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Governments around the world are asking Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Google to deal with issues, such as what to do about people who use their platforms to meddle in elections or spread lies, paranoia, bigotry and hate speech? Do you think it is possible for them to “tame the monsters they have created?”

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Thanks, Strangerland. I used to speak Greek, so I have some understanding of word roots. But I wanted to avoid getting too pedantic, as people stop reading when sentences get too long or they come across words they are unfamiliar with. It doesn't really change the nature of my point, which is that the flow of information vital to a functioning democracy is in the hands of an unaccountable few.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

a couple social media sites control 99% of the information.

If it's more than one, it's not a monopoly. The key is in the first half the word: 'mono'. Mono is Latin for one, or singular. By definition it cannot be a monopoly if there is more than one, in such a case it would be a duopoly, or an oligopoly.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Calling a social media site a monopoly is a joke.

Look up the meaning of monopoly. You can use a different word if you like, but a couple social media sites control 99% of the information. It's not healthy. Not even for people who share their political slant like you.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Calling a social media site a monopoly is a joke.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The closer they come to monopoly power

There is no monopoly power. You are free to join alternative or even create an alternative social media site. It's way less complicated than rocket science. Just get some engineers, some money to pay for their salaries and Internet resources and you can make a social networking site that is a conservative's dream. Calling a social media site is a joke.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This will all be moot with the rise of truly decentralized social networks, built on a blockchain or something similar. However in the meantime, this is a crisis that anyone who cares about free speech should be concerned about.

This website, unfortunately, is one of the partisan ones, and people aren't much interested in concepts - just in which side is winning.

Whatever the laws say, there is no question that Facebook, Twitter and Google hold a virtual monopoly on the means of communication used by most of the public in the US. Moving to a friendlier platform is not an option when no other platform has even a tiny fraction of the reach the giants do. So, yes, speech is being censored in a very real and harmful way. Bleating about Google or Twitter being business that can do what they want doesn't lessen the impact that their decisions have.

The current laws were not written with this in mind at all. So, while it may be legal, it's certainly not ethical.

As M3M3M3 said, Youtube would be sued out of business if they were treated as a publishing company that has the right to delete content as they see fit. Their whole defense against that has been that they claim to be platforms that anyone can use, like the telephone. Personally, I hope they are sued out of business this way. And I say that as no fan of IP laws as they exist now.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

A very interesting discussion.

@ArtistAtLarge

There is one more factor which distinguishes JT moderation from Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. Legally, a news website like JT is a publisher and responsible for any defamatory content that might appear within its pages, in exactly the same was as a print newspaper that allows the publishing of a defamatory letter to the editor. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, however, are not. The big tech companies are all classified as 'Internet intermediaries' by the DMCA in the US. They cannot be sued for defamatory content on their platforms because, theoretically at least, they are treated exactly like physical ISPs or telephone companies who have no editorial agenda and are simply processing everyone's data in a neutral way.

@Strangerland, @Katsu78

The real issue with big tech is not the first amendment, or whether private companies can do what they want. It's whether by doing what they want (ie. curating specific content and making editorial and TOS decisions about perfectly legal but distasteful content) they are crossing the line from an internet intermediary into the realm of a traditional media company like a newsaper for television station and should be treated as such. The big tech companies couldn't survive in the form they are in now if they were being hit by 1000s of credible lawsuits every single day. They would be much smaller and offer far more limited social media services (perhaps allowing smaller well moderated networks to challenge their dominance). Personally, I think DMCA protection is no longer justified if they are engaging in deletion of content on grounds other than strick legality or have terms of service that is equivalent to editorialising.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Of course they can control it. Japan Today is the perfect example.

JT has a moderator and they do a pretty good job of moderating. In the early days of the Internet, almost all websites that allowed people to openly comment and publish, also had moderators. Even BEFORE the Internet, when there were only bulletin boards (remember those?) there were moderators.

That today's large "social media" companies do not, is not a failure of technology, it is a failure of will, management and greed.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The definition of 'social media' is somewhat vague. It's disgusting that so many are using it as a political platform or to spread racism and religious bigotry. However, the biggest plus is, you don't have to read it if you don't want to, which is very different to the political campaigns and right-wing nutcases with their loud-speaker vans driving around Japan annoying the heck out of everybody.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yes, that does work better as an analogy. I follow your line better now. Thanks for the reply.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

OnTheTrailToday  09:45 am JST

Question - not flaming here, truly interested in the differences. For those that feel denial of service for the Jones-type (removing their content) is fine for a company as they are not the government and the content is bad for their business ; does the same argument hold for say some redneck bar denying service to a black (or gay, etc. Etc) person on the grounds that it hurts their business?

We have laws against that sort of thing. You may remember there was a whole thing about it in the 60s. A good preacher named King got murdered for helping us stop that practice.

