Regarding Twitter, Free Expression, Alex Jones, Social Media Censorship, And “Fake News”

zipper on mouth

The journalism ethics site Poynter begins a story today , “Over the past couple of years, Twitter has done the bare minimum to fight fake news, avoiding the kind of negative press that has plagued Facebook in the process.”

Talk about a bad start. No social media platform is qualified to “fight fake news” except to allow participants to make their own cases regarding what is fake news and what isn’t. They can and do indulge in incompetent, biased and often partisan censorship, covering their tracks by employing “factcheckers” that themselves can’t be trusted not to indulge their biases and political agendas, of course. That’s what Facebook has been doing, and, proving that there is justice in the universe, suffering for it.

Twitter hasn’t been censoring what it calls fake news; it’s just been using double standards to ban conservatives for “hate speech” when parallel leftist rhetoric gets past the gate-keepers. Federalist writer Elizabeth Kantor, for example, was kicked off twitter for this tweet in tongue-in-cheek support for the new racist New York Times editor:

“@sarahjeong This whitey is cheering you on as you fight off the Twitter mob. Down with deplatforming! Plus, it’s clarifying abt. what kind of paper the NYT wants to be . . .”

Twitter told her had engaged in “hateful conduct” that violates Twitter’s terms of service: “Violating our rules against hateful conduct.You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin…”

Jeong, however, who had started the hashtag “#CancelWhitePeople” as well as many other anti-white, anti-male Twitter content, remains a valued Twitter user.

Twitter not only is partisan and biased, it also has no integrity. What upset Poynter is that Twitter didn’t join Apple, Facebook and others in their Sunday Night Purge of right-wing wacko Alex Jones. The fact that it banned Kantor for one innocuous political tweet and not her target for dozens of racist ones doesn’t seem to bother Poynter’s unethical ethicists, just that it hasn’t joined the effort to silence Jones online.  Twitter, its says, is failing its duty to combat “misinformation.”

Here was the message from the Twitter CEO, communicated, naturally, in a series of tweets:

We didn’t suspend Alex Jones or Infowars yesterday. We know that’s hard for many but the reason is simple: he hasn’t violated our rules. We’ll enforce if he does. And we’ll continue to promote a healthy conversational environment by ensuring tweets aren’t artificially amplified. Truth is we’ve been terrible at explaining our decisions in the past. We’re fixing that. We’re going to hold Jones to the same standard we hold to every account, not taking one-off actions to make us feel good in the short term, and adding fuel to new conspiracy theories. If we succumb and simply react to outside pressure, rather than straightforward principles we enforce (and evolve) impartially regardless of political viewpoints, we become a service that’s constructed by our personal views that can swing in any direction. That’s not us.Accounts like Jones’ can often sensationalize issues and spread unsubstantiated rumors, so it’s critical journalists document, validate, and refute such information directly so people can form their own opinions. This is what serves the public conversation best.

In an earlier tweet from another Twitter account, Twitter stated,

“As we have stated publicly, we strongly believe Twitter should not be the arbiter of truth nor do we have scalable solutions to determine and action what’s true or false.”

Bingo.

To sum up, Twitter is continuing to ban or punish users inequitably based on partisan and ideological standards of what is “hateful conduct,” a catch-whatever-we-want-to-catch-at the-time phrase not subject to objective definition. Unethical. It is, however, siding with the values of free speech, free expression,and  open discourse, while rejecting the “resistance” and liberal news media censorship standard of “our fake news is inviolate speech, speech that we dispute should be blocked.”

Twitter’s stand in this matter is ethical, and exemplary—if it has the fortitude to stick to it. About that, we shall see.

Then why is Poynter indignant? Daniel Funke writes at the site:

Facebook partners with more than 25 fact-checking projects around the world to debunk and flag fake stories and images on the platform, which decreases its future reach by up to 80 percent. (Disclosure: Being a signatory of the IFCN’s code of principles is a necessary condition for participation in the project.) Google surfaces and highlights fact checks high up in search results by using the Schema.org ClaimReview markup, and even YouTube recently announced that it will surface “authoritative” sources high up in search results during breaking news.

