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censorship 2.0: "free speech not free reach"
X marks the spot where twitter began once more to die
in my seminal substack, i wrote about the pressures toward and inevitability of censorship in owned informational systems that require governmental permission to operate. it’s an endless game of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” and everyone will always get fooled again because this sort of foolishness is not just an emergent property of the system but from the point of view of the state, it’s a feature.
back in march of 2021 i opined:
it really does not matter what intentions one starts with or what high ideals are espoused.
in the end, reality grinds them down and sharpens them into the cutting edge of top-down governmental diktat because the regulatory state cannot be escaped by owned entities. they seek profit and they seek continued existence and when governments can step up and threaten them with extinction by the revocation of permissions unless companies comply with their demands, it’s just one big extortion racket little different from a mobster named “jimmie the brick” selling you insurance for your store window “cuz you just never know what might happen around here.”
and after much sturm and drang about freedom and being a real and open public square, twitter is once again losing its nerve and going darkside. the EU and US have cowed them into acquiescence and while i have been trying to give elon and co the benefit of the doubt (and then some), the new evolutions here are becoming clear:
it’s just going to be more thought police.
many, including me, had grave doubts about hiring linda yaccarino to run twitter (now X). her past and pedigree are pretty awful from a partisan and free speech standpoint and she’s been a gleeful advocate and water carrier for both censorship and for institutionalized misinformation to manipulate rather than edify. this is about as bad as it gets without actually having been a banana republic propaganda minister, and one might argue (as i will) that it’s actually worse because this is a more subtle and therefore more dangerous and capable skillset.
as ever, the horribly politicized wikipedia site shows us as much (or more) in what it ignores and spins as it does in what it lays out. (highlights mine)
having worked for turner then NBC (nasty buncha communists) with stints at the WEF and as a vaxx pusher for biden, this was some pretty worrying past to drag to the future of the open argora. and wiki jumps right in apply pressure about how she’s somehow a “trumper” and “conspiracist” and not somehow a leading lackey for partisan purpose and great resettery.
many noticed some issues when she was appointed, but it rapidly fell silent. (curious, no?)
On her appointment, the Financial Times cited Musk's skepticism about the WEF and Yaccarino's links to the organization, which he had previously criticised for "increasingly becoming an unelected world government".
Musk reassured fans that he did not see Yaccarino's links to the WEF as an impediment to his self-proclaimed commitment to free speech, writing of her appointment as Twitter CEO that "the commitment to open source transparency and accepting a wide range of viewpoints remains unchanged.”
um, yeah, sure. pull my other paw. it plays jingle bells.
this was just never credible and it always seemed like a matter of when and not if the “new twitter” would once more kowtow to leviathan in order to ensure its access, survival, and to lure advertisers after the ham handed failure of the twitter verified program. it’s clear elon has no idea how to monetize this platform and is making all the same dumb mistakes because of all the same failures of imagination and failures to understand what twitter could really be had he the sense to create real, open access, a fair field, and powerful data tools to upsell users.
instead it’s “quiet capitulation” and back to ads and sucking up to statists to be allowed to sing for his supper. it’s disappointing, but not unexpected. i was really rooting for him here and wanted to see this work and to thrive, but elon was never a terribly plausible champion of trust and speech. his own track record there is poor and his business empire is founded upon subsidy slurping.
and so we land here:
“freedom of speech but not reach” is just a disingenuous way of saying “we will decide what trends, what can be said here, and what people can see.”
and “X” is now back in the truth ministry business because “sure we’ll let you say it, but we’ll also make sure than no one can hear it” is just a more subtle way to play the same nasty game.
and what else would you expect from the denizens of davos?
they did not “learn their lesson” during covid. they learned that they need to play a deeper game and utilize more subtlety.
kicking people (or cats) off social media platforms is crude and effective, but it’s also REALLY noticeable. people see it, they learn who is being victimized and silenced, and the very fact of being suppressed starts to stand as validator. it uplifts the deplatformed enhancing their status and stature. everyone wonders: “hey, what did they say that was so threatening to those in power?” and everyone starts to internalize “they would not silence you if you were wrong.”
the tracer fire of outright cancellation enables us to see who the true powers behind the curtain are. it lets us see what (and who) the regime fears. because there is no surer revelator of those who rule you than the learning of “who may not be criticized.”
ever was it so, ever shall it be.
and we adapted and learned their tricks.
we transformed them into maps to truth.
but as prey may adapt, so too will predators and so the erstwhile overt societal silencers have learned subtlety over slapdown and marginalization over martyrdom.
welcome to the new game:
The Foundation for Freedom Online says the work done last year by members of the University of Washington Center for an Informed Public after receiving taxpayer grants devised new strategies like “virality circuit breakers” and “nudges” that could prevent certain users from spreading content without any apparent evidence they were being censored.
The study is a roadmap on “how to censor people using secret methods so that they wouldn't know they're being censored, so that it wouldn't generate an outrage cycle, and so that it'd be more palatable for the tech platforms who wouldn't get blowback because people wouldn't know they're being censored,” Mike Benz, a former State Department diplomat specializing in U.S. foreign policy on international communications and information technology matters told the "Just the News, No Noise" television show Monday night.
this was one of the key articles. and yes, you paid for the study.
the targeting is so predictable as to barely warrant discussion, much less debate. it’s all “my side knows the truth and we need to act as its praetorian guard for the good of everyone else.”
it’s as banal as it is repetitive.
just like the people who promulgate it.
