All posts filed under: Who Controls The Platform?

Twitter’s Micro-Slavery

This is a response to “Who Controls the Platform?“—a multi-part Quillette series authored by social-media insiders. Submissions related to this series may be directed to pitch@quillette.com In his new book Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe, tech investor Roger McNamee writes: “Lizard brain” emotions such as fear and anger produce a more uniform reaction and are more viral in a mass audience. When users are riled up, they consume and share more content. Dispassionate users have relatively little value on Facebook, which does everything in its power to activate the lizard brain. Facebook has used surveillance to build giant profiles of every user and provides each user with a customized Truman Show, similar to the Jim Carrey film about a person who lives his entire life as the star of his own television show. It starts out giving users “what they want,” but the algorithms are trained to nudge user attention in directions that Facebook wants. The algorithms choose posts calculated to press emotional buttons because scaring users or pissing them off increases time on site. Facebook calls it engagement, but the …

It Isn’t Your Imagination: Twitter Treats Conservatives More Harshly Than Liberals

This is a response to “Who Controls the Platform?“—a multi-part Quillette series authored by social-media insiders. Submissions related to this series may be directed to pitch@quillette.com. Many conservatives believe that social media companies are biased against their views. This includes Donald Trump, who last year accused Twitter of “shadow banning” Republicans, and promised to “look into this discriminatory and illegal practice.” A few months later, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey made a categorical denial of any bias while testifying before Congress: Let me be clear about one important and foundational fact: Twitter does not use political ideology to make any decisions, whether related to ranking content on our service or how we enforce our rules. We believe strongly in being impartial, and we strive to enforce our rules impartially. Recently, Mr. Dorsey appeared on two different podcasts, on which he similarly denied any bias against the right. Not everyone is convinced. A June, 2018 Pew poll found that 72% of Americans believe that social media companies censor views they don’t like, with members of the public …

How Radical Transparency Cures Web Censorship and Surveillance

The article that follows is the third instalment of “Who Controls the Platform?“—a multi-part Quillette series authored by social-media insiders. Our editors invite submissions to this series, which may be directed to pitch@quillette.com. The internet is set for a renaissance-level transformation that will see users migrate to more open networks and corporate models. Popular web personalities are starting to discuss the need to give less of our time and money to entities that silence us. Comedy itself is experiencing an existential crisis. The founders of Instagram, Whatsapp and Oculus—all bought by Facebook—have left their new corporate master in reaction to issues of privacy and censorship. It isn’t a coincidence that all of this is happening at the same time. This is about more than social networks. It’s about all forms of digital technology. What browser are you using right now? Get off Safari, Chrome and Edge. Get on Firefox, Tor and Brave. Technologies that we feed will grow. Technologies that we avoid will self-correct or wither. It’s already been proven through such examples as GNU/Linux, Wikipedia, …

There’s Nothing ‘Intersectional’ About Free Speech

The article that follows is the second instalment of “Who Controls the Platform?”—a multi-part Quillette series authored by social-media insiders. Our editors invite submissions to this series, which may be directed to pitch@quillette.com. Censorship is a tool of repression as old as civilization. And fighting it has always been dangerous: Socrates was sentenced to death in 399 B.C. largely because he refused to pander to a panel of moralizing censors. These days, the punishments tend to be less severe (in Western countries, at least). More commonly, the ancient menace of censorship now takes the form of social opprobrium imposed by online hordes supposedly representing the interests of oppressed minority groups—by which I mean hordes of people claiming, almost always without basis, to speak for these groups while promoting their own narrow political agendas. This censorship effort receives back-office ideological support from scholars promoting “intersectionality” and similar theories, which draw heavily from Marxist and post-Marxist thinking on economics and power relationships. It also encourages adherents to view the world through a lens of “oppression and the need …

Facebook Has a Right to Block ‘Hate Speech’—But Here’s Why It Shouldn’t

The article that follows is the first instalment of “Who Controls the Platform?”—a multi-part Quillette series authored by social-media insiders. Our editors invite submissions to this series, which may be directed to pitch@quillette.com. In late August, I wrote a note to my then-colleagues at Facebook about the issues I saw with political diversity inside the company. You may have read it, because someone leaked the memo to the New York Times, and it spread outward rapidly from there. Since then, a lot has happened, including my departure from Facebook. I never intended my memos to leak publicly—they were written for an internal corporate audience. But now that I’ve left the company, there’s a lot more I can say about how I got involved, how Facebook’s draconian content policy evolved, and what I think should be done to fix it. *     *     * My job at Facebook never had anything to do with politics, speech, or content policy—not officially. I was hired as a software engineer, and I eventually led a number of product teams, …