Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Is Alex Jones "the canary in the coal mine" for user generated content?

Monday, I mentioned the banning of Alex Jones on some social media sites on my network neutrality blog, with a speculation (suggested on Facebook) that activists would then be able to harass his web hosts or even telecom companies into refusing to connect him at all, now that net neutrality is gone.  It seems Alex Jones is the “canary on the coalmine” (especially Trump’s).
The general impression in the media is that Apple sudden banned him on iTunes, and within hours Facebook, YouTube and Spotify felt forced to follow the leader into a blackball event. That’s not completely true. Facebook and YouTube already had Jones on what amounts to “progressive discipline” (Youtube calls them community standards strikes) as had, in fact, Apple.  Some pieces of Jone’s stuff may still be up on these sites.

Aja Romano on Vox explains the “falling dominoes” here.

Janes Coastan has another explanation on the same site. 
In general, the social media companies are pointing more to issues with explicit TOS violations, on hate speech against groups and violence, than they are on conspiracies of fake news.  But Mark Zuckerberg seems to be his remarks a month ago “tolerating” Holocaust denial narrowing a bit.

The Washington Times also had a somewhat detailed account of the “progressive discipline” events.

Wired has been very critical of the vagueness and constant change in what Facebook defines as hate speech.
DailyWire explains why the sites are “dead wrong” on the bans.
Jack Dorsey explains why InfoWars is still on Twitter.  He hadn’t violated their rules. Dorsey was concerned that bannings could be motivated by political ideology.

I have not paid much attention to Alex Jones (given the outrageous nature of his conspiracy theories) and cannot say much about all of his transgressions. But David French of the New York Times offers a perspective, first of Jones’s legal standards, and second he suggests that tech companies focus on libel and slander (which could probably have booted Jones) rather than on shape-shifting ideas of hate speech. One danger is that tech companies seem to lured by overzealous pronouncements against groups and perhaps individuals by the Southern Poverty Law Center. French gives at least one disturbing example of the labeling of a professor for simply refusing to honor a “people of color” protest.
Amazon has also been in the act, downgrading some accounts from some programs and banning some items (like Nazi items and at least one book). Would Confederate items be next? Amazon has been slowly tightening its site, for example removing many questionable user reviews. 
There are major threats to a lot of user-generated content and self-published content staying up these days.  The most obvious issue is FOSTA (I wrote about the recent forum at Woodhull on Wordpress and on my legacy COPA blog).  But the bigger problem seems to be the theory (in circulation since 2016) that “speech” from those without their own “skin in the game” (Taleb’s idea) are gratuitously exposing others to harm and should be shut down.
Indeed, before we had the Internet, it was much harder for individuals be become politically active on their own terms. You had to join up with others to be heard.  But back in earlier times, the issues really weren’t polarizing and so centered on tribal identity and “intersectionality” as they are today.  

Aug. 10

More perspectives:  FEE site (absolute idea of personal responsibility -- is it the gun or the shooter?). 

Washington Post:  freedom of association at risk, too.

Slate:  foreign policy and American tech companies

Vox : major tweet about YouTube.

Aug. 17

Many media sources report that Twitter now has suspended Alex Jones for one week. for example, Vox.

Sept. 6  Alex Jones has been permanently banned from Twitter after an incident outside the Kavanaugh hearings, Washington Post story.

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