Information Silos And The First Amendment

The First Amendment contemplates and protects a “marketplace of ideas.” We have no precedent for an information environment in which there is no marketplace–no “agora” where different ideas and perspectives contend with each other for acceptance.

What we have instead are information “silos”–a column in the New York Times recently quoted Robert Post, a Yale professor, for the observation that people have always been crazy, but the internet has allowed them to find each other.

In those silos, they talk only to each other.

Social media has enabled the widespread and instantaneous transmission of lies in the service of political gain, and we are seeing the results. The question is: what should we do?

One set of scholars has concluded that the damage being done by misinformation and propaganda outweighs the damage of censorship. Rick Hasen, perhaps the most pre-eminent scholar of election law, falls into that category:

Change is urgent to deal with election pathologies caused by the cheap speech era, but even legal changes as tame as updating disclosure laws to apply to online political ads could face new hostility from a Supreme Court taking a libertarian marketplace-of-ideas approach to the First Amendment. As I explain, we are experiencing a market failure when it comes to reliable information voters need to make informed choices and to have confidence in the integrity of our electoral system. But the Court may stand in the way of necessary reform.

I don’t know what Hasen considers “necessary reform,” but I’m skeptical.

I have always been a First Amendment purist, and I still agree with the balance struck by the Founders, who understood that–as pernicious and damaging as bad ideas can be–allowing government to determine which ideas get voiced is likely to be much more dangerous. (As a former ACLU colleague memorably put it, “Poison gas is a great weapon until the wind shifts.”)

That said, social media platforms aren’t government. Like brick-and-mortar private businesses, they can insist on certain behaviors by their customers. And like other private businesses, they can and should be regulated in the public interest. (At the very least, they should be required to apply their own rules consistently. People expressing concern/outrage over Twitter’s ban of Trump should be reminded that he would have encountered that ban much earlier had he been an ordinary user. Trump had flouted Twitter and Facebook rules for years.)

The Times column suggests we might learn from European approaches to issues of speech, including falsehoods and hate speech. Hate speech can only be banned in the U.S. if it is intended to incite imminent violence and is actually likely to do so. Europeans have decided that hate speech isn’t valuable public discourse– that racism isn’t an idea; it’s a form of discrimination.

The underlying philosophical difference here is about the right of the individual to self-expression. Americans value that classic liberal right very highly — so highly that we tolerate speech that might make others less equal. Europeans value the democratic collective and the capacity of all citizens to participate fully in it — so much that they are willing to limit individual rights.

The First Amendment was crafted for a political speech environment that was markedly different than today’s, as Tim Wu has argued.  Government censorship was then the greatest threat to free speech. Today, those, including Trump, “who seek to control speech use new methods that rely on the weaponization of speech itself, such as the deployment of ‘troll armies,’ the fabrication of news, or ‘flooding’ tactics” that humiliate, harass, discourage, and even destroy targeted speakers.”

Wu argues that Americans can no longer assume that the First Amendment is an adequate guarantee against malicious speech control and censorship. He points out that the marketplace of ideas has become corrupted by technologies “that facilitate the transmission of false information.”

American courts have long held that the best test of truth is the power of an idea to get itself accepted in the competition that characterizes a marketplace. They haven’t addressed what happens when there is no longer a functioning market–when citizens  confine their communicative interactions to sites that depend for their profitability on confirming the biases of carefully targeted populations.

I certainly don’t think the answer is to dispense with–or water down– the First Amendment. But that Amendment was an effort to keep those with power from controlling information. In today’s information environment, platforms like Twitter, Facebook, etc. are as powerful and influential as government. Our challenge is to somehow rein in intentional propaganda and misinformation without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Any ideas how we do that?

 

 

31 thoughts on “Information Silos And The First Amendment

  1. I have no solution, but just a comment. Tolerating hate speech shifts the burden from the hater to the hated. The hated is expected to put up with anything short of something causing physical or economic damage, just because the hater chooses to hate. To me, that protection for the hater violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

  2. “People expressing concern/outrage over Twitter’s ban of Trump should be reminded that he would have encountered that ban much earlier had he been an ordinary user.”

    The cynic in me: “The election advertising dollars have run out.” The well ran dry.

