Conspiracy Theory - Curtailing Toxic Content

MagicalAzareal

Magical Developer
Joined
Apr 25, 2019
Messages
758
For the most part, I have been lucky enough not to get conspiracy theorists, with one sole exception over private messages: QAnon. It was a pile of nonsensical incoherent drivel about how the Chinese had allegedly abducted 15% of all the children in the country to use in sex trafficking.

I was surprised to see it from someone who was otherwise fairly intelligent. This sort of conspiracy is problematic as it does lead to delusional paranoid attacks in real life, and it doesn't add any sort of depth, or meaningful content. It's just another form of spam.

Some people may have too much time on their hands with Covid. In this theory, we can find elements of anti-semitism, anti-China racism (anger towards covid), polarisation, stigmatisation of drugs (the sinister substance andrenochrome). This all aligns neatly with a specific set of party views.
 
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Nev_Dull

Anachronism
Joined
Apr 27, 2010
Messages
2,112
Educate 330 million people to A) think for themselves and B) read, compare and contrast peer-reviewed reliable sources to draw reasonable conclusions? This is absurd idealism and is never going to happen.
Is it? We do it every day. It's called the education system. All that needs to happen is to stop putting emphasis on remembering historical dates and names and instead teach kids to use logic and critical analysis. We did that with past generations, so we know it isn't an idealistic notion.

25% of the UK now believes in QAnon.
33% of America believes the virus is a hoax and masks don't work.
Yes, and only 67% of American college students are certain the earth is a globe. It just demonstrates my position that a better education system is needed. Protecting people from "bad" information doesn't make them smarter.

In exchange for billions of dollars in ad revenue, they MUST take responsibility for protecting us, OR they must be broken up until anti-monopoly laws.
Why? Using your own argument, they give us "access" to all types of information. They are under no obligation to tell us which we should believe.

You seem to be advocating for some sort of Ministry of Truth. Worse, you seem to think companies like Twitter and Facebook should be the arbiters of that truth, as mandated by the government. I would much rather have the opportunity to decide for myself what is true.

Now when it comes to my forum, I have no problem with censorship. I happily filter what goes on the site because only content that pertains to my subject area has value to the forum. That doesn't mean I stop people from posting things that are inaccurate or even potentially dangerous. I use those things as an opportunity to provide better information so others can avoid problems.
 

Jeremy8

Enthusiast
Joined
Mar 7, 2007
Messages
122
Hi Klaatu,

The edits are rather jarring in that clip. I thought it worth embedding the full speech:

He makes some good points, but he's advocating for laws against free speech, which is a slippery slope and ironic considering his work.
 

Nev_Dull

Anachronism
Joined
Apr 27, 2010
Messages
2,112
He makes some good points, but he's advocating for laws against free speech, which is a slippery slope and ironic considering his work.
Not at all. He's suggesting a fundamental shift in the way social media works. Instead of being simply a vehicle for anyone to use without bounds, he advocates they should become publishers of the content they host, which would make them accountable for the veracity of that content in the same way all other publishers are. That doesn't curtail anyone from having their say. It just ensures what they say is either backed up by facts and evidence, or correctly labeled as personal opinion.

This goes back to the OP and how we handle conspiracy theories on our forums. Some advocate for removing or banning any discussion of that sort. Others, like me, would rather demonstrate they are not based in fact or evidence, so that others are less likely to be taken in by them. It comes down to the question Oh! asked about how we see our responsibility to our forum audience and society.
 

feldon30

Adherent
Joined
Jun 7, 2013
Messages
472
When Section 230 was created, I doubt anyone envisioned that 3 companies would control the eyeballs of 2 billion addicted users (not customers -- the ad companies are their customers) and that wrong information and conspiracies would spread faster and wider with a veneer of professionalism (due to cheap software and fast processing hardware) to a larger audience on them than any previous form of communication yet devised.
 

vikvaliant

Aspirant
Joined
Oct 21, 2014
Messages
32
Hi all,

I am interested to learn how other communities manage conspiracy theories at their forums. At my hobby forum, which involves health-related issues, we outright disallow the promotion of conspiracy theories (anti-vaxxers, for example) and try our best to tackle more general disinformation too. Of course, conspiracy theory propagation has skyrocketed over the past few years - I find such content toxic both for our online community and for society in general.

What rules do you have in place? Where do you draw lines? What responsibility do you feel towards your members and wider society?
I was able to resolve this, and other problems, under the following sections of the forum-- some restricted to registered members only:

SITE NEWS AND INFORMATION:

General Site Information - Guidelines

Bug Report + Test Range

Internal Affairs

Please report any internal issues that cannot be resolved using the "!" option, here. * Registered Members Only * Banned Members or Invitation Only, on occasion.