Misinformation has become a pervasive feature of online discourse, resulting in increased belief in conspiracy theories, rejection of recommended public health interventions and even genocide1,2. Academics and those working in industry have proposed a host of potential solutions, ranging from techniques for detecting and removing misinformation to empowering users to be more discerning in their sharing habits3,4,5. Despite an abundance of proposed interventions, online misinformation remains a global problem6,7. For instance, the 2020 US Presidential election and subsequent insurrection at the Capitol building highlighted how pervasive online misinformation can lead to real-world harm.
and we all know how that goes…
the end game is simple:
they will censor you without making it obvious they are censoring you by utilizing manipulation that is more difficult to spot. the goal is to avid provoking “the outrage cycle” that overt muzzling or excommunication elicits. instead, they will just subtly make you look irrelevant and like no one cares. it’s exile by ignominy.
they are not even trying to hide that fact.
i love to let people tell their side in their own words, because so often, they get so enamored of their own ideologies and presumed rectitude that they “say the quiet part out loud.” and it does not get much more overt than this. truly, villains do love to monologue…
The researchers – who included the University of Washington’s Jevin D. West and Kate Starbird – acknowledged the new tactics like “virality circuit breakers” were less detectable to users and the public and therefore could spare social media giants the public outcries that occurred in 2020 when stories like the Hunter Biden laptop were publicly removed from platforms.
“This approach allows platforms to consider ethical ramifications while minimizing the public relations challenges accompanying direct forms of action,” they wrote.
what a charming euphemism for “i am right and you are wrong and so we shall brook no debate” and what a fine call out to the bastiatian ideas of contriving moral frameworks to justify and extol as virtuous the regimes of legal plunder that arise from “public private partnerships” if one may deign call such “comply or else” ultimatum “partnership.”
and make no mistake, this has exceeded even mafia levels of intimidation and become something outright soviet and those who are doing the threatening are iron bar certain that they are righteous.
the new hearings in the missouri vs biden case (about government driven social media censorship) are astonishing in their content.
we go to missouri AG bailey:
let that last one sink in. it’s a doozy.
what must a person capable of saying such a thing (in open court no less) think of you?
and it’s not going to go away.
this savage level of pressure from grasping states who wish to be the only ones with loud megaphones is not going away and you’re not going to “vote it out” of social media.
so long as there is an FCC or an EU internet agency or 100 other regulatory rascals they shall wreak rapine upon the public square and the attempted experiments of full and unfettered dialogue and open agora will prove abortive and succumb to capture.
and this brings us back to my seminal substack:
we must go another way.
the public square is too important to be trusted to anyone and so we must evolve to one that is owned by no one. it must become a protocol, not a company. it must become crowd sourced, not a walled garden upon which influence can be brought to bear. there must be no owner. no off switch.
i support the right of companies to determine their own destiny but not of the state to make that choice for them. but is the distinction meaningful? can we really pull the fangs of this influence from leviathan? because it looks like we probably cannot and even if we do, it will be a mere reprieve between incursions into our agora.
this is too tempting a prize for authoritarians to leave alone and too grave a risk for them to countenance tolerating as a competing power base.
your speech is their anathema.
two and a half year ago i opined:
asking a fickle tyranny of the majority to ensure that companies like twitter only turn us into the right sort of product cannot be the way forward. it is, instead, a sort of awkward adolescence for the internet that needs to come to an end; a larval state, due for transformation into something far better and grander. the internet need not be centralized. we need not play in their agora. we can create our own, and it can be everywhere. it’s time for a fundamental change in architecture, for a move from central servers and domain registries to a real peer-to-peer distributed internet. and this move is already starting. we can move to decentralized protocols like IPFS that allow for a “geographically distributed swarm network.” this takes routing and naming and access to content out of the hands of centralized agencies. this will not only unify the internet experience through common, open source protocols, but it will break down the walled gardens in which we’ve been held like so many zoo animals, finally leaving us free to roam the wide world as we choose.
and i think it’s proving out. needing a company like twitter is a vulnerability. it’s damage. we need real peer to peer mesh networks that are strong encrypted end to end from the user level that will meld the internet and social media and money in a vast steganographic substrate opaque to any who are not invited including and especially governments.
it will be so ubiquitous and intertwined with money and investment and markets and media that you will struggle to tell one from another as they will conjoin into one tissue protected by strong encryption and massive distributed redundancy. there will be no one who controls it and no “off” switch.
the concept of censorship will be rendered anachronistic.
advertising and information scraping will die as a business model in the age of seamless, low-friction micropayments and blockers for malicious content and data intrusion. you will be free to chart your own course, pick your own friends, and decide in the most granular of fashions which trade-offs suit you.
the arms race is already here and AI will blow it into the stratosphere. the subtlety of information shaping and manipulation is going to expand in a manner that will make moore’s law look like a flatline. and we cannot win this game in walled gardens. and so we will need to find another way. and we will. for we must.
the manifest destiny of the world wide web is free people, free data, and free commerce.
it’s life without them.
and this is the pressure that will drive us there.