As I've commented before, discussing protocols and advocating for them is a popular topic but it does not make progress.
The real issue is funding and trying to make humans do what they don't want to do.
If HN is overrepresented by vanguards of decentralization and free speech, why are a lot of us here on HN instead of running USENET nodes and posting to a newsgroup such as "comp.programming.hackernews" to avoid being moderated by dang?
If most of HN knows how to set up git and stand up a web server, why do most of use Github instead of running Gitlab on a home pc/laptop/RaspberryPi or rent a Digital Ocean vps?
It's because "free & open protocols" weren't really the issue!
A lot of us don't want to run a USENET node or manage our own git server to share code.
 the so-called "open" internet of free protocols:
 free & royalty free protocol like Signal still doesn't solve the "who pays for running the server" problem: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20232499
To have a good discourse it totally helps if that one guy over there isn't screaming at everybody that has a slightly different opinion while he is shitting onto the table in front of the rest of us. It helps if everybody agrees what goes to far.
Federated, decentralized and free plattforms need to deal with this their own way. What if the free plattform you are hosting is used by a ring of child molestors and pedophiles? Do you accept that freedom for all also means freedom for them? Or do you enforce your own law on your own turf? While this is an extrem example, anybody who tried to run such a thing in a meaningful way had to ask themselves the same question. I am btw. aware that child molesters are a common scenario used by politicians to justify yet another crack down on encryption.
The question here is, what kind of plattform would you want to run? One where the discussions enrich the lives of a thousand people, show some of them perspectives they never had? Or rather the lawless zone where everything goes and the stronger person with the louder capslock and the meaner insults wins? Or something conspiratorial?
...is not the primary purpose of Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Which may be a better way of stating the root problem than focusing on either protocols or platforms.
Cultures of upvoting/downvoting are completely orthogonal to whether protocols or applications are free software or proprietary. Neither does the subject matter focus on a news aggregation site.
> What if the free platform you are hosting is used by a ring of child molestors and pedophiles?
Guess what? The telephone network is used by "rings of child molesters and pedophiles". And strangely enough, nobody expects the phone companies to "deal with this". Same goes for a decentralized instant messaging and chat platform.
Also, the government and corporate opponents of privacy routinely inflate the prevalence of rings of supposed terrorists, pedophiles etc., because bringing them up instills excessive fear and clouds our judgement. You write that you're "aware" of this, but apparently you're fine with it, as you're making that the center of your argument.
> Do you accept that freedom for all also means freedom for them?
Your question is phrased ambiguously, to manipulate us into believing that a free decentralized communications platform means that we agree that people are "free" to molest children, whatever that means.
Well, you should be free to pick up the phone and call whichever number you like, without having to first prove you're not a child molester. And the same goes for putting up some flyer on a neighborhood notice board. And for putting up a website.
> One where the discussions enrich... or rather the lawless zone...
The risks are overblown, and so its ok to create places with decentralized freer speech.
Firstly- I removed the parts where you stated that this is like the phone network.
Phone calls are temporally limited, once you are done with a call its over. You can't hear that voice again, or relive that conversation, except through memory.
Text on a forum combines the worst of phone calls and books.
Not only is it easy to create and respond in real time (Like a phone, and unlike books or letters), but it is also persistent so people can read and participate in that moment of emotion repeatedly (like a phone call).
These are great and greatly bad depending on how they are used, but they are dramatically different from the way a phone call impacts human beings.
Which brings us to the second point - it isn't only the information, it is the emotion, or in combination the "content" of speech on forums/social media that matters.
Having actively tried to push for free speech and then managed speech, I can guarantee that without moderation, forums/social spaces collapse. They fall victim to our neurology, and the scale of people on it.
So you can't avoid the use of force here, the question is the amount of force being used, and whether it is commensurate to the specific event it is being used to mitigate.
However - I disagree with your bottom line. Perhaps on the level of the _individual_ forum/channel/board you may be right. But not on the level of the _platform_. Specific forums/spaces/channels etc. which collapse - collapse, that's a problem for their founders and members.
In that respect, I'll make a different analogy: Mailing lists and newsgroups. Also not a perfect analogy, but - a mailing list or NNTP server does not have to police anything, but individual lists often need to set up some sort of moderation to avoid collapse into flame-wars etc.
The mailing list might not be able to avoid the use of force (maybe). But the platform can avoid it.
The modern equivalent of the telephone network is the internet, specifically the cables, routers and switches that allow us to communicate.
The owners of said equipment are not liable if child pornography is send through their wires.
That is not a problem, we don’t close roads because child pornographers use them.
But the end point is a totally different matter.
But to the point: moderating the (tone of) the discussion, is essential for a good discussion. You can’t have the trolls interfering.
I think moderation and thus limiting free speech somewhat is actual fundamental essential for a good debate or discussion.
I think strongly moderated places always develop some form of echo chamber, even the interesting ones. So I don't believe in the dichotomy of lawless zones and unique perspectives. On the contrary, I think strongly moderated communities will more likely develop orthodoxies.
Easy answers are often popular, but that phenomenon is true in almost all communities.
Also possibly the difference in sheer volume of content and people. It's much easier to moderate when you have at most a few dozen people discussing a given topic. HN is dealing with thousands of people who sometimes, during really heated discussions like the GameStop ones, post literally at the same time and make more content than a single moderator or even a team of moderators is capable of reviewing, even with community help in form of reports or flags.
I'm over it. I see many comments that politely present the opposing view get downvoted to oblivion. It isn't just the "inflamatory or snarky" comment. Dissenting opinion is censored on this platform.
I made the mistake of reacting to it the other day and was punished for commenting on moderation. Fair enough, I guess, but the reason for the comment was exasperation at the downvoting of opinion.
And it bites that downvoted comments just fade away, so later readers can no longer consider it, or respond to it. Remember that I am talking about unpopular opinion, which may sometimes be objectively wrong, but not rudely presented. It's common for such additions to the thread to be obliviated through moderation. (I know about showdead, but only learned about it recently).
That's the thing about free speech: we often don't like what other people say. The price we must pay for that freedom is to be exposed to speech we do not like. It's a cost, that we must pay because we are imperfect. We make mistakes, we think incorrectly from time to time. So I say, let it all ride. On HN at least, the culture of thoughtfulness and intellectualism serves to curb the worst rudeness, but let us be willing to expose ourselves to views that we don't agree with. Let's be prepared to have the argument, and possibly be persuaded.
So the next time someone says "You know, I think Trump was an alright president, for <reasons> .. ", curb your outrage. Let it ride, and engage with the argument.
What I don’t like reading is “zinger” comments - stuff like “X is bad and people that think X is good are dumb”.
From what I’ve seen - these are the comments downvoted the most. I don’t dislike these comments because they cause me outrage, they just don’t make me feel the same way that well thought out comments - popular and unpopular - make me feel.
Seems I've lost a point. Someone took exception to what I said above. Not sure how I went wrong, but if enough people feel similarly, then my post will fade away. It will be censored. Make of that what you will.
UPDATE: I've got a point back since I wrote this comment. I won't keep editing this comment each time my comment is voted for or against. It's enough to say that people sometimes downvote when they don't like an opinion, or the way it's expressed at least, even if it is not rude.
It's boring. It doesn't make for good conversation. It's not falsifiable and there's nothing to be said about it. You're just unhappy about it, and it just bores me.
Maybe you feel like you're being censored, but really there can only be so much noise amidst the signal. And really, truly, an overlong and doubly updated comment where you are telling us to have our way with you is the least signal you could possibly have generated.
There are lots of complaints to be had about HN, but this is not one of them.
And to be even kinder and open to changing my mind, I thought I might see which comments you were unhappy about having cast into the gray. Would I see some glittering gems worth rescuing?
Unfortunately (predictably?), said comments employ double question marks or otherwise read angrily, or otherwise are simplistic and disagreeable and bring very little insight to the table. (And, you have a number of comments that have not been downvoted, so it's not like this is complete randomness or an inability on HN's part to accept basic facts. There is a correlation to be observed, one that perhaps you're ignoring.)