RECYCLE BIN:

Scheduled for Deletion

This is where topics go that are scheduled to be deleted or possibly recycled back into regular conversation if they can be saved. The posts in this section are usually removed within 24 hours

Quarantine
Posts that aren't deleted immediately are placed here -- with an explanation why they'll be deleted. The posts in this section are usually removed within 24 hours.

-----------------------------------

Things like conspiracy theories and threads "outside the realm and context of this site" would be moved to "Scheduled for Deletion" where the OP or other members have the opportunity to defend it with proven and factual information. If they could not do so then the thread was deleted. If they could, then the thread would be moved back to its original place on the forum. You don't have to disprove anything, make them do the work of proving it.

Straight up BS would be moved to "Quarantine" with an explanation of why it was moved there. Members may or may not be allowed to try and save it depending on what it was about.

Allowing members to engage and have their say increases forum participation and demonstrates fairness. While not polluting the rest of the forum. Also, members and lurkers LOVE DRAMA, especially if they believe the process is fair in resolving it.

I explain to members that forums are topical and themed just like brick-and-mortar businesses and that it has nothing to do with free speech. You would not walk into a Lexus dealership to talk about BMWs, or walk into an Italian restaurant and demand Chinese food. The same applies to virtual spaces. If you post outside of the realm and context of the site, or have an alternate agenda, then expect to be called to the table.
 
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Nev_Dull

Anachronism
Joined
Apr 27, 2010
Messages
2,112
When Section 230 was created, I doubt anyone envisioned that 3 companies would control the eyeballs of 2 billion addicted users (not customers -- the ad companies are their customers) and that wrong information and conspiracies would spread faster and wider with a veneer of professionalism (due to cheap software and fast processing hardware) to a larger audience on them than any previous form of communication yet devised.
Or they simply acted blindly. The precedent was there. For those of us old enough to remember the desktop publishing explosion, we saw a lot of the same thing happen.
 

Jeremy8

Enthusiast
Joined
Mar 7, 2007
Messages
122
Not at all. He's suggesting a fundamental shift in the way social media works. Instead of being simply a vehicle for anyone to use without bounds, he advocates they should become publishers of the content they host, which would make them accountable for the veracity of that content in the same way all other publishers are. That doesn't curtail anyone from having their say. It just ensures what they say is either backed up by facts and evidence, or correctly labeled as personal opinion.

This goes back to the OP and how we handle conspiracy theories on our forums. Some advocate for removing or banning any discussion of that sort. Others, like me, would rather demonstrate they are not based in fact or evidence, so that others are less likely to be taken in by them. It comes down to the question Oh! asked about how we see our responsibility to our forum audience and society.

I think websites regulating their own content and deciding what should be allowed is a good idea. Cohen goes further than that in this speech though:

Here’s an idea. Instead of letting the Silicon Six decide the fate of the world, let our elected representatives, voted for by the people, of every democracy in the world, have at least some say.

By now it’s pretty clear, they cannot be trusted to regulate themselves. As with the Industrial Revolution, it’s time for regulation and legislation to curb the greed of these high-tech robber barons.

I would be surprised to find many people here who think that the government should censor what kind of speech websites publish. It's easy to understand and agree about the examples he gives and why they're bad, but it's a slippery slope to allow government to decide what people should be allowed to say. Otherwise he brings up a lot of good points worth discussing.
 

feldon30

Adherent
Joined
Jun 7, 2013
Messages
472
I think websites regulating their own content and deciding what should be allowed is a good idea. Cohen goes further than that in this speech though:

"Here’s an idea. Instead of letting the Silicon Six decide the fate of the world, let our elected representatives, voted for by the people, of every democracy in the world, have at least some say."

"By now it’s pretty clear, they cannot be trusted to regulate themselves. As with the Industrial Revolution, it’s time for regulation and legislation to curb the greed of these high-tech robber barons."

I would be surprised to find many people here who think that the government should censor what kind of speech websites publish. It's easy to understand and agree about the examples he gives and why they're bad, but it's a slippery slope to allow government to decide what people should be allowed to say. Otherwise he brings up a lot of good points worth discussing.
You've missed his point. He is not saying that the government should censor what kind of speech websites allow. He is saying that given their size and reach, Facebook, Twitter, and Google should be held legally responsible for the content they publish. If Facebook, Twitter, and Google want to allow libel, slander, fraud, and other crimes to be committed on their sites and refuse to take it down, then they should become legally liable. If they allow denial of the holocaust, then Mark Zuckerberg should be personally liable under German laws against it. These 6 feckless CEOs control how 2 billion humans interact yet are currently untouchable by any city, state, or country government. This cannot continue.

Everyone has freedom of speech. You can always self-publish on your own blog or website. You do not have freedom of "reach" nor do you have freedom from the consequences for your speech.
 
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Jeremy8

Enthusiast
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Messages
122
You've missed his point. He is not saying that the government should censor what kind of speech websites allow. He is saying that if Facebook, Twitter, and Google should be held legally responsible for the content they publish. If Facebook, Twitter, and Google want to allow libel, slander, fraud, and other crimes to be committed on their sites and refuse to take it down, then they should become legally liable. If they allow denial of the holocaust, then Mark Zuckerberg should be personally liable under German laws against it. These 6 feckless CEOs which control how 2 billion humans interact are currently untouchable by any city, state, or country government. This cannot continue.

Everyone has freedom of speech. You do not have freedom of "reach" nor do you have freedom from the consequences for your speech.
It's legal to be a Holocaust denier in the US, tell people about your wrong beliefs, and even publish them. Germany obviously doesn't have the same laws about free speech as the US. I don't know if Facebook censors different things in different countries, but that's not the point. If I were Mark Zuckerberg I wouldn't want Holocaust deniers on my website, but he apparently wants to limit speech less than other websites do. Perhaps it's simply because he doesn't want to spend the resources doing it or he thinks it's too difficult to do perfectly on such a massive scale, which is another topic we have discussed here. No matter the reason, how do you force Mark Zuckerberg to stop publishing things Holocaust deniers say without anti-speech laws? You can't with laws at least, and in the US the first amendment prevents laws like that from being created. You're right that he doesn't have freedom from the consequences of his speech, which is why people should stop using the website.
 

feldon30

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Messages
472
It's legal to be a Holocaust denier in the US, tell people about your wrong beliefs, and even publish them. Germany obviously doesn't have the same laws about free speech as the US. I don't know if Facebook censors different things in different countries, but that's not the point. If I were Mark Zuckerberg I wouldn't want Holocaust deniers on my website, but he apparently wants to limit speech less than other websites do.
He was specifically asked about this and said he wants to allow everything.

Perhaps it's simply because he doesn't want to spend the resources doing it or he thinks it's too difficult to do perfectly on such a massive scale
This falls under "TOO BAD". Facebook has a market cap of $527 billion. Facebook is literally spreading propaganda and disrupting society, elections, and enabling genocide with a psychologically addictive product. You don't get to do that.

which is another topic we have discussed here. No matter the reason, how do you force Mark Zuckerberg to stop publishing things Holocaust deniers say without anti-speech laws? You can't with laws at least, and in the US the first amendment prevents laws like that from being created. You're right that he doesn't have freedom from the consequences of his speech, which is why people should stop using the website.
Well therein lies the rub and why America is slowly turning into a 3rd world country. We have failed to recognize the destructiveness of propaganda and conspiracy theories. In fact we elected someone who speaks only in propaganda and conspiracy theories and has no time for experts or facts.
 

Nev_Dull

Anachronism
Joined
Apr 27, 2010
Messages
2,112
"Here’s an idea. Instead of letting the Silicon Six decide the fate of the world, let our elected representatives, voted for by the people, of every democracy in the world, have at least some say."

I would be surprised to find many people here who think that the government should censor what kind of speech websites publish. It's easy to understand and agree about the examples he gives and why they're bad, but it's a slippery slope to allow government to decide what people should be allowed to say. Otherwise he brings up a lot of good points worth discussing.
Taken on its own, I agree with what you're saying. However, I take that statement in combination with the rest of what he said about bringing social media platforms under the umbrella of publishers. Then the government does have a say through the legislation that governs the publishing industry.

feldon30 has said here that social media platforms must be held responsible for the content on their sites. I don't disagree with that concept. However, irrespective of their size or reach, it is only by changing the status of social media sites from being "neutral platforms" to content publishers as Cohen proposes that they can be held accountable.

During the current senate inquiry, Ted Cruz asked (I think it was Jack Dorsey) "Who the hell elected you and who put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear?" Dorsey equivocated a lot and tentatively mumbled about user agreements rather than answering directly. The truer answer he could have given was something like "No one, because Twitter is a private company. I answer to my shareholders, in the same way a senator answers to his corporate backers.[unabashed political dig :)]. We are not answerable to the government or the people." Of course, none of the social media heads are going to come out and say that directly because if the government does change their status, it will not only cost them a huge amount of money to clean up their sites, but the ongoing costs to comply with the standards of the publishing industry would mean they make a heck of a lot less profit. Some may not survive the change.
 

feldon30

Adherent
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Jun 7, 2013
Messages
472
I mean 8 years ago I was a libertarian when it came to Social Media. It's a free open platform that means we know the truth is getting out to whomever wants to read it. Anyone can connect to anyone else. Everyone is a publisher and there are no barriers to entry. This is awesome!

Now it's like holy f*** society is burning and these companies are making billions while pleading poverty when asked to take the most minimal steps. People have literally zero time to research what they read so they just click Share or Retweet on something that fits in with their Tribalism and suddenly Flat Earth sh*t gets 10 million views.

It's a case of "be careful what you wish for" and forgetting "think about how smart the average human is, now realize half of them are dumber than that."
 
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