Pluralistic: Censorship, Parler and Antitrust

Today’s post – Censorship, Parler, and Antitrust – by Cory Doctorow of Pluralistic found its way to us through Kyle Rankin of Purism article/sales pitch Parler Tricks. Both talk about some recent deplatforming, especially of social media application Parler.

As Parler disappears from the Android and Ios app stores and faces being kicked off of Amazon’s (and other) clouds, people who worry about monopolized corporate control over speech are divided over What It Means.

There’s an obvious, trivial point to be made here: Twitter, Apple and Google are private companies. When they remove speech on the basis of its content, it’s censorship, but it’s not government censorship. It doesn’t violate the First Amendment.

And yes, of course it’s censorship. They have made a decision about the type and quality of speech they’ll permit, and they enforce that decision using the economic, legal and technical tools at their disposal.

If I invited you to my house for dinner and said, “Just so you know, no one is allowed to talk about racism at the table,” it would be censorship. If I said “no one is allowed to say racist things at the table,” it would also be censorship.

I censor my daughter when I tell her not to swear. I censor other Twitter users when I hide their replies to my posts. I censor commenters on my blog when I delete their replies.

Dress is up as “content removal” or “moderation” if you’d like, but it’s obviously censorship.

That’s fine. Different social spaces have different rules and norms. I disagree with some censorship and support other censorship. Some speech is illegal (nonconsensual pornography, specific incitements to violence, child sex abuse material) and the government censors it.

Other speech is distasteful or hateful (slurs, insults) and the proprietors of different speech forums censor it. This legal-but-distasteful speech is a mushy, amorphous category.

I’m totally OK with hilarious dunks on the insurrectionists who stormed the capitol. Tell jokes about Holocaust victims and I’ll throw you out of my house or block you.

And when I do, you can go to your house and tell Holocaust jokes.

I’m not gonna lie. I don’t like the idea of anyone telling Holocaust jokes anywhere. Or rape jokes. Or racist jokes. But I have made my peace with the fact that there are private spaces where that will happen.

I condemn those spaces and their proprietors, but I don’t want them to be outlawed.

Which brings me back to Parler. It’s true that no one violates the First Amendment (let alone CDA 230) (get serious) when Parler is removed from app stores or kicked off a cloud.

But we have a duopoly of mobile platforms, an oligopoly of cloud providers, a small conspiracy of payment processors. Their choices about who make speak are hugely consequential, and concerted effort by all of them could make some points of view effectively vanish.

This market concentration didn’t occur in a vacuum. These vital sectors of the digital economy became as concentrated as they are due to four decades of shameful, bipartisan neglect of antitrust law.

And while failing to enforce antitrust law doesn’t violate the First Amendment, it can still lead to government sanctioned incursions on speech.

The remedy for this isn’t forcing the platforms to carry objectionable speech.

The remedy is enforcing antitrust so that the censorship policies of two app stores don’t carry the force of law; and it’s ending the laws (copyright, cybersecurity, etc) that allow these companies to control who can install what on their devices.

https://locusmag.com/2020/01/cory-doctorow-inaction-is-a-form-of-action/

I got into a good discussion of this on a private mailing list this morning and then I adapted them and published them in the public “State of the World 2021” discussion on The WELL.

https://people.well.com/conf/inkwell.vue/topics/510/State-of-the-World-2021-page04.html#post82

There are three posts: the first deals with Apple and Google’s insistence that they removed Parler because it lacked an effective hate-speech filter. Given that there is no such thing as an effective hate-speech filter, this is obvious bullshit.

The second addresses the fundamental problems of moderation at scale, where you are entrusting a large number of employees to enforce policies against “hate speech.”

https://people.well.com/conf/inkwell.vue/topics/510/State-of-the-World-2021-page04.html#post83

The biggest problem here is that “almost-hate-speech” is emotionally equivalent to “hate speech” for the people it’s directed at. If tech companies specify hate speech, trolls will deploy almost-hate-speech (and goad their targets into crossing the line, then narc them out).

And if tech companies tell moderators to nuke bad speech without defining it, the mods will make stupid, terrible mistakes and users will be thrown into the meat-grinder of the stupid, terrible banhammer appeals process.

The final post asks what Apple and Google should do about Parler?

https://people.well.com/conf/inkwell.vue/topics/510/State-of-the-World-2021-page04.html#post84

They should remove it, and tell users, “We removed Parler because we think it is a politically odious attempt to foment violence. Our judgment is subjective and may be wielded against others in future. If you don’t like our judgment, you shouldn’t use our app store.”

I’m 100% OK with that: first, because it is honest; and second, because it invites the question, “How do we switch app stores?”


American Military News: Conservative Social Media App Parler to Go Dark after Big Tech Deplatforming

From American Military News, Parler to go dark on Sunday as Google, Apple and Amazon kick Parler off app stores and web hosting service

Amazon will suspend the free-speech platform Parler from its web hosting service Sunday night, claiming content on the social media app violated the service’s rules.

Buzzfeed News reported that an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Trust and Safety team notified Parler that “violent content” on the platform violated their terms of service, and that the alternative to Twitter would be suspended as a result.

“Recently, we’ve seen a steady increase in this violent content on your website, all of which violates our terms. It’s clear that Parler does not have an effective process to comply with the AWS terms of service,” an email obtained by Buzzfeed News stated. “[W]e cannot provide services to a customer that is unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others,” the email reads. “Because Parler cannot comply with our terms of service and poses a very real risk to public safety, we plan to suspend Parler’s account effective Sunday, January 10th, at 11:59PM PST.”

Parler CEO John Matze shared his response to the announcement on his Parler account, noting that the Amazon’s “attempt to completely remove free speech off the internet” is part of a “coordinated attack by the tech giants to kill competition in the market place.”