  3. I’ve posted comments regarding the writing of Roger McEname, author of the book Zucked. There’s no panacea but the heart of the solution lies in changing the incentives for social media platforms.

    “ Second, the algorithmic amplification of extreme content is a business choice made in pursuit of profit; eliminating it would reduce the harm from hate speech, disinformation, and conspiracy theories without any limitation on free speech. Renee DiResta of the Stanford Internet Observatory made this point in a WIRED essay titled “Free Speech Is Not the Same As Free Reach.”

    https://www.wired.com/story/opinion-platforms-must-pay-for-their-role-in-the-insurrection/

  4. “Our challenge is to somehow rein in intentional propaganda and misinformation without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

    “Any ideas how we do that?”

    My little old Irish Mother always told me, “Consider the source.” Just yesterday I copied and pasted a portion of a Daily Kos article; “The Pentagon is calling Wednesday’s events ‘First Amendment Protests”. Donald Trump’s Pentagon appointees weren’t identified by name but do they need to be?

    A Forbes article; “Why We’re Holding Those Who Lied For Trump Accountable” is a silo (source) we can trust and should heed.

    A NYT article by David Leonhardt today; “The biggest question isn’t impeachment. It’s disqualification from future offices”. What on God’s green earth is more vital to this country than repeating a Trump administration?

    Pick your battles; for some reason I have seen only a handful of the pro-Trump articles on Facebook complained about by many, I do not use Twitter so can’t speak to that forum. The coverups of Trump’s anti-American values and morals; his actions against democracy, Rule of Law and upholding the Constitution is totally against his Oath of Office. The same is true of McConnell, Graham, Hawley, and the long list of those Forbes refers to who uphold Trump’s lies has not been addressed with any strength of conviction. Had this been an “information silo” the past five years; Trump’s minions would have been voted out and his 70+ million voters would not be our reality. Compare this reality to what was released as free speech/government transparency, long after the fact, in the Pentagon Papers. The Republicans in government behind both tragedies; Trump’s tragedy continues and has promised there is more to come from the insurrectionists still free.

    Two lines from Yeats’ “The Second Coming” describe Wednesday, January 6, 2021:
    “The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.”

  5. Well, educating more people with critical thinking skills would be a start. In Texas, the Republican platform of 2014 specifically stated to eliminate those skills from teaching curricula. I wonder why.

    Since Newt Gingrich made a list of inflammatory words to use during political speeches, why shouldn’t the FCC be able to do the same with hate speech and inflammatory comments that go against the common good? Legislating speech is, to be sure, a dodgy issue, but some of it is obvious.

    The “Hang Mike Pence” chants come to mind.

  6. When we developed our freedom of speech rights, mail was delivered by horseback and messenger, discourse was held in a public square standing on a soapbox! Our founding fathers, if you want to call them that, could never have envisioned social media, never could they have envisioned television or radio!

    During the 2nd world war, radio was the main disseminator of propaganda by the (“Institut für Rundfunkkunde und Fernsehrundfunk”) Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda! Television was something new and most Germans didn’t have it, but still was pushed by Joseph Goebbel’s who was the head of German propaganda.

    You can see the effect of unadulterated unchecked propaganda radio and television at the time. As Arnold Schwarzenegger said yesterday, that was a terrible time that basically destroyed Germany. So of course they have different rules concerning propaganda, lies and hate speech. They enforce them too.

    Of course you have people that scream about their First Amendment rights, because they know without social media, without the backing of radicalized news networks such as Fox, OAN, and Newsmax, they would be powerless. So they scream about fairness, and they whine about censorship, so they can continue to lie with impunity!

    One of Joseph Goebel’s famous quotes was, ““If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

    Does this sound familiar? Arnold Schwarzenegger brought it out very well yesterday in his video! And, we should take heed. My grandfather’s background is very similar to what Arnold Schwarzenegger described! My father hated his father, because my grandfather was a Nazi! He left his family in Germany to come to America, and started another family here.

    https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/arnold-schwarzenegger-trump-gop-capitol-riot-video-speech-1112316/amp/

    So, here we are debating on whether we should allow individuals to continue spreading untruths and lies without being checked! The First Amendment could not have foreseen what is happening today and how there are those who are enemies of the state using it to their advantage, all the while attempting to dismantle the Constitution! The same thing could be said of the Second Amendment!

