Posts tagged ‘freedom of expression’


How to end social media censorship

16.04.2022


Kristina Flour/Unsplash
 
This Twitter thread by Yishan Wong is one of the most interesting I’ve come across. Not because it’s about Elon Musk (who he begins with), but because it’s about the history of the web, censorship, and the reality of running a social platform.

Here are some highlights (emphases in the original):

There is this old culture of the internet, roughly Web 1.0 (late 90s) and early Web 2.0, pre-Facebook (pre-2005), that had a very strong free speech culture.

This free speech idea arose out of a culture of late-90s America where the main people who were interested in censorship were religious conservatives. In practical terms, this meant that they would try to ban porn (or other imagined moral degeneracy) on the internet …

Many of the older tech leaders today … grew up with that internet. To them, the internet represented freedom, a new frontier, a flowering of the human spirit, and a great optimism that technology could birth a new golden age of mankind.

Fast forward to the reality of the 2020s:

The internet is not a “frontier” where people can go “to be free,” it’s where the entire world is now, and every culture war is being fought on it.

It’s the main battlefield for our culture wars.

Yishan points out that left-wingers can point to where right-wingers get more freedom to say their piece, and that right-wingers can point to where left-wingers get more. ‘Both sides think the platform is institutionally biased against them.’

The reality:

They would like you (the users) to stop squabbling over stupid shit and causing drama so that they can spend their time writing more features and not have to adjudicate your stupid little fights.

That’s all.

They don’t care about politics. They really don’t.

He concedes that people can be their worst selves online, and that the platforms struggle to keep things civil.

They have to pretend to enforce fairness. They have to adopt “principles.”

Let me tell you: There are no real principles. They are just trying to be fair because if they weren’t, everyone would yell louder and the problem would be worse …

You really want to avoid censorship on social networks? Here is the solution:

Stop arguing. Play nice. The catch: everyone has to do it at once.

I guarantee you, if you do that, there will be no censorship of any topic on any social network.

Because it is not topics that are censored. It is behavior.

I think Yishan’s right to some degree. There are leanings that the leaders of these social networks have, and I think that can affect the overall decisions. But he’s also right that both left and right feel aggrieved. I warned as much when I wrote about social media and their decision about Donald Trump in the wake of the incidents of January 6, 2021. I’ve seen left- and right-wing accounts get taken down, and often for no discernible reason I can fathom.

Generally, however, civil discourse is a perfectly fine way to go, and for most things that doesn’t invite censorship or account removal. Wouldn’t it be nice if people took him up on this, to see what would happen?

Sadly, that could well be as idealistic as the ‘new frontier’ which many of us who got into the dot com world in the 1990s believed in.

But maybe he’s woken up some folks. And with c. 50,000 followers, he has a darn sight better chance than I have reaching just over a tenth of that on Twitter, and the 1,000 or so of you who will read this blog post.
 
During the writing of this post, Vivaldi crashed again, when I attempted to enter form data—a bug that they believed was fixed a few revisions ago. It appears not. I’ll still send over a bug report, but everything is pointing at my abandoning it in favour of Opera GX. Five years is a very good run for a browser.

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Posted in culture, internet, politics, technology, USA | No Comments »


From one émigré to the Lais, leaving Hong Kong for Scotland

31.12.2020

This final podcast of 2020 is an unusual one. First, it’s really directed a family I’ve never met: the Lais, who are leaving Hong Kong for Glasgow after the passing of the national security law in the Chinese city, as reported by Reuter. They may never even hear it. But it’s a from-the-heart piece recounting my experiences as a émigré myself, whose parents wanted to get out of Hong Kong because they feared what the communists would do after 1997. Imagine heading to a country with more COVID-19 infections and lockdowns and feeling that represented more freedom than what the Chinese Communist Party bestows on your home town.
   Secondly, it’s in Cantonese. The intro is in English but if you’re doing something from the heart to people from your own home town, it’s in your mother tongue. It seemed more genuine that way. Therefore, I don’t expect this podcast episode to have many listeners since I suspect the majority of you won’t know what I’m saying. They are themes I’ve tackled before, so you could probably guess and have a good chance of getting it right.
   If you know the Lais, feel free to share this link with them.

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Posted in China, culture, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Wellington | No Comments »


UK picks on independent Tweeters, falsely calls them Russian bots and trolls

23.04.2018

If you were one of the people caught up with ‘The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!’ and a selection of Cold War paranoia resurrected by politicians and the media, then surely recent news would make you start to think that this was a fake-news narrative?
   Ian56 on Twitter was recently named by the UK Government as a Russian bot, and Twitter temporarily suspended his account.
   He recently fronted up to the Murdoch Press’s Sky News, which a bot actually couldn’t.
   To be a Russian bot, you need to be (a) Russian and (b) a bot. The clue’s in the title.