HN isn't perfect, but I think you doth protest a bit much.
I don't think I'm that hard-done-by. I'm referring to gray comments that don't seem to be particularly hostile, but are just, say, conservative (for example) in nature.
Perhaps I've forgotten, but I don't think I've complained about being downvoted. Today doesn't count. It's not a complaint, just an observation in a thread about free speech and censorship.
Thanks for the feedback.
Moreover, this is kind of what I mean by comments that aren't falsifiable, that don't really add anything. You're not giving me anything to work with when you gesture vaguely to theoretical comments rather than specific examples. All I have to go on are yours. And yours make for very good counterexamples.
This illustrates a common misconception about HN's propensity to vote one way or another. Your reply came less than two hours later, whereas the voting isn't complete for a while longer and so the score still has plenty of time to change as the audience continues to process it. This phenomenon (and related handwringing about "is HN reddit now?") can be observed as far back as 2009, and likely even further.
You might notice that the comment you replied to (which I would argue is actually demonstrably factually wrong in a few ways, and yet) recovered from its time in the depths beyond. This is likely owing to the fact that it was at least tactfully written, so replies could be written without having to work around the expletive content of the original comment; yours did not, arguably because it was not.
Anyway, this all sort of sidesteps the fact that comment karma was never intended to represent the value of a post or how worthy it is for distribution. It's more like a temperature gauge allowing you to perceive honestly how your comment makes others feel. And disagreement is a feeling too. In the words of 'pg, downvotes have always been used for disagreement.
My first reply to you originally earned one downvote. And I figured it would, from at least one person, but I said it anyway because I believed it should be said. And you have that same ability too. Don't let the numbers get to your head. Just try and have normal conversations with people and the points take care of themselves. (As an example of this, I broke even on my original reply after some time, and gained more in my second reply.) It's rare that people with the ability to read a room and at least attempt to be agreeable in some way end up censured.
Thanks for coming back to this thread! I feel like this became a little more substantive than it was when it began.
Yes, I did notice it had been upvoted. The fact that is was no longer gray caused me to question whether it was the comment I was referring to. :-) But it had to be, of course. And so I take your point.
I obviously went off "half-cocked", as I have done a couple of times lately. :-)
Generally speaking I appreciate your points, and I like HN.
Below your  link (the PG comment) is one  by a petercooper. I think I share petercooper's concerns about downvoting being a means of registering one's disagreement. If your opinions drift too far to the edges of the Overton window, then you stand to be downvoted. I don't like that.
I do take your point that comments that are polite and well formed (so to speak) tend not to be penalised in the long term. I'll watch for that in future.
At the end of the day, on a smallish platform like this, the downvotes do also hurt. Some days it seems more users feel like downvoting everything than upvoting anything and unlike reddit, very few downvotes immediately result in censure.
Regarding your assessment of my comments, I'm beginning to wonder if your looking at mine and not someone else in the thread. I went looking for the "twice updated" one where I tell you all to have your way with me. I went right through my comment history and can't for the life of me figure out to what you are referring.
There needs to be a high tech system for logging and reporting Illegal Speech to government. And a means for government to take efficient and prompt action.
Disliked speech is not illegal speech and this article states the unique definition that each person has and poses some solves to allow people to use systems that filter out what they dont want to hear in addition to what is illegal.
The issue we are facing is what to do about the legal but disliked speech and whether to forcibly prevent people from hearing or seeing it.
The spirit of of our first amendment is very much the opposite. It is to protect your ability to speak. Our public forum is now virtual, privatized and highly centralized and we didn’t prepare for that as a society.
As they say “...Defend to the death your right to say it.”
On the contrary. In most cases, it is imperative that illegal speech remain on online platforms. It's bad enough that governments censor criticism, alternative viewpoints (including ones we may abhor), and leaked information using the police, the judicial and prison systems, and their close ties with large media companies.
> Disliked speech is not illegal speech
Not so. There exist all of:
* Well-liked, illegal speech
* Disliked illegal speech
* Well-liked, legal speech
* Disliked legal speech
It seems like you're assuming the law, everywhere, is just and fair and should be not just followed but upheld.
> our first amendment
Most people don't live in the US, you know. In fact, less than 5% of people do. Not that I would agree with you had I lived there, but online content is not a US-local affair.
Because the point isn't to have no moderation, it's for the power of "moderation" not to be vested in a small number of oligarchs pressured by angry mobs spurred on by media companies with bad incentives to want to damage their political opponents and market competitors.
Also notice that you're using a web page delivered via HTTP over TCP/IP over Ethernet, resolved via DNS, secured via TLS etc. These are all standard protocols. But Facebook isn't one and that's at the root of the problem.
> If most of HN knows how to set up git and stand up a web server, why do most of use Github instead of running Gitlab on a home pc/laptop/RaspberryPi or rent a Digital Ocean vps?
The network effect.
> It's because "free & open protocols" weren't really the issue!
It's because "free & open protocols" are an important thing but not the only thing, and their importance relative to other things was until recently not under the spotlight.
This is not a statement many people who have been angry recently would agree with.
Trump would've gotten himself banned from any of the forums I hung out in from 2000 to now. Not for being conservative, for being an asshole.
The "only remove illegal content" crowd has a problem with that. I don't.
Well, what "angry people would agree with" is a pretty strange basis for an argument, anyway...
>Trump would've gotten himself banned from any of the forums I hung out in from 2000 to now. Not for being conservative, for being an asshole.
And that would be neither here nor there, cause your forums are not so massive as to shape public opinion and influence elections and news.
In smaller, disperse and diverse, discussion platforms, you would be entitled to think that he should be banned for "being an asshole" and even ban him from your forums, while others would be entitled to ban others that say the same or worse things from the opposite side of the political spectrum.
When one side, in a major public-opinion-influencing service can ban a whole side of the political spectrum though, and even the sitting president, that's a problem.
It's actually analogous to election influencing - same as if 9 out of 10 channels in TV only carried the views from one party and not the other(s).
Thanks to the Reagan administration, that's fine, yes? It would violate Twitter's free speech rights to force them to do otherwise?
This is an ancient argument and Twitter neither "banned a whole side of the political spectrum" (the asshole Trumpian wing is hardly all of conservatism) nor did anything new to US history.
The reason Trump is pushing for the "public square" aspect is because in a decentralized world, his crowd would still be pushed to the fringes because it's expressing fringe (but loud) views. 90 out of 100 forums would have issues with him. So instead, he wants to have access on his terms.
Well, I don't particularly care for a corporation's free speech rights. I think it's better for citizens to have free speech rights, not corporations. Besides, I don't think Twitter's free speech rights are in danger or would be in danger if they were forced not to censor people. They could still print whatever message of their own (Twitter's) they want, exercizing their free speech. They just wouldn't be able to exercize censorship.
Same way I want net neutrality from ISPs, I want it from social media.
Maybe assholes shouldn't be able to use these platforms to shape public opinion and influence elections and news. Maybe having a Twitter account is a privilege, and not a right, and that privilege is correctly granted on the precondition that one will not use the platform to act like an asshole.
Then again maybe we shouldn't elect assholes President to begin with, but that's also neither here nor there.
>When one side, in a major public-opinion-influencing service can ban a whole side of the political spectrum though, and even the sitting president, that's a problem.
Except the "whole side" of the Republican, conservative, or even pro-Trump spectrum hasn't been banned. I don't know why people keep repeating this when even a cursory look on any popular social media site will show that there's still plenty of that speech active online.
And who judges who is the asshole objectively?
For example, in my book a president who actively bombed 7 countries, continued wars he was elected to stop, under whose terms ICE deported more people at the border than Trump (wall or no wall), gave Wall Street a "too big to fail" bailout, enlarged surveillance and hunted several whistleblowers and threatened journalists, is more of an asshole (and a danger) than another who is just a crass business/tv personality that wrote mean tweets and that rednecks liked. That's whether the former has had more political experience or is a smoother talker, and polite company.
But that's just me, and neither is even my President, so...
>Maybe having a Twitter account is a privilege, and not a right, and that privilege is correctly granted on the precondition that one will not act like an asshole.