While there’s amplereason to doubt that Facebook and Google’s efforts are working, Twitter doesn’t even have any comparable programs, aside from aiding a collaborative fact-checking project during the recent Mexican elections. And it’s not like the company isn’t aware of efforts at other companies — fact-checkers have repeatedly asked Twitter for similar partnerships.

You know: fact-checkers like Snopes, Politifact, and the Washington Post.

How can a site devoted to journalism ethics promote fact-checking with a metaphorical straight face if it has read more than a handful of fact-checks during the regrettable Era of the Partisan Fact-Check, also popularly known as now? It isn’t that these and other entities that provide the dubious service are always incompetent, careless, biased, or pushing a partisan agenda, it’s just that they are guilty of these things frequently enough that I, and no one in their right minds, should want to trust then to decide what we can see online. The answer, sadly, is the Poynter, like most of the media, shares the same biases. Naturally Funke thinks fact-checkers are wonderful: he “covers fact-checking, online misinformation and fake news for the International Fact-Checking Network .”

Here’s a starting point: the concept that organizations, be it the government variety or those in journalism, can protect dumb, ignorant, vulnerable, lazy, careless people devoid of proper levels of critical thought from their own deficiencies is itself a falsehood. What they can do, and do, and have done for too long to tally up, is to try to manipulate such people into believing what the organizations want them to believe, and—perhaps—fervently and sincerely think this is what it is good for them to believe. The journalists’ argument that Twitter should do their job—which they have proven beyond all doubt that they cannot be trusted to do fairly or well—by preventing individuals and organizations from publishing the lies—or maybe not–opinions, accounts and theories these Twitter-users want to be read, while the official gate-keepers of the Truth, like the New York Times, can continue hammering on the conspiracy theory that Donald Trump stole the 2016 election by conspiring with the Russian government—to take one obvious example—is untenable. Alex Jones is a clown; you don’t have to watch him for more than a minute to figure that out, unless you can’t figure anything out. He has even admitted in court filings that he is a purveyor of performance art. His “fake news” is easy to knock down, except for people who want to believe it, like the people on Facebook who keep sending sound those “Do you think Obama was our greatest President?” memes and polls that immediately garner hundreds of “likes” and “loves.” Those who want to believe nonsense will believe nonsense: there is exactly as strong an argument that Barack Obama was our greatest President as there is that Sandy Hood was a hoax, which is to say there is no valid argument at all.

I was troubled when the Supreme Court allowed the 9th Circuit decision declaring the Stolen Valor Act unconstitutional to stand, for my father’s valor, as a Silver Star and Bronze Star recipient in World War II, was the kind of valor being stolen. The declaration, however, that even lies are protected speech unless they amount to other crimes, like inciting a riot, defamation or fraud, was a correct and important one, I have come to believe. Twitter, like the other social media platforms, are private businesses, and they have the right to warp and distort their content any way they like. As vital organs of public discourse, however, they have immense power, and abusing that power, like journalists have begun openly abusing their power, to decide what the public gets to communicate and read about, should be condemned. Journalists won’t condemn it—they have a country to brainwash.  The public must condemn it. Don’t allow the powerful purveyors of dubious speech to silence the vulnerable. Alex Jones is exactly the kind of fringe voice our values are supposed to protect.

 

 

18 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Rights, Social Media, U.S. Society

18 responses to “Regarding Twitter, Free Expression, Alex Jones, Social Media Censorship, And “Fake News”

  1. Chris Marschner_

    I am dubious of anyone or anything that proclaims that they are totally unbiased and authoritative sources of facts.

    What of the claims by many that the U.S. is ripe with systemic racism, or that people opposed to open borders are xenophobic? How can one say with a straight face that violent crime rates among juveniles is directly a result of too few recreational opportunities? Why should we believe that inadequate funding for public schools has resulted in the decline in educational achievement among our student populations? Finally, someone should fact check the notion that people are being harmed by opinions that are not in lockstep with their own.

    Until the fact checkers address the truly serious claims that affect policy decisions and stop worrying about innocuous hyperbole regarding numbers at events and the like, I will review multiple perspectives and those with a substantive basis for their conclusions will be integrated into my thinking and avoid “fact checkers”.