Besides, you're confusing an ordinary place of business like a bar with a publishing service, which is what these Internet services in question are. If you want a better analogy, maybe skip the jump straight to southern white racism and try a more parallel argument, like a customer demanding a bar let them hang their hateful appeals to violence on the poster that advertises 2-for-1 jello shots every Ladies' Night. That would be a more parallel situation where no rational person would really object to the bar taking down the hate speech and banning the customer.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Question - not flaming here, truly interested in the differences. For those that feel denial of service for the Jones-type (removing their content) is fine for a company as they are not the government and the content is bad for their business ; does the same argument hold for say some redneck bar denying service to a black (or gay, etc. Etc) person on the grounds that it hurts their business?

I guess you could say ideological descrimination is not an illegal act where are the others are protected by law? Still a close shave in my opinion .

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Those with an agenda will always find a platform to reach their audience, regardless of what the government does with Facebook, Twitter, and etc.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

It's going to be very difficult to censor, say, the Russians, without censoring people who have odd, or even crackpot, opinions. Free speech applies to all citizens. Even the loons. Still have to keep the foreign powers out but they've been trying to get in since the War of Spanish Succession, at least.

The thought that major communication platforms might be treated as utilities is interesting. But I don't have much faith in the politician's ability to implement it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

But they are not public services, they are private companies who run private services. They are required to operate within the law, and nothing within the law requires them to give a voice to those they don't want to give a voice to - as long as the reasons for not giving a voice are legal (ie not based on race, religion etc).

Also, what about the public utilities argument?

They are not public utilities.

There is no direct way of fighting back against censorship that private companies embark upon.

That's why I outlined the argument people have, that I have not said I subscribe too, to legislate them as public utilities. The closer they come to monopoly power, which some suggest they have, the more likely that is to happen.

Sure there is - start competing platforms. If the views to be expressed are in enough demand, the platform will be successful.

And so a competing platform to prevent that monopoly power is a good thing if you don't want legislation. Steam would be a viable alternative if they stick to the filter idea. Alex Jones is a deep, deep outlier. He is not a standard conservative or Republican. He is a mad man. There are hundreds of millions of conservative, traditional liberal and libertarians globally in the West and throughout the world which is more than enough to support a new free speech platform. Most likely it will originate in the U.S again.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

It also provides an opportunity for alternative platforms to cater to those views, creating, once again, a bubble except now the company that originally housed that content has lost out on the ability to control it at all AND lost out on the ability to earn revenue from that content.

Great! If Alex Jones (and the like) has to slither off to some alternative platform in the dark recesses of the internet where he can pedal lies, hatred and misinformation to a miniscule audience which doesn't provide enough ad revenue to make it worthwhile then all the better.

I'm having trouble understanding why this would be a bad thing.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Facebook, Twitter, Youtube are all in the public domain.

But they are not public services, they are private companies who run private services. They are required to operate within the law, and nothing within the law requires them to give a voice to those they don't want to give a voice to - as long as the reasons for not giving a voice are legal (ie not based on race, religion etc).

Also, what about the public utilities argument?

They are not public utilities.

There is no direct way of fighting back against censorship that private companies embark upon.

Sure there is - start competing platforms. If the views to be expressed are in enough demand, the platform will be successful.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Matt HartwellToday  11:51 am JST

Facebook, Twitter, Youtube are all in the public domain. 

That's not only untrue, it's absolutely meaningless with respect to the issue of private businesses deciding what rules they will use to govern who they will contract their services to.

Censorship is the core of the issue and is totally relevant.

Censorship only applies with the state silences people. Facebook, Twitter, or any other private company are not the state. The Trump regime is. Facebook, Twitter, or any other private company cannot and do not censor their users. The Trump regime however, is trying very hard to censor its critics.

In no way should private operators have a greater say in what people are allowed to say, or not say, then our political representatives. And right now, arguably, they do. 

Also untrue. No private company decides what any American can say. Some of them have simply decided what they will permit their private services to be used to publish. Americans can still say whatever they want on their own media platforms. That's not censorship. That's business.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I hope all the people here whinging about private companies banning private clients from their services don't mind when I come around their house and write on their walls. If you have the right to demand a private company publish you regardless of how your content affects their business, then I have the right to demand your as a private citizen publish my content on your walls, regardless of how it affects your life.

Facebook, Twitter, Youtube are all in the public domain. They operate in the global commons of the internet. What people do in their own homes is the private domain. Comparing apples and oranges. Silly analogy.

Or we could all just be adults and admit that censorship is irrelevant to this issue.

Censorship is the core of the issue and is totally relevant.

Also, what about the public utilities argument? Can we brush it under the carpet.

So....

The public have control over who becomes their elected representatives via universal suffrage (with some exceptions). If a politician or a political party embarks on widespread censorship, the public, in the West at least, can vote them out.

There is no direct way of fighting back against censorship that private companies embark upon. Perhaps shareholder meetings, writing a complaint email, divesting strategies, protests etc, but no direct vote to actually remove them from their positions of power.

Given how central services like Facebook, Google and Youtube are now to news provision, social commentary etc etc. Basically taking over from the role of newspapers, some people would say how is it sensible to allow the heads of these private companies or groups within them to dictate what hundreds of millions of people read as news or views in the public domain?

