more valuable.


> There was no path to them attaining any actual power.

They currently have actual power. Their leader is currently the president of the United States. For the next 48 hours he could nuke Tehran if he wanted to.

And what actually happened is far from the worst-case scenario. Imagine a comparable mob, but well organized, and armed with assault rifles. That was (and remains) a real possibility.


You seem determined to focus only on the worst possible hypothetical downsides and not consider anything else. Of course in this case free speech will prove to be an evil that must be eliminated. You win.


I would think assassinations.


That would be very bad if it happened, although existing institutions proved sufficient to prevent this.

Still, we've had many assassinations in our history, often at the presidential level. None of them were "existential threats". They were all handled by existing institutions and did not require throwing out our core values.


The worst-case scenario is the end of democracy in the USA in the next 15 years.

If one side stays convinced the elections were fraudulent and Trump is a victim , it will cause a permanent shift in how Americans see their own democratic elections.

Historically, since democracy has existed, that vacuum is always filled by an authoritarian leader.


I find it odd that most of this could have been prevented if just one judge had said "you know what, you have a lot of notarized affidavits, and a reasonable claim to harm considering you lost the election by conventional wisdom, and you can't legally access any further data to prove your case unless we enter a discovery stage, so, sure, let's play this out and be done with it."

I also find it odd that none of the lawsuits prevented combined the affidavits (generally considered sufficient evidence to proceed) and reasonable proof of harm. Always one or the other (or neither).


Or maybe the legal team lied to the public and were truthful to the 50 different judges?


Nothing will pour more gas on that fire than censorship.

I basically agree with your analysis on that point, and I'm resentful of Trump for helping to create that problem. But I consider big tech censorship to be the first step to an inevitable end of democracy, "destroying it in order to save it".


It's a really hard problem because the "anti-censorship" argument is also used by the side that wants to destroy democracy once in power.

Historically, Americans have succeeded at destroying ideologies by grossly impeding on free speech and other constitutional rights when there was political will.

Currently, I'm not sure there is a sign of political will to restore democratic norms by suppressing white-supremacism.


> Historically, Americans have succeeded at destroying ideologies by grossly impeding on free speech and other constitutional rights when there was political will.

What is the history here?


Native American autonomy and agency, African Americans obtaining land after the Civil War or stimulus measures after the Great Depression, Communism... Of course, the combination of limiting free speech for decades leads to the death of the ideology because no one picks it up.


> Native American autonomy and agency, African Americans obtaining land after the Civil War

Unfortunately these were suppressed with violence, far more than mere censorship. I don't think these causes are dead at all, however. Many Native Americans still pursue these goals and occasionally enjoy victories, while the other cause has changed with the times and shifted focus from land to a more vague idea of reparations.

> stimulus measures after the Great Depression, Communism

I don't think those are dead at all. They may not be especially popular among normal people, but one can certainly get elected and openly preach violent revolutionary ideology like "We are coming to dismantle this deeply oppressive, racist, sexist, violent, utterly bankrupt system of capitalism, this police state. We cannot and will not stop until we overthrow it and replace it with a world based instead on solidarity, genuine democracy, and equality – a socialist world." [0] The organizers of BLM have explicitly stated that they are "trained organizers, trained Marxists" in the context of BLM's having adequate ideological direction. [1][2]

[0] https://www.socialistalternative.org/2020/07/07/kshama-sawan... [1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDqObO44e9s [2] https://therealnews.com/pcullors0722blacklives


However, what if the election really was fraudulent? I mean the video in Georgia after the election observer were sent home, were pretty incriminating.

Also seeing how BLM got backing and did way more damage, makes this all look pretty one-sided. It's only okay if they do it.


Interestingly, the democrats would have fixed the elections but only managed to win the Senate in a tight run-off?

After spending $100 million, the Trump campaign's legal team found no admissible evidence of election fraud, just videos they can use for future campaigns attacking democracy.


What is happening to this site? The comment above is alleging election fraud, which has been debunked by multiple court rulings from judges across the political spectrum. It is not downvoted, flagged, nothing. The comment responding it to it gets downvoted?


My best guess is that liberals stopped reading higher in the thread. I would hope that moderates and conservatives would not find those claims very credible, but perhaps they do or are not so offended as to downvote.

I was personally fine with the integrity of the election right up until censorship ramped up. Now I have zero confidence that I would hear about any problems. I still don't think the election was "stolen" or anything, but I'm no longer confident enough to downvote such an opinion. How are we supposed to really know what's true or not when we only hear one side of the story?


What censorship? The president himself was saying the election was stolen from him for two months and that was basically the only thing the nightly news talked about (other than COVID) every day. At some point we should be able to say "Enough, evidence or GTFO," without being accused of silencing discussion.

We're way past that point.


I don't know anything about what the nightly news ran. All I know is that when my news sources got around to talking about it, a couple days later it's "oh I have to be very careful what I say about this, I already got a notice threatening a ban". From my perspective, the period of free discussion was extremely limited.

I'm not at all sympathetic to the "we have to crush this viewpoint" camp since they amplified Hillary's claims of a "stolen election" for years. [0] You can't tell just one side "evidence or GTFO" and expect anyone to take you seriously. Especially when the new narrative is that elections are fair and unstealable, which directly contradicts the claims of an unfair stolen election in 2016.

[0] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2019...


> I'm not at all sympathetic to the "we have to crush this viewpoint" camp since they amplified Hillary's claims of a "stolen election" for years.

Clinton never claimed the counting of the votes were rigged, and I know of no serious politician claiming that Clinton should be installed as president because of the claimed Russian meddling, whether they believed it or not.

So, on one hand, we have a candidate who was pretty much dropped like a hot potato by fellow Democrats the moment she lost the election. On the other hand, we have mainstream media giving hundreds of hours of coverage to a president insisting he actually won the election, when all evidence says he didn't. ...And you're saying who is censored?


If your argument is actually that no one is being censored, then we will just stop there.


How is the video in Georgia debunked? They sent observers home (even a big newslet posted this on Twitter at that time), counted the ballots afterwards and Biden had a spike.

And btw I am from Germany, so I am on neither "camp".


No you saw a conspiracy theory peddled by Rudy Giuliani, the man in charge of the Trump legal challenge to the election.

The video is so wrongly interpreted, Republicans were the first one to debunk it. It's important to note, in a video, when someone leaves the screen or the room... you can't assume they've been sent home.

More info here: https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/dec/04/facebook-p...


From experience, evidence-based conversations here are limited when it comes to politics unfortunately.


You mean how one side for the last four years has said that Trump "stole" the election due to Russian interference.

The fact is, this is all whataboutism. This is all due to instructional failure. Americans increasing do not trust the institutions, the media, the government, 'elites'. This lack of trust is the root cause for growing conspiracy theories. The answer to this is not to stifle speech, but to have more speech. After all, sunlight is the best disinfectant.


The Intelligence Committee of a Republican-led Senate confirmed the Russian interference and managed to write a 996 page report with all the evidence.