    There should be men of goodwill working to rework the Constitution or write a completely new document of governance, but, that won’t happen because men of goodwill are still paralyzed by fear of how it will look. Abraham Lincoln was a fairly religious individual, quoted Scripture to give himself one of his more famous quotes; Mark 3:24-25 to be exact! He said that a house divided cannot stand. And if you read the Scripture is more input in his speech, Ecclesiastes 3:7 to be exact; ” A time to rip apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak”

    Propaganda does not unite in an un-hateful way, it uses hate cause tribal, “as Sheila mentions” silos! Those silos devolve the human psyche. That devolved psyche, causes those to feel permission to act on their personal hatreds and beliefs even if they never had them in the 1st place. In Adolf Hitler and now Donald Trump, along with all of the strongmen around the world, they are just the permission slips propaganda has allowed.

    Of course we had talked about this in other threads on Sheila’s site, for this is nothing new! So here, there will continue to be twiddling of thumbs and hyperventilation along with righteous indignation and the train will stay squarely on the tracks heading for the precipice!

    History history history history history, history shows exactly what’s going to happen! Too bad no one’s learned how to read yet, LOL.

    And, you really don’t need to look at Germany, as Eddie Glaude Jr. so eloquently brought out not too long ago, this kind of behavior is as American as apple pie so to speak. And until white Americans quit being so self aggrieved and cowardly, it will be the Constitution’s undoing. (Not his words mostly mine) his were much more intense!

  7. The question is: How do we make sure everyone hears the truth and that they know that’s what they’re hearing? I will admit, I don’t have a clue how to answer that.

  8. Vernon – thanks, saved me the trouble from saying that here for the hundredth time. Along with that, we need formal education in “digital literacy”….

  9. The past is not the “Information Silo” we need to be concerned with at this time; today and tomorrow and tomorrow and the tomorrows following the aftermath of Wednesday, January 6, 2021, when the President of the United States of America turned his personal terrorist loose on our government in their own home-site.

    The freedom of speech of the current Republican administration and Congress is but lip-service, time and time again. IF or when we see their signatures on impeachment service or 25th Amendment will their words be considered information. Today we need to be making tomorrow’s history by taking action, not puling because we neglected to think ahead during our past history.

  10. It’s a might dangerous road to go down if we start trying to ban “hate speech.” I think the free speech approach they have in several European countries is positively awful. I wouldn’t want that here in the United States.

    The problem is the silos. People just go to their own silos to get information because they only want to consume information that reinforces the position they currently have. For example, they don’t want to believe Dear Leader lost so they tune in to Newsmax and OANN which will repeat the lie that the election was stolen. (It’s now repeating the lie that the rioters were Antifa and not Trump supporters.) Then they get on their Twitter and Facebook accounts and because of the logarithms they only get fed posts from their friends who share their views. The consumption of one sided, biased media leads many of them to become radicalized.

    I don’t know how you fix the problem. I don’t know how you prevent people from being able to consume only “information” that reinforces their pre-existing biases.

    By the way if you think Fox News is bad, watch the evening programming of NewsMax. They are desperately feeding Trumpers misinformation trying to steal Fox News’ audience.

  11. I don’t know Peggy, and I’m probably being a little bit facetious. Because I think people recognize the Ring of Truth, but their own self-deluded alternate reality gives them what they really want anyway! I mean eating babies? Or cannibalism for that matter? It tends to be a bunch of Don Quixote self-deluded wingnut proselytes searching for a windmill! So basically, any false doctrine or ideal that they run across it seems appealing, they’ll pick it up as the gospel! That’s what happens when you have the weak-minded with too much time on their hands! look at the other day when you had all of these decrepit lunatics charging into the capital, you know that half of them at least are on public assistance, either getting snap, disability, welfare, medicare, medicaid, social security, and anything else you can imagine including a government pension. I’d say it probably was more than half. Those are the ones that self-radicalize, just like those that were susceptible to ISIS, these self aggrieved weak-minded are susceptible to the BS from Fox, oan, and newsmax! Along with Donald Trump’s tweet. I imagine they’re going through withdrawal this morning!

