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Facebook shuts down the Socialist Workers Party in Britain (swp.org.uk)
534 points by jimmy2020 40 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 519 comments



For any non-Brits, the SWP is the main left of Labour party in Britain. As a student in the 80s I remember them as an earnest, way too serious bunch of ideological zombies ranting into microphones at the Student's Union about the latest crimes against humanity perpetrated by 'Thatcher'. They're the kind of people that come up to you in the street with leaflets about some atrocity in Africa and shout "Would you murder children" at you. I'm not entirely sure they'd recognise what an actual 'Worker' was if they met one. I always found them quite comical.

However they are a serious party, they're a highly motivated and active movement with significant influence in the Labour Party grass roots. They're sort of our equivalent of Antifa in that they are a significant organising presence in lefty street protests, but much more politically active and spend a lot of time in conferences and action committees wondering what Capitalism ever did for us.

Importantly, they are in no way shape or form a terrorist or criminal organisation. I would not be at all surprised if some ultra-violent or would-be Red Army Faction types joined or associated with them, but that's not at all who the SWP are as an organisation. They're the well meaning, impressionable white middle class girl next door with a class guilt complex and a side shave that's been going to BLM protests.

If they are getting banned by Facebook something has gone horribly wrong. Quite possibly some of them got a bit excited and posted things they shouldn't, so I'm not saying this is for sure Facebook's fault, but they're not about to murder any bobbies in Parliament Square.


They're pretty much loathed in the left.

They're more like PETA than antifa, they cover up internal sexual assaults, have a bunch of cranks, and other groups have to put up with and try to prevent their continuous entryism, hijacking protests and other actions to self-promote.

Lots of cranks (though probably less so than CPGB-ML who are full on tankies), and a giant pain in the backside.

Nevertheless, whilst I chuckle at this, it is a dangerous thing and yet another reason Facebook should not be trusted as any sort of impartial platform and probably dismantled.


> CPGB-ML who are full on tankies

It remains astonishing that a number of these people did a full 180 turn to right-libertarians and from there to Brexiteers, eventually leading to Claire Fox, apologist for the bombing of Manchester, becoming a member of the House of Lords. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claire_Fox


Not really, ideology doesn’t matter to (some) extremists, they’ll follow whoever uses the tools of fear and hate most effectively.

See the “Bernie Bros” who flipped into full Trumpists a few short months later in 2016. I’m sure if you look back at the Spanish Civil War and other divisive historical time periods you’ll find plenty of turncoats that flip from one extreme to another.


> See the “Bernie Bros” who flipped into full Trumpists a few short months later in 2016. I’m sure if you look back at the Spanish Civil War and other divisive historical time periods you’ll find plenty of turncoats that flip from one extreme to another.

This seems like a bit of a myopic, low-dimensional view of the political landscape. Bernie and trump (esp candidate trump) weren't "opposite extremes" when it came to plenty of issues: anti-free trade, anti-corporatist, promises to protect entitlements, complaining about the corruption of the existing political order, even just the populist vs technocrat aesthetic.

For people who prioritize this issue, the notion that Bernie and Trump are "opposite extremes" in every way relative to Hillary is laughable.

(President trump obviously reneged on much of his promises as a candidate and went with many mainstream gop policies, but that's neither here not there when discussing support during the election)


Bernie and Trump were also both anti-war during the preliminaries, each for different reasons. I prefer Bernie's reason of defunding the military in order to put the money into more social benefiting areas, but Trump goal on focus more on internal US interests could have some of the same effects.

The outcome naturally has a lot to desire.


Yup. The idea that there's a single axis along which Bernie and trump is an incredibly simple-minded view of the world. Unfortunately, most voters are pretty simple-minded, which tells you a lot about why politics is the way it is.


"See the 'Bernie Bros' who flipped into full Trumpists ..."

There really aren't very many of those people.


> > CPGB-ML who are full on tankies

> It remains astonishing that a number of these people did a full 180 turn to right-libertarians and from there to Brexiteers, eventually leading to Claire Fox, apologist for the bombing of Manchester, becoming a member of the House of Lords.

Claire fox was never CPGB-ML, but the “Revolutionary Communist Party.” From what I can understand, the RCP was always a primarily contrarian entity and always more libertarian than Marxist. To quote their journal, Living Marxism:

> We live in an age of caution and conformism, when critical opinions can be outlawed as 'extremism' and anything new can be rubbished as 'too risky'. Ours is an age of low expectations, when we are always being told what is bad for us, and life seems limited on all sides by restrictions, guidelines and regulations. The spirit of LM is to go against the grain: to oppose all censorship, bans and codes of conduct; to stand up for social and scientific experimentation; to insist that we have the right to live as autonomous adults who take responsibility for our own affairs. These are basic human values that cannot be compromised if we are ever going to create a world fit for people. [0]

This seems to have more in common with the libertarian right than Marxist, particularly “to insist that we have the right to live as autonomous adults who take responsibility for our own affairs,” which is almost the antithesis of Marxism.

> Fox stayed with her ex-RCP members when the group transformed itself in the early 2000s into a network around the web magazine Spiked Online and the Institute of Ideas, both based in the former RCP offices and promoting libertarianism. [1]

Given their apparent funding, contrarian headline-generating antics and subsequent banding together, some may question whether they were a model for what would come later: an opaquely funded right-libertarian outlet.

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

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


Why is it surprising? A lot of Marxist functional description of the capitalist economy is coherent with events if you squint hard enough. If that is accepted then moral choices and personal preferences overlaid ontop lead to several different paths. Accelerationism is one.


You don't really have to squint too hard to see crises of overproduction.

I very much doubt that Claire Fox is an accelerationist.


I find it hilarious that these Marxist dimwits think they are coming up with some new idea. Its a fossil of an idea with a long track record of top-down oppression, corruption, and progression stagnation where nothing gets built in perpetuity. You can try to make the system more fair without going full neanderthal. The Marxist movement gets a lot of spoiled upper middle class kids who want the govt to take care of them like mommy and daddy did because they realize its going to take real work and slim odds to get the same standard of living they grew up with. And thats just called life. By definition not everyone can be above the average life quality. A great way to kill the standard you have and for everyone is to kill production and attack the capital markets.

At the end of the day life quality is a logistical issue above all else. Jeff Bezos is not going around the country buying up all the single family homes and hoarding all the doctors in the country for his knee injury. If you want better medicine you need to invent more efficient technology through the capital markets to serve people. If you want more homes you need to invent better home building techniques to cater to the masses. Thats how increased efficiency works and its why our lives generally get better with services and quality of live each decade. Thats not to say there are not tweaks and governing to be done to the capital markets (the govt is the conductor), but this is the general aspiration and trend.


They're cranks. The "left-wing brexit" I think was in part inspired by anti-globalism and not wanting to see financial migrants as more readily and cheaply exploitable labour but it was weird.


> They're sort of our equivalent of Antifa in that they are a significant organising presence in lefty street protests

I can see the point you are trying to make being familiar with both, but for those who are not, this analogy is just wrong and confusing to those who do not know SWP and will think you are saying SWP have no qualms about using violence. That is wrong


I thought I explained my understanding of the SWP attitude to violence very clearly, so for what you say to be true someone would have to read just the Antifa comparison and not read the rest of my post, in which case I think that misunderstanding is on them.


> They're sort of our equivalent of Antifa in that they are a significant organising presence in lefty street protests

Are you trying to give a wrong opinion of SWP. No "ultra violent, red army faction types" are joining the SWP.

Also your use of "ultra violent" / "red army" surely is used to incorrectly ascertain that there are parts of the left that are much more violent than they actually are.


I think the "red army" is referring to RAF (Red Army Faction, "Baader-Meinhof complex" in Germany), Red Brigades (Italy) and so on, in 70s, 80s European history. Actual leftist terrorist organisations, unlike the "antifa" (lol, America...).

Edit: I think OP meant, it's not unlikely, if there was a real left terrorist organization, they would align with SWP, but the SWP is not the terrorist organisation. Same as with Antifa, for that matter. That's what people mean when they say Antifa is an idea... seriously, it hurts it's necessary to even say this.


Yep, that's exactly what I meant.


You are over-stating the significance of the SWP. Maybe what you say is true of the 80s, but it isn't today.

They are not the main party to the left of Labour, the greens are. The greens have 50,000 members and received 850,000 votes in the 2019 election, the SWP has a few thousand members and does not even field candidates.

In my experience they have little influence on the Labour grassroots. The SWP's standing among young, idealistic socialists exploded after it emerged that its central committee covered up a series of rape cases in the party. That was in 2013. I have not met anyone who takes them seriously since. After Corbyn was elected many who would have joined the SWP in the past joined Momentum instead.

I am shocked that Facebook have banned the SWP. Their faults are something more like a religion - centralised, deluded, outdated. They have no criminal or terroristic aspirations. What kind of precedent does this set?


I'm sure you're right. I'm well on the way to being outdated myself.


Given your username, I'm curious. Are there many left anarchist activists in the UK at the moment? I had some tenuous contact with the ACF in the late-90s, but it doesn't seem a very active or impactful part of the political landscape.


There used to be a decent amount of book shops and punk gigs. There's IWW and Solidarity Federation, not sure how active. There's also a bunch of Marxist and other varios left-wing philosophically based groups.

There used to be a great group called Space Hijackers who bought an APC and drove it through the G20 but that was 11 years ago, they were kinda Situationist.

There was UK Uncut. I think a lot of groups end up just being overwhelmed with the amount of awful shit the Tories do and how apathetic/ignorant our population is.

London Renters Union is a new and amazing left-wing group, not necessarily anarchist, but not ML or Trot either.


They have their causes - Occupy, Rojeve, anti-fascism, mutual aid groups - but no serious political strategy or organisation. A lot of the student movement and extra-parliamentary left abandoned their traditional antipathy of Labour and came into the party after Corbyn's election.


> They have their causes - Occupy, Rojeve, anti-fascism, mutual aid groups - but no serious political strategy or organisation

Extinction Rebellion is arguably the most significant in recent times. I expect that movement will pick up again post-pandemic.


Any sign that the flow is reversing?


Many? No.

There was a very concerted and covert anti-left push during the 80s and 90s. Anti-establishment groups of all kinds - anti-nuclear protesters, greens, animal rights activists, and official far left groups like the SWP - were infiltrated by undercover police and sometimes subverted.

It's an ongoing scandal, although it's been lost in the noise from other events over the last year or two. Undercover police with fake identities had relationships with activists and sometimes fathered children with them.

In some cases they worked internationally and were responsible for criminal acts (i.e. terrorism) which discredited the organisations and movements they infiltrated.

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

It's hard not to suspect the apologies are disingenuous. The plan was to subvert, marginalise, and discredit left wing views, and to destroy left wing organisations of all kinds.

And it seems to have been very successful.


> Undercover police with fake identities had relationships with activists and sometimes fathered children with them.

whilst I suspect this happened in the 80s as well, the actual case that was prosecuted was from the early 2000s

> were responsible for criminal acts (i.e. terrorism) which discredited the organisations and movements they infiltrated.

Our dealings with the unionists in NI are a particular dark stain. Now sadly legalised by this new intelligence bill. (simplification, but its not a good bill.)

> destroy left wing organisations of all kinds.

Much as this is nice to believe, having worked in a number of left wing organisations, they are perfectly capable of imploding by them selves. It appears that they attract a certain kind of idiot, who is exceptionally well adapted at persuading other middle-class idiots that black is blue.

Right-wing organisations also implode, but in a different way. Ironically they tend to have more "real" working class people in them too.