The failure I see is Americans not wanting to read (or skim) the reports but being satisfied with sound-bites.

Source: https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/sites/default/files/docu...


Couple of things:

1) I'm not an American and don't give a shit about American politics

2) Do you think that Russian interference changed the result of the election? If it didn't than the huffing and puffing about the Russians stealing the election is just as false as Trump's current claims

3) Trump supporters can equally point to affidavits and "evidence" about vote tampering. Whether you believe that evidence or not is another story.

My point was not about trump or biden stealing the election, it was that institutional trust is low. People no longer believe what the government or the media put out. No doubt some of this is driven by the "narrative approach" to truth, where everything tells a story that aligns to a group's ideology.


> fire up a mob and incite them to attempt to violently take over the seat of government of a country with nuclear weapons

You know the buttons/switches/etc to launch missiles (nuclear or not) are not at the Speaker's podium in the House, right?

In fact, "taking over the seat of government" here was literally just that.. a physical seat. The US government applies authority in people via roles not via seating position.

Were they a bunch of assholes? Yes and they should be prosecuted as such.

Was it a "violent take over"? Not a chance.


"Was it a "violent take over"? Not a chance"

Sure it was.

This is how a 'coup' works - the objective is not to 'take control of the country' by force, but of the political system.

If that violent mob was successful in 'stopping the count' - then it very seriously threatens the legitimacy of Biden being president.

Why do you think that Congress reconvened right after the violence and very quickly pushed through the vote? And didn't wait a few days?

If the vote confirmation doesn't take place, someone takes the case to SCOTUS wherein they might rule the process was not complete and 'now you have two Presidents' - and very ugly ambiguous situation that could spiral out of control very quickly.

The fact that SCOTUS could have ruled 'incomplete process' may embolden millions of 'hard Constitutionalists' to one side.

This stuff happens all over the world, all the time. These things are fragile.

It was a nice little lesson in how actually fragile 'even the USA is' and that this is serious stuff.


> 'now you have two Presidents'

If you're going to imagine Constitutional crises, you should understand the rules we're working within. Check out the first section of the 20th Amendment and please report back how there could be two Presidents.

Narrator: Turns out the system isn't that fragile. It continues on regardless because there are contingencies built in and improved upon over the years.


Obviously there wouldn't be '2 Presidents' by any reasonable application of a set of very clear rules.

But those rules are not clear.

One camp would believe, that Biden won a fair election, as stated by the DOJ, Homeland Security and the State Officals (it's their perogative), and that the preformative process of validating the results in Congress wasn't entirely necessary.

The other claim would claim with 'the election was disputed' and that the failure to confirm the results in Congress was a 'fully legal act' that abnegates the possibility of Biden from taking office.

AKA '2 Presidents' by virtue of you you interpret the outcomes of those events.

The 20th Amendment does not help us clarify that situation.

In these contentious scenarios, the credibility of institutions is stretched and populism starts to take hold.

It would be major crisis.

This is why institutions started to rally around 'one camp' as to facilitate a proper transfer of power.

Since much of this debacle was based off of misinformation, it speaks directly to issues with 'truth' and 'freedom of expression'. I'm not sure if there is an obvious answer on the table, but there are definitely problems.


Thanks for clarifying. I think your example is perfect:

Your conspiracy theory is not based facts, law, or well-established interpretations of either and yet you're fully bought in and sharing it. I see how that could be dangerous, but I think silencing you would be worse for you personally and society as a whole.

Just don't threaten violence and we're good.


Answer the question:

'Who would be President on Jan 20?' - if the vote to approve the electoral results on Jan 6th were not completed - or - if the results provided by the states were 'rejected' by a congressional vote.

?

Bonus points if you can tell us how the 20th Amendment clarifies that for us.

Also, irrespective of what the legal outcome might be, what would most US citizens actually believe? Would the losing faction have enough faith in the institutional decisions such that they do not revolt? After all, we just saw a fair election in which ~30% of the electorate 'do not believe' the results.

You do see the 20 000 soldiers out there for inauguration? Why do you suppose they are there?

Finally - here is some background material to help figure out who wins in the end [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_coups_and_coup_attempt...


> Who would be President on Jan 20?' - if the vote to approve the electoral results on Jan 6th were not completed [...] Bonus points if you can tell us how the 20th Amendment clarifies that for us.

Nancy Pelosi.

Amendment XX: “The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January [...] If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified."

3 USC § 19(a)(1): “If, by reason of death, resignation, removal from office, inability, or failure to qualify, there is neither a President nor Vice President to discharge the powers and duties of the office of President, then the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall, upon his resignation as Speaker and as Representative in Congress, act as President.”


^ Exactly. There are lots of unclear and open to interpretation areas of law but this isn't one of them.

We have a well-established process with clear steps which apply in good times and bad times, whether any of the players like them at the moment or not.

It's not tough but people have to discard their conspiracy theories in favor of facts, laws, and reason.


There is no 'conspiracy theory' in the clear and obvious observation of an insurrection on Capitol Hill wherein many attempted to thwart the Jan 6 validation of votes.

Despite Dragon's decent response, it is far from clear what the outcome would be where the vote to have been stopped.

It's also false to suggest that the laws are clear enough to disambiguate these situations.

At very least, there would be a constitutional legal war the likes of which the country has never seen.

But most importantly - the issue is one of populism: if 1/3 of the country does not believe the results of what was by all accounts an unambiguous outcome - and were capable of literally stopping the process - then it 'doesn't matter what the law is' because already the system will have gone beyond objective reality and due process. It's Game of Thrones then.


> It's not tough but people have to discard their conspiracy theories in favor of facts, laws, and reason.

OTOH, one should not ignore conspiracy theories if one is trying to explain the actions of Q cultists.

Just because there is a clear reality doesn’t mean that every actor is motivated by that rather than a distorted, conspiracy-theory driven one on which fringe or outright untenable theories of law are among the basic operating premises.


I'm thinking less about interpreting others' actions and motivations and more about understanding what is possible, what is likely, and what is real.


"If a President shall not have been chosen before ..."

"If, by reason of death, resignation, removal from office, inability, or failure to qualify ...”

So Biden will not have been 'chosen' or did not 'qualify' ?

If the Jan 6 vote did not happen or if the results were not approved - Joe Biden was still unambiguously 'chosen' by in a free and fair election by all accounts?

Would the factual legitimacy of his election result in SCOTUS validating his claim to the Presidency?

Can the voting procedure (Act of 1887) [1] meaningfully deny the Biden his ascension to President?

VP Pence himself (a lawyer) indicated that he did not have the authority to stop the process.

It seems pretty ambiguous, and that legal scholars would be all over the place with this, no?

But my question was rhetorical - to illustrate that there's a wall of legal ambiguity in that situation, enough to enable considerable populist rancour to take hold, whereupon the winner may not have enough political momentum to actually take power, irrespective of what some entity like SCOTUS says.

Would Democrats even remotely accept anything other that Biden as President?

Why would they ever submit to 'Pelosi' as being President - which would be an admission of defeat, or even or possibly another election?

