- Date published:
7:54 am, January 18th, 2021 - 63 comments
Categories: Donald Trump, facebook, Media, political alternatives, Politics, twitter, uncategorized - Tags:
If we had seen our Prime Minister fall from power because three companies decided that their dominance in society should be used to bring her down, we would be outraged. Yet that pretty much just happened in the United States. The deplatforming of President Trump by Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon was the move that redirected and silenced political support for President Donald Trump. Local Police response was small. The armed forces didn’t move against him. Electricity companies never wavered. Mainstream media companies couldn’t get enough. His own party was hardly united against him. Nothing regulated him at all. Until President Trump was brought down by three companies acting in unison. It looked like a cartel in operation.
There are, as the title of a book from 2019 says, twenty-six words that created the internet; they constitute a clause inserted into the 1996 Telecommunications Act. That created a liability shield of online platforms. Users can upload videos to Youtube, post reviews on Amazon and Tripadvisor, and enables Facebook and Twitter to offer social networking platforms to billions – all without incurring legal liability for what’s done on those platforms. Section 230 is the secret get-out-of-jail secret behind countless internet fortunes – and if it were repealed tomorrow, many of those platforms would shrivel.
We have good reason to thank these social media giants for finally bringing Donald Trump low. But in part I can use the collective noun “we” because “we” are not supporters of Donald Trump. There is no regulation that would stop that same political power within Big Tech from turning on the left and on the Democratic President and bringing him down as well. I hate Donald Trump, but I hate even more any power that can bring down a democratically elected leader – and big tech is clearly more powerful than the most powerful government in the world.
Silicon Valley bosses did not silence Mr Trump in a fit of conscience. If Big Tech supported the left or even supported democracy itself then it would not have enabled the rise of racism and populism the world over in the last decade. No, that dominant apparent cartel acted precisely to send a signal to both the Republicans and the Democrats and indeed to the new Democratic President that they have the power to stave off anti-trust actions by a Democrat-controlled Congress. Elizabeth Warren threatened to break up big tech and blasted Facebook for “spreading Trump’s lies and disinformation.”
In her post, Here’s How We Can Break Up Big Tech, she said in 2019:
As these companies have grown larger and more powerful, they have used their resources and control over the way we use the internet to squash small businesses and innovation, and substitute their own financial interests for the broader interests of the American people. To restore the balance of power in our democracy, to promote competition, and to ensure that the next generation of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last, it’s time to break up our biggest tech companies.”
Her plan to turn social media into platform utilities offers a way to advantage social values such as telling the truth over the bottom line. But with her consumer protection hat on, her focus was less on the political power they hold and more on consumer choice and commercial innovation:
Now Republicans and Democrats alike want to reign in Big Tech. For the Republicans, it’s a bit late. Their party has been massively damaged through this Presidency and in particular the last three weeks – with more damage to come through all the investigations and charges. Trump’s movement can only wither because the Big Tech platforms that rose him to prominence have decided to lower him and the world of his opinions back down again.
Social media’s moves against the President last week weren’t a coup in the way that his supporters wanted a coup the other way, but it was a way-faster destruction of political power than our own Employment Contracts Act or the US Taft-Hartley amendments to the National Labor Relations Act.
The Australian federal government has really only regulated social media as a news distribution platform, and there is no sign of further regulation.
And of course regulating this largely unregulated sea of power is hard.
But the rapid fall of Trump shows that failure to adequately regulate Big Tech will continue to give them the power to bring down any democratically elected government that they like. Big Tech need to have that power removed from them.
Donald Trump fell from power because the American voters decided that they had had enough of his lies. The social media platforms that happily enabled his lies because they brought in advertising clickbait made a commercial decision when Trump decided to incite an insurrection against the democratic process which finally got so large and egregious that it could no longer be ignored.
Now Republicans and Democrats alike want to reign in Big Tech
Good post. That typo. Orwellian.
Rupert Murdoch and others were influencing political outcomes in analogue form before Facebook and Twitter. Technology and the digital era has expanded the reach of oligarchs and reactionary tamperers like Mr Bezos and Mr Zuckerberg around the planet, but it is still at root about the power relationships inherent, and possible with private capitalist ownership of mass communication.