>Much as this is nice to believe, having worked in a number of left wing organisations, they are perfectly capable of imploding by them selves. It appears that they attract a certain kind of idiot, who is exceptionally well adapted at persuading other middle-class idiots that black is blue.

This doesn't speak to his point at all. He's not saying all left-wing groups that have been destroyed were destroyed by infiltrators. He's saying that that was the purpose of the infiltration by law enforcement.

The fact that orgs can be destroyed by other factors is true but totally irrelevant.


> The SWP's standing among young, idealistic socialists exploded after it emerged that ...

Not to take away from your otherwise excellent post, but your use of the word 'exploded' seems ambiguous. I take it you mean that their standing went down, i.e. their standing was reduced to rubble. However, I am much more used to seeing exploded used to describe a large increase, e.g. downloads for our latest app have exploded after reducing the price.


If I had to guess, they were banned because of this:

"The SWP Facebook page regularly posts in support of Palestine, Black Lives Matter and against Boris Johnson’s Covid policies"

In particular, the COVID part is where I'd put my money.


What makes you say that? People against Boris's policies are not to be conflated with anti-maskers. We are currently the worst performing nation per capita.


The're in favour of a tighter lockdown to save more lives: https://socialistworker.co.uk/art/51093/Action+needed+now+to...


> I always found them quite comical.

Sounds like you were fine with Thatcher taking an axe to organized labor, and weren't all that bothered about those children dying in Africa or what-not. After all, unlike them, you weren't "way too serious".

> If they are getting banned by Facebook something has gone horribly wrong.

Well, many things have gone horribly wrong. Among them, one thing that's wrong is:

> Quite possibly some of them got a bit excited and posted things they shouldn't

this outlook on things.


There exist an important finding in social science when it comes to conflicts between groups. The Out-group homogeneity effect.

When people of an in-group (and those who feel a slight relation to them) describe themselves, it one of complexity. In-groups are always a group of individuals with individual graces and faults. Out-groups however is not complex, but perceived as being more alike with their out-group stereotypes being the defining nature of them.

The result of this is that people tend to marginalize extremist views of the in-group, while at the same time defining the out-group by their extremists. This makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to have discussions that relies on the distinction between a group having a small number individual impressionable young people that occasionally happen to do an obvious bad thing, and a other group where every member is evil and its obvious an evil group that need to be stopped at the core.

On a more local note regarding the far left here in Sweden during the 90's and early 00, a major distinction between them and the social left were that they believed in a violent/forceful revolution against capitalism (take from the rich, give to the people). As a party they have since tried to put some distance to that view in order to be more respectable, but 20 years is not that long ago. The far right and far left is often debated as both being parties with extremists in them and with troubling pasts for which they try to distance themselves.


My first encounter with the SWP was at a stall outside a university building. They didn't seem shouty, but I remember asking questions and getting vague, half-thought-out answers. Then about ten years later, I met a couple who were ex SWP but switched to labour once Corbyn became leader. I was reminded slightly of that stall by Corbyn's speeches.

It's worth noting that the harder left Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) can only really talk of imperialism, bourgeois democracy, the labour aristocracy and overproduction — at least in relation to the UK.

No serious leftist group in the UK is even hoping for the conditions in which a revolution might be possible, because in those conditions they believe that the counterrevolutionaries would be the darlings of the UK media, would have near full police backing, and would likely target leftists as an enemy to deal with.


The sudden increase in Labour membership and Corbyn coming to power suddenly makes more sense.


The increase in Labour membership was significantly higher than the number of SWP members, and I would guess the number of ex-SWP members as well. So I don't think ex-SWP people were driving that.

I saw a lot of pro-Corbyn comments on my Facebook feed a few years ago and they were from comfortably middle-class people. Lefty and green tendencies, centre-left (not hard-left) types. Some of them previously Lib Dem supporters.

The gist was "at last an honest politician!" and "for the first time in a long time, we have a chance at real socially progressive policies, this one is worth voting for".

In other words Corbyn seemed different somehow, and in a good way.

Corbyn gave many people a feeling of hope for a few years, especially young people but including all ages, against an establishment regarded as cruel. That hopefulness grew into a mass movement to join Labour specifically tied to Corbyn and his policies. Labour's manifesto policies under Corbyn were generally popular, even though it fell apart in 2019 over Brexit and painting Corbyn as a terrorist sympathiser.

Now that Corbyn is out of the picture, Labour looks like Tory-lite again, and there's not much enthusiasm for current Labour from those who enthusiastically switched to it a few years ago. It's not surprising after the landslide loss in 2019 that the party would change to accommodate what it thinks the electorate will vote for (on balance), and the swell of membership under Corbyn would not like the changed party.


You could just look at policy support.

People like far left policies far more than anyone would expect.


"Antifa" is more of a self applied label; you can certainly see antifa logos at demos.

The SWP are Trotskyist, in the sense of "March through the institutions". If you're doing anything left wing they will turn up and try to make it about them, take over organization positions, etc. The SWP are mostly your boring old lefty uncle, with a side of institutional rape apologia: https://www.gender-agenda.org.uk/not-my-comrades-on-dealing-... (this is not only their problem, it can happen in any organization that doesn't take active steps to avoid it)

I suppose the canary for partisan moderation should be Sinn Fein; they were banned from television in the 90s.


Sinn Fein had literal terrorists as members and were proscribed by government. This is the exact opposite of what has been seen in relation to the deplatforming on social media sites.


Sinn Fein were never proscribed, they were the political wing of the Provisional IRA (which very-much was proscribed), but were never illegal themselves. This makes sense for both sides, to keep lines of communication open.


The UK Govt at one point passed legislation that meant Sinn Fein voices could not be broadcast. This was circumvented by having the words repeated exactly in sync with the vision by a voice actor.

You have to wonder if the current BBC would have the gumption to circumvent it.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/1988%E2%80%931994_British_br...


Gerry Adams claimed he was first arrested for selling the party newspaper. There was a strange, not illegal but harassed anyway, sort of relationship between Sinn Fein and the authorities.


I didn't mean to make a strong Antifa link, I just thought it's something non-Brits would understand as a point of comparison in terms of general activities rather than specific tactics or aggressiveness. e.g. SWP was heavily involved in the Ant-Nazi League in the 70s back when the National Front was more of a thing in the UK.

The SWP types I knew back in the 80s probably are your boring old lefty uncle these days. That's how out of date I am, although there were still excited young SWP activists pushing leaflets and selling the paper on Deptford High Street in the early 2000s. That's well before the rape crisis though.


Ironically SF were banned from the media in Ireland, but not in the UK. There was a ban that involved a specific wording that was construed to mean that recordings of their voices could not be played. So, IIRC video was played of their spokespeople with actors dubbing over their voices. EDIT: I see angry_octet supplied the same information below.


>>I suppose the canary for partisan moderation should be Sinn Fein; they were banned from television in the 90s.

Their elected MP's were also banned from travelling to Britain, effectively preventing them from taking their seats in Parliament. Not that they planned on doing that mind.


The people that hold the antifa flags are almost always the ones that also let of fireworks and start fires at protests.

Which is always fun, unless its your protest.


The main FB page is now back but they claim other local pages are not: https://swp.org.uk/1049-2/

I'm not sure how they SWP got banned - I guess some pro palestinian posts may have strayed into the antisemitic territory?


> I guess some pro palestinian posts may have strayed into the antisemitic territory?

My understanding is that any pro-palestinian posts can be labeled antisemitic under the IHRA/EUMC working definition of antisemitism (as adopted into UK law) if it any way singles out Israel for the oppression in a way not done for other states.

> “criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic”

This to me seems vague and a point of likely disputed interpretations likely to have at the very least a chilling effect.


> way too serious bunch of ideological zombies ranting into microphones at the Student's Union about the latest crimes against humanity perpetrated by 'Thatcher'

Just to inform you. Reagan and Thatcher have literally f* up the world by allowing banks to devaluate currency and forming a situation where my bank will charge me for having money deposited with them (instead of paying interests) while giving credits with money they dont have or in another words - they print the money instead of the state. Yes, you might think that they are bunch of weird people but the history proven fact is that the weird people was everyone else.

Bottom line, they were right. And be very sorry they weren't laud enough as R&T brought the world in neverending crysis cycle that directly impacts you and me. And it has nothing to do with socialism but rather with pure greed, while the only issue is people not having enough of sane thought to figure it out on their own.

> To all down-voting me, please DO CHECK what the R&T reforms are about. And no, it has nothing to do with gold backing up currency. It is just crazy how little are people aware of history that directly impacts them. R&T literally gave "carte blanche" to the banks.


More directly, Thatcher was also responsible for a litany of crimes, including murder and torture, and human rights abuses against her own citizens in Northern Ireland.

Although Thatcher is hated by swaths of UK society (which turns out to exist after all), there is in Great Britain in general an ignorance or blindness to crimes committed by the State against their own citizenry.


I think the UK population, as in most countries and maybe all of them, have a higher tolerance for such things when their own fellow citizens are being murdered and blown up.


I think this misses the point, which is that many (maybe most) of the citizens of Great Britain don't consider nationalists in Northern Ireland as citizens at all, even while they are murdering them.

After all, while the majority of the deaths during the Troubles were caused by Republicans, most of those killed by Republicans were members of the British Armed Forces.

Most of the civilians killed by any party were killed by the British Armed Forces or Unionist paramilitaries supported by them.

You, like many in Great Britain, have decided that the nationalist community in Northern Ireland aren't really UK citizens, while simultaneously they were being slaughtered to try to force them to accept being UK citizens.

You are a perfect (possibly non-GB) example of the ignorance or maybe wilful blindness that surrounds Northern Ireland, and the crimes of the British government against its own citizens.


Not at all, I have a lot of sympathy for Republicans in northern Ireland. I think they have just as much right to want independence as many Scots do.

You raised the attitude of the UK public, and that’s all about perception. You may well be right about the numbers, but the UK government don’t see sectarian murders and knee cappings in NI as affecting them because they, in general from a majority point of view, don’t live in NI. They do live in or visit or have relatives who live in and visit Manchester, Birmingham, London, etc. So when they see people being blown to bits in these places they perceive that as an attack on them. The thing is it’s bad enough to register as a direct attack, it’s enough to make them hate the IRA and by extension Republicans, but it’s not enough to make them feel any pressure to negotiate. So it has the effect of making them want blood in return and not care too much how they get it.

I think the IRA leadership finally figured this out, along with the fact that long term demographics are on their side.

Picking on Maggie is a bit of a tell. There was no appreciable difference in policy between any of the major Parties on NI and in the mainland UK it simply wasn’t a partisan issue. There were some in the far left sympathetic to Republicans but they were very much a fringe in Labour. What this has to do with MT particularly is hard to fathom. E.g. Bloody Sunday was under Edward Heath, so if your going to pick anyone I’d have though it would be him, but it’s not as if everything was peace and flowers under Wilson or Callaghan.


That very much depends on where in Great Britain you are.


I think you’re thinking of the gold standard abandonment which was in 1976, way before Reagan or thatcher.

They did liberalize a lot of markets but attributing the way banking works specifically to them is a bit of a stretch.

Also during war times a lot of governments printed money. Before the 20th century too. So again, your anger towards Reagan and thatcher, while partly probably justified, is a bit excessive.



Antifa isn't a real organization, it's just a bunch of disconnected groups that have recently been getting labeled as Antifa. Most don't even claim to be part of Antifa. Antifa is basically the boogeyman that Republicans made up to distract from the fact that a bunch of far right wing people were literally organizing armed pseudo-militias with the intent of overthrowing the US government. They knew these idiots stood no chance so they downplayed them and made up conspiracies about left wingers doing the same shit, and pretending like there was a serious threat from the left instead of the right.