If the 'election was rigged' - doesn't that invalidate the entire Congress as well? Including Pelosi? And all the Senators?

If a free and fair election were already held in November, and it was overturned for political reasons, what would be the point of having another one, if the results can be ignored on the basis of populism?

It would be total chaos.

[1] https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/3/15


> If the Jan 6 vote did not happen or if the results were not approved - Joe Biden was still unambiguously 'chosen' by in a free and fair election by all accounts?

The only account that has any force under the Constitution is the one made by Congress of the electoral votes cast by the States. That's why it was the target of the insurrection; if that could be manipulated, whether by giving courage to secret allies who might otherwise have a failure of conviction in Congress (what Trump overtly called on the crowd to do), or intimidation, or by forcibly removing members who were obstacles, then the election results could be undone; the “steal” could be “stopped”.

> Would the factual legitimacy of his election result in SCOTUS validating his claim to the Presidency?

Almost certainly not, and if it did it would be the Supreme Court voiding the Constitutional reservation of the role of judging electoral results from Congress, a different kind of coup.

> Would Democrats even remotely accept anything other that Biden as President?

No, if it was clear that the count was going to be obstructed and incomplete, rather than completed with a different outcome, but the House was capable of acting, they'd probably just elect Biden Speaker.

> If the 'election was rigged' - doesn't that invalidate the entire Congress as well? Including Pelosi? And all the Senators?

Legally, they are separate elections held at the same time, so, no, not in the eyes of the law, even if the first part was a conclusion of law, rather than a propaganda point to rationalize an application of raw power, which is what it would be.

> If a free and fair election were already held in November, and it was overturned for political reasons, what would be the point of having another one, if the results can be ignored on the basis of populism?

The same reason authoritarian regimes usually have elections; purely performative, rather than substantive.

> It would be total chaos.

Well, yeah, that's not really in dispute.


Ok, well it seems you have a lot of faith in the clarity of some of those Constitutional scenarios, which I guess is good.


> If that violent mob was successful in 'stopping the count' - then it very seriously threatens the legitimacy of Biden being president.

If it just stopped the count, and Congress took no other relevant action thereafter, the Presidency and Vice Presidency would become vacant at noon on the 20th and Nancy Pelosi, by virtue of her office as Speaker of the House, would succeed to the Presidency.

But supposed the Congress (or a sufficient subset to deny a quorum in either House) were detained, and Grassley and Pelosi were killed. Then, when Trump's term expired, Trump loyalist Mike Pompeo (while cabinet members traditionally submit their resignation at a change in administration, they don't automatically leave office) would be next in line of succession with vacancies in the Speaker and President Pro Tem positions.

And, more likely the goal, what if Pence were killed (and probably Grassley, too) but then.Senators were released and a President Pro Tem amenable to exercising the arbitrary power Gohmert suggested the presiding officer would have in the electoral vote count were elected, and presided over the vote count as the Vice President was vacant?

(I do think any scenario results in “two Presidents”, I do think several result in “one President (in some cases of dubious legitimacy) who isn't Joe Biden, and (in several scenarios) is either Trump or a Trump loyalist."


I don't think there's a credible threat to civilization, but perhaps a credible threat to our prevailing thoughts on governance.

There is no good justification that the people of Los Angeles should have to live under the rules and cultural customs of Mobile Alabama. Nor should the people of Mobile Alabama be forced to live under the rules and cultural norms of Los Angeles. As long as we re forced to toggle back and forth between which group is forcing the other to live under their own preferences there cannot be peace.

The separation you are seeing is real, but it's not negative. The path forward is more freedom, perhaps even separation.


What rules and customs would the people of LA force on Mobile? And vice versa?

Sucks to be part of the black population of Mobile, I guess.


The black population of Mobile would be more free to run their schools the way they want, including perhaps things like having prayer in class. If Alabama closed its borders to undocumented immigrants the wages of poor blacks would likely rise due to reduced labor supply.


It's a pretty dark path then. There aren't many examples of countries separating peacefully.


There are examples of federal systems where things that can be agreed upon are shared at the federal level, and things where disagreements cannot be reconciled are managed at the state level.

One of the ways we've gone wrong as a society recently is thinking that there can only be one way, and everyone has to adhere to it. People need to be allowed to disagree, because everyone will find themselves on the side of "wrong" (i.e. less optimal for achieving one's goals) at some point.


We have states openly talking about secession. Of course they're not serious yet, but it's like dropping the d word in a marriage, it can't be undone. I predict it won't get much more violent than we've seen over the course of the last year. And when the divorce does happen it will seem inevitable.


Covid19 is pretty much a product of no free speech, they claimed it to be "misinformation" at first about human to human, no doctors were allowed to talk about it, what else evidence do you need? Like don't trust the wearing facial mask is not only helpful for others but also yourself "misinformation"? So you see, the problem is, who decide what's "misinformation"? And what if they are wrong, like they did so many times, but in a time no other voice is allowed? Think about it


Here are some reasons that may talk you down:

* The world, and the US has always gone through periods of chaos. This is not the first time we've seen violence and strife, with assassinated presidents and students mowed down by bullets. What's happening now is not worse than what happened before and somehow we still kept free speech intact.

* While certain speech is hateful, painful, and even somewhat dangerous, stifling it only increases pressure and isolation among those being censored. They become more extreme. Furthermore, they are made to seem dangerous simply by the fact that we are censoring them rather than letting them be. The ACLU used to defend KKK marches, and we derided them for the idiots that they are, but still let them march. Furthermore, there's no way to engage in and work through the mental mistakes these people are making if we don't even let them talk. Lastly, they get a persecution complex and don't trust anything the "other side" says. It makes things worse.

* One of the main reasons these people are getting violent is because they are suffering, in poverty, without jobs, and recognize that something is seriously wrong society. They falsely attribute it to race or communism or some other thing, rather than the greedy corporate oligarchy that only gives the common man scraps. The elite would rather resort to censorship than to actually address the problems that cause these people to be unsatisfied and vulnerable to fascistic propaganda. Free speech is not dangerous in an equitable society.

* similarly to the last point, who will decide what speech is ok and what speech is not? The public? That would be mob mentality without standard. The government? Most politician are greedy and self serving. Corporations like facebook? They are beholden to the dollar. No one can be trusted to fairly choose what is not ok to say.


> Lastly, one of the main reasons these people are getting violent is because they are suffering, in poverty, without jobs, and recognize that something is seriously wrong society.

Yeah, if you look at the people detained and identified in the Capitol riot, they aren't people who got violent because they were suffering, in poverty, or without jobs; they are largely middle class and up, currently employed, well-established. It's violent defense of privilege, not a desperate response to poverty and suffering.


I don't know the veracity of your statement, but censorship, particularly of right wing narratives, has been a hot topic for a long time, not just after the capitol riot. Your statement would imply that the massive support for Trump is only due to people wanting to protect their privilege. You are denying reality by ignoring the vast swath of poor people that voted for Trump because he claimed he would address their needs. This is an undeniable fact.