   If the British Government would like to understand what a bot looks like, I can log in to my Facebook and send them a dozen to investigate. They are remarkably easy to find.
   It would be easy to identify bots on Twitter, but Twitter doesn’t like getting shown up. But Ian56 has never been caught up in that, because he’s human.
   His only “crime”, as far as I can see, is thinking for himself. Then he used his right to free speech to share those thoughts.
   He’s also British, and proud of his country—which is why he calls out what he sees are lies by his own government.
   And if there is hyperbole on his Twitter account, the ones which the Sky News talking heads tried to zing him with, it’s no worse than what you see on there every day by private citizens. If that’s all they could find out of Ian56’s 157,000 Tweets, then he’s actually doing better than the rest of us.
   We seem to be reaching an era where the establishment is upset that people have the right to free speech, but that is what all this technology has offered: democratization of communication. Something that certain media talking heads seem to get very offended by, too.
   Ian’s not alone, because Murdoch’s The Times is also peddling the Russian narrative and named a Finnish grandmother as a ‘Russian troll’ and part of a Russian disinformation machine.

   I’ve followed Citizen Halo for a long time, and she’s been perfectly open about her history. Her account was set up nine years ago, long before some of the Internet Research Agency’s social media activity was reported to have begun. She’s been anti-war since Vietnam, and her Tweets reflect that.
   While she sees no insult in being labelled Russian (she openly admits to some Russian ancestry) she takes exception at being called a troll, which she, again, isn’t. She also wasn’t ‘mobilised’ as The Times claims to spread news about the air strikes in Syria. She and Ian questioned the veracity of mainstream media views, and they certainly weren’t the only ones. They just happen to be very good at social media. That doesn’t make you part of a Russian disinformation machine.
   As a result of The Times’s article, Citizen Halo has gained a couple of thousand followers.
   Meanwhile, Craig Murray, who ‘went from being Britain’s youngest ambassador to being sacked for opposing the use of intelligence from torture’ also sees similar attacks in the UK, again through The Times.
   It headlined, ‘Apologists for Assad working in universities’. Murray adds:

Inside there was a further two page attack on named academics who have the temerity to ask for evidence of government claims over Syria, including distinguished Professors Tim Hayward, Paul McKeigue and Piers Robinson. The Times also attacked named journalists and bloggers and, to top it off, finished with a column alleging collusion between Scottish nationalists and the Russian state.

   The net goes wider, says Murray, with the BBC and The Guardian joining in the narrative. On Ian, Murray noted:

The government then issued a ridiculous press release branding decent people as “Russian bots” just for opposing British policy in Syria. In a piece of McCarthyism so macabre I cannot believe this is really happening, an apparently pleasant and normal man called Ian was grilled live on Murdoch’s Sky News, having been named by his own government as a Russian bot.

The Guardian published the government line without question.
   It does appear that in 2018, all you need to do is think independently and exercise your right to free speech for the UK Government and the media to sell a conspiracy theory.
   That, if anything, begins weakening the official narrative.
   Like most people, I do take in some of the news that I get fed. Yet this activity is having the opposite effect of what the establishment wants, forcing tenuous links usually associated with gossip sites and tabloids. If you had trust in these institutions before, you may now rightly be questioning why.

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Posted in culture, internet, media, politics, publishing, TV, UK | No Comments »


‘Planet Key’ is good old-fashioned Kiwi satire

23.08.2014

Fed up with the Electoral Commission barring Darren Watson from expressing his valid view with his satirical song ‘Planet Key’, I made a spoken-word version of it for my Tumblr a week ago, with copyright clearance over the lyrics. I wrote:

Since the Electoral Commission has imposed a ban on Darren Watson’s ‘Planet Key’—in fact, it can never be broadcast, and apparently, to heck with the Bill of Rights Act 1990—I felt it only right to help him express his great work, in the best tradition of William Shatner covering ‘Rocketman’. This has not been endorsed by Mr Watson (whom I do not know), and recorded with crap gear.

   I’ve read the Electoral Act 1993 and the Broadcasting Act 1989, but I still think they’re trumped by the Bill of Rights Act 1990.
   Legal arguments aside, I agree with Darren, that his expression of his political view is no different from Tom Scott drawing a cartoon.
   He has a right to freedom of thought and a right to express it.
   The Electoral Commission’s position seems to centre around his receiving payment for the song to cover his and his animator’s costs—which puts it in the class of an election advertisement.
   Again, I’m not sure how this is different from the Tom Scott example.
   Tom is paid for his work, albeit by the media who license it. Darren doesn’t have the backing of media syndication, so he’s asking for money via sales of the song on Itunes. We pay for the newspaper that features Tom’s work, so we can pay Itunes to download Darren’s. Tom doesn’t get the full amount that we pay the newspaper. Darren doesn’t get the full amount that we pay Itunes. How are they different?
   Is the Commission saying that only people who are featured in foreign-owned media are permitted to have a say? This is the 21st century, and there are vehicles beyond mainstream media. That’s the reality.
   The good news is that other Kiwis have been uploading Darren’s song, with the Electoral Commission saying, ‘if the content appeared elsewhere online, it would not require a promoter statement if it was posted as the expression of a personal political view and no payment was involved,’ according to Radio New Zealand. Darren might not be making money like Tom Scott does, but his view is still getting out there.
   On that note, I’m sure you’d much rather hear the original than mine. If you ever see Darren’s gigs out there, please support him through those.

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Posted in culture, internet, media, New Zealand, politics, Wellington | No Comments »