You will probably find that the SNP is more of a "main left of Labour" party in Britain.


When I was at a left-wing university in the early 90's, it was mostly full of posh kids trying to upset their parents.


"in no way shape or form a terrorist or criminal organisation".

Says you.

The SWP are followers of Leon Trotsky. https://socialistworker.co.uk/event/view/10735

Trotsky literally wrote a book advocating terrorism, a rebuke to socialists who deplored terrorism.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1920/terrcomm/


A "criminal or terrorist organisation" is one which commits crimes or acts of terror.

Your own reasoning, ie., guilt by ideological association, no doubt implicates everyone -- including you.


Trotskists oppose terrorism (generally called "individual terrorism") not on moral grounds but due to efficacy. The book you're linking to is Trotsky's argument against individual terrorism and in favour of mass workers' action.


Antifa isn’t exactly a peaceful movement, I am not sure it is the best comparison.


Antifa does exactly what it says on the tin.


Antifa shows up to other groups' protests to start fights and engage in political violence, sometimes with deadly consequences. Is that what SWP does too?


No. OP made a bad analogy. Antifa will meet violence with violence and don't mind a bit of direct action. SWP are a legitimate socialist party


How is this not foreign political interference?

The UK media has been preaching to us about dangers of Russian election interference for years at this point, but simultaneously they seem completely unconcerned that a handful of wealthy Americans how the power to censor popular media outlets, entire political movements and political activists at a whim.

The SWP is massive. I don't know for sure, but I suspect they had millions of followers on Facebook. This isn't some fringe, extremist group by any sane interpretation of those terms.

It seems we're now quickly moving on from just censoring those with extremist political views to simply censoring anyone who who dares express a non-establishment political view online.


>How is this not foreign political interference?

America doesn't "interfere" in elections, it gently persuades people to follow the true democratic path.

Truthfully, it is nothing more than American exceptionalism. Even as our nation spent years outraged over Russian interference, we continued both private and public interference in elections worldwide.


Gentle? Is that how we describe 10,000lb bombs over Baghdad?


Looks like you've missed the sarcasm.


I’m just piling on.


Poe's law striking again.


They aren't using nukes.


I'd like to thank you for getting the song "Bombs Over Baghdad" stuck in my head again.


I hear that their use of Full Metal Democracy helps avoid surgical complications. More importantly, it prevents their democracies from jamming during particularly intense diplomatic negotiations.


> Even as our nation spent years outraged over Russian interference

Only a minority of the country was (supposedly) outraged about the mostly non-existent Russian interference.

Most of the US knew it was bullshit the entire time, the Russians had near zero impact on the prior election (amazing how they didn't somehow swing this latest election, given their apparent god-like powers, despite how close it was). Trump's vast popularity showed up again in this latest election, they couldn't even try to hide it behind fake Russian interference. It was nothing more than a politcal ruse, a frame to hold Trump in, which the media almost universally played along with (and simultaneously they won't tag Biden as being controlled by China despite Biden having far closer ties to China than Trump does to Russia). It's the exact same thing they did to Tulsi Gabbard when she dared to go against their agenda. We're all owned by the all-powerful, magical Russians if we go off the acceptable message.


If I was American and there was clear proof that Russia had interfered in elections, I don’t care how ineffective it was. I’d want it investigated and stopped.

I’d also rain fire and fury on anyone who interfered with or obstructed those investigations. But that’s me. I suppose caring about free and fair elections in the US is now a partisan issue over there.

For a British conservative that grew up under Reagan/Thatcher it’s all desperately sad and disappointing.


> ... I don’t care how ineffective it was. I’d want it investigated and stopped.

The level of interference to the election was so trivial I doubt you can back that attitude up. At some level of ineffectiveness, having an investigation and stopping the activity is more costly than just ignoring it. Investigations take time, money and it turns out have collateral damage:

Looking at the charges out of the Mueller investigation, for example [0]:

- ~80% of those charged are beyond the reach of the US government and the charges aren't going to be tested. Weak evidence that whatever it was they were doing did anything given the Trump 2020 election counts were pretty similar to/improved on the 2016 counts.

- ~15% of those remaining hadn't done anything wrong until they were hit with process crimes in the investigation itself (counting those with only "false statements" charges + R. Stone).

- ~5% of charges I can't be bothered to read up on, but given that 95% of the charges are scrambling to find a problem I doubt the remainder are all that impressive.

I'm not deeply up to speed on the all 5 of those "false statement" charges - but the one against Flynn were probably politically motivated. They were interviewing him about a call where the investigators already had a transcript of the call. It is unclear why they were charging him for what could be a mismemory of routine diplomacy.

By my reckoning, at least 75% of the charges in the Muller investigation that could actually be prosecuted were crimes that wouldn't have existed except for the Muller investigation! That is a big cost for what turned out to be nothing much. Even if you want to use some sort of irrational strategy as a deterrent the cost is higher than the benefit.

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


How on earth are you going to find out how effective interference was, or the extent of it, if you don't investigate it?


The same question could be put after every election on a variety of integrity-related issues - and indeed, probably is. The exercise of asking and answering is pretty much strictly political, no matter how much fire and fury the bystanders are raining down.


That 15% of charges wouldn't have occurred if they hadn't lied to the investigation. To blame an investigation for people's crimes is bizarre.


People went to jail over it. At least until they were pardoned by the president.


For tax fraud and falling into perjury traps. Not for colluding with Russia.


no one "falls into a perjury trap" - what one does is commit perjury - lie under oath, there's no trap there, all you have to do is tell the truth when you should and you don't get indicted .... in the US you even have the option of pleading the 5th


If you’re John Brennan you can even lie, under oath, on camera, directly to Congress. The trick is to be deeply connected with the political establishment.

For a reverse example, look at the treatment of Michael Flynn. They weren’t looking into a crime, they were look for one.


IIRC the details of that perjury make it fairly clear that it's the kind of perjury a reasonable normal person could end up doing incidentally. But I last read up on it a couple of years ago so check it out yourself.


> mostly non-existent Russian interference

This is not true. The Republican-led, bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee found, over the course of their 3.5 year investigation, that there was in fact Russian interference. You can find the actual report (all 5 volumes) here [0]. Alternatively, a TL;DR summary can be found here [1].

> amazing how they didn't somehow swing this latest election

Let's for a moment, assume that the Russians were indeed behind the interference campaign. Having experienced many Democrat and Republican administrations, they would know that neither side of politics has historically been favourably predisposed to firstly Soviet and later Russian geopolitical ambitions. So, why would you bother getting a particular party in power, if both parties present have always been on a unified ticket against you? Answer - you wouldn't. It was never about getting a particular party in power, rather it was about weakening your enemy's unity. In this case, Vladimir Putin can absolutely pat himself on the back, and more than any other world leader in recent decades, truly declare, mission accomplished (if it was indeed a mission). For all Biden's talk of unifying the nation, there is no way that the all of the millions of Qanonistas left scratching their heads over the absence of "The Storm", are going to go back to quietly accepting a two-sided status-quo. The chaos monkey in chief has successfully taken the raw material of a discontented working class, and using tried and true methods [2], shaped a potent political weapon, who importantly now realise they have power. There are now millions of chaos monkeys at loose within the Republic. If that's not a win for enemies of the US, I don't know what is. Do we know for sure whether this was part of a Russian long-term psyops play? I doubt we'll ever know. It's my view that the vast majority of those at the top of the power pyramid in place over the last four years, are almost certainly not Russian operatives or plants or had anything to do with Russia. What they were (and are) is hungry for power. Seeing an opportunity to implement their wet dream neo-neo-con agendas by riding the dragon, they went all-in weakening people's trust in institutions, science, evidence, truth. They were, as Putin might smilingly say, useful idiots. This is my view. I don't believe I'm alone in holding this opinion. But at the end of the day, it's speculation - another conspiracy theory. It's entirely possible that this was a coincidental but very happy set of circumstances for Putin. Either way, it's an outcome that reflects the fact a significant number of people close to the levers of power, played themselves into a position that suited them, and also conveniently suited someone else.

[0] https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/press/senate-intel-relea...

[1] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-russia-senate-f...

[2] https://www.azquotes.com/author/5626-Joseph_Goebbels

[2 Note]: This is not a glib Nazi reference. I believe that many of these quotes represent political axioms, and that those that understand them and are willing to implement them, can, and historically have, achieved great power.


> The Republican-led, bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee found, over the course of their 3.5 year investigation, that there was in fact Russian interference.

1. It "found", i.e. asserted, that there had been - but no evidence of interference in the elections, nor even covert influence on public opinion, by the Russian government was presented.

2. Of course Russia had some influence the elections: Through RT America, which has significant viewership. This is actually much more influential than the sophomoric Jesus-vs-Satan or Buff-Bernie Facebook memes which much of the investigation focused on.

> You can find the actual report (all 5 volumes) here [0].

I scoured the Muller report, when it came out, looking for the evidence of ussian interference

> Let's for a moment, assume that the Russians were indeed behind the interference campaign

You're already assuming there had been an interference campaign. But there wasn't one.

Also, the term "The Russians" conflates Russian people with the Russian government. This use of plural nouns is nearly always underhanded: "The Americans", "The Jews", "The blacks" - they all must have done something nefarious, they're up to no good, they're a danger to "us" etc.

> it was about weakening your enemy's unity... tried and true methods... enemies of the US... Russian long-term psyops

Ah, back to the cold war.

This kind of rhetoric also emphasizes how the Russia interference conspiracy theory is at the end of the day an internal political tool, to discredit criticism of the political establishment as it veers farther away from public sentiment.


Yeah, intelligence service of both(and more) countries probably do that kinda of stuff on a regular basis, that's why they exist, but I don't think that had hardly any effect. "Russians, Russians", "Trump is a puppet of Putin" etc was a convenient scapegoat for losing the election. But problem of democrats was not Russians, but the fact that half of the country was ok with voting for Trump. And split was there long before and just growing with time, but Americans are doing great job splitting up themselves. Like with anti-sanders higher up demparty struggle. Both sides are now so politicized they are ready to bend reality and view everything through hate to the opponent.


Thanks for engaging these folks with well-written comments. They may downvote you for speaking the truth and linking to evidence, but hopefully it will plant a seed.


What I find remarkable is that all the claims of russian/chinese/iranian interferences in US elections suddenly stopped when it became clear Biden won, and we switched to “it’s a perfect election”. It seems that Trump’s warning of not interfering into US elections have worked and the said countries complied. And we were told only weeks before voting day of evidences of those interferences, so I assume they also complied retroactively.

The brave new world of “post-truth”.


Claims that the last US election was fair were stated well before it was clear Biden won.


>the Russians had near zero impact on the prior election

I'm not American or that bothered by Trump but he only won the swing states by less than 1% and I'd guess it's quite likely the Russian email hacking the the like could have swung it.


The SWP is not massive. It's never been massive. Current paid-up membership is maybe four figures.

It's considered eccentric, comically cliched, ineffectual, and frankly irrelevant by virtually everyone on the British left.

It's the very definition of fringe.

Which is why banning the SWP sets a very bad example. Especially when there are far more dangerous organisations on the British far right which Facebook seems happy to host.


So then it would seem, this is a great "beta test" for FB & Co. That is, pick a fringe meaningless group - but one with enough name recognition - and ban them to grease the skids of societal expectations. The group is small and fringe so few will feel the relevance which makes it a fitting target for FB and its ilk to normalize banning.