  2. ”How can one say with a straight face that violent crime rates among juveniles is directly a result of too few recreational opportunities?”

    Agreed, that’s crazy talk; everyone knows that violent crime rates among juveniles is a direct result of Global Warming.

    • dragin_dragon

      Or violent T.V. shows.

      • Chris Marschner_

        Or maybe- not being taught right from wrong. Or, to get respect you must earn it first. Nah that can’t be it.

      • Aleksei

        It’s rap music, with romanticizing criminality and gang activity, drug dealing, misogyny… Oh wait, rappers are black… Never mind.

        • dragin_dragon

          You catch on quick. Put the blame anywhere but where it actually belongs.

          • Aleksei

            It’s “society’s” fault. (wink, wink)

            • Chris Marschner_

              Aleksei
              One can make that argument that society bears some responsibility.

              Children do adopt a group norm. As a result we see children adopting the belief that police are terrorizing them, underfunded schools and systemic racism will effectively bar them from achieving, and ” keeping it real ” means don’t adopt cultural attitudes that are different even though they are successful.

              Where did the phrase “snitches get stitches” originate? Why the many vigils for victims of violence but no outward finger pointing at known criminals in their midst? HRC is right it takes a village to keep people down.

              • Aleksei

                I agree that group norms may have an influence that may result in youths making bad decisions down the line. But I am being flip here, because usually when the “it’s society’s fault” line comes up, it’s usually directed at white people, and the connotation is “look at how much indifference there is to minority suffering, schools don’t get money, police harassing us all the time, it’s prima facie evidence of the racism of America”, so on and so forth. The premise is nobody would ever look in their own backyard for problems, because that would be an acknowledgement of failure, and that would entail a responsibility to act upon said failure. But if you can blame some other third party, well it’s their responsibility to fix it, not mine.

                • dragin_dragon

                  And therein lies precisely my point.

                • Chris Marschner_

                  Al
                  You are absolutely correct. My original comment is specific to what I would call fake reasons presented as factual data. I have yet to see any fact checkers address these claims.

                  As a society we look to shift the oneous of our own poor decision making to third parties. This message is not lost on the young. Such messaging is not limited to persons of limited means or education. These messages have an economic value to those that work to inculturate the message of it is someone else’s fault and are consumed by a receptive audience. When the “village” rejects the kneejerk response of placing blame on others and places the oneous of the behavior squarely upon the individual only then will real facts be newsworthy.

      • Isaac

        Everybody knows it’s Toxic Masculinity!

        Remember when the school shooting epidemic was at its peak, back when kids’ heroes were John Wayne and they played with BB guns? Now that boys love My Little Pony and don’t have dads anymore, all the school shootings have stopped!

  3. Twitter wrote: “Accounts like Jones’ can often sensationalize issues and spread unsubstantiated rumors, so it’s critical journalists document, validate, and refute such information directly so people can form their own opinions. This is what serves the public conversation best.”

    And there lies a significant issue, and one that is difficult to bring out in the open: the degree to which journalism serves power. It is power and their interests which establish the communications networks and this indicates, fairly strongly, that this ‘journalism’ is necessarily tainted, and has been for a long time.

    The alternative is ‘independent journalism’, and it has been said that — one example — Alex Jones has a higher readership than some of the MSM news outlets. And so does Mark Dice. And others show very strong readership (watchership?)

    If so, this indicates one reason why *they* feel it necessary to shut him out. But the issue is larger: dozens and hundreds of small media outfits have followed in Alex Jones’ path by establishing their small organizations. It is not Alex Jones that is really the issue here, it is rather the possibility of starting and operating entities that compete against the large organizations. But even more important than that is the issue of being free to communicate ideas that run contrary to ‘established opinion’ and opinion determined by large corporate-government interests.

    Jack writes: “Here’s a starting point: the concept that organizations, be it the government variety or those in journalism, can protect dumb, ignorant, vulnerable, lazy, careless people devoid of proper levels of critical thought from their own deficiencies is itself a falsehood. What they can do, and do, and have done for too long to tally up, is to try to manipulate such people into believing what the organizations want them to believe, and—perhaps—fervently and sincerely think this is what it is good for them to believe.