> Your statement would imply that the massive support for Trump is only due to people wanting to protect their privilege

No, I was addressing a claim about why people are becoming violent in the context of the Capitol insurrection (which, while a large mob, is not a large or representative share of Trump supporters).

Why that narrow group is getting violent and why the much larger group of Trump supporters support Trump have no necessary relation; they are different effects and different groups of people, but if you want to change topics from the violent fringe to Trump support mother generally...

> You are denying reality by ignoring the vast swath of poor people that voted for Trump because he claimed he would address their needs.

Trump lost most decisively among the poor, and won the better-off. This is an undeniable fact.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1184428/presidential-ele...


43% of US poor voting for Trump (from your own link) is just going to be ignored?

By the way, you never addressed most of my original post, rather resorting to picking off one part with a snarky comment, somehow implying that it's obvious that censorship is the way to go and it's not worthy of debate.


> But we've now done the experiment in a big way and the results seem overwhelmingly negative to me, to the point where they present a credible existential threat to civilization, on a par with climate change.

A lot of these issues seem largely peculiar to the US. Trumpism, birtherism, Pizzagate, "Stop the steal", QAnon, etc – all movements originating in the US, focused on US-specific political issues, and with most of their followers in the US. Other first world countries don't seem to have this issue to anywhere near the same extent.

And that's why I don't think it is "a credible existential threat to civilization, on a par with climate change". A credible existential threat to the future existence of the United States maybe, but the US != civilisation. The US could all magically disappear tomorrow, and human civilisation would survive. It would be a setback, no doubt, because the US makes an important contribution to the global economy, but nothing the world couldn't recover from.

And, the realistic worst case scenario isn't the US magically disappearing. The realistic worst case scenario is that Americans get worse and worse at co-existing with each other to the point that the idea of breaking up the US becomes mainstream, and then it maybe actually happens. If that came to pass, it would be the end of America as we've known it, but it wouldn't be the end of human civilisation.


> Other first world countries don't seem to have this issue to anywhere near the same extent.

The kinds of things you listed happen all the time in marginal, developing, or failing democracies. There are a lot of people who believe that the US shares many of its attributes with ailing democracies, so this should not be too surprising.


I'm not sure it's free speech exactly, but the ability to hang put with like minded people exclusively. The internet makes that fairly easy. You just ban everyone who disagrees from your little forum, or drive them off.

I don't see any clear fix though. Even the big sites like Facebook and Reddit have that going on.

Of course, I admit this went on before with things like religious groups that isolated people to convert them to the cult, but it's far easier to generate the effect now.


I’m stunned at how frequently this sentiment is being brought up. We have a significant event happen and many of us are so quickly ready to give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety.

I can almost forgive younger folks for these sentiments, but those of us who lived through 9/11 should know better.

How many of us lamented the surveillance and overreach of the government then? Remember all the news articles about potential for repealing the patriot act? Remember how as time went by the overreach felt more and more egregious?

Would our country be in a better place if in an alternate history we had near-perfect surveillance on civil rights leaders? On purported communists in the 50s? On bootleggers? Agitators for suffrage? On black people during reconstruction?

If you think “yes” then it’s consistent to want more surveillance now. If you’re like me and think that such surveillance then would have the country in a worse place now then recognize the current moment for what it is: a serious attack on our democracy and a reflection of deep divide. It is NOT a good reason to become Yet Another Authoritarian State.


Consider this hypothetical: what if Trump had won and Biden supporters stormed the white house, and had organized using a primarily left-leaning social network. Would AWS and others, have responded the same way? My guess is no. That isn't to say that they wouldn't do anything, but I doubt the social network would be completely shut down with so little notice.


You wrote "hypothetical" but what you presented was an evidence-free strawman.


This comment doesn't contribute to the discussion. What evidence would be helpful?


If you are only for free speech if you find the speech tolerable, then you don't understand the concept or you are not for free speech.

Similarly, If you only support democracy if people vote the way you want, then you do not understand the concept of democracy or you do not support democracy because that is not what supporting democracy means.

There has been violent riots in the US all throughout 2020, I think they were bad, but I don't think for one moment the right solution was to prevent the people who attended them from being able to voice their opinions.

There were also claims that the 2016 election was fraudulent and illegitimate since 2016.

If you were okay with all of that, but just object to this because of the outcome, you should look at why.

It may be worth reading Public Opinion and Liberal Principles, Conjectures and Refutations, Chapter 17 by Karl Popper (https://pastebin.com/1JdawXUd)


One counterpoint: everyone knows that as the makers of these tools we have power over others. Somebody somewhere must have a plan to manipulate us. Personally I take whatever I read with a huge grain of salt and stick to time-tested principles with minor updates.


it's possible that free speech is not the problem, but internet. Mush like how eating food isn't bad but concentrated, processed foods are. They say "everything in moderation", but with technology we are way passed "normal". We have super communication power, and organization wield those powers for financial gain.

Free speech in not dangerous in a low-tech environment, its like whole food. Technology magnifies humans, our good and bad.

I think ted kaczynski (unabomber) was right in many ways. Think about how much damage humans can inflict on the rain forest without technology. It would take considerably more energy. Same thing with technology and communication.


I'm going to just take a guess that the hundreds of replys basically regurgitating talking points have not helped your thoughts. I dunno what the answer is, but good luck man, it's a scary world we live in right now.


Indeed.

I have been on HN since it launched, and I have never had a comment garner this many responses. I've had to stop reading them because I just can't keep up. But from the ones I have read, I am even more dismayed than I was before. The most disturbing thing to me is the number of people who are just shrugging off the capitol riot as just another cost of doing business in a free society. If the riot were an isolated incident that might be a valid position, but it wasn't. It was the culmination of years of a very deliberate propaganda strategy designed to get people to discount facts. And it worked. That is what scares me, because once you succeed in getting people to ignore facts, you are truly gazing into the abyss.

We seem to have dodged the worst of the potential fallout for the time being. Next time we might not be so lucky.


I was watching Legal Eagle discussing if Trump incited the mob / insurrection https://youtu.be/XwqAInN9HWI and he goes over some previous cases of “incitement of violence” and it’s crazy how high the bar is.

On the other hand, tech companies can very quickly take down illegal content, like child pornography or people singing Happy Birthday. I do think they have the technical chops + content moderators to at least try to curb some of the more inflammatory posts.

But, it’s not illegal. So they won’t do it, in fact, they’ll profit like Facebook matching body armor ads to groups of people plotting to hang the Vice President. The solution might be to lax the definition of imminent threat, or consider that someone with millions of followers is basically planning acts of violence with a retweet. The fact that people think “it’s just a retweet” means you have zero responsibility and accountability for influencing millions of people shows how we are not prepared technological changes.

I can’t talk you out of it because I am very confused and conflicted. I think I know what needs change, and even how, but not change to what.


> consider that someone with millions of followers is basically planning acts of violence with a retweet

So by your standard, would https://twitter.com/rezaaslan/status/1307107507131875330 count as planning acts of violence, or would he need more followers first, since he's not at "millions" yet?