Anti Capitalism in theory and action, is the response that can extend the benefits of technology to the worlds people, while lessening the toxic outcomes.
Also Trump has been kicked off for inciting violence, like anyone else would be.
I didn't see anything in Warren's plans for how to control the misinformation and disinformation these big digital platforms have been a big part of enabling.
Nor did I see anything around how to manage the way some of these platforms have managed to parasitise the income that should actually go to content creators. That these big platform have been able to hoover up the revenue that actual investigative journalists need to do their valuable work is surely a factor in their decline. That misinformation and disinformation is so cheap to produce, and is likely just as lucrative if not more so for the big platforms, poses a much bigger challenge.
The basic problem about trying to regulate big internet based tech is that it would either require global regulation and effectively a world government of treaties, or to requires breaking the net up into national ghettos like China.
Either is going to get a whole lot of kickback and outright subversion from techs who would have to be convinced that it is worthwhile. After all they are far more aware of the problems and benefits than politicials who tend to be myopic as hell.
Trying to talking to a political about the effect of information on supply chains is like trying to explain the benefits of democracy to a brick wall. I have tried.
This kind of tech is extremely portable. National jurisdictions aren't a useful boundary- it would have to be an international change. At present we can't even get the national or even state jurisdictions to agree on something simple like taxing multinational IT companies. Look at Ireland or Texas as the outstanding exemplars.
There's also the practical aspects of lawmaking being nowhere near rapid enough to keep pace with technology change and as you say it has to be uniform and global to have any chance.
Another global problem that will demand solutions at the same scale.
I feel that the tech companies reflected a social and electoral consensus in this instance. It is not so much taking him off now, as tolerating his lies at length. Systematic lying is different from casual error, and when it's from people in power in ought to be treated even more seriously.
Tech companies could use a little regulation – but news media that doesn't meet even basic journalistic standards, like Fox news, and various NZ low end media need that regulation more.
It depends of course on the object of regulation – whether controlling feeds that might incite semiconscious liberation armies or terrorists is the aim, or whether it is the broader aim of creating a climate that facilitates civic discourse. I favour the latter – NZ was not well served by media fawning over Key and failing to bring his lies and economic shortcomings home to our people. US citizens got it even worse with Trump.
When journalism is once more noted for its rigorous examination of situations and people, and not for the whimsical fatuities of opinionated nobodies, we'll have made a bit of progress.
When journalism is once more noted for its rigorous examination of situations and people, and not for the whimsical fatuities of opinionated nobodies,
Which is the exact nub of the problem. Big Tech has more or less killed principled, competent broadcast journalism and replaced it with narrowcast opinion, that may or may not be backed up by fact.
Initially the Big Tech platforms were conceived in a very libertarian impulse; that they'd be solely a conduit for 'citizen journalists' who would generate their own content, for which the platform would not be responsible. This events of the past weeks and this post specifically has ended that myth. Big Tech have, by their own actions, now defined themselves as the publishers, and will soon enough be held 100% responsible for the content of their users.
This is going to be a massive disruption. And leaves the Fourth Estate in a perilous position, with traditional broadcast journalism almost dead on it's feet, and narrowcast social media content now suddenly subject to a new and highly erratic 'moderation' by Big Tech entities with zero expertise in this domain – well I'd wager we're in for a whole new ride of unhappy surprises.
I'm a bit sceptical that news media was actually killed by big tech. It appears to me that the media execs have used new technology to undermine their reporting desks while competing in a race to the bottom to give away their content.
I mean if you can log onto a web site for free and read the same stories why would you buy a subscription?
Well yes that's at least partly true. But the trad media never relied on direct sales, it was the advertising that google and fb took from them that really hurt.
Either way the end result has been the same. What will be really interesting is what, if anything, arises from this disruption. Going back to paywalled subscription only services is difficult because people have gotten used to flicking through multiple news sources in a day, because no-one covers everything of interest, and a wide range of viewpoints is necessary in these days of relentless spin and clickbait.