No, I'd say that having an account to social platforms above some population reach level shouldn't be a "privilege" but a right (that is, subject to due process/law, not up to the whims of the company).
Else, those who control said platforms (where the majority of the public frequents and where most of public discourse happens), also control the public dialogue.
If Obama, or any other President, had acted the way Trump did on Twitter, I'd have no issue with them being banned, either.
>No, I'd say that having an account to social platforms above some population reach level shouldn't be a "privilege" but a right
And who judges what is a "social platform" objectively? Because you've just granted the government the right to use its monopoly on force to remove fundamental rights like freedom of speech and association from the people running any website which meets some arbitrary "population reach" threshold.
To me, that's a lot scarier than platforms fact-checking statements or banning racists and people calling for violence or spreading misinformation.
>(that is, subject to due process/law, not up to the whims of the company).
Companies aren't anarchist collectives, they are subject to due process and the law. You just disagree with companies having the right to choose with whom they do business, and with Twitter and other big social media platforms being able to moderate content and ban people. But they're still doing so within the framework of a state and its laws.
Actually it's the opposite: I "granted the government the right to use its monopoly on force to ENFORCE fundamental rights like freedom of speech and association from the people running any website which meets some arbitrary "population reach" threshold".
And the arbitrary threshold wont be that arbitrary if it's legally defined. We have lots of such thresholds in law (from "age of consent" and "21 to be allowed to drink", to "statue of limitations").
>You just disagree with companies having the right to choose with whom they do business
They can pick their vendors (whom they do business with), but not their users, same way a grocery store can't (and doesn't in a civilized country) just send you away ("refusal of service").
I mean, or that the angry mobs don't like violent insurrections being encouraged and planned openly on these platforms. Is that what you mean by "damage their political opponents?" Phrases like that make it sound like the "opponents" are some innocent little scared children who did nothing wrong. If demanding that calls to violence are stopped is political for you, then ok, sure.
As I've said and will keep saying: those most vocal about protecting the 'freedom' of domestic terrorists to terrorize are the ones most certain they'll never suffer from that terror.
Also, people are being excluded who have never called for violence. What "violent insurrection" was Discord suppressing by /r/WallStreetBets?
The reason people use github is because it it there.
Why do VC funded startups build platforms? Because that's how you get the gate-keeping function. Protocols do not get funded because they do not let you exclude.
Chiding others for not making progress on hard problems against well-funded opponents doesn't make one look wise.
It's not hard because it needs to be hard; it's hard because no one has invested the time and money to make it easy.
FUD. Making statements like this totally discounts the healthy and vibrant communities that exist today making use of open protocols. Either your head is in the sand or you have an interest in stalling those systems from taking root.
I got news for you though. The genie is out of the bottle, and there's no putting it back inside.
I think rather the big issue is, for instance, the use of Facebook Messenger for IM. If everyone I know uses it, I have no choice but to use it too because there is no underlying protocol behind it.
I would love to run a Usenet node, I just suspect my hosting provider would shut me down after too long.
(Though I take issue with the idea that moderation somehow implies less free speech. It is hard to express an idea when you are buried under a pile of off-topic trolling and nazi conspiracy theories.)
Some of the sci.* hierachy was taken over by the mentally ill and crackpots. They aren't hateful or intentionally trolling with their insistent claims that they have discovered free energy, come up with new insights into the evolution of human language, etc., but the effect on fruitful discussion was much the same.
You missed the point of the article. It wasn't advocating for everyone to run their own servers.
git is a protocol, github is a site that wraps the protocol with its own rules. There's nothing wrong with that. Github is like the Gmail example of the article. Facebook is not.
It also wasn't advocating for zero moderation.
Well, for me, it's because GitLab is still too heavy for the Pi.
And even if somehow it became light enough, running it still couldn't help you if your goal is to have a better portfolio for a better job or/and reputation. GitHub is more of a community than a platform, and building a community is way harder than building a platform.
So it's more than just the founding.
Also, sure, you can setup your own website and post contents there, but nobody is going to read it before somebody discovers it. And discovery is really hard.
What those "Big platforms" really got right, is that they've found a way to efficiently deliver the contents created on the platform to their users, and allow the user to give timely feedback about the content. This feedback loop itself is more valuable than the tech behind it.
If decentralization movement want to be successful, it must also create this feedback loop. Otherwise people will just get bored and disconnect.
Maybe we like being moderated by dang? Maybe he’s a key feature of the “hacker news application” that runs over the open protocols ...
I pay an email provider because I don't want to deal with configuring Dovecot, but I don't use Gmail because I don't want the risk that some algo deletes my account, and I'm glad that's (so far still) an option.
And not everything needs to be a decentralised system, that's just a false dichotomy. If GitLab.com deletes my repos or stops offering the features I like, I'll just move elsewhere, I could even move to another GitLab instance. It's much harder to move a group of people.
Besides, not everyone needs to run a server in a federated environment. As long as it's a possibility, one rogue actor can't take over the whole network. Most people don't host their own email/Matrix server, and that's okay.
I could imagine some kind of federated Reddit where HN could be a community fully managed by dang et al. according to their own needs/wants.
Then you just subscribe to each community as you like. Much like you can unsubscribe to all the default subreddits and only subscribe to the subreddits that interest you, only this time you don't have Reddit 's commercial interests/standards hanging over your head with the power to shut you down.
Granted I'm not sure of the value (other than censorship resistance) vs. a set of fragmented, specialized forums we had way back when.
Hosting comments is platformy, but other than that HN doesn't try to get people to host content on HN, and while dang can decide that HN won't recommend a particular piece of content, he cannot remove that content from wherever it's hosted (except by recommending it too much and hugging the server to death).
I have self hosted IRC, forums and git servers in the past, but honestly what the point if free speech is not really an issue where I live and it’s just maintenance cost for me? So far I found mob mentality and self censorship within communities much more worrysome than anything imposed by government and big tech.
One thing that probably will affect that dramatically is rollout of IPv6.
But the author also addresses another aspect of it which is the economics. Cryptocurrency can help with that.
Both of those can, by design, be run by individuals and independent entities. However, in the end most people end up preferring to delegate the administration of their share of the network to someone else, either out of ignorance or convenience.
Yeah. See how well it goes when everyone takes the comfortable approach?
Now you're suddenly making me feel alone :(
The real problem is how to attract the right people. YC is a fascinating case, actually. WHY are we here, and not on some reddit forum?
Even though it seems PG is not very active here anymore, it seems the seeding community has stuck to some extent.
Of course they also have their theory of how to maintain a community and did some coding and moderating to try to maintain it.
To my personal taste, they have overdone it, and ruined it in a way, but I haven't found a good alternative yet.
The next iteration of online news and communities will perhaps take more than dedicated servers, it may require a usability leap. Maybe some convenient way to filter messages, that is not centralized (Twitter/Facebook algorithms don't optimize to my benefit, but to the benefit of their owners).
10 or 15 years ago people looked at web 1.0, saw many good communities and valuable conversations and said "we need to protect free speech".
Today people looks at Twitter/Facebook/YouTube/Reddit, see mismanaged cesspools and declare that we need centralized speech control.
This is understandable, but highly reactionary and irrational. Speech control is facilitated by big tech at their own discretion. Advocating for more of it means you're advocating for giving more power to the companies who fucked up the system in the first place.
From what I recall the 2016 election was frequently attributed to some vague accusation of hacking from Russia but the same standard was not applied at the time, nor is it applied today. The people espousing this view were eventually proven inconclusive in all the different inquiries into the matter, and they were far more influential than a man who sells pillows.
There seems to be a very disproportionate level of enforcement towards offenders on the social media platforms, and this seems to stem from the personal politics of the people working there.
If the employees at these companies had the opposite politics, I am quite sure the rhetoric around this issue would be framed in terms of authoritarianism. Are you not allowed to criticize your government anymore in the USA? I find that to be quite incredible.
To the European eye the idea of allowing any and all public utterance feels like a free ticket to disaster.
Deliberate and carefully crafted representation of "reality", and indirect communication via various "trusted channels" is part of winning elections anywhere.
The carefully and orchestrated use of mass media in the 1920s and 1930s, skillfully crafted to lead the electorate to certain political choices, was later used to even accept certain political atrocities (internment camps in the beginning, war and industrial mass murder later).
So to protect the electorate (!) from being grossly misled, many European countries in the aftermath of the 1940s decided to counterbalance the freedom of speech with rules what is not freedom of speech.
And yes, the details are tricky and courts have to decide.
Is that ever in the public debate in the USA? Reasonable limits to free speech?
Here is a fairly straightforward example from the German penal code:
This is true. However, the part nobody wants to talk about is that it didn't just happen in Germany.
That's a very generous way of looking at it. In the West, I would say that it would be more accurate to look at it through the lens of the cold war, though. Communism and radicalism were to be prevented and so freedom of speech was necessarily curtailed. In the East, it was likewise curtailed, ostensibly to 'protect the youth' and 'prevent disinformation' but with more potential for immediate consequences.
>Is that ever in the public debate in the USA? Reasonable limits to free speech?
Sure. It's been debated a lot, actually. Laws have changed significantly over the last hundred years, almost entirely to the expansion of free speech side.
Many Western democracies have laws like this, which would be incompatible with the American First Amendment, but which are basically intended to foster democratic health, and aren't particularly authoritarian.
The rules he was talking about though are more to do with the limitations on speech that can be considered insulting, transgressive or hateful. They also include constitutionality of political parties in general, disparaging the president, and many other things.
Dishonest claims about the legitimacy of the 2020 US federal election are a lot more dangerous, as is obvious from the Jan. 6th terrorist attack on the US Capitol.
Either of those precludes a good faith argument.
Twitter is only used by 22% of Americans as of 2019 . If Twitter banned me I wouldn't even know about it for several months because that's about how frequently I log in. It's important to a certain kind of "very online" person but from my POV it's as inessential as Pinterest or Twitch.
I think that Twitter's perceived importance has been exaggerated beyond its actual user numbers because the previous US President used it so heavily. It was also an easy, cheap, reliable way for other publishers to churn out content. "Trump Tweets Something -- We React" was a daily staple for TV and written publications for 4 years. But 78% of Americans get along just fine without using Twitter itself.
No, Twitter has a monopoly on people who use Twitter. If you decoupled the users from the technology (e.g., by way of some common protocol that allows human communication networks to span social media platforms), Twitter would probably vanish overnight (surely losing out to a competitor with an "edit" button).
> Twitter is only used by 22% of Americans as of 2019
In what world is it okay for one company to monopolize much of the communication of 22% of Americans? Especially since Twitter isn't some neatly isolated system, but rather its effects spill over into the outside world; consider how often traditional media cites Twitter (not only with respect to Trump's own Tweets) or even Twitter's role in BLM protests/riots and the Capitol Hill riot. Twitter's reach pretty clearly far exceeds its own user base.
Moreover, Twitter and other social media giants often act in concert, so it's not "just Twitter" or "just Facebook" that we need to be concerned about, but also these giants acting in their mutual interests.
Your recollection seems at odds with reality. There has been a Senate inquiry with conclusions at odd with your recollections. The Mueller report came to conclusions at odd with your recollections. A reminder: that report, while not indicting the president or his team in anything in particular, found what it considered incontrovertible evidence of Russian interference designed to favor the election of Trump. The Senate report came to the same conclusions, even more strongly stated.
As for your claim that the people espousing this view being "far more influential than a man who sells pillows", I think you'd need to establish a metric for "influential", since it is far from clear precisely what you mean.
Furthermore, the sense that some people had regarding Russian interference in the 2016 elections never resulted in violence or death (certainly not directly). Nobody claimed that the election had been "stolen" (that's a direct quote from a large number of people regarding the 2020 elections). There was just a sense of unease and disquiet that the election may not have been fair but the result was accepted anyway.
The standard for 2016 is therefore whether or not Russian interference occured, which two high level US government reports have confirmed took place.
In fact, this is exactly what was alleged in many court cases. These cases were not allowed to move forward, however, because of procedural issues, not the merits of the case (standing, mootness, and latches).
If it's true, where is this evidence? It hasn't been on Fox. It hasn't been on OAN. It hasn't been on Newsmax. What's been presented has been uniformly debunked in ways that I find completely convincing. If this is as big as it's claimed to be, you don't shut up just because a judge says you don't have standing.
I haven't found a statistical summary, but I've just surveyed the status of all the cases on several neutral sites (ABA, Ballotpedia and others). I don't see how it is possible to draw any conclusion other than a deeply incompetent legal team with no convincing evidence failed to get a single in-place ruling that supports their wild claims.
and ctrl+f "standing" = 16 results (6 cases).
Bowyer et al. v. Ducey et al.
Wood v. Raffensperger et al.
Pearson et al. v. Kemp et al.
Feehan et al. v. Wisconsin Elections Comm'n et al.
Texas v. Pennsylvania et al.
Gohmert et al. v. Pence
Tyler Kistner et al. v. Steve Simon, et al.
Their recollection matches my recollection of events.
> There has been a Senate inquiry with conclusions at odd with your recollections.
The results of that inquiry weren't released until 2020.
> The Mueller report came to conclusions at odd with your recollections.
That report wasn't released until 2019.
That means there were at least three years of unverified allegations, swarming around - espcially prevalent on social media - sans ban hammers, censorship, etc., etc.
The 2020 election's fraud claims were thrown out by courts. They were entirely evidence-free. Even Lindsey Graham gave a concise speech on the night of 1/6 explaining precisely how false those fraud claims were.
The 2016 election involved Russia hacking the DNC and leaking their emails, which became a centerpiece of the election debate ("Hillary's emails!"). It also involved Trump publicly asking for Russia to leak the emails, and then (once elected) firing the head of the FBI and saying in an interview with Lester Holt it was because Comey was investigating any possible ties with Russia.
The response to 2016 was the Mueller investigation. The response to 2020 was an attempted insurrection. One of these is not like the other, and you're attempting to paint a false political logic behind how the two have been treated.
"Disrupted confirmation hearings" seems fairly different to me from "smashed windows and doors to gain entrance to the US Capitol while hundreds of people chanted "Hang Mike Pence!".
That doesn't fit the captiol protest very well. Sudden? Decisive? Exercise of force?
>That doesn't fit the captiol protest very well. Sudden? Decisive? Exercise of force?
Tell that to Brian Sicknick's family.
Or did you miss the part where five people died and dozens were injured?
Or the smashed windows to force entry into the Capitol building, with some explicitly saying they were there to overturn the results of the election.
Let's see. A mob overpowers the assembled security without warning. That's sudden. Check.
An armed group stormed the Capitol, assaulted police and other folks, and by their own claims, wished to injure, take hostage and/or kill elected officials. Exercise of force. Check.
That same group did so, again based on their own claims, to overturn legally certified election results. Political motive. Check.
So please tell me, what doesn't fit the term "coup d'etat"? Or in this case, attempted coup d'etat?
Note that just because it didn't succeed doesn't change the facts or the intent.
If I walk into a bank and demand money, I'm still a bank robber even if I don't actually get any money. The analogy is fairly exact.
As I said, I am not sure I buy that anyone with half a brain thought that a plan could work, but there seems to be some supporting evidence that something like this had been imagined by at the very least some of the people at the protest. How far into the Trump administration that might have gone, I don't know (or if went into it at all).
Had something like that happened, it would definitely have been a decisive, sudden show of force in politics.
Start before the election with attempts to suppress Democratic voting (I did not know this, but apparently mail-in ballots are known for leaning Democratic---"Red mirage and blue surge" or something.), then attack the legitimacy of the election, both in the legal system and in public statements (increasing the latter as the former failed), further make semi-covert calls for illegal actions on the part of various officials associated with the election, and finally call for and support a protest (specifically including the more extreme supporters) at an event that is largely a formality. Yes, I think the whole course of events satisfies the definition of a coup.
Not a competent one, of course. A competent coup would have called in National Guard or military forces to suppress the rioters and at the same time sequester the members of the House and Senate in an undisclosed location for their own protection. Then declare a national emergency, place National Guard or military forces in state capitols and large cities---at that point violence becomes inevitable and the coup self-sustaining. (This isn't exactly a genius mastermind plan; it's how it's done all over the world.)
That does require the cooperation of the military, which Mr. Trump never really had, though.
Some of us are still wondering, though, why there were only Capitol Police at the Capitol. It seems likely that had the protest been another group, significant riot control forces would have been in place.
The vote count being fraudulent, the idea that fellow citizens had stolen the election, wasn't an ongoing discussion in December 2015, January 2016, etc...
It's curious you think that people claiming Russia hacked the vote totals in 2016 were "far more influential" than the people who've been shouting "stop the steal" when only one of those groups of people convinced folks to march and riot to try to "take back" the election. The message against Trump after his election was "resistance," a message which accepts that Trump won the election, but sought to keep people engaged to try to minimize what he could do.
I challenge you to find those people you think were continually organizing events to get Trump's election overturned.
> 10 or 15 years ago people looked at web 1.0, saw many good communities and valuable conversations and said "we need to protect free speech".
Look at how the conversations happened. They were in places like forums and forums were often around topics. I belonged to many forums on topics and the general conversation was around those (with some water cooler).
This is worthy of protecting. Just this week I ended up in a forum on a topic because I was trying to figure out how to repair something and there was discussion around people on it. Very valuable.
> Today people looks at Twitter/Facebook/YouTube/Reddit, see mismanaged cesspools and declare that we need centralized speech control.
These are general conversation channels with the exception of Reddit. They are also paired with targeted ads. They tend to be short form. In a forum I see all the things and navigate it. In Twitter/FB/etc I see what they put in front of me. They control the flow of information.
The platforms the conversations are happening on are shaping the conversations themselves. This cannot be discounted.
Maybe a better way of thinking about this is that “free speech” on the Internet is about decentralization of small communities even if many of those communities themselves skew authoritarian? If you are banned from a small private gathering, everyone’s practical speech rights remain in-tact. You aren’t banned from the larger system.
Of course, Usenet was mostly techies and there were no teams of data scientists optimizing for clicks.
Moderation isn't something that's changed. Forums and modern social media both moderate. They do it to varying degrees.
Social media moderation comes in multiple forms. First they will choose which posts people see in their feed. This is a form of moderation. It's easy to have topics and even people just not show up. What shows up is based around engagement and money.
There is also moderation about content. People can be labeled or removed from visibility.
Then there is banning where banning isn't on the topic but the whole system. And the systems are tied to other things (e.g., banning on FB impacts your Oculus ownership).
Old school forums were based on topics and were different systems. They were moderated, if they were, for that system. The moderation was typically around content you posted. They didn't control the flow or order you saw it in. It was the content.
When banning came up, it was just for that form. So, if someone is banned from a jeep owners forum they are just fine interacting in a forum on web design.
I say this to note that the way the technology is developed has an impact on the way people act.
For example, these days there are people who don't want to speak out on some topics because they are fearful they will be banned or negatively impacted globally.
I'm not suggesting how the technology should be built. I'm trying to point out how the system design impacts the way people think and behave. Older systems were designed differently and had a different impact. It's worth noting these things.
The shift in screen size is an interesting one. The technology influences the content and even the way we think. It's not a passive element.
I think that was basically right, and now social media is rediscovering the other things that made TV work, which is that you can't just continually show the most upsetting/titillating media 24/7.
And with the benefit of hindsight, I don't believe Twitter/Facebook have the obligation to be the venue where we exercise our freedom of speech. They tried and it turned out they were very bad at it.
It's time to move on and use those services for keeping in touch with old classmates or whatever they are good at and develop platforms that are good for holding serious conversations.
The challenge is, there's no money in that. The money is in serving ads, which depends on serving up upsetting/titillating media 24/7.
Paywalls can't work because the barrier to entry keeps you from getting a sufficient network effect. You can have a small community that way, but you can't do a global "connecting everyone" thing. Such services will simply be outcompeted by the Facebook model.
I think the headlining article's point on open protocols might be the only way to square that circle and I'm not even very optimistic about that working. I think the real disjunction happens when we merge news with a general social feed of every random person's opinion. If you stream your facts and porthole into the broader world through the same framework that you stream advertizing and deranged soapbox rants, then you're conceptually putting all those things in the same box and blurring the lines between them. News articles present themselves more like ads (e.g.". . .and you won't believe what happens next"). Conversations start to resemble ads too, with people throwing out provocative statements to get attention and likes instead of engaging in a more genuine/1to1 way.And the ads start to try looking like news or advice from a 'friend' (read: influencer) to slip past your "this is marketing BS" filter.
The context collapse is what's unsustainable. In the olden days, when forums ruled the web, people got links and memes shared in forums, but the people sharing those things were getting them from other forums or they were finding them in blogs or pages via an RSS reader or just a daily roll of bookmarked sites they would go through. This maintained some cognitive difference between when you're seeing a blog written by an irascible and opinionated shock jock versus a piece in The NYTimes. Even if the person sharing had the point of an article go over their heads or ends up 'eating the onion' on something whatever harebrained aspect of it remains sequestered in whatever subforum they're in if it doesn't get fact checked there. The collapse makes the consumer stop being aware of the distinctions, and it cuts off the small-scale testbeds these things have to go through before they go truly viral. It also drives the producers to not care. So now the NYTimes hires irascible shock jocks as editorial columnists too because nothing matters anymore.
But they already have a giant global community. They now need to sustain it, that's a very different task and one better served by moderation. They are already being out-competed on how extreme a community can be by the various newcomers.
They are the incumbent now, with the incumbent's advantages. What remains to be seen is if they will move to take on the incumbent's responsibilities (which they have done here and there, and seem to be doing more of) or if they'll shirk it (which they did for far too long). In the long term they will make more money in a world that isn't on fire.
It's been a long time since there were three TV channels but ABC, NBC, and CBS all exist and even still broadcast their programming for anyone with an antenna. Between then and now their growth slowed, they tried different ventures, they were fused into sprawling media conglomerates, all things that are probably coming for Facebook and Twitter.
But these places almost all had "speech control". The exceptions were (in)famous.
It was decentralized, which has a lot of benefits compared to having fewer, huge platforms, but the control existed and was essential.
The "don't let platforms moderate anything but illegal content" argument is extremely disingenous. That's not how you get back to the "good old days" - or how you keep current smaller places like HN alive.
If there are problems created specifically by the big platforms being too big, target their size specifically. Regulating advertising and privacy and data tracking might be one way to start, reduce the incentive and rewards for being huge; but I think more likely, you'd want specific taxes, fees, or actions, based on userbase size.
We, anyone who knows what an article titled "Protocols, Not Platforms" is probably about... our discussions have failed to have enough impact outside of niche. People see there is a problem. "Marketplace of ideas" is somewhat of a hard sell . As you say... mismanaged cesspits, but also monopolies. Also, "marketplace" is more euphemism than metaphor when referring to a handful of click-optimizing algorithms.
I'm on the fence, but don't tend to think whatever the current politics does give more power to those companies who fucked up the system in the first place.
Facebook and Twitter were already in an uncanny valley of free speech. It has been, Free speech at their discretion all along, and this wasn't a theoretical problem. At least now it is clear what we are looking at.
In any case, this post in on point. It's disheartening that decades into this discussion we have not had enough impact that politicians even know what the hell we are talking about. Twitter doesn't need to be regulated. It just needs to die. Twitter does not need to be a company. It's already basically a protocol. Free the protocol. Discard the company. They are not needed.
Governments have no idea how to tackle the problems, so it's either private corporations that directly host these communities do it or nobody does. And that means going more years with a growing population that is getting radicalized by the above false information.
You mean that in the current framework right? Because in the proposed framework in the article more speech does not lead to more power to the companies.
...In other words people are completely taking all the amazing things we have today for granted.
Very few things are an unalloyed good.
Your someone-is-wrong-on-the-internet counter is that, no, it is half empty? Thanks for the contribution.
If there is a failing, it is that Facebook is still claiming the moral high ground while they have ground our public discourse in to the manure.
What they need to realize is that once you give Tyrannical Control over to your leaders (governments, or BigTech censors), because you consider them benevolent today, it's foolish because they won't be benevolent forever.
Our founding fathers knew power corrupts, but today's 20-somethings seem quite unaware. They think we can create a system where all forms of "bad" speech are stopped. But the problem with that is you end up having to define "bad". My definition of "patriotic speech" might be your definition of "mean speech", so unless you appoint power-wielding dictators to make the final decision, the only solution is to just say everyone is free. Once you allow dictators they'll always become corrupt and self-interested.
The left thinks they're in a war against evil and meanies, but really the only opponent they're fighting is freedom itself.
The government has to be able to actively respond to the problems of the moment, and those problems will constantly change. A handcuffed government only benefits the already-powerful.
The dirty secrets of the "but the founding fathers!" argument are that (a) they knew they weren't creating a perfect set of rules in the Constitution, and planned for us to be modifying it as we learned new things and the world changes, and (b) it's failed anyway. Abstract principles listed on a page don't "protect freedom," bad actors can find ways to sneak things through (sometimes in plain sight, like that whole slavery thing that took a century to get figured out, or the followup forms of discrimination that are still with us).
There's no weakness in challenging the storybook fable-ized versions of history.
I think the biggest "story-telling" that's going on lately is in our schools by our socialist educators.
This isn't even remotely a representative sentiment of the 70+ million people that are not on the "left".
>>"The left" is for democracy>>
Again, I don't think we would find this accurate if data were collected. Both sides are "for democracy". I think what you would find is something slightly more refined: that one side appreciates that democracy alone is flawed and requires a strong constitution to guard against its propensity to oppress individuals. The other side finds a constitution that limits democracy too constraining.
Probably not, but it’s a pretty accurate summary of their leadership.
The facts are the 45 and the Republicans attempted to throw out the results of an election.
You can argue that most people on the right do not agree with this, but they should really stop voting for these people then.
Do you mean that 45 Republicans voted against ratifying the electoral college votes? My understanding is that that vote is largely procedural and that the losing side voting against it as a protest is common in every election. If you take away that context it makes for a great narrative in this election (the whole histrionic overthrow theme), but context often matters.
My understanding could be wrong, though. I couldn't quickly put my hands on the historical voting record. Or maybe that's not what you're referring to.
No. The only times prior to 2021 that an objection in proper form to trigger a debate and vote on any state’s submitted electoral votes since the modern process was adopted in 1887 were in 2005 and 1969 (the latter over a faithless elector), both addressing only a single state, and the 2005 example was explicitly stated to be an effort to draw attention to electoral system issues rather than alter the outcome; there weren't members who voted for it stating on national TV the expectation that who would be President was in doubt based on the action the way, e.g., Sen. Hawley did in regard to the challenges this month.
Voting against result certification is occasionally used as a protest against certain specific irregularities. It is absolutely not common to vote against them, and not in these numbers (i.e. not as a lone congressperson or two drawing attention to something they see as a problem).
[ EDIT: added known historical examples ]
Specific examples: 2016, 11 Democrats rose to object to certifying Trump's results; none of them had obtained a Senator's cosignature and so all were dismissed immediately. Objections were based on reports of Russian interference, subsequently confirmed in the broadest sense by the Mueller and Senate reports, though their findings would not have likely invalidated any actual results.
2004: 1 Senator and 1 Representative raised objections to results favoring Bush from a single state. They both stressed that their objections were not intended to change the outcome of that election.
2001: on the order of 15 Representatives raised objections to the Gore/Bush result, which had been decided by the SCOTUS. No Senator joined them, and Gore himself dropped the Gavel on their protest.
>the losing side voting against it as a protest is common in every election.
Really? That would be news to me. Do you have a source for that?
It's impossible to criticize bad ideas without some shorthand label for those kinds of thinking and ideologies. The fact that whole entire groups hold those same ideas necessarily is a critique of the entire group, and is necessarily tribal. But labels are nonetheless also necessary for the discussion to take place.
Democracies can only thrive when there's an educated population free to discuss all ideas, and allowed to strongly criticize or even ridicule those they disagree with. Yet people like Jack Dorsey think it's their duty to step in as a referee to make sure everyone's polite and behaves according to his personal political views. He needs to be put back in his place, because no one elected him, and he just fell backwards by accident into a power position over millions by pure luck.
Also while that may be true of individuals (I don't think it is), it clearly isn't true of party leadership.
Are you serious?
The fact that some cops eventually decided that 20 cops could not stand against 1000 violent protestors smashing through windows and doors, after at least one cop had been dragged out of his position and beaten senseless by the mob, and another cop killed, and so decided that the safest thing to do was open the doors, doesn't mean that all of a sudden they were peaceful protestors. Give me a fucking break.
They killed a Police Officer, chanted "Hang Pence", and tried to stop the democratic process of verifying votes for the new president.
Now of course you will likely argue that they were a small minority, but I don't see you making that concession for those on the "other side" so I'm not sure how much weight it'll have.
"The entire summer long while buildings burned, and entire cities looted by violent murdering thugs..."
Could you provide some evidence for "entire cities looted by violent murdering thugs"?
I still can't find any actual evidence of "violent murdering thugs" "looting entire cities".
Also I think you're being unfair by ignoring the causes of both of the protests, as (IMO, feel free to disagree) one of them was directly supporting democratic and liberal interests and the other was directly against them. I don't think you can discuss the protests without taking into account what they were protesting.
First, Usenet was just as much of a dumpster fire as Reddit et al. in some branches (alt. I am looking at you). The rest (comp. soc. sci. etc) were heavily self moderated.
Second, I am not sure the author is clear on what is the primary product of social media, as I see it. We, the users are the product. By moving to a protocol, there is little to no opportunity to capture private information about the product. (Not complexity, too big, or filter bubble.)
Why would a platform give up such income stream?
Am I misunderstanding what the author means by protocol here?
I wrote about this in detail last night: https://seirdy.one/2021/01/27/whatsapp-and-the-domestication...
Users aren't necessarily the product in social media; this is only true of mainstream centralized networks.
The protocol is presumably quite open, searchable and crawlable. Any platform would simply start with a client, then improve upon it and eventually users would orbit the platform rather than the protocol.
It looks like there are two ways this can happen: 1) transformation and 2) migration.
1. Embrace, Extend, Extinguish: keep adding proprietary bits on top of the protocol until everyone's using what is essentially a proprietary platform.
2. A full migration. This is what happened to IM platforms that were once built atop Jabber/XMPP, like Google Talk.
I think the best way to keep this from happening is to make the open protocol robust enough to cover others' needs, and to get a large user base using different compliant client/server implementations to connect with each other. This is what's keeping Google's grip on email from growing more than it already has, and what prevented Microsoft from doing an EEE on the Web through Internet Explorer.
When diversity drops, an open platform can grow closed and allow domestication. Independent email providers must reckon with Google's spam filters, and non-Chromium browsers (Gecko-based, and to a lesser extend, Webkit-based browsers) are often treated as second-class citizens.
I might expand this into a follow-up article. While this article was an attempt at raising awareness and getting people to change their decision-making process when choosing platforms, my next article could be a call to action in which I encourage technical users to try clients/servers outside the mainstream and recommend good ones to their friends/families.
Thanks for your feedback, and for possibly inspiring my next post.
The problem with this is that a corporation can claim that its protocol is open and decentralized, while in practice making it hard for others to implement. Remember how Microsoft managed to make .docx an ISO standard, even though Microsoft Word was the only application that would be able to read and write it 100%?
Also, once an open protocol is widespread, embrace–extend–extinguish is possible because the dominant player can claim that while it still supports the protocol as written, the world moves on and it needs to add some new functionality that its peers won't be able to implement in at least the short term.
Consider the benefits that the governments have in only dealing with a few platforms rather than the headache of a protocol. I don't disagree the anti-trust sentiment, simply that the motivation won't be there at the end of the day.
I don't think he was saying that they're should be zero moderation, or that moderation is wrong at all.
I think his point was that there should be open protocols and then services that use those protocols with their own rules.
Examples of this IMO are HTTP, the telephone network and email.
If you don't like your internet provider you can move to another one and you know that every single webpage will still be accessible through HTTP.
The same way you can call any phone number, regardless of whether the person you're calling has the same phone company.
The same way you can send an email from Gmail to Hotmail or any other email provider.
The same is not true for Facebook or Whatsapp. Signal cannot message to Whatsapp.
The point is somewhat similar to the Adversarial interoperability EFF article.
Companies should not own or regulate entire markets.
I’ve never believed that internet was about “free speech” but more “grouping of specific type of speech”. If you were interested in something you either created that or hang out with others that thought the same.
For me it has never been about free speech, just a way to reach stuff. Free speech in IRL is another thing.
Unfortunately people thought of blogging of something difficult, something that needs thought and not something that could just express themselves.
Imagine that you can create a blog post within your RSS feed, add comments to the displayed rss items and simply own all of your data.
Somebody has very different memories of USENET than I do.
It does not seem possible for a technological solution to work as long as it is trivial and without consequence to set up new online identities.
We could use a C-3PO (protocol droid, fluent in over six million forms of communication) for interop.
It's all public domain.
I plug it a lot here when I see something relevant, which
this post is (and I've long been a fan of the Knight orgs
and supporter of them).
Anyway, always happy to chat with people about how this stuff could help a new generation of simple open protocols:
Homepage: (needs a refresh)
Demos: (also needs a refresh)
If you specify the fields and hierarchy with Tree Notation or YAML or JSON or EBNF or whatever, that's a starting point which can help with implementation the communication and data storage part. But you still need to write code for each language and each protocol right? Or can we encode the protocol-handling code using Tree Notation also?
I have always felt like web assembly was missing a well-defined system for extending the API and also a strong external module system. Or even if you could not extend the API much, if WASI had UDP, and there was a good WASM module distribution system, that seems like a way that one could distribute protocols.
But also Ethereum 2 seems like a decent way to distribute protocols.
I am not 100% sure I understand your question because the
word "protocol" can mean slightly different things in
different contexts, but one possible answer is that there is
a grammar language (called
in which you can define new languages/protocols.
> But you still need to write code for each language and each protocol right?
Today, yes. And this is a very good question because
something that is coming up a lot more now. Increasingly I
am getting messages from people building new Tree Notation
libraries in different host languages. The problem is people
quickly get the basic structure done (pretty much just
nested spreadsheets), and then are like "okay what next?
how do I add support for the higher level tree languages".
So that is becoming the top priority to figure out. Do we
make a universal Grammar language that then is implemented
in all host targets (JS, C, C#, Kotlin, Swift, GoLang,
Java, Closure, Haskell, Python, etc) so that people can
define a language (or "protocol") in this Grammar language
and then generate get parsers/compilers in any of those
community supported host languages? That seems like a likely
path, but a lot to figure out there.
> I have always felt like web assembly was missing a
well-defined system for extending the API and also a
strong external module system.
I agree! I've been wanting to write a Grammar for a simple
Tree Language that compiles to WASM for years but just
haven't found the time
If anyone wants to explore that space, happy to help!
What specific reason or reasons might not be clear, but those reasons and forces nevertheless exist.
Calls to return "back to roots" are quite naive, for example, "let's abandon governments and have private police!". No, we have what we have for a reason.
Same with the state of the Internet. "Let's all go back to protocols! Remember gopher? Let's all do that!".
You cannot "unroll" progress. You cannot go back and live like the Amish. Well, you can, in a tiny weird closed community, while the rest of the world continues to march on.
If big tech can't embrace those new decentralization currents because of political pressure, people will look for them somewhere else.
I don't mean that more than one entity needs to know a user's name (in fact, you could probably create a system where nobody can realistically retrieve a user's name), or personal information.
If you don't know whether you've seen an account before, though, how can you effectively deter bad actors? Not much of a ban if someone can create a second account and resume the same unwanted behavior.
But it's not a missing technical piece. It's just that FOSS is terrible at paying experts to do the work necessary to design a service usable by non-technical folks.
In other words, I think people look at the problem you've described and assume that it must be open research because no unpaid dev has posted a hobby project to Github to solve it. But that wouldn't be an accurate conclusion-- in fact everyone has used Google's annoying hairball of sophisticated, hidden techniques which solves pretty much this problem (and probably other problems as well).
You wouldn't need anything as sophisticated as that. But you do need to pay experts the going rate to design, implement, test, and tweak such a service.
If any FOSS orgs had the foresight and funding to do this, I believe it would reveal that all commercial social media networks including Reddit haven't "solved" this problem simply because it isn't in their financial interest to do so.
Let's say I agree with this, what's the next step? What's the "call to action"?
> It would represent a radical change, but one that should be looked at seriously.
Okay. Looked at by whom?
I would say we already have the protocols (Napster was founded in 1999, P2P protocols are old enough to drink.) Then what?
(My own cynical reaction is that people like what they have and deserve what they get. But I recognize and admit that that is not a productive area of discussion.)
Given that pirating movies is unfashionable now, what could some P2P protocol offer that would entice people away from FAANG? (Assuming that that would be a net benefit to humanity and the world is itself more of a hope than something you could prove one way or another. Does anyone have any sort of science that could even begin to predict the results of any of this?)
When something (in this case technology) becomes a problem, I'm not usually in favor of trying to add more of that same thing to solve the problem. Similarly, if a platform is going to control speech, I don't see the point of adding more control to control Facebook's control. I think this is a structural rabbit hole that constantly repeats itself in our institutions.
And even if "we" did apply more technology, who exactly is going to lead this effort? If we drop solutions with n more protocols in the market, the same 3 companies will end up owning the content on them. And through some remarkable defiance of probability, all of those companies will act in identical lockstep when it comes to behavior and policies. Of course, there's no evidence of collusion, they just happen to be culturally identical in every way. And that is reasonably believable given how few actual people are involved in running the organizations.
"Some feel that these platforms have become cesspools of trolling, bigotry, and hatred."
Some? I'm assuming (possibly wrongly) that this sentence is intended to express one particular side's feeling about the other particular side. But I think everyone feels this. Both sides make arguments (some more data driven than others) that show how the other side is motivated by hate. In fact, the prevalence of the conviction that love, compassion, and morality exist exclusively on one side appears to be a large part of the problem.
There are over 3000 counties in the US and if you colored them by their political and cultural sentiment and look at the map of the country, you would see the full diversity and distribution of ideas - at least geographically. The lack of this level of resolution on Internet platforms is the problem imo.
Maybe there can't be 3000 platforms. But there can be more than 3-5 groupings of capital that control them all and they can be more culturally diverse. Not sure about the value of being more protocol diverse.
Each one of us must realize the absolute importance of free speech, and must speak out even in favor of protecting the free speech of people we despise.
Realize that the entire point of free speech is to protect unpopular/despised speech. There are no conditions on free speech, by definition. The answer to the question "Is this considered free speech?" is always a resounding "YES", regardless of context, or who is speaking, or who may be trying to censor it.
Design a decentralized protocol that can handle voting/karma, while also incentivising developers of clients. The problem is that this is not easy.
I agree that this is Reddit's main feature. However it isn't necessarily good. It is basically an amplification of "interest" whether that is good or bad. Assuming that votes represent general quality is a dangerous mistake.
> continually polished user interface
Ok, this must be a joke.
> Design a decentralized protocol that can handle voting/karma, while also incentivizing developers of clients.
In order to do this in a decentralized manor you need to choose who's votes you trust. This is a very interesting problem and solving it may be helpful even in the context of a centralized network.
Maybe but if we let voting/karma/moderation be "perspectives" of the content rather than lossy filters, then it won't matter much.
> you need to choose who's votes you trust.
If users can freely choose their "root" in a trust tree, then it might be interesting. Each upvote confers trust and "karma".