    Logic would tell you that windmills don’t pollute the atmosphere while they’re producing electricity, common Sense would tell you that putting sewage into your clean water is going to cause health problems, common Sense would tell you that pumping black smoke into the atmosphere is going to be hazardous to somebody’s health, because history is shown that already. Common Sense will tell you that inflating your tires will give you better gas mileage because it’s in the owner’s manual! Although all of those Trump followers said it was ridiculous! There’s nothing wrong with leaving the ignorant and stupid behind, you try to do as much as you can, and let them stew in their own juices. Just don’t provide a smorgasbord for those stewing juices that are available for all of the other self-deluded miscreants that are looking for a cross to carry.

  12. JoAnn,

    Absolutely the past is part of the information silo! Why else do you see Auschwitz hoodies and t-shirts that say 6MNE?

    The past directly correlates to the present! And, if you don’t learn from the mistakes of your predecessors you will make the same mistakes over and over again!

    Which, is the story of human history!

  13. One current proposed remedy, coming from the right, is to treat platforms as publishers by dispensing with Section 230. That would make Facebook, Twitter (and for that matter, Parler, despite its TOS) legally responsible for content posted by members.. Dumping 230 altogether would be extreme, and would kill platforms in fairly short order. The Parler approach, making users assume liability for whatever they post and indemnify Parler in the event of lawsuits against the platform resulting from that content, isn’t really viable. I’d also argue that at least in Parler’s case, that clause is a safe bet given the silo effect being discussed in the thread: two things not likely to be read are the TOS by users, and the libelous or defaming content by the victims.

    Still, some reform of 230 might be worth exploring. Are Facebook and Twitter more publisher than platform? Yeah, maybe so, but still arguably a hybrid entity, especially given their scale and the speed at which content is posted (law lagging technology again). Some editorial filters should be possible to work out. Certainly consistent enforcement of the current TOS would be a start- yeah, the short-fingered vulgarian should be treated like every other user. “Influencers” can still be influencers and play within the rules. Should the TOS put all the legal (and cost) liability on the user? Nope, but there should be some allowance for tort law to work its way into things, especially if we aren’t willing to change our philosophical foundations towards that more European perspective (similar to data privacy- it’s a tort issue here, but a fundamental human right in the rest of the world).

    One thing I’d look at is the types of insurance platforms are required to carry, from D&O for the boards and top management, to cyber security insurance, all the way down. Pressure the insurance industry to refuse to underwrite companies, or to impose high rates on companies that fail to address patently false content, or content that persists in advocating debunked conspiracy theories, or that is intended to incite violence. Hitting the bottom line usually motivates profit-driven enterprises.

    Finally, some of the problem doesn’t need a new solution. The insurrectionists planned and coordinated these events through their social media platforms and accounts. To the extent these are open, they can be monitored for evidence criminal conspiracy or conduct; and court orders and search warrants can be used to obtain content from closed forums when there is probable cause to conclude there is evidence of criminal conspiracy. You can bet those accounts are being combed through now, and will be crucial in future indictments.

  14. I would agree with Paul @9:10 am. Censorship is a dangerous road.

    I heard an interesting commentary think it was NPR on Provincialism. The silos have always been here social and cultural difference between rural and urban. The social and cultural institutions were used to direct and validate their respective populations.

    Within the Urban landscape people were separated here in the USA racially and ethnically as little as 100 years and even less in some cities. There was also the economic class breakdown over laid.

    There is no silver or magic bullet that would eliminate Provincialism or Silos as we now call it. The great enemy of Provincialism or Silos is critical thinking, that is the ability and willingness to think out side of your Social and Cultural Box.

    There are a lot of Social and Cultural pressures that are applied to keep you in the Silo or Box. Religion is one of these that is applied to keep you in the box. Some religions are more extreme than others.

    The damage The Trumpet-Pastor Pence regime has done is validated these extremes of the Reactionary Right. The internet has allowed people to crowd together with others who are like-minded.

  15. The greatest achievement of Steve Bannon is the weaponization of data that has created an environment where people doubt reality as it appears right before their eyes. I think that what we are seeing now is the Achilles heel of the First Amendment; the right to free speech without the responsibility that what you speak is true.