… but news media that doesn't meet even basic journalistic standards, like Fox news
And CNN, and MSNBC, and the BBC, the ABC, and (sadly) Radio New Zealand.
Please don’t divert to one of your many pet targets but stay on topic under this OP, thanks.
Sorry, but I was expanding on a very good point that Stuart Munro made, viz., that Fox News "doesn't meet even basic journalistic standards." I reminded him that Fox News is not the only substandard news media outlet. How does commenting on someone else's point constitute a diversion?
You’re correct in that. However, I know you’re prone to slide down the slippery slope, which is why I gave you a helpful little warning to be careful. That’s all.
Thanks for the caution, officer!
My first point would be that Big Tech never acts in accord with a social or electoral consensus unless it is in the interest of the billionaire owners.
My second point is that truth is almost never something self evident and absolute. Otherwise their would be general agreement on Russiagate, Assad gassing civilians and Novichok to mention just a few recent differences in supposedly factual accounts. So if we accept this, who then makes the call on what is fact? At the moment the answer is billionaire owners of big tech or media moguls.
Another argument made in favour of owners making decisions on censorhip is that if you want to operate under less censorship you should just start your own platform. But we have just witnessed the anti competive behaviour that a collusion between Apple, Google, Amazon produced in deplatforming Parler after Twitter and Facebook lost huge numbers to this new platform to the etent that twitter shares lost something like 7%. Now these people appear to have moved to the encrypted site which is telegram. A couple results of this now might be that the conversation continues but its difficult to know what is being said and that a cherished dream of intelligence organisations may be realised with the already expressed desire of banning encryption becoming a reality for the "good" of combating domestic terrorism.
Yes that is the other side of the equation – while it's clear in my mind that Trump's dereliction of duty as President justified his de-platforming, extending this to a general censorship of anyone holding similar views uses a just cause as cover for a quite illegitimate one.
And indeed Amazon’s destruction of Parler, right at the hardware level, is a very dubious action. It will be interesting to see where it goes legally.
Big Tech never acts in accord with a social or electoral consensus unless it is in the interest of the billionaire owners
This may be true up to a point – but who does act against their interests? If they can be persuaded from time to time to act in common human interests, that is more than many corporations manage. And they were quite receptive to reform after the Christchurch shooting.
As for Parler, I have no skin in that game. If it were anticompetitive, that's a matter for the US version of the Commerce Commission. There are other platforms available, and I'll lose no sleep over an outfit that did host a frightful mob of resurrectionist freaks – those who were waiting on the last Trump.
You may be right there but 70 million Trump voters most of whom already believe that the election was stolen is an awful lot of people to attempt to corral and sideline. How do you then criticise Chinese censorship? Or attempts to corral and sideline Hong Kong protesters. They protested more violently than the Washington "mob". Sidelining and corralling these people introduces an absolute inconsistency that completely annuls any attempt to point the finger at anyone else.
I suspect that is/was the case as well. They appear to have responded to public demand rather than the blandishments of the politicians.
Yep. The problem isn’t particularly the companies themselves, it is more what people directly use media and the net for (mostly entertainment). Because of the age that people live to they’re pretty much in future shock for most of their life and it shows in their credulity.
Using the net requires a lot more discrimination about quality on the part of consumers than being force feed network TV, radio and local newspapers. I probably notice it more than most because I have been living on the bleeding edge of inter network tech for all of my adult life.
I see the mistakes we all made decades ago showing up in tech laggards piling in today. The naivety about guru figures sprouting complete bullshit for their own aggrandisement and profit. The newly tech credulous being hooked in old ideas and memes that have been hanging around for decades. And above all the sheer volumes of the newbies learning old lessons late.
The worst affected by all of this at present seem to be the over-50s, and the over 60s especially. That is the power force in movements like Trumps. That is because they tend to believe what they read – mostly because they grew up in an age where the networks and media were regulated by limited technology and strict national regulation. They have no natural immunity developed to the net.