Facebook has banned, unbanned and rebanned UK registered minor political parties before. (Britain First, a far right party that was only marginally less hopeless at winning votes than the SWP but very effective at getting Facebook likes back when it still had a page) The world didn't begin in January.


Another view is that they're banning it to show that banning organisations according to some policy isn't effective and therefore they shouldn't be policing it 'because, how could they?'.


Or it’s the smallish act that reveals FBs true pro-far right bias.


FB skews conservative in content because that's who uses and invests in it, not who staffs it (primarily coastal, urban elites).

There have been numerous stories about FB employees lifting their noses at the platform's contents and users only to be reminded by Zuck that those are their users, and they serve them no matter who they are.


The Facebook PAC also funds politicians like Andy Biggs, Michael Burgess, Mike Kelly, Tom Emmer and many others, so it's not just about the user base.


Ha ha. Time to regurgitate all the “private suppression of information isn’t censorship”, “facebook is a private company free of kicking anyone out of their platform”, “facebook shouldn’t be compelled to carry speech it dislikes”, etc.


I mean... yes? I can't speak for others but my opinion on the matter remains unchanged despite who the target is. I may disagree that it was a good move, but it is, in my opinion, Facebook's right to ban anyone it wants.

It'd be like if dang decided he'd had enough of me bitching about package management, bad UIs, and software bloat and banned me. I wouldn't like it, but I also don't believe I am entitled to force HN to host my rants.

I believe the right way to handle this, if you are upset about how Facebook does things, is to stop using Facebook and tell other people why you don't use Facebook.


And that's why it was wrong to kick off Trump, just as it's now wrong to kick off the SWP.

A slippery slope was started and now the genie is out of the bottle and can't be contained anymore.


Australian Rupert Murdoch says hi from his American Fox empire.


That is a valid point, but then every one of my friends in Europe posting anti-Trump stuff, encouraging Americans to vote for Biden could be considered election interference as well, no?


wait, we don't like corporate censorship now?


Me-thinks that their automated procedure for banning right-wing actors removed large swathes of left-wing actors too. Not surprising really. After all, the SWP describes itself as "revolutionary" and that has got a bad name in recent days.

Looks like they will need to make special "permit-list" for the language of left wing parties.


Why would you think they would make a permit list for political pages?


I thought that was obvious ? To avoid their automated process making the mistake of banning them again.


If they were banned for something they said, it was most likely because it breached FBs terms of service.


Why should onky left wing parties get special protection?


GP did not say they should, they just mentioned the fact that they do.


Uh trump was kicked off Twitter a week ago.

The bans of non fringe, left leaning libertarian liberals have been getting kicked off Twitter for months labeled alt right for having such scary ideas like they should be allowed to use the words they choose.


Facebook is a private company and can do whatever they want.


That statement is neither true, wise nor a rebuttal.

(1) They have to obey a whole bunch of laws. Including laws on political interference.

(2) If there is a corporate exception to foreign interference, foreigners will found corporations to interfere. If founding an LLC lets someone interfere without hinderance then the world would soon be contending with the NSA, LLC and GRU Pty. Ltd. and Guoanbu Inc.

(3) Any US billionaire, Zuckerberg included, is a potential presidential candidate. They are all politically connected. Facebook will also cooperate with US intelligence which has a long proud history of overthrowing or suppressing various leftist movements.

Facebook is absolutely a source of foreign political interference.


Weird how that statement was 'true' when it was Trump&pals getting kicked of, but now that radical leftists get kicked of, it's not true anymore.


I think it’s mostly liberals that have been spreading this statement. If you take a look at for instance Glenn Greenwald’s latest tweets or statements from the ACLU you’ll be hearing something very different.


Sounds good, until the next bail out comes and private companies and their investors has to be saved.


Facebook is not critical infrastructure like banks. Instead of bailing them out they can be simply let to go bankrupt.


So true, but next bailout? The bailout is continuous so long as the Fed keeps rates near zero, delaying the inevitable adjustments to asset prices and allowing large hedge funds with access to these extremely low rates to gobble up even more with little worry about the downside. Current Stock market is a primary example of this.


That’s been said mockingly and seriously so many times in the last few weeks; it’s literally impossible to tell which this is. Bravo on ambiguity.


> and can do whatever they want.

That's not quite correct - they need to follow the laws of the state they are headquartered in.


Sure, they can. Should they? And should they be allowed to looking forward, or are they now an active threat to democracy? By the way, I say this speaking as a conservative who opposes basically everything the Socialist Workers Party stands for, but who is more threatened by autocratic tech censorship than by opposing ideas.


There isn’t a shortage of means to socialize and communicate digitally. Facebook rises and falls on its own merits and if your speech depends on Facebook, that’s a personal problem, and reflects your own personal choices.

20 years ago Facebook didn’t exist. Now we have Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, WordPress (both the service and the software), YouTube, SoundCloud, the Fediverse, Twitch, Slack, Discord, iMessage groups, whatever the 3 Google messengers of the day are, XMPP clients and servers, IRC (which is admittedly more than 20 years old), countless dating sites, Reddit, and countless other “social networks”. When the bars re-open, we’ll have those too, and that is an ancient institution.

And for what it’s worth, there’s also the comments section of NRO and The Dispatch. Oh, and the forum we’re talking on.


Sure, there isn't a shortage of digital communication, but they are responsible for a large proportion of that communication and they hold the power of tilting democracies by choice of those in charge of the company or by seemingly random bearucratic decisions made by their employees. They are a medium of information distribution. If certain phone companies decide to not put through calls years ago in an effort to sway democracies, would that have been acceptable? They are a for profit business ruled by one individual that has extraordinary power. As a society, are we really supposed to just let them do whatever they want just because there are less popular alternatives?


There was an argument to be made to treat phone companies like common carriers, I’m not entirely sure that was the best way to handle them, but it happened, and it was a good argument nonetheless, or at least well argued.

Social media isn’t like that at all. Social media proliferates and in different forms and it does so internationally with popular and unpopular opinions easily spreading like wildfire. I have no problem with the Facebooks and the Twitters of the world running their servers with the carte blanche of the private property owners that they are because what you and others perceive as a lack of options and alternatives looks more to me like there’s not a lot of options today compared to how many there will be 20 years from now.

Go look back at the history of the web, here’s an incomplete and not comprehensive list of sites and internet services which have existed, do exist, ceased to exist, got gobbled up by bigger fish and spawned smaller networks of their own and probably in some small way contributed to the political conscience of most Americans alive today and definitely not concerning ourselves with all of the countless web forums, Usenet groups, and mailing lists: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_networking_serv...

Classmates.com: 1995

GameFAQs: 1995

Newgrounds: 1995

ICQ: 1996

AIM: 1997

CaringBridge: 1997

Slashdot: 1997

Penny Arcade: 1998

Yahoo Messenger: 1998

BlackPlanet: 1999

Blogger: 1999

Fark: 1999

Kiwibox: 1999

LiveJournal: 1999

Metafilter: 1999

Neopets: 1999

Something Awful: 1999

Xanga: 1999

CrossFit: 2000

DeviantArt: 2000

Radio UserLand: 2000

Wikipedia: 2001

YTMND: 2001

Yahoo Groups: 2001

last.fm: 2002

Meetup: 2002

4chan: 2003

Gaia Online: 2003

LinkedIn: 2003

MEETin: 2003

MySpace: 2003

Second Life: 2003

Steam: 2003

WordPress: 2003

Digg: 2004

Facebook: 2004

Flickr: 2004

hi5: 2004

IMVU: 2004

PatientsLikeMe: 2004

RoosterTeeth Forums: 2004

TV Tropes: 2004

World of Warcraft: 2004

Yelp: 2004

Vimeo: 2004

Dailymotion: 2005

Google Talk: 2005

LibraryThing: 2005

Ning: 2005

Reddit: 2005

YouTube: 2005

CafeMom: 2006

Flixster: 2006

Goodreads: 2006

iLike: 2006

ReverbNation: 2006

Twitter: 2006

Chess.com: 2007

Italki: 2007

SoundCloud: 2007

Tumblr: 2007

Hacker News: 2007

Justin.tv: 2007

Academia.edu: 2008

GovLoop: 2008

identi.ca: 2008

Nextdoor: 2008

Formspring: 2009

Foursquare: 2009

Grindr: 2009

Pinterest: 2009

Quora: 2009

WhatsApp: 2009

Friendica: 2010

Instagram: 2010

Untappd: 2010

Duolingo: 2011

Fishbrain: 2011

I Had Cancer: 2011

Letterboxd: 2011

Twitch: 2011

Whisper: 2012

Google Hangouts: 2013

Slack: 2013

Vine: 2013

Voat: 2014

Yo: 2014

Discord: 2015

Periscope: 2015

Gab: 2016

Houseparty: 2016

Mastodon: 2016

Peach: 2016

micro.blog: 2017

Parler: 2018

So let’s break this down.

> Sure, there isn't a shortage of digital communication, but they are responsible for a large proportion of that communication and they hold the power of tilting democracies by choice of those in charge of the company or by seemingly random bearucratic decisions made by their employees.

No. We are responsible for our own communications and when we don’t trust the messenger, we encode our messages or we use a different messenger. We are also the ones responsible for the upkeep of our own democracy and the upkeep of the institutions which maintain it because it’s ours and our responsibility. Corporations, as it turns out, as organizations which represent the aggregate interests of their owners and employees, are also actors in aggregate within the framework of our democracy, much like name a group of three or more people.

How ten thousand people voted in one place or fifty-thousand voted in another isn’t Facebook’s responsibility, or Twitter’s, or Reddit’s, or Slack’s. It’s the responsibility of every single person who cast their own vote, which should be all of the people who cast votes in every election.

> They are a medium of information distribution.

They are a handful out of the millions of ways that exist to distribute information.

> They are a for profit business ruled by one individual that has extraordinary power. As a society, are we really supposed to just let them do whatever they want just because there are less popular alternatives?

They are dust. If our free speech depended on the whims of one Mark Zuckerberg and one Jack Dorsey, then we didn’t have free speech to begin with. Facebook and Twitter are critters of the last 20 years, there have been others, and there will be more like them, but also entirely unlike them.

The way people talk about social media companies today they make it sound like we need some sort of Social Media Public Commission to control the moderation policies and enforce the publication of government speech. We don’t, because we have what we need: competition and the many many technologies that enable it and a free flow of cash and labor and capital.

It’s disgusting to me how freely conspiracy theorists, socialists, PRC apologists and neo-Nazis can easily congregate and talk themselves up into a furor about seizing the means of killing the Jews before Bill Gates takes over the world and prevents Chairman Winnie the Pooh from leading us into glorious revolution, but that’s the mark of a free society that they can find a way and will always find a way. So is being able to tell the President and anyone else to get off your lawn and/or servers.


> the list Just because there are hundreds of extremely less popular social media platforms does not erase the fact that they have most of the users. Decisions they make about filtering content impact a large majority of our population.

> They are dust.

How is having 223 million users in the United States in 2020 equate to facebook being dust? They have a strangle hold on the market and a large portion of the United States uses facebook as their primary news source.

> If our free speech depended on the whims of one Mark Zuckerberg and one Jack Dorsey, then we didn’t have free speech to begin with.

I either don't understand what you mean by this or it sounds incorrect to me. People use facebook as a means of communication and as a means of receiving news. Why does that fact have any bearing over whether or not we had free speech before they came along? And are you saying that just because we didn't have free speech before means its ok that free speech is entirely free now?

> Facebook and Twitter are critters of the last 20 years, there have been others, and there will be more like them, but also entirely unlike them.

Does it really matter what the state of social media companies was before or in the future in this conversation? They are infringing on speech now. Their goals are not aligned with the United States, they are aligned with making money.