  16. I think we need criteria that allow us to determine which words incite violence and which do not. Even if we do that, those who want to commit violent acts of insurrection may simply start using coded language to communicate.

    Many people can use “civil” speech to justify racism,homophobia and other bigotries. Seemingly rational people can use intellectual arguments, their critical thinking to justify bigotry ie William Buckley’s debate with author James Baldwin. Even statistics can be manipulated to justify bigotry.

    The silos we live in reinforce our biases be they liberal or conservative. If we wish to engage in unbiased critical thinking, we will have to get out of our comfort zones, our silos and listen openly to people whose views differ from our own. In order to do that, people will have to go beyond free speech and use the Buddha’s principle of right speech.

  17. Algorithms.

    The same mathematical formula that currently — and presumably with ease — amplifies chosen speech for profit can be modified to also highlight and debunk speech in posts that are patently false.

    Algorithms could hyperlink false passages in posts thereby connecting them to factual de-verification statements, especially institutional posts, but also individual posts. It would work in the way that Wikipedia handles entries for which there is more explanation in a separate heading.

    Perhaps Wikipedia would be a partner in the undertaking and thus solve some of its funding challenges.

    A non-partisan entity similar to the Congressional Budget Office could be the starting point where a limited list of (perhaps 100) critical assertions (that will be highlighted and challenged in posts) are determined.

    In effect, the new algorithm — constantly revised, in the way of anti-virus softwares — would act as thousands of windows to the wider world and will turn the silo into a kind of informational solarium.

  18. We are tribal in more ways than one. Thus if I am a Baptist I don’t go to the Lutheran church on Sunday. I go to the Baptist church and have the prejudices I have been taught there reinforced and reinforced and reinforced. As to my civic duty to follow First Amendment limitations of the state in re rights to speech, I don’t know how to save either the baby or the bathwater – better check with my imagined Baptist preacher, Reverend Falwell. Uh. . .

    I have thought of how to even up the score in re speech in light of our digital advances and I still come up with the same answer – I don’t know how. Perhaps we could start to find the answer by agitating at a local level for curricular designs involving civics and critical thinking, a reversal of Clark v. NYT, a new legal description of defamation to suit the times etc. Parenthetically, I well remember when first going into the law practice the advice I received from an old judge: “Jerry, defamation suits are like a pile of —-; the more you stir them the worse they stink.” I had one such suit during my entire practice. It pre-dated Clark and was settled.

    So shall we save the baby or the bathwater? Does another choice exist? Should “freedom” to lie as measured by the twists and turns of the indoctrinated fall within Jefferson’s Preamble? Is speech itself one of his “certain inalienable rights?” What was his tribal background? Question after question such as these come to mind but sans answers, so to reiterate: I don’t have an answer.

  19. Angus King was on 60 minutes last night (my favorite program now) and talked about why he’s an Independent and what needs to be done now. His take is that his constituents in northern Maine are really hurting from all of the paper mills having left town.

    My take on Archie’s take? This millennium has not been kind to all of us but only urban America and will not adjust to the locations where people like small town living. That means a tough choice for many. Move to the city to stay relevant and employed or stay rural for peace and quiet but also poverty.

    Having done that long ago I understand the difficulty and pain but time and tide wait for no man.

    So much of the angst that has now reached explosive anger is simply the pain of maintaining adaption to reality as it changes. Nobody picked this reality but it came anyway and now we are all stuck with it temporarily for a few minutes until it becomes yesterday.

  20. JoAnne, I will reiterate John’s comment. The past is siloed. Look at the whole southern Lost Cause narrative and how it is still alive in the minds of many Americans.

    Patrick, I am not sure why repeal of Section 230 would kill social media platforms. It would radically alter them, and in turn make them more responsible. I am sure they would fade in importance as they became more mainstream.

    If you want to good example of how social media can work, I have been amazed by nextdoor.com. They have some pretty clear community guidelines. They have good examples of what is considered acceptable and unacceptable. They have come up with a system of volunteer neighborhood moderators that review stuff that is reported by users. They do not allow anonymous users, and require documented proof of who you are and where you live. I have seen some pretty lengthy discussions of current political and social issues and generally the kind of radical and inflammatory users that you will encounter on other platforms eventually get locked out of the system. The goal of nextdoor.com is not to discuss national problems, but neighborhood news, problems ,and issues, so by it’s very nature, the topics typically are closer to home, but not always, as evidenced this summer during the height of the BLM protests.