Well, this is the thing isn't it, threats of nonspecific violence are a normal part of American politics. You could find thousands of examples of that kind of thing from both sides.

The unusual thing is turning that violence into reality.

Would it be great to dial that down? Yes. Will the Republicans stop doing enraging things and calm the situation? No.


It's not quite a plan, is it? Like, what exactly are they asking people to burn? "It"? And it's not necessarily advocating violence, either; while arson is terrible and destructive, it is not necessarily violence against people.

It's pretty well short of actually calling people to violent acts. The wording would need to be more specific.


I hope the judge in my trial will be as charitable in their interpretation of my words, as you are to Reza Aslan's.


Sure; they'd probably apply strict scrutiny [0]. In the USA, speech is typically protected by default; the burden of proof is on the prosecution to show that the speech was harmful.

Seriously, have you never heard an angry American yell that they are frustrated with the status quo and would like to "burn it down" [1]? It is a common refrain and generally taken as a hyperbolic statement about the speaker's dissatisfaction with the actions of the government.

Finally, if you're in the USA, you have the right to a trial by jury if you're accused of crimes [2]; you do not need to worry that some appointed judge will find your speech harmful, but rather that a panel of your peers will unanimously agree that your speech is harmful.

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

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burn_It_Down

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sixth_Amendment_to_the_United_...


You're discussing law as it currently stands, while the original poster proposed changing the law.


To what end are you arguing? Do you honestly think that the 6th Amendment will be repealed, or that strict scrutiny will suddenly not be applied when appropriate?

(I suspect that this entire comment thread was started in order to try to pull a rhetorical gotcha, and you didn't actually expect somebody to respond to your words as written, but hopefully you've learned some constitutional law on this beautiful sunny MLK Jr. Day.)


How is it a "rhetorical gotcha" to ask what it would look like to consistently apply a proposed principle or law?

Equal protection under the law is also a constitutional principle (I knew that one already, thanks), but it seems in short supply in much of modern thinking and advocacy.

The first question somebody should ask when advocating some kind of measure aimed at their adversaries is: what would it look like if this was applied to my friends also?

Groups like the ACLU used to think this way, which is why they defended the most undesirable groups advancing the most repulsive ideas.

That kind of thinking is going by the wayside as longstanding liberal principles like freedom of speech, due process, presumption of innocence, etc. are all going by the wayside, tarred by their association with the "right wing."


I agree entirely with your point. I think, however, that there's something of a false equivalence: It is not the case that the tweets which are inciting violence are coming from all political believers in equal share.

We don't get "longstanding liberal principles" by publishing our speech on a private corporate platform. Freedom of speech and due process are merits of the law and not of Twitter's terms of service. Twitter is free to ban all incitements to violence without banning all hyperbolic political speech.


They ACLU haven't left their liberal principles by the wayside. They warned about the power of social media companies as recently as January 8, after the events at the Capitol.

https://www.newsweek.com/aclu-counsel-warns-unchecked-power-...

"ACLU Counsel Warns of 'Unchecked Power' of Twitter, Facebook After Trump Suspension"

"For months, President Trump has been using social media platforms to seed doubt about the results of the election and to undermine the will of voters. We understand the desire to permanently suspend him now, but it should concern everyone when companies like Facebook and Twitter wield the unchecked power to remove people from platforms that have become indispensable for the speech of billions – especially when political realities make those decisions easier," the statement read.

"President Trump can turn his press team or Fox News to communicate with the public, but others – like many Black, Brown, and LGTBQ activists who have been censored by social media companies – will not have that luxury. It is our hope that these companies will apply their rules transparently to everyone."


The statement you quoted is a good statement, I agree. And maybe the ACLU is re-finding its way. But the ACLU has changed, and it's not just me saying this, it's the former head of the ACLU:

https://www.spiked-online.com/2020/02/14/the-aclu-would-not-...

> ‘I believe that the national ACLU, if the Skokie case arose today, would not take it. They might take the same case for the Martin Luther King Jr Association, but they wouldn’t take it for the Nazis.’

> As Kaminer has long argued, the rot has been setting in for some time. But since Trump’s election, the ACLU has been more noticeably shying away from contentious free-speech cases.


> But we've now done the experiment in a big way and the results seem overwhelmingly negative to me, to the point where they present a credible existential threat to civilization, on a par with climate change.

Free speech is certainly a double-edged sword. For example, would you be comfortable running a large site on which users spread misinformation about climate change? Would you continue allowing that misinformation?

It’s a pretty hard question for me personally.

(Practically speaking, you might seek to redirect profits from that misinformation toward donations that help combat climate change, or something similar to offset the impact of that misinformation.)


I’d be fine with that. Climate change is hard enough that I don’t think banning dissent and reinforcing groupthink is gonna get us to a good place. We should think about designing better solutions and incentives to adhere to those solutions instead. Banning misinformation won’t cure the desire not to go along with a plan. It just kicks problems with aligning incentives down the road.


It's up to every democracy to decide the limits of any freedom. Germany bans Nazi symbols, communications, and organizations altogether, and it doesn't appear as if their state is suffering.

Also, Apple and Android ban porn, which is basically an entire industry.


I think you are confusing the freedom with the technologies used to amplify the use of that freedom. This is similar to the current debate about the second amendment. The right to bare arms doesn't mean we give everyone an M60. The freedom of speech doesn't mean that we should give everyone an unlimited megaphone to the world. Licenses for the use of powerful technologies have been pretty effective in limiting the damages they can cause in untrained hands. Maybe the solution to your troubles is a license to broadcast media on the internet.


> Freedom of speech doesn't mean that we should give everyone an unlimited megaphone to the world

But should we have a huge megaphone manufacturer handing out free megaphones to anybody who shares their political views, while refusing to sell megaphones to people who don't, and actively trying to prevent competitors from making their own megaphones?


> The right to bare [sic] arms doesn't mean we give everyone an M60.

Actually, most second amendment advocates believe that this is exactly what it means. They think that the whole point of the second amendment is to empower people to resist the government by physical force.


And they are wrong as evidenced by many Supreme Court rulings. Find any point of view and I'll find a group of people that take that view to an untenable extreme. The only reason they have that view is because they live in a world where its not a reality. If it were those people would likely be dead due to a pandemic of gun violence.


> If it were those people would likely be dead due to a pandemic of gun violence

Isn't that what's happening here, that the belief in "the right to storm the capitol" has got out of hand? After a while it doesn't matter that that's not the SC ruling, if it's what enough people with guns believe.

Prior to the viral pandemic people argued there was a pandemic of gun violence. It turned out that was a drop in the bucket. If the Vegas shooting happened today, it would be a mere blip in the excess death numbers from coronavirus.


> And they are wrong as evidenced by many Supreme Court rulings.

Right. Because the Supreme Court never makes a mistake, never reverses itself, and is completely immune to political influence.

If your best argument for being optimistic about the future of civilization is the Supreme Court then you've just made my point for me.