The extreme contrast with the truly sceptical millennial generation is striking. They view everything on the net as being someone trying to sell them a line of bullshit.
those storming the capital didn't look that old…I saw no zimmer-frames being wielded in an aggressive manner..
and it's the 'proud boy's..isn't it..?
not the proud-geriatrics…
and yes..most of the young are more tech-savvy…
but racist scumbags with a shockingly bad dress-sense..come in all ages..
and are not age-dependant..
I would submit..
and if we take the support such fucked ideas have here..
at the 19,000 votes they got at the last election..
we don't have that much to fret about..
(an age-breakdown of those 19,000 voters would be interesting to see..)
Please read the comments properly before you comment, thanks.
Who got 19,000 votes at the last election here? Feel free to link to your source of wisdom.
the billy t.k. party..
you didn't know that..?
and what haven't I read 'properly'..?
Where on Earth did you get the figure of 19,000? Have you heard of links at all?
You hadn’t properly read the comment you were responding to, going by your response.
the election result…the recent one…the number of votes they got…
(proof enough that I am not lying..?..or do you need more..?..)
and yes..I asked if you could clarify for me what is was I hadn't (in your words)..'read 'properly'..
could you have another go at that..?
as I still don't know what you meant..
Another reading fail! Where is your link???????
Yes, I need more: a link.
I didn’t say you were lying; I asked you where you got the number from. With. A. Link.
Can you read? Do you understand?
Given that you fail this simple task, I won’t even bother trying to explain to you the other reading comprehension fail.
Have you replied to lurgee yet? I guess not …
I'll say it slowly…
I didn't 'get it' from anywhere…
it is in my head from the widely published election results..
y'know…labour won…national didn't..
the billy t.k./trumpist party got about 19,000 votes..
you don't recall the media discussion about that..?
It took me 23 seconds, 17 keystrokes, 2 mouse clicks and a little bit of scrolling to check the actual facts.
The Advance Party result in 2020 was different to the 19,000 votes you are so confidently asserting. By a factor of almost 1.5 or 0.67 depending which way you calculate it. See if you can find out which way.
the 19,000 was pre-specials…
but the actual point is that in a nation of 5 million people they got s.f.a.
whereas half of americans voted for this shit..
so we don't have that american problem…
we can just ignore our idjits..
just leave them to their 5 g fretting..
Interesting that their party vote increased by a whopping 36% on the specials. I would link but i don't want to ruin your game.
@Phillip ure: No the pre-specials vote for the Advance Party was not 19,000.
It was 20,841.
It takes a really special kind of idiocy to keep repeating the same false thing over and over again after repeated challenges. Especially when it's so easy to fact-check.
well..take me out and fucken shoot me..
1,000 votes out..eh..?..ya say..
that’s a real gotcha..!
(um..!..do you ever listen to yourself..? .)
[You obviously don’t give a shit about be moderated and given a final warning last night (https://thestandard.org.nz/open-mike-18-01-2021/#comment-1775078):
I even emphasised the crucial part!
Today, you continue with the same nonsense and without providing a single link. This comment is just one example.
Links are necessary for two reasons:
The reason is that we tend to get things wrong ‘in our head’. Over time, our memories change – there’s a huge literature on this. I still spell the same words incorrectly, which is why I use F7 (spell-check for those who don’t know). Being wrong is not the same as being a liar. However, when you refuse to fact-check and self-correct, you’re effectively spreading incorrect information AKA misinformation. There’s a word for when you do this willingly, knowingly, and repeatedly …
When you assert facts, you need to pre-check these and what easier way than to use a link.
You stubbornly refuse to accept these basic rules of engagement. I have no idea why and maybe even you don’t yourself know why you’re digging in and doubling down.
Anyway, you’ve used up all your warnings and because others and I have wasted so much time on your comments, a medium-long break from you is appropriate and justified. If/when you come back, please take heed of requests for links by other commenters and Moderator warnings.
Banned for three months – Incognito]
See my Moderation note @ 9:45 PM.
Election night results for the 2020 General Election
Advance NZ 20,841
Edit: Beat me to it. lol
Lot of that going around..
I am now in my eightieth year and not sure that I agree with the thrust of your comment – I feel that I am still quite capable of being discriminatory in what I read, listen to and see. As my late father-in-law would say to my late mother-in-law- "you are using the broad brush here m'dear".