    You may not have heard, but Amazon terminated it’s hosting contract with the Parler web site. Parler made it clear that it was not going to accept any responsibility for what it’s users posted, and was not going to make any changes, even given the fact that the raid on the Capital was organized through this website. Parler is now offline, and may not even be able to get access to it’s user data to start up somewhere else. I am sure there will howls of outrage from the right, but the same people complaining are most likely this same one praising the attack on the capital.

  21. David Von Drehle in today’s Washington Post:

    A century ago, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. foretold our dilemma in one of his most famous opinions. Freedom of expression, he wrote, can’t coexist with reckless misuse of that freedom. “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre,” Holmes wrote. We can, and do, argue over where the freedom ends and the misuse begins, but unless a line is drawn somewhere, the freedom cannot endure.

    I don’t want to live in a world where the line is drawn by a central authority, as in the new Hong Kong. Nor do I relish a world in which the line is drawn by corporate titans, as Facebook and Twitter felt forced to do with Trump. The only alternative is for members of a free society to draw a line on our own behavior, starting with our leaders; to be accountable for the content we broadcast and consume; and to prove that our liberty is compatible with our technology.

  22. Here’s a thought (perhaps a propos Larry Kaiser’s point): form an industry coalition to address social media platforms’ management of disinformation, propaganda, hate speech, and speech that incites violence or destruction of property. You’d need to get the major social media companies on board, as well as the major infrastructure/hosting companies. The objective of the coalition would be to come up with a set of industry principles that companies would voluntarily sign on to. Maybe call them Social Media Industry Ethical Content Management Principles. They’d need to be objective enough to be verifiable, not something like “We promise to endeavor to take reasonable steps to do pretty good things to oversee content our users’ posts.” Aside from the actual principles themselves, issues to be resolved in their development would include developing an enforcement mechanism that included independent verification of compliance (some kind of auditable seal for example, or inclusion of a statement of compliance in their website privacy and security policies, which then can be interpreted as a contract with users and the public). You’d need incentives for participation (which would be voluntary) and penalties for noncompliance that didn’t cross over into restraint of trade or cross First Amendment lines.

    I don’t think the federal government could be involved in developing the principles, and involving them in enforcement would be a touchy issue for First Amendment reasons, probably even letting FTC enforce a website statement of compliance under its Section 5 authority (though anything the right-wing extremist groups put up that counted as commercial speech could be regulated). Nothing, however, would prevent companies from not doing business with platforms that didn’t support compliance with the principles.

    As for commercial content carriers like Tox News, reinstating the Fairness Doctrine might be a start.

  23. Dan- dumping 230 would open the door to litigation Hell for social media platforms. They’d be sued into oblivion before the day was up. Treating them like a publisher is problematic because of their scope- millions of users posting content with no meaningful editorial filters, in contrast to a controlled selection of content by a limited number of authors. Users posting libelous or slanderous content, or content that defamed an individual or organization could trigger a wave of lawsuits against the person posting and the platform as a co-defendant. 230 relieves the platforms of liability for editing or not any user-posted content; the user, of course is still liable, as Sidney Powell is about to find out. (Parler’s TOS, maybe anticipating the demise of 230, went further in putting the onus on subscribers by requiring them to indemnify Parler and assume all liability and costs of litigation in the event their post triggered a suit). Conservatives have been going on about 230 because they think social media platforms have an excessive liberal bias and are unfairly censoring them; they want 230 out of the way so they can punish the platforms for perceived discrimination (overediting). I don’t think they understand that would cut both ways- conservative site cranking out extremist bile would be just as open to killing litigation without the cover of 230.

    That said, it wouldn’t hurt to think about what reforms to 230 would be workable, enabling the broadest possible freedom of expression will addressing controls on harmful content. The market seemed to do a pretty good job of self-regulation in crushing Parler this week, but we can’t always count on that.

  24. What is required is to improve education to emphasize critical thinking skills. Once you think critically, you have the ability to evaluate competing ideas. What is standing in the way are religious orders who depend on people suspending their critical thinking to accept religious beliefs. Betsy DeVos, the former Secretary of Education advocated government support for religious schools which was nothing more than an attack on critical thinking.

