Thursday, October 15, 2020

Dystopian stuff

On principle, I agree wholeheartedly with the notion that private enterprises have a right to free association. Specifically, I have no issue with tech giants like Facebook and Twitter rooting out content they find objectionable, particularly when said content runs afoul of their established user policies. 

All that said, people like me are finding it more difficult to defend these tech giants against regulation.

When Facebook and Twitter starting spiking any references to New York Post story that was unflattering to current Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden, their rationale left a lot to be desired. 

Facebook Communications Director Andy Stone, a former Democratic staffer, announced that the social media platform would limit the article's distribution pending a fact-checker's review. He directed users to Facebook policy, which states that "in many countries, including in the US, if we have signals that a piece of content is false, we temporarily reduce its distribution pending review by a third-party fact-checker."

While Facebook is within its rights to take action against content it believes is factually misleading, this seems like a tough standard to enforce evenly. News articles in the mainstream press frequently contain information that is thinly or anonymously sourced, and sometimes proves to be inaccurate. It's one thing for social media platforms to take swift action against viral content that is very obviously false or incendiary, like conspiracy theories about coronavirus miracle cures or voter fraud. It's quite another for the platform to essentially make itself a gatekeeper of legitimate journalism, or a very selective media watchdog that appears to be more concerned about bad reporting when it comes from right-leaning outlets than left-leaning outlets, given the partisan leanings of social media company's internal policy setters.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's lame attempt at spin.

The thread Jack linked to referenced "personal information" in the Post article and thus was in violation of its "Hacked Materials" policy. The thing is, Twitter didn't concern itself with the New York Times story of President Trump's tax returns and how they were quite likely obtained by the Times illegally. Also, the infamous Trump-Russia dossier was widely available on the platform when Buzzfeed submitted it in its entirety. 

In the end, these social media sites want it both ways in that they enjoy the protection of being platforms (i.e. not responsible for content posted by its users) yet want us to believe they're morally bound to censoring what they (and they alone) deem as questionable material. And isn't it amazing that the corrective action only flows in one ideological direction? This is true Orwellian sh*t we're dealing with. 


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