> The way people talk about social media companies today they make it sound like we need some sort of Social Media Public Commission to control the moderation policies and enforce the publication of government speech. We don’t, because we have what we need: competition and the many many technologies that enable it and a free flow of cash and labor and capital.

Are you seriously saying that fair competition is currently happening in the social media market? Facebook is currently being sued for being a monopoly. They have unfairly crushed numerous companies and will continue to do so.

Is your conclusion that everything is fine and that companies should do whatever they can to make money no matter the impact it has on people or our democracy?

Facebook dominates the social media market right now. They are making decisions on speech of a large proportion of our country. They themselves have attempted to setup commissions to better define how to moderate content fairly, but to this point they have failed. Why would laws detailing how they should moderate content be a bad thing? There are already laws around horrible content that should not be served, could it really hurt to extend it and make free speech content moderation a public policy decision of our democracy?


Look forward, and look back.

Facebook and Twitter are a blip in history. Their relevance today pales in comparison to their historic and future relevance. All 233M, scratch that, all billion or two billion or however many of those users have other things to do with their time besides Facebook all day. Facebook in that case is a part of their lives, it is not a replacement for their lives nor what ultimately determines their lives and choices, meaning it does not absolve anyone of personal responsibility for the choices they make.

So yes, they are dust, as dusty as the lot of us together. Reactionary policies and laws would do more to cement their place and continued presence in society than letting new generations grow up and make determinations about which social networks they value and develop antibodies to the shrillness of mass to mass communication. There is value in Facebook, so new users continue to make accounts and make use of the service much as people continue to buy smartphones and PCs and automobiles, but the value looks different to every person.

If Facebook and Twitter were the only two socialization methods available to society, I might be more concerned. They’re simply not, and most people have multiple means of socialization and multiple social networks.

EDIT: Forgot one bit in particular I wanted to address.

> Their goals are not aligned with the United States, they are aligned with making money.

That is correct. We’re not just one big unified hunky dory family all marching towards the same ends and the same future. We’re a bunch of people, with our own interests, and mostly unconcerned with the government and the State until we need to be. Facebook is concerned with making money, I’m concerned with my own affairs, and you are also concerned with your own affairs. That’s life, and if we see each other on the street, let’s get along.


> Facebook and Twitter are a blip in history. Their relevance today pales in comparison to their historic and future relevance. All 233M, scratch that, all billion or two billion or however many of those users have other things to do with their time besides Facebook all day. Facebook in that case is a part of their lives, it is not a replacement for their lives nor what ultimately determines their lives and choices, meaning it does not absolve anyone of personal responsibility for the choices they make.

Why does the past or future matter? Their decisions can impact our democracy now. The fact is, they own the market now and they can impact our democracy now.

Are you in favor of a completely "free" market? You really believe that competition alone will ensure consumers have the final say? What about standard oil? Did that go well? Monopolies and oligopolies strangle out competition and harm the consumer. That is why laws were put in place to prevent those types of things from happening. That is why facebook is being sued by the FTC right now. Their business practices are unfair to competition and are not in the best interest of our society.

> That is correct. We’re not just one big unified hunky dory family all marching towards the same ends and the same future. We’re a bunch of people, with our own interests, and mostly unconcerned with the government and the State until we need to be. Facebook is concerned with making money, I’m concerned with my own affairs, and you are also concerned with your own affairs. That’s life, and if we see each other on the street, let’s get along.

So are you saying we just let facebook do whatever they want until they are replaced by competition? What if that impacts our society negatively for a year? A decade? 100 years? At what point do we step in and enact laws to protect our society from negative consequences?

The point of the government is to be a steward of our society and to ensure it is fair, healthy and prosperous. Laws are put in place to do just that. The content moderation practices of facebook can impact our society. It seems logical to me that the government should enact laws to do the same in this case as it would in other activities detrimental to society (e.g. murder, drunk driving, etc).


> The point of the government is to be a steward of our society and to ensure it is fair, healthy and prosperous

This is your understanding of government, and it is a paternalistic understanding of government. I do not share this view and that is a source of contention between us.

> Why does the past or future matter? Their decisions can impact our democracy now. The fact is, they own the market now and they can impact our democracy now.

They own some of the servers people spend some of their time and do some of their communication on. Everything from Netflix to POTS is their competition, and Facebook does not have a monopoly on community.

> So are you saying we just let facebook do whatever they want until they are replaced by competition? What if that impacts our society negatively for a year? A decade? 100 years? At what point do we step in and enact laws to protect our society from negative consequences?

At what point do we charge people with the responsibility of managing their own time and making their own choices independent of where they choose to spend it and how they choose to socialize and communicate? Our democracy is the countless choices people make every day, at the ballot box, in the courts, and how we live with our communities. Facebook is an option.

Whatever relative power Facebook holds today, has held in the past and will hold in the future is a consequence of the choices of billions of individuals, but power has its own economy that competes against power for varying outcomes. Power, no matter how concentrated, does not exist in a vacuum.


> socialists

You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.

Not just you either.


It does, I don’t often, and I don’t use it as a synonym for non-socialist parties and ideologies.

Try again mate.


I mean, that's fine, but I take issue with one party having this massive megaphone to the world, with the other side having theirs completely snuffed.

Either ban them all, or ban none of them.


Are they not a public company? Sure are publicly traded.


They can do whatever they are allowed by law, nobody argue about the legality but rather about the existing legislation. It seems like we need to change our laws if we don't want SV companies, which we don't vote for, to control our lives and govern what we can or can't do.


that can change. what's the cost and the benefit of doing so?


Because it's not an attempt to interfere in politics and they are assuredly not being banned due to their political views.

Facebook bans groups and people all the time, it does not imply that it's political.

It seems FB has no given their reasoning for the ban, which is rather odd given the significance, I suggest we'll either hear from them forthcoming with evidence of 'violence' or they'll walk back their mistake. My hunch was that this was a mistake ...

And the bit about 'no explanation' is a bit outrageous, I mean, how blatantly unfair is that.


The bit about "no explanation" is completely fair. That's how bans on Facebook work -- nobody gets an explanation, so it's inherently fair.


Actually Facebook always gives an explanation by referring to a particular breach of terms. It may not feel sufficient or fair to the banned, but you do get a reason for why you are banned.


It's political interference if it was intentional or not. It's not the intent but the outcome that's the problem here..


That's irrelevant if the group is breaking the rules.

If they are causing violence (though I doubt this) then they are going to get banned and that's that.

It's very well within reason.


It's a positive thing for these ejections to be across the political spectrum, because it makes the demand for distributed moderation come from across the political spectrum.

I hope that demand congeals on support for an open blogging protocol, such that people can very easily post once and direct it to multiple platforms or any listener. If this becomes popular enough, and posts aren't owned by a particular platform, the big platforms lose their power to control the conversation.


> It's a positive thing for these ejections to be across the political spectrum, because it makes the demand for distributed moderation come from across the political spectrum.

It's a positive thing for these ejections to be across the political spectrum, because it de-politicizes censorship, and folks on one side of the spectrum cheering for the other side begin to realize that censorship is always a scope creep issue.


I'm a little worried in a few years it will only be safe to put up recipes and tell people happy birthday on social media, everything else will be too controversial


Sorry, "Happy Birthday" is an imperialist imposition of western cultural values. It also mocks the elderly. Such micro-aggressions are no longer permitted on our platform. You have been "fact-checked" and given your first and last warning and a temporary ban of 90 days.


Recipes are also guilty of cultural appropriation...


I've treated Facebook like that for years now, reinforced by the occasional observation that it's a bad idea not to. Even discussing the academic evidence for face mask efficacy was a bit of a minefield back in March of last year. I was actually excluded from a massive national FB group over it. Wasn't even a heated discussion, just a single post with a reasoned argument and some referenced papers.

Any debate or discussion of importance I do either either pseudonymously, or in private forums with only people I know are capable of discussing, disagreeing and having an open mind to surprising viewpoints.

Honestly, this stuff drives wealth disparity. I can't even discuss investment strategies in these public forums without risking personal attacks.


Reminds me of the idea that discussing salary didn’t used to be an issue; but now is considered rude and taboo. We don’t talk about salary because it isn’t “safe”.

On the otherhand, I agree with other people here that maybe feeling like it isn’t “safe” to discuss things will lead to more open and free places to communicate.


Discussing salary has effects beyond someone being offended. The taboo on salary tilts the table in favor of employers at the expense of the employed. In particular it enables lowballing of employees.


Recipes are an infringement of intellectual property. In order to protect recipe creators we need to make sure that the streaming-recipe platforms are regulated.


I’m somewhat sure the end result will be banning all political content- which honestly sounds pretty good


I understand that the likes of Facebook are making a lot of money from political advertising. They're not going to stop it on their own without a severe change of heart. Those in power that have manipulates voters through social media certainly aren't going to push for it.

In your opinion, how is it going to happen?


I agree with both of you. It’s just too bad we need to hope it gets worse in order have any expectation of it getting better.


That's optimistic.

What I'm seeing is a lot of "we should regulate things so that facebook isn't allowed to censor things I like but is obligated to censor things I don't like".

If people reacted to censorship in a principled way, we wouldn't be where we are today.


If people reacted to censorship in a principled way, nobody would use Facebook. It's an inherently censorious platform. The whole argument is about regulating or influencing Facebook's patterns of censorship.


And then you posting your counter narrative - even if it's truth and reason - will result in you being ban/blocked from their threads. We're going to start to have big in-person forums where a person's truth and reason can't be quickly silenced so the potential mob will be smaller than otherwise.


Except that in-person forums are illegal right now :(


People dont want distributed moderation, they just want the other side to be moderated.


Moderation isn't censorship.

I might entertain an emotional desire for the other side to be censored sometimes. But a good moderator? I want them for me and mine.

I care about 'my side' making strong, principled arguments with actionable policy outcomes, and not advancing weaker ones.


If more people were like you then this would be a workable solution, but unfortunately I think you are in the minority.


> Moderation isn't censorship.

It it if it only applies to one side and in a form that the other side approves of, and that was the point of the example you replied to. If it was your example, "I want them for me and mine" then there wouldn't be a problem (or this problem, there'll always be problems).


Or.... The media companies just like to have the middle-of-the-road, dont-rock-the-boat-too-much parties who will kowtow to them and give the masses the ILUSION of political choice.


Middle doesn't have to mean 100% pro-establishment or pro-status-quo. And the illusion of choice applies to the falsely compressed, single-issue, single-axis left/right extremes, too.


> Middle doesn't have to mean 100% pro-establishment or pro-status-quo.

You are confusing centrist parties with "middle-of-the-road" parties which by axiomatic definition mean the mainstream parties.

> And the illusion of choice applies to the falsely compressed, single-issue, single-axis left/right extremes, too.

It is not an illusion if the media is massively invested on who wins. Vanilla Republican vs Vanilla Democrat = Illusion of Choice,it does not matter who wins, the media wont care and the status quo will be maintained. Trump vs Vanilla Democrats = Choice matters, media will align with the Democrats to maintain the status-quo. Vanilla Republicans vs Bernie Sanders, Choice matters, media will align with the Republicans to maintain the status-quo.


Generally agreed, although I think that only really applies to control at the social-network level, not to control exerted via e.g. Chrome or DNS or your ISP.

This feels like the start of a very long road.


Didn't Mozilla recently-ish put out a statement about possibly having a black-list of sorts to remove bad sites / "think of the children"? On mobile so can't search for it but surely someone here remembers the link.


You're probably thinking of https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25690941

The statement was vague and ambiguous and touched a lot of raw nerves, but coming as it did on the heels of major layoffs at Mozilla it felt a bit like Mitchell Baker pulling a "roll hard left and die".


Don’t spread FUD. The statement you’re referring to had nothing to do with blacklisting sites.


> I hope that demand congeals on support for an open blogging protocol

One of the biggest takeaways from the past 25 years of "the internet" is that critical-mass-achieving walled gardens are the ticket to unicorndom, and that's the only kind of solution that VC dollars are chasing. I don't think there's a way for someone to make a self-sustaining alternative open platform in this "market."


As long as the same types of ejectable communications are being published across the political spectrum. I assume the SWP was calling for violence against the government or various officials?


It possible that the only sensible option is to ban all political groups from these platforms.

The reason is that ultimately no one what's to have extreme polar opinions on these sites, but it's going to be very difficult to determine that in a non partisan manner.

Though also to be fair it might be difficult to truely flag all political groups.


This is true. There are already a few decentralized platforms being worked on, and some mainly by socialists!


This assumes that there is a political spectrum and that all parts of it have equal power. The SWP have miniscule political clout. In general the left (not the liberal center often mislabeled as "left" in the USA) has few institutions and less power. The most likely outcome is the consolidation of censorship in the hands of Republican/Democratic censors. Left-wingers will be welcome to post to ten followers at a time on Mastodon.

There really is only one obvious response to this: Facebook, Google etc are common carriers, not allowed to censor. They should also be broken up given their massive size which enables them to drive policy which affects them.


Nah, I don’t want a platform for Nazis or white supremecists or paedophiles or heroine dealers. If that makes me a bad person in other people’s eyes then I’m fine with that.


> ... have been removed from Facebook with no explanation given

At the very least, this should be unacceptable. You shouldn't get banned for something if you aren't told what you did. If it was for use of the word revolutionary, it should say so. Or if they called for some leader's heads, it should say so. Then they could avoid doing the same in the future and we could all agree with or criticize the rationale.

As it is, it's likely similar to "a big neural network said so" which tells the users nothing. Facebook's free to run themselves this way but it's sure dickish. Imagine if the government or your boss made rules that way. "Drivers will be ticketed if our models say so."


One of the problems with this is opening up to criticism, liability, and further argumentation.

If you say "We removed them because of their political views," then you get criticized for being openly partisan.

If you say "We removed them because their comments were inciting violence," you'll get arguments about how their comments didn't actually tell people to do violent things (for example, in the US I'm sure for the near future, a lot of people will be arguing very loudly whether the specific phrases "fight like hell" and "trial by combat" are metaphorical rhetorical devices or literal instructions to take violent actions.)

People will start finding and pointing out situations where you made different decisions in near-identical circumstances, and criticize you for that too.

It's better for users if the platform's transparent.

But the platform has no incentive to do so. Less than 1% of the time will users say "Okay you told us why this person was banned, we now see the ban's fair, and we'll shut up and go home." Instead, 99% of the time they'll turn your explanation into another reason to be enraged at you, or argue you need to reconsider, or even sue you because that line of reasoning makes you liable.

From the platform's point of view, it's usually better to let the reasoning behind a ban be a question mark.

> "a big neural network said so"

This is part of it too. With ML-driven bans or other actions, it's possible that nobody understands what criteria it uses to make decisions.


> One of the problems with this is opening up to criticism, liability, and further argumentation.

That's not a problem; it's the point.

> It's better for users if the platform's transparent.

Exactly.

> or even sue you because that line of reasoning makes you liable.

Also the point. Corporations are not people, and their reasoning should be assumed liability-worthy unless shown otherwise.


It also leads bad actors to game the system.


Bad actors don't need to game the system, they either:

* Get their government cronies/buddies to skew the system in their favor.

* Use their business relationship with Facebook to skew the system in their favor.

* Own the system from the get-go.


There are many worse people in the world than this. I should have been more clear in saying malicious and maliciously motivated actors.


> I should have been more clear in saying malicious and maliciously motivated actors.

The actors einpoklum refers to are malicious and maliciously motivated. Do you perhaps mean unsubtle in their malice and lacking in significant public credulity? (Eg, white supremacists.) Because while there are plenty of other bad actors, any 'solution' that doesn't address the bad actors einpoklum describes... isn't.


That's unfortunate. Not the victim's problem, though.


"bad people might behave better to we can't ban them easily" is a pretty poor argument. Zuckerberg has $50,000,000,000; he can afford to hire some people to do the job.


To be scrupulously fair, I think the concern is more "bad people might behave just as bad, but in ways that technically don't fit whatever criteria we banned the last group for". Or, less directly, "bad people might find good people who behave in ways that technically do fit those criteria, and try to get them banned".


Looking at their financials, it looks like they’ve massively increased headcount to battle these “integrity” problems. It at least looks like they’ve invested a ton of money. From the outside, I am not sure it’s been effective, but to be fair, have there been as many issues since they started investing significantly around 2018? Most of the major problems look like it happened before. (Not to excuse that time, but if they are fixing issues then it changes the future projections while still not letting them off the hook for past problems)


> Instead, 99% of the time they'll turn your explanation into another reason to be enraged at you, or argue you need to reconsider, or even sue you because that line of reasoning makes you liable.

Social networks seem to optimize for serving content that engages, and that typically means news with a negative sentiment. So, giving a ban with a reason would engage people for longer, to serve them more ads, and make the audience more profitable.


> Instead, 99% of the time they'll turn your explanation into another reason to be enraged at you, or argue you need to reconsider, or even sue you because that line of reasoning makes you liable. //

Which is 'fine', let them be enraged. Transparency shows it to be fair and removes the ability to reasonably argue otherwise. Then at least one can decide if the platform is right for you, and indeed of the rules are anti-democratic we can move for changing them.

'I'm so enraged, $platform said that inciting violence wasn't allowed, then I incited violence and got censored', whose going to rally around that flag?


One of the problems with this is opening up to criticism, liability, and further argumentation.

Too bad. They must do it anyway. None of those are valid excuses for removing all accountability from the moderation process.


It's Facebook's platform, they can remove anyone they want without explanation or transparency. The sooner people realise this, the sooner people will stop using Facebook - which in my opinion is a good thing.

The SWP could instead have their own website (which they do) and the ability to subscribe to their newsletters via email (they may have this already). Further to this they could setup their own forum on their own website, again they may already have this). This involves far fewer third parties to shut them down.

Why anyone would rely on Facebook when there are so many other options is just a sign of laziness or ignorance.


'Why would anyone go to parliament to talk, there are so many other buildings to talk in'.

I don't believe you are really that clueless about online social networks.


Is is kinda hilarious that the SWP is reliant on the granddaddy of surveillance capitalism.

Obviously they feel the need to go where the eyeballs are, where they can target ads to the fertile soil of ignorance.

Many claim that FB can do what they want. Not so, they must respond to legislation wherever they operate (and make money). Just like Rupert they have huge influence, but they can be brought to heel if there is public will to do so.


We should create a brightline, even if approximate and requiring later adjustment, to determine which companies are too big and must be governed by a different set of rules. Normally we would consider it unremarkable if a restaurant quits a customer, or if a law firm refused a client altogether.

On the other hand we consider it disaster if Amazon quits you as a vendor, or if your only local hospital refuses you. Perhaps any firm handling more than $1M yearly revenue shouldn’t be able to randomly quit customers.


I strongly disagree. Government control should be as minimal as possible, otherwise it helps a pitfall of potential tyranny. The people need to "vote" by using platforms that they respect the governance of. If they don't like how/who the leadership of Facebook is moderating, they should go to another platform; there does need to be better data and network portability laws/policy, so users are mobile and can leave any platform easily. This still doesn't solve the filter bubbles that get created in digital communities.


Any sufficiently-dominant corporation is indistinguishable from a government.


Then perhaps we should address these too big corporations issues. It appears, if no big social media corporation existed, and instead there were a bunch of smaller players, we could argue that the customers will make a good decision.

Perhaps, the government should be involved into it (in form of perhaps adjusting anti-trust laws)?


Citations needed. Strong statement with zero points argued to back it up.

Edit to add: downvotes don't count as argument points.


No, they don't, but that's what you get around here. If there's a bigger hive of intellectual douchebaggery in this sector of the galaxy, I haven't found it yet. Still, the good usually outweighs the bad by far.

To be fair to my downvoters, it would be more accurate to say, "Any sufficiently dominant corporation is indistinguishable from a monarchy." With the US government, at least, you have the right to vote, along with some constitutional protections including various avenues of appeal. When Google terminates your account for no good reason, on the other hand, there are fewer options. There's not much you can do but post a cri de coeur on Twitter and hope HN or some other intercessory spirit notices it and calls the King's attention to your plight.


I get what you're saying, however your "vote" is by not using Google - I understand that's easier said than done when they're conveniently the best search engine, etc. Laws are certainly behind as well, there should be due process since a single internet account at a company can be a critical fabric to our life.


Exactly, I'm pretty curious what they said? Were they being dishonest? Hate speech? threatening violence?


Sadly par for the course. Games do this to avoid bots improving against detection. Dating apps do it for safety. This is certainly more egregious because it’s about basic speech but by no means is the lack of disclosure new.


And it makes sense. It's like SEO. It's an adversarial environment without a perfect answer, so keeping the reasons hidden truly does help most everyone. It just sucks that it leaves the false positives hanging out to dry with no explanation and no recourse. And this has all gotten to a scale where those false positives are a huge number of people, even if it's a minuscule fraction.


> "Drivers will be ticketed if our models say so."

Safe driving is more than just obeying road signs. You might follow all the rules exactly as they're written in the book but still be a reckless driver. As you point out feedback is the key.

I've driven a car in countries where the traffic officers place obscure road signs to trick drivers into speeding so they can make a quick buck on a bribe.

Sometimes you might break laws without being aware of them. A model could suggest you do something differently before you cross the line?


There was also a historical re-enactment page removed in December because they had militia in their title [1]

Looks to just be an over-eager moderation engine.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-dorset-55215949


It’s always some external thing: “the algorithm”, as if that doesn’t just mean “the way we programmed it”.

Computing systems are do not act on their own. That the system did this was because it was allowed to, or more accurately, told to.


> It’s always some external thing: “the algorithm”, as if that doesn’t just mean “the way we programmed it”.

This is true.

> Computing systems are do not act on their own.

That doesn't mean that computer systems behave the way that we intend them to behave, or even that we really fully understand our own intent!

How much of your own code have you formally verified? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formal_verification)

How much of your own code even has a precise enough purpose that the spec of what it's supposed to do is shorter than the length of the code? Such that you could even in theory formally verify that the implementation is in some sense "correct"?

For that matter.... how much of your code has a precise enough purpose that the spec of what it's supposed to do can be written down in formal language at all?

And actually... how much of your code has a precise enough purpose that the spec of what it's supposed to do can be written down in ENGLISH at all?

I don't think something like an "extremism filter" can ever be implemented in a bug-free way, because I don't think there's a precise enough definition of what "bug-free" would even mean.

The problem of people blaming bad outcomes on "the algorithm" is real, and organizations should take responsibility for misclassifications generated by code that they own and operate.

It's unhelpful to pretend like engineers and the organizations they work for have zero agency.

However, it's equally unhelpful to pretend like buggy behavior aligns with the intent of the engineer/organization.


When software goes wrong, the company that decided to create and operate that software for profit is responsible for whatever negative impact that software might have, regardless of whether these problems were foreseen.

(And in the case of automated moderation, the software getting something wrong really should be considered foreseen consequence anyway. Facebook knew, or should have known, that these systems would have false positives.)