    I have a critical position that is not very popular. It is that the powers-that-determine-things have deliberately engineered the destruction of *proper education* in the US. It is a process begun, in essence, when Big Business took over government. It became necessary that the population be made complacent and so, over time, this was engineered. Now, to really *think freely*, makes it appear that one is some sort of radical.

    But there is an even larger issue — a problem — that is now presenting itself. It has to do with problems with defining ‘truth’ and what is true. We do not any longer agree on what is ‘truth’ or where it resides nor how to define it. We live now in a time of ‘fracturing truths’ and a chaos that results.

    Within a context of vast economic interests that control the MSM and the ‘information managers’ that serve these entities, the issue that people seem not to have an agreed-upon basis for established truth is a large problem, according to my way of seeing.

    Take this: …the concept that organizations, be it the government variety or those in journalism, can protect dumb, ignorant, vulnerable, lazy, careless people devoid of proper levels of critical thought from their own deficiencies is itself a falsehood.

    And turn it to: …the concept that people no longer have the capacity, nor the foundational intellectual training, to be able to clearly see how their governments are totally sold-out to vast business interests who have no truth-oriented ideological position nor interest in ‘truth’ on any level, and are themselves directly involved in careless, lazy, but also criminal purveying of false information (WOMD in Iraq for just one example) to the mass populations, is itself an important truth that must be restated and reemphasized.”

    Jack writes: “Alex Jones is a clown; you don’t have to watch him for more than a minute to figure that out, unless you can’t figure anything out. He has even admitted in court filings that he is a purveyor of performance art. His “fake news” is easy to knock down, except for people who want to believe it, like the people on Facebook who keep sending around those “Do you think Obama was our greatest President?” memes and polls that immediately garner hundreds of “likes” and “loves.” Those who want to believe nonsense will believe nonsense: there is exactly as strong an argument that Barack Obama was our greatest President as there is that Sandy Hood was a hoax, which is to say there is no valid argument at all.

    This may be true in general, but as Jones himself has said: the MSM has engaged in massive and criminal deceptions that have resulted in tremendous harms done in other countries (he refers often to Iraq and the wars in the Middle East). So, who is the clown? We would then have to say that the MSM is not only a ‘clown’ but a criminal enterprize that should be seen as criminally liable.

    I see Alex Jones and people like him a bit differently. It is the issue of alluding to truth as-against actually describing it. Alex Jones operates from the breathless, semi-hysterical position that massive lies are operating all around and that resonates in those who listen to him (because they feel it to be true). That is an ‘allusion’ to a definite truth therefor. That is what is going on. The ones that we should trust often show themselves as liars. But very few people have the fortitude to really face that fact nor to address their own complicity and to subsequently orient their lives and their discourse to speak from that truth-position.

    Who is doing it? I’d really like to know.

  4. Jeff

    “While there’s ample reason to doubt that Facebook and Google’s efforts are working, Twitter doesn’t even have any comparable programs…”

    So the efforts at eradicating “fake news” at Facebook and Google are ineffective and pointless wastes of resources, and should be model for other companies, for some reason. Makes sense to me.

  5. Aleksei

    I recommend that our tech industry betters and their fellow travelers get inspired and create an “Artist’s Union of Silicone Valley” following the USSR’s example. To be a blue check mark tweeter, membership will be mandatory. The organization’s goal will be to promote peace, love and social justice. They will get to police each other and it will at least be transparent. That way we can all be on message, and nobody of importance would have dumb tweets, because they would go through an editing process to help comrades stay out of trouble. What could go wrong with such a great idea?
    /s

  6. Isaac

    “As we have stated publicly, we strongly believe Twitter should not be the arbiter of truth nor do we have scalable solutions to determine and action what’s true or false.”

    I give Twitter no points for this.

    They know that due to nature of their platform they can use “shadow-banning” to marginalize whatever voices they don’t like and amplify whoever they agree with. It’s effective and nearly impossible to prove.

    As long as that tool is available to them, they can pay lip-service to free speech while artificially deciding who goes “viral” and who’s left shouting into the empty void. Thus using technology to puppeteer the so-called “conversation” to the extent that Joe Stalin is probably giving a standing ovation from Hell right now.

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