- Date published:
7:30 am, April 27th, 2019 - 117 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, blogs, censorship, Deep stuff, democracy under attack, facebook, International, internet, Politics, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, twitter, us politics - Tags:
So here is one of those big debates. Normally they happen over decades but suddenly the earth is shifting and we only have months to get the balance right.
And we are dealing with a private corporation that appeared out of nowhere but now forms a central part of our political interaction. Not Facebook, but Twitter.
It started off as a site to allow mass communication. Think texting but instead of your bestest receiving your message it was a collective of your bestests and others who you might know and others who others might know. And everyone had the chance to respond.
It is a fascinating platform. For me its ability was clearly demonstrated after the second Christchurch earthquake in 2011 when minutes after the event I saw a photo of the Christchurch cathedral spiral having toppled.
Since then it has been a go to any time news is breaking. As a recent example during the Christchurch Mosque massacre Twitter gave me an insight into what happened that I am not sure I like but it was magnificently detailed.
And the good old left right arguments that used to happen on the blogs now happen on Twitter. If you want an example of what used to happen there is this Standard post from 2012 which involved Slater himself, Cactus Kate (remember her?) various people on the good side and an arrange of intermediaries.
For the modern equivalent go to twitter. Nothing else compares.
But it is a corporate start up that has suddenly assumed responsibility for what is said in every town square in the world and for profit continues to allow people to argue with each other. But under its own rules.
So recent news that Twitter is happy to censor ISIS propaganda but not white supremacist propaganda is worrying. Especially because the justification is that censoring white hate speech would cause problems for Republican politicians.
From Maggie Serota at Spin:
Twitter execs are hesitant to use its algorithmic content filters to automatically ban white nationalists and neo-Nazis from the platform because too many Republican politicians would be kicked off the site in the process, Motherboard reports.
According to sources who attended an all-hands meeting for Twitter staff held in March, one employee asked why the micro-blogging site wasn’t using its AI to scrub white nationalists from the site with the same dedication and efficiency they did for accounts pushing Islamic State propaganda. A Twitter executive and tech employee reportedly responded by explaining too many Republican politicians would be kicked off the platform if they purged white nationalists.
The exec explained that because of Twitter algorithms, there are accounts that will be purged as collateral damage once certain groups are targeted. From Motherboard:
With every sort of content filter, there is a tradeoff, he explained. When a platform aggressively enforces against ISIS content, for instance, it can also flag innocent accounts as well, such as Arabic language broadcasters. Society, in general, accepts the benefit of banning ISIS for inconveniencing some others, he said.
In separate discussions verified by Motherboard, that employee said Twitter hasn’t taken the same aggressive approach to white supremacist content because the collateral accounts that are impacted can, in some instances, be Republican politicians.
The employee explained that GOP accounts getting swept up in a purge of neo-Nazis by the algorithm isn’t something Twitter execs think the public would accept. Under such a system, someone like Rep. Steve King (R-IA) could get purged from Twitter after quote-tweeting white supremacist propaganda and adding his own bigoted commentary, except apparently Twitter management doesn’t want to deal with the pushback from King’s base. Of course, the more obvious explanation would be that the algorithm can’t differentiate between the racist viewpoints of certain members of the GOP and someone like David Duke.
So white supremacist hate speech is given a privileged position because otherwise Republican politicians will face problems.
Anyone see a problem here?
Shouldn’t we be saying that if the speech of Republican politicians trigger these issues their speech should not be tolerated?
And to the Free Speech Coalition why should one form of bigoted violent speech be tolerated but not another form of bigoted violent speech?