AFAICT there's no consensus model for federated or distributed services that can go fast. So you'd better get your design right the first time around to minimize tweaks and changes. That requires domain expertise, and FOSS is famously bad at paying what it costs for that.
I do wonder about hosting providers though, like AWS. Should a utility be deciding who gets electricity because of what happens in a business or home? I feel this is much less defensible.
This only creates that same echo chamber effect we are trying to avoid.
The first part is about politics, if you only care about the tech part, you can jump to the following headlines:
- Encrypted clients
- Protocol extraction and unauthorized clients
- The secure personal server
- Technology is hard, actually
Well, that's a nice thought, but the goal of deplatforming is to remove somebody entirely. Nobody was forced to follow Trump on twitter - he had tens of millions of voluntary followers. If your goal is to get rid of Donald Trump, you have to centralize the decision.
In a decentralized systems, you would have many platform providers, many decentralized features and also many filters. In a decentralized system, the filtering/curating holds less ethical baggage (ie just choose another filter you like more!). Curators are free to curate more heavily.
If there was one single email platform, every spam marking would be a political and ethical hill to die on. Instead its a non-issue.
1. I don't want to hear Donald Trump, and I don't want to associate with anyone who likes him, or hear their ideas in my feed: this is solvable by distributed systems like Mastodon where node operators can just blacklist the Trump-aligned servers, and apply rules on their own.
2. I want Donald Trump to be silenced and not be able to say dangerous inflammatory things that rile his supporters up into violent attacks on democratic processes: this is going to require a centralized decision and really probably would work best if it was a law.
Deplatforming can partially work by demanding all reasonable node operators block the person. But then you get the ones whose niche is to be a haven of scum and villainy, like Gab, and they refuse.
This may be enough, though, if it isolates awful people into inaccessible backwaters.
Moderating social media, and the internet is in fact, doable, and absolutely necessary. This has nothing to do with "censorship".
The debate is actually easily settled if you understand what is happening with free speech online.
What typically happens in conspiracy-circles, is that people are radicalized because the disinformation is simply not challenged. It may be that a few users will dispute various claims, but their valuable, fact-based input, is typically drowned in a flood of spam, personal attacks, and claims unrelated to the claims that are being discussed in a given forum- or comment thread.
The problem with "unmoderated free speech" is that informationterrorists can abuse "free speech" to repeat the same disputed claims over and over, without ever addressing the fact that their claims have been disproven. This is also what I would label as "flooding the discussion" or "drowning the facts"; it is so effective that everyone who conducts themselves properly and respectfully are drowned in this flood of disinformation; this actually results in a "suppression" of free speech. When only one side is really heard, then we effectively do not have free speech.
Instead, what we have is a conversation that is dominated and suppressed by a few bullies that are shouting the loudest.
In addition, you would really hate to have governments influence the fact-checking processes on social media platforms, since governments have ultimate power, they are also the largest threat to free speech. Ideally fact-checking should be done 100% transparently by independent fact-checkers, and the facts that lead to a conclusion has to be tediously and transparently documented so that everyone can trust the processes. People who think the conclusion of a fact-check is inaccurate should take it up with the relevant fact-checkers, or possibly take it through the courts.
This "ideal" of "unmoderated free speech" has never really worked. It did not work in the real world, and surely will not work on the internet. The problem with this idea is that anti-social individuals will just try to control the narrative by spamming or repeating disproven claims (shouting), making new false claims, pushing disproven conspiracy theories. Etc.
A common technique I see used by malicious sources, is to release one claim, have people debate- and disprove it, only to release another, unrelated, claim without ever acknowledging the fact that their first claim was false. The result is that even old and disproven claims are circulating in an endless loop. They use this technique continuously with countless of subjects, both old and new — you would think that people will eventually reject claims made by known informationterrorists, due to their lack of credibility and history of publishing falsehoods, but that does not seem to be the case.
I am not a fan of banning people permanently from social media, as it just seems too merciless — there has to be ways to get un-banned — but, as a minimum, we should have fact-checking on profiles with large followings; and of course, groups and profiles used primarily to spread disinformation should be deleted.
The GP comment is no longer in a downvoted state, let alone "oblivion". Meanwhile comments like yours linger on as uncollected garbage even after they have been falsified. The thing to do instead is to give a corrective upvote and move on. Most often, fair-minded readers do enough of that to restore thoughtful comments to a non-negative state. In egregious cases, you can always give us a heads-up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To me this sounds something like "less walmart, more supply chains, warehouses, and storefronts." I agree in spirit, but it's the reverse of how capitalism usually works. The few giant platforms were built off the work of people who built their own interfaces, filters, and additional services. Why would we expect new/improved protocols (crypto or otherwise) to be any different?
Please don't make spurious generalizations like this one, which is obviously false. Instead, please familiarize yourself (I don't mean you personally, but all of us) with the cognitive biases that lead to these false feelings of generality . Yes, a lot of people make the argument you're mentioning—and a lot of people also make the opposite argument. I don't know if it's evenly split (no one knows that), but it's close enough not to matter.
It's important that this community get educated about this so we don't tear ourselves apart—which is what the fantasy of being an embattled minority, surrounded by enemies and demons [2, 3], will lead to. In reality, there's a range of views here, more or less homomorphic to the range in society at large. That's what any sufficiently large population sample converges to.
I wasn't trying to say that everyone in HN was advocating for censorship (if anything, I always feel a little better when I read people defending free speech, they're what keep me coming back, at least to this type of posts); I was talking about what those in specific who speak in favor of censorship say.
I'll edit it to make it less ambiguous. Thanks.
I thought we had a deal, but clearly we don't. I assumed that everyone understood and could predict their own future motives and emotions toward a desire to censor speech they disagree with or find "offensive" (if you're the kind of person who chronically experiences that state of being "offended" – I'm not).
I assumed we all knew that we couldn't possibly trust ourselves to censor dissent from our own views. I assumed that we all knew that our initial impulses toward that would have to be dismissed out of hand, given everything we know about human fallibility, cognitive biases, how incredibly easy it is to be wrong, and the obvious arbitrariness of this time and place – that is, the time and place we happen to be alive. Leftists seem to not be accounting for any of these factors. They think they're right. Well, they know they're right. And they apparently think there's no way their ideology could be mistaken or unwise or harmful in any serious way, or that any of a dozen or so discrete beliefs/narratives/dogmas could be wrong. They for some reason believe that early 21st-century American leftist ideology is airtight, mostly complete, the first complete and totally true belief system in human history, and it's not a huge coincidence that it happens to be the one that's sitting there when they happen to be alive.
And that their whole framework and dogma around their preemptive marginalization of outsiders with the idiosyncratic usage of the word "hate", and an associated set of evidence-free abstractions like "privilege", and a bunch of -phobias that don't actually exist, at all, to the knowledge of serious scientists... well that whole package is of course completely true, just like everything else. No only is it true, but they'll recursively use that sort of immune system package to justify censoring non-leftists, much like how Scientologists tag people as Suppressive Persons (SPs).
This is bad news. Their epistemology is terrible. It was always the elites who were the vanguard defending freedom of speech. It was never expected that regular Joes could be counted on to grok the epistemic and psychological facts that motivated a principled commitment to freedom of speech. It was the intellectuals who understood how easy it is to be wrong, how ideologies can blind us, how our own subjective sense of the certain truth of our beliefs was completely irrelevant to their objective standing, how so many humans in history have had that subjective experience of certainty, with mixed results. Now we face an awkward situation where intellectuals have let themselves stumble into a cult, a cult that has conveniently constructed arguments and rationalizations that purport to justify censorship. So now they can just skirt on past the many robust reasons to defend freedom of speech, if they ever knew them. Because, "hate" obviously. That's all they needed to abandon something so crucial to human progress and growth. Just use an arbitrary human negative emotion word in contradiction to its actual, dictionary meaning, applying it to a huge swath of outsider/non-cult speech, even encompassing someone noting that humans are a sexually dimorphic species. Boom..."hate". Something huge is falling to something very small.