Yes, "organizations should take responsibility for misclassifications generated by code that they own and operate."

But also, "the computer was told to do the buggy thing" is misleading because it suggests mens rea.


I don't think mens rea is particularly relevant when it comes to the actions of corporations. It's not at all clear to me what it would mean for a corporation to have intent.

We could certainly say a 'corporation intended' to do something if we found an email from the CEO commanding it, that much is trivial. But what if we think of a corporation as a 'slow AI' or 'China brain'? Might the corporation, viewed that way, have intent that transcends the individual thoughts and desires of the constituent employees? The system may be structured in a way that rewards low level employees for doing things the individual executives would never consider acceptable (for instance, 'lying to the executives'), and which the low level employees don't think is a good idea either. With all the humans personally opposed to some business practice, it might still occur due to the structure of the system. If we personify that system, we could perhaps say the system itself has a will of its own, with objectives alien to any of the humans involved.

A harsh example far worse than Facebook: the Functionalism-Intentionalism debate (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functionalism–intentionalism...) At the end of the day, does it really matter? Whether you subscribe to functionalism or intentionalism in that case, the horrible end result is the same and people need to be held accountable for it.


> I don't think mens rea is particularly relevant when it comes to the actions of corporations. It's not at all clear to me what it would mean for a corporation to have intent.

But we do distinguish in regulated engineering disciplines. A contractor that intentionally uses shoddy materials in a bridge or tunnel is treated differently from a contractor who simply fails to implement legally required QC is treated different from a contractor who implemented legally required QC but laid bad concrete due to operator error that wasn't captured by that legal requirement.

> At the end of the day, does it really matter?

Yes, and the reason it matters is immediate when you try to answer the following questions.

> Whether you subscribe to functionalism or intentionalism in that case, the horrible end result is the same and people need to be held accountable for it.

1. Held accountable how?

2. Toward what end?

--

Facebook has good engineers, but they're not gods. It is not possible to write a perfect -- or perhaps even passably good -- "political extremism" filter.

Shifting blame from "the algorithm" to "the engineers" or "the corporation" completely misses the whole fucking point: there is no spec for "perfectly functional political extremism filter". 0.000% of the people calling for "politically neutral moderation" have any god damn clue how to define the thing that are asking for, even in a natural language, let alone a language precise enough to implement.

Just look at the rhetoric used. People blame in passive voice "corporations" and "engineers", while criticizing others for using passive voice to blame "the algorithm". I'm not saying that we don't need a base level of QC and corporate responsibility. I even think Software people should be folded into Professional Engineering with all of the personal responsibility that entails! But we need to be very realistic about the fact that engineers are not Gods who can Solve Politics.

Hell, even if you erase inherent political tension this is still an impossible task. Can you write down a filter that's perfectly biased toward liberal speech? No.

So, again, Held accountable how? Toward what end? Unless your answer is "purposefully kill all social media including HN", mens rea matters.


> 1. Held accountable how? 2. Toward what end?

In the case of the Nazis, the answers are 1. Executed. 2. Justice. For Facebook, I think executions should be off the table, but the second answer is the same.

Facebook's engineers aren't gods, I get that. Knowing their engineers aren't gods, Facebook proceeded to use them to create imperfect but profitable systems anyway. Systems they knew or should have known would harm society while enriching their shareholders. This is facebook's crime. If they couldn't create moderation systems that operate well at a massive scale, they never should have operated at that scale in the first place. They couldn't, should have known they couldn't, but tried anyway.


Again, I view this as a passive voice excusing of responsibility for direct political action in exactly the same way that some people view "the algorithm" as a passive voice excusing of responsibility.

The president pro tempore of the US senate was a Segrationist in 2001. Literally, segregationists of the US Senate outlived pets.com

If any component of your blame or solution to the state of western politics includes the words "social media", ... good fucking luck.


> Again, I view this as a passive voice excusing of responsibility for direct political action

You are mistaken. Neither intentionalists nor functionalists excuse the responsibility of anybody, least of all the organization's leadership. To both, the organization and its leaders are to be held responsible for the actions of the organization. The functionalist model does not absolve anybody of guilt.

If you want to see the hazard of demanding proof of intention, look no further than the travesty of justice that occurred in the wake of Enron. Every last Enron executive should have been jailed, but prosecutors had a hell of a time getting any of them convicted of anything because of this misguided obsession with proving intent. And nobody from Arthur Anderson went to prison, for the same reason.

Obsession with intent allows the guilty to trot out the "we didn't mean for this to happen, we're all just idiots." excuse. Without a smoking gun email, that excuse is hard to conclusively disprove. The antidote to that is strict liability; saying that their intentions are irrelevant and punishing them anyway.

Reminder, this is my point: "When software goes wrong, the company that decided to create and operate that software for profit is responsible for whatever negative impact that software might have, regardless of whether these problems were foreseen."


I understand your sentiment. I expect this will not solve the underlying issues and will indeed create more issues in the long run: with that rule, interpreted strictly, only established multi-billion/trillion dollar companies will be able to assume the liability and risk of insuring software against “negative impact”. The bar “careful or you may go to jail / be financially ruined” would be too high for most SME or open-source developers to clear.

Take medical software as an example: a highly regulated space, that very few SMEs and approximately ZERO open-source projects can afford to enter.

And even in that space, strict liabilities are restricted to the software’s *intended use*. As long as the manufacturer has taken steps to clearly indicate what is appropriate use / misuse of the software, the manufacturer is NOT liable if the software is misused by the user. At that point, the liability shifts to the user of the software instead.

An in-between approach would be GDPR-style regulations that define what is and is not appropriate to do, with proportional penalties for failing to do that: intended vs unintended failure; penalties proportional to company income so it can hurt small and big companies alike without outright killing them on the first few strikes. However there is a cost even to that: such regulations do block valid innovation and they tend to expand and get more complex year over year.

There is no easy way out here that I can see...


> That doesn't mean that computer systems behave the way that we intend them to behave, or even that we really fully understand our own intent!

Sure. Neither do children, nor pets, nor farm animals, nor automated control systems.

The common thread connecting these examples is: people who are responsible for managing children/animals/PID controllers bear responsibility for the action of these systems, whatever the actions are. Same reasoning should apply to algorithms: don't deploy them unless you're prepared to be held accountable for what they end up doing.


Often these are machine learning models which are not explicitly programmed and do act on their own.

It could easily be a model that takes in features such as "has an admin banned this page" or "has an overwhelming number of users reported this page" and then based on that it identifies problematic keywords that it uses to ban pages.

And then it relies on humans to manually interject when the model fails as it sometimes will.


The law and the rest of society does not have to accomodate unpredictable and buggy ML models -in fact its the other way round. We are bot obligated to suffer damage just because FB relies on ML.


Somehow, the big players have managed to convince us to suck up the damage.

Correctly moderating Facebook, blocking recalled/bogus/questionable goods on Amazon, or keeping Google's search index pruned of scams and misinformation, are fundamentally problems that requires armies of trained humans, well-thought-out and transparent process, and potentially independent or state oversight to keep it all on the rails.

It's much cheaper for them to buy racks of servers, and occasionally shrug their shoulders and blame algorithms. I'm amazed that legislatures throughout the world have been willing to accept that behaviour for so long. It's not like the problems can be explained away with "it's an insignificant business with no political or commercial influence", or "it's a 6-month-old startup firm that made beginner mistakes because they couldn't afford to do things properly".

Break them all up. Even in a world without Google and Facebook, enterprising nerds will be encoding H.265 via smoke signals to ensure we get our cat videos.


It's the same old story. Private companies in their all too often myopic view of wealth creation (falsely equating it with "making money", optimizing KPIs) push forward and extract gains from society and society gets to pick up the pieces if shit goes wrong as there must be myriads of examples for by now. It's not always obvious like with oil spills, or water pollution for instance.

Thinking of Amazon for instance, they pretty much destroyed small local vendors who did much more than just sell goods. They were also access points to local community and culture and raised diversity.

Similar story with Google and Facebook and online news outlets.

It's a question of balance of power. The interplay of society and corporations is not a one way street. Corps offer services to society while they also rely on it for resources and infrastructure and to give it legitimacy and protect its assets.

Among Big Tech firms I believe Microsoft was one of the first to understand and incorporate this and so they self-corrected. Facebook is really late to the party in this regard and I hope in a couple of years we will be able to see the situation with more sober eyes.


> Somehow, the big players have managed to convince us to suck up the damage.

Not always. The GDPR has some decent provisions against overuse of machine learning, for example (it is just a shame it is basically unenforceable against global megacorps, and otherwise so shit as a set of law). We should not accept it, and I don;t think this is a fight that is lost. It is fine to use ML, as long as you are prepared to suffer the consequences of the mistakes of your models that you do not check. This is an important principle.

> Even in a world without Google and Facebook, enterprising nerds will be encoding H.265 via smoke signals to ensure we get our cat videos.

Damn right. These are important. I'm concerned this statement isn't entirely serious. While I hope not to have to resort to similar to that, I will if I have to. Cat videos are important damn it.


Why not put the 1% largest pages up for manual review? I think it there is some merit to the idea that they are sometimes made overly broad to give cover for some actions by blaming them on the automated system and ignoring pleas for reinstation.


> Often these are machine learning models which are not explicitly programmed and do act on their own.

That were programmed to make decision no one understands and to act on their own.


Sure, makers should always be responsible & accountable for how a system behaves, but this seems like a textbook Hanlon's razor example


People generally misunderstand Hanlon's Razor. It's immaterial if someone is evil or just stupid, the only thing that matters is that they should not be making decisions about other people.

(Charles Williams' All Hallows' Eve is an extended meditation about just that.)


Well if it's stupid, and not evil, they weren't making a decision, right?


They were making a decision, but it’s not malice because they’re incapable of foreseeing the outcomes of their decisions. In either case, they shouldn’t be in charge of anything important.


> they shouldn’t be in charge of anything important

And in this case, it appears that they aren’t.


A moderation engine that they designed and are responsible for. It being "automatic" does not relieve them of one iota of responsibility for it.


Facebook purged a lot of libertarian and militia pages throughout November and December as a part of a concentrated 'anti extremism' campaign. They're overeager, but they also deliberately target groups in waves.

Leftist pages with any tact have been somewhat insulated from the purges, but the liberals no longer need them, and the conservatives never liked them. They're getting the same treatment as the right now.


update pages set banned = 1 where title like '%militia%'

3124 pages affected


Tim Berner’s Lee and the Solid project have a good answer to these issues I think. Everyone owns their posts and likes and comments and friends etc. Any new platform can spin up and instantly compete because they just have to make your data more useful to you. It’d be like you owning all your music online and Spotify is just an interface, if you don’t like it you can jump to Apple Music. Or make your own or download some random app off the web that does what you want. The reason a new social network can’t just compete with Facebook is because they have all the data, if the data could stay with us then new platforms offering news ways of interfacing would be popping up all over the place. https://solidproject.org/


That sounds like an improvement for sure but it looks like it just shifts the problem to pod providers and hosts. If the web was all pods then the Socialist Workers Party could just as well end up in a situation similar to Parler's in the end.


The hope is pod hosts would compete, some could be free and mine your data for ads etc, others could pay and focus on privacy. If that doesn’t work you host your own pod server, as long as it has an address that can be reached by the web that’s all that’s needed.


I'd argue this is a good thing. Facebook is not immortal. Every user that Facebook alienates is a win. Already many non-technical people have been moving to Signal after Facebook's new privacy policy.

We need better alternatives, not better Facebook.