A lack of immunity to BS often starts in church. Black and white thinking sets many up to fail to discern reality.
And the current PMs avoidance of any recognition of non achievement?
I liked trump because he upset the beltway order, almost the same as Jacinda has done in NZ. She has connected with people regardless of her and her govts ability and performances.
trump was nuts but 70 million Americans voted for him.
whether there was electoral fraud or not it is a sad day when we lose further trust in democracy. I read the standard and the BFD not because I believe in a left or right view but because I want to read what people think and make up my own mind. I’d never subscribe to Stuff or NZ hearld because like big tech it’s about click bait and click bait is about advertising not about informing.
[New user on TS]
And the current PMs avoidance of any recognition of non achievement?
Show me real contrition from any politician if you can. The closest you get is the present government's re-engagement with the housing issue – a tacit acknowledgement that more action is required. More than we got out of Key, who talked big on housing before he took power.
I liked trump because he upset the beltway order
Orly? Trump is the worst scoundrel since Demosthenes. Worse in fact – the latter was at least a competent strategos.
and the BFD
The BFD marks the nadir of conservative thought in NZ. They can no longer muster a rational critique and have fallen back on spite and gossip.
yes..they should pay tax/content-creators etc..
but claiming big tech brought down trump is over-egging it a tad..eh..?
trump brought himself down..
a case could be made that he dug that grave for himself…on those platforms..
but trump brought himself down..
..those platforms..as such..did not do it ..
and as noted in the first comment…those who decided trumps' political fate were the american voters…
the tech closedown came after the fall of trump..
how on earth can you claim the tech companies dunnit..?
and as for any dumbing-down claims..
dumb-media feeding dumb people simplistic bullshit is not a recent phenomenon..
just looking back to when newspapers ruled..
it was the dumbshit tabloids that always got the biggest readership the so-called quality-press always lagged far behind…
so what has changed…?
I agree. The problem is politicians are by and large tech illiterate, Politicians don't know enough about tech to regulate tech. Most kiwi politicians can't tell you the difference between hacking and traffic overload.
Plus they benifit from the current system of not financially via donations or having former employees of big tech staffing their campaigns they still benefit from the platform and popularity social media gives them by being able to bypass media and talk directly to the public via social media.
Honestly I think a requirement for all politicans should be a deep understanding of tech, computers and the digital the little course they do is not good enough and in the digital age tech is probably more important than a law degree, politicians by large are so tech illiterate they don't understand when they are being swindeled by tech barons, a lot of politicians experience is just not fit for the 21st century
I think regulating it needs to happen locally, domestically and at an international level perhaps the un or wto I dunno but for a start we need politicians who actually know what they are talking about and even in our young parliament there just aren't many , hell half our doctors barely know how to turn on a lap top
But the 3 companies didn't bring Trump down, he had already lost the election. Trump removed himself from social media for breaking the rules by treasonously inciting an insurrection.
You need to see a doctor. Most people don’t give a shot about trump Biden or climate change. Hop out into the real world. The focus on trump has shown that TDS is a real thing storming the capitol is hardly a revolution or attempted one or coup or whatever
[New user on TS]
regulate "big tech" and then watch as the law is abused to pursue whistleblowers and political dissidents
In addition to the other commenters who pointed out that dolt45 got deplatformed well after he was rejected by voters, the other point on that is that if anything he was given preferential treatment by not being deplatformed earlier.
MSM similarly gave him billions of dollars of free advertising in their news coverage, then decried his actions only belatedly.
A level playing field isn't a slippery slope.
I think an analogy might be useful:
A company, let’s call it TwitterBoard, operates a bunch of digital billboards. The general public is able to post photos, videos and messages on the billboards with little oversight from the company.
One morning on the way to market, you look up in horror. A lewd, photoshopped image of your wife has appeared on one of the billboards, 10 meters high. Traffic has slowed to a crawl as drivers pull over to take photos.
TwitterBoard eventually removes the offensive image. They issue an apology, saying, “sorry ‘bout that, but we have so many billboards it’s virtually impossible to monitor all the content. Not our fault.”