I think you made your point, or lack there of, when you considered my point invalid due to the lack of absolute perfection and infallibility of Supreme Court rulings. Absolutist thinking is generally a sign of a weak argument.

Oh yeah, "as evidenced" doesn't mean "due to" as well. You might want to work on your reading comprehension there. The Supreme Court is mearly ratifying what the majority of Americans will accept. And handing everyone an M60 ain't it.


Supreme Court is [merely] ratifying what the majority of Americans will accept.

If this were true then we wouldn't need a Supreme Court at all, and/or it wouldn't matter who gets appointed.

You used the word "wrong". The SC doesn't decide right and wrong. The SC decides what the MO of the government will be, until Congress or a future SC changes it. It's a statement of position, a very powerful one, but not a statement of correctness. The history of the SC makes clear that treating what they say as "right" and everyone else as "wrong" won't lead to any consistent sense of right or wrong.

It's a fundamental principle of the US that people can hold opinions that differ from the current law of the land.


What Supreme Court rulings? The most recent one DC vs Heller explicitly back the individual right to bear arms and forced DC and other cities to roll back their gun control.


As a side question, how do you feel about spam blockers?

I don't mean this question in bad faith, and I support spam blocking, but spam blocking seems incompatible with a free-speech absolutist position.


The analogy is invalid. Spam is something nobody wants to receive, by definition. The people on Parler voluntarily wanted to communicate with each other but were prevented from doing so by a third party.

A formulation of freedom of speech that might be useful to contemplate is Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." Deplatforming by a third-party that isn't part of the conversation definitely runs afoul of the "seek (and) receive" part of that ideal.


> But we've now done the experiment in a big way

But this is not the case. I am sincerely puzzled to read this by you. When did we have communication not subject to control by any central authority? Usenet?

And we’re still operating — since 1947 — under a national security regime that has practically unaccountable “agencies” that are definitively in the “information” business.

We have yet to see what unfettered communication, operating in a political environment where NO agency operates in the dark and is above the law.


Let me try to talk you down a bit.

The real problem is that those with money and agenda can create a platform that is difficult for truthful free speech to compete against.

Whether it's Fox News, Republicans and the Capitol Riot or The Sun/Times, Murdoch and Brexit, the fact that the rich have a megaphone that outcompetes truthful free speech is a problem.

So, my question to you is: how do we amplify truth via free speech against these malicious agents?

Unfortunately, I don't know the answer to that question.


I think what matters is to distinguish between "free speech" and "free propaganda".

What we have today isn't a loss of "free speech", but a surge of "propaganda" by powerful actors and the government.

Really nothing here has to do with "free speech" and everything is about what should be done when people in power start exerting propaganda to reaffirm their rule over others?


I still believe in free speech, but now I think that free speech has to come from someone real who actually believes what they're saying. @Bob12345 isn't really someone from the next town over from you, he's a low-paid worker in a troll farm, and his "opinions" are whatever the hell was handed down to him today.

I'd say that full anonymity/pseudonymity works better, but QAnon has shown it's still entirely possible to flood anonymous boards with posts saying whatever nonsense you want them to say -- and to get the rest of the userbase involved in constructing more elaborate rationalizations for your nonsense.


The problem was mostly in having an incompetent leader that spreads propaganda.

The influence of a man in the seat can not be ignored and never will.

But as every problem the society will encounter, the most important thing is adapting so this can not happen again.

Eg. The spread of "fake news" was more profitable and cheaper than real news is one issue that should be addressed.


Having free speech is bad, but not having it is even worse. Limiting free speech is a slippery slope once you start it hard to stop it. Suppose what could have happened if there were no free speach but bad actors in the government or in big corporations?


It's because we're on average very unhealthy - part of that is the disconnect from others, we don't have genuine community. We used have multi-generation households: kids, parents, grandparents, maybe even great grandparents all helping out - everyone learning from a seemingly infinite amount of knowledge.

If we weren't in this current dis-eased state then also the community of rational, reasonable people, would be ready and able to rally to counter any threats in the physical world.

What concerns me the most is the online bubbles of irrational, propaganda filled narratives, where if you attempt to engage and counter their narrative at all with reason, you'll be near immediately banned/blocked.

These irrational mobs will find a way to communicate in groups, and they may begin to use encrypted private messaging exclusively. The only solution to this is strong community - online and offline - along with creating a culture of healing, to open people's hearts and minds; we already know these mobs are being influenced by foreign bad actors who want to destroy democracy and cause turmoil, so they need to be confronted/addressed as well.

If we can't get these online mobs under control somehow, to reach them and start helping them reason, if things escalate to guerilla-like civil warfare, then we'll have to start creating borders around our cities with identity verification required. Hopefully it doesn't come anywhere close to that, if it does it could be within 20 years though. It really depends on the policy that gets put into place - people need a UBI and at least 80% of their health needs covered, otherwise dis-ease progression, including stress, leads to lesser educated people with less critical thinking ability, and more hate for the system they will blame for their hardship and suffering and want to destroy said system.

Edit to add: lazy people downvote, add a qualitative reply instead.


Maybe the simple solution you are looking for is that lies should not be considered free speech in the same way that false advertising and fraud is considered illegal in the land of the first amendment. Food for thought.


What is a lie though? And how do you legislate that people speak the truth.

Besides - everyone talks about speaking "their truth", not "the truth".

Trump got in trouble for saying "The election was stolen", but what if he said "I feel like the election was stolen". Its not a lie, he might feel like that.


You just litigated the point. Saying the election was stolen versus you felt like the election was stolen are two completely different things. Regardless, if there is overwhelming proof that something is considered to be true by evidence you can audit and review, straight up denying it is indeed grounds to call into question your ability to speak truth.


I think you are not comparing it with the hypothetical situation that would exist if free speech was clamped down upon.

You are looking through the lens of "my side is in charge of the censorship and my side is right".

Throughout history and around the world you can find plenty of examples of censorship which had really dire consequences.

If your group was at some point to become the one who is censored, how will you be able to argue for free speech?

Imagine for example if there was a retaliation from a far left group who blew something up. Then the right would find some tweets and call it "incitement of violence". Then Trump could enact the Insurrection Act, call people domestic terrorists, and censor for public safety reasons. Your argument then would be undoubtedly for "free speech", and you would have to rely on the good nature of the aggressor to provide that to you. Yes this is far-fetched but it's not unusual in other countries and throughout history.


Keep in mind that the costs associated with free speech are currently visible and obvious, but (precisely because we have free speech) the costs of censorship are not. It is true that a free society will have more protests and unrest, sometimes violently, but that doesn't change the promise that a free country is less likely to have a multi-year civil war or government led genocide in a decade. Given that four people died at the Capitol and millions typically die in wars, that's a trade-off I'm willing to make. The argument for free speech typically doesn't claim it's better than an optimal world where only truthful and productive speech is possible, just that it's better than what you _actually get_ in practice if you attempt to only allow truthful speech, which is handing unchecked power to the people making that judgement.


What is the evidence that is convincing you that "we've now done the experiment [of free speech] in a big way and the results seem overwhelmingly negative"?


Ditto. BLM and Antifa must be removed from various platforms.


The platforms that amplify these kooks are the same ones that amplify our anxiety. I try, somewhat successfully, to ignore both and get on with my life.

If the lunatics ever did come close to truly taking over then we might have something to worry about but even with the constant onslaught of the past four years it feels as if the establishment — what they criticize as the deep state but which is really just the state — has prevailed as it always has done.

Recent civil rights protests are a different but intertwined thread. I hope that we see some progress there in the coming decade.


Perhaps you could being by asking yourself why a "central authority" is inherently more wise and capable of deciding what people are allowed to think and say than individuals themselves? Does the ability to seize power and become the central authority denote inherent wisdom or morality? History is littered with examples of societies where communications were overseen by a central authority, from Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union. The freedom to think and speak freely is dangerous - like all freedom. But before you reject the concept of freedom you ought to consider what the alternative is.


I don't know why a central authority works better. But it seems to be manifestly true if you look at human history that it works better once you try to scale society beyond the tribe. (At least by my personal quality metric. But I acknowledge that I am strongly biased by the fact that I'm a rich white guy in a society dominated by rich white guys, so I'm definitely open to alternative ideas. But unfettered free speech doesn't seem to me to be working very well, and I don't think that's a reflection of my white privilege. The burden of covid, for example, is falling disproportionately on people of color in no small measure because of denialism. That seems like a bad outcome to me.)


>I don't know why a central authority works better. But it seems to be manifestly true if you look at human history that it works better once you try to scale society beyond the tribe.

Hundreds of millions of people who have been murdered in wars organized by central authorities would probably have a different opinion.

> The burden of covid, for example, is falling disproportionately on people of color in no small measure because of denialism.

If you think that the poorest and most marginalized people in society are the ones who stand to gain from a concentration of absolute power among a centralize governing authority, I urge you to learn some history.


Free speech had always had limits. Maliciously yelling "Fire!" in a crowded room is an existential threat.


I think "free speech" is not quite as simple as a single concept.

Despite how it's often portrayed, Parler was not hosting uncensored speech, on the contrary it was a heavily moderated platform controlling for a certain set of speech.

I'm not convinced that this example (really any of the examples of speech surrounding Trump) are actually representative samples of what private communications products not subject to control by any central authority looks like.

There is still someone that was exercising free uncensored speech here (under the american 1st amendment definition) - but that person is the person running Parler, and not the users. What we observed with this deplatforming was one set of platforms with relatively little censorship (though a fair bit in absolute terms) stop supporting a sub-platform with a lot of censorship.

One lesson I would take away from this is that enabling platforms on which censorship is performed by a third party not under your control can be scary. The amount of damage bad-faith moderation/censorship can do was surprisingly (to me) high - I would have thought people would notice and reject it more strongly. Uncensored platforms for speech might also be scary, but I don't think Trump gives much evidence for it (sites like 4-chan might, I don't really know).

Another lesson I would take away from reddit's handling of Trump (in general) is that manipulation of algorithmic content discovery can do a lot of damage. There we saw that happening with things like bots upvoting (as well as bad faith moderation), but I think the pattern is more general. If you can choose what people are looking at, especially if you can convince them that it's "organic content", it can do a lot of damage. I'm told that similar issues with Facebook/Youtube content discovery existed as well, but I don't have first hand experience with those issues (youtube tends to recommend random technical and rocket related content to me, and I barely use facebook).

Whether those lessons are "anti free speech" - well that's up to your definition of free speech. I don't think they are under my definition, but I think they are under the US constitutions definition.


Rights = Duties

Your rights can only be guaranteed if everyone, including you, fulfills their duty to respect the rights of others.

Exercising your freedom of speech and freedom of assembly in order to suppress the other people's right to vote and be represented, as well as using your freedom of assembly to take the lives of others, i.e.: their right to live; is in essence abusing your freedoms.

When you abuse your freedoms, you can expect to lose them.


You can still be a champion of free speech without tolerating hate speech.

In fact, one may even say that deplatforming hate will achieve a greater level of free speech - due to the lack of misinformation and violent ideologies.


Exactly. Freedom is actually slavery because you’re at risk of the dangerous language floating around. By eliminating dangerous language we’re all safer and therefore more free.


I think we need free speech with intellectual discourse. You can discuss Fascism and its properties, drawbacks and advantages but with intellectual rigor.

Social media is not forcing people to do so with 160 characters and instagram stories. Giving people the power to broadcast is going to be the worst idea ever of any kind in human history.


I think it is a measure of civilisation that the US has not lost control to barbarism and kakistocracy.

But it should not have come so close... The Trump rioters have been cultivated and groomed for destruction by a genuinely sick political party with funds from wealthy donors.

> I am no longer convinced that this would really make the world a better place

What definitely would make the world a better place is for people to understand, through education, that intelligent debate must exist and compromise is often necessary for civilisation and culture.

Any person who espouses murder by threat or deed has simply become a tribal animal.

"There is freedom of speech, but I cannot guarantee freedom after speech." -- a dictator


> I thought I believed in free speech

Fascists on the left and right want you to doubt this.

What we saw on Capitol Hill was vile and atrocious, but it was a bunch of uneducated hillbillies that have been indoctrinated. They might have been afforded the chance to invade by Trump insiders, but they would never have toppled our government. In reality, they stood zero chance of threatening our democracy.

Big media and big tech are using this to show you that it's okay if they deplatform and take free speech away. Don't trust it. This is the real threat to democracy. Shutting off dissent. Promulgating only allowed thoughts. Cancelling.

The best way to reach these people and talk them down is by addressing them in a non-violent manner and meeting their needs. The boom years are over, and our economy only works for the top earners. Everyone is unhappy. Left, right, north, south, urban, rural. We are under attack from foreign and domestic powers seeking to divide and polarize the electorate and take advantage of it. The chaos makes it easy for them to distract and compel.

The fix is the hard path. Addressing systemic inequalities, reaching across the aisle, addressing income disparities, and educating our nation's children.

Free speech is one of the things that makes our nation great. Not because it permits hate, but in spite of it. Because it enables love.

I dislike Parler as much as you do, but what's happening right now should shake you to the very core.


> but it was a bunch of uneducated hillbillies that have been indoctrinated.

A woman who flew in her private plane. Serving and former military officers, including intelligence officers. Children of judges. A sitting politician. But yeah, obviously hillbillies.


> A woman who flew in her private plane.

https://twitter.com/jennaryanrealty

> Jenna Ryan | Texas Real Estate Broker

> Plano, Texas

Have you been to Plano?

https://www.reddit.com/r/Dallas/comments/ky9gtn/jenna_ryan_s...

With a discernable accent she says, "I have a lot of faith in God" and "I was just knowing that God's going to take care of me in this situation"

Hillbilly might not be geographically correct, but I bet she has a deer head mounted somewhere in her home.

But that doesn't matter. My point is that we shouldn't be questioning free speech because of these idiots.

These assholes will be prosecuted. Let the system deal with them. Leave free speech alone.


Plano isn't exactly poor?


People are a product of their environment, and this environment with rampant vanity, media run for profit, and late-stage capitalism make people a distinctly unpretty thing, whatever material gains and safety a small part of the global population have gotten from it.


The system of checks and balances worked out. Go say something provocative in China and see how quickly you disappear. I'll take my chances with free speech, democracy, and capitalism.


I tend to think of it like free market capitalism. It sounds great in theory, but in practice, it has some major downsides and regulation is necessary to help deal with that.


Trump has lost the election in the end - the market place of ideas has worked. Establishment prevented the coup -- representative democracy has worked. No need to change anything. Maybe force the 1st amendment on the big tech when an account is verified as non-anonymous.

Also the so called "existential threat" is the result of serious internal issues in the country. (changing demographics, the deindustrialization by the international capital with a tacit agreement of the establishment, the chasm between values of the educated class and the rest of the country)


I think you're misidentifying the problem as being about modern technology for speech. It's not. Trump could have done the same exact thing in the day of fireside chats. A lot of what drove Trump's rise isn't Parler (which didn't even exist in 2018) but talk radio.

The problem is that American is a diverse county of 330 million people who hate each other, and we're too idealistic to engage in the sort of social friction-easing that other societies do to reconcile competing factions.

For example: we clearly have a significant fraction of people in this country who want to pump the breaks on immigration. From a sociological standpoint, it doesn't make a difference whether its 47% or 51% of people. It's a lot! And what's the first thing Biden does even before he's inaugurated? https://apnews.com/article/joe-biden-politics-legislation-im...

> President-elect Joe Biden’s decision to immediately ask Congress to offer legal status to an estimated 11 million people in the country has surprised advocates given how the issue has long divided Democrats and Republicans, even within their own parties.

Instead of thinking about America, imagine we're talking about some third world country. Better still, take yourself out of the timeline, and imagine we are historians looking back on what happened 50 years ago. How would you analyze the probable outcome of what Biden is doing, in terms of general principles of how people behave and how countries work?

Frankly, what's going on in America right now is utterly obvious and completely unsurprising to me as someone from Asia. I always try to analyze these things by asking "what would Bangladeshis do?" What would Bangladeshis do if the opposing party tried to give legal status (and voting rights) to 11 million illegal aliens? There would be violent riots in the streets. That's just the predictable consequences of that situation.

None of this is the result of Parler or whatever. It's just the ordinary challenges of running a giant country where people have a very shallow shared culture to tie everyone together.


So I guess what's going on in Assam with NRC is just sauce for the gander to you?


What’s happening in Assam with the NRC is why I’m not surprised about what’s happening in America. People don’t like it when people who are different from them come to their country, especially illegally, and then vote in their elections, take advantage of their public services, etc. The last couple of hundred years of geopolitics has been people fighting each other until they can have a country with just the people they can stand. The global backlash against immigration is just the other side of that coin.

Now I have my thoughts about granting legal status to illegal immigrants who are already here, from a purely intellectual position of cost/benefit etc.

But let’s not kid ourselves and say that the cost/benefit is what people are disagreeing about here. What this is about is 11 million people from a different culture who didn’t come here legally, but will soon be able to vote in US elections. That’s going to piss off a tremendous number of people, for utterly predictable reasons. If Biden goes ahead and does it anyway, that’s fine. (If he can get the votes.) But that’s why we’re in this position today. We as a country disagree about very fundamental stuff, and every time one side gets into power, they govern without regard to what will piss off the other side. (And I’m not just blaming Biden—Republicans just did that with the Supreme Court appointment.)


Well Trump via a number of high profile anti-immigration polices has given Biden a Casus Belli to give that 11 million people citizenship.


Democracy has a severe flaw, it favors reproduction not progressiveness nor the greater good. In any nation with true democracy, a disenfranchised portion of society can win power simply by out-reproducing all other groups for a few decades. All of a sudden a Putin or an Ardogan get voted in and from then on, kiss a brighter future goodbye. It's a broken system that needs a better alternative that actually does empower progressiveness and the greater good.


The problem I have with this line of reasoning is that it isn't free speech that's the issue here, it's got far more to do with the echo chambers and feedback loops of social networks. However the solution to the social networks have created is to allow those very same social networks to have total authority over what speech is permitted online.

It's fairly obvious by now to most people that these companies are biased, and even if you don't believe so yourself, the fact they have no reason not to be bias should be worrying enough. How do we explain why extremists like Richard Spencer are on Twitter, but the president of the US and Alex Jones is not? It seems if Twitter's goal is to protect you from extremists they do an awful job, but if their goal is to protect you from popular right-wing commentators they do a fairly good one.

The same is true for platforms. The vast majority of the content on Parler was relatively benign, while Twitter and Facebook hosts far more content which we might consider "extremist". However, platforms like Facebook are too big to have to worry about being deplatformed so instead we distract ourselves by talking about how we should ban a bunch of irrelevant platforms that won't make an ounce of difference in the fight against extremism.

I also think we need to put the last few years into some perspective. The domestic extremism we've seen in the US isn't really happening in Europe. Yeah, we have some far-right and far-left parties, but we always have. I live in the UK and just a few decades ago we had ethno-nationalists organising and staging terror attacks daily during The Troubles. In the 1900s we had the rise of various communist and facist groups all over the West which were arguably far more concerning than anything we've seen in recent years. So how exactly does the last few years stand out from anything we've seen in even recent history? It's different for sure, but it always is.

Finally, I sometimes wonder how much of this panic over the dangers of free speech is manufactured. Free speech has always come at a cost, but we've always understood the alternative where a few elites have the power to forcibly suppress speech is far worse. Perhaps I'm wrong, but it seems to me that social media and much of the media have decided that what happened in the US capitol is far worse than anything that happened earlier this year when entire neighbourhoods were destroyed and police officers were being shot dead in cold blood because of lies and misconceptions being spread on social media. I saw very little talk back then about how we need to ban left-wing platforms or censor left wing activists. I personally saw several people I knew tweeting "ACAB" and suggesting violence is necessary in the summer who are now tweeting how awful the violence in the Capitol was, despite it being far less substantial in terms of deaths, destruction and casualties. I know these aren't bad people too, so I can only assume it was the media which convinced them that the endless rioting, looting and police murders were nothing new or anything to worry about, while a group of protestors storming the capitol has gone too far and that something urgently needs to be done about free speech. I don't mean to make this a right vs left thing, I'm just trying to point out how a lot of the panic over free speech seems to be manufactured, or at least leveraged to further political goals.


You should get more information than just from mainstream media.

Otoh the real issue probably is that information does not even matter, only group affiliation does. You'll just believe what confirms your world view and filter out the rest, and so does everybody else.


I have to concur, it really does make sense to me why both France and Germany ban things on eBay that is ok in the US.


Perhaps it would be comforting, or not, to know that the recent calls to suppress free speech don't come as a result to any credible threat to democracy and are unilaterally supported from people who have significant political gain to do so.


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