Sadly, Signal is not the ideal solution either. When I started with the internet, there were countless free/non free email providers, and now nearly everything is gmail, outlook, yahoo, qq, and a few more big ones. We're playing the same with messaging, whereas in reality what we'd need is federated providers, competing with their client software which can all write to each other - see SMS and email.

I was talking with my wife that somehow people are OK with a borrowed (rented?) identity for so many things. xyz@gmail.com, +00-00 on whatsapp, etc, and there as only a few wanting to be mail@this-is-my-home-on-the-internet.me, though this is a very different topic.


> We're playing the same with messaging, whereas in reality what we'd need is federated providers, competing with their client software which can all write to each other - see SMS and email.

True, but nothing particularly good seems to exist yet. It has to solve the problem of end-to-end encryption in a way that users can manage to not lose their keys too easily, which is a hard problem. It only has to solve this, when email did not (at least in an easily usable way for most people) because it already exists in messaging, but that doesn't stop it not being well solved holding back the situation.

Anything that uses an open source client is a meaningful step better than WhatsApp, because it is easier to make and maintain a bridge from something better, like Matrix, IMHO. At least recently, I did not think Matrix was easy enough to use and stable enough to recomend to people, but them moving to something with an open source client, is better than nothing IMHO.

I'm not convinced Signal is better than Telegram, as an alternative, since Telegram is so much easier to use if you don't care about end-to-end encryption (most users don't sadly), and basically as easy to use (but much less trustworthy) if you do. I'm not sure which is better TBH, but I expect more people will stay off WhatsApp if they try Telegram than if they only try Signal, which is an advantage of recomending that (though I'm not sure it out-weighs the advantage of there being less end-to-end encryption).


What are the intermediate steps to get there?

For me, an intermediate step to a lot of worlds I like better than this one, is for a diverse ecosystem of messengers to compete on security, openness, and guarantees of not surveilling/monetizing users.

In the last weeks I've had all my WhatsApp groups of "normal people" start discussing alternative messengers on exactly these terms. They've looked into Viber, Telegram, SMS, Signal, and others. So i'm happy with that.


Matrix.org - built on matrix, a federated, but somewhat fat protocol -, or one of conversations.im, quicksy.im, blabber.im, www.jabber.de, etc, all built on xmpp.

EDIT the point with these is tricky, because they are not all-in-one solutions. People these days tend to think that an app/program == the service, but this is so not the case. I've tried telling people they could use other programs to access gmail, but it was like talking to a wall, and this is serious issue in this - the instant messenger - case as well. I have no idea how to tell people that it's possible to use _something else_ as an interface. Somehow most of them understand that there are different browsers to access the internet, but they don't apply this thinking to other protocols and services. Hence recommendations for services who provide their "own" apps, conversations being the root, quicksy and blabber being derivatives.


It’s back , decision reversed https://swp.org.uk/1049-2/


I assume this is a mistake, although I think they're mad I don't think the SWP are malicious a la some political sects


Yes, it seems unlikely this is deliberate. The SWP is about as likely to forment a revolution or incite violence as Judi Dench. They're a bunch of harmless eccentrics.


According to the article, it was not just the page that was removed. That could have been a mistake, I suppose. But Facebook also banned "dozens of leading SWP activists". That sounds like a very deliberate action to me.


To me that sounds even more like an algorithm at work, and quite possibly one more concerned with identifying possible fake accounts than identifying political violence

(Relevant context: the SWP is tiny and inconsequential, but very active in coordinating its [unlikely to be violent] messaging and inflating its importance. Nobody would know who its "dozens of leading activists" were to target them. And its local group pages are still up and easily discoverable by searching, so if it was a deliberate action to silence the party it would be a very sloppy one)


> that sounds even more like an algorithm at work

It doesn't matters.

You are as much responsible for decisions done by your algorithms as you are for decisions done by people.

If you can not guarantee that algorithms work in the parameters of moral and law you can not use them.

It is that simple.


Quite literally. The only vaguely-'revolutionary' thing the SWP have done in the last 10 years is provide protest signs for movements that other, more influencial groups of people started.


If I see any pictures of UK footage I can usually identify the signs the SWP have given out by the font.


Facebook is a private platform: they're free to block any content they want, malicious or not.


Excellent, let's reduce everything to "it's a private company, end of story". Such a simple approach, no need to think any further.

I assume I can also beat my children as long as I do it inside my private house?


Not trying to take a stand in the argument of whether the companies should be allowed to use the "private platform" excuse to get rid of any content they don't like, but I disagree with your analogy specifically.

>I assume I can also beat my children as long as I do it inside my private house?

Beating children is illegal for anyone by law already. Removing something spray painted on your walls or deciding what books people get to discuss in your own book club isn't illegal, and neither should it be. I hope you understand the nuance here, and why it makes your analogy flawed.


Ah yes, the law. Lets Remove Section 230 protection for Facebook, so folks can now sue them. After all, the original justification for 230 was that they have no capability to moderate their users. That is clearly no longer true today.


One problem with moderating content in this way is that it makes it clearer and clearer that they no longer need the protections provided by section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

It's not injurious to them to moderate content, clearly, since they are doing it.

By pulling this crap and especially by doing it algorithmically they are pushing the internet in a difficult direction.


I don't understand the argument here. It's not injurious to them to moderate content because they have §230. §230 isn't there to protect online publishers from the court of public opinion; that's impossible. It's there to protect them from libel lawsuits.

If §230 went away, and Facebook continued moderating, they would be liable if anyone posted defamatory content to Facebook -- something which surely happens on a constant basis.


no - the reason that 230 exists is because it was argued effectively that the task of moderating content was too great, to the point that it be an undue burden to internet companies.

If that is not currently the case and these companies can effectively moderate the content on their networks without driving themselves out of business with the cost, well, they don't have the justification for 230's exemption anymore.


You appear to hold some very idiosyncratic beliefs about section 230. It does not provide immunity or any other benefit to a publisher that doesn't perform moderation. Such a publisher was already immune under preexisting law.

It provides immunity to publishers who (1) publish user-generated content, and (2) perform moderation on some of that content. They are free to do their moderation without being required to moderate everything posted to their site.

It's still quite obviously true that Facebook is not able to moderate everything posted to its website. What are you trying to say?


>It provides immunity to publishers who (1) publish user-generated content, and (2) perform moderation on some of that content. They are free to do their moderation without being required to moderate everything posted to their site.

It doesn't. It outlines that internet companies ARE NOT PUBLISHERS. As a result, they aren't liable for the things that people or other companies publish on their platforms.

>It does not provide immunity or any other benefit to a publisher that doesn't perform moderation. Such a publisher was already immune under preexisting law.

They weren't immune under preexisting law, they were actually liable as they could be treated as the publisher of any content on their platform. The reason the exception was carved out was because it was considered detrimental to the development of the internet and the free spread of ideas on the internet if websites were forced to moderate content completely.

It's actually a very interesting exception, too, because in effect this means companies like facebook are not held liable for publishing things on their platform, just so long as they didn't create the things they publish. It also provides them immunity to perform any kind of moderation they like.

The problem is that this exception was built for the prior internet. It depended on and was intended to build up the idea of personal control over content, where a person could decide what content they did and did not want to see online. That's why they were required to have a message telling users they can get parental controls and blockers.

>It's still quite obviously true that Facebook is not able to moderate everything posted to its website. What are you trying to say?

That's not obvious. I run ads on Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other platforms; there is moderation before publishing for every ad I post. It's not perfect and often has problems, but it exists and it's expanding.


The problem is that they want it both ways. They want to be able to silence those whom they find objectionable AND hide behind the legal protections of Sec 230 the rest of the time.


I really wish we could move beyond this tired thought-stopper in these equally tired debates.


No, they have to keep with laws of the countries they operate in.

In difference to the US:

- some countries clearly differentiate between private and cooperate

- have proper free speech laws which are not limited to government inference into free speech but free speech itself

- have laws about discrimination and protection of political organizations which does not allow you to arbitrary "block" people

etc.

I don't know about UK law. But I'm pretty sure this would have been unlawful in Germany, and potentially all of EU (due to EU wide regulation, but while I'm pretty sure about Germany I'm less so about EU wide regulations).


They are also mainly motivated by money, which allows us to make at least educated guesses as to what happened in matters like these


That's irrelevant, because a private company can't be compelled to support someone else's speech against their will. If you don't like it, then take political action.

Edit: For those unaware, this is the devil's advocate take. HN has been remarkably pro-corporate censorship lately, and only a matter of weeks later its coming back to bite pro-censorship advocates.


I'm mostly tired of this take, especially by technologists.

First off: you're right. You can't compel a private company to support speech. But the entirety of political discourse happens online now. There's a clear and prevailing interest that free speech can happen online, at scale.


Honestly, the market will take care of it: who's comfortable hosting their content on the platform any more? They've alienated the right and the left.

At the end of the day/century, FB is just a random internet site/app. Discourse is online, yes, but the zeitgeist left FB years ago. Zuck's fate will catch up with him fast, now that their network effect has broken, or is close to doing so.

It's already over. FB/IG/WhatsApp are all clearly dead, in the Grahamian sense.


Sure, but you're also missing the downstream consequences/chilling effects. Maybe you're right insofar as it should motivate people to create new platforms, but with even the cloud operators willing to deep-six a business... well I don't know about you but I can't afford to host a social media site with hundreds of thousands of users in my basement anymore – not to mention the credit cards, banks, and payment services now willing to kickban anyone they don't like...


That's why Facebook must become a public entity.


That's quite a leap.


Newspapers, journals, radio and other publishers have to maintain some basic decency, even if they are public.


Exactly. This was what Facebook wanted, for whatever reasons. Unless they say otherwise.


You're assuming, rather uncharitably, that people in favor of "private entities cannot be compelled to host the speech of others" only support that point of view because it serves other political stances they hold, rather than as a general principle.

A site is free to ban all left-wing groups, all right-wing groups, all centrist groups, all groups with an 'e' in their names, all hate groups, or all of the above. Others are free to react to those bans accordingly, and choose whether to associate/support/host the site or not.


That argument falls flat when a huge majority of speech goes through the platforms of 2 or 3 companies. "Big" tech doesn't even begin to convey the scale we're talking about here.


So if executives of Google, FB and twitter all make a deal with oil companies to ban anyone advocating clinate action, thats fine?


Well, in a capitalistic society with government oversight, you can expect the strong arm of government to lay the ban hammer on them. Participate in our society and be governed by the rules of our nation. As a capitalist fanboy I cant wait for the sanctioning to happen.


Not if it discriminates on protected characteristics, in UK law. This isn't, but you can easily imagine many of the countries it operates in hjaving multiple laws that restrict its freedom to block whatever it likes. Some protect registered political parties (like the SWP) freedom of speech I think even (but not thre UK AFAIK).


Until they aren't.


> I assume this is a mistake...

This isn't their first 'mistake' to shut them down. Unless of course Facebook believes that this group has broken their rules which resulted them on getting shut down.

Regardless, Facebook is a private platform and can shut down whoever they want. Mistake or not.


> Regardless, Facebook is a private platform and can shut down whoever they want. Mistake or not.

No.. I mean yes in the US but not necessary in other countries.

Not all countries free speech and anti discreminatory laws which are as weak as in the US (the US free speech law is just about government interference in free speech but not free speech itself).

In Germany this would have been in violation with multiple laws as far as I know.


Newspapers are peivate, but they have to follow some rules. And pay taxes


> The SWP Facebook page regularly posts [...] against Boris Johnson’s Covid policies.

I can't find any specifics on the position they hold, but the UK is pretty much in line with the US on mask mandates and lockdowns in hotspots.


Might want to read up on Comrade Delta.


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