  25. Dan, Lester, Vern,

    We do have libel laws in this country, and legitimate news organizations usually will be objective and put out as close to the truth as possible. Beef up the laws, that way, it’s kind of self-policing and if you are peddling lies and you are sued for libel well, you’ll be out of business. And maybe that’s the way it should be! Because pushing lies as truth cannot be tolerated, there are too many out there that don’t have the capacity to differentiate truth from fantasy. Or, they willfully want to be deceived, or their willfully ignorant! Willful delusion is a terrible thing, because that denotes some sort of psychological or mental disorder. If you can’t tolerate reality the usually involved in some sort of self therapy so to speak. Allowing free reign for conspiracy theorists and organizations like Q anon and others benefits no one. Went to society based on a false reality, it will collapse like a house built on a beach. There is nothing whatsoever beneficial about that.

    Even the ignorant can make better choices if they have to stay anchored in a certain amount of Truth and reality. At least they don’t have an excuse for being misled.

    I would like to see a change in the so-called freedom of speech, because it can’t continue on this way. At least the mainstream news organizations will do the digging and find the truth and not just sensationalism. But the muckrakers that would find the truth are few and far between now, because people prefer the lies over the truth. I was listening to a commentary the other day when this individual said that a lie on Twitter will travel six times farther and six times faster than the truth, that’s pathetic and it doesn’t say much for reality in this day of rabbid social media. Opinions and conspiratorial assertions should be labeled as just that, and, dealt with accordingly.

    There is always going to be a difference of ideals concerning free speech or the lack thereof, with as many different ethnicities and cultures in the United States, nothing is going to be easy. But, like Arnold talked about the Connan sword fire can make you stronger, but also, it can make you smarter.

  26. “…people have always been crazy, but the internet has allowed them to find each other.” Very sadly true. And, having found each other, their craziness gets amplified within their silo, like in a house of mirrors, and they feed on one another’s craziness, with each iteration becoming still more toxic!
    “Well, educating more people with critical thinking skills would be a start. In Texas, the Republican platform of 2014 specifically stated to eliminate those skills from teaching curricula. I wonder why.” Vernon, I think you know why, as we all do. With silences “bullshit detectors,” as per Carl Sagan, the people will follow, literally, as we have seen, anyone.
    Yes, a Fairness Doctrine for all electronic media!!!!!

  27. Back to rambling –
    I remember when trying to silence speech with money failed – probably misdirected money. The Goldwater campaign (or the RNC) paid NBC to replace the satirical show, “That Was the Week That Was” Goldwater commercials for the last several weeks before the election – didn’t help though.

    I also just tossed a twenty year old news letter from an anti-health fraud organization that had just won a libel suit against a supplement manufacturer – I think it was $30K. I don’t think that led to any more honesty in the supplement industry.

    Equal time, has its limits – do you really want Kos or whoever to be forced to post an equal number of articles on baby eating necrophiliacs or whatever?

    It is interesting how we could have ‘the seven words you can’t say on television’ and Maryland had their board of censors until 1981 (paid to watch porn?), but we can’t ban lies – it’s probably better that we don’t have censors or lie police.

    What to do? I am not certain, but I think that Larry and Patrick are on the right track, but I would go further. We need to change intellectual property laws. We need to switch to open algorithms, so that if we do install “electronic crap detectors” (with recourse, for the unfairly filtered), their use is open for all to see. This actually seems like a good DARPA project. The main thing is transparency, or it will be like a VW emissions test (or course, they did get caught).

  28. Yes to critical thinking and civics education. Yes to restoraton of the Fairness Doctrine. And especially yes to Larry Kaiser’s creative and brilliant suggestion. Making sure lies are noted and countered with truth and directed to the spreaders – especially the more innocent ones – are GREAT ideas, and Larry has the technological understanding to shine a light on the path to get there. LOVE it.

    In this environment, I pity those who must keep track with all the lies and the truth. Fact checkers have paved a path for that (I do have some concern about who decides what’s a lie and what’s the truth, but fact checkers have been doing a pretty good job).
    Nevertheless, the status quo needs considerable improvement.

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