In no way should private operators have a greater say in what people are allowed to say, or not say, then our political representatives. And right now, arguably, they do. That is clearly not democratic and I don't think its an argument that we should toss aside. It has some merit in my view even though I don't like the idea of hard controls on private enterprise either as a conservative/libertarian.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Its unnecessary for them to ban. Put the power in the hands of the users of the platform and let them decide what they wish to read or watch.

No one has said that banning Jones was necessary, so your comment is pointless. Sure, they could put the power in the hands of the users if they wanted to, but if they don't want to, they have no obligation to. And on that same note, if they find what he says is distasteful to their company, they have no obligation to give him a platform for his views.

That's what you do in a democracy.

Companies are not democratic.

Its better than banning content. Banning removes alternative views altogether and those views don't change because they are banned.

That's right. They don't change because they are banned. So there is no problem. They are welcome to their repugnant views, and anyone who wants to hear them can go somewhere else and find them.

It also provides an opportunity for alternative platforms to cater to those views, creating, once again, a bubble except now the company that originally housed that content has lost out on the ability to control it at all AND lost out on the ability to earn revenue from that content.

It's clear these companies have no interest in controlling or earning revenue of such content, so your point is moot.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I hope all the people here whinging about private companies banning private clients from their services don't mind when I come around their house and write on their walls. If you have the right to demand a private company publish you regardless of how your content affects their business, then I have the right to demand your as a private citizen publish my content on your walls, regardless of how it affects your life.

Or we could all just be adults and admit that censorship is irrelevant to this issue.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

even more alienated from people with opposing viewpoints, a problem social media is already encouraging.

Its better than banning content. Banning removes alternative views altogether and those views don't change because they are banned. Nobody changes their mind because Youtube bans their video. It just makes them more determined to make their voice heard through other means, potentially violent.

It also provides an opportunity for alternative platforms to cater to those views, creating, once again, a bubble except now the company that originally housed that content has lost out on the ability to control it at all AND lost out on the ability to earn revenue from that content.

Much more sensible to provide people with a set of tools to filter content and try to keep the maximum amount of content possible on your platform.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

a comprehensive set of filters that allow individuals to filter out content they don't like.

This isn't much of a "solution" (ignoring the fact that it isn't new and most social media allow something like that already) since its just going to further encourage people to dig themselves further into their bubbles and become even more alienated from people with opposing viewpoints, a problem social media is already encouraging.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Banning whatshisface doesn't fly in the face of this at all. Apple etc. are not Congress. They have no obligation to provide a voice to any voice they don't like.

Its unnecessary for them to ban. Put the power in the hands of the users of the platform and let them decide what they wish to read or watch.

That's what you do in a democracy.

Not to mention it saves A LOT of money and hassle once you have the tools in place. Must easier to fine tune a set of tools over time than hunt around terabytes of content for naughty words people don't like.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Banning content... flys in the face of first amendment

The first amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Banning whatshisface doesn't fly in the face of this at all. Apple etc. are not Congress. They have no obligation to provide a voice to any voice they don't like.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

There's nothing wrong with lies and bigotry. It's been a positive force for change in the world, as we can see.

Truth is overrated.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

All the companies you mentioned should do what Valve who run Steam have suggested they will do and are actively developing right now - a comprehensive set of filters that allow individuals to filter out content they don't like. Its sure to be probably the most sophisticated implementation of the idea to date.

It doesn't ban content, it doesn't deplatform. It just gives people options.

In fact Valve are going to open up their platform to go well beyond gaming and limited video content to include virtually anything digital.

Its the smartest way ahead imo and Facebook, Youtube etc should follow suit.

Banning content per channel, per video, per post is incredibly time consuming and expensive, controversial, flys in the face of first amendment (and all these companies are U.S companies) and it forces you to pick sides.

Its dumb.

If people don't like what somebody says, let them filter it out and let everyone else carry on.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

FREE SPEECH AND THE COMMONER'S RIGHT TO BE WRONG

°

It is not their place to go against free speech. Any country who have a good media can get ride of any kind of rumors spread through those medias. Fake-news have no law grounding but penal use-to-day ones.

BigDatas made sure no sex or stolen identity is possible which is the most important. The way people use those services is not their problems anymore since they help investigation.

Government want to go back on people freedoms for monetary reason, so they try to use the fake-news axes but this is an illegal and abusive one.

In america, you have the right to speak ill about powerful people. And this is better this way. Censure is already string no need add on it.

°

NCM

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Somewhere in the last 20 years or so, we lost any traces of free speech. The media is really heavily controlled.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Albeit there are lots of trolls, warmongers and just plain pain in the a es, social media is the voice of the people. it is what it is.** Banning, removal of posts and other form of censorship and removing social media outright won't make the problem go away, it'll still be there and might manifest somewhere else.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

what these systems have allowed to proliferate is ignorance, not intelligence. Asimov said this in 1980, decades before the Internet, but it still applies:

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'

― Isaac Asimov

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Just another occasion for apparently smart people who did not look as far as consequences.

Good luck with all the new media and technologies, people, especially if it is not needed.

Or think just what that multi-billion dollar investment is going to bring down the track.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

You REAP what you sow.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

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