“Amazon, Google and Apple purposefully did this as a coordinated effort knowing our options would be limited and knowing this would inflict the most damage right as President Trump was banned from the tech companies,” Matze said in his post, shared by Dinesh D’Souza on Twitter.

Matze said the suspension would cause Parler to be offline for up to a week while the social media platform finds an alternative host, adding, “You can expect the war on competition and free speech to continue, but don’t count us out.”

Earlier Saturday, Apple removed Parler from the App Store after demanding the free-speech app provide a content-moderation plan with 24 hours to comply. The Google Play Store also removed the app.

“We have received numerous complaints regarding objectionable content in your Parler service, accusations that the Parler App was used to plan, coordinate and facilitate the illegal activities in Washington DC on January 6,” a notice from Apple to Parler executives stated, referring to the Capitol Hill protest that turned violent last week.

The moves from Big Tech come after Twitter banned President Trump from its platform, prompting the president to move to Parler in an effort to communicate with United States citizens during the last two weeks of his term.

Organic Prepper on Liberals Burning Books

In Mainstream Media Thinks Parler Is a “Threat to Democracy” Because Libertarians and Conservatives Get to Post, Daisy Luther of The Organic Prepper talks about liberal outrage over social media alternative Parler – the free speech social network. Mainstream social media tech giants have been removing conservative and libertarian voices from places like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and many others in order to stifle dissenting voices in the name of false truth. These liberals want to remove alternative ideas from circulation. This is no different than burning books – books being the way most ideas circulated before the advent of internet technology. Liberals cried out, rightly, against book burning for many decades, and now liberals the book burners. As Time magazine once said, “if you are on the side of book-burners, you’ve already lost the argument.”

After years of being censored on Facebook and Twitter, conservatives, libertarians, and other fans of free speech are making a mass exodus to new platforms. One that has really taken off since the election is Parler, which has been the most downloaded app in the country over the past two weeks.

Unsurprisingly, the mainstream media and left-wing extremists are outraged. How dare the people who have been censored, deplatformed, and shut down on their social media sites move to a site that promises not to treat them like pariahs? (By the way, you can find me on Parler here: @daisyluther ) They go as far as to say it’s a “threat to democracy” because libertarians and conservatives get to post.

I mean, seriously, we can’t be letting conservatives and libertarians post their opinions all willy-nilly, right? What will happen without the “fact-checkers?”

Why on earth WOULDN’T people go to a different network?

Personally, I haven’t had access to my own Facebook pages for more than a year and won’t unless I send them photos of my passport, a utility bill, and other identifying information – because they didn’t think my driver’s license was sufficient. As well, I voluntarily archived my thriving preparedness groups because of the threat of losing both my groups, my own personal account, and the accounts of all my moderators if we let through a post of which Facebook disapproved. I wrote more about it here.

And remember when Twitter shut down Zero Hedge’s account for posting something about the coronavirus they deemed as misinformation that was later proven to be true? And how they put warnings on nearly anything the President posts? And how conservative and libertarian websites are being demonetized?

I invite you to try posting anything on standard social media that questions vaccines, the outcome of the election, the COVID lockdowns, or is pro-gun. I’ll see you in Facebook jail.

Everyone who is leaving is a crazy racist.

To hear the MSM talk about it, everyone over there has a “bunker mentality”, they’re joyously engaging in racism and hate speech, and they just want an echo chamber. It’s “not good for the country,” according to commentators on CNN.

“There’s this new social media app called Parler getting a lot of attention, because conservatives are leaving, saying they’re leaving Twitter and Facebook, going of to Parler, because they believe Parler is a safer space for them. What we’re seeing is even more of a bunker mentality in right-wing media. And ultimately that’s not good for the country.”

“No it’s not good, it’s a threat to democracy,” Pamela Brown replied, “that these people are in echo chambers and they’re getting fed a diet of lies essentially.” (source)

Incidentally, sweeping generalizations aside, there are a lot of folks over there (like me) who are not politically conservative.

CNN is not alone in their hysteria about the social media outlet. Here’s what the mainstream media is saying about Parler and the folks using it. Yes, the irony over their outrage is palpable. And yes, it does seem like they’re trying to further divide the country. Be sure to like the video and subscribe to the channel – it’s a great show with timely subject matter. (Warning: Some harsh language)

For those of you new to Parler:

If you ask questions on those videos, I’m sure you’ll get an answer.

Things to remember about social media

For those who want free speech that is not left-leaning, Parler definitely seems like a better option than the Big Tech monoliths. However, there are a few things to remember.

  • If you get to use something for free, you are the product. Either your eyeballs on advertisements or your information will make Parler money one of these days. And it’s understandable – the expense of running a platform like that is immense.
  • While the rules may be favorable toward your position right now, it doesn’t mean they always will be. Facebook didn’t start out censoring the snot out of everyone who didn’t agree with Mark Zuckerberg. The rules will evolve.
  • Don’t share too much personal information. I know you guys are aware of this, but I just want to remind you not to share the kind of personal information that would allow people to find out where you live, when you’ll be on vacation, etc. Nothing online is that safe.
  • Don’t become too dependent on one outlet. Whether you’re a blogger like me or someone who just wants to connect with like-minded people, don’t forget that you are using their platform. They make the rules and they can decide whether you can stay or go, whether you can post certain things, or whether they want to change direction. It’s comparable to building a house on borrowed land. It might be nice land, but it’s not yours.

With these caveats in mind, I’ll see you over there if you are a social media person. Find me @daisyluther on Parler and please consider checking out our forum, here, for more in-depth preparedness discussions.

Do you think a more conservative social media outlet is a bad thing?

Are you bothered by a social media platform that doesn’t conservatives and libertarians? Or do you think it’s fair and reasonable to be able to share your opinions equally?