Not good enough in IMHO. The victim in this scenario should at very least be able to sue TwitterBoard for liable. TwitterBoard, in turn, would need to find a way to avoid similar lawsuits in order to stay in business. Government regulation is not necessary.
Superb post Ad.
The manipulation of "voter preference" using modern technology, particularly the internet, has been around for a while. We have a home grown "whizz kid" who went to Australia to weave his magic recently and handed Morrison his "miracle" (Morrison's word) victory. This same character, I believe, signed up to the CrosbyTextor team (highly successful in the UK and here in recent times) to reinstate National. It says so much for Jacinda Ardern that she was able to trump (certainly no pun intended) this in no uncertain terms. It will be interesting to see what these charlatans can come up with in 2023!! Hopefully the National Party paid a huge amount of money for their dismal failure.
I'm not quite clear if your taking a particular position on Crosby Textor types or not. But I believe their abilities to influence voter preferences are vastly inflated. I mostly put their 'success' down to picking the winners out to employ them and subsequently convincing the campaign that they are providing value with their spin (of course advertising their influence is how they get their next gig). But UK Labour should have known that the last election was about brexit and essentially threw that. OZ Labour is equally terrible at pitching themselves.
Interested to know what you think they do which might be helpful to these campaigns in changing peoples votes.
I thought that my position was clear. I am very concerned at the way this company, which I am sure is paid handsomely by its clients, has the ability to affect the results of elections quite significantly. I thought that I had better do a modicum of research so found this interesting comment in Wikipedia. Some might not find Wikipedia a substantive authority but most of us accept its integrity.
To further the political objectives of its clients, C|T Group has been found to have created ostensibly independent social media accounts to promote political ideas. In 2019, an investigation by The Guardian revealed that multiple outwardly independent groups behind adverts on Facebook promoting a hard Brexit were in fact administered by employees of CTF Partners (a subsidiary).
True, those things happened and were found out about. But I question the influence of these behaviours on public voting.
Maybe I am less aware of the influence as I don't really go on social media. But the UK has decades of experience of UK politicians infering the negative consequences of EU politics onto EU membership. The public were easily convinced to vote Tory who were united behind that happening, vs Labour who couldn't be clear about if they might even relitigate the referendum.
I suspect that the influence on the Brexit vote occurred before the initial referendum. It was a result which surprised the initiators of the vote, in particular David Cameron. Farage and Johnson are unscrupulous charlatans. They would certainly have hired the services of C/T. The Australian Liberal Party and our own Nats almost certainly have here. They have form and have been well paid for it.
It seems you draw pretty similar observations to me about the UK political situation then. I just extended that a little to suggest the CT types are much more successful at guessing which campaign will win and advertising that they work for winners than they are at actually changing voters minds. But I'm always on the look out for possible blind spots in my understanding on things.
Had Trump still been able to tweet he may have been able to do significantly more damage to American democracy. When this would have been looked into afterwards it would have been found that his twitter account played a significant part in this. This could have resulted in legislation that would have regulated the tech companies more strictly. So they acted preemptively purely out of self interest.
And they waited to make sure he had lost enough political support so their section 230 protections could not be swiftly removed in a fit of pique.
Absolutely self serving. Not a skerrick of decency to be seen. These companies products are garbage content plus advertising – for the false benefit of 'keeping up' with people you know.
The FB feed is remarkably devoid of my friends content. They keep me in touch with about 5-10% of the people I actually know on there. These are who I want to hear from. But it's just sponsored content, ridiculous media content (is your cat adventurous?), and notifications that some group I was stupid enough to like has posted some shit I couldn't care less about.
Utter garbage. They've become the most powerful folks on earth peddling utter garbage. Fuck em, bring them low.
Spot on TM, like the soon to be extinct dinosaurs they are, the manipulative media empires of the Murdochs, Barclay etc are being usurped by advancing technology-driven platforms.
Unfortunately, that simply changes the faces of individuals who can influence political outcomes.
In its current state, advancing technology is not a friend of democracy.
A lot of interesting writing on this theme about at the moment; I rather liked this one: