Saturday, July 28, 2018

To move to partially selective platforms, you need content that is fact-based: the power grid issue could be a good place to start

The gradual pressure on user-generated content is indeed nudging me to consider publishing key articles on other platforms. Two examples might be Medium (guidelines) and Hubpages.

Some of these platforms may offer a self-publishing option, with some oversight or right to edit, and some have options that are selective (like Medium’s Mission).  It would be a good question as to whether the changes in Section 230 and the “moderator’s paradox” will affect these platforms.

The best way to introduce oneself to a platform like this would be with an article on an issue of public importance and where the author has much more factual knowledge than the readers.

The article would generally suggest a direction for public policy or personal action on the basis of evidence from lesser-known facts, as documented in reputable sources (and maybe some personal experience) and less on speculation about what could happen.
I’ve outlined some topics for this sort of activity before.  For example, a discussion of the downstream liability problem for Internet platforms could be largely fact-driven (with some emphasis on the idea that there are different business models for different platforms).  So could the history of how platforms have reacted to the threat of increased liability exposure (as from FOSTA). What sounds more speculative, however, is trying to predict how platforms may react to political and social pressures in the future and censor content or weed out customers and users based on, say, community engagement (Charlottesville broke through a barrier with hosting and domain name companies).

I think that a good topic that is reasonably factual and in need of this sort of exposition is the threats to the power grid, both EMP and (as has gotten attention recently, especially from David Sanger’s book), cyber.  Americans seem divided on the issue of civil preparedness, with a “conservative” and “gun-owning” crowd insisting on personal doomsday preparation. My own position has always been that such a calamity must be prevented.
A number of topics that are fact-oriented come into play: how EMP works (E1 v E3), comparison to solar storms, and how cyber hackers get past the “air gap” to get into utilities.  The best approach for an article on one of these platforms would be an “annotated bibliography”; that is, following a model for a preview of a term paper in undergraduate English back in 1963.  (By the way, I remember then – professors wouldn’t let you keep your own paper after grading, out of fear of “fraternity files” – what happened to intellectual property rights then?)   That is, present the findings on the topic from well-respected publications and authors as much as possible.  The EMP issue especially has been a favorite topic of some of the extreme right, and that fact tends to downplay its credibility in the general public. However, there is slowly accumulating a body of literature from more mainstream sources, including science organizations (like Oak Ridge) that this (along with solar storms) could be a very serious problem, and preventable.   Unfortunately, as we have seem with a much better known issue (climate change), the public has become so resentful and polarized that it has no perception of fact v. fiction.

The topic is particularly critical because of the unprecedented dependence of our modern civilization on technology. 
But right now, this seems like my next assignment.

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